In his Sunday, January 8, message, Dave Mudd brilliantly proclaimed what could be termed the very foundation of what it means to follow Jesus.
God, he said, “wants desire over duty. A relationship that is born from desire, choice says ‘I want to know and love God, I get to know and love God.'”
Then Dave pulled out the stops. He said: “Don’t dirty that by obligation! Better you not come than make it about religion and obligation! It’s too precious, it’s too beautiful, it’s too amazing for us to make it dirty through obligation. It has to be desire!”
Desire over obligation. It’s simple but profound. Yet people miss it because it is just that – simple.
Obligation is compulsory, desire is volitional. Obligation is mechanical and rote. Desire is dynamic and emboldening. Obligation is kept alive by the fear of failure and the dread of consequences. Desire is born of the heart.
“The LORD sees not as man sees,” God told Samuel. “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
The triumph of heart over obligation was not only the cornerstone of Jesus’ public ministry, it remains the genius and logic behind everything Jesus taught.
I call it the doctrine of the heart. In a thousand occurrences throughout Scripture, heart is used figuratively to portray the reflections and yearnings of the inner person.
“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart,” Jesus said. In the New Testament, the Greek word for heart (kardia) is used more than 150 times. Each of those 158 occurrences describes the figurative heart, meaning our thoughts, our feelings, our aspirations.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life,” Proverbs 4:23 tells us. Here and elsewhere in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for heart (lebab or leb) occurs nearly 850 times. In all but a handful of those 845 occurrences, heart is used figuratively, meaning not the physical heart but the mind, the will, the inward being.
So how do I keep my heart good? How do I guard that which determines the course of my life?
The answer begins with the Holy Spirit. To keep a heart good is to repent and ask God to fill our innermost thoughts and yearnings. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be,” Jesus said. The treasure Jesus had in mind is eternal, not temporal.
But treasure must be protected. If we’re to guard our hearts, we must control our feelings and desires, ever mindful of the temporal world the Enemy has constructed – a world full of distractions that employ the tricks of materialism, sensuality, impulse and desire to lure our minds away from God.
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 20-21).