Tuesday, March 11, 2014
From Our Hearts
One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They noticed that some of His disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. . . . So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked Him, “Why don’t Your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.” Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then He said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” He said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and His disciples asked Him what He meant by the parable He had just used. “Don’t you understand either?” He asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, He declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) And then He added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mark 7:1-2, 5-23 (NLT) see parallel reference at Matthew 15:1-20 and Old Testament reference at Isaiah 29:13.
The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were often hostile towards Him and His ministry. In fact, some religious leaders would follow Jesus from place to place simply to watch for something to criticize. The religious leaders had created many man-made traditions. The Jews called their traditions “the fence of the Law.” These man-made traditions and teachings were often considered as authoritative and important as the Word of God—even though they contradicted living Word of God. Sadly, these traditions were external religious rituals and empty words to the lips (Isaiah 29:13). These traditions and rituals were not motivated by love and mercy, but by a desire to appear holy and to increase their status with people (see also Matthew 23:23-28). The religious people went through the outward forms of worship, but these rituals and traditions were not true worship of God because their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:1-9).
Even today, people will follow routine religious patterns yet neglect to give God their first love and devotion (Matthew 6:33). Jesus proclaimed that God wanted our genuine and wholehearted love, alliance, and devotion to Him and not our empty, dishonest, and half-hearted worship (Jeremiah 4:4; see also Isaiah 1:10-20; Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 22:37). God wants everyone to love, obey, and worship Him from their whole hearts (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37). In fact, the Great Prophet – Jesus Christ – quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 when He gave the most important commandment as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (see Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30).
Jesus taught that true holiness is a matter of inward affection and attitude and not just outward actions and rituals (see also Matthew 5:1-12; Luke 6:17-26). True worship of God comes from the heart and directed by God's truth, not man-made rituals and traditions. Jesus stated that the source of holy living is from within, not from without. Since the Old Testament, true holiness has always been a matter of the heart, a right relationship with God by faith and worship of Him alone (see also Genesis 15:6; Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 16; Psalm 51:6, 10, 16-17). Moses made it clear in Deuteronomy that God wanted love and obedience to come from our hearts, and not be merely outward obedience to rules and rituals (see also Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 30:6, 20). The Holy Scriptures clearly teaches that God wants our wholehearted love, worship, and devotion to Him, and not just our lip service. It is not enough to act religious, but what is in our hearts is even more important to God. No wonder David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God!” (Psalm 51:10).
Sin begins in the heart. The human heart is sinful and produces all kinds of evil desires, thoughts, and actions, everything from murder to envy (Jeremiah 17:9). Sin produces defilement and death. Jesus declared boldly that sin comes from the heart. He pointed out that sin actually begins in the attitudes and intentions of the inner person (Luke 6:45). It is what comes out of the mouth and what we think that defiles us and makes us unclean. What comes out of the mouth begins in the heart, and these things defile a person. Allowing our minds and thoughts to dwell on lust, envy, hatred, or revenge will lead to sin. That is why the Apostle Paul encourages everyone to “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT). What we allow to occupy our minds and thoughts will eventually determine our speech and actions.
Jesus realized that all humans are sinners and unable to control or change their hearts. That is why Jesus came to earth—to die for lost sinners. The heart can be cleansed and changed only by faith in Jesus and His saving work for our sins on the Cross (Acts 15:8-9, 11). When we place our wholehearted faith in God found in Jesus Christ, God makes us clean from within and gives us a new heart. We are not holy because of outward acts — we become holy on the inside as Jesus renews our minds and transforms us into His image through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 11).
King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan, 1992.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.