Deuteronomy study- “Having a heart for God” —get this one right

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This Deuteronomy study (covering chapters 4-10) is a really important one–it is a study on the heart. No pun intended, but this study is foundational to the Christian faith and it gets to the heart of what it means to be a Christ follower.

Because we are all born into sin (because of the passed down consequences of Adam’s original sin in the garden), all humanity is separated from God. As sinners, we are by nature rebellious, self-centered, and seek our independence from Him. So, with that kind of condition of our heart could a holy God be pleased with us, if one Sunday, we decided to go to church, or one day, we thought we would pick up a Bible to read? No way. There needs to be a suitable payment to atone for mankind’s sin.

Our problem is that while we can agree that there should be consequences for our sinful actions and attitudes, yet with such a blemished record as we all have, as sinners, none of us would be able to pay a ransom suitable enough to cover the penalty that our rebellious ways deserve. None of us could ever act good enough to cleanse the stain of sin that we inherited, and its power we have been enslaved to.

Recognizing our predicament, God came to the rescue. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. God, paid the price of our sin and rescued us by giving up the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross as a punishment for our sins. Because of this holy sacrifice, individuals could now be reconciled back to the Father.

The Bible says, “to as many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God” (john 1:12 nasb). Each of us must personally make a decision to admit our rebellious condition, and accept Him as our means of being reconciled back to the Father.

After we have surrendered our life to Him, we become born again. His Spirit comes to dwell in us. Our spirit inside of us is brought to life and we experience new desires to live by. We still have old habits that tempt us, but they no longer have a hold on us. We can say “no to them.

So, having come to Him in faith and realizing that no amount of good efforts could ever have reconciled us to God, how then should we now live? Good question–the same way. We need to live by faith. “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so [a]walk in Him” (Col. 2:6 -nasb). Any good deeds we do now are not meant to try satisfying God (they never will-only Jesus’ death could have satisfied Him), but rather as an expression of our gratitude for all He has done for us.

As we seek to live faithfully as Christians, we need to monitor “the quality” of our walk. We need to be looking at the condition of our heart. It is important for us to recognize that we can still do things outwardly that appear good, but the motive for doing those things could be based on selfish desires (like wanting to impress others, or to make up for some impure thing we are still involved with).

So, we come to the heart. Deuteronomy 4:5 says “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might” .
Deut. 10:12 says, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
Even Jesus says that the greatest commandment is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (NASB)

So, in practical terms what does it mean to have a good heart when it comes to following the Lord? Good question–I’m glad you asked.

I’ve gone ahead and listed seven categories that I think will give us a better understanding of it and an opportunity to look into this mirror as to the condition of our own heart.

In each of the seven areas, I’ve put a brief explanation, as well as a listing of Bible references from these seven chapters of Deuteronomy (4-10). Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and there are some passages that more verses could have easily been added to the ones I’ve listed (you can probably think of additional verses yourself).

So, what does it look like to have a “heart for God”? (as a reminder, let me encourage you to take the time to look up the Deuteronomy verses that are mentioned. Again, if there is repetition in these themes, there is importance in what is being said).

1) No Coveting
– coveting is a longing in the heart for more (meaning you are not content with what you have currently, so you look for something else that you think will bring satisfaction- It won’t.). Only God can meet your real needs.
Having a strong heart for God is like being under the influence of a strong gravitational pull. Sure, there will be temptations facing us, looking to pull us away from our “orbit of following God” , but if our heart is aligned with God, we will resist these tempting pulls. Our love for Him, will be a stronger gravitational pull that will keep us aligned with what we know to be true and away from an orbit of sin (like coveting) and disobedience to God. 5:21, 7:25-26, 10:12

2) Serving – a heart that loves God is not content with just focusing on our own needs, but desires to be used by God to be a blessing to others. 10:12, 19-20

3) Loving God- there is a passion within us that seeks to draw closer; mindfully, emotionally, and willfully to the source of life, God. Inwardly, we desire to get to know our awesome God who first loved us.

4) Obedience-is a matter of the will, which complies with the inner drive of gratefulness to love God by obeying the Biblical principles He has revealed to us.
Obedience says, “God, if you say I should do this, then I will do it and trust you that this is best for me. I also understand that if I obey you, it pleases you and it preserves a healthy relationship with You.” “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 (nasb)

Deut. 4:1, 2,5-6, 16, 40, 5:2, 6-31, 31-33,6:1-3, 17-18,24-25, 7:2-5, 9,11-12; 8:1,6, 9:23, 10:12-13

5) Remembering (not forgetting) -We all have choices to make on how we will behave. The idea of remembering (or not
forgetting) is not having a “living in the past mindset”, but drawing from your experiences in the past to help you make wise decisions today out of a love for God. Again, its a heart issue that seeks to remember the faithfulness and love of God you have experienced in the past to help you move forward in loyalty and passion in the future. Deut. 4:10, 6:12, 8:2,5,14,18, 19, 9:7)

6) Mindfully paying attention- in other words, its understanding the value of a reconciled relationship with God to the point that we prioritize preserving it. Think of a garden. We can plant flowers and our garden will look beautiful, but it won’t stay that way without our attention to it. Weeds will enter and we will need to be careful to keep an eye on the garden looking for any growing weeds AND we’ll
need to put in the effort to remove them when we see them.

The same holds true with our spiritual life. Having a heart for God entails being intentional to observe any “foreign” objects that may have planted seeds in our thoughts and actions. Have we allowed any thoughts of greed, pride, lust, anger, worry, independence to have taken root?

Again, part of our “tending” our garden is not only being observant for these “spiritual weeds”, but we also then need to take action to remove them. We first need to confess our sins to God and seek His forgiveness. Then, we need to turn from our mindset that has allowed these “weeds” to enter in, and we need to take action to put an end to allowing the entrance of these weeds from reappearing. Do we need to stop looking at a certain tv show? Do we need to stop hanging around someone? Do we need to ask forgiveness from someone? Deut. 4:9,15, 19, 23,39, 6:3,6-9, 12, 7:9, 17-18,21, 8:1, 5,11

7) Lastly, there is a committed heart. God says in Deut. 10:16 to “circumcise your heart”. This reflects an attitude of “I’m all in”. It is an attitude of “I can’t live anymore on the fence and try to follow God and the world and my own selfish desires. “I have to choose. And I choose God.” Its an attitude of “holding fast” to God and His ways. Its an attitude of “betting the farm” on following God and His ways. Deut. 4:4, 29, 10:16, 20

The opposite of a good heart is a “bad heart”:

* it does things in a passionless, checklist, mindless kind of way
* it is restless looking around for something else besides God and His ways to bring us meaning, joy, and satisfaction
* it pays little attention to keeping God’s ways –rather than thinking of God’s commandments with a soberness and respect, they are looked on as “suggestions”
* it is not teachable
* it is stubborn
* it is rebellious

Friends, this has been a longer than usual study. However, keep in mind that if Jesus says that the number one commandment is to love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, then it would seem logical that we make sure that we have this issue correct in our minds and in our actions.

Your extra time spent in this study will be worth it.

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