Notes to Pilgrims #5
While most religions emphasize the primacy of a person’s walk or conduct, the Bible affirms the emptiness of an external morality void of true heart belief. Over and over in both the Old and New Testaments this same basic principle is repeatedly illustrated—God does not see as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7) More than mere external compliance with commandments, heart compliance is what matters to God. Our heart motives are just as—if not more—important relative to the words and actions that arise from them.
And here lies our dilemma as sinners. You see heart compliance is not simply a matter of adhering to a code of conduct, a set of dos and don’ts (e.g. Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery –The Seventh Commandment), instead it pushes us to deeper introspection to ascertain the purity of our intentions and the inner thoughts of our hearts (e.g. everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. –Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount). Now if we are honest, we must recognize that this standard actually reduces even the most conscientious and prudent among us to a notorious lawbreaker before God. This is problematic because as the proverb says, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2) but “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our hearts condemn us and there is nothing in us that commends us to God.
Now since the problem is with the heart, what we need for gospel growth is nothing less than serious ‘heart work.’ The gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ—has to be worked into our hearts (by our preachers, our disciplers, our Christian brothers and sisters, but also by us!) constantly and regularly. It must be the substance of our meditations, the stuff of our conversations, and the impetus of our actions. We must daily remind ourselves of what Christ has done for us at the cross. How He so graciously has denied Himself so that we who deserve nothing but to be denied by the Father might instead enjoy His welcome. Nothing less than this would transform us. Nothing short of the glory of the Cross can motivate and inspire us to live holy lives of obedience for God’s glory. The only way that we would actually begin to ‘walk the part’ of the gospel-shaped Christian is if we first find our identity in Christ. The gospel grows us to more and more walk the part of a Christian as we remind ourselves of its goodness and beauty by faith, working the truths of our redemption into our hearts. For truly the heart of the matter—as it applies to the Christian journey—is the matter of the heart.
—Pastor James (firstname.lastname@example.org)