These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are mere human rules (Matt. 15:8-9).
My unbelieving jogging friend joined me on our path with a new resolution: “I need to go to church more to learn to be good.” I wrestled with knowing how to say to him that simply learning to be good isn’t really the point of church.
Spiritual growth that honors God requires heart change, not mere behavior improvement. Our behavior is important, but not as important as developing a heart of love for our Lord. That is why bare moralism is never the equivalent of the gospel.
While there is nothing wrong with being moral, moralism substitutes prideful performance for humble devotion, and legalistic obedience for loving discipleship. Hands and hearts should work together in biblical obedience, but the heart must be the command center of our lives.
Because of this, the enemy will always begin his attacks on us or our loved ones by attempting to alienate affections. He goes straight for the command center, often by tempting hearts with love for sin, but also by convincing us that God will be satisfied with simple obedience rather than dependence on Jesus.
We combat Satan’s ploys by filling hearts and minds with understanding of God’s grace. Love for God results from knowing his mercy to us. True discipleship springs from a heart devoted to him who gave himself for those who confess their sin – not those who claim their goodness.
Lord, draw me nearer, always nearer, to your heart by the wonders of grace that make my devotion an offering of praise for your grace, not proof of my deserving it.