There are so many things to occupy our minds: so many books, so many examples, so many good teachings that deserve our attention, that say, “Here is a truth.” But as I have been serving the Lord these past years, He has led me to seek for two things and two things only: to know the heart of God in Christ and to know my own heart in Christ’s light.
Knowing the Heart of God
I have been seeking God, searching to know Him and the depth of His love toward His people. I want to know Christ’s heart and the compassions that motivate Him. The Scriptures are plain: Jesus loved people. Mark’s gospel tells us that after Jesus taught and healed the multitudes, they became hungry. In His compassion, Christ saw them as “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). It was not enough for Him to heal and teach them; He personally cared for each of them. Their physical well-being, even concerning food, was important to Him.
A lad with five loaves and two fish provided enough for Jesus to work another miracle, but this miracle had to come through Christ’s willing but bone-weary body. Consider: Christ brought His disciples out to rest, “for there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31).
Consider: Jesus personally had come to pray and be strengthened, for John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner, had been beheaded earlier that very week at the hands of Herod. It was in the state of being emotionally and physically depleted that Jesus fed the multitudes—not just once or twice but over and over again: “He kept giving [the bread and the fish] to the disciples to set before them” (v. 41).
Thousands of men, women and children all “ate and were satisfied” (v. 42). Oh, the heart of Jesus! The miracle was for them, but we read of no miracle sustaining Him except the marvelous wonder of a holy love that continually lifted His tired hands with more bread and more fish. Out of increasing weakness He repeatedly gave that others might be renewed.
So, if my quest is to know Him, I must recognize this about Him: Jesus loves people—all people, especially those society ignores. Therefore I must know exactly how far He would travel for men, for that is the same distance He would journey again through me. Indeed, I must know His thoughts concerning illness, poverty and human suffering. As His servant, I am useless to Him unless I know these things. If I would actually do His will, I must truly know His heart. Therefore, in all my study and times of prayer I am seeking more than just knowledge; I am searching for the heart of God.
Knowing Our Hearts
At the same time, as I draw closer to the heart of God, the very fire of His presence begins a deep purging work within me. In the vastness of His riches, my poverty appears. The psalmist wrote, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.” (Ps. 24:3-4)
We cannot even find the hill of the Lord, much less ascend it, if there is deceit in our heart. How does one serve in God’s holy place if his soul is unclean? It is only the pure in heart who perceive God. To ascend toward God is to walk into a furnace of truth where falsehood is extracted from our souls. To abide in the holy place we must dwell in honesty, even when a lie might seem to save us. Each ascending step upon the hill of God is a thrusting of our souls into greater transparency, a more perfect view into the motives of our hearts.
It is this upward call of God that we pursue. Yet the soul within us is hidden, crouching in fear and darkness, living in a world of untruths and illusions. This is our inner man, the soul God seeks to save. Have you discovered your true self, the inner person whom truth alone can free? Yes, we seek holiness, but true holiness arises from here; it comes as the Spirit of Truth unveils the hidden places in our hearts. Indeed, it is truthfulness which leads to holiness.
God, Grant us a Zeal for Truth that We May Stand in Your Holy Place!
Men everywhere presume they know the “truth,” but they have neither holiness nor power in their lives. Truth must become more than historical doctrine; it must be more than a museum of religious artifacts—mementos from when God once moved. Truth is knowing God’s heart as it was revealed in Christ, and it is knowing our own hearts in the light of God’s grace.
As members of the human race, we are shrouded in ignorance. Barely do we know our world around us; even less do we know the nature of our own souls. Without realizing it, as we search for God’s heart, we are also searching for our own. For it is only in finding Him that we discover ourselves, for we are “in Him.”
Yet throughout that searching process, as I position my heart before the Lord, it is with a sense of trembling that I pray the prayer of King David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”(Ps. 139:23-24)
Let us wash the cosmetics from our souls and look at the unadorned condition of our hearts. I know God has created us eternally complete and perfect in Christ. I believe that. But in the first three chapters of John’s Revelation, Jesus did not tell the churches they were “perfect in His eyes.” No! He revealed to them their true conditions; He told them their sins. Without compromise, He placed on them the demand to be overcomers, each in their own unique and difficult circumstance.
Like them, we must know our need. And like them, the souls we want saved dwell here, in a world system structured by lies, illusions and rampant corruption. Our old natures are like well-worn shoes into which we relax; we can be in the flesh instantly without even realizing it. The enemies that defeat us are hidden and latent within us! Thus the Holy Spirit must expose our foes before we can conquer them!
Concerning man’s nature, the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Quoting another of David’s prayers, a similar cry is heard: “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.” (Ps. 19:12-13)
There may be errors inside of us that are actually ruling us without our awareness. Do we realize, for instance, how many of our actions are manipulated purely by vanity and the desire to be seen or accepted by others? Are we aware of the fears and apprehensions that unconsciously influence so many of our decisions? We may have serious flaws inside yet still be either too proud or too insecure to admit we need help.
Concerning ourselves, we think so highly of what we know so little!
Even outwardly, though we know our camera pose, do we know how we appear when we are laughing or crying, eating or sleeping, talking or angry? The fact is, most of us are ignorant of how we appear outwardly to others; much less do we know ourselves inwardly before God! Our fallen thinking processes automatically justify our actions and rationalize our thoughts. Without the Holy Spirit, we are nearly defenseless against our own innate tendencies toward self-deception.
Therefore, if we would be holy, we must first renounce falsehood. In the light of God’ grace, having been justified by faith and washed in the sacrificial blood of Jesus, we need not pretend to be righteous. We need only to become truthful.
No condemnation awaits our honesty of heart—no punishment. We have only to repent and confess our sins to have them forgiven and cleansed; if we will love the truth, we will be delivered from sin and self-deception. Indeed, we need to know two things and two things only: the heart of God in Christ and our own hearts in Christ’s light.