A Man After God’s Own Heart?

If you have studied the Bible and have ventured into the Old Testament you may have heard about a guy named David. He is responsible for writing a bunch of the Psalms and is honored as one of the greatest Kings Israel ever had. He is also the only person referred to in Scripture as a “Man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 and 1 Samuel 13:14). Think of all of the great people spoken of in the Bible, and only David has ever earned this honored title.

Yet, sometimes it is hard to understand what makes David a man after God’s own heart. Reading through the story of David you start out loving the guy. He seems to do everything right. But after he becomes King he stumbles. Maybe stumbles doesn’t do his sin justice. He falls hard. He makes some of the biggest, most selfish sin mistakes humanly possible.

First, he is checking out some guys wife while she takes a bath, (coveting your neighbor’s wife is a no-no according to the ten commandments (Exodus 20:17)), and then decides to sleep with her, (that breaks his second big commandment in Exodus 20:14). Then she becomes pregnant but her husband is off at war. So David knows he’s in trouble. Instead of fessing up to the already huge mistakes he has made, he decides to have the guy killed to try and cover it up, (and murder makes three of the ten broken in Exodus 20:13). You can read the entire story in 2 Samuel 11.

David broke three of the ten biggest commandments from God in one semester. Yet, God still considered David a “Man after my own heart.” How can this be? How can a man who covets, cheats and murders be a man after God’s own heart? That is what I want to discuss today. I want to look at three reasons why David is a “Man after God’s own heart” and hopefully it will help us as we pursue that same title for our own lives.

First, David is a man after God’s own heart because God choose him. God’s choosing makes us what we are. Romans 9:15-16 says “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” This is the ultimate reason why David was a “Man after God’s own heart.” Because God chose Him to be, just like He chooses you and I to be called His “sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). This is the first and most important thing to remember.

But why is David called a “Man after God’s own heart” while others are not? Yes God chose Him as He chooses us, but there is also something about David that sets him apart. Was it David’s acts? He doesn’t like that great of a guy right?

So secondly, we need to remember that our actions are no better than David’s. It is easy for us to look at this three heinous acts of David, (and they are heinous, evil and sinful), and shake our finger at him in shame. Yet, we neglect that we too have committed those same acts. James 2:10-11 says “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder you have become a transgressor of the law.”

We seem to put extra emphasis on certain sins while we tend to water down others. It is usually the sins we struggle with that we water down while the sins we don’t seem to struggle with tend to be the ones we think are most important to keep. So if I struggle with jealousy I rationalize it as a second tier sin. But because I don’t struggle with drunkenness then that must be first tier and extra serious. God however doesn’t see sin that way. He sees all the sin we have committed in the same light. So while you maybe haven’t killed anyone or committed adultery, your actions are no better than David’s. So if we are just as bad off as David on the outside, what makes the difference between us and David?

That leads to the third, and most important difference between us and David: the heart. David’s faith and trust in God and his heart’s desire to be with God are amazing examples to us. In Psalm 19:7-10 David describes God’s law as “sweeter than honey” and “more to be desired are they than gold.” Now I don’t know about you, but I have read God’s law and don’t often feel quite the same way. Or Psalm 63:1 where David says “my soul thirsts for you” and “my flesh faints for you.”

Or, one of my favorites, when David is returning from retrieving the ark of the covenant and dancing like a madman to praise God, (remember David was supposed to be a highly respected King at this time), his wife chastises him for acting foolish and not “kingly.” This is what David says, “I will make myself even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6:22). David didn’t care what his wife or anyone else thought about him. He cared what God thought and sought to honor, praise and glorify Him.

And this is why David is a “Man after God’s own heart.” David’s works are as evil as ours. David did not earn God’s favor by doing something, but rather God freely gave it to him as He freely gives us grace and forgiveness today. But David responded to God’s grace with a heart full of gratitude, praise and love for His Mighty Lord.

So what about you? Where is your heart at? Are you more worried about what others may think of you or about praising your Great God? Does your heart thirst for God more than gold? Do you desire Him and His Word more than water in a dry place? My hope and prayer for us all is that we can become more like David. That we can desire God so strongly that every part of our life is affected by His immense greatness. That we are so deeply in love and passionate about God that we will do anything to bring Him glory. May we all be men and women after God’s own heart.

