by Mike Ratliff
1 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me;
For I am afflicted and needy.
2 Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man;
O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
For to You I cry all day long.
4 Make glad the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And give heed to the voice of my supplications!
7 In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You,
For You will answer me.
8 There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord,
Nor are there any works like Yours.
9 All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And they shall glorify Your name.
10 For You are great and do wondrous deeds;
You alone are God.
11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Your name forever.
13 For Your lovingkindness toward me is great,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, arrogant men have risen up against me,
And a band of violent men have sought my life,
And they have not set You before them.
15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
16 Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Psalms 86 (NASB)
The pre-Christian era of the Roman Empire (prior to Constantine), was made up of many diverse ethnic groups. Each had its own religious beliefs. The Romans were good at allowing those they conquered to keep their gods as long as they paid homage to Caesar or the Emperor as lord. In most of those cultures, that was no big deal. However, for the Christians who lived within the Roman Empire it was a very big deal. Why? Jesus Christ is Lord! It does not matter who else claims to be lord. It does not matter who or what we elevate to lordship status. Jesus Christ is Lord of all no matter the circumstances. The Roman Empire sent many Christians to their martyrdom because they refused to bow to Caesar’s statue and call him lord. Those who would try to hang on to their beliefs, but save their lives by worshipping Caesar were compromising. I would hate to have been them when they stood before the Lord after they died.
What is an undivided heart? I placed Psalms 86 at the beginning of this chapter. The psalmist was King David. He asked God to unite his heart. What do you suppose that means? Remember, the heart’s makeup consists of the Soul and the conscience. The Soul consists of the mind, the will, and the emotions. The conscience is part of the Spirit of Man. The conscience joins Man’s Soul with his or her Spirit. The Spirit communicates with God. God designed the Soul to express and reflect Him. The lost have no communication with God except via conviction by the Holy Spirit.
In God’s timing, the Holy Spirit makes an effectual call to the elect’s heart. This call regenerates that heart unto a new birth. He gives the heart the faith to believe. This Born Again elect can now communicate with God. He or she can now see their sin for what it is. They now know that it separates them from God who is holy. This realization causes them to repent, turn to Jesus, and believe on Him by exercising their God-given faith. God recognizes this act of faith instantly. He then justifies this Born Again believer then He adopts him or her into His family. This Born Again believer now has open communication with God because the Holy Spirit has regenerated his or heart and He resides in their Spirit. He has washed their Spirit with the blood of Jesus at the moment of salvation. This quickened Spirit begins to communicate with God as designed.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)
All believers’ hearts exist in varying degrees of hardness. Many believers’ hearts are very hard and they are full of unbelief. They are the Flesh-bound. The Spirit-led believers’ hearts are relatively tender. A hard heart is one where there is a tough layer of callousness or hardness between the conscience and the Soul. The believer who has a hard heart like this does not operate entirely within God’s value system because only a muted vision or view of it comes through the hardness. Remember, our value system resides within the conscience. If we are in Christ then our conscience has taken on His value system. The problem is our hearts become harder and harder with each act of disobedience and failure to live up to that value system. Over time, it gets easier and easier to ignore the conscience because the heart has become hard. The conscience has become defiled and impure because of the sin, which is ruling and reigning in the heart of the believer.
The hardhearted believer has a divided heart. This believer is living for self. They can be very religious. Remember, religion is not a valid indicator of genuineness. This type of believer pursues self-gratification in everything they do including religion. Why is self-gratification so vital to them? We are all desperate for fulfillment. The Flesh-bound, hardhearted believer seeks gratification from everything except being in God’s presence. Their hearts’ divided condition is the result of their obstinate resistance to the striving of the Holy Spirit. This resistance results from a defiled conscience. This believer’s flesh is in control. It is predominant over the Spirit. This results in a divided heart, an impure conscience, and little or no lasting fulfillment. Even though they are regenerate, they deliberately choose to disobey God.
