August 10, 2016
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Jesus seems to say to the disciples something like, “All you once thought was holiness and righteousness before is wrong.” It’s not about food—what you eat or don’t eat. I like the way Paul put it:
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
This kind of thing has happened in every generation since. There’s the old saying, “We don’t smoke, drink, or chew—or run with them that do.” Now, I’m not endorsing smoking, drinking or chewing, but when we equate these kinds of with the pursuit of holiness I fear we miss the point. The point is the Kingdom of God—righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whatever tends to prevent righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit or hinder the Kingdom of God should be curtailed. Jesus gave a short list here:
For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Does that list sound familiar to you? Sounds strangely similar to the Ten Commandments to me. Note also how all of these things cut to the heart our relationships with other people. It’s why earlier in the Sermon on the Mount he went through the litany of, “You have heard it said, but I say” sayings that effectively equated adultery with lust and murder with anger and so forth.
Let me put this in more stark terms. Do you want to be defiled? To defile something is to take something sacred and desecrate it. Put more harshly, something that is defiled carries the sense of having been raped. Jesus says this is what our broken inward dispositions do to our souls. They defile us. Anger, lust, covetousness, jealousy, bitterness, and the like defile us. They desecrate the place within us where Jesus would readily bring his Kingdom. I don’t want to defile myself and I know you don’t either.
All of this raises the stakes on guarding our hearts. Even the smallest inclination that moves anyone down the path to murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander and such must be vigilantly guarded against and “nipped in the bud.” They must be caught when they are seemingly small matters of the heart, else they will become devastating flaws in our character. Jesus is all about the inmost place. He said it best when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.”
And the best part? He fills us with the Holy Spirit, causing the Kingdom of God to live within us. Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. . . . who doesn’t want that? This is his gift for all who will seek him with all their heart.
Heavenly Father, would you fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I might become aware of the first impulse of bad will toward others. Set a watch over my heart and remind me constantly of your desire to reign there without rival for the good of others and the glory of your name. Amen.
1. What is the difference between behavior management and heart conditioning? (heart as “inmost self” not your “ticker”).
2. What is your present experience of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit? How might those realties increase in your life?
3. What do you find in yourself that tends to quench the indwelling reality of the Kingdom of God in you? Anger? Lust? Jealousy? Covetousness? An insatiable appetite for more of anything other than God?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. email@example.com.