- The sermon emphasizes the importance of opening one’s heart fully to God’s love and allowing that love to flow through us to others.
- The preacher reflects on the scriptural call to love Jesus with all our heart and soul, noting that our interactions with others reveal the state of our relationship with God.
- The sermon also discusses the barriers that can restrict our hearts, such as bitterness and unforgiveness, and encourages the congregation to seek a transformation that aligns their hearts and souls with Jesus’s compassion.
- The preacher concludes by leading the congregation in a prayer for openness, forgiveness, and a deep change of heart to reflect Jesus’s love to everyone.
Thank you for those testimonies. I feel like the service could end right here. There’s a lot to chew on that was shared, and I’m excited about what God has in store for us and for the world in 2024.
We’re going to have a quick budget meeting after the service. There’s a reason why we have a reserve, and maybe this year, God will start bringing some of those reasons to us so that we can invest in people. People are doing good work on the ground, people with actual needs, people struggling just to put food on the table. We want to be attentive to what God is doing around the world and join Him there.
Please turn with me to Colossians 3, I’ll read a couple of verses and then we’ll start. Colossians 3:12-13.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13, ESV)
And if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, we open up our hearts wide to you. We want to meet you, we want to fellowship with you, we want to commune with you, we want to encounter you. We want to leave this place different than when we walked in.
We pray that you would pour out your heart into our hearts, and you would commission us and send us out as ones who represent you wherever you send us. We give you this time. We avail ourselves to you. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.
Well, we started out this year with the two greatest commandments, and I think that’s a great place for any Christian, any church to start. To love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The prior verse is “the Lord is one,” and so we know it’s God the Father, but whenever the Lord is mentioned, I think it’s probably more accurate to say to love Jesus this year with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Last week, we covered loving the Lord with our heart, and having pride in our heart. God removes himself from us, or we are far from the Lord in our hearts. Whereas, if we’re humble, then God draws near. God gives grace to the humble.
This week, I’ve been asking a set of questions, like how do I love Jesus with my soul, more specifically with my affections, and how do we stir up our affections for Christ? So, I was kind of sitting there most of the week, and I think the Lord answered that, but he answered it in a different way.
Forgive me if this message is a little unorganized, but I feel like it is the Lord’s answer to those questions, and maybe a set of new questions.
The first thing the Lord showed me as I was thinking about those questions and asking him is love flows from God to us, and then from us to the world. It’s hard to evaluate, how are we doing with Jesus, but it’s easy to evaluate how we’re doing with other people.
So, if there’s something not right in our interactions with those closest to us, with our coworkers, with strangers, with people that we like, we’re very good to, but people who don’t fit this box, we are not good to — this inconsistency in our relationships, what does that reveal about our heart, even unto the Lord?
And I think there is a relationship, and I hope the Lord, he unpacks for us and clarifies for us what is the relationship between our heart and our soul.
It seems to me the heart is the door, the affections and the emotions that come from the soul flow from there, and I think there are states of our heart, and God gave me a picture of two cups.
One is God’s heart, and represented by the first cup. The second cup is our heart. It’s like if you imagine transferring liquids from one cup to another. One is covered with one of those plastic boba cup seals. Like you pour in, but that boba cup is sealed, and so it’s just gonna spill all over the place. And so that’s a heart that is utterly closed off from God. And so even if God is pouring out, it’s like not a drop is getting in to that cup.
Then, you have the little coffee stirrer with the two small little holes, and imagine if that’s what you’re using to transfer from God’s heart to our heart, how slow of a process that is. So, God’s heart is available, and it’s pouring out, but it’s just trickling in, because the opening of the heart is restricted. It’s not open wide. Only that little stirrer for coffee to transfer the liquid.
Then there’s a larger straw, the boba straw, which you can even fit a large boba through, and so that flows a little bit better.
But the absolute best is if the cup is fully open, the heart is open wide, God just pours in. It all comes into our heart. I think that is what the Lord wants. He wants a heart that is wide, wide open.
