20 My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
21 Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
22 For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Christianity is not about outward observances, meaning mankind cannot be righteous by law. Law is a constraint, but it does not make the heart of a person upright.
For a Christian, Jesus Christ is the lawgiver. He writes His laws in our hearts, thereby changing our nature overtime into someone who loves righteousness and seeks to live an upright life. As we continue seeking Him for strength to overcome sin and to live the upright life we desire, He works in us so that we can find freedom from sin and walk more uprightly in this present world.
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Hebrews 10: 16
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
Knowing these things, is Christianity about a letter-of-the-word understanding of scripture, or rather is Christianity made strong when we consider the spirit of the scripture which is the real meaning and teaching our Lord conveys and therewith can unite all believers?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
1 Corinthians 2:13-14
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Knowing these things, do we approach our faith with legalistic demands concerning sabbath days, holidays, matters of dress, consumption of food and drink, and various other issues we divide over?
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Knowing these things, should Christians attempt to regulate the world through law, or rather, should Christians influence their surroundings and their nation through living a life in Jesus and turning the heart of others to Him? In so doing, we do not need extensive law and extensive government, because the individual is self-governing.
1 Peter 2:9
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light
1 Peter 2:15-17
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
Knowing these things, should Christians use the grace and forgiveness of God through the sacrifice of Jesus as an excuse for sinful living or otherwise discourage the pursuit of righteousness because we are all sinners and we will always be sinners?
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Knowing these things, should Christian churches prioritize entertainment and messages of softness and comfort instead of exhortation to righteous living?
Knowing these things, should Christian churches harp on certain outward sins, esteeming themselves as more righteous than others while ignoring their own deep issues of the heart such as pride, vanity, greed, and lust—thereby making Christianity a religion of hypocrisy that turns many away from the faith?
Knowing these things, should we not pursue a life in which Jesus Christ is Lord of our heart above all else? Knowing these things, should we not continue to seek Him so that our hearts are raised from the dead as He teaches us righteousness and gives us the strength to perform His will more effectively and consistently over time?
Here is what Jesus has to say about churches that neglect matters of the heart according to the teachings of Jesus and the covenant He brings:
18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
28 And I will give him the morning star.
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Below are additional scriptures that I gathered, and I arranged them in a certain way so that a line of thinking might be created. This was purposeful, but I also tried to include some context surrounding the particular verses of each passage I wanted to highlight.
1 Samuel 16:7
7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
As Christians, we adhere to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. The old was a to-the-letter covenant by which no man was made righteous. The new speaks to the inner-man, and Jesus is the means by which we receive this covenant. This is a covenant of life. It is grace, mercy, and forgiveness. It is strength and power of His resurrection as He writes the laws of the kingdom in our heart.
As Christians, we should seek to keep our heart in Jesus, and in all things. There are many matters in which today’s Christians have regressed into an Old Covenant mindset. Let us break away from this. We should not ignore this problem. We do not “make our covenant with death.” Outward appearances are dead because they neglect the spirit of the matter—the Spirit which brings unity and the good working of the Lord among all believers.
All this being said, no Christian, including myself, should condemn another believer. I do not condemn anyone. How could I, being that I have done these things myself? It is by the grace of God that I have come out of these things, and it is of love that I try to encourage others to come out of these things also.
It is in our nature to create regulation. It is in our nature to attempt to please God—even attempt to be Christian—through regulation and outer observances. It is in our nature to neglect heart issues because these are the often deep and illusive struggles that tightly cling to our very being. “The heart is deceitful above all else.”
We can so easily deceive ourselves into thinking we are doing right, and one of the most effective ways we deceive ourselves is through a to-the-letter observance of righteousness and Christianity in general.
Such actions are problematic. Such an approach causes accusation, strife, and division among the brethren. Such an approach leads to hypocrisy within the church. Such an approach dilutes the gospel and the wonderful workings of Jesus. Such an approach makes us vulnerable to corruption by ministers of mal intent who use the faith as a means of money, status, and control. Such an approach is extremely negligent, and we need to consider this deeply.
Jesus is merciful. If I, being a faulty human being, can sympathize with this struggle than so can He. I know He does. I also know that we will reap the destruction of our struggle because God chastises us as sons. We can avoid the chastisement, at least on an individual level, if we turn our hearts more fully to Jesus Christ who is the author of liberty in Spirit not bondage in the letter.