WHOLEHEARTED RELIGION

By

Shelby G. Floyd

 

Love God With All Your Heart

It is so good to be here today on this beautiful fall day. We thank God for the beautiful weather that we have enjoyed. Today I am speaking on “Wholehearted Love” or “Wholehearted Religion.” The word religion comes from a word that means to be bound back to God. In the beginning man and woman were friends with God. They walked and talked together in the garden of Eden. But sin interrupted that relationship and so the office of religion is to bring man and woman back into a proper relationship with Almighty God. And the way that is to be done is through Wholehearted Love! Our relationship with God has been dark, but it is not so dark that it cannot be renewed. Mankind became depraved, but the love of God can spark in the sinner the change of heart that leads to the renewed relationship with God based on the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. Then we can sing “Thank you Lord for loving me. And thank you Lord for saving me!” Then we can spend the rest of our life loving God with all of our heart.

Therefore, we can love God in a halfhearted way, or we can love Him with all of our heart or the whole heart. So we are concerned today about loving God with all of our heart, not just part of our heart. In defining our Bible heart it has four parts. It involves our intellect or our mind and our emotions or affections. But it also includes our willpower and our conscience. So those four parts of the heart are involved if we are going to love God with all of our heart–your mind, your affections, your conscience, and your willpower!

Our Lord Jesus Christ made it plain that we are to love God with all of our heart: “The foremost is, ‘Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31 NASB).

Solomon said back in his day, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23 ESV). Then we have a responsibility to keep our heart in a close relationship with God because the very issues of our life issue from our heart. And Jesus who was wiser than Solomon said,  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8 NIV). Therefore we want to make sure that we purify our hearts so we can see God again like good friends should be! And the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all of your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV). God then wants us to search for him not in a halfhearted way, but with the whole heart!

The Physical Heart

Now I will talk to you little bit about our physical heart which is an amazing instrument made by God. It is a pump only about the size of your fist and what a pump it is! With all of our ingenuity and with all of our modern science and capabilities, we cannot create a pump like the pump that God created that is  inside of our breast. It beats about every 8/10 of a second. It beats 100,000 times a day and this is what is so remarkable: it pumps about 1800 gallon of blood each day! That is a lot of blood. And if we take care of our heart it can keep us alive over a long lifetime. And the beautiful thing about it is we do not need to plug it into the electrical socket because it has its own electricity. God has created everything the heart needs right within our breast–electricity and all.

Our blood is the life stream that keeps us alive for life is in the blood. The Bible says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul’ (Leviticus 17:11 NKJV). Remember that the blood of bulls and goats caused God to not remember the sins of the people temporarily, but it took the blood of Christ to completely take away all of our guilty sins. So the blood of Christ was required to make atonement for all of our sins. So the spiritual heart is not the same identity as the physical heart. God wants to clean up every human heart by the precious blood of Christ. This is because all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. This is because sinners have bad spiritual hearts!

Bad Hearts

Recently, I received a message from the doctor that my heart is good and without any problems. Today, thanks to medical science we have so many things that can keep our hearts healthy and doing what they were designed to do. The same thing is true if we have a bad or unhealthy spiritual heart. Almighty God has a spiritual prescription and surgery, to give you a new life in Christ Jesus. God’s word has definitely diagnosed and described some hearts that are bad!

1. A Deceitful and Wicked Heart.

The prophet Jeremiah described this kind of bad heart for us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV)? The prophet wondered if anyone could know or understand this kind of bad heart. That is what we are trying to do right now. We will identify that kind of heart and look for God’s plan to make that heart acceptable to the Almighty!

2. The Bad Heart Workshop.

When Jesus walked upon the earth he discovered many bad hearts among the individuals he encountered. He used thirteen (13) nouns to describe ideas, thoughts and actions that came out of bad hearts:

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23 NKJV).

