The Problem of the Heart
Changing the Heart
“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.”
We are always looking for natural solutions to spiritual problems. The mantra of today is that people act the way they do because of societal failures. Hamas brutally kills people because they are a disenfranchised people. People steal and rob because society has kept them in poverty. People become addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, and work because they have physical sickness. Sin is seen as a physical or social problem.
As Jesus interacts with the Pharisees, they are offended because Jesus dares to question their penchant for external rituals as the basis for their acts of righteousness. Like today, the Pharisees focused on external, physical actions as the basis for character and behavior. In their perspective, to live rightly, all one has to do is follow the rituals and external regulations. They sought natural solutions for spiritual problems. Having been raised in the religious world of rules and practices, the disciples likewise embraced physical and human solutions for spiritual issues. So, they subtly rebuked Jesus by pointing out that he had offended the Pharisees.
In response, Jesus reorients their perspective. The answers to the world's problems are not found in natural solutions, for the problem is spiritual, not natural. Sin is not a societal, physical, or cultural problem. People murder, steal and act sinfully because of a heart condition. The problem is ultimately a spiritual condition that has corrupted the core of our identity. In his epistles, Paul describes our plight when he states, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11). As a result of our corrupt nature, we are enslaved to sin, and our heart is evil. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”
Because the problem is spiritual, natural solutions will not work. Electing the right political leader will not turn our nation back to God. Implementing the right public policies will not cure the problems of theft and addiction. Appeasing terrorists will not bring peace. Human solutions will never fix what is a spiritual heart condition.
Does this mean that we are hopeless in our search to find answers? The answer is an emphatic no. We must look for spiritual solutions because the problems are spiritual rather than physical or societal. This is the point Christ is making in these verses. The only way to solve the world's problems is to change people's hearts. This is what he came to accomplish. Christ, through his sacrifice, not only removed the judgment of sin but also broke our enslavement to sin. He is the one who can change the heart. When we surrender our life to Christ, he sets us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). When we accept Christ, he transforms us and changes our hearts so we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. In Christ, we are a new creature; the old things passed away, and he has made all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul points out that apart from Christ, we were dead in our sins. However, in verse 4, he states, “But God…made us alive together with Christ.” In other words, God changes everything. When he changes the heart, we find the true answer to the problems we see in our world and our lives today.
If you are struggling with sin in your life and cannot have victory over the inward battles you face, the answer lies in Christ. The problems of our world are spiritual, not natural, so they require a spiritual solution. This is the solution Christ offers us if we ask. Today, pray for God to change your heart and surrender your life to him, for this is the answer for humanity.