“People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.”
– Proverb 16:2 [NLT]
It is often said that what you see is what you get. In the Church, this is often not true.
I lead a discipleship program for a major mission organization. We would often get young guys or gals in that school. These students were not with us long before it became evident that there was a disconnect between what they said and what they did. They knew all the Christian terminology and just when and where to use it. They have learned to play the Christian game of saying or doing just enough to please their parents or pastor.
Christianity is not about pleasing people but pleasing God. God is not pleased by external modifications we make to our actions, but internal heart transformation that changes why we do what we do. These changes never come by self-effort alone but by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
God does not judge by appearance or what people say, but according to the secret intentions of our hearts. Therefore, Jesus had the greatest condemnation for the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day. They worked tirelessly to keep all the details of the law, but it never changed their hearts.
The greatest tragedy of the legalism of the Pharisees is they started to believe their lies about themselves and were blinded to the truth. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.
The lack of a heart change is illustrated clearly in the older brother of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. When the younger brother got what the older brother thought he himself deserved, the older brother’s true colors were revealed. He did not serve his father out of love but because of what he could get from him. His motive was basically selfish. The older brother was doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons.
Life has a way of confronting us about the secrets of our hearts. The next time someone else seems to get what you deserve, you might want to ask the Lord what he is trying to say to you.
Are you doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons?