Which would you prefer for a next door neighbor: a person of excellent habits or a person with a good heart? Which would you prefer for a good friend: a person of excellent habits, or a person with a good heart? Which would you prefer for a husband or a wife: a person of excellent habits, or a person with a good heart? Which would you prefer for a child: a child with excellent habits, or a child with a good heart?

It is wonderful to have a neighbor who conscientiously cares for his property while respecting your property. It is wonderful to have a friend who always treats you with consideration. It is wonderful to be married to a husband who always is thoughtful and courteous, or to a wife who always is gracious in her comments and deeds. It is wonderful to have a son or daughter who shows respect and uses good manners.

As wonderful as those situations are, none of them compare to having a neighbor, a friend, a husband, a wife, a son, or a daughter with a good heart.

When you discuss good behavior, you are discussing the quality of a person's self-control. When you discuss a good heart, you are discussing the quality of the person.

  1. Can you imagine any person being so arrogant, so vain as to declare that he or she can relate to any person anywhere in the world?
    1. Can you believe that anyone would think that he or she could relate to anyone anywhere in the world?
      1. Can the poor relate to the rich?
      2. Can the privileged relate to the deprived?
      3. Can the illiterate relate to the well educated?
      4. Can the successful relate to the oppressed?
      5. If we think about it, really think about it, few of us honestly believe that any person could relate to everyone.
    2. Yet, God sent one person to this world to relate to everyone, to be the Savior for everyone, to bond with everyone.
      1. Most of us would say, "Sure Jesus can do that; he is God's Son."
        1. We say that because that is what we have been told; "Jesus is the Son of God, and the Son of God can relate to anyone."
        2. May I ask this question: would not the fact that Jesus is God's Son make it less likely for him to relate to everyone instead of more likely?
      2. Yet, in a very genuine, real way Jesus does relate to every person--that is one of the true mysteries about Jesus.
        1. A life time of teaching and preaching that has given me the opportunity to share Jesus on three different continents.
        2. I am amazed at the way that people relate to Jesus.
        3. I saw it happen in the life of a witch doctor in African.
        4. I saw it happen in the life of an atheist in Russia.
        5. I saw it happen in the lives of disillusioned college students in Poland.
        6. I have seen it happen among extremely poor persons.
        7. I have seen it happen in highly successful persons.
        8. I have seen it happen with the educationally advanced and with those who have no education.
        9. I have seen it happen in the lives of the abused, the dysfunctional, the addicted, the suffering, and the devastated.
      3. In each case, this is what I have seen--every time a person relates to Jesus, he or she relates to Jesus' heart.
        1. It is always Jesus' heart qualities that enable people to relate to him.
        2. People do not relate to Jesus because he was a Jew, or because he was poor, or because he was powerful, or because he was the Son of God, or because he was resurrected.
        3. It is Jesus' heart that allows people to relate to him.
      4. It is his heart that calls people to him: Matthew 11:28,29.
        Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Are you tired? Do you have exhausting burdens that crush you?
        2. Come to me; I will give you rest.
        3. "Jesus, how are you going to give me rest?"
        4. You will place yourself under my control by putting on my yoke, and as you wear my yoke you will learn from me.
        5. "Jesus, why would I do that? Yokes are made to burden you, to make you pull burdens. Yokes aren't made for rest; yokes are made for hard work. Why should I put on your yoke?"
        6. First, carefully note what Jesus did not say.
          1. Put on my yoke because I have the power.
          2. Put on my yoke because I have come from God.
          3. Put on my yoke or I will destroy you.
          4. Put on my yoke because all authority is vested in me.
          5. Put on my yoke because I am the Lord.
        7. Second, carefully note what Jesus did say.
          1. Without fear, put on my yoke because I am gently and humble in heart.
          2. Because of my heart you will find rest from your exhausting burdens.
      5. Jesus' heart creates an appeal that allows him to relate to all people.
    3. The qualities that people most admire about Jesus are always heart qualities.
      1. His meek or unassuming nature.
      2. His compassion.
      3. His mercy.
      4. His forgiveness.
      5. His kindness.
      6. His unselfish, sacrificial nature.
      7. These all are heart qualities.

