Recently, I’ve been spending time in the book of 1 Samuel, reading about how Saul was selected to be the first king of Israel. On the outside, Saul was everything you might expect in a king, tall in stature and confident in his abilities. He was quite the figure, yet God quickly rejected him as king because on the inside, Saul lacked the qualities necessarily to rule by godly example. When Saul disobeyed God’s command to totally wipe out the Amalekites, it began the downward spiral of his reign.
What’s interesting is that David ended up being the complete package, rugged and handsome on the outside as well as a “man after God’s own heart,” on the inside. What I take from this is that God cares nothing about our physical attributes. His primary concern is what’s on the inside, our godly commitment and inner character qualities, and whether or not we chose to live our lives according to the leading of His Holy Spirit.
If God looks at the heart, why do we spend so much time putting on the “Christian makeup,” attempting to cover up and conceal our imperfections instead of dealing with them? How much effort has been spent on keeping up Christian appearances! Jesus told the Pharisees that it isn’t enough to simply look good spiritually. There has to be something going on within the heart as well. [Matthew 23:25-28]
We all know God looks at the heart, but still how many of us base how we’re doing spiritually on the numbers of Bible chapters read, or the number of minutes spent in prayer or how much we’ve put in the offering plate or how many messages we sat through in church… the list could go on. Why do we focus so much attention on our outward Christian appearance when God looks at our heart?
I can think of a few reasons.
1. Practicing religion is easier than building a relationship. It’s less personable and allows us to compartmentalize our faith to only a couple of hours a day. Our faith is something we do instead of how we live our lives.
2. Outside religion is more measurable than growing spiritually on the inside. It’s something that allows for us to do the minimum required and to simply check it off our list. Bible read –check; prayer time done –check, went to church –check.
3. When we focus on outward appearances, it allows us to compare how we’re doing against others or to our culture as a whole, instead of God’s holy standard set forth in His Word. In our world, it’s not too difficult to find others around us who make us look like a “saint.”
4. Focusing on our outward Christian appearance allows us to put off dealing with those spiritual issues that keep us from getting personal with God. We lower the standard which ultimately gives us a false sense of security that we’re doing just fine.
So when God looks at your heart, what does He see? Does He see anger, jealousy, hatred, pride, or does he see love, compassion, and forgiveness? Maybe it’s a little of both. If that’s the case, don’t waste one more moment. Ask the Lord for forgiveness and then for His help through His Holy Spirit in changing you into the new creation that He created you to be.