When I woke up this morning, this verse popped into my mind: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The sad truth is that you can be religious…yet have a heart far from God. In Matthew 15, we discover Jesus being confronted by some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of God. They were offended because Jesus didn’t follow their rules. He allowed His disciples to eat without first going through certain ceremonial cleansing rituals. The Pharisees judged Jesus and the disciples as “unclean” due to their carelessness. Jesus turned the tables on them and used this incident to teach about “the heart of the matter.” He said to the crowd, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’” (Matthew 15:10b-11). He later explained, “…the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’” (v. 18). Jesus teaches us something extremely important here: “God is more concerned with what goes on in your heart than in outward appearances and ceremonies.” The Pharisees obsessed over “looking right” in the eyes of others. They prided themselves on their meticulous details of religious observation…but they missed the main thing! Their hearts were not right with God. While doing the outward actions of “piety,” they neglected the evil stuff going on in their hearts. That’s why Jesus challenged them, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (vv. 8-9). Let’s recognize the danger in ourselves. It’s easy to condemn the Pharisees of old and criticize them for their blindness. However, this very action of condemnation of others can expose our own hypocrisy. How often do we excuse the evil thoughts that go on in our hearts? How easily do we justify the ungodly images and words that flood our hearts? How carelessly do we allow words to flow from our hearts that hurt, discourage, and belittle others? The only way to “guard our hearts” is to take full responsibility to present our hearts continually to the Lord. No one can do this for us. What we allow to go on in our hearts determines our nearness or distance from God. Thank God for the grace of Jesus! Let’s cooperate with His grace by guarding our hearts!
Pastor Mark Boucher