Clean Hands and Pure Hearts

Today’s reading is Psalm 24.

We’ve decided to lay down our tools for building our own personal hill. We’ve decide there really is a hill to climb. But we are still left with the question of who actually gets to climb it. The God who “dwells” on this hill owns everything because He created it all. Surely, not just anyone can make their way into His presence. A similar question was asked in Psalm 15. Almost every bit of that qualification list had to do with the worshipers relationship with others. This list, however, seems to give the other side. This one is mostly about our relationship with God. The four qualifications: 1) Clean hands. 2) Pure heart. 3) Worship God only. 4) Honest; though, considering the list, this is probably more about not profaning God’s name (see Leviticus 19:12). Isaiah seems to have these same principles in mind in the context of Isaiah 59:3. God doesn’t listen to the worship offered by those with defiled hands. Paul makes this same point in 1 Timothy 2:8 when he points out men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger and quarreling. While this statement demonstrates prayer with uplifted hands was a norm for Christians in the New Testament, his main emphasis is those uplifted hands were supposed to be clean. Perhaps the most pointed allusion to this passage is often overlooked by commentators and search engines (maybe because the Greek words aren’t the same as those in the LXX for Psalm 24:4). In James 4:8, James says sinners need to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts. But, contextually, this was part of drawing near to God so He will draw near to us. This is part of submitting ourselves to God and resisting the devil. It is part of humbling ourselves before God. And the pure heart actually means to be single-minded, which, of course, means our mind doesn’t go after other masters. We don’t become friends with the world or with false gods. But here is a fantastic principle we need to grasp. The person of Psalm 24:4 is not the sinlessly perfect person who has brought his/her own righteousness to lay out before God. After all, who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9). Rather, this person is blessed with “righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Psalm 24:5). If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us (James 4:10). In other words, even the clean hands and pure heart are not made that way by our own strength, but are made so by the strength and grace of God as we resist the devil and draw near to the Lord. Who can ascend the Holy Hill? The one who resists the devil and draws near to the Lord. The one who seeks the face of the God of Jacob. Why the God of Jacob? Because Jacob was the one who sought the Lord’s blessing and simply would not let go no matter how much it hurt and how much it cost him until he got it (see Genesis 32:22-32). In other words, we were wrong in the beginning. Anyone can climb this Holy Hill. That is, anyone who really wants God more than he or she wants anything else. What do you want?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 24.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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A Prayer for OUR King

Today’s reading is Psalm 20.

We may think Psalm 20 is really not for us. It is an interesting look at a historical prayer that could have been used back in the days of Israel’s monarchy, but not today. Not so. We can…we should pray Psalm 20. But let us not dumb it down as if we should use this psalm to pray for the leaders of our earthly nations. Of course, we should pray for them. But we pray for them passages like 1 Timothy 2:1-7, not Psalm 20. This is a prayer for God’s anointed. And as much as it was a prayer for David, it is a prayer for our King, Jesus. It was the prayer the apostles should have been praying that night they were sleeping in Gethsemane. And while Jesus has already won that the greatest of victories, we recall Ephesians 6. We recall we are the army our King is leading into battle against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. We know the heart’s desire of Jesus and we know His plans–to conquer every foe until the very last is conquered and He turns the kingdom back over the Father. And we can pray for the Father’s blessing on these plans, because they are the Father’s plans as well. Therefore not only will our King stand upright, but we will rise and stand upright. We know God will give our King victory, which actually means God will give us victory. This psalm is not antiquated. It is very modern. We need to be praying it for our King, Jesus. Let us prepare our banners to rejoice in the victory. There is no way our King will lose; there is no way we who give our allegiance to Him will lose. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 20.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier that expands on this post!

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Give Thanks with Your Whole Heart

Today’s reading is Psalm 9.

The greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” That kind of love produces a certain kind of praise, a certain kind of giving thanks (depending on your translation). “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.” David gives thanks from and with his entire being. He holds nothing back. There are no reservations, no resignations, no caveats, no exceptions. He isn’t going to give begrudging thanks, holding some back because this is just fulfilling a checklist, act-of-worship requirement. He isn’t going to give momentary thanks, holding some back because he wants to wait and see how tomorrow is going to turn out. He isn’t going to give partial thanks, holding some back because not everything he has ever asked for has been granted. David fully commits to thanksgiving and praise. I need to do the same today. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 9.

