The world is all about appearances. If you have a talent or a skill, that’s great, but in order to become truly famous, you have to have the right packaging to go along with it. Nobody ugly or awkward makes it onto the celebrity A-list, that’s just the way our culture operates. Some people are even famous for nothing, they just had the right connections and the proper looks. God, however, is the exact opposite. He cares about what’s in our hearts more than about the external.
Much of the battle we fight on our Christian journey is internal. Many of our thoughts and temptations occur only inwardly. Much of the time I only complain in my mind, because I know if I voiced my thoughts, I would be ashamed at how they sound. Don’t I have much to be grateful for? Haven’t I been forgiven much? Many times the temptation to anger or self-pity is waging inside and I have to preach truth to myself, remind myself how I want to love God and please Him.
What does God want from us? Jesus was asked this in Matthew 22:37-38 and responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” That’s it. I just need to love. Love God and love others, starting with my immediate family.
I often don’t do that well, sometimes I am impatient and unkind. Then we’re told to do good (show love) to the family of believers. But sometimes I just want to be left alone. And then we’re told to love our enemies and pray for those who are against us. This is the hardest one of all, because they have done wrong! They have not shown love to me. They’ve been insensitive or mean or even abusive.
But the choices I make inside my mind and spirit to forgive, to love, to be thankful and not complain are the ones only God sees. He knows whether I am seething with resentment in this situation or asking for help and choosing to obey Jesus.
Some of the most profound victories (and failures) I’ve experienced have been entirely internal. No one knew what I was tempted to say or how I wanted to react except the Lord. Sometimes I did react poorly but only in my mind. God knows that too and is grieved.
I haven’t lost my temper or spewed nasty words on anyone lately. Praise God for that! Sometimes I reason that as long as I don’t say that unkind thing, I’m doing okay. I kept my mouth shut and walked away.
But Jesus wants our deepest devotion, our hearts. Not just the outward compliance that looks good to everyone else.But Jesus wants our deepest devotion, our hearts. Not just the outward compliance that looks good to everyone else. Click To Tweet
That’s the definition of religion: an outward system of worship, practices, rituals. Jesus condemned the religious leaders who prayed loudly in the marketplace but robbed poor widows of their savings.
I Samuel 16:7b says:
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.
God is not impressed with our talents or how well we have done in our careers. He isn’t fooled by how perfect our family appears to be. He isn’t paying attention to how many hours we have put into volunteering or the praise we’ve received from others.
He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” Luke 16:15
God looks into my heart and knows my every thought. He cares about my love for Him as I perform my daily tasks. He cares about what I’m thinking and what my motivation is. He wants me to truly love, to respond well to unkind words and disappointing circumstances in obedience to Him only. It’s about our hearts.