The Heart We Need
One of the most basic attributes of the disciple of Jesus Christ is a receptive heart. What is meant by this is that one must have the characteristics that would allow an individual to recognize the truth in any and every situation and act properly in the eyes of God. The receptive heart will respond properly in spite of the possibility of personal losses or humiliation, and in spite of personal beliefs or influences which may hinder accepting the truth.
But why is this a necessary attribute of any disciple? What necessitates a receptive heart of those who desire to follow God and His word? First of all, it is necessary because one cannot even be a disciple without such a heart. God’s word tells us the heart of man is of primary concern to God (1 Sam. 7:16), and our hearts will either condemn or justify us in the final judgment. We may deceive other men into believing we are sincere believers, but God knows our heart. As we consider these things, let us then consider our own heart and compare it to the standard and the expectation of the heart that is pleasing to God. The question should be: Do I have a receptive heart? Consider for a few minutes the kind of heart we must have for it to be receptive.
Lowly. (Ref. Matt. 11:29) Humility is the beginning point for one who even desires to be a disciple, and for one’s heart to be receptive, it must be humble. Only the heart that causes us to stop believing we are always right and that our way is the best way will stop long enough to listen to that which is different than what we
already believe; if we hear something that conflicts with what we believe, we will not think so much of ourselves that we simply brush it aside or shrug it off without due consideration. Think of the greatest persecutor of the early church [Saul], and how he made such a great change when confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-25); it was humility that allowed such a change!
Humility allows us to listen to those who condemn us and seriously consider the possibility that they may be right! What if someone condemns us for sins against God? What do we do? The proud heart will seek to justify the action (without self-examination to see if it actually is sin or not), or seeks to destroy the one who has pointed out the sin, or merely attempts to make it look as if the action is not quite as bad as it is said to be. But the humble heart will listen. The humble heart will consider the words of all others, no matter what is said, or even how it is said. If we are treated harshly, it matters not if what is said is true. The humble heart will also not defend unrighteousness just because it was we who practiced it — or any of our friends or relatives. The humble heart will accept the truth willingly and admit when we have done wrong — and will change.
For the one who has not yet obeyed the gospel, humility is of utmost importance, for if we do not submit ourselves to the will of God — if we do not put the will of God above our own — we will never obey, for the will of God always conflicts with the world’s desires. Humility is necessary, for we must admit that He knows better than us all what we need, and we cannot receive what He offers unless we agree that we are not as ‘good’ as we often strive to portray ourselves, and, in fact, are spiritually destitute (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 5:6).
Demanding. (Ref. Acts 17:11] Though the receptive heart will be humble, it will not blindly and completely cave to the desires and claims of those who may oppose us, but will honestly challenge that which appears to conflict with what we may believe and/or practice. This is not to say that we run roughshod over anyone who says anything that does not agree with what we believe, but simply that we demand evidence of those who make such statements so that we may make a thorough investigation and make an informed decision based on enough evidence to be convicted that what we are practicing and/or teaching is correct. The receptive heart is not a heart that is so wide open that it believes anything; it challenges and tests everything for credibility and accuracy before believing.
Think of the Bereans who, when the Holy Spirit-inspired apostle of Jesus Christ came to them and taught them the gospel message, they did not simply accept it without question, but “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” They did this even as the text tells us they “received the word with all readiness.” A receptive heart will be both humble and demanding of the evidence needed!
As disciples, this must not cease. The disciple is commanded to “test all things” (1 Thess. 5:21), to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1), and to “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). We should demand evidence before believing or accepting the word of others, but if found to be true, the receptive heart will then receive it!
But this demand for evidence should be followed by action! We cannot honestly claim to have a receptive heart if we simply demand evidence but then do nothing with it when it is shown.
Honest. (Ref. Luke 8:15) Here is the foundation of the receptive heart: honesty. Without honesty, a heart could never be receptive, and no man would ever even desire to follow after the will of God. Try to imagine, for a minute, any situation we could ever face in which honesty is not demanded of us. If someone told you the stove is hot, but you really wanted to touch it, honesty would demand we accept the truth and avoid what we had previously desired to do.
Honesty hears the words of others, tests it, and then admits the truth, no matter what our own belief, what we have done previously, or what the majority may think. The receptive heart relies on honesty as its basis for action. A dishonest heart will never receive the truth if it conflicts with current practice and/or teaching. Honesty, in reality, will demand action! Jesus chastised the Jews of the first century for searching the Scriptures to find eternal life, but then rejecting Him of whom those Scriptures spoke (John 5:27-40). They were not honest!
For the lost soul, honesty demands he admit his lost condition, that he is unable to save himself from his sins, and that there is but one way to salvation. Have we been honest with the word of God? Having tested it, what have we done with it? Have we been honest with the word?
How’s your heart? — Steven Harper