What was Jesus’ reason for coming to earth and preaching the Good News of the gospel? What are the core desires of His heart when He looks at human beings? How can we become more like Him in how we preach and what we desire?
I’ve been thinking about these questions, and others, a lot this week. Part of it’s prompted by some messages I heard last Sabbath and part by recent events. There is a lot of strife and division in today’s world. We fight and bicker and separate ourselves by classes, genders, races, and churches. Such division is not what God desires. In fact, I don’t think it is going too far to say that such things break His heart.
God is grieved deeply by human sinfulness and suffering. He’s also deeply motivated to change things for the better, which means we should be motivated to work toward a better future as well. This truth carries with it a great deal of hope and purpose for us both in this life and in the future. And it’s all connected to the reasons Jesus came to this earth and the core desires of God’s heart.
Why Jesus Came
Jesus Christ is our example. He is the Word made flesh; God who became man. We’re supposed to mimic Him and to tell other people about Him and why He came to this earth. In order to do that, we need to understand these things for ourselves. There’s no better place to start than with what Jesus Himself said about why He came to this earth.
To preach. “He said to them, ‘Let’s go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because I came out for this reason.’” (Mark 1:38, all quotes from WEB translation)
To call sinners to repentance. “Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” (Luke 5:31-32)
To give abundant life. “The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
To die as a sacrifice in our place. “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this time?’ But I came to this time for this cause.” (John 12:27)
As a light for those in darkness. “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness.” (John 12:46)
To testify to the truth. “Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.'” (John 18:37)
The key to having intimacy with the Lord is to understand his kindness. That’s a statement the Rabbi at a Messianic congregation said in a two-part message called “The Mystery of Kindness” and “The Mystery of Chesed,” and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately.
Chesed is a Hebrew word for goodness, mercy, kindness, and faithfulness. It’s often translated “loving kindness” when used of God, and it’s one of the key attributes of His character. He is “Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6, WEB).
This sort of kindness is something God wants to be known for because it’s a core part of His being. As Christians, we’re supposed to develop His character in us as we “put on Christ” (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27). In order to become like Him, we need to understand who He truly is and that includes an understanding of His chesed.
The Ways God Knows Us
God knows our hearts even better than we know ourselves. He has “searched me and known me.” He knows when I sit down and when I stand up. He knows all my thoughts, my ways, and my words (Ps. 139:1-4). And He knows all of you that way as well because He searches the depths of our hearts.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jer. 17:9-10, WEB)
God can see and understand us thoroughly all the time. He knows everyone on earth that way. But there are some people that He also knows in a closer, more personal way. He calls those people His friends. If we want to be friends of God a change is required in our hearts. We have to become like God to know God.
David’s Heart of Chesed
The Lord described King David as “a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22, WEB). He’s one of the examples given in scripture for us to look to and learn how to have a heart like God’s heart. One of the ways that David’s God-like heart showed up was in his kindness.
David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead, and said to them, “Blessed are you by Yahweh, that you have shown this kindness to your lord, even to Saul, and have buried him. Now may Yahweh show loving kindness and truth to you. I also will reward you for this kindness, because you have done this thing. (2 Sam. 5-6, WEB)
Even though Saul persecuted David, David still respected his position as king and mourned when Saul died. And instead of punishing those who honored Saul with a proper burial, the new king commended them for their kindness and showed kindness to them in return. He didn’t stop there either.
David said, “Is there yet any who is left of Saul’s house, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Sam. 9:1, WEB)
After locating Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, David had him brought to the palace.
David said to him, “Don’t be afraid of him; for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your father. You will eat bread at my table continually.” (2 Sam. 9:7, WEB)
The Lord’s Kindness
David showed this sort of kindness — chesed — because he’d learned it first-hand from God. He’s the one who wrote, “loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life,” which we talked about a couple weeks ago. Since it was such a big part of David’s faith, Yahweh’s loving kindness is a frequent theme in his psalms.
All the paths of Yahweh are loving kindness and truth to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. (Ps. 25:10, WEB)
But I will sing of your strength. Yes, I will sing aloud of your loving kindness in the morning. For you have been my high tower, a refuge in the day of my distress. (Ps. 59:16, WEB)
Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. (Ps. 63:3, WEB)
Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness. (Ps. 103:8, WEB)
The Lord even showed kindness to David after he committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11:1-12:13; Ps. 51:1). The Law demanded a death penalty for both those sins, but in this case the Lawgiver decided to show kindness the same way He would in the future as Jesus Christ. The Lord knew that David, as a man after God’s own heart, would repent and change if given the opportunity. David got to taste the Lord’s gracious kindness even before Messiah came to earth (Ps. 34:8; 1 Pet. 2:3-4).
A Change In Our Hearts
David’s son Solomon also recognized the importance of chesed. He wrote, “The merciful man does good to his own soul” and, “He who follows after righteousness and kindness finds life, righteousness, and honor” (Prov. 11:17; 21:2, WEB). Not only does being kind mean we’ll be good to others, but it is also good for us as well.
Don’t let kindness and truth forsake you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor, and good understanding in the sight of God and man. (Prov. 3:3-4, WEB)
We need to have kindness written in our hearts to make our hearts like God’s. This happens when the Spirit of God dwells in us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. If we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-25, WEB)
God reveals Himself through His spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-16). That’s how He shares His heart and mind with us, and transforms our hearts and minds to be like His. Our “fleshiness” can get in the way of this if we’d let it, but we don’t have to. Walking in the spirit is a choice that God, in His kindness, empowers us to make. We can know Him intimately and learn His kindness just as David did.