What causes the flow of God’s heart, his love, and his affection to slow down, to trickle, and even to stop altogether?
I think there are things related to our upbringing, things related to trauma, our parents, betrayal, and often even betrayal in the church. Especially when it comes to church, it’s hard to figure out why that happened, because you felt like the Lord led you here, and it was God’s people. And then this kind of fracture, division, and abuse happened, and there is bitterness, there is unforgiveness.
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; (Hebrews 12:15, ESV)
This root of bitterness, it’s a two-way blockage. Not only does that bitterness affect your relationship with other people, how you view them, it defiles everything that comes out.
It also blocks, and it causes you to not obtain the grace of God. And so, bitterness is a big deal. Unforgiveness is a big deal.
Matthew 18: the parable of the unforgiving servant. The master is just pouring out forgiveness. All your debts are cleared. And then, as soon as that happens, this person goes to somebody else who owes them just a little bit of money and is demanding payment. God says, “That’s not the kind of heart that I just showed you. Why are you not reflecting my heart to your servant?”
11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. (2 Corinthians 6:11, ESV)
13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:13, ESV)
And Paul, he planted the Corinthian church. He is the founding pastor of this church. He is a true apostle of Christ.
And then he goes and he’s planting other churches and somewhere along the way, other leaders found their way into this church. And I would label them as counterfeit apostles. They are false apostles. And they have some impressive gifts. Some have supernatural gifts.
And so, some people are saying in the Corinthian church, “I follow Cephas, I follow Apollos, he speaks better than your guy.” And there’s divisions in this church, and there’s false apostles that are trickling in. And these false apostles cause the Corinthians, the brothers and sisters there, their hearts to close toward Paul.
And Paul is saying, “Why have you closed your heart to me?” This is how confident Paul is, that he is a true apostle. He says, ‘If you close your heart to me, you’re in trouble because you’re closing your heart to the very heart of God.’
And so, this is a big deal. Why are you closing your heart? That happens, sadly, in churches where there’s a lot of affection for one another in that one local church. To everybody else outside of that local church, there is zero affection. Like, ‘you’re not part of us.’ A lot of churches operate like it’s just me and my tribe. And we can also fall into that danger. We just love well here.
There’s a lot of affection for one another here. We look forward to seeing each other on Sunday, but outside of this little group, I wondered, does that same affection flow? This heart, this soul, this emotion, does it show consistently to other people?
There are two opposing ideas in 2 Corinthians 6. One is, “open your hearts wide, widen your hearts.” And the opposite is, “why are you restricting it?”
Going back to the cup analogy. You may have a little hole the size of a boba straw can fit, then a little coffee stirrer, eventually you’re just sealing it. Your heart closes. And that’s not how the people of God should be. Even to people outside of the church, even to non-believers, our hearts should be wide open and we should have compassion. We should have love for everybody and not just limit it to just me and my kids or just me and my church and forget about everybody else.
If I were to sum up my experience at my previous church, it is as soon as I left, everybody in that church cut me off. And at the time, I did not realize what kind of damage that had on my soul. But now, the Lord is starting to reveal more. It’s like, yeah, those people cut you off and you cut them off as well. It was a mutual cutting off, and that was not the right way to respond for me.
Like, they can cut me off, that’s fine, but my heart toward them should still be tender. I should still have compassion for them. I should still pray for these people instead of saying, “Well, you hurt me, you betrayed me, I’m gonna preserve myself, I’m gonna cut you off.” I’m restricting my heart and I’m only gonna love certain people. You reject me, I reject you. That kind of a heart, the Lord, He does not want in His church.
So, the Lord, He gave me a word study this week, and it’s around this idea of affection and compassion.
8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8, ESV)
So, Paul is saying this to the Philippian church. Whose affection is it? Is it Paul’s affection? Is it Jesus’ affection? You can’t tell, right? He actually says “the affection of Christ Jesus.” But it’s Paul’s affection. But the source of that affection is Jesus. It’s, it’s God’s heart being poured out into Paul.
