A Heart For God

People talk of us having or developing a heart for God. Having a heart for worship or having a heart for praise. The thrust being that we should have the same heart for pleasing God as Jesus had when on earth and still has now for His Father.

Jesus was close to His Father in all His thoughts. He and the father were and are ONE and for us to have a heart for God means that we also will be close to the Father. We will 'Draw Close to God and He will Draw Close To Us'.

Jas 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

This is a cry from the heart of God to ALL Christians. I say that, because for non-Christians, for sinners, God takes the first step. While we were yet sinners Christ (God) died for us. While we were in a state of bondage where we could not approach God, He sent his son Jesus to liberate us and Jesus came down to us willingly and died for our sins.

But having reconciled us to Himself, now God wants a close and growing ever closer relationship with us and He says - “Draw close to Me and I will draw close to you”!

God wants us to have a relationship with Him where we are aware of His presence as we go through the day and especially as we talk to Him about the things that are in our hearts. He wants to hear what we think about. What are our dreams and concerns? How do we view Him; His goodness and mercy and love and how do we appreciate Him? God lives to hear from His children, especially words from the heart and He will draw close to them and richly bless with His presence.

Heb 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Do we have an abiding love for God which means that he is constantly in our thoughts? As our thoughts dwell on our great God and we draw close to him we can say, as that famous hymn, says...

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me.
But I long to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to Thee.

Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord to the way that Thou hast shown;
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, to Thy ever ruling throne.

That's a cry from our hearts to be drawn close and to be in God's presence. David is a good illustration of how the people who are really close to God; the people who are after God's own heart; are aware of the presence of God being with them whenever they draw close to him. God wants a close relationship with His children and for all of us here who love God it's a two way thing. We want to be close and know we are close to Him and to know that He is close to us. This will both be in closeness through our spirits but also in being aware of His presence in a tangible sense as He caters for the senses of our current human frame.

The people of God talk to God all the time. They meditate on his goodness; his mercy; his love, his faithfulness; his compassion; his grace.... there is so much we can draw on. Notice in Psalm 23 how David thinks of God and His goodness and the psalm gives the impression that David could have been out looking after his father's sheep when he began meditating on God and perhaps started musing out loud about God's love and His goodness and care.

Maybe he'd settled the sheep down for the night and was sitting at his camp fire about to eat his evening meal when his mind starts drawing parallels between his care for the sheep and God's constant goodness. The sheep are settled down, and talking aloud to them would probably help keep them calm as they hear his reassuring voice, and David says....

The Lord is my shepherd (like I'm your shepherd). I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures (like I do for you),
He leads me besides still waters,
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.

So David muses and meditates on Gods love, goodness and provision. But have you noticed that at this point in the psalm, it's as though David senses God's presence next to him and he turns to speak to God directly?

In the first part of the Psalm David speaks of God in the third person. He says that 'He' makes me lie down. 'He' leads me. 'He' restores my soul; and so on. But then the psalm changes. It's as though the Holy Spirit goes up to God the Father and says “I think you should come and hear what your servant David is saying about you”! And the Father comes down, and David senses this, and so he changes to speak to God in the first person. He uses "You" rather than "He", and says things like.... well let's read on!

David's psalm continues...

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil for You are with me.
Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in 'the house of the LORD' forever.

David is apparently feeling that special closeness to God, which we term God's presence which makes him talk to God as being right there, like a friend who has come to join him and is sitting at the camp fire with him.

As David did, I think the greatest thing we can do is to draw close to God. This would be in our praise, prayers and our attitude, just as we see with David. We talk about Him and we talk to Him at all times. We should have that constant praise for the goodness of God that David maintained.

Praise and worship are not for God's benefit; they're for ours. As with David when we appreciate God and show it in our praise, God will draw near to us. If the hymns that we sing are not routine to us and not just a sop for our minds but reach into our hearts then God will be drawn to us.

When we reach a new understanding about God as we hear something new perhaps or sing something new and our hearts praise God, the Holy Spirit can tell the Father; "Look he (or she) is getting it, I think that you should come down and encourage them, and we feel God's presence and what we have learned is impressed further in our hearts.

And what does that do? It builds our faith and our love for God!

