I'm still here thinking on various aspects of the pastor's sermon from Sunday.
One of the things he brought out that turns many away from Christianity is how Christians sometimes get caught up in using externals as a spiritual yardstick. Looking again at Luke 18:9 - 14, I can see in verses 10 -11:
10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.
The Pharisee is looking at a list of actions he refrains from, as well as comparing himself to others. Let's face it; if we look long enough, we can always find someone who'll win in the comparison game. Also, although outward actions do mirror the heart; we can get a "religious" attitude that just looks at those externals and refrains from seeking to allow God to reveal our inner motivations to us.
I never fail to be convicted every time I read 1 Corinthians 13. I've always been especially astounded when I read the 3rd verse (NLT):
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
To my way of thinking, to give everything to the poor and sacrifice my very self, are the epitome of what it's about. The height of generosity. Yet God tells me that even those wonderful actions mean nothing if they aren't proceeding from a heart of love. I'm reminded of the passage in Matthew 15:15-20, I'm especially fond of the way verses 16-20 read in The Message paraphrase:
Jesus replied, "You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that's neither here nor there."
I think it's so easy to get caught up in looking at the externals instead of seeking to have my heart be right. The pastor posed some great questions in the sermon that I found helpful examples for determining if I'm too focused on the externals:
* Which bothers you more, if you didn't get enough time with God this week, or if someone criticizes your kids?
* When someone asks you what you feel really great about in your life right now; do you focus on current achievements or the work God is doing in your life, the changes He's making in you?
* Which bothers you more, if you didn't get to spend time getting your heart right before you come to church, or if your hair is terrible when you come to church?
What are your challenges when it comes to focusing on the heart instead of the externals?
My Joy in the Desert
18 hours ago