Commitment: What God SeeksErwin W. Lutzer | January 3, 1993
Selected highlights from this sermon
Asa made a foolish and sinful decision by seeking the assistance of pagan kings instead of God. His divided and rebellious heart was exposed.
God is looking for people who have hearts that are fully yielded to Him. Are we ready to give up our idols which draw our affections away from God?
When God peers into your heart, does He see a heart that is completely His?
I think it’s true to say that the extent of our faith, or the object of our faith, is oftentimes determined in a crisis. Where you turn to when the bottom falls out of life, and where you turn to when things aren’t going well says much about who you are and what you really believe in. Some people turn to alcohol. Others turn to their friends, which may not all be bad. Others turn to themselves. They look within and they think that they are going to have the resources to cope and they become angry, bitter, and self-serving. And then there are those who may turn to various compromises that they may justify in their minds because, after all, they were in difficulty. And somehow difficulty is used as an excuse to do things that they know right well are wrong to do.
Where do we turn? Well, I know where I would like you to turn today, and that is to the sixteenth chapter to the book of Second Chronicles in the Old Testament. Second Chronicles, chapter sixteen! First and Second Kings, First and Second Chronicles. Now you know that the book of Chronicles is not one that you may have read recently, but it covers the same history basically as the history of First and Second Kings. And what I’d like us to do in Second Chronicles, chapter sixteen, is to introduce you to a few people. So just give me two or three minutes to paint a little bit of history, and then I’ll show you what the text is for today.
First of all, I’d like to introduce you to a man by the name of Asa. Asa was a king who ruled in Jerusalem over a territory called Judah. This was 900 years B.C., and remember that during that period of time, the land that we call Israel today was actually two separate lands, two separate countries, and it had a border between it. And there was a man who ruled the northern part. The northern part was called Israel. The southern part was called Judah. And in the northern part what you had there was a man by the name of Baasha.
Baasha was king of Israel, and Asa was king in the southern part in Judah. And here’s what happened. The text says in chapter 16, verse 1, “In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, Baasha, king of Israel, came up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa, king of Judah.
Here’s what the northern king, by the name of Baasha, decided to do. He said, “I’m going to fortify the border because I’m tired of having all these people come from the north, which is my territory, and go to the south. I’m going to make sure that isn’t going to happen. He put up what is sort of an Old Testament Berlin Wall.
Well, Asa fell threatened by this, and that’s why I introduce you to a third person, and that is Ben-hadad, who was king of Syria. And Asa said, “I don’t think that I can handle this situation alone. What I’m going to do is ask Ben-hadad, King of Israel (I’m going to bribe him) to become my ally so that he might be able to help me stand against this threat.”
What was so wrong with that? Well, I’ll tell you what was wrong with it. God had told the people in the Old Testament that they should never make a league with pagan kings. Here’s what God actually said. He said, in effect, “Why don’t you just trust Me alone? Why don’t you just believe that I will be your defender. I will be your military might, and then if you believe that, I’m going to prove that I am stronger than any alliance, any compromise that you might be tempted to make.” And so what Asa did was really wrong in the sight of the Lord.
I introduce you to another man now, Hanani. Who was he? He was a prophet, and now we’re in verse 7 of 2 Chronicles, chapter 16. “At that time, Hanani, the seer came to Asa, king of Judah and said to him, ‘Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped out of your hand.” He said, “You are going to be in trouble because of this agreement you made.” And then he says, “Were not the Ethopians and the Lubim an immense army, of very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand.” He’s saying, “Asa, you used to trust God. Why didn’t you trust Him this time?” And then in that context, the prophet makes the statement that is the text of my message today. Verse 9: “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” Notice what the prophet said.
Now, God is spoken of here in verse 9 as having eyes. We know that God doesn’t have eyes. Theologians call this an anthropomorphism. I was always hoping for a chance to use that word. It doesn’t come up very often. That means anthropos and morphe. God is spoken of in terms of having the attributes of a man. “The eyes of the Lord searched.” Now, we know that God doesn’t have eyes, and God doesn’t really search because searching implies that we are seeking for something and we don’t know where it is. Well, God knows where everything is. God has accurate knowledge of everything so He’s not searching like we are. This is imagery to help us to understand the heart of God.