  2. The person who relates to people with his heart is the person who relates to people by touching their hearts.
    1. Jesus' emphasis on the state and condition of our hearts is clear and profound.
      1. In Matthew 5:8 he declared, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
        1. We commonly stress the fact that a person with an impure heart will not see God in heaven.
        2. While I agree that statement is true, I personally think that Jesus meant something far more than that.
        3. Without a pure heart a person will not perceive the presence of God.
        4. When, surrounded by nature, I watch an incredible sunset, I see God.
        5. An atheist can witness the same sunset at the same place, appreciate the same beauty, but only see a random accident.
      2. In Matthew 22:37 Jesus said that the greatest commandment ever given is to love God with all of our heart.
      3. In Matthew 6:11 Jesus observed that our hearts live where our treasures reside.
      4. In Matthew 15:8 he stated that it is an insult to God to praise God with our words while our hearts are far removed from God.
      5. And in Matthew 15:19 he declared that evil thoughts are born in our hearts.
    2. Conversion involves the response of the human heart to Jesus.
      1. Becoming a Christian is first and foremost a conversion process.
      2. Logic may play a role in the conversion process of some people, but the core of conversion is not based on intellectual reasoning.
      3. Facts and deductions may play a role in the conversion process of some people, but the core of conversion is not based on the scientific process.
      4. Conversion to Jesus Christ is the response of the human heart to the heart of the Son of God.
    3. The book of Acts verifies that heart responses are critical in the conversion process.
      1. In Acts 2 Peter preached to a Jewish audience in the city of Jerusalem.
        1. A number of these listeners either condoned or encouraged Jesus' crucifixion.
        2. Peter used prophesy, facts, and reasoning to convince these people that the Jesus that they killed was actually God's Son.
        3. He declared the fact of the resurrection, and declared that by resurrection God made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ.
        4. Those who believed Peter "were pricked in their hearts" (Acts 2:37).
          1. Their hearts caused them to cry out asking what they should do.
          2. Their hearts moved them to repentance.
          3. Heart acceptance led them to baptism, to the forgiveness of sin, and to acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord.
      2. In Acts 7 those who rejected Jesus and his resurrection were angry at a Christian named Stephen, and they put him on trial.
        1. As Stephen defended his teachings, he declared that these people murdered God's Righteous One just as their forefathers had murdered God's messengers.
        2. Stephen's statement "cut them in their hearts" (Acts 7:54).
        3. When Stephen said that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, they killed him.
        4. Heart rejection of Jesus moved them to kill Stephen.
      3. In Acts 8 an influential magician named Simon believed and was baptized.
        1. He had been called the Great One because people believed that he had special powers.
        2. When Simon saw the power of the Holy Spirit that Peter and John possessed, he wanted to buy that power.
        3. Peter replied, "Your request to buy God's power is wicked."
          1. "In no way are you to be involved in the use of this power."
          2. "You desperately need to repent of your wickedness and pray for forgiveness."
        4. Peter did not say, "You are wicked because:"
          1. "You have violated a commandment."
          2. Or, "You have been disrespectful of authority."
          3. Or, "Your theology is wrong."
          4. Or, "Your thinking is evil."
        5. Peter said, "Your heart is not right. Pray the Lord if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven" (Acts 8:22).
        6. A misguided heart led the baptized Simon back into horrible wickedness.

The person converted to Jesus Christ cannot remain the same person. He or she cannot remain the same person because Jesus' heart has changed his or her heart.

heart Becoming a Christian is much more than giving up bad habits or learning new behavior patterns. Conversion involves a fundamental change of heart. That is why repentance is essential in conversion. Repentance redirects the heart.

When my heart is touched by Jesus' heart, I cannot be and will not be the same person. When my heart is changed, I am changed.

In human relationships, if your basis for relationship choices is good habits instead of good hearts, you will experience sorrow and disappointment as long as you live.

When God establishes a relationship with a person, it always is on the basis of a good heart, and never on the basis of good habits.

Do you need guilt destroyed? Give God your heart. Wear the yoke of Jesus Christ. Do you need rest? Come to Jesus.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 13 September 1998

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