That heart being reflected, flowing out to the Philippians. And it’s a weird word in the Greek. I can’t even pronounce it.
And the Bible is very descriptive. It’s affection but it’s refers to our inward parts. It’s your heart. It’s your lungs. It’s your liver. It’s your bowels. It’s your intestines. It’s coming out of there. This compassion. It’s very descriptive. This affection.
It’s like a deep emotion. This is like gut level compassion. This is not just, “I like this person.” No, it’s like something is coming out and I’m feeling it. It’s so visceral. So deep. And the Greek poets, this is part of the biblical definition. They mentioned these poets. And so, I’ll talk about it briefly.
It says this seat of the emotions. It goes in two tracks. One track is anger. And if you’ve ever been angry, you feel it in your lungs. You feel it in your liver. You feel it in your bowels. You feel it in your intestines.
Like, I think that one, we know what exactly the Bible is talking about because we’ve felt it. This bowel-level movement swirling of emotion. Like the anger, it just swirls all in you. It comes out of you. To me, it’s too familiar of a feeling. It’s not right. I should not be an expert at this.
That’s one track — this anger. But if you know the heart of God, that’s not the track you want to be on.
The gut-level, bowel-level movement kind of feeling in your liver, lungs, is not supposed to be anger, but compassion. It’s this affection for people that you feel. And you don’t know where it comes from. It doesn’t come from you, really. It is the affection of Christ. And you feel it.
1 John 3 mentions a brother in need. And you close down your heart. You shut it off so that you don’t have to meet that brother’s need.
It’s like the compassion; it should flow to, ‘Oh, you have a need, let me pay for something because you obviously need help.’ But it mentiond this same word of affection. You shut off this affection. You close your heart to this brother.
Also in Philemon, Paul is writing to Philemon, who is a leader of the Colossian church. The church is actually meeting at his house. And so, some people might think, ‘Well, if you meet at your house, that’s not a church.’ That’s not true.
The Bible says many of these churches met in houses. And so, maybe we should consider that. Like, what is our model going forward? Should we just have multiple houses of worship in multiple cities? And should we just gather online? Should we gather monthly? I’m just throwing out ideas. Because biblically, a house is where people gather for church.
8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, (Philemon 1:8, ESV)
9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. (Philemon 1:9-12, ESV)
It’s that same word, this deep compassion, that moves in our lungs. I’m sending you my heart.
13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. (Philemon 1:13-14, ESV)
17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. (Philemon 1:17-20, ESV)
So, three times he uses this word for gut-level compassion to Philemon. And Onesimus was, maybe he was a believer, a struggling believer, an immature believer, maybe he was a non-believer, but he was working for Philemon.
And he’s not a slave in the way that we think of a slave. He owes money, this is a job, he’s got to pay back.
But Paul alludes to the fact that this person, maybe a believer, maybe a non-believer, stole money from the boss and he fled. Somehow, this brother, this person, meets Paul in prison. Maybe they’re both in prison. Paul ministers to him, Onesimus comes to the faith, and now Paul is pleading to Philemon, “Why don’t you receive back Onesimus as your brother? If he owes you anything, I will pay back.” And he’s appealing with this deep compassion that Paul has for Onesimus.
And now, he is expressing to Onesimus’ former boss, Philemon, and he’s pleading with him, “Receive him as you receive me.” So that’s this word for this compassion, or affection.
It occurs 11 times in Scripture. One time, it’s literally “the intestines gushed out of a person,” the literal intestines, physical. One reference, Mary, talks about the affections or the compassion of God. But the other nine references, it’s Christians and how we are to relate with other people. So, I think that’s where we should locate that word of affection.
