My son is quite the tea tosser. What is a tea tosser? One who tosses tea! I am a coffee drinker, but even more so, I am a bigger tea drinker. One of my mugs is black so it is not as easy to distinguish if the mug is completely empty when the beverage is closer to the bottom of the mug. When my son had seen my mug sitting on the counter top and it appeared to be empty, he thought he would be funny. He grabbed the mug and attempted to juggle it around. Needless to say, he dumped my tea all over the place. We had a good laugh. He truly thought the mug was empty. The joke was on him, as was the tea!
Many times, things are not like they appear. We look at the outside of a person, but we do not see the heart. We see outward actions, but we do not know the inward motives. The Lord looks at our heart. No matter how hard we try to disguise ourselves, how much we pretend to be something we are not, God sees. He knows how much tea is in the mug, and He knows how pure and how deceitful is the condition of your heart.
The Bible tells us that the heart is the most deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). It is clear our hearts are in need of some deep cleansing. Thank God, He has the perfect cleaner to get that accomplished (Titus 3:5). Our heart is purified by faith and cleansed by the Spirit (Acts 15:9). Ask the Lord today, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NIV).
It is very easy to point out problems that we see with other people. Most of us have blinders on when we look at ourselves. We think we aren’t so bad. We like to think fairly well of ourselves. If we have done something bad, it certainly wasn’t as bad as what some others are doing. Perhaps you are pure in your own eyes.
You can think and say all you want about yourself—and you likely have tricked yourself in thinking you are good. You can be pure in your own eyes, but that doesn’t make you pure. All of us are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. The LORD examines motives. The LORD sees your heart. The LORD knows you better than you know you! It doesn’t matter how pure you consider yourself.
Today, ask for the LORD to open your eyes. Ask that He reveal to you anything that shouldn’t be there. Be more intentional in looking at your motives.
“People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives.” – Proverbs 16:2 [NLT]
In James, we read about wrong motives. Sometimes we ask for things but our motives are wrong. We want something for the wrong reason, and because God is gracious, we don’t get what we want. What a blessing!
Consider what you request. What are your motives? Are you seeking something that will allow you to press forward with God in your journey? Or are you seeking something for pleasure? Do you want something that will benefit you with temporary pleasure or do you seek something that will bless many for eternity? Is what you are asking for something that will bring you closer to God or pull you away from God?
It’s okay to request things from God. He wants us to come to Him. He wants us to make the desires of our heart known. But the desires of our heart should first be Him. And the requests we make should reveal this desire we have for God Almighty. If they don’t – if our motives are wrong – God can see our heart. Isn’t it awesome that despite us not placing Him first in our lives, He still withholds something that is not good for us, because He does not want to withhold goodness in our lives?!?
“And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong–you want only what will give you pleasure.” – James 4:3 [NLT]
It is important to look inward daily. The world tells us to look outward. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s something wrong with someone else. You are free to do as you want—you are free to be who you want to be and think how you want to think. The world tells us it’s okay to be focused on self.
When we focus on ourselves and live in a “me world,” we do not see the importance of looking inward and life so often becomes a life of you against the world. We fail then to see that God should be first in our lives—He is our life. It is only when we can recognize that we were meant to live with Him, and then look inward to see what is keeping you from fully living a life for God.
Jeremiah wrote to “test and examine our ways.” This is something we need to do daily because our walk with Christ is a daily walk. There will be good days and not-so-good days. There are days we will struggle more and days when we will see great strides in our walk. We are reminded that we are a sinful people who often focus on self. One day we take two steps forward, another five steps back. We are ever-changing and often emotionally driven. For this reason, it is crucial we test and examine every day. Today, look inward. Question your motives. Examine your moves. Test your life against the Truth of God. Allow the Spirit to reveal anything that separates you from God, anything that may be a stumbling block in the way of God’s great plan.
“Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.” – Lamentations 3:40-41 [ESV]
The Bible says that we are not to put God to the test. When Jesus is tempted three times, He even responds with the Deuteronomy 6 verse when He is told to throw himself down. In today’s passage, Ahaz responds that he “will not put the LORD to the test.” There is a difference though.
Ahaz was asked by the Lord to ask for a sign or confirmation. God was saying, “Go ahead Ahaz, seek me. Ask me.” Ahaz did not want to know the truth. Ahaz did not want to seek the advice of God. He responds by attempting to make himself look as if he is following the Law. He proclaims that he didn’t want a sign because he didn’t want to test God. But he was simply pretending to have reverence for God, though it was more of a refusal to accept what God had for him.
Jesus and Ahaz had the same response but their hearts were different—their true motives were different. Reverence for God is something we all should have, but there is true reverence, what Jesus displayed, and a false reverence, which is the display put on by Ahaz. Today consider the reverence you show for God. Do you have a deep respect for the Lord?
“Later, the LORD sent this message to King Ahaz: ‘Ask the LORD your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want–as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.’ But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.’” – Isaiah 7:10-12 [NLT]
We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We are to share Jesus, to show everyone Jesus, to point to Jesus. This is not something that we can take lightly, and it’s not something that we simply pick up on when Sunday comes around. This is a 24/7 call from God. We don’t need to have a title, hold countless degrees, or have a class we teach on Sunday to obey this command. The Great Commission is all about a way of life.
Around the holiday season, we have Christians who wish to not offend anyone and to include all people, and so they say “Happy Holidays.” There are also those people who simply say “Merry Christmas,” whether they are believers or not. Then there are the others, the Christians who hear someone say “Happy Holidays” and feel this great need to “correct” the person. I’ve seen people tell a person they were “doing it wrong.” When I hear this, I think the person talking needs to consider that quite possibly they are “doing it wrong.” It is important to remember that Jesus wants us to share the Gospel, not shove it down someone’s throat. Jesus wants us to show love, not to put ourselves on a pedestal. Remember, we all fall short.
This holiday season, I hope you remember the importance of taking Jesus with you, and that it continues on throughout the new year to come. I also pray that you remember the importance of the 3 A’s.
Approach with care. Put yourself in the position of others. Remember that we are all unique. Do not try to force someone to see things your way. Jesus never forced someone to believe in Him and we can’t either. (1 Corinthians 9:22)
Absolute truth. Do not attempt to change the Word. Stand firm in your faith. It is okay to accept others, but it is not okay to try to tweak the Gospel. You can change your methods and your approach, but the Truth never changes. (Romans 1:18-25)
Always show love. God is love. If you are truly representing God, you are showing love. If you are not showing love, rethink your motives because if love isn’t present, God is not in it. (1 John 4:8)
Recommended Further Reading: Romans 12