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A Christian’s Heart
“A Purposeful Heart”
The year is 605 B.C. and Jerusalem has just been taken by the Babylonian army, and Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, gave instructions to one of his top recruiters, Ashpenaz, master of his eunuchs, to bring the best and brightest young Jewish men to Babylon to be trained where they could be top advisors in Nebuchadnezzar’s court.
Daniel, along with three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were chosen with many others and deported to Babylon to train in the top college for Babylon wise guys, the Chaldeans, magicians, and astrologers.
Uprooted from his home and everything he knew, Daniel had every right to be discouraged. He was a captive in an unfriendly and foreign land, and to Daniel’s mind, the kingdom of darkness, a place where God was completely absent from people’s thoughts.
Ashpenaz immediately enrolled them in the College where everything was provided for their physical comfort. They were even given food that the king himself ate. This presented a problem to Daniel and his three friends. It was food that was forbidden by God’s law and unlawful to eat.
What would they do, to refuse was to insult the king and put them in potential danger, even the potential of losing their lives. But to partake would put them directly against God and His word.
A choice had to be made, and so it says that Daniel purposed in his heart not to go against God’s word and defile himself with the king’s offerings.
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” (Daniel 1:8 NKJV)
Throughout this year we’ve been looking at a Christian’s heart, that is, those qualities that every Christian needs to possess. We’ve looked at a servant’s and wounded healers heart, a courageous and forgiving heart, a grace-filled, spirit-filled, faith-filled, hope-filled, praise-filled and an heart that is filled with integrity
And actually I thought I was done, that is, until this week when I was reading Daniel and I realized that there is another quality, one that is often overlooked, but one that is definitely needed if we truly want to be fully devoted followers of Christ.
It is a heart that is dedicated to God, His word, and His way, or as it says in our text, a purpose-filled heart, or a purposeful heart.
Our study will not only look at the life of Daniel, but will also look at what the Apostle Paul said about Jesus in his letter to the Philippians.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV)
If this then is the mindset that was in Christ, it therefore needs to be our mindset as well. But beyond this we’ll also look at what Jesus said that it takes to be fully devoted followers of His.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)
The first thing we see about Daniel and having a purposeful heart is
Daniel was young, and as it is with our children and youth, very impressionable. But Daniel learned God’s ways and word early on as a child, and so as a youth and forced between what was right and wrong, between what the world said he must do and become and what the Lord said, Daniel chose God.
Even in his youth Daniel chose to still follow God’s word and kept himself pure and undefiled, and the Lord rewarded him and his three friends with wisdom and knowledge beyond their years.
Solomon says that we are to train up our children in the way they should go, that is, in the way of the Lord, and when they are old enough to chose for themselves what is right and wrong they will know the difference and hopefully be strong enough to chose what is right, that is, they’ll choose God and His ways based on His word.
Let me just say that if we don’t teach our children to follow Christ, then the world will teach them not to.
To prove out that statement, just look at what’s being taught in our schools, especially in our colleges. They teach that God is dead, that there’s no such thing as God, and that the Bible is just a book, and an old one at that and has no relevance in today’s modern society.
But the Bible is more relevant than any textbook out there. The textbooks they continue to teach our children from have to continually change every couple of years, which means they weren’t true or accurate in the first place, and most probably are still wobbly when it comes to the truth. But the Bible has remained true and unchanged from its original manuscripts.
And all these leadership gurus out there who are churning out all these books and seminars and charging big bucks in the process are actually using and often times quoting the Bible, even if they know it or not.
What happens is that after a while the world starts to make an impression upon us, especially the youth. It sounds all good and rational, but when put to the test, these are more often than not found defective in their thinking.
But for many it’s too late because the world, through its lies, has been conforming us more to its ways than we are allowing God to transform us into His image.
The Apostle Paul warns us not to allow this to happen.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 NKJV)
The natural question is how does being transformed by the renewing of our minds relate to having our hearts changed?
The answer is that the mind is directed, not so much by any outside forces, which is what the word “conformed” means, but rather it’s being directed by the heart, the center of our being and who we are. Solomon brings this out saying that as a person thinks in their heart, that is who they truly are, Proverbs 23:7a.
And Jesus puts the finishing touches on this heart and mind connection saying, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45 NKJV)
This is this heart and mind link up the Apostle Paul brings out in his letter to the Philippian Church.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)
You can’t have the mind of Christ until you have Jesus Christ in your heart.
And while many believe that some people speak without engaging their minds, the reality is that their minds are engaged with their hearts, and therefore what they’re speaking is what they truly believe.
In Jesus’s quintessential verse on what it means to be a disciple, He said,
“If anyone desires to come after Me” (Luke 9:23a)
There must be a sincere desire on our part. What I’ve learned over the years is that discipleship doesn’t happen by osmosis. We don’t become a believer in Jesus Christ, maybe raising our hand in a service to accept Him, and now think we’re fully operational.
Discipleship takes time and a sincere desire on our part. And when this is coupled with a commitment that’s when God’s purpose will become a reality. That’s when we’ll have those purposeful hearts.
