Dwelling in God’s Heart – The Study

Dwelling in God’s Heart – The Study

Dwelling in God’s Heart – The Study.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  (James 4:8).

“I am inside My Father, and you are inside Me, and I am inside you.” (John 14:20).

Even though the phrase “accept Jesus into our heart” is not in Scripture, we get the picture. Accepting Jesus into our hearts means we receive Him into the very core of our being, into the centerpiece of who we are, affecting everything about us. When we receive Jesus into our heart-home, our identity becomes His, the essence of our personhood is intimately wrapped into the essence of Christ’s Personhood. When we make our home in His home, He miraculously become a resident inside each of us as well. And when we experience that Double Union with Jesus Christ, we discover that our spiritual location is inside of the very heart of God. In other words, if the Son is inside the Father, and we are inside the Son, then logically we are inside the Father! By dwelling in the Son’s heart, we dwell in the Father’s heart as well. By living inside the “Person after God’s own heart,” we find ourselves inside God’s heart! As Paul claims in Colossians 3:3, believers are “hidden within Christ, inside of God.”

Way back in 1954 there was a creative little evangelistic tract produced by Inter-Varsity Press, written by a pastor named Robert Boyd Munger. He entitled his brief tract, “My Heart – God’s Home.” I recommend it if you find it. Following up on Revelation 3:20, Pastor Munger imagined a believer opening his door and escorting Jesus through the home of his heart, now that Jesus has taken up residence in him. Now that Jesus dwells in him, and He has moved into his heart, what will Jesus see there? So the believer in the tract proceeds to give a tour of his heart-home with Jesus as he welcomes Christ into his heart. Together they tour the person’s study, dining room, living room, workroom, recreation room, bedroom and hall closet. I thought this was an engaging idea, but now I would like to give the other side of the story. Jesus lives within us, to be sure. But we also live within Jesus, hence inside the very heart of God. So if the Father was to give us a guided tour of His heart, what would we find? What will be waiting for us to discover in the many rooms of God’s heart? We could easily entitle this, “God’s Heart -My Home.

Like anyone’s home, God’s heart will reflect His attitudes, motivations, personality, character traits, His heavenly “tastes” in interior décor. God’s deeply held convictions will be revealed in His heart-home, as they are in our own hearts. Using Scripture as our guide, we will explore God’s heart as we make ourselves at home and abide in Him. We will explore everything from the front porch to the front door, the living room to the dining room, from the kitchen to the study to the chapel. And many more rooms as well, like the bedroom, the bathroom, and the nursery. There may even be a sneak peek at the family room, the children’s playroom, and the school room.

THE STUDY. This is a quiet, thoughtful room that invites us to love God will our mind. It is the perfect room in which to develop the Mind of Christ. This space is dedicated to God’s Word, the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. To study and acquire truth is like eating God’s wisdom, consuming His Word, and having it enter into our spiritual digestive system. Three different characters in the Hebrew Bible were told to literally eat the Word, to ingest it, and they did. In these cases of John, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, their rather unexpected action of eating the Scripture is intended to symbolize the importance of taking in God’s Word, right into our innermost being, fully digested.

What are these three incidents telling us? Scripture seems to be implying that we all have a spiritual digestive system. God’s Word is something to consume like food, the nutrients of the Word chewed, swallowed, and broken down in such a way that the Word’s wisdom and life is spread throughout our whole being. We eat this spiritual food and we are nourished as it enters our blood vessels and spreads to our very nerve endings. Our soul hungers for the nutrients of the Word. When we eat God’s Word, we are participating in Scripture and not merely spectating from a distance. When we ingest the Bible, our spiritual life is full of life and growth and vitality. The Bible is intended to be assimilated to every cell of our spiritual being, giving us energy, purpose, spiritual substance. The Scripture is meant to be digested so that we can flourish in the Christian life. Swallowing the Word down our spiritual gullet is a far cry from simply sipping alphabet soup or munching on a word salad. Scripture is solid spiritual food.

While we are feasting on Scripture, we need to maintain a balanced diet… Since we are children of Abraham (Galatians 3:29), we need to study the Hebrew Bible (the O.T.) seriously and regularly with its Torah and writings and prophets; and we need to delve deeply into the New Testament as well, remembering that the Gospels are our bread and butter. The Gospel story is the greatest story ever told. As Andrew Klavan once said, the Gospel is when myth meets history, when mankind’s most earnest and persistent hope becomes reality. The Gospels are our grid when considering theology. If a particular theology seems inconsistent with the Jesus we find in the Gospels, go with the Gospels. The Gospel Jesus trumps a theological Jesus, because the Gospel is God’s Word, and theology is man’s word. God’s Word is our reference point whenever discerning man’s word. While we’re at it, we need to remember that the Old Testament is actually the Hebrew Bible. Why do Christians continue to call the Hebrew Bible the “Old” Testament? This is very offensive to those believing Jews who dislike the Old in Old Testament. Why call it old, which could easily mean outdated, hobbled by age, past its usage date? The Scriptures that have been believed in by faithful Jews through the centuries has been called the Hebrew Bible. If only Christians could respectfully call it that. And why are there so many Christian translations of the Hebrew Bible? Aren’t the Jewish translations good enough? Christians should be reading the Tanakh from the Jewish Publication Society as often as all the Christian translations. Jewish scholarship is beyond reproach, and since the Hebrew Bible was written by Jews to Jews who were laying the groundwork for a Jewish Messiah, it would seem it would be helpful to receive the Jewish perspective first hand. By honoring the Hebrew Bible, we honor our spiritual roots.