Judge like you mean it

Sorry I missed last week. I was in the process of moving and starting a new job so I felt like a week off wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for me. But I am back on schedule and have some more thoughts on something I have been studying this week.

So for the last two weeks I have been reading through 1 Corinthians. A few days ago I was reading and came across this verse from Paul: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the Church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.

On first reading this verse, two thoughts immediately came to mind. First, doesn’t this verse sound more like an Old Testament law verse rather than a New Testament grace verse? Isn’t Paul the same guy who wrote most of the New Testament focusing on forgiveness, grace and love? And now Paul is telling me to “Purge the evil” inside our Church? Sounds odd. Second, how does this verse relate or match up with what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-5? Doesn’t Jesus tell us not to judge others?

Well I think both questions need to be answered, because I think most of us Christians have taken this judging others to one extreme or the other. The first extreme is that many of us have become self-righteous. We have decided, because we are God’s children, it is our duty to judge the world and all those in it. The second extreme has decided that Christians are too judgmental and thus, we shouldn’t judge anyone ever. The problem is, neither of these approaches are Biblical.

So let’s take a look at who we should and shouldn’t judge, and how we should go about it. First, we must understand who we are to judge. 1 Corinthians 5:12 makes it clear that Christians are to judge and rebuke other Christians. However, I feel like we are more likely to judge non-Christians than other Christians these days. This may help explain in part some of the deterioration of the American Church.

I’ll give you an example. One time I brought up a concern I had about a Christian sister. I felt like her life was starting to move into a dark area. As I did this, I was met with scorn and animosity. “How dare you judge her!” quickly followed by quoting Matthew 7:1-5. However, these same people who looked at me with such anger as I judged another Christian were quick to note how many of the non-Christian women around us seemed to be living in sin.

I believe this is an unbiblical approach to dealing with problems. Christians, rather than pointing out all the sins in the world of non-Christians, why don’t we first try and work on it in our Churches? Isn’t that what Jesus is really saying in Matthew 7:1-5? Also, as Christians we need to learn to receive judgment and rebuke from our brothers and sisters. Rather than getting defensive, we should be humbled and thankful that our brother or sister loves us enough to bring it up. It is never easy to bring up someone else’s faults to their face, so when a Christian does this out of love, shouldn’t we thank them rather than respond with anger? Christians, instead of complaining about who got elected or about the evils of this fallen world, why don’t we use that energy to rebuke, correct and grow ourselves and our Churches to be light in this fallen world? (Matthew 5:13-16)

Once we know who to judge, (based on the Biblical model), then we need to know how. First, make sure of your brothers sin. If it is a rumor or only possible, verify it before you rebuke. Doing something based on gossip or hearsay is never good. Next, before we go rebuke a brother or sister we need to examine ourselves, (2 Corinthians 13:5). I think we need to check our own hearts and see if we are doing this judging out of love and care or out or jealousy and pride. Then we need to go to our brother or sister in humility, gentleness, love and respect, (1 Peter 3:15 and 5:5).

Once we have checked our heart and motives, Jesus lays out a great method for going about the process of rebuking in Matthew 18:15-17. I suggest that you follow this model if you wish to rebuke anyone. You see that at the end Jesus says if your brother will not listen you are to “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Verse 17). This looks very similar to Paul’s “Purge the evil from among you” mentioned above.

And this is where you see that the balance and relationship between judging others with grace and forgiveness is so important. I think most of us believe they are polar opposites, but I believe they are interrelated. I get this idea specifically from Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 6:1-5. Both of these verses show us examples of how to judge our brothers and sisters, but also restore and love them with grace and forgiveness.

We would all love it if the first time we bring up a sin to our brother or sister they receive our rebuke and repent. But the truth is that doesn’t always happen, (which is exactly why we have verses like Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:12-13). As hard as it is, sometimes the best thing that can happen to our sinful brother is to be cast out of community. Hopefully, like the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, they will realize their mistake, repent, and return to their community closer to God.

