I want to begin this morning by creating situations and asking you to search within yourself to see how you would react. Do you understand what we are doing? I will give you the situation, and you will tell yourself how you would react.

First, I want to talk to all single ladies. If you are a single female who is a teen or older, how would you reaction to this situation? You dated a man for a long time. All your experiences and observations tell you that he is a nice person. One night, as you were expecting, he asks you to marry him. He says. "I need a wife. I want you to be my wife. I promise to take care of you; to provide for your financial and physical needs; to work with you in every area of life. I will never refuse to do something for you. But you must understand this: I will never give you my heart." How would you react?

Now I want to talk to all the single men who are teens or older. The situation is the same. You dated a beautiful lady for a long time and decide that you really love her. You ask her to marry you, promise her your heart and your life, and she says yes. But she adds a condition to her yes. "I need to get married, and I am willing to marry you. However, you must understand that you will never have my heart." How would you react?

To the married, regardless of your age, I ask a question. How difficult would it be to live as the husband or the wife of a person who never gave you his or her heart?

To all parents, regardless of your age, I ask you a question. How difficult would it be to be the loving parent of a child who does not love you?

This is basic to the existence of all meaningful, interpersonal relationships: the hearts of those in the relationship must belong to the relationship. If the hearts are not involved, the relationship will die.

This is basic to the existence of a relationship between any person and God: the heart must belong to the relationship. If your heart is not involved in your relationship with God, either the relationship never existed, or the relationship is dead.

  1. The fact that we must give our hearts to God if we are to be in relationship with God always has been true, and always will be true.
    1. Almost forty years had passed since the Israelites left Egypt and slavery.
      1. It had been almost forty years because the adults who left Egypt did not trust God.
      2. Because of their faithlessness, this people lived in the dessert for forty years.
      3. Because of their faithlessness, all but a very few of the adults who left Egypt were dead.
    2. Moses gave his last instructions to the second generation who left Egypt as teenagers and children.
      1. His last instructions to this second generation is called Deuteronomy.
      2. In Deuteronomy Moses does three things in combination.
        1. He reemphasized God's teachings.
        2. He asked them to remember the incidents of the past forty years.
        3. He challenged them to do something their parents failed to do: preserve relationship with God.
    3. Please pay careful attention to a powerful emphasis in Deuteronomy.
      1. This emphasis began very early in Deuteronomy.
      2. Deuteronomy 4:9 Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.
        1. Only if what your eyes have seen lives in your hearts will you be blessed.
        2. Only if it lives in your hearts can you pass it on to your children and grandchildren.
      3. Deuteronomy 4:39 Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.
        1. Knowing the true identity of God depended on them taking it to heart.
        2. Belonging to God began with their hearts.
      4. Deuteronomy 5:8-10 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
        1. "Do not make or worship idols."
        2. "I will not share you."
        3. "For generations I will not forget the evil of those who hate me."
        4. "But I will be loving and kind to thousands who love me and express their love through obedience."
      5. Deuteronomy 5:29 Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!
        1. God knew that the nation would not always follow Him.
        2. God knew that they would block His blessings.
        3. God knew this would happen because God knew their hearts.
      6. Deuteronomy 6:4,5 Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
        1. Israel understood that this was God's greatest commandment.
        2. Jesus declared this was God's greatest commandment.
        3. Notice that God's greatest commandment began with loving God with all your heart.
      7. Deuteronomy 10:12 Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
        1. In some ways Israel had a lot in common with the Church of Christ: they spent an awful lot of time debating what was really important to God.
        2. God said, "Let me explain it to you very simply and clearly."
        3. "This is what I require: profound respect; behavior that is in step with Me; love for Me; and service that comes from your heart and your life."
      8. Deuteronomy 10:16 So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.
        1. In Genesis 17 God made circumcision the symbol of His covenant with Abraham.
        2. Every male who was a descendant of Abraham was to be physically circumcised eight days after the boy child's birth.
        3. Hundreds of years later the nation of Israel thought they figured out what was important.
          1. You have to have Jewish parents.
          2. You have to be circumcised.
          3. You have to keep the Sabbath day holy.
          4. You have to offer the correct sacrifices in the correct way.
          5. You have to eat kosher food.
          6. That is what is really important!
        4. God said, "If you don't love Me, none of that means anything."
        5. Moses speaking for God said, "The critical circumcision that is important to God is the circumcision of the heart."
        6. "Cut away everything from your heart that keeps you from loving God."
      9. But God knew that Israel would fail to do that.
        1. God knew that Israel again would become so evil that they would be made slaves again in a foreign country.
        2. God knew that they would remain the victims of their own evil until their hearts changed.
      10. Listen to what Moses said God will do at the end of that captivity:
        Deuteronomy 30:6 Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.
        1. The people who returned from captivity were the people who would allow God to circumcise their hearts.
        2. Life as slaves in a foreign country taught them the importance of loving God.

    (Transition: "Well, David, that is mildly interesting. But that was Israel and the Old Testament and has nothing to do with us." Be very, very careful. That has everything to do with us.)

  2. We do not have two Gods, one God of the Old Testament and one God of the New Testament.
    1. We do not have a God who wanted to be loved from the heart and a God who does not care if we love Him or not.
    2. Listen very carefully:
      1. From Romans 6, the chapter we use to illustrate the nature and purpose of baptism, Paul wrote:
        Romans 6:17,18 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
        1. "Oh, we did the right acts!"
        2. What did your heart have to do with your acts?
        3. What does your heart have to do with your behavior now?
      2. Notice something very obvious and extremely important:
        1. Obedience that begins in the heart destroys slavery to sin.
        2. Obedience that begins in the heart surrenders to God's teachings in Jesus Christ.
        3. Obedience that begins in the heart makes it possible to end slavery to evil (which destroys me) and joyfully to accept slavery to righteousness (which gives me life by showing me how to walk with God.)
      3. To the Colossians Paul wrote, (Colossians 2:9-12) For in Him (Christ) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
        1. God circumcises the heart when you are baptized.
        2. God cuts away all the evil so that you are free to love Him and serve Him.
        3. But God only circumcises the heart of the person who believes in Christ from the heart and who repents from the heart.
        4. This has always been true: God accepts the repentance and obedience of the person who gives God his or her heart.

[Prayer: God, help our bodies belong to You and to You only because our hearts belong to You and to You only.]

Physically obeying the commandments of God without giving God the heart did not work for Israel. It did not work for early Christians. It will not work for us.

Teens, doing God's things means something to God when your heart belongs to God. Singles, doing God's things means something to God when you heart belongs to God. Marrieds, doing God's things means something to God when your heart belongs to God. Parents, doing God's things means something to God when your heart belongs to God. Divorced people, doing God's things means something to God when your heart belongs to God. Regardless of your age or your situation, obedience means something to God when it comes from the heart.

Has God circumcised your heart?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 9 July 2000

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