New Hope Notes
A Reachable and Teachable Heart
Pastor Randy Furushima
Today we are going to talk about having a reachable and teachable heart. God wants us to have such a heart because that is the only way we can grow and be led by Him. God leads you by teaching you, so keep an open heart. In order to learn, the teacher cannot just pour the knowledge into your brain, the knowledge has to reach your heart from the brain so that you truly inherit the knowledge. The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 demonstrated a good example of having a reachable and teachable heart. It was written, “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: ‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.’ The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” (Acts 8:26-40)
It is very important that we have a reachable and teachable heart when facing this New Year 2012. There are going to be obstacles and challenges in our finances, employment and physical wellness. And God will give you the strength to withstand and overcome all these obstacles and challenges. He promised to guide you and teach you but you won’t be able to receive His instruction if your heart is not reachable and teachable. Although we cannot foretell what is lying ahead, we do for sure know that we can prepare our hearts so we allow God to reach us and teach us. When we can receive from Him, we will be able to face anything coming along the way. You don’t need to be perfect. If you heart is hardened now but reachable, God will soften it up.
It was written, “When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:42-47) We can observe what Jesus did here when he was sitting among the religious teachers in the temple. He first listened, then asked questions, and third He answered the questions from the teacher. He would have known more than the teachers did but He still listened carefully and asked questions. He did that to reach out to the teachers. And similarly, He is reaching our hearts the same way. He is sitting in our hearts listening to us. All we need to do is to be honest with Him so that He can reach us and give us answers. The scripture said, “Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” (Psalm 25:4-5) It was written by King David. He asked God to lead him by His truth and teach him. As he asked for God to teach Him, God gave him leadership so David could apply what he learned from God. It will be the same for us, when we let God reach us and teach us, He will give us leadership to apply what we learn and we can grow in the midst of it. Every one of us always has room to grow and learn more. Our acceptance of Jesus is like the moment we graduated from college. When we graduate, the graduation ceremony is actually a commencement. The graduates are commenced to use their knowledge to start out their journey in the society. So graduation is never an end, but a beginning of a life. Thus, when we accepted Jesus, we were commenced to begin something for God in our lives, and we get to experience who God is in the journey. But we can only succeed with reachable and teachable hearts, because we won’t be able to do anything without following and receiving God’s instructions. There are four rules we can follow in preparing our hearts.
FOUR CLUES TO FOSTER A REACHABLE AND TEACHABLE HEART
The first one is:
1) Follow your heart without COMPROMISE.
When it comes to things that matter to God’s principles, we can never compromise regardless of the situation. Let’s look at Philip’s situation in Acts 8 again. God spoke to Philip and asked him to go south. He did it very clearly and did not confuse Philip. Philip did not know the purpose but he followed the instruction without compromise. From this incident, we learn that God must speak to us clearly and He will give specific instructions, and we just have to follow without compromise. I just experienced receiving God’s specific and clear instruction last week. When I was cleaning up my house, I found a plaque that was given to me by a coworker named Bill Litman many years ago. He gave me this plaque as a going away gift at the time. On the plaque, it said, “God never closes one door without opening another”. And this plaque has encouraged and ministered to me all these years though I had lost touch with Bill since then. I have gone through moments that God closed the doors but I was reminded that God would open new ones and God really did at the end every time. Since this plaque has ministered to me in such a great way, God spoke to me and asked me to find Bill and give thanks to him. However, I didn’t know how I could find Bill because we had lost touch with each other for many years. But I followed the instruction without compromise by starting off googling Bill’s name. There were of course a lot of results coming up. I finally narrowed down to one result that seemed to be the Bill Litman I had known. So I emailed that Bill Litman and told him how much the plaque meant to me all these years and thanked him. I emailed him on December 30, 2011. After I sent the email, I was concerned that I may have emailed someone that was not the right person. Then on the other day which was December 31, 2011, I received a reply from that Bill Litman I had emailed previously, and it turned out that this was the right Bill Litman! In his reply, he also thanked me for the impact I had on him and his wife because he had become a pastor! I was in awe because I had not realized that I had influenced him in such a wonderful way! But knowing how he and his wife are now really encouraged me and blessed me. And God wanted me to re-connect with Bill because He wanted to bless me through Bill. I am just amazed with God’s instruction and His purpose. And I can only receive such blessing by following Him without compromise. God will call you specifically and clearly when we are reachable and receptive. How do we know that we are not compromising God while following our hearts? You need to make sure that you:
· Then faithfully DEVOTE yourself to God’s word.
