It is that time of year again. Television commercials do not lie, do they? The ads targeting our tax rebates have been replaced with ads about "back to school supplies."

One commercial presents a jubilant father and two sad children. The father leaps, dances, and jumps up and down isles as he fills a shopping cart with school supplies. The children just stand together and look sad. While this occurs, a background song plays, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." Each time I see that commercial I wonder about the underlying message. It is one thing to sell school supplies. It is quite another to declare it is wonderful to be rid of your children.

I am also amazed at when "back to school" ads market their products with an obvious pitch to sex appeal or an obvious justification of selfishness.

Whatever your emotions may be, summer break is over. Tomorrow morning in Fort Smith public schools open for students. For all intents and purposes, summer is over. Our calendar does not mark the beginning of fall. School does.

So, what did your heart teach your kids this summer? When your children are forty year old adults, they will have memories of the summer of 2001. When they remember this summer and their parents, what will they remember? Will anything they remember be associated with your heart?

  1. Consider two fascinating scriptures concerning people committed to God.
    1. The first, Deuteronomy 8:2, was given to the Israelites as they prepared to invade Canaan.
      You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
      1. For forty years these people wandered in the wilderness as their parents died.
        1. God supplied their food by giving them manna to eat every day (verse 3).
        2. God kept their clothing from wearing out for the entire time (verse 4).
        3. Can you image eating the same diet and wearing the same clothes for forty years?
        4. There are people in our world today that would love to eat every day and have something to wear.
      2. Moses spoke to people who trusted, obeyed, and were committed to God.
        1. Even so, they spent the forty years wandering in a desert because of their parents' choices.
        2. Knowing human nature, there had to be times when they wondered, "Why? We did not distrust God; our parents did! Why must we endure consequences created by our parents' choices?"
      3. Perhaps God in Deuteronomy 8:2 gave an answer to their why.
        1. Moses said, "I want you to remember this experience." ["Sure, like they could forget it!" God knew when things changed and became good, they were likely to forget it (verses 11-20)].
        2. Moses said, "This experience happened for identifiable reasons."
          1. Reason number one was to humble you; humble people depend on God. Arrogant people depend on themselves.
          2. Reason number two was to test you; not to cause you to fail, but to give you opportunity to reveal your heart to God.
          3. Reason number three was based on reasons one and two: obedience comes from people who are humble, whose hearts belong to God.
    2. This whole experience provided them opportunity to reveal their hearts.
      1. The same opportunity was given to their parents.
        1. When the tenth plague released their parents from Egypt's slavery, in the sports jargon of today, "God was the man!" God was number one on top of everything! God released them, and God visibly lead them day and night with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21).
        2. But when they were trapped between Pharaoh's army and the Red Sea, they said to Moses, "Didn't we tell you to leave us alone and let us be slaves! It is better to be a live slave than dusty grave!" (Exodus 14:12)
        3. When God rescued them by allowing them to cross through the Red Sea on dry land, they were filled with joy and praise for God (Exodus 15).
        4. But when they entered the desert and were thirsty, they grumbled (Exodus 15:24).
        5. When God verbally gave them the ten commandments (Exodus 20), they responded by saying they would do anything God wanted.
          1. Just one request: "Listening to God's voice will kill us."
          2. "Moses, you talk to God and we will do anything you tell us."
        6. Moses went upon Mount Sinai to communicate with God and was gone forty days.
          1. The same people said to Aaron, "We have no idea what happened to Moses."
          2. "Make us a god" (they knew and were familiar with idols).
          3. Aaron made them a golden calf and said it was their god who delivered them from Egypt (Exodus 32:1-4).
      2. Their parents had a lot of opportunity to show God their hearts, and they did.
        1. They refused to humble themselves when things did not go as they wished.
        2. They failed the test--unless God was doing what they wanted, they did not trust him.
      3. The admonition to this second generation was simple: show God your heart.
        1. Whatever your experience, show God your heart.
        2. Refuse to make the mistakes your parents made; show God your heart.
    3. The second scripture is found in 2 Chronicles 32:31.
      Even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.
      1. This statement is made in reference to King Hezekiah.
      2. Hezekiah was an exceptional king in Judah, one of the few kings who led a reform to move people back to God and His ways.
        1. It was Hezekiah who did what was right in God's sight as did his ancestor David (2 Chronicles 29:2).
        2. It was Hezekiah that repaired the temple and reinstituted sacrificial worship in the temple (2 Chronicles 29).
        3. It was Hezekiah who reinstituted Passover observance (2 Chronicles 30).
        4. It was Hezekiah's influence that led the people to destroy idolatrous shrines in the territories of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 31:1).
        5. It was Hezekiah who restored the tithe in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 31:4,5).
        6. It was Hezekiah who trusted God when the superior military force of the King of Assyria tried to destroy Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32).
      3. Hezekiah became a very rich man.
        1. He also made some significant mistakes because of his pride.
        2. But with his wealth and his pride, God left him alone to test him.
        3. God wanted to know all that was in his heart.

