The following column was submitted by Stephen Hammond, a Screven County resident, former candidate for Georgia State Senate, and owner of the financial firm ‘Christian Values Investing.’
When I was in the 8th grade, I decided to pull away from my old church. The doctrine that was taught pushed me away (although I still had to attend as long as I lived under my father’s roof). I was told it was a sin to drink alcohol. It was a sin to run around with women. It was a sin to fish and hunt on Sunday. It seemed like to me that everything that was fun was wrong. I was taught that one who lives for God, should hunger and thirst for righteousness. They should pray and read God’s Word daily. They should live their daily life to please only God and along life’s journey if they stumbled, they should repent immediately unless they grieve the Holy Spirit. I was taught holiness is the only way. That straight is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life eternal and only a few find it. I was taught that sin will separate me from God and that I should live a life without spot or blemish.
So, at fourteen years old, I revolted from my childhood training. I wondered if the Church that I attended read the Bible where Jesus turned the water into wine. If they read where Paul told Timothy to stop drinking water but drink some wine for the stomach’s digestion. I doubted the teachings that women who wore pants or makeup were sinning. Did not God say that He looks upon the heart and not the outward appearance? It seemed like to me, there were too many rules and not enough love in their doctrine. Rules that I did not want to follow.
This is a partial list of things I wanted to stop believing: Good people were going to hell. People that drink alcoholic beverages or smoked cigarettes were going to hell. Most of the rich were going to hell. God will be displeased with me if I miss a day reading His Word or praying. Attending Church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night are mandatory or otherwise, I have forsaken the meetings of “like believers.” Notice I said things “I wanted to stop believing.” In my head, I stopped believing these things were sin even though my heart struggled with some of these issues.
My problem as a young man was that I suffered from a heart condition. My problem was that my heart was not right with God. The Bible says in Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It is not that we follow a set book of rules, the Pharisees did that and they were not right with God (See Matthew 23). God’s Word teaches we are not made right before God by our own good deeds or works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our heart gets right with God once we repent of our sins and ask Christ to be the Lord of our life. Having a right relationship with God begins with acknowledging and confessing our sin. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).
The Bible teaches us that God looks at and searches the heart. This is why the heart is so important. The issues of life proceeds from the heart. Whatever is in the heart will manifest itself in actions and deeds. A right heart will produce good fruit, an evil heart will produce evil fruit.
The Bible gives us an amazing verse that will help identify the condition and location of the heart. This verse talks about what we treasure, will be the location of the heart. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Matthew 6:21. Many in our society treasure the wrong things. The scriptures teach us lay up treasure in heaven by living for God. What is the condition of your heart? You can repair your heart condition today by drawing closer to God.