Our spiritual digestive system might look something like this as we consume Scripture:

(1.)  Open the mouth. Put your food on your plate, fill up your glass, be ready to dig in and enjoy the meal. Submit to the digestive process by placing the spiritual food within easy reach and lifting it to your soul’s mouth. We’ll never eat the Word if we don’t submit to the process and first open the Scripture for reading and consideration. We need to open our spirit to the Word like we would open our mouth for the food. As we open the Scripture to read, we open the spirit to eat. Remember Chesterton’s words, open your mind as you open your mouth, so you can close it on something solid. Like the Word of God, for instance.

(2.)  Taste the Food. Enjoy the flavors, the aromas, the textures, the colors of the Word. Get a feel for the language, the way the words are put together and the scenes are prepared. Enjoy the vastly different personalities involved in Scripture, the history, the backdrop and setting. The process of eating is not meant to be painful or boring, but instead a wondrous meal to participate in. These are the words of the almighty God, and are important as well as interesting. Enjoy the reading as if you are at a healthy buffet. Notice the different flavors of writing: stories, songs, poetry, drama, humor, conversations, plotlines, demonstrations, visual aids and illustrations, imaginative metaphors. The Scripture has it all, just like one of those famous Swedish smorgasbords.

(3.)  Chew the Food. Think about the words you read, ponder the ideas being expressed. Chew on it. The farmer’s term for a cow’s endlessly chewing its cud is ruminate. Process the spiritual food you are chewing like you would carefully chew on a tasty meal that you want to enjoy to the last tasty tidbit. One of the biblical words for chewing in Scripture is meditate. Eugene Peterson unpacks the meaning of meditate through its Hebrew word, “hagah.” That is the word used to describe a lion growling over its prey (Isaiah 35:4). To meditate on a passage is like a dog with its bone, a lion enjoying its meal, gnawing on it, getting everything he can out of that bone, “growling in pleasurable anticipation” over the Word. Meditating on Scripture is murmuring out loud as you process the words and ideas, working on it like a dog with a bone (Eat This Book, Peterson). Some thoughts to consider as we chew on the Word: Seek wisdom and understanding, not just facts and data; chew longest on that which will feed your soul; there is no expert in Scripture, so come as a child, teachable; don’t forget about your heart as you use your intellect and imagination; pray for the Holy Spirit as you are chewing. Pray and chew. Don’t limit yourself to letting others do your chewing of Scripture for you and then spoon feed you with it. Do as much of your own chewing as you can, guided by the Spirit. We find that the more we do our own chewing, the stronger our jaw muscles become and the longer we can chew for further passages.

(4.)  Swallow the Food. At some point after the chewing, the Word has to be swallowed. Scripture needs to be accepted, believed, received into the digestive tract. Spiritual food requires a swallow of faith in order to be absorbed into the spirit. After all that thinking and chewing, we need to trust that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. Maybe the whole Bible doesn’t need to be swallowed at the same time. Perhaps a mustard seed of faith is all we need to digest the passage. As we find that a portion of Scripture has settled well and has proved truthful and trustworthy, our level of faith will take the next size up, from a mustard seed to a grapevine seed. And then, when we continue in this Word diet, we will discover that the nutrients from our spiritual food will nourish our soul and give us life, meaning, joy and a future. It all began with a swallow of faith. If someone asks you if we actually can swallow that Bible stuff, we can say, “Actually, yes!”

(5.)  Exercise Daily. There are too many of us who are spiritually overfed. We don’t get outside and flesh out the Scripture. We need to put the Word into action, using the energy and insight that has been absorbed into our soul. Live out the Word. We cannot afford to be spiritual couch potatoes. Exercise the truth every day. Put some effort into letting the Word form your character and integrity and life purpose. Let the Bible affect your outlook on your life, your meaning for existence. Internalize the Word through spiritual digestion, and then externalize the Word by putting it into practice. We need to be doers of the Word, and not readers or hearers only. Maybe it’s time to turn off the religious podcast and love your neighbor. Perhaps we should file away those sermons and put the Scripture to good use. Instead of picking up another Christian self-help book, maybe we should put that book on the shelf and follow the light we’ve been shown. Christians are always in danger of being overfed and under exercised. Spiritual obesity only comes to those believers who gorge themselves on Christian input without practicing the truth that was just digested. Let the spiritual nutrition give you the energy to love the Word and live into the Word.

