God Wants Hearts
By Patrick Badstibner
This is part three as we take a look at what the words law and gospel mean. It is our prayer that through these posts you will gain a deeper understanding of what it is to “Walk In Grace” and to live a life motivated by the gospel, rather than one focused on one’s own individual performance or improving one’s morality. The first post dealt with God’s law and the second post took a look at how God expresses His love towards us.
The law shows us that outward appearance is not enough if one’s motivations and heart reasons are all wrong. The charge Christ brought against the Pharisees was not against just their actions, but against wrong hearts and motivations (Matthew 5:20-21). This is why scripture always says that God judges the heart, while man judges the actions (1 Samuel 16:7).
It is why God told Ezekiel that the reason the Israelites were under captivity is because he wanted to move their hearts away from their idols (Ezekiel 14:1-5). The same reason for why we suffer and what God’s purpose is when we suffer broken hearts, we feel the heat of the day has been increased and the nights have gotten a lot longer and darker (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Finding some of the truths in the gospel is easy, but to fully understand them we must go deeper. Starting with understanding that we only go deeper through dying to self, pushing beyond the level of comfortability, which requires suffering.
The Gift Of Suffering
The gospel brings news of hope that suffering brings life and joy (Romans 3:3-5; 1 Peter 1:6-9). Through the gospel we see that suffering does not define us as failures, sinners, or as not having enough faith. We also see through the gospel suffering need not mean God is punishing us or is unhappy with us.
Suffering seen through the lens of the gospel is the right and most loving thing, as God pushes us beyond. Through soul searching desert wilderness, God continues to clean off the dead, to bring us from being zombies to recovering our humanity, while awakening our affections towards WHO they were designed for, HIM (Psalms 94:12).
Admittedly though, that suffering may mean we are in the process of either having sinned removed or brought to confession and repentance, which is so that our hearts remain alive (Proverbs 3:12. Hebrews 12:6). Even at that, we find hope springs eternal as in knowing that such discipline is not because we have sinned, for God always responds to us through the merits of Christ, not our demerits (Psalms 103:10; Romans 15:4).
Gospel Truth Excites Imagination
As long as our thoughts, sentiments and focus are on whether we are getting healthier, progressing or changing enough, or whether our performance is meeting muster, we will always miss out on the enchanted reality that comes from being in a marriage relationship with our Bridegroom. We will find it absolutely impossible to be focused on two things with equality.
So, if we are focused on what we are doing, how we are progressing, whether others are noticing if we are changing, we be unable to focus on the One who calls us His darling (Hebrews 12:2). Thus, we will fail to give full attention that our Prince deserves and we will be unable to get lost in focusing on our ardent, amorous lover.
This is sin, the greatest of sins, because we have allowed something else to take the weight in our lives that only Jesus deserves. This is called idol worship. Instead of experiencing what it is to be truly alive, we will just have prettied up the outside, through the result of focused behavior modifications and codified behavior. More than likely we have done so not for Christ, but for the idol of approval.
This journey we are on requires imagining what is real, until what is the greatest reality, becomes the most visible, hard to do that while focused on performance and growing in knowledge only. If we are not willing to imagine what it is to dance with our Beloved and get lost in His embrace, instead remaining worried about our performance, then our affections will rarely experience a real awakening. As a result we can be assured of one thing, any such performing we think we are doing is merely unwanted sacrifice (Mark 12:33).
The thing God most desires from us is our worship, which only occurs when we have let our imaginations run wild and our affections have been awakened (2 Cor. 4: 18). Most of scripture can never be realized through our physical eyes but only through our imaginative eye. As we allow scripture to form our doctrine (head knowledge), and our doctrine guides, directs and forms the vision of God that we imagine God to be, do those doctrines move from head to heart.
When this occurs, is when we actually begin walking in the freedom of obedience because we realize that we have all we need from God (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3;). We now have the hope that he takes our messed up sinful works and exchanges them for Christ’s perfect ones (2 Corinthians 5:21), and that’s hope in faith, pleasing to God.
Hope and freedom is lost if the reason we worship and obey is in the hopes that we are pleasing God and he sees us changing (Romans 8:20-24; 2 Corinthians 1:9; 3:4-6). If the motivation or reason we are obeying or trying to change, is to get something more from God, we will always be grasping for a glimmer of hope rather than standing confidently in the Hope that the gospel gives.
It is this hope that enables us to worship and obey, out of loving gratitude, because God is as pleased as he can be. When we realize that we have as much favor as we can get through Christ; we will simply serve others, not needing them to notice us, give us props, creed, credit or any other type of recognition (1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Galatians 6:3). Understanding that we will never have any less or more of the approval of God and have all we need, creates suddenly within an overwhelming desire to live the law.
Gospel Gratefulness Is Expressed Through The Law
A gospel that fails to attach the demands of the law with the Christ event, along with the declaration that the believer has now been granted full benefits of Christ’s merit, through God’s grace, will always leave us unable to know the depth of the love that Christ has for us. The result of this is that we will be unable to experience the joy that the unadulterated gospel brings (Ephesians 3:14-21). Nonetheless, if one tries to find an answer as to why life never works, why one seems to never be measuring up, or realizing why all the behavior changes one has attempted never lasted, within the law, one will be forced to lower the law’s standards in order to feel better.
Without the waters of a crystal clear gospel, undiluted by conditions, one is left with no alternative other than to turn back to that same meek, gentler, softer law to try to measure up again and make life work again; sadly, leaving one in the same place as they were before. This vicious cycle of trying to make life matter, to measure up, to be somebody (Galatians 6:3) goes on and on.
In the crystal clear waters of the gospel we discover that Christ has called us to a different way of living (Ephesians 4:17-24). Clarifying then that while we should preach a gospel message that is distinct from the law, it should never be severed from the law. As the gospel creates within us hearts of deep gratitude, expressed through desiring to live the perfect moral law, though never perfectly.
Gospel Creates Hearts Of Enchantment
This is the life Christ has called us to and the journey He has set us on. One of living a life not to earn but to reflect the goodness, love and mercy of Christ to God’s glory. Such reflections are never self-actualized. In fact, when one attempts to create such reflection through a pattern of strenuous discipline, one has not reflected the life of Christ which is seen through the fruits of the Spirit, but rather nothing more than works of flesh (Galatians 5:19-26).
Even a lost man can perform every act that a saved man can do, except one. His heart and his affections can never be set on Christ. Yet as long as we think it is about how we are adhering to what the law is teaching us, forgetting what the law demands, we will rarely be found reflecting on the truths of the gospel of grace; leaving us unable to appreciate or even imagine what it is to set our minds on things above (Col. 3:2) hopelessly struggling to imagine a Bridegroom that is invisible (1 Timothy 6:16), yet calls upon us to picture what it is to be lost in a loving torrid affair with him through the word pictures of the Song of Solomon.
No, the gospel tells us that we must reshape our thinking, shift our affections, refocus our view and it does so by telling us the greatest story ever told in a thousand different ways. Only when we become enraptured with the Knight, the Prince and the Lover that came from the land of enchantment to the land of disenchantment in order to rescue his precious, will we be transformed.
May we allow our imaginations to run wild in order that we might see that which is invisible, know love unequaled and be mesmerized in enchantment. Only then will we actually reflect His glory. To get there though, we will have to walk the road of broken hearts in order to be awakened to a greater reality. It is within this enchanted reality that our hearts feel alive and overflow with transformed love that others are impacted.