This episode is about one of the most defining aspects of a
strong Christian life. If you look up Charles Finney, Hudson
Taylor, George Muller, or any other man of God from history you
will see that this characteristic defines their attitude towards
God. What you have purposed in your heart will lead your
Also, some practical implications of truth for the believer.
Here are the notes for this episode:
With Purpose of Heart
- In my time of serving the Lord, however brief, I have come to
see a basic difference in those that are strong in the Lord (by
Biblical standards) and the rest. It doesn’t come from degrees or
seminary. It doesn’t come from high intellectual works—though some
are called to examine such things for the sake of the body of
Christ. As with all the fruits of righteousness (Php. 1:11), it
comes from seeking Jesus Christ daily.
- Open your Bibles to Acts 11:19-23:
- “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that
arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and
Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And
some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were
come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.
And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number
believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things
came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they
sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when
he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them
all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.”
- I would like to focus on the last verse, v. 23, and the
statement where Barnabas exhorted them that “with purpose of heart
they [should] cleave unto the Lord.”
- There is a very important scriptural principle here that is
essential to a relationship with the Lord. It involves two parts:
(1) Man’s Part, (2) God’s Part. We’ll look at both and then
consider some implications of them for our practical daily
- Man’s Part
- In v.23 we see man’s part in Barnabas’ words “with purpose of
heart…cleave unto.” Well, what does that even mean?
- The phrase “with purpose” can best be described as the willful
intention of your heart. So, “with purpose of heart” means to “set
your heart” on something intentionally. “My purpose is to do this
or that.” Call it conviction, or whatever you want. Man will set
his heart on something, and it will direct his actions. The Lord
acknowledged this is what happens when he rebuked Israel through
the prophet Hosea, saying, “They eat up the sin of my people, and
they set their heart on their iniquity.” (Hosea 4:8) They set their
hearts on iniquity, and so they committed iniquity.
- It is the goal or purpose that you are seeking to fulfill. If
your goal is to graduate college then you study to do so. If your
goal is to please God and know Him personally then your actions
will show it. But understand we’re talking about is the posture of
your heart towards God and not just works. Outward works will
follow your attitude towards God. It’s when your purpose and focus
towards God is removed that sin comes in and temptation is
increased. Because you’ve left your first love, you’ve been
distracted from the one who is your life: Jesus Christ. The purpose
of your heart will direct your actions.
- An example of this can be seen in Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel
purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the
portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank:
therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might
not defile himself.”
- Daniel made a decision to not do something contrary to the Law
of Moses. He set his heart to keep the Law because He feared and
loved the Lord. His desire was to please God, not just to exercise
some dietary restriction. We know from the rest of the passage that
the Lord blessed Daniel in his actions.
- Also in Psalm 17:3 we read, “Thou hast proved mine heart; thou
hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find
nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.”
- We see here that David had purposed to not speak anything
displeasing to God. He knew the Lord was trying him, or testing his
heart. We’re told that the Lord looks upon the heart of man and not
only on the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). The outward action
may be correct in some people, such as not lying, but the inward
purpose of their heart may be evil. If you purpose to not lie so
that you may please God it is good in His sight. If you purpose to
not lie so that other people esteem you to be a good man and give
you a good reputation in your own name then your heart is evil in
the matter. Our purpose, or intention, of our hearts should be
towards the Lord and His pleasure and glory.
- So, here in Acts 11:23, we see that Barnabas exhorted the new
believers that with purpose of heart, that is intentionally, they
should cleave unto the Lord. What does “cleave unto” mean?
- The phrase “cleave unto” means “to stay further, that is to
remain in a place, or with a person. To adhere to, or persevere
in.” Hearing that, it reminds us of what we’ve talked about before
regarding abiding in Christ. It makes perfect sense because the
underlying Greek word is “prosmeno”, which is elsewhere translated
“abide still; be with; continue in (with)”. The two concepts are
- Really, what man’s part is regarding abiding and cleaving unto
the Lord is simply man making up his mind to be God’s. To belong to
God. “My will is to do His will.” The results of this being that he
abides in Christ. You have set your heart to do His will. There is
nothing that is not on the table. If God has commanded, as you’re
made aware of it, you purpose to do it and speak it.
