This week I learned the heartbreaking news of a fellow gospel preacher who has fallen away from the faith. Though I was not close to him, I had been aware of his work and influence for years. He has led his family to a fellowship church where he had the opportunity to share his reasoning for leaving the “churches of Christ”, as he described. In his lesson, one main point that he made in reference to grace was how King David is described as a man after God’s “own heart” (Acts 13:22), and yet David committed some very egregious sins. The false teacher’s conclusion was that, like David, as long as we are trying, and penitent of our sins along the way, then holding fast the Apostle’s doctrine is not necessary. I wish he was alone in his thoughts and conclusions, but unfortunately, I’ve heard this line of reasoning many times through the years. Here are three questions to consider in combatting that false way.
- If it doesn’t matter, then why was it commanded? As a parent, if I don’t care what my kids do then I don’t give them any instructions/commands/laws. However, whenever I do provide instruction, inherent within that instruction is importance/value. If it weren’t important (purposeful/useful/necessary), I wouldn’t be providing it. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… teaching them (disciples) to observe all that I commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) If the Apostolic instruction didn’t matter, Jesus wouldn’t have commanded it.
- If it doesn’t matter, then why is set as a “standard”? As a parent, the rules for one child are the rules for all. The rules in the house are a standard. The same is true in the church. If it doesn’t matter “how” things are done in the church as long as they are done from the heart; why doesn’t the N.T. ever reveal that? On the contrary, when it comes to the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Spirit goes “back to the beginning” to show the Corinthians the proper way in which it was to be taken. (I Cor. 11: 23) Likewise, with the contribution, He didn’t say, “Do it however you want”; but rather, stated “as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.” (I Cor. 16:1) In fact, this was the very reason Paul sent Timothy to the church at Corinth. Not to make sure they were doing whatever they wanted however they wanted, but to, “remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” (I Cor. 4:17) It is obvious to the honest heart and mind this is patternistic.
- How can you prove you have a heart for God by ignoring (disregarding) God’s will? As a parent, how can my children prove they honor me by dishonoring me? It’s impossible. How can they prove they love me by being disobedient, lawless, disrespectful? They can’t. We prove our love/honor by obedience. What James said by inspiration of the Spirit about “faith”, can be equally said of “love”, “Show me your love for God without law-keeping (obedience), and I’ll show you my love for God by my obedience.” Of course, people want to distinguish law-keeping from obedience, but how is that possible?
All of this; however, goes back to a perversion of what it meant for David to be a “man after God’s own heart” anyway. The phrase is not tied to David’s penitence from sin, but instead his abstinence from idol worship. This is clearly seen with David’s son, King Solomon, whom the Lord promised He would bless generationally, “ if you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked.” (I Kings 3:14) David here, by the usage of the word “as”, is set up as a standard. Yet we see later that God condemns Solomon, “And Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.” (I Kings 11:6). The Lord goes on to explain His grievance of Solomon specifically in that Solomon built idols and allowed them to be worshipped.
The kingdom was divided because of Solomon’s sin. The first king of Israel would be Jeroboam, and Jeroboam was specifically told that he was being blessed with Israel, “because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon; and they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and observing My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did.” ( I Kings 11:33) This is a theme throughout the chronologies of the Kings of Israel (northern kingdom) and Judah (southern kingdom). Jeroboam (I Kings 11:38; 14:7-9), Jehoram (II Chron. 21:12-13) , Abijam (I Kings 15:1-5), Jehoshaphat (II Chron. 17:3-6), Ahaz (II Kings 16:2-4), Hezekiah (II Kings 18:1-4), Josiah (II Kings 22:1-2) are all described against the standard of King David as having followed the Lord fully or not, specifically in relation to idol worship. So no, being a man after God’s own heart like David doesn’t mean we can forsake the ways of the Lord; to the contrary, it means we must follow them!
To be someone after the heart of God can only describe someone who honors, respects, obeys, and loves God. How can you have a heart for God without following His commandments? (I John 5:3; II John 1:6) God is after your heart. He’s given you His Son to die for you (John 3:16), and He’s given you the gospel to obey. (Mark 16:16) Are you after His? Then obey it.