But there’s a different word, which has the same root. And there’s 11 references, 11 or 12. One reference to God the Father, but the other remaining references are about Jesus having this type of compassion. And it’s stronger. It is a matter of degree. When it’s talking about God’s compassion, his affection, Jesus’s compassion, affection, it is a lot stronger in the Greek.
It also has a direction. It’s like moving toward the person. Whether they have open hearts or not, God and Jesus are moving toward us all the time.
Like Matthew 9:36, when Jesus looks at a crowd, we read in the English, he had compassion. That’s too weak of a word. It’s like his bowels are moving. His gut is wrenched. His lungs, he feels this deep compassion for the crowds because, he says, they are harassed and they’re helpless. They’re like sheep without a shepherd.
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36, ESV)
Let me teach them. Let me feed them. That’s his heart. Like when we see the crowd, do we have that deep compassion when we think about just how many people in this world don’t know Jesus?
Like if they were to die today, where would they end up? Do we have this type of heart? If not, what’s wrong wrong with us?
After this word study, just to sum up quickly, there are five ways that I see Jesus’ compassion moving in this intense kind of a way toward us.
The first one is Jesus is moved deeply in his inward parts with compassion toward people who are spiritually lost. Matthew 9, Mark 6, Luke 10, Luke 15.
Second, Jesus is also moved deeply in his inward parts with compassion toward those who are sick. Matthew 14, Matthew 20, Mark 1, Mark 9.
Third, Jesus is moved deeply in his inward parts with compassion toward the crowd because they’re hungry. Mark 15, Mark 8.
Fourth, Jesus is moved deeply in his inward parts with compassion toward those who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Luke 7.
Fifth, Jesus is moved deeply in his inward parts with compassion toward those who are loaded down and bound by their sins. Matthew 18:27.
And so, when I compare these two words, which share the same root, I see that God’s love, and Jesus in particular, his love and his affection toward us never changes. Amen? Isn’t that a praise? Regardless of our spiritual state, regardless of whether our hearts have a seal over it, or a boba straw opening, or a little coffee stirrer, or its totally closed or open, it doesn’t matter. His heart, his love, his intense affection toward us is never closed.
In fact, even if our heart is closed toward him. God is always moving toward us with a heart that is wide open. It’s full of love, full of affection. That means he doesn’t just tolerate you; it’s not his job to be committed to you in love. He actually likes you. He’s not annoyed with you.
Even on your worst day. His heart is always moving toward us with full love, full affection. Regardless of our response, he is that way. He cannot change. He is always moving in this way. His heart is never closed toward us. His heart never changes, and it doesn’t matter what state we’re in.
So given that this is the case, what is our response? What is our response? And I just want to give a quick outline teaching us how to pray, and then I’ll just end by leading us in prayer.
The first thing we do is to open up our hearts wide. Like Pastor Brian on the Just Jesus YouTube channel always prays that way, and I always wondered, why does he pray that way before every service? Now the Lord is beginning to unpack for me why.
It’s like our heart, if it’s closed, it doesn’t matter how desperate the Lord is to connect with us, or how wide his heart is, we’re not going to have a heart-to-heart connection. If our heart is restricted, okay, we will meet the Lord, but his heart is only going to trickle in. It depends on the size of the straw.
Don’t we want all of God’s heart to pour in? Like just pouring in his heart into our heart, don’t we want full heart into our heart so that when we go out into the world this compassion for people flows out? Like where is this compassion for people coming from?
Is it mine, or is it Jesus’? It’s actually Jesus’s, but you feel it yourself. It’s not as intense as Jesus feels it, but you feel it quite a bit, and that’s why there’s a separate word for what we feel and what Jesus feels. We feel it for sure, but the intensity, the source of that intense compassion and affection is from Jesus.
So, the first thing we do is we open up our hearts wide. Then we say, “Lord Jesus, I want to meet you today. I want you,” that’s what we’re saying.
