Well, good morning. If you have a copy of God’s word, please turn to first Samuel 16, first Samuel 16. And as you’re turning there, let me say, welcome here at the start of the semester. I know that just by virtue of being in schools like this for many years now, the spring semester in some ways is harder than the fall, especially at getting started. And you have that combined with gray skies outside. Many of you may be feeling not just up to here, but up to here in terms of all that you’ve got on your plate and all that looms before you. And let me just say, as we’re getting started, it will be okay and soon we’ll see sunshine through those windows coming through here. So, just hang in there. It’s just the start of the spring semester. Nothing is wrong. Everything is normal.
As you’re turning to first Samuel 16. For the last three years, at this time in January, I’ve given messages related to the most important lessons I learned when I was sitting in your seat in seminary or even in college. Three years ago I talked about the most important doctrine I learned in seminary- building from Hebrews two I talked about the role of the word “propitiation.” Two years ago, I talked about the most important discipline I learned in seminary- building from Ephesians two I talked about conquering pride and sin by remembering and reminding. Last year was the most important discovery I learned in seminary- looking at first Corinthians 10 and I talked about the importance of loving and treasuring the Old Testament and God’s word in total. Well, this year I’m back and I come with the most important diagnosis I learned in seminary. For this discovery, this diagnosis, that I was first taught to examine in my own heart and life when I was sitting in your seats had proved and really still proves to be one of the greatest sources of joy, comfort, correction, and illumination I have found in living the Christian life.
And I hope that by unpacking it some for you today, it might prove to be the same for you as well. So during seminary I learned the importance of diagnosing my heart, diagnosing my heart. And as the Bible guides us, I’m convinced that all Christians, you and me included, should be regularly diagnosing our hearts. So, let me explain. First by reading first Samuel 16 verses one through 13, “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ And Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.’ Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ And he said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest,[a] but behold, he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.’ And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
Let me just draw your attention back to verse seven, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Several years ago I was applying for a life insurance policy. I was still in my thirties at the time. And even when you’re in your thirties when you apply for a life insurance policy, the insurer wants to make sure that you’re fit. They want to know how much money to insure you for. So they sent out, actually out to my house, a a sort of mobile nurse to come and give me an EKG and in my annual physical every year since then I’ve had an EKG. An EKG, if you haven’t had the pleasure of having one, is where they hook up to your chest at several points, six to eight points, electrodes, and essentially they run electricity from one node onto the other, basically testing how fast it moves through your body and your heart. It’s a measurement of the electrical activity of the heart. This is a simple but very helpful test to determine why someone might be experiencing heart problems and also to aid in preventative maintenance for someone just to know how healthy they are and they create a baseline and they look at it every year.
How is your heart health, how they’re doing? The insurer wanted to know how healthy my heart was in an order to determine how much life insurance they would insure me for. Well at the start of a new year, a new decade, a new semester, or just a new season in life, it’s helpful for believers and churches really to take their own EKG of sorts- a heart test- to assess their relationship with God. This heart test, this diagnosing is always a good thing to do, no matter your age or phase in life because the truth is God is always testing our hearts as well. He sees them, he sees right through us. He knows your hearts, he knows, but he wants us to know the state of our heart as well. This diagnosing of my own heart, a spiritual EKG, was vitally important for me when I was sitting in your seat.
I came to Christ as a freshman in college. My college years were very much discipleship and even figuring out life, let alone the Christian life. I went straight to seminary, so my seminary years were a further deepening of that discipleship and growing in knowledge and love for the Lord. And it became apparent that I needed to watch my heart, to diagnose my heart, to know the state of my heart. Because in the setting like this, wherever you are, it is easy, while your mind is filling, for your heart to grow cold. And it’s easier than you think, it’s, it’s very subtle. It doesn’t even creep up on you while your mind is filling and your friends are expanding and your dreams are growing for your heart to grow cold. To put it another way, during these years that you’re studying, you need to fight against what I call a modern day, seminary, sandemanianism- or for you college students, a modern day Spurgeon, sandemanianism, equally apply. What is sandemanianism? Well in the 18th century, 1700’s, Robert Sandeman developed a sect of separate churches outside of the church of Scotland and other Presbyterian churches in England and America built upon the premise that saving faith came only through intellectual ascent. What he came convinced of was that your heart did not matter for salvation, it’s merely what you turned off and on and your mind.
