Yesterday I came clean with my sin of rebellion, defying and despising God’s Word and leaning on my own righteousness instead of Jesus Christ. In my reading today, I was led to see where this came from. While I admitted that things came out of my mouth that were mean-spirited and definitely not loving, this morning I saw what Jesus said about what comes out of our mouths. When Jesus was asked why His disciples didn’t follow the Jewish customs of religiously washing their hands, He replied: “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” (Matt 15:11)
A religious practice doesn’t keep us from being defiled. He later explains it to the disciples: “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” (Matt 15:18-20)
As I meditated upon this teaching, it led me to ask the Lord, “Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10) What exactly am I asking the Lord to do? The recognition of sin in my heart has brought me to the foot of the cross, repenting of my sin. But I’m now asking for spiritual heart surgery that only God can perform. But even more than that, I’m also asking the Lord to renew a right spirit within me, so that I submit to the Holy Spirit in order to obey the Lord at all times.
Honestly, I’ve prayed this Scripture to the Lord on many occasions, but sin still rears it’s ugly head and I give in. So as I look at Jesus’s teaching that “the words you speak come from the heart–that’s what defiles you”, I am forced to realize that I haven’t heeded the wisdom in Proverbs: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Prov 4:23)
To “guard” something refers to maintenance, care, and support. A wise person realizes that temptation is real (1 Cor 10:13) and takes appropriate precaution. This parallels where Solomon advises his son to actively avoid evil, and those who practice it (Prov 4:14–15).
Scripture places a strong emphasis on the heart as the source of good or evil. Jesus announced: “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45) If we haven’t submitted our will to the Lord’s, our mouths will speak evil because as sinful creatures that’s what is in our hearts without the Holy Spirit’s transforming work.
And we were warned in the Old Testament, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” (Jer 17:9-10) If we don’t guard our hearts by submitting our will to the Holy Spirit, we will be given by the Lord what we deserve, without His mercy.
Lord, I ask that You not only create in me a clean heart, renew a steadfast spirit within me, but show me how best to guard the clean and pure heart that I’m asking for. Lord, what I want to flow out of my heart is love and Your truth. By submitting my will to You, I want to be able to live up to Your definition of love, with the help of the Holy Spirit, which is: “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7). In the precious name of Jesus, amen.