Without God’s words as your ground rules, you might end up following your own passion that is not in agreement with God’s instruction. So we need to devote ourselves to God’s words, and have our passion rooted in God’s words. That is why we need to do our daily devotions and read His words so we will not compromise God’s teaching. While we follow without compromise, we also need to:
2) Practice honesty and HUMILITY of the heart.
Philip followed God’s instruction by walking alongside the chariot and staying next to it. In the old days, people read the scripture out loud no matter whether they understood or not, because it’s a privilege to be able to read the scripture, and it would benefit those who couldn’t read as those illiterate could listen to the readings. As the eunuch was reading out loud, Philip asked the eunuch whether he understood what he was reading with honestly and humility. And the eunuch also answered with honesty and humility, as he honestly told Philip that he didn’t understand because no one explained to him. This eunuch even invited Philip into the chariot so that Philip could teach him. He was humble and ready to be taught when Philip reached him. And this led him to receiving the Good News of Jesus that Philip was about to give him. When we don’t have an answer, we just need to be honest and humbly tell God and those who can teach us, so we allow ourselves to be reached and be taught. While we honestly and humbly tell others what we don’t know, we also shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.
3) Increase your desire to ask QUESTIONS that matter to you.
When you ask questions, it is a gesture of willingness to learn. It’s not a sign of being weak or ignorant. You ask because you want to know more. The eunuch wanted to know whether Isaiah was talking about himself or someone else so he asked Philip. Philip practiced listening like Jesus did, and as he listened, he knew what answer the eunuch was seeking, and Philip gave the answer that addressed his question. Philip didn’t answer something else and did not go on preaching something that was not related to the eunuch’s question. And the eunuch also got his answer and was able to receive Jesus at the end. He was able to know Jesus and accept Jesus because he was reachable and teachable when Philip showed up. It is the same for us, we need to ask God the questions and God will always start with where you are at. God will answer you and guide you because it’s His desire to teach you a lot; you just need to keep an open heart so you can be led by Him in this New Year.
I have studied the difference between cults and Christian communities in the past. And I found that cults discouraged questions. They would gather and the teacher would keep teaching without allowing any questions from the audience. However, Christian communities welcome honesty and freedom of questions. It’s because we are all the same and none of us has entitlement. We all are covered by God’s grace and we all have the same right to learn what we want to know in God. So questions are welcomed in Christian communities because that is the way we get to learn more and receive more in God. God will definitely come to meet you when you are honest with Him. This might cause pain and the process could be hard, but you will receive and learn a lot as long as your heart is right. And as you are progressing in your learning, you will need to:
4) Take a STEP toward change.
As the eunuch learned about Jesus, he took a step toward change by asking to be baptized. It was because the eunuch wanted to follow God’s instruction and was ready to step forward and be transformed by God. As we follow God’s instruction and get transformed, we will be led to His joy:
· Because transformation leads to JOY.
There are going to be obstacles and challenges in this New Year but we can overcome them with God’s guidance. All we need to do is to let Him reach our hearts and receive His teaching. Therefore, let’s start this New Year with a commencement, and begin with a reachable and teachable heart, so that God can speak to us, reach us and teach us. Let’s make it your New Year resolution and this change will only lead you to joy. Amen.
1. Why is a reachable and teachable heart so important?
2. How do we know we are not following our hearts without compromising God’s teaching?
3. What kind of heart do we need to practice so we can be reached by God?
4. What kind of desire should we increase while we learn?
5. Why do we need to take a step toward change?