- William Law, in his classic book A Serious Call to a Devout and
Holy Life, and talking about true devotion to God had this to say:
- “The short of the matter is this; either reason and religion
prescribe rules and ends to all the ordinary actions of our life,
or they do not: if they do, then it is as necessary to govern all
our actions by those rules, as it is necessary to worship God. For
if religion teaches us anything concerning eating and drinking, or
spending our time and money; if it teaches us how we are to use and
contemn the world; if it tells us what tempers we are to have in
common life, how we are to be disposed towards all people; how we
are to behave towards the sick, the poor, the old, the destitute;
if it tells us whom we are to treat with a particular love, whom we
are to regard with a particular esteem; if it tells us how we are
to treat our enemies, and how we are to mortify and deny ourselves;
he must be very weak that can think these parts of religion are not
to be observed with as much exactness, as any doctrines that relate
- William Law’s point was that true devotion and worship of God
is not just found in praying, reading, and going to church. It is
found in every activity of daily life. If God has given
commandments or direction about how to tie your shoes then you
ought to observe it with just as much zeal as the gospel itself.
God is the foundation, and the believer is living unto God. It’s as
we’re told in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And that he died for all, that
they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but
unto him which died for them, and rose again.”
- The believer, in order to abide in Christ, is required to
“cleave unto” God. You set your affections on Him. “I delight to do
thy will O God.” My desire is to please Him. So in all areas of
life I examine how I ought to do it so that it may please Him. It
should become just as important to our daily lives as the rest of
- We have people who will fight all day defending the deity of
Christ, the virgin birth, and literal death, burial, and
resurrection of Christ but they still won’t turn off the TV or put
away Hollywood and worldly entertainment. It’s a contradiction of
affections. They’re as the Bible describes “double-minded”. “I want
God, but I want this part of the world too.” It is something you
will fight against in your own walk, and it cripples your walk. You
are walking with half as much strength as you would if your whole
will was set to please God.
- You might as well say, “I will live an unholy life for the
glory of the Holy God of heaven.” We make excuses about these
things, but that’s the reality of what the Bible expects and
commands: separate from the worldly, and live purposefully and
intentionally for God. That means: you never “rest” from serving
Him. You have no “leisure time” away from thinking deeply upon God.
The light of His Word should be welcomed to search every area of
your heart, mind, and LIFESTYLE. And everything that is contrary to
His own purpose and will and glory is forsaken and cast away
- Let’s consider some verses before going to the other half,
which is God’s part:
- 2 Chronicles 16:9a, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro
throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of
them whose heart is perfect toward him.”
- Proverbs 1:23, “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out
my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.”
- Jeremiah 29:13-14a, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye
shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of
you, saith the LORD…”
- James 4:8, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double
- We see in verses like these that man’s part is to have a heart
perfect towards God, turn at His reproof, seek Him with your whole
heart, and to draw nigh unto God. In all these promises we see the
condition is that man should do his part. The result will be that
God will do what He has promised.
- God’s Part
- The Lord’s part, in Acts 11:23, is a little hard to see
particularly. He’s just the object for man to cleave unto there.
Man’s focus is on God. That’s why I mentioned the other verses.
They make the picture more complete.
- When we see God tell man to do something, such as “don’t lie”,
we sometimes think that God is just putting a limitation. Yes, He
is limiting what we are supposed to do; but we miss the point.
These are conditions to allow us to have fellowship with Him.
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the
Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And
will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters,
saith the Lord Almighty.” (2Cor. 6:17-18) Man’s part is to come out
and be separate, and God’s response is to receive you and be a
Father unto you.
