Living Ready – Ready Your Heart
Proverbs 4:23 and Luke 6:45
Good Morning from the Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team to all who are listening to or reading this message. What a glorious day to worship God!
We’re continuing our series on “Living Ready.” The title of today’s Message is “Ready Your Heart.” Our Bible reading comes from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, Chapter 4, verse 23 and from the New Testament Book of Luke, Chapter 6 verse 45 and you may want to turn there in your Bible.
The second coming of Jesus is mentioned throughout the Bible. Are we ready for His return? The most important aspect of being ready is having a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. We do not know when He will return, but one day He will. The Bible is clear that there is a heaven and a hell, and the decisions we make in this life time will determine where we will spend eternity. We must all take an honest assessment of our hearts and lives and ask ourselves if we have placed our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus and the saving work He did on the cross.
Now let's read today’s scriptures.
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT): “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
And Luke 6:45 (NLT): “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
Let's pray, Heavenly Father, sometimes we get so frustrated with people, we’re tempted to respond with harsh words. Even when we don’t say anything, we show our frustration with our actions and attitude. Forgive us for the times we’ve become so frustrated that we spread irritation rather than the peace of Jesus.
Lord, we know we can’t share what we don’t have in our hearts. We need Your peace to replace the frustration we feel inside. Check our hearts. Help us fight off frustrated feelings by remembering to be thankful, to seek Your peace, and to give You praise. In Jesus' name, Amen.
A little boy was watching a vicar fix the Church fence. The boy simply stood there and watched him for quite a long time.
The vicar noticed the boy watching him and said: "Are you trying to pick up some tips on how to build something?"
The little boy replied, "No. I am just waiting to hear what a vicar says when he hits his thumb with a hammer."
The words that come from our mouth yield much greater power than we realize. We have probably heard the expression "you are what you eat." A more precise saying is "You are what you speak." What comes out of our mouth reveals the content of our heart.
The heart in today’s scriptures refers to our "inner man," our whole inner being. It is that part of us that constitutes the center of our mind, will and emotions. The heart is pictured as the source from which life erupts. It is where the releases of life emerge.
Today’s scriptures are telling us that what is in our hearts is eventually going to be reflected or is going to show up in our behavior. We really don’t know what is inside of us until we are put in a pressure situation and have to make a decision of how we are going to respond.
There are at least four emotions that come out of our hearts that we need to be aware of that will cause us to hurt other people if we don’t guard our hearts: guilt, anger, greed and jealousy.
The first emotion that we need to guard our heart from is guilt.
In their article on guilt, GotQuestions.org shares the following. Everyone has sinned, and one of the results of sin is guilt. Guilt refers to a self-conscious emotion that people generally feel after attempting something wrong either intentionally or accidentally. We can be thankful for guilty feelings because they drive us to seek forgiveness.
Even when our sins are forgiven, we still remember them. Also, we have a spiritual enemy called “the accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10) who relentlessly reminds us of our failures, faults, and sins. When Christians experience feelings of guilt, we should do the following things.
1) Confess all known, previously unconfessed sin. In some cases, feelings of guilt are appropriate because confession is needed. Many times, we feel guilty because we are guilty! (See David’s description of guilt and its solution in Psalm 32:3-5.)
2) Ask the Lord to reveal any other sin that may need confessing. Have the courage to be completely open and honest before the Lord. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
3) Seek to make restitution, where possible, of the sins committed against others. Zacchaeus, in repenting of his sin, promised the Lord, “If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8). This is part of the “fruit in keeping with repentance” that John preached (Luke 3:9).
4) Trust the promise of God that He will forgive sin and remove guilt, based on the blood of Christ (1 John 1:9; Psalm 85:2; 86:5; Romans 8:1).
5) On occasions when guilty feelings arise over sins already confessed and forsaken, reject such feelings as false guilt. The Lord has been true to His promise to forgive. Read and meditate on Psalm 103:8-12.
6) Ask the Lord to rebuke Satan, our accuser, and ask the Lord to restore the joy that comes with freedom from guilt (Psalm 51:12).
The second emotion that we need to guard our heart from is anger.
Anger is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.
It’s happened to most of us. Someone has deeply hurt, wounded, offended, or frustrated us, and we become very, very angry about it.
That anger gets us in its grip and won’t let go. It seems to take over our minds, and we just can’t stop thinking about it. It’s like we are carrying around a 100-pound weight strapped to our backs, and we can’t get rid of it.
In his article, Ronald E. Franklin provides five steps the Bible says we can take to help us take control of our anger.
1. Acknowledge Your Anger
Ephesians 4:26 "Be angry, and do not sin:" do not let the sun go down on your wrath.
The Bible is very forthright about the fact that we will get angry at times in our lives. And that inevitable anger is not necessarily a sin. In fact, when handled rightly, it can be a legitimate, God-given tool that fulfills a definite purpose—to move us to take action to correct the situation that caused our anger in the first place.
So, it’s not wrong to be angry. But where we do go wrong is when we allow our anger to control us instead of us controlling it. And the first step to taking control over our anger is simply to acknowledge that we really are angry, that it’s real and needs to be dealt with.
