Following Jesus is not always easy; sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard because it’s heart. It’s not something that we can just kind of do sometimes. It’s not one of those things where we can just go through the motions and get by; that’s easy. Following Jesus is like being in love. Not like being newly in love when all you want to do is spend time with someone. That’s easy. It’s like being married for a few years and being in love. I am married to quite possibly the greatest woman in the history of the universe. Perhaps that’s a little biased, but she’s my wife and this is my blog, so there. I’m crazy in love with my wife, but sometimes marriage is hard. Making marriage work takes, well, work. When I got married I realized life wasn’t just about me anymore. I have learned time, and time, and time…and time again that I can’t have a very good relationship with my wife if all I focus on is me. You’d think I would have learned my lesson, but I can be pretty hard headed. You see my wife, she doesn’t just want what I can do for her, she wants my heart. She wants all of me. And she deserves it. But occasionally, that’s hard. It’s hard because it’s heart. Now just because something is hard doesn’t mean that it’s bad.  Being married is absolutely worth it and the same thing is true about following Jesus. (Disclaimer: I am only speaking from my own experience. If following Jesus or being married is always easy for you, post your address on here so we can all send you hate mail. Just kidding. Sort of.)

Back to my point. This isn’t a blog about marriage, but I thought there were some pertinent comparisons. I started reading through the gospels again (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible), and I’ve been blown away by how much of Jesus’ teaching dealt with issues of the heart. The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) deals extensively with heart issues either directly or indirectly. Anger, lust, adultery, and murder were all heart issues for Jesus. For Jesus, it wasn’t enough just to not kill or not commit adultery. Unresolved anger in my heart is the same as murder and lust in my heart is the same as adultery. On the other side of the coin, giving, prayer, and fasting are worthless in Jesus’ eyes if they’re not done with the right heart. For Jesus, it’s not enough to simply go through the motions. To say it another way, a right heart leads right actions but right actions don’t always mean a right heart. God is concerned with our heart, so maybe that’s where we should start. Jesus summarized the entire Old Testament law into two commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. Love is a heart thing. According to Jesus if we love God and we love each other then we are doing the two most important things in all of life. That’s one of those things that sounds really simple but is sometimes really hard.

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Wait a minute, so much of Jesus’ teaching
dealt with obedience.” You’re absolutely right. Jesus demanded radical commitment and radical obedience. But you know what, if I really love Jesus then obedience becomes something that I want to do, not something I have to do. Again, that doesn’t always mean that it will be easy or pleasant. Another marriage example. Right now my sink is full of dishes. I don’t particularly enjoy doing dishes but I know that it would really please my wife to not have to do them in the morning and, because I know that pleases her, I want to do the dishes. The same is true with following Jesus. Sometimes following Jesus means that I’m going to have to do things that I don’t particularly enjoy, but because I love him and want to please him, I do them.

I just want to point out here, lest anyone think that I’ve already got this down, that I need to hear this stuff as much as anybody
. This is the stuff God has been working on my heart lately and I thought maybe someone, somewhere, might need to hear the same thing.

I happen to think that this is the most important concept in all of Christianity. Yes, doctrine is important. Yes, obedience is important. Yes, church is important. Yes, social justice is important. However, if my heart is not right then none of those other things make any difference at all. I have this crazy idea that if we all focused more on loving God and loving our neighbors from our heart then a lot of the other issues that seem to divide the church would be a lot less important. What do you think?

PS – If you happen to be reading this and thinking to yourself, “How can I love Jesus, I don’t even know him?” then maybe it’s time you get to know him. Start in the gospels and read about him and see if he is someone that you can see giving your heart to. Go to a local church and ask for help. Feel free to contact me, there is an email link at the top of the page, and I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

PPS – If you know someone who might need to hear this, please share it with them as well.


1 Comment

  1. Great post Thomas! We all need to be in a constant state of examining ourselves in this matter. Our heart can be so easily led astray and in this world we fight every day to resist falling down into the pleasures, distractions, and busyness of life and misplacing the priority of God’s will with other things. Obedience is important: true! That is the mark that Jesus is the Lord of your life: if you choose to follow him. But, as you point out, following Jesus is not strictly about doing what is right but doing it with a transformed heart; a heart that desires to please their Savior and be his disciple. I believe that if we served and worshipped in our churches and fellowships with this attitude and disposition of heart many people would not feel so presumptuous about their church being the right church and another church being the wrong church and then segregating themselves completely as though the other church was not part of GOD’S CHURCH.

    You said, “A right heart leads right actions but right actions don’t always mean a right heart. God is concerned with our heart, so maybe that’s where we should start.” If we don’t have our heart right before God, who do we think we are fooling? God? How naïve are we to think that if we just “show up for work and do our job,” metaphorically speaking, that God is satisfied with that. It is not enough to just do the right work. God wants us to do it with the right motive and incentive—love from a pure heart; love for the Father, love for the Savior, and love for the church. I think if we all had “Crazy Love” for God our Father and for Jesus our Lord, such love would revolutionize the church and would change the way we look at each other. So many divisions in the church are a matter of pride (sure some doctrinal issues exist), but Paul did not kick people out of church because they disagreed. He went to great lengths attempting to unify everyone on the truth of the gospel.

    Regarding having the right heart before God, I think about the costly lesson that David learned through some of the most wicked sin by a believer that I think I have read in Scripture (2 Sam 11-12). Apparently, it took David deceiving and murdering someone (Uriah) and then sleeping with his wife (Bathsheba) to realize how grievous his error was and what God wanted him to see about his life.

    Psalm 51:16-17
    “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

    This passage addresses only one aspect of the heart, though. We should learn from David’s mistake that we should have a “broken spirit” and “a broken and contrite heart.” What this means is that we should embrace a spirit of humility with a dismantled and shattered heart that is willing to be rebuilt by the Lord of mercy and grace. David had come to understand that in God’s eyes, what God wanted was for David to look to Him and Him alone for forgiveness and cleansing, not to any actions he would do, like burnt offerings and sacrifices. Of course God commanded His people to offer sacrifices to Him, but those sacrifices were meant to represent His people’s inner heart toward and reliance on Him. It was not the outward action that was significant but the inner disposition that God desired.

    What is important to God is the “Heart-To” attitude not the “Have-To.”

    Like

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