But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? (Mark 2:8, NKJV)
Do you have a secret? Only you know what it is (you’re sure of that!). Oh, but you would be mistaken. The Lord Jesus already knows your secret. He knows what’s in your heart. He even knows the motives, intentions, and reasonings that are going on in your head as you work out how to conceal your secret. These men “reasoned in their hearts” that Jesus was a blasphemer because He told the paralytic man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk. 2:5-7). Jesus knew what they were saying to themselves in their hearts. And, the Lord knows what is going on in our hearts, too. When all is said and done, He will judge our both our hearts and our deeds. “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). What is in our hearts drives our words and our actions. By purifying our hearts and cleansing our conduct we are able to draw near to God and have His blessed presence in our lives. James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Jas. 4:8). We must remember that God will judge “every secret thing” according to the gospel (Eccl. 12:14; Rom. 2:16).
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:6–8, NKJV)
The call from many pulpits is to receive Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, and you are saved. We agree one must receive Jesus to be saved. The important question is, how does a sinner receive Jesus into his or her heart to be saved? How did the Colossians received Christ Jesus? Christ is not received through the vain and deceitful philosophies of men, through religious traditions that men originate and practice, or by following the principles of the world (v. 8). Prayer is not identified as how sinners receive Christ Jesus. Colossians 2:11-13 teaches they received Christ Jesus the Lord when their sins were cut away by God’s power (“the circumcision of Christ”). This happened when they were “buried with Him (Christ, jrp) in baptism” (v. 12). In the Bible, one is not baptized because he is already saved, but as an action of “faith in the working (power) of God” that raised Jesus, to raise the sinner from sin’s death to new life in Christ (forgiven, v. 13; Rom. 6:3-4). When they were baptized is when they received Christ Jesus the Lord. Saved by the power of God, we are called to live faithfully in Christ with thankful hearts. And, we must be on guard lest our treasures in Christ are plundered by those who bring false messages of salvation (Col. 2:3, 8).
1 Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matthew 6:1–4, NKJV)
Giving to the poor is undeniably a way Christians “do good to all” (Gal. 6:10). The rich are reminded to be “ready to give” (1 Tim. 6:17-18). (In today’s world, most of us qualify as rich.) We should look for and use our opportunities to help others. When we do, God sees the motive of our heart. Jesus said we ought to seek God’s honor and not the praise of men for our acts of charity. To announce our charitable deed is like blowing a trumpet before us so they will know how generous we are. It is selfish hypocrisy to help others out of a heart that wants others to honor us for it. Though honored by people, such will not be rewarded by God. Let us do our charitable deeds from a heart of compassion. In due time, we will reap what we have sown (Gal. 6:7-10).
1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know. (John 14:1–4, NKJV)
Jesus was preparing His apostles for His impending departure. His crucifixion was just hours away. They would scatter – fearful in the moment, uncertain of the future (Matt. 26:31-35). Asking questions like, “Where are you going?,” and “Why can’t we follow you?,” their souls were unsettled, stirred up, confused (John 13:36-37). In their moment of distress, although He was facing the cross (and their approaching abandonment), Jesus reassured their hearts with a call to believe in Him. Jesus had always told them the truth. The faithful heart is comforted in knowing the Father has many dwelling places in His house. Christ’s death and resurrection would prepare the way for them (and us) to abide in the house of God with the Father (1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:19-22). Finally, eternal heavenly dwelling places are prepared for Christ’s disciples. Jesus had said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (Jno. 12:26). Jesus is the way to the Father (Jno. 14:6). In times of spiritual disturbance, the troubled heart is calmed by faith in Jesus and the preparations He has made for the soul.
37 And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. 38 When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. 40 Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?” (Luke 11:37–40, NKJV)
Jesus did not concern Himself with the traditional ceremonial washing of hands which the Pharisees and all the Jews held as binding (Mk. 7:1-3). Just as the Pharisees found fault with the Lord’s disciples on the matter, so this Pharisee disapproved of Jesus. Whether the man verbalized his astonishment is unclear. Still, Jesus spoke directly to him of the hypocrisy on display by demanding the washing the outside of a cup or dish while leaving the inside filthy. Of course, these are metaphors of a heart “full of greed and wickedness” (v. 39). A corrupt heart is not concealed from God by external religious rituals and displays of purity. We must first cleanse the inside of our cup – our heart – so the outside (our conduct) can be pure. Otherwise, we are hypocrites like the Pharisees, pretending to be pure yet having defiled hearts. James explained the purification God accepts, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Jas. 4:8). Repentance produces purity of heart and life. But without heart conversion, religiosity is feeble, futile, and false (Jas. 1:26-27).
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV)
Jesus repeatedly used this exhortation (Matt. 13:9; Lk. 14:35; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Having “ears to hear” is about having a heart that is ready to accept the teachings of Christ. Jesus used a similar exhortation when He said, “He who is able to accept it, let him accept it” (Matt. 19:12). Ears are closed to hearing the gospel of the kingdom when hearts refuse to receive it. So then, our heart condition reveals whether or not we have “ears to hear” God’s word. This is the essential message of the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:3-9). The hard, closed heart does not receive the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19). The shallow, emotional heart listens – until the cost of discipleship is too great (Matt. 13:20-21). The crowded heart is overtaken by other concerns that choke the word and prevent hearing and fruitfulness (Matt. 13:22). The good heart is the soil that listens to God’s word, understands it and bears fruit (Matt. 13:23). The good heart hears (receives) the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:18). We must guard against having ears that “are hard of hearing” God’s word (Matt. 13:13-15). If you have “ears to hear” it means your heart receives the word of God, holds it fast, and bears fruit with endurance (Lk. 8:8, 15). The good news is we can change our hearts and start having ears to hear by repenting, receiving the truth, and obeying it. Do you have ears to hear God’s word?
18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” (Mark 7:18–20, ESV)
The Law of Moses contained dietary restrictions for Israel which distinguished between clean and unclean animals (Lev. 11). Jesus removed those limitations, explaining that food does not defile a person (Col. 2:14-17). Evil that comes from within our heart defiles us (Mk. 7:21-23). Demanding abstinence from certain foods as a way of holiness is apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Yet, some faiths that forbid certain foods in the name of Jesus. One example is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose Word of Wisdom (Doctrine and Covenants 89) forbids “hot drinks,” which Church leaders have explained means abstaining from coffee and tea (“Vaping, Coffee, Tea, and Marijuana,” New Era, August 2019). Seventh-day Adventists typically follow a vegetarian or vegan diet due to supposed revelations of Ellen G. White (“What Do Seventh-day Adventists Eat?,” seventhdayadventistdiet.com). By contrast, the Bible says that “food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (1 Cor. 8:8). When it comes to righteousness, we must be more concerned about what comes out of our hearts than what goes into our stomachs. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).