Saving faith only came through intellectual accents- one’s affections, one’s emotions, one’s heart does not matter for justification. This became very popular, and you can imagine how people would be attracted to it. If all I have to do is just check a list of “I believe these things, it doesn’t really matter how my heart is going or how I’m living and things like this.” Well, thankfully many evangelical heroes in the 18th century refuted sandemanianism, and really stamped it out over a period of years. People like John Wesley and the American Baptist Isaac Backus, and most significantly a great hero, Andrew Fuller. Andrew Fuller is really the one who put sandemanianism where it belongs and crushing it, and it’s false teaching to death. However, the effects of sandemanianism still arise from time to time. And we, as evangelicals, are prone to wander into it.
And lest I say to bring it right here among us, we right here, Spurgeon college and Midwestern seminary are prone to drift into it. Whether we know that by that term or not. Indeed, over the last few months, as I’ve met with students and observe all of you and listen and talk, there’s so many wonderful things happening here, but I fear that we are prone to wander into a seminary sandemanianism without even knowing it- or a Spurgeon sandemanianism without even knowing it. In short, the pursuit of theological education at whatever level, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, PhD, DMin, wherever level you’re studying, it is good and right to desire to love God with our minds, but we can do that to the neglect of our hearts. And what’s dangerous here is that we can fail to recall that faith and walking with God does not stop and cannot stop with a mind.
It must include the heart. It cannot stop with a mind, it must include the heart. Or as Martin Lloyd Jones said, better than I ever could, “There’s no value in what you believe unless it leads to love.” There’s no value in what you believe unless it leads to love. Your affections for God matter, and therefore we need to diagnose our hearts. It’s the most important diagnosis you can make while you’re sitting in these seats- to test and to know your heart. Well, one of the best ways to do this is to learn and think about our own lives by studying the lives of others. And for the matter of assessing the state of our own heart, the life of David in the Bible is one of the best lives to study. For what’s recorded in the Bible about the life of David is an inerrant and God breathed story about David’s relationship with God.
So in our time here, I really want to look at God testing three hearts. First we’ll see God testing Saul’s heart, then we’ll see God testing David’s heart, and then we’ll talk a bit about how God is testing our own hearts. So let’s jump right in with God testing Saul’s heart. I have you looking at first Samuel 16, that’s where we’ll spend the majority of our time. What I’m going to do now in talking about Saul is to just give you a summary of first Samuel 13 through 15, to provide some of the context leading up to chapter 16 as well. First Samuel begins with Samuel, the last judge, dedicated by his mother Samuel rules as a judge until first Samuel eight when the people demanded and required a King, like the Kings they saw in the other nations. King Saul is selected, we’ll see for outward appearance, because they wanted a King that could rival the Kings of other nations.
And we’ll see after this section when the King should be fighting Goliath, Saul doesn’t. And, even though he has the stature and build of a gladiator and a warrior, he doesn’t. David does. And as a result of all this, we’ll see Saul humbled and David exalted. So how did Saul fall? Well, really in first Samuel 13 through 15 we see the King that the people selected, rejected, and then God choosing a another King. We see Saul fall, and we walked through these things. And it’s important to remember even while we’re looking at these other lives, Saul’s life, David’s life, and thinking about our own life- the main character in all of this though, is God himself. God is the main character in the Bible and no doubt in these stories. He’s the one directing and guiding. He’s the one instructing and providing. So the study of Saul’s life, and David’s life, and our own life really needs to be done in the backdrop of God as the main character. First Samuel 13, we see that Saul doesn’t wait for Samuel to arrive at Gilgal.
Samuel had given specific instructions in first Samuel 10, “When you get to Gilgal, wait for me.” Chapter 13 comes and Saul does not wait. And as a result of this, first Samuel 13:14, “but now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought after a man after his own heart and the Lord commanded him to be Prince over his people because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” So we see Saul’s kingdom rejected. First Samuel 14, we see Saul son attacking the Philistines. Saul’s not attacking them. Saul’s son is attacking the Philistines, and God’s people as a result are protected, but they’re weary. On into chapter 15 we see Saul not fully obeying Samuel’s command to attack the Amalekites. Not following the command, not obeying fully. And even sets up, we see in 15:12 a monument to himself as a result.