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God Knows Your Heart

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Christians explain the grace of God for their sins by saying, “Well, God knows my heart.” This is sometimes said as if our heartfelt devotion and personal sincerity make up for our sins. “Hey, I may be mistaken about how to worship God scripturally, but God knows my heart.” We say that as if we do not recognize how terribly frightening the prospect of God knowing our hearts really is. Jesus’s words to the Pharisees in Luke 16:15 demonstrate this. Jesus makes it clear to His detractors. “God knows your heart.” And that fact does not bode well for them. God is not fooled by the outwardly righteous demeanor of the Pharisees. He knows exactly how rotten their hearts are. As Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). God does not give His grace to us because of how amazingly devout and sincere we are in our hearts. God doesn’t overlook our sins because we meant well. After all, if that was the basis of salvation, it wouldn’t be grace, would it? Here is the amazing thing. Despite knowing our hearts, Jesus died for us anyway. He established His kingdom. We need it. None of this, of course, is permission to be an insincere hypocrite. None of this, of course, is permission to be an apathetic, half-hearted citizen of the kingdom. It is, however, a reminder that our comfort is not that Jesus knows our hearts, but in discovering and knowing the heart of Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 16.

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Lips and Heart

Today’s reading is Matthew 15.

I’m reading a book right now on what the author has labeled “Cultural Christianity.” It’s all about people who claim to be Christian, but its not because of real conviction. It’s because of culture. Today’s reading couldn’t hit on that topic any better. Isn’t that what is happening when people honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far away? Of course, Jesus was talking to Jews, but the same problem can happen among “Christians.” It’s easy to have Jesus on the lips. It is an entirely different matter to have Jesus in the heart. It’s easy to know how to answer the questions with a Bible verse. It is an entirely different matter to apply the Bible verse answers to daily life. A culture of Christianity includes church attendance, it includes prayers in Jesus’s name, it includes Bible verse plaques on the wall, it includes marking “Christian” on the latest census. A conviction of Christianity includes Jesus in the heart, it includes Jesus in every decision, it includes doing the next thing to get closer to Jesus, it includes a life completely changed because God has made Jesus whom we crucified to be Savior, Lord, and King. If Jesus is in our hearts, He will be on our lips. If we are convicted, we will also have the culture. But just because we have the culture and just because He is on our lips, doesn’t mean we are near to God. Let’s keep the cart behind the horse. Let’s get near to God. The rest will take care of itself.

Monday’s reading is Matthew 16.

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Hearts of Holiness

Today’s reading is 1 Thessalonians 3.

Jesus is coming. When He arrives, our prayer is to have hearts established as blameless in holiness before God. But that begins with abounding love for one another and for all. When Paul says this, he reminds us of his greatest goal, the overarching purpose of his life. When the end comes, whether by death or the second coming, Paul wants us to wake up in the arms of Jesus. That is exactly what should motivate us to love others and to lead others to Jesus Christ. May the Lord make us increase and abound in love for one another and for all, that our hearts may be established blameless in holiness at the coming of our Lord. That is a prayer we should repeat often.

Monday’s reading is 1 Thessalonians 4.

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Glorify God In Your Body

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 6.

What a blessing. We are members of Christ. We are part of Him. He has purchased us by His own blood. He has purchased us soul and body. We must not think being a Christian simply means being spiritual in our thinking and in our hearts. We must seek to glorify God not only in our hearts and minds, but also with our bodies, doing His will, shining His light through our behavior and conduct. Let us glorify God with our bodies today.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 7.

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Guard the Heart More Than the Stomach

Today’s reading is Mark 7.

It’s the second week of the New Year. How are you doing on your diet resolutions? Still guarding your mouth and stomach from those foods which will defile your body with fat and lack of health? Awesome! I hope so. But may I recommend something even better? Whether you are fat or thin, physically healthy or unhealthy there is something that matters far more. Are you heart healthy? I’m not asking about cholesterol. Are you guarding what is entering your heart? Like it or not, what goes into our hearts is what will come out of our person. We will speak and act based on what is in our hearts and on no other basis. Keep your diet today, but more importantly guard your heart.

Monday’s reading is Mark 8.

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