A united heart is undivided. It is the heart of the Spirit-led. The Spirit-led’s heart is relatively tender compared to the Flesh-bound’s. The Spirit-led’s heart is united because their Spirit is predominant over their flesh. The Holy Spirit is directing this heart so obedience and genuine repentance is constant. Why? The Spirit-led’s conscience is not walled off. God has circumcised this heart. (Deuteronomy 30:5-7) He has cut through the callousness. God’s value system is not veiled or muted at all. The Spirit-led believer’s value system is God’s. The conscience is heeded. It is pure and undefiled. When the Holy Spirit convicts this heart, the believer responds by heeding their conscience because their value system matches God’s. The Heart of this believer has taken on its intended function of reflecting and expressing God. The Spirit-led does not live for self-gratification. Instead, he or she pursues God’s presence. This believer deliberately, in the power of the Holy Spirit, chooses to obey God.
It must be said that the Spirit-led are not perfect and never will be. There will be good days and bad days. There will be spiritual growth for the rest of their lives. As believers mature in Christ there will be times when God’s wrecking ball is hard at work demolishing the idol and stronghold complexes in the heart. Those times can be quite painful. Why? It is during these times that our OLD MAN sin nature is still fighting back and winning some of the battles with besetting sins. There will be days when we will not be wearing the full armor of God because of self-focus. Without the armor, any strikes by the enemy will cause us to retreat or fall because we are not prepared to stand. That can get ugly.
When I went through U.S. Navy Boot Camp in 1973, I had to go through fire-fighting school. One of the first things the instructors showed us was a run-away fire hose. They had us sit in some wooden bleachers around an open asphalt area where a fire hose was hooked up to a hydrant. They cleared the space then turned on the water. The hose rose up like a snake then began spraying water wildly in every direction. The hose whipped back and forth. It would have injured anyone who tried to grab and stop the chaos. Then the water was turned off. The hose simply fell to the ground and that was that.
After God allowed me to become Spirit-led, I filled my days with godly things and turned away from fleshly, worldly things. This did wonders for my behavior. Why? The reason nothing can compromise our Spirit-led walk is we do not participate in anything outside of God’s will. However, a recurring issue kept cropping up that made little sense to me. The problem resembled that run-away fire hose. Something that was still functioning in my heart whipped around with ugly resentments and anger about things that had happened long ago. Some of the things that I would get upset about never actually happened! Before God took me through all this, these resentments were never a problem.
What was going on? One of the first things we must learn about our wicked hearts is they are truly evil and depraved.
9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB)
Our hearts are desperate for fulfillment. If positive fulfillment is not available then our hearts will go after whatever it can get. Anger, resentment, bitterness, and self-pity are only a few of the negative emotions our hearts will pursue in an attempt for fulfillment. When I stopped going after self-gratification I began starving my OLD MAN sin nature. All he wants is to go full-tilt after self-gratification. He goes after idol construction and service. He is the biggest enemy we have in our pursuit of God.
On those days I was not entirely successful in walking in the Spirit, nor am I to this day. I would get busy or distracted then suddenly find myself holding desperately to a fire hose that was trying to throw me to the ground. I would catch it then call out to God for help and would then get back to walking in the Spirit. Over time, I started thinking I had a stronghold to deal with, but this was a new problem. I had never done this, at least not this way, before I became Spirit-led. Before my salvation, I had a tendency to be bitter and resentful, but after I became a believer that faded away over time. As I thought about it and prayed, I seemed to get it under control. However, it still kept reaching out and clobbering me at times. I would be fine one minute then find myself riding the wild fire hose again. What was going on? Was that root of bitterness still there?
The wild pursuit of negative fulfillment was my OLD MAN sin nature desperately trying to be gratified. I let my guard down with my self-focus and then I would find myself reliving all sorts of bad things and becoming angry, resentful, and bitter. Why did this keep happening? Was Satan or his demons attacking me? Perhaps, but how were they breaking through the armor? No, this was an inside job. My distractions would begin it, I laid aside my armor because I stopped being Spirit-led due to becoming self-confident then the OLD MAN sin nature came out of hiding and attacked like an out-of control fire hose. He was desperately seeking to replant that root of bitterness in my heart. Then God would do His part.
