The Yellow River
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Matthew 15:19
Last year the American Environmental Protection Agency allowed an ocean of sludge to pollute Colorado’s Animas River, turning the tributary to a sickening bright yellow. The accident occurred when a crew tried to pump out the polluted buildup of an abandoned mine. The waste overflowed, ruining a hundred-mile stretch of river.
According to Jesus, the human heart is a cesspool of evil, which overflows into our words and deeds. Our world is polluted by the toxic buildup of our hearts. The problem isn’t political, and it can’t be solved by political means. It’s not legal, and all the laws in the world can’t solve it. It’s not educational. If everyone had a doctorate, we’d still have a corrupted culture. It’s not financial; and if everyone were a millionaire, we’d still be in trouble.
Moral hearts lead to moral hands, and only a transformed life brings holy habits. It’s not enough to turn over a new leaf, pass a new law, elect a new president, or create a new slogan. The only answer is a new heart. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The greatest need you and I have—the greatest need of collective humanity—is renovation of the heart. Dallas Willard
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. John 8:31
In his book on language, British diplomat Lancelot Oliphant (1881–1965) observed that many students give correct answers on tests but fail to put those lessons into practice. “Such undigested knowledge is of little use,” declared Oliphant.
Author Barnabas Piper noticed a parallel in his own life: “I thought I was close to God because I knew all the answers,” he said, “but I had fooled myself into thinking that was the same as relationship with Jesus.”
Faith is not accepting the fact of God but receiving the life of God.
At the temple one day, Jesus encountered people who thought they had all the right answers. They were proudly proclaiming their status as Abraham’s descendants yet refused to believe in God’s Son.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did” (John 8:39). And what was that? Abraham “believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). Still, Jesus’ hearers refused to believe. “The only Father we have is God himself,” they said (John 8:41). Jesus replied, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (v. 47).
Piper recalls how things “fell apart” for him before he “encountered God’s grace and the person of Jesus in a profound way.” When we allow God’s truth to transform our lives, we gain much more than the right answer. We introduce the world to Jesus.
Father, thank You that You receive anyone who turns to You in faith.
Faith is not accepting the fact of God but of receiving the life of God.
Are You Listening to God?
They said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” —Exodus 20:19
We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God— we simply don’t listen to Him. God has given His commands to us, but we pay no attention to them— not because of willful disobedience, but because we do not truly love and respect Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Once we realize we have constantly been showing disrespect to God, we will be filled with shame and humiliation for ignoring Him.
“You speak with us,…but let not God speak with us….” We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God’s servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, “Well, that’s only your own idea, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God’s truth.”
Am I constantly humiliating God by ignoring Him, while He lovingly continues to treat me as His child? Once I finally do hear Him, the humiliation I have heaped on Him returns to me. My response then becomes, “Lord, why was I so insensitive and obstinate?” This is always the result once we hear God. But our real delight in finally hearing Him is tempered with the shame we feel for having taken so long to do so.
The Bible is a relation of facts, the truth of which must be tested. Life may go on all right for a while, when suddenly a bereavement comes, or some crisis; unrequited love or a new love, a disaster, a business collapse, or a shocking sin, and we turn up our Bibles again and God’s word comes straight home, and we say, “Why, I never saw that there before.” Shade of His Hand, 1223 L