How can I develop a heart for God?

Thirsty

Passion for God is like thirst for water.

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?” (Psalm 42:1-2).

Do you long for God this way? Do you thirst for God? Do you love being in His presence? In another place, the psalmist prayed,

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

Fellowship with God is as necessary and satisfying as water to those who are thirsty. As thirst is ongoing, so passion for God is unquenchable. When I find joy in God’s presence, I am satisfied with an unsatisfied satisfaction. When I taste and see that the Lord is good (psalm 34:8), I realize I have only tasted of His goodness. I long for more.

The psalmist said to God, “You fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand?” (Psalm 16:11).

Think about it. Soon we will leave this world and enter the presence of God. Do you look forward to being with God? Will it be for you a continuation of the fellowship and joy you find with God in this life?

In this amazing journey of developing a heart for God, some have only recently discovered that it is possible to know God through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life no man comes to the father except through me” (John 17:3). His invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:27-28), has been answered by countless people. We can know God the Father—but only through Jesus Christ, His Son. The Son, our savior, has made the way for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be restored to a right standing with God.

If you have recently turned Jesus Christ as your savior and confessed Him as Lord, it is important to understand that the basis of your relationship with God will always be what Jesus did for you on the cross (see: https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/doomed-without-my-advocate/). Yet God desires to draw you into a deeper knowledge of Himself and a stronger love for Him. As His child, He wants you to be fully devoted to Him—in fact, He requires your undivided allegiance!

Full devotion and total surrender to God should be understood as (what Jesus called) the greatest commandment of the Law. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). This is an all-consuming love for God. It is what God is producing in our hearts (Philippians 2:13).

How does God develop our hearts for Him?

Developing this fully devoted love for God is an adventuresome, joyful and challenging journey. Sometimes it will come through God’s loving discipline. Scripture says, “The Lord disciplines those he loves.” Although God’s discipline at times is painful, it is designed by God to draw us closer to Him, and to remove from our lives obstacles to deeper devotion.

One writer greatly used by God to help people develop a heart for God is the late A.W. Tozer. He reminds us that, “the way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the kingdom are those who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. These are the ‘poor in spirit.’ They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem—that is what the word poor as Christ used it actually means. These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting but by surrendering.” (The Pursuit of God)

Tempted to avoid the hard road?

Listen to Tozer: “Let me exhort you to take this seriously.” Following hard after God, “… is a path chiseled against the steep sides of the mount of God. We dare not try to bypass it if we would follow on in this holy pursuit.”

A powerful illustration:

The challenging side of following hard after God is profoundly illustrated in the Old Testament account of Abraham offering Isaac. I have never read a more perceptive description of this scene than the one by Tozer. Reflect deeply on his words:


“Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From the moment he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms, he was an eager love slave to his son. God went out of his way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand. The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart– the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the year and the long messianic dreams. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood, the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous.”

“It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love. ‘Take now your son,’ said God to Abraham, ‘Your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of’ (Genesis 22:2). The sacred writer spares us a close-up of the agony that night on the slopes near Beersheba when the aged man had it out with his God, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form wrestling convulsively alone under the stars. Possibly not again until One greater than Abraham wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane did such mortal pain visit a human soul. If only the man himself might have been allowed to die. That would have been a thousand times easier, for he was old now, and to die would have been no great ordeal for one who had walked so long with God. Besides, it would have been a last, sweet pleasure to let his dimming vision rest upon the figure of his stalwart son who would live to carry on the Abrahamic line and fulfill in himself the promises of God made long before in Ur of the Chaldees.”

“How could he slay the lad! Even if he could get the consent of his wounded and protesting heart, how could he reconcile the act with the promise, ‘In Isaac shall your seed be called?’ This was Abraham’s trial by fire, and he did not fail in the crucible. While the stars still shone like sharp white points above the tent where the sleeping Isaac lay, and long before the gray dawn had begun to lighten the east, the old saint had made up his mind. He would offer his son as God had directed him to do, and then trust God to raise him from the dead. This, says the writer to the Hebrews, was the solution his aching heart found sometime in the dark night, and he rose ‘early in the morning’ to carry out the plan. It is beautiful to see that, while he erred as to God’s method, he had correctly sensed the secret of God’s great heart. And the solution accords well with the New Testament Scripture, ‘whosoever will lose for my sake shall find’ (Matthew 16:25).”

“God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where he knew there would be no retreat and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, ‘It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’”

“Then heaven opened and a voice was heard saying to him, ‘by myself have I sworn, says the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice’” (Genesis 22:16-18).

“The old man of God lifted his head to respond to the Voice, and stood there on the mount strong and pure and grand, a man marked out by the Lord for special treatment, a friend and favorite of the Most High. Now he was a man wholly surrendered, a man utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his dear son, and God had taken it from him. God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the center. He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. In hurt cruelly, but it was effective.”

“I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he had owned before was his still to enjoy: sheep, camels, heads, and goods of every sort. He had also his wife and his friends, and best of all he had his son Isaac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart which can be learned only in the school of renunciation.”

“Let us never forget that truths such as thse cannot be learned by rote as one would learn the facts of physical science. They must be experienced before we can really know them. We must, in our hearts, live through Abraham’s harsh and bitter experiences if we would know the blessedness which follows them.”“The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough, old miser within us will not lie down and die in obedience to our command. He must be pulled out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence, as Christ expelled the moneychangers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging, and to recognize it as springing out of self-pity, one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart.” (The pursuit of God)

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