Matters of The Heart

Matters of The Heart

So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
-Matthew 15:16-20

Throughout the ministry of Jesus flocks of people followed Him to hear and learn from His message. Unfortunately, some of the people who followed Jesus were not trying to learn from Him, but instead were trying to catch Him teaching something that wasn’t true. They were never able to do this, and eventually gave up trying and made up lies with which to implicate Him.

In Matthew 15:1-20, these people who were called the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus why His followers did not follow the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands before they ate. They first accused the disciples of breaking the law in chapter 12 (without success) and now accuse Jesus of breaking tradition. The Pharisees believed traditions were revealed to Moses by God, then orally passed on to the elders from one generation to another. They were considered equal to the Law . As you already know, for cleanliness sake it is a good idea to wash our hands before eating, but if we do not, we are not breaking any laws or sinning.

Jesus addresses the hypocrisy of their accusation and ends by saying, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Mt 15:11). One of His disciples by the name of Peter asked Jesus to explain this further, and this is where we learn about the deep psychological truth of self-image, and how it relates to our decision making.

Christ began by explaining that the physical body and the spiritual body are separate entities. Although some in this world would disagree with me, eating a cheeseburger does not make you a bad person. It is important to understand that our hearts can be influenced by God or by Satan. If God has influenced your heart you will see a person reflecting Christ, but if the god of this world has seduced your heart, you will define yourself as being what (or whom) you think the world expects you to be. The dangerous outcome to this is that if we grow comfortable with worldliness, we will stop thinking of it as being evil (Is 5:20-24).

Internal Affairs

A person’s self-image is the person they see themselves as being. If someone sees themselves as being a bit of a rebel, it is because they have observed that being a rebel is cool (at least in the eyes of the world), and made the decision that this is how they want to be. In order to fulfill the expectation they have set for themselves, they change their attitude and behavior in a way that mimics the rebellious behavior they find so appealing. The same can apply to any self-image.

Christ said that it is what is inside a person that defiles them. If a person decides that they want to talk trash about other people, have an adulterous affair, or go to parties and drink alcohol, it is because their self-image (their heart) has been influenced to feel that it is acceptable to behave in this manner. The phrases “boys will be boys”, or “Oh, they’re just teenagers, they need to sow their wild oats”, allow for this attitude to prevail among so many youths. If people decide to participate in this behavior, their actions stem from a problem with their self-image.

The Ex Factor

You can break down how a person’s self-image is formed in three ways: Expectations, external surroundings, and personal experiences. Every person has one or more people who have expectations for their life. For example, there is a child being brought up by parents who expect nothing less than an A+ on her report card. The child routinely achieves this and perceives herself (has a self –image) as a smart and capable person. This gives her confidence, but also the drive to live up to the person she sees herself as being by studying a lot and stressing over her accomplishments.

Unfortunately, there have been extreme cases when one of these children receives a grade less than desirable and commits suicide over it! The goal was so important that when they fell short they lost their entire identity. They concluded that there was no point in living if they did not measure up to the person they saw themselves as being, and furthermore felt expected to be. Many times, the parents of these kids say they did not realize that by showing their desires for that child to achieve academic success that they had made them feel that they were worth nothing apart from that achievement .

Here is an example of how external influences affect people. There is a pre-teen girl who reads magazines like Seventeen and Tiger Beat and watches television shows such as Gossip Girl. She also notices that a lot of the girls at the mall or even at school wear skirts that end way above their knees. She perceives this as being both fashionable and desirable. She also notices that she receives positive male attention, which she is starting to realize makes her feel excited. She doesn’t really know why, but she likes feeling sexy, even though she doesn’t feel ready to engage in sexual behavior and activities…yet. Her parents allow her to wear these clothes, so she does so without feeling any guilt or shame toward exposing her body in this way. She considers this normal, and her self- image reflects a desire to be “normal”.