However, because we are so afraid to judge our brothers, we have allowed people living in sin to continue to attend and participate in Church. Or they just “Church hop” from one place to the next if anyone tries to rebuke. We must be willing to stand up and be bold with those inside the Church. We must all work together to make our Church a place where Christ’s light can shine amidst the darkness of the nations. Remember we are all on the same team, (or the same body).

So may we all learn who we are to judge. Christians, may we stop judging those outside the Church and instead focus that time and energy on those we call brother and sister. May we learn to humbly and thankfully receive rebukes rather than get defensive. May we rebuke others with love, gentleness and respect. May we be willing to make tough decisions if it means the strengthening of the Church and our brothers and sisters. And above all, may we love and forgive our repentant wayward brothers and sisters just as Christ forgave us.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

For some reason, we seem to think that Jesus isn’t enough for us in our modern world. We seem to think that in order to find joy we need Jesus and something else. This week, I heard a pastor speak and it bothered me. He spent around two hours explaining how God wants to financially bless us. He talked about how if we give a monthly 10% tithe to the Church, God would rain down blessings from heaven for us. He talked about how if we tithe, God would give us promotion after promotion. He said if we gave back to God, God would want to give us abundant financial blessings.

At first glance, this sounds to me like a sly way to get people to give money to the Church. If I tell people that they need only give 10% of their monthly income and God will bless them abundantly, then I promise you that giving will increase. But giving is not our focus, God is. We do not give money to the Church because of what God will bless us with.

Rather, we give money back because it isn’t ours to begin with! Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” It’s all God’s anyways, so we give back to share in God’s work. Secondly, we do it out of gratitude. We should not be giving money so that God will bless us, instead we should be giving money because of how much God has ALREADY blessed us. Finally, we give money back because we want to see the Gospel spread. Just as we support a charitable organization and want to see them help others, we give money back to the Church so that it can be used to help and equip the Body of Christ.

So while I do advocate giving money to your Church and to charities, I want us to to think a bit about our motives. If you have believed the lie that you give to get, then there are some questions I want you to think about.

1. What is a blessing? The problem I had with this pastor and many other Christians today is that they talk as if material blessings are the most important. However, I believe some of the greatest blessings from Jesus are the lessons he allows us to go through on a daily basis. Read Matthew 5:3-12. Jesus promises blessings for those who trust and follow him, yet none of these blessings are material. The kinds of blessings Jesus offers us in these verses are for the life yet to come. A great new song by Laura Story called “Blessings” ends like this:

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

2. Can we praise God when he gives AND we He takes away? The problem with believing that God will always financially bless you if you give back to Him meets a big problem in the book of Job. Sometimes, people give back to God, and God does not financially bless. And so, if you equate financial blessings with God’s love, then when you suffer harm, you start to question if God really loves you. Rather, we must look at each and every situation as Job did. “And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21. Also, read what happened to Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:24-29 to see that giving does not always get us material rewards.

3. What happens when I give but God doesn’t bless me financially or give me that promotion? The problem here is that we try to make God into a magic genie. All we need to do is put some money in and wait for our reward. If that’s the case, then God is no longer God. If God’s blessings are dependent on our tithes, then we have made ourselves to be God. We are here for God, God is not here for us.

4. Are we content? Read what Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13. The point here is that as a Christian we are to be content and praise God at all times. When God blesses me with a promotion or a new job then I am to praise God. When God blesses me by taking my job away, (which from our view may not look like a blessing) I am to praise God. If you are giving to get, then are you really content and praising God when you abound and when you are brought low?

5. Do we love Jesus or do we only love the gifts or blessings he can give us? The problem is that most of us love the gifts offered, but scarcely love or truly know who is offering them. This would be like if I love my mom because she buys me things, but not because she is my mom. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38. We take up a cross not to gain material blessings or even eternal life, but rather because it means we get to follow Jesus who alone is worthy of our love and praise.

What if Jesus died for you, but never promised you eternal life? Would you still love, serve and praise Him for who He is and what He has done? Thanks be to God that we do have eternal life, but that is only the secondary blessing. The primary blessing is that we get to personally know God as our Father and have a relationship with Him.