I have become convinced God is participating in this. No, He is not tempting me. He doesn’t do that. After I stumbled into this mess, He would take His hand and squeeze my heart hard so I can see the ugliness inside come oozing out. He would show me what is left to be dealt with. These wild fire hose incidents are not welcome and I usually catch them before they go too far. However, God still squeezes my heart quite often. He allows people to come into my sphere who hit the right buttons and off I go. I have come to understand that these are tests setup by God. In some cases, I have passed these tests very well and have been Christ-like to whomever God was using. However, in other cases I have revealed my divided heart by becoming prideful or self-protective. I do not like this. However, now I know what is going on.
With each test, we are called to surrender again, aren’t we? Yes, we must look at each unpleasant thing that comes our way as a test. When we do that, what will we do? We should go back to the process that brought us into this Spirit-led walk. Remember this?
Walking by Faith
- Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- Come to Jesus (Matthew 11:28)
- Take on the Yoke of Christ (Matthew 11:29)
- Learn what Christ teaches (Matthew 11:29)
- Present our bodies as living sacrifices by the mercies of God (Romans 12:1)
- Keep the Lord’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- Renew our minds and become transformed unto Christ-likeness (Romans 12:2)
- Discern God’s Will and submit to it (Romans 12:2)
Let’s walk through this. I will use myself in this illustration. I have a busy day that started well. I had a good quiet time and treated everyone at work as Jesus would. I had to repent of a few things, but generally, I maintained my focus on God pretty well. It is quitting time and I leave work for a store to pick up something before going home. For some reason everyone is driving stupid! No one will stay in his or her lanes and that person in front of me has no clue about how to move through a traffic light! You get the idea. What is going on here? Two things have happened. I have dropped my focus from God to me. He has taken that as an opportunity to squeeze my heart. What should happen is that I recognize this as a test and jump right back into the Walking by Faith process. If I did, then this is what I would do. First, I suddenly realize I am not god, God is. I fear Him, turn to Jesus, and resubmit to His Lordship by taking up His yoke while listening to the truth He teaches me as I rest in Him. Based upon what He has taught me, I present my body as a living sacrifice by obeying God’s standards as He grants me repentance. This renovates my mind and transforms me unto Christ-likeness, and then I can discern God’s will and submit to it. By doing this, I am renewing the Covenant. Then I calm down, drive through the traffic in complete peace, joy and serenity. My heart is undivided whereas at the beginning of this test it was not.
A divided heart is self-focused. That is not good. If I had responded to God’s squeezing with anger and frustration what would have happened? Well, it would not have done any good. The traffic will not change to what I want just because I want it to. I am not God and I have to give that up. Remember, when we walk in Flesh-bound mode, we are gods. We are doing what we want, the way we want to do it. When we walk in Spirit-led mode, we submit to God, die to self, and follow the Lord wherever He leads us. This is walking within the Covenant. Never forget this truth: when we demand our rights or force everyone to submit to our will, then we have taken God’s place in our hearts. This means we have a divided heart and are Flesh-bound.
Some days seem to be devoted to squeezing. It also seems that on those days, God gives me opportunity after opportunity to be Christ-like to several people who do not deserve it and, amazedly, I am as Christ-like as ever. I may be in turmoil on the inside, but people see Jesus on the outside. Do not get me wrong, sometime when I am squeezed, I do it all wrong and end up having to confess a lot more stuff than I should have had to.
Squeeze days are never pleasant for me. However, I believe God is doing a mighty work in my heart on those days. For some reason we think once we are Spirit-led we should have easy blessed days that have zero problems. Not! Get over that! We are a mess and God is determined to squeeze the division from our hearts. One of the things I do like about squeeze days, though, is the closeness and tenderness I experience with my Lord when I come to Him in my brokenness. Covenant renewal is a blessed time for me.