Because of our new natures as children of God we will want to draw closer to God but we have to maintain the link at all times and not let it grow in distance. Our spirits are all new. We have a new nature. God has put a right spirit in us. We have a heart of flesh. But, our minds and our bodies have not been changed as yet and if we do not live by the spirit our mind cannot on it's own be an overcomer.

As Paul points out in Rom 7:22-23.

Rom 7:22-23 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Our spirit has been changed though; we have a new spirit. In our minds has being planted the law of Christ to live by, but the mind does not yet have the power to bring the flesh (the body) into captivity to this new law. So as Paul says, a war is going on. By ourselves, the flesh brings our mind into captivity to the law of sin as our will-power is not enough to overcome our fleshly desires. With Jesus' help and our spirit acting alongside our minds though, we win. That's why we need Christ's help and to renew our minds. This is a continuing process and we need His Spirit within us which enable us through Grace (which I like to think of as 'Jesus indwelling us') to control our bodies; our flesh.

This is why the scriptures talk of salvation as something already done, as something ongoing and as something still to come. For the spirit in man it's already done. For the mind of man it's still ongoing as our mind is renewed. And for the Body of man it's still to come as we will be given a new spiritual body at the return of Jesus.

As the scriptures say in Titus 2:11-12...

Tit 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Thus our minds are renewed day by day as we rely on Jesus to show us the way through the Holy Spirit in us. He give us the strength/power of His 'Grace' to overcome the pull of the flesh with it's greed, envy, lying, etc. Then, at the end when Jesus returns, we will be given a new incorruptible body to go with the new spirit and renewed mind.

We develop a new attitude of mind as another hymn says....

Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God, in every part with praise,
That my whole being may proclaim Your being and Your ways.

With our continual access to the throne of grace we can boldly approach and draw close to God, building our faith in him. That is one tangible and massive benefit of drawing close to God. As we get to know him better and feel his presence in our lives our faith is increased. We live by faith in Jesus Christ. Remember Abraham is the father of the faithful. Let us draw near to God and be children of our father Abraham. Children of faith.

If you have faith in Jesus you have nothing to fear! The Holy Spirit in you will give you victory in God's enterprises! Even the smallest who has faith can defeat an army once the Holy Spirit gives them into your hands.

Let's look at an example I've used before to illustrate the faith we can have when we are close to God and how God can then use any of us to do great exploits. It's in 1 Sam 14:1-23 and it's regarding Jonathan and his armour bearer!

During this time of hostilities with the Philistines, Jonathan (son of Saul the king of Israel), decides to go and scout out the Philistine strength and his armour bearer goes along with the idea.

I should perhaps point out that at this time Israel had been under the thumb of the Philistines and had not been allowed to have blacksmiths in Israel. As a result there were only two swords in all of Israel. Saul had one and Jonathan the other.

Anyway, getting back to the story... They use rocks for cover most of the way but have to come out in the open at one point and are spotted by a Philistine garrison on a hill. Seeing that they've been rumbled Jonathan says "Lets stand here and see what the Philistines say. If they say 'Wait there we're coming down' then we'll stay here, but if they say 'Come up here' that means the Lord has given them into our hands and we'll go up!" And the armour bearer agrees, showing great faith as well!

One of the Philistines shouts down to them, "Hey you! Come up here and we'll show you a thing or two!"
(I don't know about you, but to me that does not sound good!!!)

Anyway, Jonathan hears the signal HE was waiting for, and says to his armour bearer, "The Lord has given them into our hands, let's go up after them!"

So Jonathan starts climbing up the hill and it's so steep that he has to climb using his hands and his feet for grip. The armour bearer is following and as he is carrying Jonathan's sword he's probably slung it over his shoulder by the belt as he climbs. If he was carrying Jonathan's helmet as well then he's probably put that on his head to free up his hands!

They get to the top of the hill and as Jonathan climbs over onto the flat all the Philistines fall down before him! The scriptures are not totally clear on who did what next! One could well imagine Jonathan how holding out his hand for his sword; only to find that the armour bearer forgets his job and goes in swinging himself and kills all the Philistines! I can just see him looking back finally and seeing an open-mouthed Jonathan with his hand stretched out and saying, "Ah!" "Sorry Jonathan, but it was as though someone took hold of my hand and the next thing I knew it was all over!"

