As I’ve said many times here, our heart is the gatekeeper to everything. I don’t think I can overstate the importance of knowing this truth. What we allow to gain access to our affections will eventually determine what kind of person we will become. What we allow in will come out under the right circumstances. Our strength of character is an inside job, not an outside one.
I think this should be understood in light of the Twitter-fed, virtue-signaling culture we currently live in. The Pharisees were the virtue-signalers of Jesus’ day. They appeared to be pious on the outside, but were like “whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones” on the inside (Matt.23:27).
Here’s a very familiar passage from the Passion Translation that’s a simple reminder of the importance of paying attention to what’s going on inside of us.
33 “You must determine if a tree is good or rotten. You can recognize good trees by their delicious fruit. But if you find rotten fruit, you can be certain that the tree is rotten. The fruit defines the tree. 34 But you who are known as the Pharisees are rotten to the core like venomous snakes. How can your words be good if you are rotten within? For what has been stored up in your hearts will be heard in the overflow of your words!
35 “When virtue is stored within, the hearts of good, upright people will produce good fruit. But when evil is hidden within, those who are evil will produce evil fruit. (Matt.12:33-35 TPT*)
I highlighted “The fruit determines the tree” because it struck me this morning how opposite this is from what’s going on in our culture.
Martin Luther King’s dream was that we would be known by the content of our character and not the color of our skin, which is essentially what Jesus is saying here. Yet it seems that the current culture wars are all about how much melanin we were born with.
Can anybody besides me see the similarities to this and that of the Pharisees?
But Jesus is also speaking to you…and me. We all know this. What we allow on the inside will determine how we act on the outside. What I allow my heart to feed on will come out of me, eventually. It will either confirm or betray the image I’m trying to project to others through the overflow of my heart.
And Jesus is telling us that when we allow evil things into our heart, we cannot be trusted. Our inside life is poisoning us and everyone around us.
15 Watch over each other to make sure that no one misses the revelation of God’s grace. And make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many. (Heb.12:15 TPT*)
What this is saying is that we are products of our heart, not our behavior.
Again, the fruit defines the tree.
Here’s the thing. I could actually be right about every issue, yet be totally blind to the issues that really matter. The Pharisees weren’t necessarily wrong about what they believed. It was their heart that was poisoned—therefore, they thought it was good to kill their own Messiah. This is what happens when we try to be virtuous apart from developing our inner life.
This is also what makes the heart so deceptive and insidious, as I said in “Entering into a cooperative process with Jesus.” It’s why we need to let the Bible study us, letting Jesus reveal the deepest issues within so we can be healed and made whole. When we allow Jesus to remove the “log” in our broken perceptions, we’ll begin to see others with His heart, which gets to the positive side of this issue.
Jesus said, “When virtue is stored within, the hearts of good, upright people will produce good fruit.” This is very simple, just not often followed. I know I don’t follow it enough, which is why I need this daily process with Jesus.
Which means I have to take an honest look at what my heart is feeding on. What am I feeding on with regard to social media? (I personally don’t feed on social media for this very reason.) What is my disposition toward others? Have I become cynical, passive-aggressive? Do I see the “other side” as the enemy? Am I angry? Always looking at things in a negative light?
All these things are “warning lights” for me. It’s my soul telling me there are toxins poisoning my heart. It’s amazing how quickly my heart can be infected. The problem is, these soul toxins are also addictive.
The only antidote is to continually focus my mind and heart on good things. This is what Paul told us to do.
8 Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. 9 Put into practice the example of all that you have heard from me or seen in my life and the God of peace will be with you in all things. (Phil.4:8-9 TPT)
I obviously don’t skirt negative cultural issues on this blog—especially, toxic ideologies. But my goal is to see the people who may embrace them through Jesus’ eyes, understanding that they’re dearly loved and have great value as a person made in God’s image.
Beloved, let’s not be pretentious like the Pharisees, or like our present-day virtue-signalers. Let’s live authentically, as Jesus clearly laid out for us. Let Him do His good work in us. For then the God of peace will be with us in all things. Amen.