July 24, 2012

From out of the heart. . .

If I dreamed all day of becoming the best quilter in the world, or a writer of best-selling books, or having the most expensive car on the block, or any other imaginable ambition, those inner desires would affect the way I talk and act. If I tried to hide any envy, anger, or hatred toward anyone, that would come out too.
And he (Jesus) said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20–23)
Most people avoid exposing their inner thoughts and motives. That is understandable. As I look at the above list, I’m guilty of some of these. Could I broadcast that news to the whole world? Can I even confess them to God? Yet God says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

While God shows me the sinful actions springing from these attitudes, He also wants me to be aware of the deeper problem. If my heart is not right, then any confession or correction is merely superficial.

Besides, if I confess and repent of only those actions, because they have come from a polluted heart, they will spring up and burst forth again. The form might change, but the root is still producing its weed. The Bible therefore warns me to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) 

Perhaps the writer of Proverbs says this because heart issues are not as visible as the sins they produce. Perhaps he says it because I need a warning to avoid hypocrisy. God wants my inner self and my outward actions to be in harmony with Him and with each other.

David knew this too. This is why he prayed the following:
Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12–14)
As I read the paper this morning, I wondered if the world wants people who are saved from secret faults as God does. I get the impression that they (and sometimes I’m included) merely want to hear that this is a common problem so the importance of keeping our hearts clean can be dismissed. It is easier to put on an outside goodness, even to look upright and moral. Those who do not believe in Jesus seem to think this way, but God expects more from His people. He wants me to be free from all sin, including secret faults. 

Even though those in the world will excuse themselves, it seems they expect (and rightly so) that Christians should be more gentle and patient, more generous and loving, than those who are not. I need to remember this, and also remember that these form their concept of Christianity from our lives. It might be okay for them to be hypocrites, but it is not okay for the people of God. 

Lord, along with David, I ask You to cleanse me from secret faults. Help me to think godly and pure thoughts. Rid me of pride, covetousness and any other evil that begins in the heart. As David says, I cannot always discern my errors, but You see all things. Expose what needs exposing. Forgive and make it right.

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