A Spiritual MOT
It's time for an MOT! This has to be every British driver's favourite time of year (NOT!). Though the skeptical amongst us may think this government scheme was created to keep mechanics in business, in truth, we all benefit from the knowledge that cars on the streets and highways are road-worthy.
The older our cars get, we tend to be satisfied with survival: 'Get me through the MOT so I can drive another year'. A formula one driver, however, isn't happy just to make it around the track: the focus, energy, time, and money spent on competing in a grand prix event all work together for a big win. Survival is insufficient; winning is everything.
And at heart of any racing car is its engine. the An F1 engine is a wonder of modern technology, and when it is properly calibrated produces amazing results.
In Proverbs 4:23, we are told to 'watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life'. In the Jewish way of understanding, the core of our identity is our heart. The heart includes our mind, intellect, will, emotions, and personality. The heart, then, is a helpful, wholistic metaphor for the very core dimension of our being.
The Bible describes various heart conditions that can afflict us:
- A hard heart (Job 41:24)
- An unbelieving heart (Hebrews 3:12)
- A cold heart (Matthew 24:12)
- An anxious heart (Luke 10:42)
- A discouraged heart (Psalm 42:5)
The bad news is that most of us have heart conditions; the good news is that Jesus can heal our hearts.
The advances of medical science underscore the importance of a healthy physical heart. Much of the health advice we get regarding diet, excercise, and rest is designed to promote heart health. If we ignore that advice, we may end up under the surgeon's scalpel having by-pass surgery.
Jesus doesn't offer us by-pass surgery; rather, he offers to heal our hearts. But the first step to healing is diagnosing the problem, and many of us face a variety of heart issues. In the first substantial teaching block in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus deals with matters of the heart. Whereas Moses said, 'Don't commit murder', Jesus applies that principle to the core of our beings with his instruction to not be angry with our brothers and sisters. Whereas Moses told us not to commit adultery, Jesus raises the bar by telling us to give no place to lust.
Therefore, as a heart diagnostic for the new year, working our way through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) will identify significant heart issues and expose our need for God's grace.
The diagnostic is quite simple but very challenging. Here's how to take it:
- Download the test here.
- If you'd like guidance, listen to the sermon here.
- With each diagnostic, read the scripture where Jesus teaches on a certain topic, then conduct a self-evaluation: honestly ask yourself, 'How am I doing? Really well, I need some work, or I'm losing in this area'.
Once you've taken the test, keep reading. Here are few observations:
- If you're like me, in going through the Sermon on the Mount, a variety of heart issues will be identified. Jesus loves us enough to challenge us at the very core of our being, but if we're not careful, this can add to our discouragement rather than drive us to God's grace.
- Remember, Jesus includes this teaching at the beginning of his ministry, not the end. The point is not to teach what is necessary to enter God's kingdom; rather, the point is to give us a picture of God's agenda in our lives: He is going to shape our hearts to share the values of his kingdom.
- The good news is that God in his word has an answer for each of the issues identified. Here is a small sample of verses that speak to each of the issues raised in the test:
- Anger: Ephesians 4:26-31, Proverbs 29:11, James 1:19-20
- Lust: Psalms 101:3, Colossians 3:5-11, 1 Corinthians 6:13, 2 Timothy 2:22,
- Love: Mark 12:31, 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 12:9, 1 John 4:19
- Spirituality: 1 Chronicles 16:11, Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 3:2, Psalm 119:11
- Finances: Proverb 11:24-25, Malachi 3:10, Mark 12:41-44, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15
- Anxiety: Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 26:3, Matthew 11:28-30, Philippians 4:6-7
- Priorities: Exodus 20:3, Matthew 6:33, Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:9
- Prayer: 1 Chronicles 16:11, Colossians 4:2, 1 John 5:14, 1 John 5:15, Ephesians 6:18
- Truth: Psalm 25:5, John 4:24, John 8:31-32, John 14:6, Ephesians 4:25, 1 John 1:6
- Lordship: Matthew 7:21-23, John 20:28, Acts 2:36, Acts 20:21, Romans 6:17-18, Romans 10:9, 2 Corinthians 4:5, 1 John 2:3
- Mission: 1 Chronicles 16:24, Psalm 96:3, Matthew 5:13-16, Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, Acts 13:47, Romans 10:13-14, Revelation 7:9-10
Do this: Identify the verses that speak to the issue you are facing: read them, study them, meditate upon them, and let God's word shape the contours of your heart.
Finally, don't expect God to simultaneously and instantaneously deal with each one of these areas. Take them one at a time: there are 13 topics covered, so consider taking them one a month, with one month doubled-up. Let God do a deep work in your heart in a specific area, and then go on to another one. Step by step, the Lord by His Spirit will work in our hearts to make them healthy and strong and shaped by the values of his kingdom.
May 2017 be a great year of spiritual growth, may God by his grace build in each of us healthy hearts!