God Looks on the Heart

“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Faith is a means of establishing a view of reality based on the unseen truths that have been revealed by our Creator in the Scriptures.  This view of reality is radically different than the view of reality that is established apart from faith.  When a person transitions from a faithless reality to a faith-based reality built upon Scriptural truth, there is a profound and deep change that occurs.  The Scriptures refer to this transition as a spiritual rebirth or being born again of the spirit. In this spiritual rebirth a person “dies” to their faithless world view and “lives” to their new-found spiritual reality, walking by faith.  It should be noted also that the Holy Spirit is involved in this rebirth and, although this is a mystery as to exactly what occurs, Christ is in us though His Spirit, but I want to focus on the transition that happens in our mind and heart, in our inner man.

This transition constitutes the Christian conversion and is at the core of the Christian Gospel message to repent or turn from the old way of viewing reality and thinking (or our sinful ways).  We transition then to a new way of living, by believing the message of the Gospel that includes the truth that Jesus is the Lord and King, and that He has paid the price for our pardon, and has offered God the Father’s mercy to us, allowing us to become true children of the living God with the promise of eternal life.  This transition is also represented in the act of baptism when we are to “die” with Christ, buried with Him when immersed in the water, then to rise with Him as a new creature, coming up out of the water a new creation, spiritually and not physically minded, living now “in Christ” and waiting for His return as citizens of Heaven.

It is important to note that this change occurs internally, in our minds and hearts, and is not an external ritual or religious exercise.  It is also important to note that our physical behavior (immoral actions) will not change unless this internal change takes place first.  This internal change in the way that we think and the way that we perceive reality will produce an external change, or improvement, in our behavior.  The Scriptures call this external change “fruit”:

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law.” Gal. 5:22-23

The Israelites and Jews from the time of Christ (and before) stumbled over this stumbling stone by attempting to perform the works of the law to gain right standing with God without transitioning from a faithless lifestyle and world view to a spiritual walk of faith.

“Because they did not seek it [righteousness] by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.  For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.  As it is written: Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 9: 32-33

I want to make it clear though, that although the initial Christian conversion experience is a deep, radical, profound change, it is not complete.  Like a baby who is just born, it is just the beginning.  The transition from faithless to faith is a continual process.  This is what I want to explore in this writing.

As I mention above, this new faith-based view of reality changes the way that we think; it changes our perspective on things.  This in turn changes our response to circumstances, or the daily decisions that we make, or the priority of things around us and the value we place on them.  Ultimately, these changes result in behavior changes, as well as changes in our temperament and our stress level.  This is what Paul is referring to in this admonition from Galatians:

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not to the things that you wish.” Galatians 5:16-17

Life is complicated and as time goes on we face many different circumstances that challenge the validity of our faith-based view of reality.  In many cases, it exposes areas of our lives that we have not “put to death” from our previous view of reality.  Living in this world, we are tempted to drift back to the same mindset as those around us, rather than continuing in the reality that is based on spiritual truths such as the hope of eternal life in Heaven, or God’s guidance and control over our circumstances, or God’s promise to meet all of our needs.

We must never lose sight of the fact that it is this internal mindset, this view of reality based on Scriptural truth, that is critically important.  This is what God is concerned about.  This is what God looks at.  This is what He will judge us by.  If there is sin in our lives it is an external symptom of a deeper, internal issue with our faith.

Our tendency is to look at the exterior, at the physical, at appearances, or external successes, or religious activities, and not at the internal status of our view of reality as established by our faith in the revealed truths from the Scriptures.

When Samuel was looking for one of the sons of Jesse who God wanted to anoint as the king of Israel, he focused on the external appearance, but God was looking at the internal things:

“So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab (David’s older brother) and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:6-7

It’s so easy for us to revert back to our previous measuring system based on the physical world view, on appearances and external values.  These physical values are usually opposed to the spiritual values and in conflict.  This is why it is important for us to maintain and develop our understanding of the spiritual truths that are the foundation of our faith based view of reality.

There are two key elements here: the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.  Let me explain.

God has established the Scriptures as the authoritative revelation of His truth for mankind, including our origin, destination, purpose, as well as circumstances surrounding our current situation as defined in the Gospel message.  He has established these truths for centuries through His dealings with His chosen people, the Israelites, as well as His Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s revelation is complete in the Scriptures, and needs no further revelation. The only remaining revelation will be the second coming of the Lord Jesus to establish His Kingdom with a new heaven and new earth.  The message of the Gospel is finished with no need for updates or additions:

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”  Galatians 1:8

The Holy Spirit’s role is to lead us to these truths in the Scriptures and clarify them, helping to apply them to our lives.  Every person is unique and each circumstance that we encounter is also unique and requires the guidance of the Holy Spirit to show us truth from day to day as it applies to our circumstances.

“But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” 1 John 2:27

I recently heard a man say that since he was raised in a Christian home and church that this qualified him to have a full understanding of the Scriptures, even the parts that he had not read himself personally.  He later realized that he had deceptively accepted false doctrine and by God’s mercy was led back to the truths of the Scriptures, then realizing the importance of studying and understanding the Scriptures first hand.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians who are dependent on a man or men’s teachings to establish their understanding of the truth.  Christians need to be like the Bereans who studied the Scriptures and went back to them when Paul presented the Gospel to confirm what he was saying as aligning with the truth.

“These [men in the Jewish synagogue at Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, [to find out] whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11

Recently I was visiting my mother and was sitting in her living room on a chair that she has had for over forty years.  Somehow we got to talking about this chair that I was sitting on and she mentioned how she had originally got it redone to match her other chair that sits right next to this chair.  Now, for forty years I always assumed that these two chairs were identical and that they were bought together as a pair.  When she mentioned this new disclosure about the chair I looked closer at the chairs and noticed that in fact they were not identical.  One of the chairs had a completely different shaped cushion that wrapped around the front of the arm, and the other one didn’t.  One of the chairs was slightly larger than the other.  Since the chairs were the exact same color, having the same material, and the shapes were very similar, the differences had completely escaped my notice for all these years.  I always just assumed that they were identical and looked no closer at them. Only upon her mention of this story did I look close enough to see these differences.

I believe this same situation can be true with the Scriptures.  We can be reading the same verses for years not noticing some important truth, and then because of our circumstances and some other fact that shines a different light on a verse, a totally new part of the truth is made known in a way that we hadn’t seen before, helping to deepen our view of reality and encourage us on our walk of faith.

In summary, I urge you to keep focus on your internal spirituality, that is, the way that you think, the way that you perceive your surroundings, your desire to obey the Lord and please Him, and your honesty and pureness of heart.  Don’t allow your view of reality to shift back to the worldly faithless view, but rather build up your understanding of truth by studying the Scriptures daily, seeking the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth. Remember that God looks upon the heart.  He is not impressed with outward appearances and knows that the internal changes are at the root, and that a good root will produce good fruit.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23

I pray that the word of truth will bring forth fruit in you as we wait for the hope which is laid up for us in heaven.

“We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.” Colossians 1: 3-6

 

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