The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
March 23, 2014


1) I Am He Who Searches the Heart (Harold Fite)
2) Tired of All the Gimmicks? (Frank Himmel)
3) News & Notes


I Am He Who Searches the Heart
by Harold Fite

Jesus writes to the angel of the church in Thyatira, exposing the wickedness of Jezebel and her sinful teaching.  He pronounces condemnation upon those who condone and participate in her spiritual fornication: "I will kill her children with death; and all of the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto each one of you according to your works" (Rev. 2:23).  

Before commenting on the Lord's ability to "search the hearts," we must determine what it is that he searches.  Many are confused as to the meaning of the word "heart."  Under her column in Parade Magazine, Marilyn writes: "Religions cannot be proved intellectually. They come from the heart."  Marilyn confuses "heart" and "mind."  If religion is from the "heart," where does it come from?  How did it get there?

In denominational vacation Bible school, little four-year-old Mary insisted on placing her hand on the top of her head while the group said the pledge to the American flag.  When her teacher asked her why she did this, she replied: "Well, that's where my heart is. Mother always puts her hand on the top of my head and says Bless your little heart, Mary."  Mary was closer to the truth than Marilyn!  

The heart is the mind, the intellect.  One "thinks in his heart," "understands with the heart," "reasons in his heart," and with the heart man "believes" (Prov. 23:7; Matt. 13:15; Mark 2:7; Rom. 10:10).  When Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart," he had in mind, the mind, a mind clear in understanding; unmixed, without alloy.  When David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," he was praying for a clean, pure mind.  Ezra "prepared his heart," that is, he prepared his mind (Ezra 7:10).  This is the heart that the Lord searches.  

Christ knows the condition of the heart as Nathanael approached him, Jesus said, "Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile" (John 1:48).  The searcher of hearts could see that Nathanael was void of deceit and hypocrisy.  The Lord determined this when he saw him under the fig tree.  In commenting on this passage, Albert Barnes remarked, "How happy would it be if he, who knows the hearts of all as he did that of Nathanael, could bear the same testimony of all who profess the religion of the gospel."

While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover, many believed on his name because of the signs which he did.  "But Jesus did not trust himself unto them, for that he knew all men" (John 2:24).  He needed no testimony from others,  "for he himself knew what was in man" (v. 25).  This Scripture does not say what he saw in the hearts of the multitude that caused him to withhold his trust.  Perhaps he saw a superficial faith based strictly on miracles; an unstable people with a tendency toward fickleness.  Knowing their hearts kept him from trusting them.  

Christ knows the thoughts of the heart.  Jesus entered the synagogue on a Sabbath and taught.  There was a man there who had a withered hand.  The Scribes and Pharisees watched Jesus closely, whether he would heal this man on the Sabbath. They sought opportunity to accuse him. "But he knew their thoughts" (Luke 6:8), and challenged them by restoring the hand.  

When Jesus healed a man possessed with a demon, blind and dumb, all were amazed; but the Pharisees attributed his power to Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Jesus, "knowing their thoughts," replied, "If Satan casteth out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?" (Matt. 12:22-32).  Jesus knows the thoughts of the heart.  

Christ knows the motivation of the heart.  Jesus looks deeper than just the thoughts of the heart.  He has the ability to determine its motivation.  After eating the food Christ had supplied them, the multitude followed him to Capernaum.  Jesus said to them, "You seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled" (John 6:26). If we had seen the multitude following Jesus, we probably would have thought, "My, how they love the Lord; what great interest they have in his teaching."  But he, the searcher of hearts, gave us an accurate assessment of their motivation, because he searches hearts.  Their motivation was materialistic. They followed him for the "loaves and fishes."

Christ knows the reasoning of the heart: When Jesus entered Capernaum, after some days, he healed a man sick of the palsy.  He said to the man, "Son, thy sins are forgiven." Certain of the scribes reasoned in their hearts that Jesus blasphemed.  

"And straightway Jesus, perceiving in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, saith unto them, why reason ye these things in your hearts?" (Mark 2:8).  

Christ was unique.  He was never deceived; never believed a lie; he was never wrong in his assessment of others.  He was, and is, the one and only bonafide "mind reader" for the ages. His eyes were as a flame of fire (Rev. 1:18), penetrating the very thoughts and intents of the heart.  What was the key to his power?  He was from above (John 8:23).  

Only God can search the hearts: "I the Lord searcheth the heart" (Jer. 17:10).  He understands all the imagination of the heart (1 Chron. 28:9).  God knows the secrets of the heart (Ps. 44:21), and knows our contemplations (Ps. 139:2).  "All things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:13).  

