Jesus began his ministry with the classic ‘sermon on the mount’- a set of teachings that were radically different to anything his audience had ever listened to. Even non-Christians hold the Sermon on the Mount in high acclaim because the focus of the teaching is the heart. Jesus drives home the point that unless the heart is set right, morality has no sting and good practice will be superficial and at best temporary.
The Bible teaches us that the heart of man has been corrupted by the sinful nature that everyone carries with him consequent to the fall of man at Eden when sin entered the world and into our genes. The heart therefore is like a factory producing sinful thoughts and desires at a frantic pace. In Jesus words,
18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15)
Not only is the origin of all sin within the heart, what follows also corrupts the entire person as he acts out what his heart produces. Recognizing this is critical to embark on a path of holiness that begins when the yoke of the sinful nature is destroyed by the cross of Christ made real by faith in Christ. Thereafter man needs to set his heart on the godly things that alone have eternal value.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)
In the verses that follow, Paul goes on to explain how we need to not only put away things like anger, malice, impurity, greed etc. but also put on values like compassion, humility, kindness, patience and so on. Paul uses the process of clothing oneself to describe this process. The unkempt look that one wakes up with in the morning is replaced by an elegant look as one puts on clothes appropriate for professional work. This process of putting on and taking away takes place primarily in the heart and practice naturally follows.
Finally a Christian needs to grow into a state of appropriately valuing the possessions and experiences in his life. What do we truly treasure in our lives? That which we treasure sets the pace for the outflow from the heart. Without the ability to accurately differentiate between gold and straw, between that which has value only in this earth and that, which is eternally precious, life ends up being a meaningless existence, a chasing after the wind.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6)
The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. At the heart of Christian life is the necessity to set our hearts right before the Lord.
- APT SPEECH
- AN UNBELIEVING GENERATION