So having explained it that way, what I’d like to do now is to give you three characteristics of the search that God has undertaken. It is indeed one of the greatest person hunts in history. God is undertaking a search, and here are the characteristics of the search.
First, the search is extensive. It is extensive. “The eyes of the Lord,” said the prophet, “move to and fro throughout the earth.” God is constantly monitoring the hearts of every living human being. Constantly! Twenty-four hours a day! Research is so extensive. First of all, it is extensive geographically. God sees the people of the United States of America. God sees the people of Canada, the people of Great Britain, the people of Europe, and certainly the people of China, and all the islands of the sea, and all the countries of the earth. God sees them all, in all of the time zones, and He sees them simultaneously. And what is He looking for? He’s seeking someone whose heart is completely His. It is extensive geographically.
It is extensive vocationally. God is seeking for plumbers and for factory workers, and for corporate executives, and for servants. He is seeking for health care workers, for doctors, for nurses, for policemen and firemen. He’s even going into the hospitals where people are confined, and He is seeking hearts there. And He goes into the mental institutions, and into the jails. All throughout the whole earth, God says, “I am on a search.” It is extensive vocationally as well as geographically.
It is extensive economically. He goes into the poor places of the city of Chicago, and He goes from Cabrini Green, along the Gold Coast, and is constantly searching, searching, searching.
It is also a search that is extensive racially because it is an interracial search.
One day, Jesus came to a woman who was at the well, and she had had five husbands. She had a very bad experience in terms of marriages. Five! And now she was living with someone that she wasn’t even married to. After you have had five, why bother with a ceremony? And Jesus said to this woman, “The hour is coming when the Father seeks those who will worship him in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such worshippers.” Here is an immoral, outcast woman, because she was of mixed race. She was a Samaritan, despised, thought of as a dog, as the people in those days were affectionately called if they were Samaritans. And here she is, and Jesus said to this woman, “You can delight the heart of Almighty God. You can delight His heart by being His worshipper no matter how bad your past has been,” because God is seeking worshippers. He seeks continually. He began with Adam and Eve, and then He sought people throughout all of the centuries. And He seeks in this generation, and He will seek in the generations to come. Until the earth fades away, God is on a search. And no search draws on as many resources, no search is as complete as the search and the mission of Almighty God. It is extensive.
Secondly, it is purposeful. It is purposeful! Now, if you would take a moment, just put yourself in God’s shoes. We know that He doesn’t wear shoes, but then He doesn’t have eyes either. You put yourself in God’s shoes and you think about it a little bit. You are the creator, the one who just spoke the worlds into existence, some stars that are multiplied millions of time bigger than our sun! You just spoke and it was all there. You’ve got infinite unbelievable resources. And then you have this little planet called Earth, and there are some people on planet Earth whom you would like to help. You would like to strongly support them, to be specific. And what you are doing is you are looking for people who would be able to accept such strong support. And you are God! Think of all the strong support in the middle of verse 9 that indicates that God wants to do on behalf of some people.
First of all, we know that He would want to support them politically. That’s what He wanted to do with Asa. He said, “Asa, why do you make unhealthy compromises. Why do you compromise with making a treaty with a pagan king? Asa, I will be your commander in chief. I will be your military person. I will strongly support you if you trust only Me.”
So He wants to give political support. He wants to give moral support. “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but will, with the temptation, make a way of escape that you might be able to bear it.” God says, “I’m going to help you through the moral temptation. I will support you morally.”
“I will support you emotionally,” for the text of Scripture tells us, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” God says, “If you have a heart that is completely mine I will keep you in peace in the midst of the storm. I will come to your rescue and be your support.”
God says that He wants to support us financially. Financially! “But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” God says, “I want to support you.
I want to support you spiritually so that you might be able to encounter those spiritual battles and I will help fight your battles against Satan, because I’ve got the resources, and I’m looking for people who I can strongly support.”