We see finally in chapter 15 verse 23 that God rejects Saul from being King ultimately because he rejected his word. So from this, first Samuel 13 through 15, looking at Saul’s heart, what does a man look like who is not seeking after God’s own heart? Or to put it in our context, what are the symptoms of a modern day seminary sandemanian- or a Spurgeon sandemanian? Just a couple principles from the life of Saul. The man who does not have a heart after God does not keep the Lord’s commands because he is impressed with himself. Number one, he does not keep the Lord’s commands because he’s impressed with himself. We see Saul doing this in chapter 15, he’s even reshaping God’s word to be what he wants them to be. In 15:20 he says, I’ve actually obeyed God’s word when he hadn’t. He’s twisting God’s word because he’s impressed with himself.
The man who isn’t after God’s own heart is so impressed with himself he’s impatient, he fails to wait. Saul fails to wait. Waiting is a characteristic of a heart after God. Impatience is not. In Saul we see a great impatience. In all of this, we see a lack of obedience. And more than that, not just following rules, a lack of loving and desiring to obey. Second, a man whose heart is not after God. We see through the life of Saul that he is driven by what others think or might think of him. Chapter 15 verse 30 Saul says, “I have sinned yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel.” I’ve sinned, I acknowledge- it’s sort of a half apology, but be sure to honor me now before the people and before the elders. Not truly resentful, not truly repentant, driven more by what others think and what they might think of him.
His heart is chasing after other’s opinions and not his own. This leads to later jealousies and resentment of David. He cannot let go of what others think or might think of him. The seminary sandemanian or the Spurgeon sandemanian with a cold heart is often looking for love or love from what others think more than really anything else. They’re twisted and pulled, they’re paralyzed, they’re convoluted. They might even be permanently, or ongoingly discouraged because they’re so entrapped by what others think and their heart is not after a heart for God. Number three, the man whose heart isn’t after God may look impressive, like Saul did to the world, and may even look impressive to us. There may be many admirable qualities in him or her, but not to God. God sees the heart. He knows whether the heart his. He tests and knows the heart. And four- the man who is not after God’s own heart as a man who ultimately relies upon himself and has rejected any relationship with God. His heart is cold.
There is no relationship with God. The seminary sandemanian may love the things of God, may love the knowledge of God, may love facts about God, may love a storehouse of books about God, may even love the act of worshiping God, may even love the teaching of God’s word, but dangerously and subtly not God himself. Our heart may be easily shifted and subtly shifting by pursuing good things, but pursuing them to the extent of even loving God himself. Saul’s heart, a heart that is not after God. Let’s look, number two, at David’s heart, God testing David’s heart. And here we come to first Samuel 16. In verse one the Lord says, do not grieve, go sacrifice. God is the main character here too. It’s not about Samuel. It’s not about David. It’s not about Saul. God is the main character here too. He is directing, he is guiding, he is instructing, he is providing.
Verses two through five, Samuel says, “how can I go?” We’ve seen this type of question before, this lack of faith. Abraham in Genesis 12 calls Sarah his sister. Moses in Exodus three says, “who am I?” With a question mark. They will not believe me, Gideon in Judges six, “Show me a sign. Give me a fleece.” And God, every time, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and now Samuel, in his kindness, just as he had before and just as he does with you and I provides a crutch, something on which to lean to strengthen faith and lead to obedience. God will not extinguish a smoldering wick- Matthew 12. His kindness always leads to repentance- Romans two. But what God desires even from those of us with weak faith, with weak hearts, is still our hearts. He wants simple faith, simple obedience without all the analysis, without all the wondering, without all the questions he wants faith, Matthew 18, like a child- just just simple faith, simple obedience.
He wants faith like those who immediately left their nets and followed Jesus in Matthew four. He doesn’t want us to come with, “well I have to go bury my dead” or I have to go tend to these things and then I’ll follow you. He just wants simple faith, simple obedience. And if we’re weak in that he will help us and he helps Samuel here. What’s remarkable is that these were lessons David was learning too, out in the wilderness. So we come to verses six through 13- verse seven is our key verse. This is God’s criteria. “He sees not as man sees. He looks at the heart.” We come to this passage and we see that David is basically forgotten. Jesse is parading all of his sons that really matter, and David is basically out and forgotten and this is just a small footnote reminder that through these years of study, and believe me, I know many of you feel forgotten and overlooked.
