In our childhood we were given an envelop to submit in our Sunday School class each week. It contained our offering and calculated our church score based on several boxes that we checked: Present (20%), On time (10%), Bible (10%), Offering (10%), Lesson studied (30%), Preaching (20%), for a total score of 100%. There were also lines to record the number of visits and phone calls made in the previous week. Each metric was a means of communicating the disciplines expected in the Christian life. In many ways this envelop was a simple diagnostic of a Christian heart. Of course, later in our personal spiritual development we learned that there was much more to being a heart healthy Christian than these Sunday morning measures. Much, much more.
Truth is, many professing believers today score high in the doing department. Over the last generation or so, however, we've been confronted with a basic contrast of faith, the personal dynamics of doing and being. While demographers pose nominal Christianity, that is, Christian in name only, as the norm among many believers today, those of us who practice faith at some level still maintain a checklist of sorts as evidence of faith. The emphasis of doing certain things gives us at least the rudimentary proof of having a Christian heart. It makes us feel better about ourselves if nothing more.
Even so, ours is a culture of stress. Who among us can deny the unmentionables of life in the mean streets right now? The list is long--- crime on the rampage, violent resistance to authority, damaging language, racial bigotry, sexual abuse, family dysfunction, competing factions, political nastiness, and so many others. Recently, and please forgive my short memory, there have been video recordings of several horrible crimes involving numbers of people. Someone posted a reply to one such social media post. It read, "Sorry to say, most of the offenders were probably professing Christians". You see, we've mastered some of the Sunday doing things. But, the being elements seem to be woefully short. Maybe it's time for us to submit to a spiritual heart cath.
Physically, it's a revealing procedure, the heart catheterization. It's complicated and beyond my pay grade, as they say. In short, the heart cath explores the vessels and arteries that supply the human heart, the valves that move the blood, and other cardiac functions. A spiritual heart cath, used here merely as an illustrative metaphor, probes the inner regions of the spiritual heart, below the surface of our actions. It would explore the the deeper realities of spiritual identity. This cath is necessary because Scripture pictures the heart as the central operating system of all human behavior. In a segment about religious legalism, Jesus taught---
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft,
false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands
does not defile anyone.
Matthew 15: 18-20, ESV
The heart cath for me is Scriptural truth that exposes my naturally sinful systems. Yes, I am capable of doing all the right things by virtue of my free will. Those inner heart realities, however, control the being elements of my faith. I can check my doing lists for all the wrong reasons while my being self remains constantly egocentric. Meaning that I can sit in church and still harbor anger, prejudice, and evil in my heart.
King David's life always inspires and challenges me. He was by no means a sinless paragon of virtue. Scroll his life in the Old Testament and note the many times he strayed spiritually. Yet, Biblical history remembers him as "...a man after God's own heart" (see 1 Samuel 13:14, and Acts 13:22). No, he was not morally pure and without error. Beyond the doing elements of his life, however, there was a consistent desire to obey and please God. It was the consistent diagnostic procedure that kept him attuned to the will and blessings of his Heavenly Father even after dreadfully sinful acts.
The heart healthy Christian desires to be a person after God's own heart as well. This wish is the heart cath diagnostic that will give us the strength and desire to do what is right, and be the heart healthy Christian so needed in our confusing times.
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