Tuesday, May 16, 2006

An Obedience of the Heart

A little girl was bouncing up and down in the back seat of the car. Repeatedly the mother would tell her to sit down and keep still. But she kept on jumping up and down. Finally the exasperated mother grabbed her by the shoulders and sat her down in the seat, saying "You stay there." The little girl sat for a few moments then folding her arms announced to her mother, "I may be sitting down, but I'm standing up on the inside!"

"I'm standing up on the inside." Outward conformity masking an inward rebellion.
How often is our Christian life like this? To outside observers we appear the models of piety while inside we are secretly wishing we could give full reign to our thoughts? Silently chafing at the demands of the faith? Keeping the commands of God because we feel we have to and not because we want to? Sitting down on the outside, but inside standing up in rebellion? If so we are playing a dangerous game. For it was outward performance and inner rebellion that so turned Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees of his day. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead man's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:27.28)

Proverbs 3:1 touches on the whole matter of inward and outward when Solomon writes: "My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands." There is a great spiritual truth here for the believer. What God is looking for is not outward obedience, but an obedience of the heart. God cares little if you go to church twice on Sunday, don't drink, don't swear and don't gamble; if inwardly you are bitter, backsliding and blasphemous. Our actions don't matter much if our attitude is wrong. You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can never fool God. "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

To those around us we may appear to be the paragons of virtue, but are there secret sins that cloud our hearts? Do we maintain our Christian persona because we love man's applause rather than God's? Are we merely social saints? Do we sit outwardly on the side of angels, only to stand up for the devil inside? If so, maybe its time we have a "heart-to-heart" talk with God. Asking him to bring our attitudes and actions together. Asking him to give us the spirit of David who cries out in Psalm 119. "Your statues are wonderful; therefore I obey them. The unfolding of you words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me."

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