We as Christians are often upset, not because of what is happening to other people but because somehow we figure that our personal peace and security is going to be jeopardized. And that makes us concerned. And one of the reasons we are uneasy is because we know that there are days ahead in which we are going to have to trust God in ways with which we are presently unfamiliar. And we’re not used to having God as our support, and trusting Him, and Him alone. And that’s why it is that, even though we might sing and talk about standing on the solid rock, sometimes when difficulty comes, you would think that we were grasping our last bit of driftwood before we were taken under.
Notice what the text says: “The eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth that He may strongly support those whose hearts are fully his.” The search is expensive, relentless, continuous. It is also a search that is purposeful. God wants to help people. But thirdly and sadly, the search is seldom rewarded. Seldom rewarded! There are only few whose hearts are completely His.
What does God say in this extensive search? What does God feel as His eyes roam to and fro throughout the whole earth. What is there that He sees as He monitors every single human heart 24 hours a day? Well, first of all, oftentimes, He sees a rebellious heart. He sees people who, in effect, say, “God, I want You to stay out of my life. I’ll draw the line in the sand. You stay over there. You don’t bother me. I won’t bother you. And let’s just have this agreement that You, oh God, are never going to get me.” A rebellious heart!
Then, of course, He may also see that there are indifferent hearts. Indifferent hearts. It’s not so much that the people are against God. It’s just that He is perceived to be irrelevant. He is of no particular moment. There’s no direct application as to who God is, and to what the situation requires. It is a matter of keen studied indifference. Who cares about God?
And then He sees partial hearts. A partial heart is one that says, “I really do love God and wish that God would strongly support me, and He’s got a part of me, but there are some things in my life that I believe I do not want God to touch. I just don’t want him to touch! There are issues that I don’t want to deal with. There are situations that I don’t want to face, and there are some things that I will not give up. I will keep my fist clenched, not in anger and defiance, but I will hold to these things tightly and not let go.” A partial heart!
Now, let me ask you a question. What would it look like to have a heart that was wholly God’s? As the text says, “He goes throughout the whole earth seeking those he may strongly support whose heart is completely his.” What would a heart like that look like?
What is God looking for? Well first of all, God is looking for a kind heart, a heart that says, “So far as sin is concerned, every single sin that God brings to our attention is a sin that we confess, and by His grace forsake. A kind heart—a heart that has used 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from every single unrighteousness.” That’s what kind of a heart God wants—a clean heart.
Secondly, a yielded heart! A yielded heart! Let’s just talk about some of the idols of our age, these idols that grow up within us, and like a vine, wrap themselves around our very being and hang on for all of their worth. Why is it that we do not find it easy at all? I do not find it easy at all to have a heart that is completely God’s. Why wouldn’t people tell us when we were growing up that to have a heart that was completely God’s is a tremendous battle because all of the idols that are so deeply ingrained hang on. And once the heart is completely God’s, it has to let go and say, “God, whatever you want, whatever you want...”
I think, for example, of the idol of sensuality, which takes so many different forms. We may think of immorality or pornography, but it also includes alcoholism and drugs, all of the things that are debilitating, even though on the surface they grant a certain amount of pleasure. Now, what if God says to you, “I want you to give those up,” as you know right well that He does. Are you, this morning, listening if that is your idol? Are you saying, “No! I will not give that up. I will not separate. I will not!” And God is saying to you and to me that “I will deal in your heart, and I can never strongly support you until, even if it kills you, you say, ‘Yes! Yes, I will give it up.’”
Bruce Wilkinson, during Founder’s Week, said that another idol was money, and he said, “Oh, what a beast that is,” because if we love money with even the slightest bit of love, even if there is that twinge of love in our hearts for money, God cannot strongly support us because we are not completely His, because the love of money is the source of all kinds of different evil. And therefore, we have to wrestle with God, so that if God says, “Empty your bank account,” you say, “Yes, yes, it’s yours. Yes, yes!”
Oh, but the struggles of the soul! Oh, the rationalizations of the heart! Oh, the deep roots of that idol that has been so firmly cemented into the very fabric of our soul, and now to have God root it out, what screams and what rationalizations and hollering takes place. And yet God says, “I cannot strongly support you because unless you take care of that idol you’re not completely mine.”
