I think one of the pitfalls we face in following Jesus is the temptation to focus on how our lives look to other people around us - rather than on how God is changing us from the inside out - one day at a time. We get so caught up in how things look to others, it's such a lie from Satan! It's that Casting Crowns song - Stained Glass Masquerade...
Are we happy plastic people ~ Under shiny plastic steeples ~ With walls around our weakness ~ And smiles to hide our pain ~ But if the invitations open ~ To every heart that has been broken ~ Maybe then we close the curtain ~ On our stained glass masqueradeWe are so worried about how others will perceive how our relationship with the Lord is going...we lose the point - that the Lover of our souls is changing our hearts and molding them to be more like His. So not the point of what I was going to write today...but a good tangent nonetheless!
What I really wanted to write about is how our hearts are God's chief concern, not what we look like to other people around us. I've been reading a ton in the Old Testament lately, and I'm always quick to judge the Isrealites for losing their focus on God in the context of what looks to us like the clutter of endless rituals, but aren't we the same way?? We, too, are tempted to take our eyes off the Lord and concentrate on our outward appearance of spirituality, on how we present ourselves to other people...to God..or any other number of lies Satan fires at us to get our focus off the Lord. Satan stops at nothing to steal our gaze. Stupid jerk.
God promised Ezekiel that he would provice the nation of Isreal with a new heart and a new spirit. The people would experience a fundamental transformation from the inside out, and this radical change of heart and spirit would inevitable lead to a life of obedience (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27).
First, God promised a new heart. Sin rejoices in prompting us to deny the truth, but God is explicit in his analysis: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). Our entire self has been permeated and corrupted by sin, we are powerless to change that fact. BUT - God is a heart surgeon of incomparable skill - in fact, he administers a total heart transplant! (Eat your heart out Dr. Burke...no pun intended). God removed the old heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26) that has resisted his will and replaces it with a new, softer version - one that is vital and responsive! A new heart offers new life, new direction, new desires and new possibilites for us!
Second, God promised that along with their new heart would come the very Spirit of God (Ezekiel 36:27). In the OT, the Spirit of God came on people, but did not live in people. God's promise of his indwelling Spirit must have sounded strange to the 'ol Isrealites - how could God dwell IN them?!? Much later, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be present after his ascension to guide not only the disciples - but US into all truth (John 16:5-15). The outpouring of the Spirit occured in a dramatic way on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4...wouldn't that have been cool to see?). The key here is, it is the SAME SPIRIT within our own hearts who infuses in us the power to resist sin and to obey the Lord (Galatians 5:16-26). The power of the life-giving Spirit has set you free from the power of sin that leads to death! (Romans 8:2)
So you see, it's the combination of the new heart and the new Spirit that God imparts to us that gives us the power to resist sin, and be transformed radically by our Father! Jesus made it abundantly clear that we are incapable of camouflaging that dark, icky stuff in our hearts. He knows our hearts better than we know them ourselves! Remember the Sermon on the Mount? It was there that Jesus made the profound statement that, "where our treasure is, there our heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). Later on, he told a group of Pharisees the "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34).
Then remember that command Jesus gave us...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).
With heart, soul, mind, and strength - in other words, with everything we are - we are called to love our God!
And out of this love will inevitably flow an outpouring of heartfelt and selfless service, service that the world will see and recognize as genuine...not a fake mask we're putting on to look spiritual and put together!
So once again...it all comes down to our hearts and love...amazing!