- Every time I hear someone say, “Well I was a Christian for 20
years until I saw that it was all make believe.” Usually, when you
examine them you see that they never clave to the Lord. It was all
just a take-it-or-leave-it thing. They never sought the Lord with
their whole heart, and so He didn’t reveal Himself to them. They
didn’t do their part. God is not a respecter of persons. If you
seek Him you will find Him. If you haven’t personally found Him
then it’s because you haven’t sought Him. Do not blame God for your
lack of commitment to Him. You cannot have God on your terms. God
is the one who sets the terms. If that bothers you in any way it’s
because you don’t know Him.
- The Lord did not just call Israel out of Egypt for them to be
out of Egypt. His purpose was to fulfill His promise to Abraham,
but primarily for them to be His people. They had to leave Egypt to
be His people. The majority didn’t value the Lord so their hearts
turned again to Egypt we’re told (Acts 7:39).
- It’s because man doesn’t value God, doesn’t love God, that he
sees God’s commandments as limitations on his freedom rather than
the conditions by which we are allowed to know God. The privilege,
the blessing, and the honor of being called God’s “peculiar people”
is lost today. We have such a low view of God that we would rather
have the world than Him.
- God’s part in the promises is clearly seen. He has set forth
conditions: cleave unto Him, make your heart perfect towards Him,
turn at His reproofs, seek Him with your whole heart, and draw nigh
unto Him. His response will be that He will show Himself strong in
your behalf, He will pour out His spirit upon you and make His
words known unto you, you will find Him as you seek Him, and He
will also draw nigh unto you. It is that He allows you to know Him.
That’s what God’s part is. It’s also the definition of eternal life
(John 17:3; 1 John 5:20).
- Now, it’s not because you do these things that you are saved—in
the sense that you earn it. These things are the result of biblical
faith in God. We’ve talked about that at-length on this podcast
before. If this is your first time listening and you’d like a
longer discussion on that point particularly, then listen to our
episodes “What is Repentance”, “What is a Christian”, and “Abiding
- So, in summing it all up so far, man’s part is to intentionally
be committed to pleasing God and loving Him. God’s part is to be
His Savior, God, Provider, Protector, Father, and everything else
man ever needs. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His
wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in
the light of His glory and grace.
- Let’s take to heart Colossians 3:1-3, “If ye then be risen with
Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on
the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on
things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with
Christ in God.”
- The Implications
- What is something practical that we can take away from this
principle? Practically, how does “cleaving unto the Lord” really
play out in daily life?
- If there is one thing that I know is extremely important, and
necessary, to serving the Lord and cultivating a relationship with
Him, it is the issue of truth.
- Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”
(John 14:6). He also said, “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy
word is truth.” (John 17:17) Truth is synonymous with the ways of
God, the person of God, and the character of God Himself. We’re
told that God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2). True worshippers of God
worship Him in Spirit and in truth we are told in John 4:24. You
cannot seek God and not have a strong and fervent desire for
- Here are some quotes regarding this issue:
- (Regardless of this man’s doctrinal problems I agree with His
quote about truth): “To employ soft words and honeyed phrases in
discussing questions of everlasting importance; to deal with errors
that strike at the foundations of all human hope as if they were
harmless and venial mistakes; to bless where God disapproves, and
to make apologies where He calls us to stand up like men and
assert, though it may be the aptest method of securing popular
applause in a sophistical age, is cruelty to man and treachery to
Heaven. Those who on such subjects attach more importance to the
rules of courtesy than they do to the measures of truth do not
defend the citadel, but betray it into the hands of its enemies.
