Jesus said, “many are called but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14).
Who are the blessed people chosen of God to live with him forever? Many have begun the path to know God but few have stayed the course to have intimate relationship with him. The course of human history revolves around God and the heart of man.
What is it God looks for in the human heart?
Jesus pronounced eternal salvation upon a man just from the words that came from his heart. He was not saved by adhering to the Law of Moses nor was he saved by any other action except for making six statements. God saw in this man what he finds in the heart of all who are chosen of him. God does not look upon the outward man he looks at the heart!
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The man Jesus pronounced eternal salvation upon was an accused criminal he hung on a cross next to Jesus along with another criminal who hung on the other side of Jesus. One man was saved and the other was condemned just from what proceeded from their heart and manifest in words. The saved criminal serves as an example that all of mankind is saved by what God finds in our heart. Gods plan for man changed throughout the ages but God is a just God we will all be judged the same on the Day of Judgment.
Eight statements were made between the two criminals, two by the condemned criminal and six by the saved criminal. Let’s learn from the statements of these two men to see what God looks for in our heart!
The discourse went like this:
“Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, Remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:39-42).
The gospel of Matthew describes both criminals taunting Jesus (Matt 27:44) one of them changed and became penitent.
1.”Aren’t You the Messiah?” – Under certain circumstances many are willing to align themselves with the Messiah. This criminal was questioning Jesus’ decision to let this happen to them beings he was the Messiah and had authority with God.
2.”Save Yourself and us!” – This criminal tried to prompt Jesus for an outcome to his liking and not the plan of God preordained from the foundation of the world. It was all about “his will” and not the “will of God”! This criminal sought to save his life which brings to mind something Jesus said to his disciples: “For whosoever wants to save his life will lose it.” (Luke 9:24).
3.”Don’t you even fear God?”- The heart of the saved criminal begins with the “Fear of God” this is the first thing God looks for in our heart. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalms 111:10).
The fear of God is to revere him as our creator and to be in awe of who he is and what he stands for. One who fears God respects him and his holiness and when given the chance seeks to be like him and does not want to offend him. If a man does not fear God there is nothing God can do to save that man. The first two men who appeared on earth display the contrast between one who fears God and one who does not:
Adam – “And he said, I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10).
Cain – “Then the Lord said to Cain, Where is your brother Abel? I don’t know, he replied. Am I my brother’s guardian?” (Genesis 4:9).
Adam was “afraid”, Cain was “aloof”. Adam was not ok offending God; It did not bother Cain to much. God can work within someone like Adam; he cannot work within someone like Cain!
“Don’t consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7).
“let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God.”(2 Cor 7:1).
4. since you are undergoing the same punishment? – Another thing God looks for in our heart is respect for God’s judicial rights according to the laws of heaven.
On high, He summons heaven and earth in order to judge His people. “Gather My faithful ones to me those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice”. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God is the Judge.” (Psalms 50:4-6).
5. We are punished justly – Another thing God looks for in our heart is humility and our deservedness of the penalty for our transgressions against him.
“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, God, turn Your wrath from me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
6. Because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did – Another thing God looks for in our heart is a resignation of the “will of the flesh” as it deserves to die!
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25).
The saved criminal did not seek to save his life like the other criminal. What does it mean to “lose my life”? Man is both Spiritual and Physical he has the option to live two very different lives each opposing the other. He can live the life of the Spirit which is under God’s rule and his wisdom or he can live a life of the flesh which is under Satan’s rule and earthly wisdom. Life under God’s rule is “life” because it is eternal; life under self-rule is “death” with eternal consequences. When Adam and Eve chose the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil they chose the life of the flesh which Immediately brought death to life in the Spirit. The only way to gain back life in the Spirit is the Messiah! God made him known in the 3rd Chapter of Genesis:
(God speaking to Satan) “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15).
God replaced the fig leaves Adam and Eve wore with animal skins thus showing death was the ultimate plan of God to cloth us in His righteousness. Abel sacrificed a lamb but Cain’s sacrifice was the fruit of the ground, Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God Cain’s was not. “Death” is the only sacrifice God accepts. We must lay our life down for Christ’s sake and set our minds on things above.
“Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.” (Col. 3:2-3)
“These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.” (Heb 11:13-14)
The animal sacrifices in the Old Testament had no value if the heart of the one giving the sacrifice was not in line with a sacrificial life to God and embracing the promise of the Messiah. We in the New Testament live a sacrificial life in Jesus:
“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.” Galatians 5:24-25
“My goal is to know Him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:10).
7. But this man has done nothing wrong! – Another thing God looks for in the heart is acceptance of the messiah a man numbered with transgressors and one who bore the wrath of God to satisfy God’s judgment against sinful man.
“because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors: yet he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa 53:12)
8. Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom! – Another thing God looks for in the heart is Kingdom minded!
God’s Kingdom is “among us”:
“My kingdom is not of this world, said Jesus. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.” (John 18:36)
“No one will say, Look here! Or “There!” For you see, the kingdom of God is among you.”(Luke 17:21)
God’s kingdom is living in his will:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord”! Will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
“I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30)
God’s kingdom requires great difficulty getting in:
“it is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)
The “troubles” are primarily the struggle in our inner man between our will and God’s will. Those who abide in his kingdom abide in his will. We wrestle with God much like Jacob did until we relinquish our will to do his will. If we stay the course and overcome our will unites with God’s will.
“And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.” (1John 2:17).
Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise. (Rev 2:7).
When we live in God’s will we manifest the works of God! We are not saved by our “own works” we are saved by dying to them allowing the works of God to be manifest in us. God has not asked us to earn our way into his kingdom he asks us to lay our life down for Christ’s sake to live in his kingdom.
“So then, brothers, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. (Romans 8:12-14).
There is a similarity between Paul’s warning to the brethren and God’s warning to Adam and Eve!
“If you live according to the flesh,” (tree of the knowledge of God and Evil) you are going to die!
“All those led by God’s Spirit (wisdom from above) are God’s sons”!
“She (Wisdom) is a tree of life to those who embrace her, and those who hold on to her are happy.” (Proverbs 3:18).
As we listen to the voice of God and follow him our will becomes united with his will. When we live in his will we do the works of God and not our own works. On the Day of Judgment we will be judged by works whether they be “our own works” or “his works”!
“I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books.” (Revelation 20:12).
God preordained two criminals to be crucified next to Jesus to show us we are saved by what is in our heart. Both of these criminals taunted Jesus at first then God shed light to these two men about who was hanging between them. The heart of one did not fear God therefore he could only see Jesus from the perspective of the flesh (human wisdom) thus looking for a savior that would cater to his flesh. The heart of the other feared God thus allowing God to work in him while he hung on the cross next to Jesus. The heart of the saved criminal was receptive to the word of God and it changed him that day his heart reveals what God looks for in the heart of every man and woman.
The heart of God’s Chosen fulfill his purpose no matter what era they live in. Had the saved criminal lived in Cain and Abel’s day his sacrifice would have been as Abel’s, If he would have wondered in the wilderness he would have believed God and crossed the Jordan with Joshua, If he had received the Holy spirit and lived in the church age he would have carried his cross daily and conformed to Jesus death!
The parable of the sower (Luke 8:5) shows us some have a heart to receive God’s word and produce fruit while others do not. God put within the heart of man the freedom to choose what he sets his mind on! This freedom transcends all external circumstances and evil inclinations. Jesus shows us the power of this freedom as he prays to the Father just before being led to the cross.
“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39).
The will of Jesus was not to drink the cup but he chose to do the will of the father. We see two opposing wills and how Jesus’ choice transcended his own will to do the will of the Father.
The works of God were manifest in the saved criminal, he preached a message about the fear of God, respecting God’s laws, humility, a sacrificial heart, identifying with the messiah, and the Kingdom of God! His message has been read by millions of people for about 2,000 years now.
Many have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, gained a wealth of doctrinal knowledge and become passionate in religious endeavors but if our heart does not fear God, respect his laws, have humility, sacrifice for Christ sake , accept and identify with Christ to live in his kingdom it is all to no avail for eternal life!
The sermon “The Heart of God’s Chosen” was written by Ken D’Angelo from Fortunea, CA, June 2010.