The heart of the matter
By Kyle Patterson
As people we tend to focus on externals and appearances. We make judgement based on our five senses: what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. We tend to live out of these senses and we make decisions and take action based upon what these senses tell us. But the gospel teaches us that we should be as concerned about the matters of the heart as the outward appearance. It's just so easy to forget.
A perfect example of this is the difference between the Old Testament which dealt with behavior and conformity to a set of external standards, but the New Testament introduces us to means of true change, deep change of the heart because of Christ’s atoning work on our behalf on the cross.The Old Testament dealt with outward sins, the New Testament focuses mostly on the sins of the heart.
For example, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”
And again, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 7:21,22,27,28
But for some reason many believers are still living out of an Old Testament worldview, focused on external appearances rather than inward transformation. As long as we avoid the “major sins”, we think we're OK, all the while giving heed to “lesser sins” like backbiting, gossip, and pride.
It’s an easy trap to fall into if you don’t have a correct understanding of the Christian faith, the doctrine of sin and the depravity of man. You see there are no major sins or minor sins. All sin is sin before God, including sins of the heart, inward attitudes, and outward acts. And all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No one is exempt from this.
The truth is no one has lived right before God, no matter how polished you look on the outside. No matter how well you hide it or how polished your resume looks. We can look good on the outside but it's only Christ who can deal with the inside, and that my friends is just as important. The Pharisees were experts at making things look in order on the outside, but inside Jesus told them they were whitewashed tombs. They were so concerned about looking good in the eyes of man that they failed to see their own shortcomings. They were rebuked for seeking the praise of people, but making no effort to receive the praise of God. Ouch.
Romans says it this way, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1
Likewise the prophet Isaiah told us what is highly regarded among men is an abomination to the Lord. We look at appearances, but God looks so much deeper.
Take for example the story of the paralytic whose friends lower him through the roof to come to Jesus in Luke 5. Jesus responds by telling him his sins are forgiven. Yes, he needed his body healed, but ultimately he needed something deeper, something that would change his heart and make him new. He needed his sins forgiven. That’s the need that everyone of us has whether it’s outward sins that other people see or inward sins of the heart, you ultimately need forgiveness. You don't need things on the outside to become better, you need change on the inside, change that only the gospel can bring into your life. Our righteous acts the Bible tells us are as filthy garments to the Lord. Nothing we do on our own can be pleasing to God, we are in essence shipwrecked with no hope of our own. Until we come to Christ. His sacrifice for us was once and for all and more than enough to cleanse our hearts and make us whole. I want to encourage you to believe it today and trust him. If you do, you'll get to the heart of the matter and become new again in him.