By Bethany Riehl
Our world is upside down.
That might very well be the most obvious sentence you will read today.
No matter where you stand on any given issue, I’m certain we can all agree that the world has gone mad. Truthfully, it’s been that way since the Fall; nothing is new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
I’m not here to bemoan the state of our world. I’m here to share something with you that began to dawn on me in the last few months – soft light, barely distinguishable at first, but rising ever more on the horizon in brilliant gold and pink hues.
Our world, Christian, is the one that is upside down. More accurately, our God’s world is right side up and we look at everything from the wrong angle until we look at it from His.
The longer we walk with God and saturate our hearts, souls, and minds with His Word, the more that Word illuminates His ways and gives us an awareness of what is actually true.
Paul Washer recently said in a sermon, “You see, earth’s problem is: how can God judge? Heaven’s problem is altogether different: how can God save – pardon – wicked men and still maintain His righteousness?”
That statement has me looking at everything differently. Take for example the phrase, “God knows my heart.” Maybe you’ve said or heard this. As truthful as it is, we can agree that this simple phrase has more often become Christian lingo for, “Stay out of my business, I don’t answer to you.” Or, at the least, a quick dismissal of things that might require a deeper examination of our own motives.
“Yes, I cut that guy off in traffic, but I’m running late, and God knows my heart.”
“No, I haven’t been to church in years, but I watch online, and God knows my heart.”
“I know divorce is wrong, but I haven’t been happy in years, and God knows my heart.”
“Yes, this show is full of profanity, nudity and violence, but it doesn’t really affect me; God knows my heart.”
We can say this simple phrase and most of the time it shuts down anyone that might question our actions because we insist that they don’t know our motives the way God does. And that’s absolutely true.
It’s important, however, to remember that this is what He says of our heart:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)
Yowch! Not quite the innocence we’re assuming, right? He goes on:
“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10, NIV)
God knows our hearts and motives better than anyone, and that should make us shudder to ignore any loving admonition presented to us that seeks to help us grow in righteousness.
Does this mean we are helpless and hopeless to do good? Absolutely not. For as many verses about the wicked state of the heart of man, there are also a great many that ensure us of the miraculous changes we undergo in Christ.
Ezekiel 36:26 assures us that when we become believers, God removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. Now it’s soft and moldable and, to make us more like Him, God will test our heart and cut out the sin that we hold so dear.
Romans 7 reminds us that our flesh and our spirit are in constant tension with one another, fighting for control until the day we pass from this life to the next.
God knows my heart – yes! And…oh no. It is not as innocent as I would convince myself that it is.
Recently our family was invited to dine with friends. We shared a special meal with them that they have each week, one where they usher in a day that they set aside as a “Sabbath Day” for their family.
We sang the Doxology together, and while dining on delicious pasta and garlic bread by candlelight, they explained their desire to take God literally in His command to work 6 days and rest on the 7th. Our host admitted that it had been hard for him to submit to that at first.
“But God knows my heart…” he said. (Reader, you know I cringed a little at this with all of my thoughts recently swirling on that phrase.) He went on, “…and He knew this was an area I needed to surrender to Him.”
And there it was. What my mind had been striving for without fully alighting on.
God does know us – our thoughts, motives, and intentions. As such, we can rest in our obedience to Him, even when others don’t understand our convictions. Even more, we should trust Him to show us the areas in which we need to surrender, even when we don’t understand or see danger in our own lives.
What would be so wrong with this family not taking a Sabbath day of rest? To most of us, nothing at all. But for our host it would be wrong because God, knowing his heart and his needs, had impressed upon him to surrender and take a full Sabbath day. His obedience has resulted in a wonderful blessing for his family, and those they share it with.
From the moment of the Fall, our greatest desire – whether we give in to it or not – has been to be our own god, to control our own life. Our secret idols move in and take up residence in our hearts and the greatest offense of all is that they can make us believe that we are too good to offend our God in our secret little sins.
We are admonished in Matthew and Luke not to judge one another unfairly, harshly, or hypocritically. But in the same passages, we’re told to inspect the fruit of our faith.
To lay our hearts open to our Master Surgeon is a worthy pursuit. He is always busy making us holy and righteous – for our good and (most importantly) His glory.
Everything He does is for His glory. His Word is sharper than a double-edged sword and those slices cut deep at times, and in ways we don’t understand. We can surrender to that beautiful truth that God does, in fact, know our hearts and that He wants to mold them to be like His Son.
There was more to that Paul Washer quote and here is a good place to share it:
“You see, earth’s problem is how can God judge? Heaven’s problem is altogether different: how can God save – pardon – wicked men and still maintain His righteousness? And the answer is in the gospel where God becomes a Man who goes to a tree and bears the sin of His people; and with that sin the curse, and with that curse all the holy hatred, all the righteous judgement of God, is poured down on the head of God’s Son and He absorbs it. He satisfies justice so it no longer has a demand against God’s people. And so, God can be Just and the Justifier of wicked men.”
God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are far above our scope of understanding. When we say, “God knows my heart,” let it be with humility and awareness that His way is right side up.
Bethany Riehl lives in the Treasure Valley with her husband, three kids, and one super chill dog. She and her husband homeschool their kids and were only slightly embarrassed when their lives didn’t change all that much when the world shut down in 2020. Hashtag, homebodies. She writes articles and fictional novels when she can, and her one desire is to point others to the love and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Her books can be found on Amazon or at your local library…after you request them to be in stock, of course.