“When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.””
Mark 7:14-19, 21-23 NKJV
From the innermost parts
There are those today, who define their faith in Jesus by external things, whether they be music chosen, choices of friends, foods eaten or avoided, or even the very clothes on their backs. We have become a church bent on fitting ourselves in little boxes, in which we have sought to define ourselves and others. The boxes are marvelously decorated, but do not dare look under the cover.
In the spiritual world of the follower of Jesus, there are those who seek to fit descriptors that define what it to be a Christian. These descriptors can vary from the conservative Baptist, fully starched from head to toe, to the usual hypercharismatic, worldly, hip donning the latest styles.
Regardless of what you are wearing, or what you eat, it is not what comes from without that can defile, but what comes from within.
Jesus was once again confronted by the religious authorities regarding the behavior of His disciples. They ate without the ceremonial washings that were expected. The leaders had long ago forsaken the Scriptures and had established their own traditions. The washings they demanded to be followed had nothing to do with word of God.
“Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”
Mark 7:5-9 NKJV
In the aftermath of the confrontation, Jesus seized on the opportunity to go to the heart of the matter with those who were watching. It is what comes from within, from the heart, that defiles.
““The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”
Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV
I can remember thinking myself virtuous, that I had a moral standard far above everyone else. In reality, my heart was desperately wicked. I figured if I hid the deep dirtiness inside of me, the great, wretched filth that filled my innermost parts, I could pass as good. What is inside never stays there. What happens in the heart, doesn’t stay in the heart. It comes flooding forth, polluting everything.
Much of my spiritual growth has been based on being honest, recognizing that I am a sinner. After I came to know Jesus, there was a pitched battle for my testimony, as flesh battled spirit for control. I praise God that He filled my heart with a deep desire for the word of God. In it I see who the Lord is, and His true nature.
With the Lord guiding my every feeble step, I have learned to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh. More importantly, I am able to see when I am slipping. The Lord has used many people over the years, in and out of Christ, to serve as points of refinement. Through the interactions, He has provided a place of testing where I can see the work He has done in me.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
Colossians 3:12-16 NKJV
Brothers and sisters, let us be mindful of what is coming from our own hearts, ushered from between our lips, and acted out with our hands. In approaching the ones we have been commissioned to reach, let us be not so aware and judgmental of what we see. In these last days, people who have been dedicated to sin and debauchery, are coming to Jesus. They are responding to a message in the Gospel that is stark contrast to the message of he world.
The damage they have incurred is very much present in what they may do, what they may say, and how they present themselves.
Let we also, be about examining ourselves, that we be vessels filled with light, not spewing forth darkness, but the love of Jesus.
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
I Peter 2:11-12 NKJV