Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Heart & Actions

In Mark 7 Jesus corrected the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. He made it clear that their hearts were far from pleasing to God, even though they said things that appeared to be godly. Jesus knew their thoughts and motives, and he rebuked them for acting godly but lacking godliness of heart.

Over and over in the gospels, Jesus corrected the Pharisees – the respected, religious leaders of the day. Despite their position as spiritual leaders and their attempts to follow the law, Jesus expressed his displeasure in them. Why did Jesus feel this way about this group, a group that would have been revered by Jews in Israel?

I believe it is because Jesus is much more concerned about our hearts than our actions. This doesn’t mean he overlooks our actions, but it does mean that he first and primarily is concerned for our hearts. Do we desire to please God? Do we want to follow his ways? Do we yearn to live for him? Do we seek to honor him in all our words and actions? Do we have a genuine love for him? Have our hearts been transformed and regenerated by the truth of the gospel?

A person doesn’t become a Christian by simply acting like a Christian. We cannot earn our salvation just by deciding to speak like a Christian and behave like a Christian. Ultimately, we cannot get right with God and please him simply by doing good things or speaking in a godly manner. We need our hearts transformed from stone to flesh – unbelieving to believing in him.

Once our hearts are regenerated, we can and should expect to see godly thoughts, words, and deeds in our lives – not to earn salvation but the fruits of salvation. A changed heart leads to fruit that is pleasing and honoring to God.

Growing up in a Christian home, we can easily be focused mostly on our words and actions. Our parents and church have specific rules and expectations. We can learn to talk like a Christian and act like a Christian simply because of what we see around us. We can even act this way to try to avoid disciple or correction. We can learn to live the Christian and fail to examine our hearts.

But what a shame it would be for us to learn to live like a Christian but not be a Christian at heart. We need to make sure we know and love Jesus personally. We need to examine our hearts to make sure we have genuine affections for Christ and desire to live all of life for him. We need to pause and examine our hearts to see if we possess true, saving faith.

Let’s learn from the mistake of the Pharisees and let the challenge Jesus gave them pierce our hearts. Let’s learn to focus first on our hearts and look for godly fruit in our lives to follow.

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