By exercising this powerful ability, Christ proved himself God.  "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory as the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).  In him dwelled "the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9).  The family of Deity was bound in a bodily form.  Jesus could say to Phillip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9).  As God in the flesh, he had power to "search the hearts."  This ability cannot be attributed to an ordinary man.  "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him" (1 Cor. 2:11).  We, as ordinary men, cannot know the thoughts of others.  The only way we can know what another person is thinking, is for that person to articulate his thoughts to us.  Should I say to another, with sarcasm, "I know what you are thinking," or to impugn the motive of an action, I take upon myself a prerogative for which I am not qualified.  Should I assume the position of reading minds, I am thinking of myself more highly than I ought to think, and my action is grossly unfair to the one whom I judge. Not so the Lord: "for he himself knew what was in man."

The fact that the Lord searches our hearts, should get our attention.  

-- Via Truth Magazine, November 17, 2005, Volume XLIX, Number 22: http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume49/22- november-17.pdf


by Frank Himmel

People should be insulted by all the gimmicks that churches are offering to draw and to keep them.  Most of it is directed toward families, the children in particular. I speak of all the secular, non-religious, non-spiritual gimmicks -- the picnics, luncheons and suppers, the parties, the sports teams, the fun and games, the square dances, the clubs and socials, the diet and exercise classes, and the fund-raising dinners and bazaars offered by churches.  Classes and services that used to be purely religious are given new appearances with gimmickry.  

Don't the people realize that the churches are saying, in effect, "We know that purely spiritual or religious activities and services, involving worshipping God, teaching and learning His word, edifying and being edified spiritually, are not enough to draw and to keep you.  So we are featuring all these other secular activities in which you are probably more interested and adding a little religion to them and calling them 'Christian fellowship.'  We are willing to compromise to get our crowd."?

So churches cease to be churches and become more like social, recreational, athletic, health, craft clubs.  The Church of Christ is still a church, and we do not resort to gimmickry.  We are trying to be like the churches you read about in the New Testament, not the churches around us.  

The Work of the Church

Christians have God-given work to do, both individually and collectively.  While there is much overlap, passages such as 1 Timothy 5:16 clearly indicate a difference between the two. What does the Bible teach about our collective work?


The Bible teaches that God ordained specific tasks for churches to perform. First-century congregations:

(1) Preached the gospel at home and abroad (1 Th. 1:8). This was done through instruction given in worship assemblies (1 Cor. 14:24-25), by people talking to those with whom they had contact (Acts 8:4), and by sending men out to preach (Phil 4:15-16).  

(2) Built up the members of the congregation. Everything done in worship was to be unto edification (1 Cor. 14:26).  Elders, spiritual shepherds, were charged with feeding the flock (Acts 20:28).  Even severing association was an act of seeking to restore the erring (1 Cor. 5).  

(3) Provided for needy brethren, either at home (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35) or abroad (1 Cor. 16:1-2; Rom. 15:26).  This third area, unlike the others, was not necessarily ongoing, but as needed.  Since the church is a spiritual relationship, it is no surprise that its work is in the spiritual realm.  So much of what modern churches do is conspicuously absent from the pages of the New Testament.  The Bible makes no reference to churches operating schools or day care centers, providing recreational facilities and opportunities, being in the health care business, being a source for counseling and all sorts of social services, or even being a general charity. The fact that something seems like a good thing to us is no justification for altering God's plan. Neither do we have any right to employ carnal means to attract more people.  See John 6 for the result.  


The Bible teaches that Christ equipped the church to accomplish everything He wants it to do.  "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 3:11-12).  

God's provisions are simple, yet sufficient. It is only when we try to involve the church in an unauthorized activity that we find our resources or organization inadequate.  Make no mistake: any argument that says we must go beyond the New Testament model for churches in order to be effective is a denial of the sufficiency of God's design!


The Bible teaches that each church governs itself, planning and executing its own work in keeping with Christ's directions.  Elders' oversight is limited to the flock among them (1 Pet. 5:2).  No New Testament church ever directed the work of another, wholly or in part. None ever planned a work beyond its ability to carry out.  Each did what it could.  

No New Testament church ever paid a human institution to do its work for it.  There were no add-on organizations, no subsidiary "ministries," no missionary boards or societies.  

Let us be busy doing God's work in God's way.  


News & Notes

I recently heard from Linda Blevins.  Her mother, Virginia Fontenot, is now receiving an infusion of avastin every three weeks, along with an oral dose of chemo.  While having previously gone about two months without medication and having surgery to reverse a colostomy, her cancer markers had gone up; but have now come down from 88 to 36.  Linda continues to be with her mother 24 hours a day and says that her mother is too weak to be left alone and especially now that she is also taking avastin, which can increase the risk of a stroke or hemorrhaging.  Let those of us who are Christians continue to remember Virginia in our prayers, as well as Linda and her husband Howard.

Richard Crews will be having rotator cuff surgery April 16.  Let us pray that all will go well for him.

Let us also continue to remember the following in prayer for their health:
Shirley Young, Cheryl Crews, Peggy Lefort, and Terry and Pam MacDonald.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
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