Our hearts are desperately wicked and depraved if we are Flesh-bound. However, when we are Spirit-led, God Himself has circumcised our hearts. That means we are Walking by Faith with our Spirits predominant over our flesh. That means we walk within the reality that we are not god. Instead, it is expressing and reflecting God. Is the Spirit-led heart wicked and depraved? No it is not, however, if we allow distraction and self-focus to creep in, we revert right back to Flesh-bound mode, which does not take very long.
The maturing Christian heart should be spending less and less time in Flesh-bound mode. However, failure is inevitable, but this believer is working very hard at focusing his or her heart on God as much as possible. It is all by God’s grace. Those failures are short and dealt with God’s way, Repentance with Joy. He or she is treasuring the Treasure. They protect the integrity of their conscience and resist anything that will defile it.
Another term used in the Bible to refer to a divided heart is Double Minded. It even sounds hypocritical doesn’t it? The believer who has a divided heart is double minded. These believers are the bane of the Church. That means their hypocrisy drives others away. They see religion as vital and all-important. However, when God allows stress to come into their lives their true colors show. The following scripture from the Epistle of James contrasts the double minded with the God focused.
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:2-8 (NASB)
A double-minded believer does not believe God. He or she can be quite religious, but when their hearts are squeezed out comes doubt and self-protection. They will not step out on faith. However, a believer with a united, tender heart believes God, prays believing, and goes deep with God by stepping out on faith.
I have seen so many believers who are going through bad times who simply walk away from God because they cannot stand the squeezing. I have also seen many believers who have allowed God to take them through these tests and trials and have come out the other side perfect and complete in their faith. Yes, God hurt them deeply, but this pulverized their hearts, which produced the good soil where Christ-likeness grows with deep roots. These believers cannot be made to stumble in the race God has set before them. They are Walking by Faith and are abiding in Christ. Their hearts are united and undivided. Their conscience is pure and undefiled. God still squeezes their hearts, but they recognize God’s hand doing His good work there and they willingly submit to the refining fires. Why? Their treasure is in their hearts and in Heaven and they treasure it above all. They understand they have entered into a blood covenant with Jesus Christ, which requires them to die to self (lose their self-focus). They are Born Again and justified by faith through grace, which means they are citizens in the Kingdom of God.
Will these believers be bound up in religion? They should be serving in a local church, or in some other ministry, but their focus will not be on religion. It will be on loving and serving their Lord. Their worshipping hearts will live for that. Let us return to John 4. We looked at it in the last chapter about the worshipping heart. Jesus not only witnessed to the Samaritan woman at the well He also revealed a great deal about worship. Read the following passage carefully. Meditate on it. Soak it in. Let Jesus’ words speak to your heart.
1 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. 4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He *came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 There *came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus *said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman *said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She *said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
15 The woman *said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” 16 He *said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” 19 The woman *said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:1-24 (NASB)
Where we worship does not matter to God. He desires true worshippers. What matters to God is who we are and how we live before Him. Who we are means who we are in Christ. “How we live” speaks of how obedient we are to God and whether we are truly citizens of the Kingdom of God (The Born Again) and how obedient we are to Him. We come to know God through correct doctrine so it is vital. For those who know God, His priority for them is to have worshipful and undivided hearts. That means we must become Spirit-led and submit to all of the cleansing and sanctification He does in our hearts.
Those elect who are part of unbiblical churches will not ever have peace there especially if they cooperate with Him in their sanctification. Why? God wants us in churches that nourish us and glorify Him. Therefore, God will draw us into correct doctrinal beliefs because only as we embrace those are we living for His glory. False teachings about God and salvation are heresies and do not lead to His glory. Instead, they cause the spiritual growth of the elect in them to be stunted and misdirected. This mutes God’s glory.
The undivided heart lives for God, loves God, and serves Him with its entire being. It is Spirit-led. Its conscience is pure and undefiled. The soil of this heart is growing finer and more fertile with each act of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Each pulverizing blow of sanctification to the heart breaks up its hardness. With each act of tenderizing God’s values become more and more apparent to the heart. Obedience and humility are growing with deep roots in this heart. Pride is dying away because it can thrive only in the sour and rocky soil of the hard heart of the Flesh-bound.
Soli Deo Gloria!