2. Set Your Will to Forgive
Ultimately, there is only one way to escape the deathly grip of anger when we have been deeply hurt, offended, or frustrated. Sooner or later, we have to forgive the person we think was at fault.
Colossians 3:13: “ bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
The key to being able to forgive is understanding that forgiveness is not a matter of how we feel about the person, but of making the heart commitment to no longer hold their offense against them. In effect, we make the decision to release them from the moral debt they owe us because of whatever they’ve done to us. And that decision doesn’t depend on how we happen to be feeling toward that person. It’s a commitment of the will. When we make the heart decision to forgive and set our will to no longer hold what someone did to us against them, God registers our forgiveness and it doesn’t matter how we feel about it.
3. Pray the Prayer of Forgiveness
Once we make the decision to forgive, we need to take action to put that commitment into effect. Perhaps the most effective way to do that is to verbalize our forgiveness to the Lord.
Acts 7:59-60: “ And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep."
When we declare to God our decision to forgive the person who hurt us, we recognize that it is primarily to Him that our commitment is made. In Biblical terms, we establish a covenant of forgiveness with God, knowing His declaration that once such a covenant has been put into effect, it cannot be broken (Galatians 3:15).
From that point, our forgiveness of the offender is a spiritual reality. No matter how we might happen to be feeling about that person at any particular time, the fact that we have forgiven him or her means we will treat them as forgiven.
4. Ask God to Help You Deal With Your Angry Feelings
Realistically, it often takes time to really feel forgiveness, especially when the wound we've suffered is a deep one. But God is gracious. What many believers have discovered is that when we make the heart commitment to forgive, God can bring our feelings into line with the reality of that forgiveness.
Proverbs 16:32: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
Of course, we aren’t capable of ruling our spirit on our own and we’ll never succeed without God’s help. But when we take the turmoil of our emotions to God in prayer, He promises to replace that turmoil with His peace:
Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
There will be times when just the thought of the individual who hurt us brings back all the feelings of anger and bitterness seemingly at full force. But every time that happens, we take those feelings back to the Lord, and ask Him to replace them with the peace of God.
"The key to being able to forgive is understanding that forgiveness is not a matter of how we feel about the person, but of making the heart commitment to no longer hold their offense against them."
5. Refuse to Keep Thinking About the Offence
When someone has deeply and unfairly hurt or offended us, our mind keeps going back to that offence over and over again. We think about what they did and how wrong it was for them to do it. Perhaps we even fantasize about them getting their just deserts for daring to treat us that way. And every time we think about it, our resentment of that person grows.
Many times people who find their thoughts continually running in that angry rut feel that there’s nothing they can do to stop it. After all, they think, we can’t prevent such thoughts from invading our mind. But that’s not true! The Bible says we can do exactly that.
2 Corinthians 10:5: “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
“Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” That’s what God calls on us to do when our thoughts seem to be out of control. But how? Trying to just not think about something is a losing battle. Here is God’s answer to that question:
Philippians 4:8” “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.”
We can’t just stop thinking about what has been done to us. Nature abhors a vacuum. But what we can do is push out the negative thoughts by pouring in joyous thoughts of what God has done for us. Every time we find that our mind has slipped back into that same old rut of anger and bitterness, we can deliberately turn our thoughts to some of the many blessings God has brought into our life. We may need to write out a list so we’ll have it handy. And use the Scriptures; the Bible itself provides ample material for counting our blessings!
Colossians 1:12-14: “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Letting go of our anger when we have been hurt is not easy. But if we put these biblical principles into practice, we’ll be well on our way to controlling our anger rather than allowing it to control us.
The third emotion that we need to guard our heart from is greed.
Greed is defined as an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.
Danielle Bernock, an international, award-winning author, points out six effects of greed in our lives.
1. Greed Steals Life
2. Greed Does Not Love
3. Greed Is Destructive
4. Greed Is Insensitive
5. Greed Ruins Families
6. Greed Corrupts Leaders with Self-Centeredness
If we discover greed in our heart, don’t despair as greed comes naturally to humans. This can be easily seen by watching children and why we need to teach them to share. Two ways we can cure greed include the following.
Fostering a giving and generous heart will drive greed out of our hearts by the power of the love of God. Sharing is the cure. Giving and being generous.
“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” (1 Timothy 6:16-17 NLT)
Money, fame, food, attention and all the things that greed chases after are not evil in and of themselves. God promised to give us richly all things to enjoy and Jesus said He came to give us abundant life. But this abundant life is not synonymous with more wealth, food, power, or things. Jesus warned in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Christians must repent from greed, and submit to God’s Holy Spirit, who will empower us to live righteous lives full of generosity and gratitude.
The fourth emotion that we need to guard our heart from is jealousy.
Wikipedia's definition of jealousy generally refers to the thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, and concern over a relative lack of possessions or safety. Jealousy can consist of one or more emotions such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness or disgust.
In his sermon, Paul Fritz shares the following concerning jealousy.
Jealousy is a recipe for self-destruction.