  2. The only thing we control is our hearts.
    1. What is in our hearts lives there by our choice.
      1. Our choices make our hearts soft or hard.
      2. Our choices make our hearts compassionate or uncaring.
      3. Our choices cause people to see God in our hearts or cause people to decide God is no big deal.
      4. Our choices determine if our hearts finds joy in evil or finds joy in God.
    2. The only thing you have power over is what exists in your heart.
      1. We have no real control over our future.
      2. We have no real control over our health.
      3. We have no real control over our prosperity.
      4. We have no real control over the events that shape our lives.
      5. The only thing we control is the nature of our hearts.
      6. Our choices reveal to God what is in our hearts.
      7. Those choices might be made in the harshness of the wilderness like Israel or in great prosperity like Hezekiah, but we do show God what is in our hearts by our choices--wherever we make them.
    3. This is not a perfect world.
      1. Life is not fair, and never has been.
      2. Life is not just, and never has been.
      3. Like is not kind, and never has been.
      4. Life is not easy, and never has been.
      5. Life does not focus on convenience, and never has.
    4. Everyone makes hard choices; there are no exceptions.
      1. There are enough failed expectations in everyone's life to create an angry heart.
      2. There are enough disappointments in everyone's life to create a jealous heart.
      3. There are enough injustices in everyone's life to create a mean heart.
      4. There are enough bruises in everyone's life to create a hard heart.
      5. There is enough evil in everyone's life to create a corrupt heart.
      6. There is enough coldness in everyone's life to create a loveless heart.
    5. Each one of us decide what kind of heart we have; it is literally our choice.
      1. It is not a matter of our experiences; it is a matter of our choices in spite of our experiences.
      2. By our choices we show God our decision.
      3. By our choices we show people our decision.

  3. So, this summer, what did you teach people about your heart?
    1. First, think about all the things you did this summer.
      1. Make a list.
      2. Where did you go?
      3. What did you do?
      4. How did you spend your time?
    2. Second, think about what your choices taught the people who are important to you about your heart?
      1. What did you teach your children about your heart? If their adult hearts become exactly what they saw in your heart, will you be delighted?
      2. What did you teach your wife about your heart? If her heart becomes exactly what she saw in your heart, will you be delighted?
      3. What did you teach your husband about your heart? If his heart becomes exactly what he saw in your heart, will you be delighted?
      4. What did you teach your friends about your heart? If their hearts pattern themselves after your heart, is that a good thing?
    3. If someone were to review what we revealed about our heart by our choices this summer, what would they conclude?
      1. Would they conclude you have a spiritual heart, a religious heart, or a secular heart?
      2. Would they conclude you have a God centered heart ["God makes them tick"], a pleasure centered heart ["fun makes them tick], or a "thing" centered heart ["possessions make them tick"]?
      3. Would they conclude that we have a serving heart that cares, a heart that does to others what they do to you, or a selfish heart that always takes care of us first?

What did our choices show God about our hearts this summer? Does God look at what we showed Him about our hearts and say, "That person does not have a clue about what life is about." Or, "That person's heart really wants My help." Or, "That heart is truly spiritual. It refuses just to go through the motions of being religious. It belongs to Me."

This summer taught a lot of people many truths about your heart. This summer also taught God many truths about your heart. What did your choices teach?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 19 August 2001

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