It has always been characteristic of humanity to focus on appearance … what is external … rather than what is internal. Since the creation of the world human beings have been sizing each other up according to what can be seen and measured immediately. It has been equally true that appearance are almost always deceiving.
How often I forget that God isn’t primarily concerned with what is on the outside … with appearances, talents, visible displays of “progress,” statistics, or even status/reputation. God is concerned with what is inside of us. At the anointing of David in 1 Sam. 16, God tells Samuel that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Jesus tells the Pharisees, who are so obsessed with people’s perception of them, to “clean the inside of the cup first, and then the outside will also be clean.”
Yet so much we find ourselves desiring a clean outward appearance! We obsess ourselves over what others think, or at least what we perceive they think. So much energy, time, and money is put into feeling important, feeling valued, feeling accepted, feeling needed. So much time is put into developing things that God cares nothing about.
God cares about the heart. He wants you to be clean on the inside. He wants you to not just act good, look good, or have the reputation of goodness, he wants you to actually be good! He wants to give you a clean heart…to wipe away those sinful fixations on perceptions and the opinions of the others.
How can a person actually become good? How can I become a godly man, and not just continually go through the motions of acting like someone who loves God?
David prayed in the Psalms that God would “create in [him] a clean heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within him.”
Ezekiel prophesied that God would give his people an “undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”
Jesus taught that what makes people truly a part of the people of God is not a physical circumcision done by human hands, but a circumcision of the heart done by God.
I don’t want to be a man who simply acts in all the right ways, says all the right things, and has all the right appearances and reputations … I want to actually be a man who loves God.
It seems to me that only God can change people’s hearts. It seems to me that the men I’ve known in my life who I genuinely believe have hearts that have been changed by God are men who have continually sought Him in prayer … asking, seeking, and knocking.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10-12