Those are the kinds of self-affirming advice we often hear. The basic argument is that most of us are pretty good people and if we listen really closely to our inner guiding light, then we’ll make good decisions.
But as Christians, we’re not supposed to do what’s right in our own minds. We’re supposed to do what God thinks is right. To some, this might just seem like a subtle shift in semantics. Of course what I think is right and God thinks is right are the same thing. Aren’t they?’
Not necessarily. While the holy spirit is transforming us to “have the mind of Christ,” we’re not all the way there yet. That’s one reason why it’s so important to spend time studying scripture — to make sure we know how God thinks and line-up with Him.
What God Has To Say About Your Heart
When God made the choice to destroy everyone but Noah and his family in a flood, He did so after seeing “that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil” (Gen. 6:5, WEB). Even though we are made in God’s image, every single person has sinned and we’re corrupted by the fallen world we live in. And yet even in this state, human’s tend to trust that they know what’s right. But we’re often very wrong.
Yahweh says: Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from Yahweh. … The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jer. 17:5, 9-10, WEB)
Human being can’t trust their hearts. You might get some things right, but you can’t even really know yourself unless you ask God to share His perspective on you. But that verse in Jeremiah is addressed to the person who’s heart departs from the Lord. What about once you are in relationship with God and making Him the one your trust? What does that do to your heart? Read more →
If you’re a Christian, it’s a good bet you’ve read and/or heard the Sermon on the Mount more than once. And if you’re like me, you probably think you’re pretty familiar with this straight-forward message Jesus delivered during His time here on earth. But in a sermon a few weeks back, the speaker said something that prompted me to take a deeper look.
I hadn’t thought before about what a radical message this must have seemed when first preached. Matthew even tells us people who heard Jesus were “astonished at his doctrine” (Matt. 7:28, KJV). Throughout Jesus’ words a message is woven that tells us our human way of looking at things is wrong. Something that makes no sense to us might be exactly what God is looking for, and the things we’d consider reasonable might not be what He wants at all. This sermon is about showing us a new way of thinking and living.
Questions Of Law
Following the Beatitudes (which we talked about last week), Jesus describes people who follow Him as salt and light. All the attributes described earlier are meant to be visible in His people, showing the world good works that will cause them to “glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:16, WEB). Jesus then makes a statement about how His teachings relate to the Old Testament Law and Prophets. People often like to take Paul out of context and say Christians today have nothing to do with the Law, but that’s not what Jesus (or Paul, for that matter) taught. Read more →
When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, He began at what we now call the Beatitudes. He says, “Blessed are” the sort of people who probably don’t feel all that blessed — those who are poor, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted, and reviled. We don’t like being poor, or in grief, or humble enough to put others first, or attacked by the people around us. It’s hard work being a peacemaker, or showing mercy, or staying pure of heart, or constantly yearning to get closer to God’s righteousness.
It’s interesting that two of the beatitudes mention righteousness: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” and “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:6, 10, KJV). This word refers to “the condition acceptable to God” and/or “the doctrine concerning the way which man may attain a state of approval by God” (Thayer’s G1343, dikaiosune). It relates to our state of being and the way we live. In fact, when you think about it, all the beatitudes relate to something we do and/or become as we follow God.
We Need A Relationship
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3, KJV)
There’s more than one word that could be translated from Greek as “poor.” This one means “reduced to beggary” and “lacking anything” (Thayer’s G4434, ptochos). When we’re like that in our spirits, we’re really in a place to recognize how much we need a relationship with the Father and Jesus. We become the sort of person the Lord is talking about when He says, “to this man will I look, even to he who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word” (Is. 66:2, WEB).
We Have Broken Hearts
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matt. 5:4, KJV)
We all experience grief. The death of a parent, child, or dear friend. The loss of a hope held close to our hearts. The decay of a relationship. Betrayal from a friend. And even in the midst of that mourning, we’re blessed because God promises comfort (John 14:16-18; 2 Cor. 1:3-7). He can respond to our tears as powerfully as He did for David in the situation recorded in Psalm 6. Read more →
Jesus told us “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark. 12:29-30).
Even though this commandment forms the basis of all other commands and is most important for us to remember and obey, it can also be easy to overlook. It sounds so simple: “Love God, check. Yup. I’m good.” But Jesus went into more detail than just “love God.” He started out by reminding us Yahweh is echad. He is united, preeminent, and the only one worthy of the title Lord.
With that reminder in place, Jesus goes on to quote an Old Testament passage telling us how to love God. The way we should love our Lord isn’t left up to our imagination or emotions. We’re told what we’re supposed to do.
With All Your Heart
As today, most people in Jesus’s day didn’t just think of the heart as a muscle pumping blood. It was seen as the “seat of emotions” and the core of your “inner man” (labab, H3824). In Greek, kardia metaphorically referred to the “center of all physical and spiritual life” and the “fountain and seat of thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors (G2588, Thayer). That’s the first way we’re supposed to love God — with all our emotions, thoughts, and yearnings that come from the very core parts of who you are inside. Read more →