The Potential Inner Danger in Keeping All of the Outer Rules

To be honest with you, I don’t really have a lot of time to spend on this post. In fact, I’ve been struggling to find time to anything lately, which has put me in a really weird spot in a lot of areas, but I did want to share with you something I’ve been meditating on for a while.

Over the past 5 months I’ve been reading and studying the book of Mark.

In June, when I was trying to decide how I was going to spend my time in the Word, I decided that I needed to know more about the person and work of Jesus. I mean, Christianity is supposed to be about following him, right? I felt as though I had a lot of big decisions to make and as the mister and I were about to walk into a new chapter of our lives (studenthood), guidance was desperately needed.

As I’ve read through its pages, my jaw has been on the floor multiple times. Jesus was quite the controversial figure. Through all of the passages and all of the stories, one truth has stood out the most to me…

Following Jesus is not just about what you do – it’s about the condition of your heart.

Mark 13:38-40 displays this quite clearly:

Jesus says, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Hold the phone! What? Let’s rephrase this:

“Beware of those within the church who seek to draw attention to themselves by exalting their own biblical knowledge, who enjoy the praise and fame they get from others around town, who think of themselves as better than others at church and at social gatherings, who only care about their own needs, and who say long and eloquent prayers for the sake of looking holy.” (My own interpretation)

“They will receive the greater condemnation” (Mark 13:40).

But isn’t being religious all about what we do? Isn’t it about reading the word of God, going to church and saying long and eloquent prayers? Isn’t it all about avoiding sex before marriage, not cussing, and wearing modest clothing? Isn’t it about not making any big mistakes externally? Isn’t it about showing others how obedient you can be?

The scribes seemed to have it altogether, too.

They worked hard to gain their position within the church. They tried to obey every rule and appear to be as holy as possible. However, this meant that their faith was in themselves, and their hope was in what others thought of them – not in the Lord.

Obviously, those who truly trust in the Lord tend to walk in certain ways. This is why James proclaimed, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). I believe that those who have a heart set on God will abide by his word and seek to live a life of love and purity, but the point is, their heart is set on God. Their heart isn’t set on a list of rules they have to keep, it’s set on the gratitude of the cross and the grace of God which moves them toward a place of inner and outer obedience – not white knuckled self discipline.

Lately, I’ve felt so confused by the theological differences of those around me. I’ve wondered how can we all read the same book (the Bible) and land in different spots on various issues. I’ve been wrestling with Paedobaptism (baptism of infants) and neo-baptism (baptism of adults), the biblical view of how a church is supposed to be run. I’ve been trying to find the right answers…but in the process, I’ve ended up farther away from the point of the whole thing…

Jesus.

It’s not about what I know or what I think I know. It’s about love. It’s more about my heart than it is my hands.

“The most important [commandment] is, ‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment great than these” (Mark 12:29-31).

Following Jesus isn’t about knowing everything. It isn’t about appearing to be perfect. It’s not about pretending. It’s not about making sure you abide by certain rules such as not having sex outside of marriage, not cussing, or devoting yourself to continual boundry-less service. It’s about getting messy with the maker the Universe. It’s about placing your heart under the umbrella of his grace and allowing that grace to change you. (Which will probably lead you to a place of joyfully or trustfully following his commands.)

I don’t know where you are, but wherever you are, take comfort in the fact that Jesus came to save and heal the sick, not those who think they are well (Mark 2:17).

Where is your heart? Are you concerned about impressing others or are you sitting under the care of God? Are you endlessly striving to perform a certain ritual of good deeds while ignoring the arrogance and pride inside of yourself? Are you looking at the sins of others and thinking you’re not that bad after all? Do you get overly focused on what you know theologically instead of loving others?

My heart has a way of getting twisted sometimes…

Exhale. Rest. You don’t have to be perfect. Confess your shortcomings; don’t try to hide them. God loves you. He cares about you. He can heal any addiction, pain, hurt, hang-up, or deep seeded issue that resides in your heart.

Praying that I have a heart that is set on Jesus, not on myself, or my own glorification.

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