Those you went to college with are now making four times as much money as you will or probably ever will. You’re here still studying and going to class and taking exams. Friends and family members are getting different opportunities- you’re wondering, “Will I ever have my opportunity?” Just like David, you are not forgotten. God knows exactly where you are. The thing to do is to keep faithfully obeying and doing what God is telling you to do, and using these years to soak up and to make the most of your relationship with God. Interestingly, in verse 12, we see a physical description of David. I thought the outward appearance didn’t matter, describes him as ruddy, having beautiful eyes, handsome. It does comment on the outward appearance. Those things are important. It does matter how we look and act and portray ourselves and things like this.
But they are of secondary importance to the heart. David’s life and David’s journey to this point really is summarized well in Psalm 78. Listen to verses 70 through 72, “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.” David’s heart is what God saw, even though he wasn’t physically there and God sees and knows your heart here even today. So from this test, this testing of David’s heart, we can see that God’s criteria for his King is related to character, not physiology. And we should trust God and love him for that. God’s ways are contrary to the world’s ways. We’re told, in Proverbs three, to lean not on our own understanding. God is pleased rather with those who fear him, not those who excel in all these outward ways that the world applauds.
We know from the New Testament that God’s criteria specifically for his church leaders is also related to character, not physiology. In first Timothy three and Titus one there’s not a list of height, weight build, who are you married to, how much money you have, all those things. But rather it is rooted and built around entirely one’s character, or you could even say one’s heart. And we should trust God and love him for that and reorient our life around his criteria in these ways. And David, God looks at his heart and sees a man who is after his own heart. So in contrast to what we learned from Saul’s life- from David’s life, what can we say that a man looks like he was after God’s own heart? Or to put it more specifically, how do we avoid the trappings of sandemanianism in seminary or at Spurgeon college?
Well, number one, we see that a man after God’s own heart seeks God and seeks to do his will. David regularly, throughout his life, first inquires of the Lord instead of his own wisdom or even counselors. At the end of first Samuel, first Samuel 30, following the capture of the wives and children of David and his men. In a time of great distress, a time of great crisis. David’s men are even talking about stoning David for leading them into this terrible situation. It says, David did what? Strengthen himself in the Lord and inquired of the Lord asking what he should do. His first thought, his first impulse, his first thing in a time of stress is to run to the Lord. His heart, to seek the Lord. Second, the man who has a heart after God embraces and pursues a relationship with God. David’s Psalms alone give insight into David’s relationship with God.
You read Psalm after Psalm and you’re seeing David’s heart and his pursuit of a relationship with God. And number three, from David’s life, we see that David relies upon God and not himself. First Samuel 24, we read of a time when Saul came into a cave where David was hiding and instead of striking down Saul, David decides to spare his life and not touch the Lord’s anointed. After Saul leaves the cave, David follows him out and says, simply, may the Lord judge between me and you, David is entrusting himself to God and not relying upon himself. He had every opportunity to take the matter into his own hands, but instead like the description of Jesus in first Peter entrusts himself to his faithful creator. And then finally, the man after God’s own heart treasures the word of God and time with God. I just encourage you as an exercise, if you haven’t read through it in some time, to read and reread simply Psalm 1:19 and just think of yourself, how David is treasuring the word of God and his time with God over and over again.
David was not the perfect King, and in fact his imperfections, even though in many things he points to Christ, his imperfections actually point to the need of Christ even more. David’s exalted, but he will fall. David repents and comes back, but even his children begin to expand the infidelity that David traps into. The remainder of his reign is flawed, and it points the need for the coming of Christ more than ever before. The perfect messianic King that would come. So we see Saul’s heart. We see David’s heart. Now finally in our final few moments here, let’s talk a little bit about how God testing our own hearts. This is the most important diagnosis you can make in the Christian life, not only while you’re here, but for the rest of your life. We’ve seen the picture of these two hearts, the heart that does not follow God.
