A Heart Test

During the month of Valentine’s Day commercials advertising online dating websites will doubtless be filling our television screens (if there’s any time available between the HUGE auto sales spots!).  Some of these sites simply ask people for their name, address, occupation, and phone number and ‘match’ them with others in their geographic area that have signed up for their services.  (What could go wrong?)  Other websites stress a more involved and discerning approach in that their members must take a personality test.  Based on the results of the questions asked the organizations claim that they can tell what’s inside of a person’s heart and ‘harmonize’ them with someone of a similar heart, thereby increasing the likelihood of a good and perhaps lasting relationship.

Now, someone might rightly wonder whether or not the contents of a personality test can really reveal the matters of the heart.  Well, good news, matchmaking isn’t my forte and I’m not going to ask you to take one of those tests today.  However, I am going to ask you to take a scriptural test from Psalm 122, written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by David, the “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), that without question reveals matters that should be on the heart of every believer.

A Heart For Being In God’s Place (Psalm 122:1)…As most of you know, I love song lyrics.  I remember a short chorus we used to sing in church when I was in my early teens.  It began by quoting from Psalm 122:1 in declaring, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord.”   It repeated that phrase over and over with slight musical modulations until we transitioned to the second verse which ran the phrase “I rejoiced when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord” through the same musical notes.  The third verse didn’t deviate much as it exuberantly stated “I came running when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord.”  Now I don’t think the tune ever climbed towards the top of Christian Radio charts.  And, truth be told, I myself don’t tend to like 7-11 songs (that is, songs with seven words that we repeat eleven times!).  That having been said, it expressed, and rightly so, the clear truth that a child of God ought to have a heart for being in the house of God!

So many people groups who profess to be Christians aren’t exactly part of King David’s “I-was-glad-to-go-to-church-er’s” movement.  Who are these people groups you might ask?  Well, first we begin with the “it’s-come-to-this-er’s.”  These are folks who don’t want to be in God’s house but might come through the door, maybe even down to the altar, when times in their life are so tough that they’re down to last resort measures.  Then, there’s the “if-nothing-else-comes-up-er’s”, (sometimes known as the “if-absolutely-nothing-else-comes-up-er’s”—there’s essentially really not that much difference between the two groups and the latter designation is usually more accurate in its description).  People in this group may even say they want to be in church, but seldom end up inside the building because something else (something very important of course) always comes up.  While something may genuinely come up from time to time, it’s more truthful to say that if something always comes up that these folks are more likely always coming up with something.  Next, we have the “I’m-more-spiritual-than-others-er’s” (I know that’s a lot of “er’s”, but these folks really are in “er”).  This group used to go to church, and maybe even wanted to go in times past, but now they’ve grown so spiritual that they need not go to the house of the Lord forevermore—I meant anymore!  I would say they have a point if it weren’t for the fact that, barring physical incapability, Scripture commands us to be in fellowship with other believers (Heb. 10:25) and that Jesus, Paul, Peter, John (okay, all the other leaders in the Bible) made it their custom to be in church.  I’m unsure how one can be seen as spiritual at all when they break God’s clear commands and I certainly don’t know how one considers themselves more spiritual than Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and all the rest.  (*Please note: the “I’m-more-spiritual-than-others-er’s” are closely linked to the “church-is-filled-with-hypocrites-er’s”, the “I-know-more-than-the-preacher-er’s”, and the “I-can-get-more-church-on-tv-and-books-er’s”).  Now we come to the “I-have-to-go-to-church-er’s”.  These folks at least end up in God’s house on a regular basis, but their heart isn’t much in it.  They view going to church as a task that buys them some insurance from bad things happening to them and checks off a box on a spiritual checklist form.  However, unfortunately, being in God’s house, as well as most other of the commandments of the Lord is more a duty to them than a delight.

King David, the man after God’s own heart, was glad when they said unto him “let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1) and yearned to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).  If we are to have a heart like that of our Heavenly Father, then we should pine for the same and enter church with gladness of heart.  Let’s be a part of the “I-was-glad-to-go-to-church-er’s” movement!

A Heart For Giving God Praise (Psalm 122:4)…I tuned the channel to some “Christian” TV recently (I put the word “Christian” in quotation marks because very little of what claims to be Christian TV actually is Christian anymore).  I saw a preacher in a large building speaking to a large congregation.  I say speaking, but shouting is the better word to describe it (nothing wrong with shouting—God’s not deaf, but He’s not nervous either!).  He seemed quite disturbed and was getting on to his congregants about the fact that “the church had to put on a light show and use fog machines in order to get them to really get into the praise and worship.”  (I only watched for a minute or two; I’m sure if I had kept viewing just a little longer there would have been an apology from him for yielding to the pressures to give them the light shows and fog machines!)  I had seen this particular preacher a few times in the past and don’t consider him to be a Bible-centered minister, but I do think he was onto something with half of what he said during this message.  People are often moved more by worldly sensations and emotions than they are by genuine affections for the things of God.  The half of his message I didn’t agree with was that the light shows and fog machines actually got the people “into” worshipping God.  Light shows and fog machines get people “into” light shows and fog machines.  King David did not need such contrivances to enter into praising God.  He gladly and wholeheartedly fulfilled the ordinance to “give thanks to the Name of the LORD” (Psalm 122:4).  If we are to have a godly heart, then we should be quick and eager to praise and worship Christ openly, without reservation, in spirit and in truth!

A Heart For Coming To God In Prayer (Psalm 122:6)…I must confess, of the three “heart tests” we’ll discuss from Psalm 122, the heart for prayer is the toughest one for me.  I’ve been in church since I was knee high to a grasshopper.  Although there have been times that going to the house of the Lord have been more difficult than others for various reasons, I have seldom had a hard time having a heart to be in church.  I’ve loved to sing gospel songs long before I knew what most of the lyrics meant.  Giving heartfelt praise to God has, thankfully, also mostly not been an issue for me throughout the years.  However, prayer is something that has, at more times than I like to admit, been more of a discipline than a delight to me.  I’m not sure why that is, and I pray to God that I would grow in this as well as every other area of Christlikeness.  But I recently received some encouragement, as well as conviction, through the lyrics of a hymn that I’ll share with you in closing.

The second verse of the old song teaches, “sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, thy wings shall my petition bear, to Him whose love and faithfulness, engage the waiting soul to bless; and since He bids me seek His face, believe His word, and trust His grace; I’ll cast on Him my every care, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.”  We should view time in prayer to God as sweet.  We should be convinced that our Father hears our prayers because we have come to Him through the new and living way of the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit promised to believers.  We should be humbly honored at the thought that God not only will hear our prayers, but wants to hear our prayers as He “bids us to seek His face, believe His Word, and trust His grace.”  We should be comforted to know that we can cast our every care upon Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  David, the man after God’s own heart, had a heart for prayer and he as well as the Lord calls us to have the same.