January 18, 2010

To Live is Christ — means looking beyond appearances

Our vacation spot in AZ has us thinking we would like to return next year. We found an online site that lists rentals by owners. Each ad has full information with photos. We lined up two condos to view and had a peek yesterday.

The first one looked good in the ad. The price was affordable and the pictures appealing. When we got there, it was a huge disappointment. After, I went back online and looked at the photos. They made me think a little differently about the verse I’ve been reading.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Obviously this is a warning about misjudging human beings by their appearance. However, people are not the only things I can misjudge by how they look.

A child’s book (I cannot remember the title) depicts temptation as a bright and appealing light that floats in front of the child and leads her into a cave. Then the light goes out and the child is trapped in the darkness. How many temptations are like that? They look good to begin with but they lead into spiritual darkness and even physical danger.

Human value systems can be the same. We heard a sermon two weeks ago about the “greatest problem in the American church today.” The preacher said it was the rugged individualism of the American dream — gone wrong. This ideal began by a bold desire to make a better world, to adventure forth and improve the lives of all, but it has become a self-centered, me-ism that is only interested in independently improving the lot of me, myself, and I.

For many, this value system looks perfect and they are caught in it. It is not what it appears. The Bible defines sin as doing our own thing, doing whatever pleases us without regard for God’s values or the needs of others. God sees the heart of the matter, but people can easily miss that in the name of independence and the American dream.

To live is Christ makes me think about the values of the Lord Jesus. He did not get caught in contemporary thinking even though He was involved in the lives of those around Him. He knew the heart of God and saw there what is really important. Some of those values are in what we call the Beatitudes.

Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! (Luke 6:20–22)
To many, the outward appearance of these values is totally insane. Who can possibly consider poverty, hunger, weeping, and persecution as good things and be joyful about them? But Jesus, who sees the heart of God, knows a deeper purpose. The Father’s intention is not to make people miserable, but to bring us into a kingdom that not only makes sense of the negatives in this life, but gives them purpose to shape our lives and deal with our sinful self-centeredness.

More and more I am feeling a deep hunger to know the heart of God. Things like children dying from cancer and thousands dying in earthquakes make no sense, have no purpose, at least outwardly. Yet the Bible says that God is sovereign and in control. His plans are not our plans; His thoughts are not our thoughts. We see only the outward and become confused and doubtful. Jesus sees His Father’s heart and that vision gave Him the courage to say, “Not my will, but Thine be done” and go to the cross. This seemed to make no sense to His disciples at the time, but it became their redemption and mine.

I know that I can be fooled by appearances. People and many other things are not always what they seem. Instead, of letting the externals affect my responses and choices, I want to seek the heart of God.

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