Preparing Our Hearts for Jesus

I know it is strange to think about Christmas at the end of August, but sometimes we are reminded of some of the great Christmas hymns as we ponder God and how we see Him. One of my favorite Christmas hymns brings a connection between Christ’s coming into history and into our hearts. The hymn goes: “Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown when Thou camest to earth for me. But in Bethlehem’s home there was found no room for Thy holy nativity. O come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee.”

I often hear people use the phrase “Ask Jesus into your heart” in becoming a Christian. This made me wonder what that really meant, to ask Jesus into your heart. Was it something symbolic? Was it something literal? As I pondered what it meant, some different thoughts and ideas came to mind.

I think this question is important because Scripture says in Roman 8:9, “Anyone who doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ doesn’t belong to him.” This is the greatest tragedy of this life and the next.

Paul, in his writing, was constantly reminding his readers who were Christians, how they came to be saved. Throughout the book of Romans, Paul reminds his readers that their “old selves” were crucified with Jesus so that we might no longer be enslaved to sin. He goes on in 1 Corinthians to tell us that we were called by God, not by worldly wisdom. In the book of Galatians, we are told that we received the Word by faith. And in Ephesians, Paul tells us that we were once dead in our sins but then through Christ, we were made alive.

As I thought about this, it reminded me again of how important Jesus is in my own life. It brings God’s Spirit closer to me. It deepens my security in the love of God and it makes me more eager to tell others about Jesus.

In Matthew 16, Jesus and His disciples ventured into the District of Caesarea Philippi, an area about 25 miles NE of the Sea of Galilee. The region had tremendous religious implications. The place was littered with the temples of the Syrian gods. Here also was the elaborate marble temple that had been erected by Herod the Great, father of the then ruling Herod Antipas. Here also was the influence of the Greek gods. Here also the worship of Caesar as a God himself. You might say that the world religions were on display in this town. It was with this scene in the background that Jesus choose to ask the most crucial questions of his ministry.

He looked at his disciples and in a moment of reflection said: “Who do men say that I am?” The disciples begin sharing with Jesus what they have heard from the people who have been following Jesus: Some say that you are Elijah; others say John the Baptist, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

It’s always been this way, Jesus, as seen by the masses, is seen in so many different ways. In most circles, you can speak of Jesus as a good man, a holy prophet, a holy man, teacher, or spiritual leader, and few will object. Others who do object will affirm the view that He was a lunatic, the leader of a radical fringe of Judaism. But to even fewer, to speak of Him as Son of God, divine, of the same nature as the Father, and people will line up to express their disapproval.

Who do people say He is? Who do you say He is? This is probably the most important question in history.

So in light of Jesus’ question, how do we prepare our hearts for Jesus? Firstly, we need to know what it means to receive Christ for who He really is.

I want us to imagine that you are at home preparing dinner. Your doorbell rings and says it is a famous person, say Billy Graham. You swing your door open, give him your best seat, serve him your best food on your best dishes – you make a big fuss over him. then you discover it isn’t Billy Graham. Then he asks why you are making such a big fuss over him and you say, “I thought you were Billy Graham.” What have you done for your guest? You have belittled him. He thought you were honoring him, but in reality, it was for someone else because you didn’t recognize him for who he was.

That is the way it is if we try to receive Christ in our hearts without knowing who He really is. He isn’t honored by our ignorance. You can’t honor someone by bestowing favors on them or mistake them for someone they really aren’t.

We receive Christ in a way that honors Him, in a way that saves, when we recognize Him for who He really is. We must see His glory and agree in our heart that He is indeed worthy of our trust and obedience.

So when Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus blesses Him for that answer because it didn’t come from himself or others, but that God revealed to Peter that Jesus was truly that person – the long-awaited Messiah.

Humanity was created for relationship. The ultimate relationship we were made for was with God Himself. So the question I leave for each of us today is this: “Have you prepared your heart for Jesus?” If you have, rejoice because you are now His child and will spend eternity with Him. If you have not, I would encourage you to take the time to examine who Jesus claimed to be and if what you discover leads you to answer as Peter did, then allow Him into your heart so that you too may experience the promise of eternal life with Him.


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