This then brings me to the second thing we see about sDaniel and having a purposeful heart, and that is a purposeful heart is
Because Daniel purposed in His heart early on he committed himself to God and His word throughout His life, even when faced with certain death.
Under Darius, the King of the Medes and Persians, Daniel became one of the highest officials in the land, but not without his critics and enemies. Seeing how the king preferred Daniel’s presence and wisdom even to the point of making him head over the entire realm, the other leaders became jealous and tried to find some wrong by which they could accuse him, but they couldn’t find anything worthy of death or dismissal.
So they concocted a plan they knew wouldn’t fail. They would use Daniel’s faith in God to convict him before Darius. So they went before Darius and played to his ego saying no one was to pray or petition any god or man for 30 days except Darius.
Their plan worked and Darius signed it into law. Daniel knew what this meant, but he had purposed in his heart from an early age to follow God and not man. He made the commitment long before and kept it in spite of the consequences.
As a result the king was forced against his will to toss Daniel into a den filled with hungry lions. But God met and protected Daniel from certain death, because Daniel had made that commitment and stuck with it.
Jesus knew as well that making a commitment to Him also might mean potential death, but definitely it meant death to ourselves so that we can live for Him.
“Take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23c)
To pick up ones cross calls for a commitment because of what the cross stands for.
Taking up our cross isn’t about being inconvenienced in life, nor is it about carrying some burden. Rather it means certain death, in some cases physical death, but in every instance death of our own selfish wants and desires so we can live for God and the destiny He has for our lives.
In our first point we looked at our need to sincerely desire to follow God, but that must be coupled with a commitment if we want to be those fully devoted sold out followers Jesus calls for us to be.
After Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow He said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
We see such a commitment and a committed heart in Jesus as the Apostle Paul pointed out in how Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will, even knowing that it meant His death in the most agonizing way ever devised by man, the cross.
Jesus even asked the Father if there was any other way this could be accomplished, but ended by saying, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
The Apostle Paul said that Jesus,
“Became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8 NKJV)
One last aspect of a purposeful heart we see in Daniel is that it’s
If we are then sincere and committed to the process, this leads to self-denial.
Daniel and his three friends denied themselves some of the benefits in order to keep true to God’s word. As a result they distinguished themselves in appearance and wisdom from all others in Babylon.
“In all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.” (Daniel 1:20 NKJV)
When we pick up our crosses and deny ourselves, that is, put to death those wants and desires that don’t line up with God’s word, then God will lift us up and we’ll be distinguished from all the philosophers, teachers, and professors that mock God’s word spouting just about everything under the sun.
It was a heart of self-denial that Jesus said his disciples must possess as well.
“Let him deny himself.” (Luke 9:23b)
The problem is that our understanding of what it means is a little skewed. In the Greek the word “deny” means to give up something or have no connection with it. It means that we are to stay clear of anything that goes against God and His word and that takes us away from His plans and purposes.
Unfortunately we’ve developed this convoluted idea that we have to be some sort of monks living in a monastery giving up all worldly possessions.
Instead, to deny ourselves is where every day we have to purpose in our hearts to become a little bit more like Jesus. To live our lives in such a way every day that we are changing more and more into His image and according to His likeness.
It’s being more Christ-like in the way we deal with others, especially with our families, friends, and those we work with.
There is a phrase and a prayer that I teach that will help us become more like Christ, and that is the phrase, “What Would Jesus Do,” and the pray is, “Lord Change Me.”
When we start asking that question coupled with praying that prayer, then we’ll start achieving our goal of denying ourselves by becoming a little bit more like Jesus Christ.
And finally we see this same sort of heart of self-denial on the part of Jesus in Paul’s revelation of the type of followers we need to be seeing what Jesus did for us.
“But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7 NKJV)
As God, Jesus humbled Himself and came in the form of a human being, but not just any human being, a bondservant.
A bondservant is someone who voluntarily gives up his or her right to be free in order to be a servant of someone they consider worthy of serving as their master and lord.
Here Paul tells us that Jesus voluntarily left his place and throne in heaven to come down to this earth to become not only one of us, but a servant, but not a servant of man, but a servant to His Father God.
Jesus’ servant-hood and service is seen in its ultimate display as Jesus took up a towel and washbowl and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Jesus took upon Himself the lowest position in a household by performing this act.
Jesus coming down to serve and do His Father’s will became further evident in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “Not My will but Your will be done.”
And so Jesus as our example, the one in which we strive to become more like every day, shows us the ultimate form of self-denial as He not only said, “Not My will but Your will be done,” but then took that long road to Calvary and to His death so that we can live.
Daniel purposed in his heart not to go against God or His word and defile Himself with the delicacies of the world. And because He purposed to follow God early on rather than the world, He became a standout amongst all others, exceeding them in wisdom and appearance.
God further honored Daniel’s sincerity, commitment, and self-denial by placing within Him a more excellent spirit than all the rest (Daniel 5:12; 6:3), landing him not only as one of Babylon’s top advisors, but was set over the whole realm under Darius, king of the Medes and Persians.
And so it is with us today. When we purpose in our heart to follow God and His word, He will honor us with wisdom and knowledge beyond our own capability and show us favor with those we deal with in this world. In short, God honors those who honor Him.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study