THE STATE OF OUR HEART AND SOUL DETERMINES OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
24 SEPTEMBER 1995
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Last week we talked about how our real relationship with God begins with our spiritual rebirth in Jesus Christ.
But our ongoing relationship with God is based upon our willingness to submit our hearts and souls to a continuing series of regeneration events, followed by the Lord giving us second chances or various new beginnings.
As the psalmist tells us in Psalm 51:17,
17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
The “sacrifices of God” are not the animal sacrifices, or various other acts used in trying to appease God.
We cannot appease God.
We must learn to submit to Him.
In Luke 16:1-13, we are told about an unrighteous steward, of his master's businesses, and how he misused his opportunity for a new beginning.
1. Now He was also saying to the disciples, "There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and this steward was reported to him as squandering his possessions.
2. "And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.'
3. "And the steward said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.
4. 'I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the stewardship, they will receive me into their homes.'
Notice carefully that this steward is not trying to correct his ways with his present employer, but seeking to go to work for the people with whom his employer does business.
Not a very ethical approach, is it?
5. "And he summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he began saying to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'
6. "And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.'
7. "Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' And he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.'
These people are just as unethical as this steward for going along with what is a dishonest act.
But more importantly, note the response of his master:
8. "And his master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.
I have heard some people mistakenly say that this master is God, but nowhere in the Bible have I ever seen a passage where God praises evil.
So, this master cannot be God; thus, it must be Satan, or at the least a worldly human being.
Listen to what Jesus says concerning the type of people we have been reading about:
9. "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
And where are the eternal dwellings of the unrighteous?
That's right! They are in hell!
10. "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
11. "If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you?
If people live by the ways of the world, how can so many of them think that God will receive them into heaven?
They are only fooling themselves.
12. "And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?
13. "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
The choice is ours.
Are we going to serve the devil and his unrighteous ways?
Or are we going to serve God with all our heart and soul?
If we have been living our lives improperly, then, with a contrite heart, we are to return to God.
The prophet Jeremiah had such a heart. Listen to what he says in his lament, Jeremiah 8:18-22 and 9:1.
18. My sorrow is beyond healing,
My heart is faint within me!
Do we feel this way when we see all the evil that is going on in the world around us?
If we don’t, shouldn’t we?
If we are in tune with God, then our own heart and soul should ache, as does God's.
19. Behold, listen! The cry of the daughter of my people from a distant land:
"Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not within her?"
"Why have they provoked Me with their graven images, with foreign idols?"
I believe that one of the biggest problems that society has today is that it fails to realize that our evil acts actually provoke God.
And before we concentrate only on the other people around us, remember that we, individually, are also members of this society.
20. "Harvest is past, summer is ended,
And we are not saved."
Consider carefully why things are not better.
21. For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken;
I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me.
Do we, individually, as with Jeremiah, have a broken enough spirit to do something about the evil that is going on around us?
Or, are we too timid to even speak out for what is right and against what is evil?
As we answer this question, we get the answer of why society is as it is.
22. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?
If we have Jesus Christ in our hearts, then we are “the balm of Gilead,” we are the “physicians.”
So why is the world as it is?
Because we fail to fully practice our spiritual medicine, which can bring healing to the nations.
1. Oh, that my head were waters,
And my eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!
Unless we begin to weep as Jeremiah did, we have not the love and compassion to heal the evils of this world, for we cannot feel the pain it causes.
And sometimes we ask God to take vengeance upon our enemies, for all their evil deeds, as does the psalmist in his lament in Psalm 79:1-13.
As we listen to his words, ask yourself, has the evil come upon Israel because of their righteousness, or because they, too, were evil in their ways?
At the same time that we contemplate this, also consider our own time and place, and our own way of life, both individually and as a society.
1. O God, the nations have invaded Thine inheritance;
They have defiled Thy holy temple;
They have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
2. They have given the dead bodies of Thy servants for food to the birds of the heavens,
The flesh of Thy godly ones to the beasts of the earth.
3. They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem;
And there was no one to bury them.
Quite a gruesome picture, isn't it?
But we must consider why it came about.
4. We have become a reproach to our neighbors,
A scoffing and derision to those around us.
This state of affairs came about because the people were filled with enormous pride and arrogance; after all, they were God’s people, weren’t they? They were better than their neighbors, weren’t they?
We have considered ourselves the greatest nation on earth.
Don't fool yourselves; we have been losing ground very rapidly.
5. How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou be angry forever?
Will Thy jealousy burn like fire?
Until the spirit of pride is broken, and the hearts and souls of her people once again turn wholeheartedly towards God.
And only then will what the psalmist prays for next begin to happen.
6. Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations which do not know Thee,
And upon the kingdoms which do not call upon Thy name.
7. For they have devoured Jacob,
And laid waste his habitation.
God won't do this out of vengeance only, but more importantly, in order to turn their hearts back to Him.
But He must show them by example, by showing the good that has come upon His people as a result of their Godly way of life.
However, if there are no truly Godly societies to point to, if there is no difference in the way we live, then how can God answer such prayers?
The answer is, He can't.
So the psalmist continues to lament and pray:
8. Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us;
Let Thy compassion come quickly to meet us;
For we are brought very low.
9. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy name;
And deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Thy name's sake.
10. Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"
Let there be known among the nations in our sight,
Vengeance for the blood of Thy servants, which has been shed.
The nations shouldn't say this, but if there is no difference in the way we live, then why should they think that God is here?
11. Let the groaning of the prisoner come before Thee;
According to the greatness of Thy power preserve those who are doomed to die.
God always hears the groaning of His people.
Just as I believe he hears the groaning of His animals who suffer in captivity and are doomed to die.
But if His so-called people continue to live among the ungodly, and do not do anything to block their evilness, then they will suffer with the evil ones.
12. And return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom
The reproach with which they have reproached Thee, O Lord.
13. So we Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture
Will give thanks to Thee forever;
To all generations we will tell of Thy praise.
Our right relationship with God must start first.
So, instead of complaining, put that energy into correcting the problems.
And when we collectively begin to do this, then we will truly see God begin to move.
The choice is ours.
And remember, we live as our collective hearts and souls live.
But, we can make things better, if we want to do so.
We can begin by eliminating the things from our own lives that cause other to suffer and die.
And then we can move on to bring peace to the world around us.
Believe it; it's true.
Your Comments are welcome
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