Followers of Jesus (if we aren’t careful) will settle into a kind of Christianity that looks like this:
- We are trying our best to abstain from what the Bible says is sinful but our heart isn’t in it.
- We say we have forgiven those who hurt us but our fake smile when we encounter them and our cold heart reveals that we’re still holding onto those hurts.
- We participate in various ministry projects but our heart reveals that we are really doing it for the approval of others.
- We show up to church on Sundays and sing the songs but our heart is disengaged and indifferent. We might get to the end of the song and then realize that we cannot remember or explain the truths we just sang.
On and on we could go about how, all too often, we may settle for a brand of Christianity that is external … that is estranged from the true condition of our heart. People see what’s going on in our life and may be impressed but we know that it’s a show. Our heart just isn’t engaged. We’re simply going through the motions.
Friend, if we were to prioritize it, we would say that our actions matter more than the condition of our heart.
But God looks at it completely different. In fact, His priority is exactly the opposite.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT) “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'”
Over and over in Scripture we see that God looks at our heart. He cares more about our motives and attitudes than He does our actions.
Regarding forgiving those who have hurt us, we doesn’t so much care that we say we have forgiven them. He wants to know if we have truly forgiven them … in our heart. Listen to the final words and application of a parable that Jesus told.
Matthew 18:34-35 “Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
“From your heart.”
What you do or what you say you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as why you do it.
In my time with God’s Word this morning, I read though Matthew 23. It’s a difficult chapter. Jesus is obviously angry and He is not mincing words. His righteous anger is directed at folks whose religion was all external. Their religion was for show – their hearts weren’t in it.
Listen to just one of the things that Jesus said to them. And I want you to listen to how Jesus emphasized that our relationship with the Lord isn’t supposed to be merely external. It must be from our heart. If it isn’t, these words from Jesus are directed at us, friend.
Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Jesus condemned these men for appearing to be holy on the outside but were harboring sin and sinful motives in their hearts.
Honestly, I suspect that their hearts were probably no more sinful than many of ours tend to be. They harbored unforgiveness, anger, jealousy, pride, and other things that we are all too familiar with.
Yet, when Jesus assessed them, He said that they appeared to be something they were not. Their actions did not mirror their hearts. So, they were “hypocrites.”
When others look at you, what do they see? Hopefully, they observe someone who loves the Lord and is serious about submitting to Him, obeying Him, and loving Him.
But, there’s a much more important question than what others see. What does God see when He looks at your heart?
Friend, don’t settle for an external religion. Let what others see simply be a reflection of the condition of your heart, a heart that is growing in holiness.
Because if how we act is different from the condition of our heart, we are hypocrites.
Don’t be that. Jesus loves you and wants a heart relationship with you. Ask Him to help you with that today and then join Him in cleaning out your heart and developing a heart that genuinely loves the Lord and delights to serve Him.