Love for Christ, and for the souls for whom He died, will be the
exact measure of our zeal in exposing the dangers by which men’s
souls are ensnared.” –Dr. James Thornwell
- “The problem we have with truth is that it cares nothing for
our feelings or preferences, and pays no tribute to our opinions or
the sacredness of our dogma. Truth is about reality. It is
concerned not with the way we believe things to be, or the way we
would like them to be, but with the way things actually are. Truth
is spun from the fabric of facts and therefore cannot bend to
accommodate the wishes and sensibilities of the masses. Truth is
not the product of a vote or a democracy and has nothing to do with
the will of the people. It will not bow to the wealthy like a
preening politician. It cannot be bribed. Nor can it, in the name
of compassion, make exception for the aged or the unfortunate. It
never has and never will enter into agreement with the proud or
unbelieving and offers no parley to the religious and the
self-righteous.” –Ben Davenport, foreword to The Bravehearted
Gospel by Eric Ludy
- It is implied in cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart
that we should proclaim the truth. God is truth, and if we are to
walk with Him we are to speak His truth. The Lord blesses those
that plead for truth (Isa. 59:4).
- Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord said, “Run ye to and fro
through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek
in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any
that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon
it.” (Jer. 5:1) The Lord was willing to pardon the entire city if
Jeremiah could find one person that truly sought the truth. The
Lord ended up destroying Jerusalem.
- As I have grown in the Lord, my determination to speak the
truth only grows more intense. I cannot comfort a sinner who is
unrepentant. I will not offer him a false sense of hope unless he
repents. I will not spare someone’s feelings. God gives grace to
the humble, not the prideful. In presenting the gospel we should do
- Christians live in reality. The reality is this: the majority
of humans are careening down a one-way highway to torment without
end, and wrath from the Lord.
- A Christian is to live with this eternal reality in full view.
It is ridiculous for us to care whether or not we offend people.
Every man or woman will be tempted to give heed to the fear of man;
but we must learn to ignore it. You’ll lose friends, family,
reputation, and even churches will refuse to hear you. I have
learned a little about this from experience, and I know other
brethren that cannot find a church home because churches today do
not want truth: they want community and status quo. As soon as you
come in holding up scripture to expose error they will put up a
fight. As the Lord said about the tribe of Ephraim: they are joined
to idols, let them alone.
- In the book of Jonah we are told, “They that observe lying
vanities forsake their own mercy.” (Jonah 2:8) The majority of the
professing Christian community has set up a re-imagined and
redefined God in their heart, and He expects nothing of them. They
refuse to accept anything else. They desire freedom, but not from
sin or the world. They have followed the world’s understanding of
freedom and liberty.
- The world’s idea of freedom is simply freedom from
accountability. Its idea of liberty is no absolutes. They are
tolerant of everything but the truth of the gospel. I see
commercials on TV at work sometimes that talk continually about how
“we are strong, we are smart, we are beautiful, we are kind, we
are…etc.” Man thinks very highly of himself, but the gospel
declares he is depraved and drinks iniquity like water.
- God has commanded us to declare this fact plainly and openly.
To proclaim the truth of His righteousness and authority as Lord
and Judge. Whether men like it or not: the heavenly city of New
Jerusalem is built upon the concept of exclusivity. While many are
called, few are chosen.
- I can tell you what it’s like to stand at a pulpit, the few
times I’ve been allowed to of the Lord, and tell a congregation
something they don’t want to hear. You can tell when people are
angry at you. Nevertheless, I must speak God’s truth.
- Also, implied from the principle of cleaving to the Lord with
purpose of heart is humility and the willingness to be
- I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a professing Christian say they
were unwilling to be corrected; but I also can only think of a few
professing Christians who are willing to be corrected.
- I’ve learned from experience the pain of having the Lord
correct me on a major doctrinal issue. I had taught false doctrine
to others. I had to repent of it. Before the Lord revealed to me my
error though, I had to be willing to be corrected.
- The only person who should be unwilling to be corrected is the
person who knows everything, and that person is God. Everyone else
should be willing to be corrected. Those who teach apologetics know
the argument that is commonly given to atheists to help them
understand the foolishness of their view. We tell them that if they
know 99% of all there is to know in the universe that it is
possible that the knowledge of God is in the 1% they haven’t
learned yet. If they are unwilling to acknowledge the
reasonableness of this they have simply set their hearts on lies.
Nothing can be done for them.