And so, we may have all these prayer requests, but the first thing is when we love Jesus with all of our heart and soul, we’re saying, “Jesus, I know what kind of heart, soul that you have, and now we want to match his heart.” He’s coming with full heart, wide open. He’s coming with full soul, full affections. And then he’s asking, “Can we match him?”
Like if you see a couple, sometimes one side is really into the spouse. The other person is not that into the spouse. That just doesn’t bode well for that relationship.
You want two people to match in terms of their love, their affections. That’s a healthy relationship. We know where Jesus is coming from, hearts wide open, full of love, full of affection. We want to match his heart.
And so, we start with opening up our heart wide. We say, “Meet us, Lord Jesus.” And we declare that we want him before we ask for all the other requests. Of course, we have many requests for our loved ones, provisions, all the things that we have to attend to in any given day.
But we want to start with, “Lord Jesus, I want you. I want you. I don’t need anything more than I want you.” And so, we’re stirring up our affections for Jesus. And we’re trying to match his heart and his soul toward us.
Then, we ask him to change us. And this is a picture of his heart pouring into ours. And as you see His heart pouring in, God, through the Spirit, is going to start convicting you at that point of where His heart and our heart are not matching, where His soul and our soul are not matching. And then we just repent.
“Lord, I closed off my heart to others, to my parents. I thought I was justified to harbor bitterness against this church leader. I only love this type of person. I’m very partial. I only have affection for these types of people who treat me well, but these other people, I have zero compassion for. My heart is utterly closed. I have zero pity. I don’t pray for them. They’re spiritually lost. I don’t ever pray for them. My heart doesn’t go to them. I’ve restricted my heart to a small subset of people. And so there’s a lot here as the Holy Spirit convicts us.
And then, when we’re asking, when we’re saying “change me,” we’re asking God for his heart. We’re really asking for his heart. And then, we trust that if this is the regular attitude of our prayer, and God starts changing us.
How do we know we’ve been changed? It’s when we end the prayer, and we meet all kinds of people throughout our day, people we love naturally, people we click with naturally, it’s easy to show affection, people we don’t click with, people whose personality is so different, people who are non-believers, people who mistreat us, what is our heart toward them? If we’re consistent with everybody, that’s proof that our hearts have changed.
Okay, and I wanna lead you now through a time of prayer. So please pray with me. Please repeat after me.
Father, I come before you. I open up my heart wide to you. Lord Jesus, please meet me. I want you. I don’t need all the things that you can give to me more than I need you. Change me, Lord. Change my heart. Change my soul.
I am so sorry for closing my heart to so many people. I am so sorry for allowing a root of bitterness to grow in my heart. I am so sorry for harboring unforgiveness in my heart. I am so sorry for allowing anger and annoyance to be my dominant emotions. Please forgive me. Cleanse my soul.
I plead the blood of Jesus over my body, soul, spirit, mind, will, emotions. Please cleanse me through and through. Give me your heart. I’m tired of living out of my own heart and my soul. I ask for your heart and your soul, Lord Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Father, you’ve heard all of our prayers. Holy Spirit, please search us if there’s other wrong emotions that have existed in our hearts for too long, that have dominated our soul for too long. I pray that you would reveal it to us in this time.
Thank you for showing us a clear way of understanding how we can evaluate true change. It’s in our relationships, how we treat our enemies, how we treat people who wrong us, how we treat people who are different from us. Do we have compassion? Do we have pity for the billions of people in this world who don’t know Jesus, who are going straight to hell? Do we care, Lord?
If not, we don’t have your heart yet, and so, Lord, we ask that from this day forward, you start changing us. We need a deep heart and soul change, Lord, a deep cleansing that only you can give.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. You died on a cross for our sins. Your body was broken and your blood shed. You did this not only to forgive us of all our past sins. You did this to make us into a new creature, a new creation in Christ. Transform us from within.
May everything about us change in 2024. Our speech, our thoughts, our mentality, our emotions, may everything be different. May everything be changed because of Jesus. Thank you, Lord. Be with us as we close out this service. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.