We are obsessed with appearances. Filters. Profiles. Status. Resumes. Presentations. It’s so easy to care most about the image we’re projecting to the world.
We are obsessed with who we appear to be, but God is obsessed with the actual person we are becoming.
And I need you to know, here at Epic, we aren’t fixated on who you appear to be…but we care deeply about who you are becoming.
The Pharisees were all about observing the religious law, which isn’t a bad thing. But they were obsessed with the external, often to the neglect of the internal. One day they noticed that Jesus’s disciples were eating food without first washing their hands. This didn’t match up with what they knew good religious people did, so they asked Jesus why. Here’s his response:
Mark 7:6-8 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
Jesus went on to tell them how they have allowed their traditions to be more important than God’s commands for their lives. Then he goes on.
Mark 7:14-23 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Jesus calls them “hypocrites”. This is one of those words that makes us cringe…especially when it’s directed at us. This word simply means, “you’re acting or you’re just playing a part, but it’s not who you really are.”
Your external life doesn’t match up with your internal life.
There’s a disconnect. Outwardly you make sure that everything appears like you have it all together. But inwardly you are broken. And the problem is that you are giving all of your attention to the outside, while forsaking what’s inside of you. Your internal life and your external life are both important, but the order really matters.
“We live in a culture that has reversed the biblical order of being and doing. Being and doing are integrally related, to be sure, but we have to have the order straight. Our doing flows out of our being.” M. Robert Mulholland Jr., Invitation to a Journey
Become the right kind of person and you’ll likely do the right kinds of things. But doing the right kinds of things won’t necessarily make you the right kind of person.
Does your life flow towards what people care most about or what God cares most about?
1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
When we talk about the “heart”, what do we mean?
The heart is the center not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life.
Your heart, not your appearance, matters most.
Jesus tells the Pharisees that they appear to live their lives for God, but in reality, their hearts are so far from Him. I know what that’s like. At times, I feel this pressure to present myself as someone who is close to God, even when that isn’t true. There’s this need in my false self for all of you to know that God and I are always tight.
My word for this year is INTIMACY. This is what I want in my life with God. But it’s not primarily to make an impression on you. I want intimacy with God so that it makes an impression on me.
One of my dad’s common prayers for me has some version of this in it. “Father, keep Benjamin close to you in all that He does.” I love this prayer and I want this to be true in my life and in yours.
You are the keeper of your heart.
You can let God in and keep other things out. Or you can let other things in and keep God out. But whatever you do with your heart is going to create a certain kind of life. Here’s the good news about our hearts being the center of everything else in our lives:
What’s outside of you isn’t creating what’s most true about you.
So other people and external circumstances actually don’t get to dictate our lives. But we have a part to play because we are the keepers of our hearts.
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
EVERYTHING you do flows from your heart.
More important than where you live.
More important than your DNA.
More important than how much money you make.
More important than what team you serve on in this church.
More important than your marital status.
Jesus echoed this same idea in Luke 6:43-45
Luke 6:43-45 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
“Deciding to fill our hearts with God is how we keep our hearts.” Dallas Willard, Life Without Lack
Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Hopefully by now, you’ve been convinced that what’s in your heart matters more than anything else and that it leads to everything else. So how do we get good into our hearts? And how do we keep the evil out of our hearts?
Rhythms. Inputs. Detachments. Attachments.
Rhythms – Since we are all being formed, we must be intentional to cultivate rhythms that will help us become like Jesus. Prayer. Scripture. Silence. Solitude. Fasting. Worship. Journaling.
Inputs – We have to be careful what we let into our lives. Because whatever we receive into our hearts is going to come out into our lives. What voices? What media? What ways of thinking?
“This is why our entertainment choices, our reading habits, our screen time, and our news sources are all central to our spiritual formation into the image of Jesus. (Or our deformation into the image of the devil.)” John Mark Comer, Live No Lies
Detachments – What do you find yourself clinging to that won’t actually create the heart you want to live with?
Attachments – Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” We want to attach ourselves to Him – to have Him make His home in us and for us to make our home in Him.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Saint Augustine, Confessions
So what do we do today if we’ve come to the realization that we need a new heart? You’re in the right place. Hear these words from Jesus:
Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Open the door. Don’t clean up and then come to Jesus. Open the door now. He will do the cleansing.