And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23 ESV)
The religious teaching of Jesus’ day was a person need not worry about his thoughts, rather he should focus on his actions. Outward obedience was the main thing, according to the teachings of the religious leaders. Jesus completely reversed this and put His emphasis on the inner person.
In His Sermon on the Mount He stressed that though it was wrong to commit adultery with a woman, the wrong began in the lust of the heart. Though it was wrong to kill a man, the sin began in the heart with hate. This principle held up with every sin. He taught that the one who hungers and thirsts, in his inner person, after righteousness is blessed. And the reverse is also true by inference, that the one who hungers and thirsts after unholy things is cursed.
Our inner appetites determine our actions and the Law focuses on simply restraining the outer actions. But Christ focuses on changing the inner heart. We act like we do because of what we hold in our hearts. Change the outward acts of a person and the heart remains the same, and eventually what is in our hearts will reveal itself. What is inside of us comes out sooner or later – like a deep root of a tree that still grows, despite an entire house being constructed above it, and that has the power to eventually upset the very foundation of the house.
Change the heart, however, and you can also change the actions. This is what heaven will be like. Many describe heaven as merely a nice place, a beautiful place, a “perfect place.” But unless the human heart is changed to be like Christ’s we will ruin that place – just as we have ruined this earth.
Islam does not teach the transformation of the heart as Christianity does. Islam teaches to restrain the actions while on earth, but in heaven, according to Islam, men will be able to give full vent to their physical lusts.
Christ taught the opposite, that heaven can only be heaven if we are inwardly changed. Anger, lust, pride, hatred, and anything impure must go. And by the Spirit of God our hearts can be changed and our inner thoughts purified. It is not in our own strength that we stand, rather it is in the strength of God. This is why humility of heart and surrender of will to God are so important. Andrew Murray wrote:
Do not strive in your own strength; cast yourself at the feet of the Lord Jesus, and wait upon Him in the sure confidence that He is with you, and works in you. Strive in prayer; let faith fill your heart-so will you be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
The battle of our lives is in the innermost person, where our true values lie, and that is where God does His best work. If we will repent of our sins and trust in Christ as God’s answer to our sins – that He died in our place, receiving the punishment for our sins for us – and that He rose from the grave – we have a new life. Christ has through His Spirit changed the inner person of people through the centuries. Many a person who was filled with lust has had his heart changed to be filled with compassion. Many a person who was filled with pride and ego has been changed to be filled with humility and faith.
How does God need to change your heart today? What values and thoughts need to go and how does your hearts need to be surrendered to Him today? Let Him show you step by step, day by day, how He is seeking to mold you into His image.