It could have been Jonathan who slew them all or it could be that the Holy Spirit had other ideas. He may have wanted to show that even the smallest in men's eyes can be used by God to do great exploits. In either case God used only one person to complete this rout!

The same applies today. Draw close to God and the Holy Spirit can use you mightily to overcome strongholds in this age; taking light into darkness, opening the prisons of those who are bound and giving living water to the thirsty.

We should have hearts like Jonathan and his armour bearer. Through closeness to God we build confidence in him. Let's draw close to God so that as we see his presence in our lives our faith is increased. And because of this our whole attitude will be one of trust in God, thankfulness for God's mercy and forgiveness and courage to live lives dedicated to God. And as we give to God the fruit of our lips in praise and thanksgiving we will draw even closer!

As the hymn continues...

So shalt Thou, Lord, from even me receive the glory due,
And so shall I begin on earth the song forever new.

We will thus have an attitude of praise and worship towards God at all times . We will have a heart full of compassion for those who live in the world without the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and will want desperately to bring them to Christ, as Paul exemplified in Rom 9:1-3

Rom 9:1-3I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Being close to God also gives us a heart for the things God has a heart for. God's heart wants no-one to perish but wants all to have everlasting life through Jesus Christ

With closeness to God comes knowledge of God as He communicates with us and shows us what is in His heart and mind. And from the closeness that we continually develop in our relationship with God, we learn what is His will for us and the assignments and blessings He has in store for us. As we get to know Him more fully He can explain more to us and use us more in His work.

As the Apostle Peter said in 2 Pe 1:2-4...

2Pe 1:2-4 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the 'knowledge' of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the 'knowledge' of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us 'his precious and very great promises', so that through them 'you may become partakers of the divine nature', having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Drawing close to God has benefits not just in giving you a heart for things of God but also has benefits for your ministry of the gospel of God!

What I've noticed in the bible is that the closer you are to God the less you have to come out of your comfort zone when God uses you to spread the gospel of Grace.

Take the Apostle Peter. Early on God had to overcome his prejudices to get him to reach out to non-Israelites. This was tough for him; way outside his comfort zone, and God had to provide a vision to get him convinced! For us also our first forays into evangelism and outreach can take us outside our own comfort zones. But as Christians we have to take that step to fulfill our calling.

Later on Peter would be walking along the road and the presence of God was so strong in him that just his shadow passing over someone would bring healing! How hard was that? He just had to walk by!

We should live to be in God's presence. In this way we'd build faith/confidence in God. But there's more! Look at what Paul says in Rom 5: verses 1-2..

Rom 5:1-2 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

You'll notice from that passage in Romans that first comes faith by which we are justified. That gives us peace with God. Then through faith we have access to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it's in that grace we stand. It's because of grace that we are able to do God's will and obey, or 'stand'. You can see the sequence - "Faith", then "Grace", and through Grace, "Obedience". That's why Abraham is called the 'father of the faithful', and not the 'father of the obedient'.

Or we can perhaps see more directly why faith has to comes first, if we read what it says in Phillipians 2:13..

Phil 2:13 ... for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

It's God who does the works! It's not us! We follow Jesus. When Christ was here on earth as a man, he could do nothing of himself, but only did what the Father showed him and all by the strength of the Holy Spirit in him. It's the same for us.

Jesus would take time out to draw close to his Father in heaven. He modelled if you like, 'best practice'! So that is the pattern that we should follow. Then we will know the Father's heart and be filled by the Spirit to do his will.

So let's draw close and put our trust in God. Let's develop David's total confidence that God will look after those he has called. God does not want us to shrink back. In all this we MUST remember that we are not to 'work' at doing the work. We are to rest in Jesus and trust in him who does the work through us by grace, as we saw in Phil 2:13.

So for many reasons we see that one of our top priorities should be "Drawing close to God" so we develop "A heart for God". As we live more and more in God's presence, praising Him, and singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs in worship like David, our faith is built up, and our walk as children of God will be made easier and easier and deeper and deeper and richer and richer! And, God will be able to use us more and more and more in the work of the kingdom.



Grace and Law in Ancient Israel's journey. Click Here.
Wilderness to the Promised Land Click Here.
Our Freedom In Christ Click Here.

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