Text: Mark 7:1-37, Jeremiah 17:9-10, Hebrews 8:6-7,10
The heart is glorified in our culture. We sing songs about it. We talk about following it, as if it were a wise guide. We paint it onto greeting cards in February—beautiful, pink, and symmetrical. Can you imagine what a greeting card heart would look like if it were painted after the heart we read about in Mark 7?
Maybe one side of it would be pretty and pink, but the other side? Scraggly, grey, ugly. A lopsided, scary-looking heart wouldn’t help greeting card sales, I know, but it would better match the heart Jesus talks about in this passage. He says that from our hearts come “evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).
These evils are not caused by some outside force. They originate from within us (Mark 7:23). Nothing like being told your heart is the root of greed and evil actions to get your day going, right? But if we can sit with this truth for a little while, something very beautiful is revealed.
I remember hearing my mom compliment her friend one time on how nice she looked. Her hair was fixed. She had on a new sweater. Her make-up was perfection. She looked lovely.
“Thanks,” the friend said. “My mom always taught me that if you’re having a bad day, you can at least put on a cute outfit.”
Isn’t this our natural response? To pull ourselves together from the outside in? We scrub our exterior as much as we can, hoping to fix what’s dirty and broken on the inside. This might look like a new outfit, or volunteering at church, or making sure you’re seen with the right crowd. None of those things are inherently wrong or bad, but when we do them in an attempt to heal something that feels broken, or to earn the approval of our Father, they begin to reflect what the Pharisees were doing: fixating on the law and rituals.
Jesus had something to say about these attempts of ours: “These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. They worship Me in vain” (Mark 7:6-7). Our rituals and outward behavior will not bring us into true communion with Christ because those things are not His primary concern. He is concerned with our hearts. He sees straight through the exterior into the real—into the dark, the grey, and the ugly.
And here’s the beautiful part: Jesus chose to live right there, in our hearts, and to write the law under this new covenant. “I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people” (Hebrews 8:10).
This is what makes the whole gospel thing such a life-changer. We don’t have to scrub ourselves clean. The blood of Christ has already done that.
It’s all too easy for me to slide back into Pharisee mode, to put on a cute outfit and hope for the best. But Pharisee mode prevents true communion with Christ. Let’s not offer Him our perfectly-symmetrical-greeting-card hearts today. Let’s offer Him our real hearts and, in return, experience real worship.