Jesus was simply teaching us that our heart can be the greatest workshop where every sin is conceived, manufactured and executed into bad and wicked actions. Larry Martin did a great job this morning in our Bible class describing some bad actions coming out of bad hearts in the days of Jude. The church was being challenged by false teaching to the extent that Jude changed his purpose from speaking about our common salvation to the call to “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints!” (Jude 3). This kind of bad heart needs to change the products that are being manufactured in the heart workshop!

3. The Bad Heart Fruit Bearing Tree!

Jesus also taught that you could tell what kind of a heart you have by the kind of fruit that you bear in your thought and conduct. I grew up on a farm with many fruit trees. I remember there were pear trees and apple trees. And when we were through with our work we would climb up those trees and fill up on delicious fruit. Figuratively Jesus taught that you could tell what kind of a heart you have by the kind of fruit that you bare. If the fruit is bad, the tree is bad; if the fruit is good, the tree is good also!

 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:33-35).

Therefore, we can tell what kind of heart we have and what kind of heart anyone has by the kind of fruit they bare in everyday attitude and conduct. Therefore it is a good test since a tree is known by its fruit. Therefore you might ask, since you have described a bad heart can you give me an example? Yes I can!

An Example of a Bad Heart

In the eighth chapter Acts, after the death of Stephen (and I consider the sermon that Stephen preached in Acts chapter 7 to be one of the greatest sermons ever preached). Basically it is a summary history of the children of Israel, and it concludes with the fact that they had murdered the Lord Jesus Christ! Many in the audience just could not take it any longer and they stoned Stephen to death. In his dying breath he said to the Lord, do not lay this to their charge. He had a forgiving spirit!

After this we see the beginning of a great persecution against the church. Then scripture says, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). One of those people that scattered was Philip. And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached the gospel to them. Men and women flocked out to hear the gospel and were baptized into Christ. One of those baptized into Christ was a man by the name of Simon. Simon practiced magic! Have you ever had anybody demonstrate magic to you? Once in a while there will be somebody that knows all kinds of magic and they will give you a demonstration of their art. You are amazed and it does seem almost like a miracle. And if you did not know that it was a trick you would think it miraculous. Therefore Simon practiced magic, and everybody thought he was such a great person. But he bowed down and obeyed the gospel and was baptized into Jesus Christ.

Now when the apostles back up at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John down to Samaria. Peter placed his hands on some of the members of the church and they were able to perform miracles. But the imparting of these miracles by the laying on of the apostles’ hands suddenly sparked a lot of interest in Simon! He no doubt thought if I had that power I could really perform some amazing feats. He offered Peter money for this power!

But the apostle Peter rebuked him severely and said,

“Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me” (Acts 8:20-24).

Simon is therefore a good example of a person who was converted, but he did not get his heart completely converted. His conversion was not “wholehearted!” But let us now speak about some people with good hearts.

Good Hearts

1. Good and Honest Heart

In the Parable of the Sower Jesus taught that the seed of the kingdom is the word of God. When the good seed is sown in a good and honest heart it will bring forth an abundant harvest of good things in that person’s life: “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). So when we become a Christian we want to make sure that we have a good and honest heart.

2. Seeking Heart

A good heart is also a seeking heart. In life we must search out and seek the things that are good. They do not just happen by chance. Solomon, the sage of Israel taught that everyone should have a heart that is seeking after righteousness and the good things of God: “The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15). One way we can have a good heart is to know a lot of things that God has taught us and revealed to us in the Bible. That is the reason we are to read our Bible every day and study the contents, because we have a seeking heart—we seek for the truth, seek for good things, we seek to please God, and we seek to love God.

3. Understanding Heart

Also a good heart is an understanding heart. There are many things that we do not understand both secular and sacred. For instance, when it comes to computers we might say I do not understand how it works, but thank you for fixing the problem. In the Parable of the Sower Jesus taught his disciples that the seed of the kingdom is the good word of God. And he says when it is received in a good and honest heart that man can understand what God is saying to him and act accordingly. Therefore, if we have a good and honest heart seeking to understand what God is telling us, we can faithfully serve God. But dullness of hearing will keep one from understanding God’s message. Concerning this Jesus said,

For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them’ (Matthew 13:15).

