September 9th

Pleasing God from the Heart

1 "Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Tell my people Israel of their sins! 2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to hear my laws. You would almost think this was a righteous nation that would never abandon its God. They love to make a show of coming to me and asking me to take action on their behalf.

3 'We have fasted before you!' they say. 'Why aren't you impressed? We have done much penance, and you don't even notice it!'"I will tell you why! It's because you are living for yourselves even while you are fasting. You keep right on oppressing your workers. 4 What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. 5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like a blade of grass in the wind. You dress in sackcloth and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? 6 "No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. 7 I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

8 "If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. 'Yes, I am here,' he will quickly reply."Stop oppressing the helpless and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as day. 11 The LORD will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Your children will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as the people who rebuild their walls and cities.

13 "Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don't pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD's holy day. Honor the LORD in everything you do, and don't follow your own desires or talk idly. If you do this, 14 the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honor and give you your full share of the inheritance I promised to Jacob, your ancestor. I, the LORD, have spoken!" Isaiah 58 NLV

One of the ways our walk with God can be sabotaged is through religious hypocrisy.  Somewhere along the line, the Israelites moved away from God into an outward form of religious devotion.  Their hearts were far from God, who wasn’t fooled by their pious show.  While they were fasting unto the Lord, they continued to oppress or ignore the poor, mistreat their employees, speak evil things about people and fight amongst themselves.  They hardened their hearts and prevented God’s word from changing their ways.  They embraced a predictable pattern of outward religious devotion that was easier than truly surrendering their whole lives to God’s control. As a result, God was not hearing their prayers nor blessing their land. 

Similarly, as we walk with God, we can be tempted to close our hearts off to God at any moment.  The temptations may come when:

If we take the bait of such temptations and turn our hearts away from God, we’ll be walking into trouble.  Often, the shift of heart can be very subtle, especially if we continue to go to church, have our quiet times and do whatever else we’ve been doing as part of our Christian walk.  Even though our actions suggest that we’re still loving God, as with the Israelites, our hearts can be far from him. 

If you have secretly turned your heart away from God, while continuing an outward form of religion, there is hope for recovery.  God is calling you back to a true walk with him. Take time to identify the root cause(s) that led you away from God.  Confess and repent from your sin in the matter.  Invite God into your heart now and let down any barriers you’ve erected against him.  Surrender the areas of rebellion to his authority and rule.  Invite the Holy Spirit to rekindle a fire of passion for God in your whole heart.  Ask for his lifeblood to flow in your spiritual veins once again.  Now, thank him and praise him as you move out to do good works from the heart for his kingdom.

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord God, Thank you for welcoming me back to you with open arms, just like the father of the prodigal son.  I repent from rebelling against you and closing my heart off to you.  Please forgive me for my sin.  I lift up the situation that caused me to turn away from you right now and ask for understanding about it. (pause for a moment to listen)  Thank you, Father.  Please strengthen my faith and my resolve to follow you with my whole heart.  I surrender the areas of former rebellion to your control and invite you to fill every area of my being.  Holy Spirit, please rekindle a passion for God in me and fill me with your life. I thank you and praise you, Lord God!  I will look for your hand moving in the situations around me and obey your promptings.  To you be all the glory, and honor, and power forever, Amen.”