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Check Your Motives

God looks much deeper than the exterior. We must pay careful attention to the inner thoughts and attitudes of our hearts.

Set yourself in first century Israel during the time that Jesus walked the earth. Imagine for a moment the excitement and mixed emotions of having one in your midst who performs miracles, heals the sick, speaks a message of righteousness, and promotes love.

… Jesus repeatedly draws their attention to the real issue …

Now imagine that you are one in a crowd of many who follow Him with great anticipation and wonder. You listen to His words. You watch and see how His very presence has the power to melt hardened hearts but also inflame jealousy. Many loved Him. Many did not.

Now with the stage set, let's go to the Mount of Olives for one of the greatest teachings ever given. Jesus, sitting on the hillside, opens His mouth and utters words unlike any the crowds had ever heard before. There he spoke with passion, conviction, and authority. Matthew 5 through Matthew 7 is a portion of Scripture commonly known as the "Sermon on the Mount." In these chapters we hear Jesus bring into clear focus godly standards for right living—standards that would require an inner change of attitude on the part of the hearer.

Jesus identifies a level of moral discipline that would be a cut above the accepted practice and teaching of the day. He made it abundantly clear that a change of attitude was needed among the religious leaders, who were not only guilty of spiritual pride, but who had also misguided the people by wrongly interpreting the kind of moral integrity needed to enter the kingdom of God.

The purpose of Jesus' teaching was to bring correction to the notion that it was only a man's outward misconduct that would be judged. What people needed was an understanding of the bigger issue. Wanting to lead them to higher moral ground, Jesus repeatedly draws their attention to the real issue—the condition and attitudes of the heart. Only a heart that is morally sound and pure in motives can produce the kind of lifestyle behaviour God desires.

Jesus frequently says throughout His teaching, "You have heard that it was said, but now I tell you … ". Jesus raises the bar. He wants them (and us) to pay rich attention to His words. These words reveal a moral standard required by a holy God—words that clarify what are correct and acceptable motives.

It is important for each of us to understand that God looks much deeper than the exterior. We, like those who followed Jesus when He walked the earth, must pay careful attention to the inner thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. Let us not deceive ourselves; whether good or bad, nothing is hidden from God's sight and we will be judged accordingly.

Originally published in Off the Fence, April/May 2007.




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