Saturday, July 16, 2011

Heart Deep

2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us, that by God’s power, we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness” and through His promises, we can “become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire”. The chapter goes on to say that because of these things we are to, “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” Sometimes when I think about this passage of scripture and the way that God desires to produce His character in me, I get caught thinking that it simply means changing my outward behavior. While it is true that God does want to change us on the outside, he also wants to change us much deeper than that.  
Jesus certainly is interested in much deeper things that outward actions. In Matthew 5:21-22 He says, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” He says a similar thing about the sin of adultery, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Our human minds often think only on the surface level. Anger isn’t murder, and lust isn’t adultery – or is it? We tend to draw the line of sin at the physical actions, but Jesus draws it in the heart. He sees all, and he draws the line there. I think it is very interesting how much Christ is interested in what is going on inside of us rather than only considering what is going on outside of us. 
I had a great conversation with my dad recently. He told me that he was concerned about a situation involving some young people that felt it was ok to go to parties where their would be under-age drinking, as long as they didn’t drink any alcohol. This decision got them into some trouble (traffic accident) but since they weren’t the one’s drinking alcohol, they felt that it was ok to be a part of this party atmosphere. My dad and I talked about how there may be a deeper problem than drunkenness. There may be a problem with the heart. We realized that if someone goes to such a party with the same rebellious attitude as the person who attends the party to get drunk, then maybe the two actions aren’t that different after all.
Well, we might find this whole thought to be distressing, because we know that we are utterly sinful from birth. Even when we try to do right things it is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our hearts are so often full of sinful motivations. The Bible says that there is no one righteous, “no, not one” (Romans 3:10). However, we can praise God that not only does he call us to holiness on a deep, heart level, but he actually works in us to accomplish this. We can’t do it on our own; we need to allow God to work in us from the inside out. It’s not just a behavioral change that we need; it’s a change of heart. 
So, when we look back at the passage in 1st Peter and see the things that God wants to accomplish in us: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love; we know that it isn’t just the appearance of these things that he desires us to have. Rather He wants them to run deep. He works them in us so we not only act them out, but we think them too. We live them in public and in private, even down the privacy of our own hearts. Thanks be to God that he doesn’t let us stay in our wretched state, or allow us to be only skin deep!
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.