Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Heart Condition

I've attended Bible Study Fellowship studies off and on for years.  I enjoy the challenge of a study that is so in-depth, keeps me accountable, and encourages members to stick to the Bible and what God's word is saying.  All around the world each week, and in kids' classes, through BSF we are all studying the same lesson over the same scriptures.  If you stick with BSF, with recent updates and adjustments, it now takes 10 years to have completed the study of the entire Bible with such depth.  Some studies cover one book of the Bible, for example last year we spent the entire time studying the book of Matthew.  Other years, the study is more topical.  This year we are studying the Life of Moses.

I love studying Moses and have done this BSF study before.  I love reading about how God, through his mother and sister, saved the life of baby Moses. (Ex. 2)  I identify with Moses, who felt unworthy and incapable of being God's spokesman and tried to talk God out of it. (Ex. 3-4)  Who doesn't know the story of the plagues and Moses leading the Exodus of the Jews out of Egypt towards the land God promised them? (Ex. 7-11) The Israelites first Passover and favor. (Ex. 12)  And the parting of the Red Sea, a most excellent miracle of God's hand.  (Ex. 13-14) The Ten Commandments, God's presence and provisions, the Jews' disobedience and quickness to mistrust God's plan even after such miracles continue through this book.  The book of Exodus covers a lot of our well-known stories of the faith and the lessons we learned about as children on the infamous felt boards. These are the stories we like to hear about Exodus.

At the end of Exodus, God has instructed Moses about how to build the tabernacle, altar, and tent of meeting.  (At this point, the Old Testament begins to lose some of its luster for me.)  This takes us to Leviticus, admittedly one of my least favorite books of the Bible to study.  (Keeping it real.)  This book opens with lots of instructions about priests, consecrating and ordaining priests, and all of their duties.  We hear again and again about the offerings that must be given regularly for sin, peace, fellowship, atonement, etc.  All of these things point us to Jesus, who paid the price of these rituals and practices on our behalf all at one time on the cross.  I am all about the pointing to Jesus part, and not so much about the rules and regulations part.

I was not looking forward recently to reading and answering questions on the rituals and rules in Leviticus again.  But. Wow, has God turned this study and my expectations for Leviticus on its head this year!  Because I did not believe that these laws and regulations had any bearing on my life or my walk with Jesus.  I was wrong.  Heart wrong. While these offerings are no longer required of us to atone for our sins, to make right the sins we've committed, or to fulfill the penalty of our sinful conditions, (thank you, Jesus), the heart conditions of these offerings are required of us.

Let me say that again.  
Let it sink in.  

While we are no longer under the law because of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf, we are under the heart conditions that these early laws point us to. 

These laws point us to Jesus.  And Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. (Matt 5:17) When Jesus came, HE turned faith and religion on its head as He continually pointed people to the conditions of their heart.

Over and over in the book of Matthew's account of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matt, 5-7) , Jesus tells the people, "You have heard it said..." & "But I say..."  And every time He points us to our hearts--the thoughts, feelings, motives, and beliefs we hold in our hearts.  We live out of our hearts. (Matt. 5:21)  Out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouths speak. (Matt. 6:19-24) The fruit we produce, or do not produce, in our lives speaks of our heart conditions. (Luke 6:43-45)

Leviticus 19:18 is what Jesus quotes in Matt.5:44, when he tells the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount, that they are to "Love your neighbors as ourselves."  How did I not know this before 2015???
God was giving His people explicit instructions on how to live their lives, conduct their business, and how to approach Him.  A Holy God could only be approached by a holy people, a people set apart, and living differently than the world lived or expected.  

Where all of this has culminated in a Big Light Bulb Moment at this point in this book of the Bible for me, has come down to the burnt offerings that the priests were taught to conduct and the people to supply, in order to stay right with God and each other.  Though we don't have to find, kill and present an unblemished calf, goat, lamb or turtledove, or oil or grains, to make up for our sins, we should have a heart condition that longs to confess and be right with God, and a heart that is quick to make reparations and restitution.

And God wasn't just addressing sins towards Him, He was also addressed thoroughly what the Bible calls "unintentional sin" in these early books in Leviticus.  I know from my life's experiences and my own mistakes that this is an area we do not address today and do not want to address.  We are way too quick today to shift the blame and move on with little more than a verbal apology, if we even do that, if we didn't actually "intend" to sin.

"I didn't mean to."  
"That wasn't my intention."  
"I hope you know my heart really was in the right place."  

We've all heard it.  We've all said it.  There are times that we don't mean to have sinned against someone, but we do. God required that His nation of Israel make sacrifices to atone for even the unintentional sins, and then He also required that reparations and restitution be made with the affected persons. (Leviticus 4-7) While we are not under this law, we do want to be in communion with God, holy and with a heart growing more and more like His each day.  His HEART for His people has not changed!

We may not have known the harm our actions could cause someone else. We make errors in human judgment.  We may have acted carelessly without caution, and without enough forethought. We may not have consulted God on a matter before acting.  All of us are guilty of these sins.  When we make these kinds of mistakes, even though it wasn't our intention, we sin.  And we hurt people with our unintentional sin and they still feel the full effects and consequences of our actions.  Even though we didn't really mean it.

With a heart condition that is focused on JESUS and LOVE, we want to make right our sin, rather they be against God or another person created in His image. And we should want to address the situation or relationship through reparations and restitution.  And this takes HEART.  Not money, not words, not even gifts, but a HEART willing to be humble, open to love, and carrying out actions that shows God is its treasure.

God covers this. 
 In Leviticus.

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