The heart that does follow God. If God were to look at your heart today, as he’s looking at it right now, what would he see? How much seminary sandemanianism is there? How much are you pulled to intellectual ascent to, “I got all the boxes checked,” but your heart is cold, it is not connected with God. Well, to help us to diagnose this, let me give you what I regularly implore, even in my own life. Two, reminder of two truths and then three quick tests, two truths, and three quick tests. The two truths are simply this- and you know these, but you have to remind yourself of them all the time about our hearts. Number one- all hearts are initially wicked and sinful. Jeremiah 17 nine the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it? Your heart and my heart before Christ and apart from Christ is desperately sick and wicked.
Do not talk yourself into thinking that you’re okay. You are not okay. Remind yourself of that. The second truth though is the glorious news that all hearts can be washed clean. All hearts are desperately sick, but all hearts can be washed clean, acts 15. “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” This is the good news of the gospel. As you’re sitting here today, has your heart been washed? Clean. Sincerely, people come to this school from all over the country, from all different walks of life. As you’re sitting here and evaluating and listening to these words, can you say that your heart has actually been washed clean? Once and for all washed clean? Have you understood that Jesus’ death on the cross and as a resurrection provided a perfect substitution, a perfect savior, to take the penalty that you deserved and the punishment you deserve for your wicked heart.
He took it in your place, and by confessing with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus did this for you, you can be washed clean. You can have a brand new clean heart, and if that’s true of you, then what God sees when he sees you as Christ in you. Ephesians three, he sees Christ in you. Your wicked heart has been washed clean. Remind yourselves of this as your heart waxes and wanes. Ultimately it’s secure and in the hands of God himself. He gives us his love, as we read in Romans five, poured it out to us by the Holy spirit. Two truths- our hearts are wicked, but hearts can be washed, clean. Remind yourselves to this. Then three quick tests. The truth is, when thinking about these tests and diagnosing your heart, is that you cannot really hide very well or for very long the true thoughts and intents of your heart.
Sure you can hold your cards close to the vest. You can be discerning about what you say and don’t say, but ultimately where your heart is and what your affections are will come out. What you worship in a door will be seen over time and over periods of time. In my house, my kids- I have four teenagers and younger- they have gone through what I call their High School Musical phase. For a time, they watched all the High School Musicals over and over again and then the seventh member of our family, “Alexa” is regularly asked to play various songs from High School Musical. So you walk into our house, Alexa’s over there playing some song. I’ve only seen the movies a couple of times. It’s not what I would call, you know, really up my alley. But I can recognize the songs from High School Musical.
My kids love or loved, I should say, High School Musical and all the songs and all the drama and all the teenage things going on throughout those movies. But then not long ago, something changed. I come home and Alexa is playing something different. It sounds like High School Musical, but it’s not quite the same. My kids discovered bad lip reading. Have you seen this? Bad lip reading takes popular songs or movies and overlays, barely coherent sentences into the mouths of the actors that distorts the original meaning of the song in often very entertaining ways. What my kids, when my kids discovered this, they no longer listen to the original High School Musical, but only the bad lip reading version of High School Musical. I think there’s a lesson here in the mind of generation Z. There’s, you know, there has to be irony in there somewhere for it to be funny.
So the main High School Musical song, we’re all in this together with the chorus that says together we’re there for each other every time, together, together now sounds like can’t look at the sun or else your eyes will burn out, can’t stare at the sun, have nothing to do with each other, but they have the same tune. So the original, my kids now come to see is now basically cheesy and no longer on the Amazon playlist, but the satirized version, the bad lip reading version is hilarious. And so that’s now what they listened to. Well, what happened? Their affections for the original, which they enjoyed so much, were slowly replaced by an alluring and funny counterfeit. And they decided the counterfeit was better, was more entertaining, was funny, or they couldn’t, nor did they want to pretend to love the old songs. They had enough of those, they couldn’t hide it.
The parody is what they now love. That’s what they wanted to play over and over again. No longer the original, but the parody now as hopefully funny as that may be, we can do that very subtle shift right here, right here at Midwestern, right here at Spurgeon college. We can fill all of our time and energy in our affections with the study of the things of God that we slowly replace the study of the things of God, good things, with actually loving God himself. You see it time and time again. It’s very subtle and you have to test yourself to prevent it. So what are my three tests? And this can be done in three minutes, so we’ll do them. First, what I call the speech test. The speech test is very simple. What is your heart focused on? Well, test what comes out of your mouth.