Then I think of the idols of relationships. No matter what God says, I want this person, I want this relationship. I want what I want. To quote the words of Woody Allen, “The heart wants what it wants, and it will have it.” And when God says, “Give it up,” he’s saying, “No, I will not give it up. I will not let go. I will not. I will hang on to what I want.” And God says, “I can’t strongly support you because your heart is not completely mine.”
And then we think, for example, of vocations that are idols.
We’re into this fulfillment bag today. Everybody needs to be fulfilled. How was the Roman Empire fulfilled? Let me ask you that question. And I’m not opposed to that. I have the good fortune of having a vocation that I find very fulfilling, and I wish and pray the same for everybody. But people are saying today, “Unless I have this or unless I have that I can’t be fulfilled.” And God says, “I want you to give me all of your dreams and all of your aspirations so that if I send you out into the middle of desert and want you to be there, you will say, “Yes, yes!” You see, those are the struggles of the soul. And the text of Scripture says that God will strongly support those whose hearts are fully His.
And so He travels from one end of Chicago to the other, and one end of Dallas, and London, and Atlanta. And He’s looking, and He’s looking for those whose hearts are completely His. You see, the extent of our yieldedness is the extent to which we really want God. The extent of our yieldedness is the extent to which we really want God. And God says to us, “Unless you are completely Mine, I’m not completely yours.” And you see, what God asks you and me to do continuously, because this is a continuous battle...what God asks you and me to do is always to be giving up more of ourselves so that He might be able to give us more of Himself, and to strongly support those whose hearts are completely His. That’s what God wants.
Now I want you to look back at the text. It says in verse 10, “But Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison for he was enraged at him for this. An Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time.” And do you know what happened to Asa? He got sick. He had problems with his feet. It says in verse 12: “And in the 39th year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease, he would not seek the Lord. But the physicians...it wasn’t so wrong that he saw the physicians, though they were magicians probably. But what he wanted to do is to say, “God, even though I am diseased on my feet I will not seek You.” And mark my word. Asa was actually a righteous man when he began. If you took time to read the preceding chapter you’d discover that he followed the Lord and did away with idols and did a whole lot of good things. But he was so angry at God. So angry at God. So mad that God was going to discipline him because of his disobedience. He shook his little fist at God and said, “God, even if I die with this disease, I’m never going to ask you to help me again.” Did God strongly support him? No, no, no! Why? Because God strongly supports those whose hearts are completely His.
Have you ever met a Christian who dies just an old complaining, bitter, angry man? If that happens, you can write it down, but very probably somewhere along the line God laid His finger on some part of this man’s life, and he said in his heart, “No, no, no.” And that’s the way he dies, angry, unbowed, foolish, because God said, “I don’t support those whose hearts are divided and not completely mine.”
God has all kinds of resources, but He saves them for those whose hearts have been weaned from the idols, and have taken the time to say, “If it kills me, no matter what, I’m going to say yes. God, you have my whole heart! Yes, yes, yes!”
The dearest idols we have known,
What e’er those idols be.
Help us to tear them from the throne
And worship only Thee.
We think, Father, of all the idols that are in our lives, all the things that are there that compete with You. Father, I can’t pull them out of my own heart. How shall I pull them out of the hearts of those that listened to this message?
That is Your work, Lord. I pray only that in Your grace You shall do it. We pray that You will not let us alone until we have said “Yes, yes, yes.” Grant us that, Father, we pray in mercy.
And now, before I close this prayer, how many of you this morning say, “Pastor Lutzer, God has talked me, and by His grace I’m going to say, ‘Yes, yes, yes’”? Would you raise your hands as an indication of your desire to follow God? All over the auditorium...just keep them raised for a second.
Are there others of you who say, “It’s going to kill me, but by His grace I’m going to say yes?” Others of you who want to join us? Father, you see the hands. They’ve been raised. And you see the hearts that were behind the hands that were raised. And we pray, Father, that in all of our hearts, with all of the struggles, that You will grant us the ability to say, “Father, we are too weak to do this on our own. In the strength and the name of Jesus, by Your power, we will lay down all our dreams at Your feet and say yes.”
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.