Some deny the importance of dealing with behavioral issues in our churches because these are “external.” Does this mean that we are to ignore external behaviors and not bring correction or rebuke? Some say that if you deal with the heart, then the external behavioral issues will go away.
What is at the heart of all behavioral issues? Is it a lack of understanding grace, God’s love, the sacrifice of Jesus, etc.? Is it a lack of a revelation of Jesus? Is it a lack of revelation knowledge? I have heard many reasons for why people engage in immoral activities, but the most prominent one is “heart issues.”
To begin, many completely overlook the huge amount of verses in the New Testament that deal with; you guessed it, behavioral problems. We will look at some of them later.
Does the Lord deal with behaviors? Does the Lord deal with the exterior, or is He only looking at the internal, the heart?
People are quick to quote the statement the Lord made concerning His choice for a king. Usually, the second part of the verse is quoted. It states God doesn’t look at the appearance but at the heart. Because this verse is quoted partially almost every time I have ever seen it in print or heard someone quote it, many strange ideas have developed around it. Look closely at the verse:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Donʼt be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NET).
What happened here? God sent Samuel to Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons to be the next king over Israel. God warned Samuel not to look at the physical appearance and think that height was a qualification necessary for a king. He already had that experience with Saul. Saul was head and shoulders taller than anyone in Israel. The Lord needed for him to forget that, and make the right choice. The next king was to be the youngest son of Jesse, a ruddy (maybe red hair and fair skin with freckles) sheepherder!
The outward appearance that the Lord was referring to had everything to do with height and physical appearance. It was not an excuse for overlooking evil actions or sin. “The Lord looks at the heart” had NOTHING to do with dismissing sin and unrighteous acts in the body because those are external or of the flesh.
God was not telling Samuel that if outwardly the one anointed for king was sinning, that He would look beyond that external evil and see something good in the heart. That would be utterly absurd! But, that has been what I have heard people say about backsliders living a sinful lifestyle. They say, “Oh, even though he or she is backslid, the Lord knows his or her heart, and they will be OK if they die in their sin.” Some say it differently, but it all boils down to providing an excuse for people’s sins.
I heard the above said by prominent ministers after the singer Whitney Houston died tragically. She died because of alcohol abuse and a drug overdose, and then drowned in her own bathtub. Those are the tragic facts! Whitney Houston was living in fornication, and yet many sought to excuse her sinful lifestyle. “Whitney knew Jesus as a child,” according to one respected prophet, so all their sins would be overlooked “because it was all external” and “God knew Whitney Houston’s heart.” I take issue with those highly ignorant statements because they violate a plethora of Scriptures!
Some think that the Lord will overlook and ignore what people do in their bodies as Christians, even if it is contrary to God’s moral commandments. No, He won’t ignore it!
The wicked man is so arrogant he always thinks, “God won’t hold me accountable; he doesn’t care.” (Psalms 10:4 NET)
To believe that God doesn’t hold us accountable for sin in the body is equivalent to the way a wicked and arrogant person thinks.
Paul had a vastly different view than is often expressed in modern namby-pamby, sugar coated, spineless, sissified, marshmallow, cotton-candy, Christianity. The descriptors are to make sure you got what kind of Christianity I am referring to, one that is totally different than BIBLE Christianity! Here we go.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them … Therefore, God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them. …And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed! He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. There will be affliction and distress on everyone who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek. (Romans 1:18, 19, 24-32, 2:3-9 NET)
Can some people that deny Christian accountability for their sin and evil deeds even read? God's wrath is revealed from Heaven against ALL unrighteousness, and that includes Christian unrighteousness! Paul, the great apostle of, as some say PURE GRACE, wrote that! The only way out of judgment is through humility and repentance where we as Christians confess our sins and receive forgiveness and cleansing from UNRIGHTEOUSNESS through the blood of Jesus. See 1 John 1:7-10, 2:1-3.
How readest thou?
We will all have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of what we did in our bodies.
In time we will all stand in judgment before the throne of the Anointed, the Liberating King, to receive what is just for our conduct (whether it be good or bad) while we lived in this temporary body. (2 Corinthians 5:10 VOICE)
The Lord will not ask you on that day what you really had in your heart as good intentions, but He will ask about what you DID in your body. Paul wrote that verse by the Spirit of the Lord.
Before David was anointed to be king, the reprobate King Saul reigned over Israel. Why did God want Saul removed from office? Was it because God looked at His heart and saw something evil there even though externally he may have been all right? No! The reason Saul lost his place and anointing to be king was because of his disobedience to God’s commandment. That is what made his heart unfit.
Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:13, 14 NASB).
Why did Saul lose the kingdom? Saul acted foolishly when he disobeyed the commandment of God. The condition of Saul’s heart was demonstrated by his actions, so God sought for a man that would have a right heart before Him by DOING His commandments.
Closely read this next paragraph.
Who is the person after God’s own heart? The one that obeys God’s commands is the person after His heart! God was looking for that. Obedience was what God saw in the heart of David. God saw that David would be obedient to Him. Obedience from the heart was what Saul lacked when he disobeyed the Lord.
One more point: One cannot have obedience in the heart and disobedience in one’s actions. That is a fallacy! If you disobey God, it is because you decided to disobey from the heart. If you obey the Lord, it is because you decided to obey the Lord from the heart. The determining factor of your heart is whether you obey or not. A heart after God obeys Him. A heart that is not after God disobeys Him!
Then Samuel said, “Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as he does in obedience? Certainly, obedience is better than sacrifice; paying attention is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and presumption is like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as a king” (1 Samuel 15:22, 23 NET).
Obedience or disobedience to God’s commandments is what determines the condition of the heart after you come to Christ. Christ made it all right in you when you first came to Him. He put in you the will and desire to obey the Lord (Philippians 2:12, 13). Now it is your obedience or disobedience that will dictate the condition of your heart in Christ. You don’t think so? Remember what God said through Samuel? Disobedience leads to rebellion, and rebellion is as the sin of divination. There is also involved presumption, which is like the evil of idolatry. Each of these will contaminate the heart or spirit with filthiness that must be cleansed. Look at Second Corinthians 6:14-18 through 7:1!
So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls. But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves. …But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out- he will be blessed in what he does (James 1:21, 22, 25 NET).
James was teaching the brethren in Christ that the way this works is to:
- Put away all filth and evil excess. That means that you become obedient to the negative commandments of Scripture. When I refer to negative commandments, I am not saying they are “negative” in the bad sense of the word, but that they are commandments that contain a prohibition against an evil action or deed. Everywhere the Word commands you NOT TO DO something; you obey it. For examples: “You will not murder,” nor covet, nor commit adultery, are some of the “negative” or the “do not” type commandments we must obey. (See Romans 13:9, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:19-21, etc.
- Humbly welcome the message implanted within you. That refers to receiving the message of Christ and obeying the positive moral commandments. We should obey “love your neighbor as yourself”, “obey your father and mother”, “be filled with the Spirit,” “forgive,” “be kind”, “be angry and do not sin”, “be holy as I (God) am holy,” etc.
- Live out the message! We must be doers of His Word and His holy moral commandments!
Are these compatible with the message of Jesus or do they oppose each other? The book of Revelation teaches that ‘children’ of God are those that “keep God’s commandments and hold to the testimony about Jesus” (Rev. 12:17 NET). Who are the real saints, meaning those called out by God to live holy lives? The book of Revelation says, “Those who obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus” (Rev. 14:12 NET).
Peter taught that if we address God as our Father, we should remember that He judges each one according to their behavior, not according to intentions, desires, or motivations of the heart.
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (1 Peter 1:14-17 NASB).
Living out the message, being obedient to the Lord, and being holy in all our behavior, is living in the reverential fear of the Lord. (See also Second Corinthians 7:1.) There is no such thing as fearing the Lord in your heart but doing evil or sin externally. To sin is to walk away from the fear of the Lord, even if it is for a moment.
Notice again that judgment is not be based on the intentions or motivations of the heart. To say that your heart was right though you did wrong will not matter.
There is an exception to the above. If you did something wrong but were ignorant of the truth in the matter, God will correct and instruct you to get you out, and keep you from sinning against Him.
God did that with Abimelech in Genesis 20:1-7. Abimelech took Sara to be his wife. He believed her to be Abraham’s sister. Abimelech did not know Abraham and Sarah lied about their marriage relationship. God intervened and told Abimelech he was a dead man because he was planning to take another man’s wife. Abimelech was innocent and had integrity in the matter, and the Lord came to him in a dream to stop him from sinning.
The difference is that if you know what you are doing is wrong, and yet do it, you will be held responsible and accountable for your actions. Not doing the right thing when you know it is right is a sin.
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17 NASB)
The only way out of this mess is repentance and confession of our sins before the Lord. He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! See First John 1:9. Thank God for the Blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7)!
There is more to say about this, and I trust you will be looking for Part 2 of this message!