What Must I Do?
In Acts 16:30, a very important — indeed an essential question is recorded:
. . . Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
This is not the only place this question or a variation of this question is recorded in the Bible. Each time this question is asked there is an urgency that comes at you through the text. This is not a flippant question. The people who ask this question realize that this is a life-and-death issue.
Today and over the next few weeks, I will present some well-driven nails from the Bible that help to answer that question. Of course you could just look at the next verse (Acts 16:31) to get the general answer, but what I would like to share with you are the facets of the answer:
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ
Have you ever “put your whole heart” into something? Maybe it was a project for work or school. Maybe a relationship. Maybe a passage of the Bible you really wanted to understand. Regardless of what the project was, you put forth persistent effort toward it. You may even have put many other things on hold while you focused on this one project.
Parents often say that they love all of their children with their “whole heart”. But how is that possible? If you have 10 apples and you give away 100% of them, you have nothing left to give. But love is not like that. You can love several people completely — in different ways, and for different reasons.
I’m going to be sharing with you eight “whole hearted” facets of Christian life. Just like parents can love all their children whole-heartedly, these facets are part of a whole not a whole in an of themselves.
To look at them I’ve bunched them into nine “whole-hearted” groups to be able to discuss them a little more easily.
As you may have figured out, this study revolves around the phrase “with all your heart” which I first noticed it when I was reading the book of Joel. The text had some connection with another passage I was pondering. Then during that same week, I was listening to the book of Deuteronomy while eating breakfast, and I noticed that the same phrase “with all your heart” kept occurring. This was a bit surprising because I had always associated the book of Deuteronomy with laws and regulations. I was intrigued. So I looked up the phrase in my electronic NKJV Bible — I was shocked. The phrase occurs 20 time in the NKJV, and 16 of those 20 uses are found in the book of Deuteronomy.
I had to investigate, and here is what I found.
Seek the Lord
The first use of the phrase occurs in Deuteronomy chapter 4 and verse 29. Now I was expecting it to be linked with obeying the law — this is the book of Deuteronomy after all. So I was surprised to find this:
But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
That is the first action we are told to do with all our hearts — seek God. But that makes sense, doesn’t it. We might think that we should obey first, but think about the Garden of Eden. When the couple had disobeyed and were hiding from God, what was the first thing they needed to do? Seek God. They could not mend their disobedience. They tried to cover it up and excuse it, but they could not mend it.
Centuries later, people were still running and hiding from God, even those He called and equipped especially to draw others to Him. So He inspired Jeremiah to remind them.
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for me with all your heart. (Jer. 29:13)
In this command is a wonderful promise — if we seek, we are guaranteed that we will find Him. Isn’t that great?! There have been many things that I have sought hoping that I would find them, but here is a certainty. You and I will find God if we will seek Him with all our hearts.
Love the Lord
What do you think happens once we find Him? We love Him. He is the One altogether lovely, so this shouldn’t be hard, but we can get distracted. So the Lord, in His love for us, has left us some reminders.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deut. 6:5)
This is powerful, so powerful in fact that when Jesus himself quoted it, each of the authors of the synoptic Gospels included it.
Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30)
So He answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ “ (Luke 10:27)
I don’t think that any Christian would disagree with the premise that loving God is essential. And I believe that most Christians would say that of course they love God supremely. But I have a nagging suspicion that we get distracted very easily. So God did not just say this once. Jesus Himself reminded us, but it was also repeated in the book of Deuteronomy two more times, making it the most repeated use of this phrase within the book.
. . . you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 13:3)
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deut. 30:6)
I think it is wonderful that God, knowing our tendency to forget, reminds us over and over again. But He does more than that. Look again at the last text, Deut. 30:6.
He makes it possible for us to love Him. We don’t actually have the capacity to truly love God.
Let me illustrate with a story.
Corrie ten Boom was a Holocaust surviver. She was not Jewish, but she helped Jews, who were fleeing the advancing German forces during World War II, by hiding them in her home in The Netherlands. She and her sister were eventually caught and were put into a concentration camp. While there, Corrie’s beloved sister died.
Corrie survived because of a clerical error (I believe an act of providence by God). She was “accidentally” released the day before all the women her age were executed in that camp.
After the war Corrie began to travel and talk about God’s love and the need for forgiveness in order to heal from the traumatic events of the preceding years. One evening after her lecture, a man she immediately recognized walked down the aisle with several other people to thank her for the presentation. He had been one of the cruel guards at the camp in which she and her sister had been imprisoned. He had mocked them and watched them, along with thousands of other women, walk naked into the showers.
Suddenly, Corrie felt herself become rigid. And when the man, who did not recognizer her, held out his hand to shake hers, she couldn’t move. She did not want to forgive him. Her sister had died. She had been humiliated, abused, and very nearly killed herself. Yet as she stood there, she realized that she was unwilling to do what she had just told hundreds of people to do. She tried to will herself to shake the man’s hand — she couldn’t move.
In desperation of her own weakness, she silently cried out to God. She needed His love to love and forgive this man who represented to her all of the pain that had been inflicted upon her. As she asked for God’s love, she receive it. All of a sudden her arm lifted, and she found herself shaking hands with the man who had tormented her. She found herself thankful that he too was being healed by the God whom she loved so dearly.
When God asks us to love Him with all our hearts, He asks us to do something that is beyond our ability. He asks us to do the impossible, so that we are forced to recognize our dependance upon Him for even the most basic task of loving Him.
So what whole-hearted facet comes next, do you think?