1 The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. 2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits. 3, Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established. (Proverbs 16:1–3, NKJV)
A measure of self-reliance is at the heart of individual liberty and responsibility, limited government and entrepreneurship. But, self-reliance can also tempt us to trust in our own instincts and ideas without thinking of God. That form of self-reliance elevates us above God, producing sinful outcomes. We plan many things (education, career, family, vacations, retirement, etc.), but the answers to how we should pursue our plans belong to the Lord and not to ourselves (“O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps,” Jeremiah 10:23). We must yield “self” to God (“not my will, but thine be done”). Even when we consider our ways to be pure, it is the Lord who evaluates our heart’s motives, intentions and dispositions (Hebrews 4:12-13). His word is truth and reveals the way we must go (John 17:17). We trust our actions (“works,” verse 3) to the Lord by first preparing our heart to follow His word instead of our own word. Let us make plans that agree with God’s word, so He approves of our plans and our actions.
30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:30–31, NKJV)
We all need to learn to apologize when we have been wrong. The simple truth is that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). We need to seek forgiveness for our sins against God and against others. To accomplish this we must learn to repent of our sins. Only by genuine repentance will we turn from our transgressions and avoid the ruin sin causes. God told the house of Israel to throw away their sins by changing their hearts. That is what repentance is all about – changing the heart. We must get a “new heart and a new spirit” – one that turns away from all our sins. Do more than say you are sorry for your sins. Repent and turn from your sins so that you can be forgiven and escape eternal death.
15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15–17, NKJV)
Christ’s warning against false prophets is centered upon their teachings, not the nature of their motives or the sincerity of their personal character. They are false because the fruit they bear is corrupt (false). No false prophet (or false teacher, 2 Peter 2:1) walks around with a signboard that says, “Beware, I am a false prophet.” We know them by the fruit they bear, that is, we know the false prophet (teacher) by what he teaches – that is his fruit. When we “try the spirits” to see whether a teacher is from God, it is the message that we test, not the heart of the one teaching the message (1 John 4:1, 6). We are fruit-testers, not heart-testers. This is what Jesus said in verse 16 of today’s passage (see also, Matthew 7:20). Test what you hear by the word of God. The true teacher of God teaches the true gospel, but the false teacher proclaims and advances error God’s name (2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:2-4). The false prophet (false teacher) speaks from his own heart and not from God’s revelation (Deuteronomy 18:20-22; Ezekiel 13:1-3).
13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us. (Acts 16:13–15, NKJV)
Paul and his companions looked for an opportunity to teach the gospel, and a group of women were found by the riverside. Among them was Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened “to heed the things spoken by Paul.” How and why did the Lord open Lydia’s heart? Does He still open hearts? First, Lydia was not shown preferential treatment over the other women. God opened her heart the way He does today, by the power of the gospel she heard. God’s saving word addresses the heart, convicting and converting the lost (John 16:8-13; Romans 1:16). Lydia’s heart was opened “to heed” the things Paul said (to give close attention to and respond). The gospel prompted her to answer God’s call to believe and be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:15-16). Her actions were deemed “faithful to the Lord” inasmuch as Paul and his companions lodged at her house. Lydia chose to heed the gospel and by doing so, she was faithful to the Lord.
Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s. (2 Corinthians 10:7, NKJV)
Things are not always as they appear. Certainly, we must be careful of our appearance and the influence we leave on others (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 4:12). But, that is not the subject of this passage. This verse warns us not to make judgments based merely on outward appearances. When we do, we are liable to be mistaken, and even deceived (John 7:24). By doing so we have forgotten a fundamental trait of God that ought to inform our discernment: God looks at the heart instead of outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). Here, some Christians were trying to undermine the apostolic authority of Paul. Using carnal tactics, they complained about the strength of his epistles versus his bodily presence (2 Corinthians 10:9-10). They suggested Paul was not fully an apostle (2 Corinthians 11:5-6; 12:11-12). They compared themselves with themselves and boasted in their faithfulness (2 Corinthians 10:12, 7). On the other hand, Paul would only boast in the Lord and the work he was given to accomplish (2 Corinthians 10:13-17). Let us be careful not to use outward appearances to compare ourselves to others. Remember, “not he who commends himself is approved; but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).
And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ (Acts 13:22, NKJV)
What an extraordinary blessing for God to identify David as “a man after My own heart.” God did not describe David this way because he was sinless (far from it), but because David gave his heart to God and to His purposes. He loved the Lord with all His heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). This kind of heart prepared David to do all of God’s will. When David sinned, he learned some hard lessons. He learned you cannot hide your sins from God (Psalm 32:3-5). He learned the painful consequences of sin (2 Samuel 12:11-14). David’s heart allowed him to learn the lessons. When his sins were laid before him, David did not become defensive. He did not blame others. He took responsibility, he repented, and he remained faithful to the Lord (Psalm 51). None of us are without sin. How we acknowledge our sin and remedy it shows whether or not we are people after God’s own heart, who do all of His will.
46 Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. 47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.” (Luke 9:46–48, NKJV)
One of the most notable aspects of the kingdom of God is its spiritual nature; It is not of this world (John 18:36). That nature is on full display in this passage, when a dispute erupted among His disciples about who would be greatest in the kingdom. With a child beside Him, Jesus explained the heart of those in His kingdom will not prompt personal promotion above others, but humble deference to others. Christians are to treat each other with humility, considering others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). Oh, how many disputes in the church, in the home and with our neighbors could be avoided with such hearts within us! Unless we have humble hearts to receive one another, we cannot receive the Son or the Father who sent Him. Let us endeavor to love our brother (whom we have seen), so that we may love God whom we have not seen (1 John 4:20). Without question, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).