Photo by EmmiP on Morgue File.
Tuesday: (Mt. 21.20-22; Mk. 11.20-21—The disciples see the fig tree withered as they return with Jesus to Jerusalem: Mt. 21.23-23.39; Mk. 11.27-12.44; Lk. 20.1-21.4—Jesus debates with the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem: Mt. 24.1-25.46; Mk. 13.1-37; Lk. 21.5-36—Jesus teaches about the destruction of the Temple and then he delivers the Olivet Discourse.)
Jesus gives us quite a bit of teaching on this day. Now, only a few days away from his betrayal, arrest, trial and death, Jesus turns his attention to kingdom business. He gives us teaching concerning the kingdom of God: both present and future.
One of the truths Jesus touches on is the importance of serving God with a sincere heart. Christ makes it plain that serving God as show or as duty only is not what is expected of true believers. We are called to conform to and obey what Jesus identified as the greatest of all commandments. This commandment is called the Shema passage. It is found in Deut. 6:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
This very much follows up on our application from yesterday. In Ps. 139, the psalmist prayed that God would search his heart. He wanted God to have full access and control of every part of his life. Why? The psalmist knew that any part, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, that was not controlled by God, was rebellion and sin. In essence, the psalmist prayed to be faithful to the Shema. He prayed to live out this commandment that Jesus said was the greatest of all commandments.
Jesus taught us that if we will obey these two commandments, we will be living in accordance to the divine will. It points us to the fact that God is interested in our hearts. When the prophet Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint the future king of Israel, he was sure the first son that walked in the door was God’s chosen man. Why was Samuel so sure? The eldest son of Jesse looked the part. He was tall and handsome. He had an air about him that Samuel was certain meant he was destined for royalty. But God reminds Samuel of a crucial truth: God does not look on the outward appearance, but rather at the heart.
Jesus then instructs, to the shame of the Pharisees, to do as the Pharisees taught, but not as they practiced. Christ pointed out their hypocrisy. They did what they did, not out of a love of God, but rather to be seen and admired by men. What a person does matters to God. It is not to say that Jesus did not care about the externals, or what we do; but, it means what we do, in order to be pleasing to God, must be done with a right heart—with right motives and desires.
As we look once again to our own hearts, what do we find there? More importantly, as Christ looks to our hearts, what does he find there? Do our actions match our motivations?
Do you serve the Lord with a pure heart? Do your motivations tell of a heart that is seeking to please God? As you look within, allow Christ to reveal any action done without the right motivation towards God. Ask yourself if you truly have a passion for Christ, or are you simply going through the motions. Christ wants you to be in love with him. He wants you to serve him with all your heart, soul and mind. It is so easy for other things to cloud and taint our motivations and desires. But Christ is able to give us clarity and to restore us to serving him with a proper heart and an inward passion.
Oh Lord, my Creator and Ruler of all I have been, all I am and all I hope to be, I thank you for your love for me. Your love motivates me to serve you with a pure and clean heart. I pray, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that I would love you, even now, with all my heart, soul and mind. I prayed yesterday for you to search me. As I come to you today, I pray it again. I confess that I am yours and apart from you I can do nothing that pleases the Father. Help me, O Christ, to have my motivations and desires in submission to your Lordship. Help me to live out those desires in a way that is pleasing in your sight. I pray you receive all glory, praise and honor. In the name of Jesus Christ, whom I love because you first loved me, Amen.