Figuratively, Jesus said this people’s heart has grown dull and hard of hearing! We know what it is to have a dull knife or scissors that will not cut anything. When our hearing becomes dull, it is time to get some spiritual hearing aids! When our eyes are closed it is time to get some new spiritual glasses! Without these changes we will not understand with our heart!

4. Broken and Contrite Heart

God loves a broken and contrite heart. This describes a person who is full of remorse over having committed bad behavior and attitudes. David, King of Israel was a man after God’s own heart. He was a great servant of God, but he committed the great sin of adultery with Bathsheba and even engineered the murder of her husband. And then he married her and thought he had covered up his misdeed. But then he was confronted by the prophet of God who told him,  “You are the man!” He then repented of his sin and wrote in the book of Psalms that God seeks a broken spirit and contrite heart:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise (Psalms 51:17).

When God finds that kind of heart there is no doubt that God will forgive sin and accept that kind of heart. David was forgiven and he went on to faithfully serve the Lord until the end of his life.

An Example of a Good Heart

Again you might ask, can you give me an example of a person with a good heart? Jesus described such a person in his teaching when he said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NKJV). Therefore can we find somebody that acts and speaks out of a good heart? Yes we can, for there was a man in the Bible by the name of Barnabas. He became a companion of Paul on his first evangelistic journey Acts 13:1-14:28).

Now the early church was growing so fast that many of the converts needed the necessities of life. But the members who were better off shared out of their good heart. This included a good man by the name of Barnabas:

“And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each to the extent that any had need.

Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), owned a tract of land. So he sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:33-37 NASB).

This good example created good fellowship among all the believers and the church continued to make rapid growth. But a problem arose because the church was growing so fast that serious issues were being overlooked. They were not taking care of all the needs that growth created. For instance, sometimes businesses grow too fast too quickly and end up going bankrupt. The Jerusalem church was growing so fast that some people were being overlooked in the daily administration. The Grecian widows were not being taken care of, while the Hebrew widows were being provided their needs. The Grecian widows were people that lived outside of Palestine and outside of Jerusalem. This was a serious problem that could lead to division. Therefore, the apostles considered the matter, and they chose six men to take care of the problem (Acts 6:5-7). And one of those men was Stephen and so after that problem was solved, he did stop being a good person with a good heart and went forth preaching the word of the gospel: “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Therefore these are examples of people with really good hearts that helped the church to grow during the first century.

Obedient Hearts

As we wrap up our lesson let us notice that the wholehearted members of the Lord’s church have obedient hearts. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome that the believers there had all obeyed from the heart “a form of the doctrine” that had been delivered unto them:

Do you not know that the one to whom you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of that same one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and after being freed from sin, you became slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:16-18 NASB).

We all understand what is a form. If you are going to build a sidewalk you excavate the soil so many inches deep and you measure the width and the length of it and you build a form. And then you fill it with cement. After it has dried you take away the form and the sidewalk looks according to the form. Likewise the Roman Christians had all obeyed a form of the doctrine (teaching) that Paul had delivered to them. What was that doctrine? It was the same teaching he had delivered to the Corinthians,

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Therefore the doctrine delivered to them was the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for our forgiveness of sin! That was the teaching.

But what was the form or pattern (Greek, tupos=form, model, pattern, example), that they had obeyed? Water baptism for the forgiveness of sin is the command that they had obeyed. Water baptism for the forgiveness of sin is a likeness or pattern of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:3-6 NKJV).

Therefore water baptism is that form that they had obeyed. Obedience to the doctrine and command of Christ is just another example of “Wholehearted Religion!” We are resurrected to live a new life! The eyes of the Lord look over the whole earth for people who will serve Him with all of their heart: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). How about you?

Copyright © 2022 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon November 6, 2022, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142; Shelby@thefloyds.net

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