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"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)

 

Oct 11, 2016

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 actions.

Also, some practical implications of truth for the believer.

Here are the notes for this episode:

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With Purpose of Heart

  1. Intro
    1. 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.
    2. Open your Bibles to Acts 11:19-23:
      1. “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.” (Acts 11:19-23)
      2. 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.”
      3. 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 lives.
  2. Man’s Part
    1. In v.23 we see man’s part in Barnabas’ words “with purpose of heart…cleave unto.” Well, what does that even mean?
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.”
    5. 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.
    6. 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.”
    7. 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.
    8. 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?
    9. 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 very connected.
    10. 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.
    11. 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:
      1. “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 to prayers.”
    12. 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.”
    13. 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 Biblical doctrine.
    14. 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.
    15. 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 without regret.
    16. Let’s consider some verses before going to the other half, which is God’s part:
      1. 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.”
      2. 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.”
      3. 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…”
      4. 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 minded.”
    17. 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.
  3. God’s Part
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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).
    5. 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.
    6. 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).
    7. 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 in Christ.”
    8. 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.
    9. 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.”
  4. The Implications
    1. 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?
    2. 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.
    3. 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 truth.
    4. Here are some quotes regarding this issue:
      1. (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
      2. “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
    5. 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).
    6. 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.
    7. 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 no less.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. Also, implied from the principle of cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart is humility and the willingness to be corrected.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. 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 about it.
    21. 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.
    22. 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.
    23. 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 true.
    24. 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.
    25. 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 church history.
    26. 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.” (Heb. 11:25-26)
  5. Closing
    1. 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 me?
    2. 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.
    3. 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:
      1. “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.”