There are a few people whose self-image reflects the third aspect of the “Ex-Factor”, their experiences. A human being’s personal experiences are powerful. When children are told by their parents that they are not as smart as the other kids, this will have a huge impact on their self-esteem. The thought that they are capable of figuring something out is completely foreign to them. Their self-image reflects this, and in turn, they do not put forth the effort that other’s would.
Another illustration is that many girls choose to live with their boyfriends prior to marriage. There are several reasons why people decide to do this. One reason is that they have seen their parents get divorced one or more times, or they are aware of the divorce rate in our country and are afraid of that happening to them as well. Their self-image emulates no guilt in trying things out beforehand or fornicating because this is the only way they see having a chance at a successful marriage. The idea of pre-marital counseling and making it work no matter what does not enter their minds. This is the result of combining what society deems as normal and their personal experiences.

Lights, Camera, Action!

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” -Matthew 6:22-24

Have you ever looked at somebody and just knew that what they were telling you was not the truth? It is not because you had tangible evidence that proved without a doubt that they were lying, but instead you knew by looking into their eyes. It is amazing how much the eyes reveal. There is an old saying that says “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” It lays forth the concept that you can see a person’s heart and therefore their self-image through their eyes. Jesus addresses this as well in verses twenty-two through twenty-three, where He gives a comparison between the eye and the body, and light with darkness. He is saying that if your eye reveals light, it is actually showing your purity from within. However, if it shows darkness it is because your heart is full of sin.

Now before I get anybody upset, let me clarify. We are all human beings. We are all subject to the temptations this world has to offer. If we claim otherwise, we are liars (I Jn 1:5-10). I am not saying that if you sin once in a while you are an evil person and have an evil heart or self-image. Let me make this personal. When I sin, I have let somebody or something influence my self-image. I have fooled myself into justifying or being okay with bad thoughts or behavior. The next step is actual participation in this sinful action. My self-image as a whole is not ruined. I do however need to evaluate it and make any necessary changes so that I can be pure once again.

I will provide an example. I used to watch a lot of blood and gore horror movies. I did not see anything wrong with being entertained by seeing the human body (which God designed and formed) desecrated in such a horrific way. I was desensitizing myself into not feeling compassion for the soul that supposedly had been brutally murdered. Instead, I was feeling shock (WHOA! WATCH OUT! HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!!), disgust (Eww! Gross!), and indifference (Well, that’s lame…). After I started growing in my Christianity, I realized that putting those images and bad language (horror movies are notoriously filled with filthy language) into my brain was not wise. Instead, I needed to, as Paul taught to the church in Philippi, “think on these things…” (Phil 4:8). I have purposely changed my self-image as one which does not feel comfortable seeing profane images and hearing bad language. Therefore, I purposely make the decision not to go watch horror movies. Everybody has within themselves the ability to alter their own self-image, and it starts with putting Jesus into your heart.

I Pledge Allegiance…

In verse twenty-four of the passage that we are studying, Jesus teaches regarding our allegiance. He is stating that someone cannot hold equal allegiance to two different competitive entities. There are many examples of this, so I will go with a sports analogy. Most communities have sports associations that provide opportunities for people to play recreational team sports. When you become a member of a team, you cannot become a member of another team that competes against your team.

The same goes with Christianity. You cannot be on God’s team and on Satan’s team at the same time. There is no gray area where you can root for both teams. Not in the “game” of eternity. As Christians, we live in the world but not of the world. We are called upon and expected to fight a spiritual war every day against Satan (Eph 6:10-18, I Tm 1:18, I Tm 6:12, II Tm 4:7). If we choose to not participate in fighting against Satan, we automatically choose to fight for him because not standing up for the Truth (Jn 17:17), is the same as denying it (Mt 10:32-33).

You can be dismissed from a league for not following its rules. The sobering point is that the battle between God and Satan is more than just a game. It involves our souls and eternity. God loves us so much, but as our Creator, He holds the right to deny access into Heaven if we decide not to obey Him. He provides the opportunity for salvation, but it is up to us to play on His team. This makes Him reasonable. Thankfully He is also a gracious God and will forgive us if we decide to change our self-image and mold it after Him (Gal 2:20).

Source: Choosing Epic

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