On Thursday, I was watching our men's ice hockey team play Norway, in what is called the preliminary round of the Olympics. Going into the Olympics, Norway was characterized as a "push-over" team, and on Tuesday, Canada had rocked them 8-0, so I wasn’t expecting much of a competition. Well, if you saw the game, then you know exactly what I'm talking about, as the Americans did most of what they wanted during the course of the game. As I watched the game, thinking, "These guys stink," I learned the Norwegian team had only one full-time ice hockey player on its roster (note: every player on our team plays hockey full-time in the NHL) – and it showed. There was such a clear difference between the players who had made hockey their profession and those players who were construction workers, teachers, truck drivers, etc., by profession, and only part-time hockey players.
As I was thinking, I was able to make a clear connection to those who give their hearts, all of their hearts, to the Lord, compared to those who create the façade that they've given their hearts to the Lord, when they're constantly trying to find areas of their heart to hold back and reserve for themselves. The truth is, this is a battle we all fight everyday – some just fight it harder than others. Knowing they had idols and were worshipping false Gods, Joshua told the people of Israel – “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24.23). In this context, the word incline has the idea of bending. I find that interesting, because our hearts were originally created to relate and enjoy God. He's the way we originally bent. But since the fall our hearts are naturally sinful – that's they we now bend. It takes a constant pleading by us to God, and a daily work of the Holy Spirit, to bend our hearts back to God.
There are several people in Scripture who illustrate this point - David, Peter, and Paul (just to mention a few).
• David – the only man God refers to as "a man after My own heart." Yet David's pride manifested itself throughout his reign as King of Israel. He also lied, committed adultery, and murdered. Doesn’t sound like a man after God's own heart – does it? Yet David's heart remained broken before the Lord and was always bent back toward Yaweh – especially after his sin.
• Peter – often ripped for being foolish, impetuous and lacking faith. Yet Peter was one of the leading apostles and fathers of the early church. As you read through the gospels, into Acts, and 1, 2 Peter you really see him grow in his knowledge, experience, and intimacy with the Lord.
• Paul – once a man who would have followers of Christ imprisoned and killed. Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to author about half of the books in the New Testament. He also became one of the leading apostles and New Testament church leaders. Yet he plainly admits – “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7.15-20).
Scripture gives us a vivid picture of each man's spiritual growth and constant bending of the heart toward the Lord.
Please live in the reality of this truth – we have a righteously jealous God. He wants our whole hearts – all of our beings. He is jealous over His glory and refuses to share it with anyone – including us. He wants all our worship because He alone deserves it – and He knows for us to give our worship, our hearts, to anyone/anything else only leads to our demise. We need to pray for self-forgetfulness and daily ask the Lord to take control of our lives – this is Christianity. If your identity is really found in Him, it's a battle of the wills – and I promise, HE WILL WIN.
So ask the Spirit of God to search you heart everyday revealing to you your "sins of self" (ways/areas in which you are holding out on God). Forget religion, morality, or any other external thing – there is no comparison between a person who is giving the Lord their whole hearts and one who is not.