- The same is true for Christians. You don’t know everything. You
believe certain things from scripture to be true. If I could show
you, or you could show me, from scripture something that proves my
understanding to be flawed then I should with humility turn to the
truth. Most say this and acknowledge, but they never expect it.
They are unwilling, and they make manifest that they have an idol
in their hearts that they are unwilling to examine.
- When something provoked me to examine the particular doctrine I
was corrected on, I had to intentionally set my mind on the desire
for truth. Too many people never consider the implications of error
in regards to God’s Word. The results can be that we lead people to
Hell, or ourselves.
- I intentionally put things in perspective. If I was wrong in
this doctrine, then everyone I knew was in error, my entire
denomination was in error, my pastor, teachers of 25 year
ministries who discipled me, and every minister I had esteemed was
wrong, and I had put words in God’s mouth that He never said nor
intended, and it was to the damage of people’s understanding of
what God had commanded them. I had to be willing to accept that in
order to be corrected and to DESIRE truth above any care or concern
- I desired to please God. Let the chips fall how they may: He is
my Lord. Whatever His truth is, that’s what I want.
- Charles Finney said that a willing mind is indispensable to a
right understanding of truth. As soon as you are willing to be
corrected, and you count the cost, God can teach you. That’s a man
who is faithful. I don’t pretend to be done learning this lesson,
but I’ve started learning it.
- We cannot weight doctrines by who they may align us with, who
believes them, who doesn’t believe them, what it requires of us, or
what reproach it may bring us. All that matters is what is
- I’ve heard ministers say they are willing to believe what the
scriptures say and if you can show them they’ll believe it. Most
are lying, because they don’t expect that anyone can correct them.
They’re comfortable where they are. I have deep respect for a
minister that is so dedicated to truth that he is willing to walk
away from a well-established and comfy ministry position because he
has been corrected and can no longer agree with their principles or
doctrines. That’s a man God can use.
- In cleaving to the Lord these things are required of us. Christ
called men hypocrites to their faces. He called them whited
sepulchers. He said count the cost and that you are blessed when
men hate you for his sake. He said rejoice and be exceeding glad!
Why? Because you are in good company: you’re standing with Jesus
Christ, the apostles, the prophets, and the host of martyrs through
- We’re told that Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with
the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures
in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”
- In cleaving to God with all purpose of heart, in seeking Him,
and in drawing nigh unto Him: you must have respect unto the
recompence of the reward. There is coming a day when you will stand
before Jesus Christ face-to-face and you’re not going to care about
some TV show that you gave up watching because it didn’t please
God. You’re not going to care about what your friends said about
you. In that day, looking into the eyes of Christ Himself, you’re
only going to be caring about one thing: is He pleased with
- He has given you the ability to make sure that you won’t be
ashamed in that day through Jesus Christ, His indwelling Spirit,
and through His Word. Cleave to Him! They that wait upon Him will
never be ashamed.
- In closing, here’s a quote from William Gurnall’s excellent
book The Christian in Complete Armour. Let it encourage you to be
bold in being a soldier for Christ:
- “This warfare analogy reveals why there are so many who profess
Christ and so few who are in fact Christians; so many who go into
the field against Satan, and so few who come out conquerors. All
may have a desire to be successful soldiers, but few have the
courage and determination to grapple with the difficulties that
accost them on the way to victory. All Israel followed Moses
joyfully out of Egypt. But when their stomachs were a little
pinched with hunger, and their immediate desires deferred, they
were ready at once to retreat. They preferred the bondage of
Pharoah to the promised blessings of the Lord. Men are no different
today. How many part with Christ at the crossroad of suffering!
Like Orpah, they go a short distance only (Ruth 1:14). They profess
the gospel and name themselves heirs to the blessings of the
saints. But when put to the test, they quickly grow sick of the
journey and refuse to endure for Christ. At the first sign of
hardship, they kiss the Savior, reluctant to lose heaven, but even
more unwilling to buy it at so dear a price.”