Growing up, I looked at Christians as people who seemingly did nothing wrong and looked down at anyone who did. Nothing about that seemed appealing to me, so I came to the conclusion that God was not appealing. It was not until I read the Bible for myself that I realized that God was not interested in good behavior and in fact loved and cared about me for who I was. He believed in me and wanted me to grow. He gave me the desire and ability to change who I was, not just my actions. He had a different destiny for me.
A Different Destiny
We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.  From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters. As for those He chose beforehand, He called them to a different destiny so that they would experience what it means to be made right with God and share in His glory.
Romans 8:28, 30 Voice
I believe when we accept God’s invitation to follow his destiny for our life, we live the most fulfilling way possible. However, the longer I have been a Christian, I have realized the ease of falling into the behavior trap instead of focus on God’s destiny and power of change.
God gets nothing out of us going through the motions, like just showing up at church, so he gave us the Bible to help us evaluate our hearts and our motives. This Bible study will help you see where your focus is at with God and how to focus on heart instead of behavior.
Inside instead of Outside
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
- People look at outward appearance, but God cares about the inside. If you are going to choose to look at heart, you need to put effort into your inside, instead of your outside.
- How much effort do you put into looking good in your appearance? Some examples are how you dress, how fit you are, how good your hair looks, etc.
- How does that compare to how much effort you put into changing your heart? How you feel, your attitude about life, what you think?
Conviction instead of Compliance
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:  “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?  These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:20-23 NIV
- When you follow rules (compliance) your heart will never change and you will constantly need someone else to motivate you. The goal God has for us to to build deep convictions which leads to heart change.
- Do you have any rules you follow just because you believe you should? Maybe it comes along with the feeling of “I don’t want to get in trouble” or “I don’t want people to think bad of me.”
- Are there any sins you have a hard time changing in your heart? Jealousy, greed, anger, lust, bitterness.
Joy instead of the Grind
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
Isaiah 29:13 NIV
- The life of a Christian is inspiring and fun when we are close to God. If we are experiencing a grind, it is a sign we are far from God and only worshiping in action.
- What are your emotions about God? Do you trust God? Do you enjoy spending time with Him?
- Do you need people to motivate you to read the Bible? Follow the Bible? Pray?
Lasting Change instead of Short Term Change
I began telling people that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God and do things to show they really had changed. I told this first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem, and in every part of Judea, and also to the other people.
Acts 26:20 NCV
- Real change begins in the heart and produces a change in what you do.
- We cannot turn to God without really changing our hearts.
- What is something you have had a hard time changing or producing lasting change in?
- How can you turn to God instead of just trying to change your behavior?
God’s Desires instead of Selfish Desires
After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
Acts 13:22 NIV
- The closer we are to someone, the more we enjoy the things they enjoy. This goes with God as well.
- What is something you have started to enjoy just because God has inspired you about it?
- What is something you know God would be happy about that you could do?
God’s Word instead of Your Words
For the word of God is alive and active.Sharper than any double-edged sword,it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:12-13 NIV
- The Bible helps us all to see what is really going on in our hearts so we can change it.
- Only God’s Word can identify and helps us change the weaknesses and sins that have been a part of us for so long
- What sins do you need the Bible’s help to cut out of your heart? What thoughts and attitudes that you have make you feel negatively about God?
- What can you be honest about that God knows already to let the Bible get to your heart?
God-Focus instead of People-Focus
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 NIV
- Our motives can show who you are focused on pleasing, either God or people.
- Who have you been jealous, envious, or bitter toward? What does this show about your motives?
- Choose 1-2 of these areas above to focus on today – how can you choose to focus on your heart instead of your behavior?
- Have an honest conversation with God and another person about your heart and what you need to do to change it.
Further Study: Take time to learn lessons from the following Scriptures
- 1 Samuel 13:14 — What kind of heart pleases God?
- Jeremiah 3:15 — What kind of heart does He desire in leaders?
- 1 Kings 11:4 — What kinds of things turn your heart from God?
- 2 Kings 23:25 — What is the key to turning back to God?
- Acts 13:22 – How do we know if we have a heart for God? How did David develop a heart after God’s?