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).
5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. (1 Timothy 1:5–7, NKJV)
To faithfully teach the gospel one must first be willing to be taught (see 2 Timothy 2:2). Commitment to the commands of God produce love from a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith. Love for God, for truth, and for others compels us to learn God’s word before trying to teach it. Desire to teach the gospel without having a knowledge of it may well result in leading a person astray from the very truth he desires to teach. Like zeal without knowledge, desire to teach that is not fettered to knowing the truth produces vain, yet confidently asserted babbling, instead of “godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4). Take time to study and learn God’s word. Examine your motive for desiring to be a teacher of the word. Is it “love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith?” And remember, faithful teachers never stop studying to learn and know the truth they teach.
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24, NKJV)
The apostle has contrasted walking in the Spirit with fulfilling the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). He has pointed out the kind of life the flesh prompts men to pursue (the works of the flesh), with its fatal result (“those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven,” Galatians 5:19-21). The character and conduct formed by the Spirit’s instruction and guidance is fruitful and robust, free from law’s condemnation (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who belong to Christ extinguish the flesh as the controlling factor of their lives (Galatians 2:20). Christians deliberately and methodically eliminate the influences and cravings of the flesh, so the fruit of the Spirit can thrive in their hearts and lives (Colossians 3:5). It is no accident that Christians bear the fruit of the Spirit. Through repentance, the heart has been conditioned to serve a new Master, Christ Jesus. The heart that is humble, repentant and responsive to the gospel is the perfect soil for bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Luke 8:15).
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:9–10, NKJV)
Now we are told why trusting in man brings the curse raised in Jeremiah 17:5-6. The heart is open to being deceived. It is where wickedness begins, and where it is housed. Jesus explained that sin comes from within us, from our hearts, and defiles us (Mark 7:20-23). The heart of which the Scriptures speak is not your blood pump, it is composed of your intellect, your will, your emotions, and your conscience. God knows the heart of every person, and He will render to every person “according to his ways.” Since our conduct proceeds from our heart, God’s judgment of us will be according to what we do (our ways, our doings). God does not say, “You have sinned, but your heart is good, therefore, everything is all right.” Instead, God says to “get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit,” that follows His will, and not your own (Ezekiel 18:31-32). Turn your heart away from sin and do God’s will. Then, both your heart and your life will be blessed by the Lord.