Psalm 40:8 (NIV)
I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.
We last spoke about the desires of our hearts; and today we have a specific desire to examine: “I desire to do your will, my God.” And notice the extension: “Your Law is within my heart.” The two concepts are so intertwined that I do not believe they can be separated. How can we do the will of God if we do not know what it is? And how can we know His will, as revealed in His Law … His Word, unless we spend time to hear, read, discover, and understand it? As King Solomon asserts in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” So if reverence for God is centered in your heart … in your inner being … then His Word it will be the source of your knowledge and understanding. It will generate the thoughts which determine what you say and do. Indeed, every behavioral action of humans is the outward expression of our thoughts whether good or evil.
So I believe the first application for us is to consider is two-fold: We need to examine our reverence for God and our desire to be submitted to Him as a demonstration of that reverence. To begin, the word “reverence” is typically understood as a noun; and it is defined as “honor or respect felt or shown; profound adoration; or a gesture toward someone regarded as worthy of great honor.” Likewise, to show reverence or “to revere” someone would be a verb … meaning an action taken. In this case, it would be defined as “an action to show devoted deferential honor to someone; an action expressing great esteem for someone as a superior or sovereign.” And so I believe we can understand the concept of “fear of the Lord” through these definitions. To me, the core meaning of reverence can be distilled down to a single word: AGAPE … LOVE.
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (NIV)
1These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all His decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one Lord. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 11:1 (NIV)
Love the Lord your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always.
Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (NIV)
1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.
I could continue to reference more texts, but I think we get the idea here. Notice the connections between the concepts of love, reverence, and obedience in these passages. This is important because these are the concepts that Jesus challenged His disciples and followers to understand through His teachings:
Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV) – See also, Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:5) 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Cf. Leviticus 19:18) 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
John 8:42 (NIV)
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.
John 14:15 (NIV)
If you love me, keep my commands.
John 14:21 (NIV)
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.
John 15:12 (NIV)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
So I believe evident that reverence is expressed through sincere love; and sincere love is expressed through obedience to the commandments of God. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3) Our challenge as followers … as believers … is whether we desire to DO His Will … whether His Law is written on our hearts. And so we must confront and deal with our hearts! And this is the second application because our thoughts determine our own will … and therefore our own conduct and behavior.
Genesis 6:5 (NIV)
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.
Matthew 15:18-20 (NIV) – See also Mark 7:21
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
So it is clear that we need to be aware of our thought life. More importantly, we need to consider what external and sensory input is being compiled and catalogued within our brains to conceive the thoughts of our hearts. There is a lot of information and sensory stimulation within the world to draw our attentions and to impact our thought life … and therefore our behavioral expression of our hearts. While there is a myriad of verses and throughout the Bible (especially Psalm 119) that emphasize the veracity and authority of Scripture to “input” the Word of God into our minds, there are a few passages that quickly come to mind which I believe speak directly to how we can better “evaluate” the input we encounter from other sources:
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s Will is—His good, pleasing and perfect Will.
Philippians 2:5 (NIV)
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
1 John 2:16 (NIV)
For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.
I will conclude with the following passage that I believe should guide the input we allow into our thought life and explains the importance of a mind submitted to the Spirit of God:
1 Corinthians 2:10:16 (NIV)
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Quoting Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ.
So I pray today, that we will thoughtfully consider the desires of our hearts … what generates them … what motivates them … and how we can align our hearts with the will of God. The Father has revealed His will to us. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe.” (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) Yes, I pray we will read and study the Word of God so that it might be embedded within our inner beings. “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) And then, let us follow the counsel of the Apostle James: “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Cf. James 4:8) Yes, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Cf. Psalm 51:10) May these scriptures be our prayer, always…. Amen.