Matthew 12, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” For, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, the speech test. What does your speech sound like under normal circumstances? When you’re in control over a period of a month, what does your speech sound like when you’re under pressure or you’re stressed or in an emergency or distressed? What comes out? What are you clinging to? What are you saying? Your longterm speech patterns don’t lie. I’m not talking about episodic mistakes, or tripping up or you know, failing to trust the Lord in an instant.
I’m talking about longterm speech patterns. What do you spend the most of your time talking about? And there you’ll find the condition of your heart. Test number two, the alone test, what I call the alone test. Psalm 149 verse five, “Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.” Let them sing for joy on their beds. John Piper reflecting on this verse said, it says something about you if you sing in bed, that is when you’re all alone and no one else is watching or listening. What do you do? Where’s your heart? Just think for a moment. Can you think right now? When is the last time or the most recent time you talk to God by yourself?
In seminary, I started cultivating the practice of actually morning and evening devotions, and that’s still by God’s grace, what I do today. I didn’t do it to earn something or I felt like now I’m in super spiritual level. I’ve got to spend more time than everybody else in the Bible. No, I did it to protect and guard my own heart. I found that I needed to bookend my day by making sure I talked to God about what I was thinking and learning. Starting the day with God, going through the day, but then also not ending the day with my own thoughts spiraling out of control, but bringing them back to God. And I’m not talking about hours and hours of time, I’m just talking about morning and evening, book ending my day, testing my heart, bringing it back to God, talking to God, praying to him, asking for his help.
Sometimes that can even be 30 seconds. I’ve got chapel today. I’ve got a strategic planning meeting. I’ve got a PhD seminar. I’ve got a dinner with a colleague all today. And this morning, just praying through those things, asking for God’s help, reminding myself that he’ll be with me through each of those. I don’t have to worry about how to make conversation with people, you know, God will help me to do the things I’m anxious about or whatever else. Talk to God. Number three, and finally what I called the Puritan test, the Puritan test. Diagnosing your heart is not merely passive. It should be something we’re actively investigating. And the Puritans, I discovered, when I was in your seats are a phenomenal aid in this task of asking your heart’s good questions. We’re not that creative people, creative of people. We need other people to help us know what to ask of ourselves.
You need surgical questions to ask an answer, and then you need help and moving on, you can enter into a place of introspection that’s not healthy. And remember, as I said a few years ago, introspection without crucifixion leads only to paralysis. You need help in examining your heart and making sure you’re doing it right. And then moving on. Thomas Watson, a wonderful Puritan, wrote in 1663 a book called “A Divine Cordial.” I commend it to you. It’s a meditation on Romans eight 28. And he wrote a whole chapter, in “A Divine Cordial,” called the tests of love for God. Here’s a few of them and I’ll let you go find them. Love for God, a test of a heart that loves God is a heart that meditates on God, a heart that is sensitive to God, a heart that hates sin, a heart that is crucified, a heart that loves what God loves, a heart that obeys, a heart that strives to show others God’s glory, a heart that longs for his return. If you’re not sure how to test your heart, read his descriptions- use those to examine your heart. To think new ways about your heart, where you’re directed and things like this. The Puritan test. You need counselors, you need help. And the Puritans are a phenomenal group to do this. So as you assess your heart today, you think about these trues. You think about Saul and David. You take these tests. Remember who is the main character? God himself. He wants you to know where your heart is and wants you to know where you stand in relationship to him. And as a final word of hope, in case you’re a little bit discouraged, God looks at the heart. He’s looking at your heart, but he also remember this, provides the strength of your heart.
Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart.” First John three 20, “whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.” Test your heart. If you’re disappointed in what you find, run to God, he gives strength. What you’re learning and believing with your mind while in seminary and college is good and necessary, but who you love with your heart is everything. As Lloyd Jones said, there’s no value in what you believe unless it leads to love. Let’s pray together. Father, thank you for this time and for loving us and being kind and for giving us crutches, helpers, your word, the Holy Spirit, to lead guide and direct us, to prevent us from falling. And I pray that this semester would be one of deepening our love and affections for you, not just for our own good in your glory, but for our safety, our security, our purity, our ultimate usefulness for you, for the church and for the kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.