1. Recognize that jealousy is rooted in immature and selfish desires. Paul wrote, "When you are jealous of one another and divide up into quarreling groups, doesn’t that prove you are still babies, wanting your own way? In fact, you are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord at all." (I Corinthians 3:3)
2. Determine to love people in a way that precludes feelings of jealousy. Paul wrote, "Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud." (I Corinthians 13 :4)
3. Realize that jealous feelings only do harm to oneself. David wrote, "Never envy the wicked! Soon they fade away like grass and disappear. Trust in the Lord instead. Be kind and good to others; then you will live safely here in the land and prosper, feeding in safety."(Psalm 37: 1-3)
4. Avoid all forms of covetousness. Moses wrote, "Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s wife, house, field, male servants, female servants, his ox, or his donkey, or any thing that belongs to your neighbor. (Deuteronomy 5:21) For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." (James 3:16)
Jealousy can do great damage to our prayer life. James wrote, " And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. " (James 4:3-5)
5. Find your contentment, satisfaction and pleasure in the Lord by not comparing yourself to others. David wrote, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way." (Psalm 37:7)
6. Do not admire the wicked whom the Lord abhors. David wrote, "For the wicked boasts in his heart’s desires, and blesses the covetous, whom the Lord abhors." (Psalm 10:3)
7. Jealousy and envy spoils one’s own pleasure. Solomon wrote, "A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones." (Proverbs 14:30)
8. Jealousy and envy are highly destructive to one’s relationships. Solomon wrote, "Wrath is cruel and anger is outrageous, but who is able to stand before envy?" (Proverbs. 27:4)
9. Jealousy and envy are vain efforts. Solomon wrote, "Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit." (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
10. We are commanded to stop all forms of jealousy and envy for our own good. Paul wrote, "Let us not desire vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:26)
11. Avoid the companionship of jealous or envious people. Solomon wrote, "Be not envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them." (Proverbs 24: 1)
12. Telling the truth is a healthy preventative medicine for jealousy. James wrote, "But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth." (James 3: 14) No one knows all the facts of another person’s situation.
13. The fear of the Lord is also preventative medicine for jealousy. Solomon wrote, "Let not your heart envy sinners: but live in the fear of the Lord all day long. For surely there is an end; and your expectations will not be cut off." (Proverbs 23: 17,18)
14. Concentrate on accomplishing what you can do for God and do not worry about other’s responsibilities. Paul wrote, " Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others." (I Corinthians10:24)
15. Focus on seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness and we will be less tempted toward jealous feelings. Luke wrote, "Jesus said to His disciples, ’Therefore I say to you, take no thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall put on. The life is more than meat and the body is more than clothing. (Luke 12:22,23)
We must not let our hearts become contaminated at all. We must guard our hearts from anything that is contrary to the Word of God. It’s only by guarding our heart of these things, that there is room in our heart to receive the love and grace that God wants to give us through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ died on a cross to cancel the debt we owed for our sins. God raised Him three days later to prove we were forgiven and our lives could be lived differently because of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Guarding our hearts will help us to better live the life God wants us to have.
We cannot control the time of our death. We cannot control when Jesus is coming back. Therefore, we need to live our lives so that we are ready to meet our Lord any time without reason for fear or panic.
However, there may be someone reading this Message who hasn’t trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and doesn’t yet have a personal testimony. If so, I want to encourage you to invite Jesus to come into your heart and life right now.
I John 5:13 tells us: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Jesus has provided the gift of salvation to us which gives us not only hope for today, but hope for eternity. Have you believed on Him from your heart? Have you acknowledged Him as your Lord and Savior this morning? If you’ve never accepted Christ into your life, then this is your opportunity. You can receive God’s grace and begin a relationship with Jesus today.
In Romans 10:9, we are told that “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
We receive salvation when we:
(1) Repent of our sins.
(2) Trust Jesus Christ as our Savior.
(3) Confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, invite Him into your life right now.
Or maybe there are those who are far away from Jesus. Have you allowed your comfortable, personally focused desires to act as an eclipse between you and God? Is Jesus obscured or completely blacked out of your life? Do you miss Him?
All it takes is to open yourself and say "I want things to be different. I know things need to be different. I know what’s wrong, what doesn’t belong and I invite You, Jesus, to come and change me.”
When we turn back to Jesus in repentance, when we ask for forgiveness, intending to live a godly life, God’s mercy reaches out to us with a message of love. God is a God of mercy, of redemption, of restoration and of renewal. Just come by faith to the throne of grace to receive it. He is waiting for you with open arms. Repent all over again and get back to fulfilling God’s plan in and through your life.
I’ll close with a familiar story.
An old Native American was sitting around a campfire with his grandson. He started telling him about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, "My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all. One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The other is Good - It is peace, love, hope, humility, compassion, and faith."
The grandson thought about this for a while and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"
To which the old Native American simply replied, "The one you feed."
Let us pray: Thank You, Father, for being a perfect Heavenly Father for us, for sending us Your Son to save us from our sins, and for putting Your Holy Spirit into each one of us so that we are never without Your presence. Help us to depend on You, to trust in Your truth, and to serve like You. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible, please click here and may you be blessed by singing along with "Cleanse Me."