The believing students who make the best use of the Study in God’s heart are those who intend to live into the living Word, making the Scripture more of a lifestyle than an intellectual goal. Jesus, as Alpha and Omega, is the Lord of language, of words, of literacy, of learning. Following Jesus means we become wordsmiths, keen on using words rightly and effectively.  “I AM the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13).

  1. This I AM statement of Jesus is different than all seven of His I AM references to Yahweh in the gospel of John. The timing is different, profoundly so. Here in Revelationwe have an I AM claim of Jesus that comes after the Passion, after the Resurrection, after the Ascension, after He takes up His post at the right hand of the Father. His bold I AM claims of being co-equal with Yahweh, the Holy One, are now proven true in the spiritual world of divine experience. Jesus is now seated in the heavenlies, the ultimate fulfillment of all the I AM statements He made while on the earth. Jesus is indeed of one substance with Lord Yahweh. I AM is now reunited with the Great I AM. Jesus and the Father are now, have always been, will always be One, united, I AM What I AM, and I Will Be What I Will Be. The Lord of the Past tense, the Present tense, and the Future tense. The Lord of every tense imaginable, the ultimate “to be” verb, the I AM. Not only does Jesus fulfill all the final intentions of  grammar, Jesus incarnates the divine alphabet, from the first letter to the last, from A to Z, from Alpha (the first letter in the Greek alphabet) to Omega (the last letter). Jesus is first to Last, Beginning to End.
  2. Jesus is A to Z, because He is eternal. He was there at the beginning, and He’ll be there at the end. He is the originator of all things, and the fulfillment of all things. He was the starting point of history, and He is its destiny. He is the origin of life, and He is the goal of life. He is the prototype of humanity, and its final glory. He embraces all the eternal truth of God’s knowledge, from the first letter of His first word to the last letter of His last word, from the beginning of time to the conclusion of time, from Creation to Restoration. Jesus is the essence of everything in God’s Reality.
  3. Jesus is the Lord of Language. So naturally He refers to the Greek alphabet three times in the Book of Revelation(1:8; 21:6; 22:13). He owns every letter that can form a word that can state a thought. He is every word of truth that those letters communicate, for He is the ultimate truth, conveying all God’s thoughts, giving form to substance. Language is God’s gift to help us understand God’s thoughts, which means Jesus is the ultimate purpose of language. Words are intended to articulate the wisdom of God, and Jesus is the embodiment of wisdom, so Jesus is the goal of all human and divine language.
  4. Jesus is the world’s only complete sentence. He completely spells out God’s being. He was the first Word, and He will be the last Word, on the path to Truth. Any letter forming any word that does not find its eventual home in Jesus does not contain the knowledge of God. Any such word ends up being nonsense, incomplete, pointless. Jesus is the origin and destiny of every true word, for He is the Truth and He is the Word. Jesus is the starting point and the ending point of all divine knowledge and Reality. Jesus transcends the grammar of tense and time. He is a mystery that will be fully revealed at the end of time. For now, Jesus is God’s complete sentence that cannot be diagrammed.
  5. “Christ is God’s Word abbreviated, in the sense that all that God has to say is summed up in Christ.”  (Reardon*). The written Word can be summarized in the Living Word. God has even more to say, because His capacity for thought is unbounded. And even His unfettered thought is merely an extended version of one little Name. Christ is the essential thought in God’s mind. Christ is the essential truth in God’s Reality. When thinking of truth, Christ is everything God has to say on the matter. Jesus is the alpha to omega of God’s thinking, the A to Z of human and divine language.
  6. Jesus contains every letter of the whole alphabet of Reality. He embraces all the in between letters, not just the beginning and end. He is our King of the in between when we walk with him after the beginning of our life (which is good), and before the end of our life (which will be good). Those in between letters are a vital part of Reality for us. “Each of us has been cast as the protagonist in the novel that is our life. We’re assured a happy ending to that novel. But whether we become a noble character or a tragic one depends on how we live out the truth of the gospel in the middle pages.” (Eugene Peterson).
  • I am indebted to Rev. Patrick Henry Reardon for getting me on to this track of thinking. His article on Ps. 119 in Christ in the Psalms was instrumental to this piece. Thank you, Rev. Reardon.

A final thought on words in our life… Believers are sometimes accused of being almost preoccupied with words. But after all, God spoke creation into existence by using words. And many Jewish believers note that God’s first act of kindness to Adam was to teach him how to use words, how to communicate in words. So the Study in God’s heart is a perfect place to occupy oneself with words, holy words, and the Living Word Himself.