Study # 10
Thesis: The two realities associated with grace are hearts that have a new objective and minds that have a new understanding.
Introduction: [Read Luke 1:15-17.] Last week we introduced the issue of John's predicted impact upon many in the nation of Israel. We saw that the prophecy was actually a declaration of the purpose for the proclamation of grace. We argued that grace is not focused, like so many of us, upon the provision of a new destination by reason of a new status. In other words, grace isn't about preaching heaven through forgiveness. This text argues that the thesis, Yahweh is gracious, is designed to address the twin issues of the focus of the heart and the understanding of the mind. According to this text, John would be the one who was instrumental in the turning of many in Israel to the fundamental focus of the heart of God and the fundamental understanding of the mind of God. That raises these questions: what is the fundamental focus of the heart of God?; and, what is the fundamental understanding of the mind of God? According to this text, people were not prepared for the coming of the Lord unless their hearts were turned to their children and their minds were turned to the understanding of the just. If that is so, do we not need to know what it means for God to be so focused upon the children that no one is prepared for Him to come unless they share that focus? And, do we not need to know what it means for God to be so focused upon the precepts of the just that no one is prepared for Him to come who does not grasp those precepts? This morning we are going to ask this question: what is the fundamental focus of the heart of God? No Theophile can make much progress in his friendship with God if he cannot answer this question about the One with Whom he seeks to be a friend!
November 2, 2003
- I. Just How Fundamental Is the Focus?
- A. James 1:27 says that the undefiled practice of the Father's "religion" is to visit the fatherless in their affliction.
- B. Malachi 4:6 says that if this focus is not achieved, Yahweh will come and smite the land with a curse.
- C. Luke 18:15-17, when interpreted in the light of Luke 9:48, declares that no one will enter the Kingdom who rejects this child-focus.
- II. Exactly What Is This Focus?
- A. What does a heart turned to the children mean?
- 1. Most fundamentally, it means that someone else has become so much more important in one's heart that the owner of the heart will do whatever it takes to make sure that that someone has access to true life.
- a. The terminology is the same in Luke 1:16 as Luke 1:17.
- 1) The implication is that Yahweh is to be treated like a child is this respect: I will do nothing to bring Yahweh's Spirit to grief.
- 2) The parallelism in these verses emphasizes the closeness of the proximity of Yahweh to children -- i.e. what I do to children, I do to Yahweh (see Matthew 25:45 -- inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it to ME).
- b. The reciprocity of Malachi 4:6, in which the children's hearts are also turned to the fathers, makes this fundamental meaning clear: someone else's spiritual pleasure is more important to me than mine [Note Paul's statement in Romans 9:3 and tie it to the reality of Calvary].
- 2. Then, secondarily, it means that the someone who has become so much more important is not important because of what that one can do for me.
- a. The fundamental problem of humanity is that the value of others is invariably measured in terms of the impact those others make on me.
- b. The fundamental change that grace brings is that the value of others begins to be measured in terms of their need, not their ability to meet needs. The less able someone is, the more important they become (widows and orphans).
- 1) Children are consistently regarded by adults as in need, not as providers for needs.
- 2) God's focus upon children is rooted in this perception of adults: if the needs of others who can do nothing for you is not important to you, grace has not touched your heart.
- B. What does a heart turned to the children look like?
- 1. Does it look like child-prominent ministries? [CEF, adoption agencies, child protection services, youth ministries, AWANA, etc.]
- 2. Or does it look like parent-focused ministries?
- a. Why is it that the child-focused God only says one thing to children (children, obey your parents)?
- b. Why is it that the child-focused God spent almost all of His time on earth working with adults?
- 3. Does it look like entertainment that appeals to children?
- 4. Or does it look like heavy duty instruction in the Word? [This brings up the second issue of grace impact: the understanding of the Just]