Here is today’s Calendar Piece:
December 16th | A New Heart that Loves God
Bible Background: So far we have discovered God’s covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and King David. In today’s reading, God told Jeremiah there would be a New Covenant for His people. This New Covenant would get rid of their sin, cleanse their hearts, put God’s Laws and Spirit in them so they would have the ability to obey Him and do His will. The real issue with the Old (Mosaic) Covenenat wasn’t that it was bad, but that people were not able to keep it. The reason? Man’s incurably sick (perverted/skewed/wicked) heart!
Bible Study Question: Read Hebrews 10:11-18. Why are animal sacrifices no longer needed under the New Covenant and what does this have to do with our hearts?
Today’s Main Idea: The heart we are talking about represents the “inside person”, the place where our emotions and thoughts come from. Not many people today are willing to accept that human hearts are sick! They say that people are mostly good even if we’re not “perfect”. This is not true, for several reasons. If people were mostly good, human history wouldn’t have so many terrible events in it (and no, we can’t blame it all on religion: plenty of atrocities have been caused by atheistic governments). People cheat, steal, and lie on a regular basis from company paper clips to unreported revenue on taxes. Those who act nicely to others often hide unkind thoughts on the inside.
God doesn’t just judge us on our “outside” actions alone, but our “inside” thoughts too! Most of us are more selfish, greedy, and angry than we would like to admit. Don’t believe me? How would you like your thoughts broadcast beyond your control to those around you for a week? A day? No, thank you. We like to keep our thoughts to ourselves for good reason: no matter how we may justify them to ourselves, they are not easily justified to anyone else!
God’s solution to our problem is Jesus. It was out of His perfect heart that perfect obedience to the Father flowed. Sin is the antithesis of love: if we love God, we will obey Him. When Jesus’ love-filled words (from the abundance of His pure heart) fill our minds, our sick hearts are challenged and we see just how far off the mark we have been; we see our sinful, unloving behavior. This conviction doesn’t condemn us, rather we feel relief that we know how we are supposed to act; we see clearly how we have been harming ourselves and others and want to stop. The only thing we lack is the power to make that change happen by ourselves.
The success of the New Covenant in truly changing people from the inside out–sometimes miraculously with an instant deliverance from entrenched sins, but more often over long periods of time as we learn to trust God–is based on one word: Spirit. He is the Person of God who makes internal change possible: He can re-write what is on our “hearts” so we will love God properly.
Application: It can be depressing to think how skewed we are from what is right. We try hard, do our best…and we still fall short! It is tempting to want our behavior to be accepted as it is, to get frustrated at how difficult it is to change, and to be angry at God for expecting us to be able to do things we can’t do yet (or so we think). All these objections underline the main problem: we aren’t ready or willing to change. We are still immature, waiting for our feelings to motivate us rather than receiving His Grace to change now.
When God shows us an area of our life that needs to change, He gives us the strength and resource to do it. As always, there is a step of faith involved; we put aside immature objections and with God’s help, set our thinking straight and follow with action. When we set our minds–our “hearts”–toward doing the will of God, those foot-stamping objections miraculously fade away and we grow maturer, another “inch” taller toward the nature and stature of our “Big Brother”, Jesus.
Our actions reveal what we truly believe, what has been deposited in our hearts, NOT who we are. A kind word can help us to be brave and make good choices if we receive it; a negative word can cause us to doubt ourselves and fall to temptation if we give in to it. Our beliefs are incredibly affected by what we see and hear and choose to listen to. If we want to keep our beliefs in check, we need to be careful what we are watching, listening to, and the company we are keeping. Are the people we lean on like Jesus? Are the things we are watching or reading causing us to doubt the Bible or compromise our convictions? This Christmas, let’s monitor our beliefs THROUGH our behavior and bring errant ideas into subjection to Christ. Proper behavior will follow with God’s help.
When we realize how much we need to change, it can be “dis-HEARTening”. We often connect our self-worth to our performance. This Christmas, when you are confronted by your own impatience, unforgiveness, unrealistic expectations, or lack of self-control, remember that Jesus loves you very much: you are very valuable to Him. He corrects us because He loves us and wants what is best for us. Let’s be patient with ourselves and others’ failings this Christmas as we learn to exercise the new heart we have been given to love God and one another.
Prayer: Father God, thank You for sending Jesus to be my example of a pure heart overflowing with goodness. Please heal my heart and forgive me for its wickedness. Write your laws on my heart and give me the strength of your Holy Spirit so I can obey them. In Jesus’ Name; Amen.
Family Activity: Make a Heart-Journal. Help each child assemble 7 pieces of lined paper for each day of the week. Hep each child to decorate a construction-paper cover with hearts. Write “MY HEART JOURNAL” on the front of each cover and staple them together with the paper. As a family, keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings each day for the next week: negative thoughts as well as positive ones. In the margin next to each entry, write down the kind of heart you had at the time (“forgiving” or “angry”, etc.). Also keep a record of ideas that influenced you and what you watched, read, or listened to. At the end of the week, see if you can notice any trends between what went into your hearts and what came out, and if your hearts are “healthy” overall.
ADVENT posts are available via the “Celebrations” category page, accessed from the “Fun” menu tab on my site. These posts are adapted from a much simpler, child-friendly devotional that I intend to publish in the near future; ADVENT posts are geared more toward adults and are best paraphrased if sharing content with children as some of the topics may be too mature to be beneficial to them. Discretion is advised!
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