I want to end with the story of Horatio Spafford. Most of us don’t know him, but he is the person who wrote the beautiful hymn “It is well with my soul.” But do you know the story behind this hymn? In 1871, his only son died at the age of 4. Soon after, the Great Chicago fire ruined him financially. Then in 1873, his wife and four daughters were crossing the Atlantic when their ship sank and all four of his daughters drowned.

As Spafford was later crossing the Atlantic near where his daughters had drowned he wrote these words:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

May we all realize that Jesus has already done so much for us. May we learn to be content with the amazing blessings God has given. May we tithe in gratitude and service, not to gain more for ourselves. And most importantly, may we see and savor the fact that Jesus is more than enough for us. May the fact that we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ make us say “It is well with my soul.”

The Beauty of being Wanted

It’s nice to feel needed isn’t it? I think it is human nature to enjoy the feeling that someone needs us. Mom’s love it when their children need them, (well maybe not when they are little all the time, but wait til they get older and leave the house!). We love the responsibility at work to know that we are a necessary part of our companies success. Or we like to join organizations or clubs to feel like we are needed by the group. Even kids like it when their friends can’t do something and need their help.

Even as Christians, we love feeling needed. We sometimes think, “I bet God loves me so much because of all this amazing work I am doing for Him,” “If I were not here, this work would not be done,” or “I am so necessary and helpful to my Church.” But the truth is, none of those statements are true. Read your Bible and you will see that the exact opposite is true. God doesn’t need you. “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” Matthew 3:9.

Depressing isn’t it. To think, I used to value myself and my importance in this life so highly, but the truth is, I am not all that important. If I am replaceable by a rock, then am I really needed? In fact, my life is only a small blip on the radar of history. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14. 100 years from now, most likely no one will know my name. 99% of us won’t make it in the history books or leave such a legacy that people still talk about us for years to come.

And after reading this you may not feel cheerful. Why should I do ministry or serve God if He doesn’t even need me? Why should I even care if it will all be forgotten anyways? Well those are understandable questions which is why we must understand this important truth: We are not needed by God, but we are wanted. It may seem like a minor difference, but let me unpack it a bit.

The truth is, God doesn’t need anything. Within the trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God has everything He would ever need. Some people like to think God was lonely, needed love or needed help so He created man. But God already has perfect community and love within the trinity and an all-powerful God does not need any help from weak and pathetic humans. Even our most righteous acts to God are only “filthy rags” to Him (Isaiah 64:6). So man was not created out of any necessity, but rather out of a desire.

God, being perfectly loving, holy and good, wanted to share Himself. He wanted to share the good things in His creation and ultimately Himself with us. God’s ultimate goal and desire is to get glory and praise for Himself. Now I know many of you are thinking, “Wow, God sounds so selfish!” But think about this, if God was seeking the glory or praise of anything else, would He still be God? Whatever deserves our highest praise is God. Thus, God gives glory and praise to the only one who is worthy of it: himself.

And that is what makes the Gospel more and more amazing. Jesus did not save us out of necessity. Jesus didn’t have to come down. Jesus didn’t have to die on a cross and bear all our sins. He could have stayed in heaven and let us all go to hell. We didn’t deserve it and he didn’t have to. But He wanted to.

That should inspire us. Instead of feeling depressed because God doesn’t need us, we should instead feel humbly in awe that God wants us. Think about how messed up you and I are! And the perfect God who created everything wants us! That means a lot more to me than if God reluctantly needed me for some task.

Which is how we need to view our lives. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us that He has overcome the world. He doesn’t tell us that we will overcome, or give us a guide on how we can do it. Rather, Jesus tells us to take heart and trust Him because He has overcome! I think too often, in service, work and even our lives, we put too much stock into our own ability to overcome. Will power and dedication, although two very good traits to have, are not the answer to overcoming sin in your life. Jesus is!

So stop serving God or doing anything for God as if He needed you. Stop trying to come to God with filthy rags full of pride. Rather, in humble gratitude serve God. Remember the words in Ecclesiastes 12:13 “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

May we all see how amazing it is that the God of the universe wants us. That we are not needed like some part of a machine, but rather are wanted like a beloved child. And may we respond with humble service to our King out of gratitude and desire to worship God who alone is worthy of our praise.