Inward & Outward

Journal Entry // February 3, 2021

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Matthew 23:23 ESV

This chapter in Matthew was a deep look into the heart of Jesus and what the expectation is for holiness in our lives. It interweaves well with Psalm 26 and its call for God to test the heart and mind of the writer. This testing of the Lord is important in my life to measure and evaluate the love for Christ in my heart. It is similar to an athlete preparing for competition. He trains and prepares for his time of testing. The training without testing would be worthless. Truly, without the testing the athlete would not be able to evaluate and measure how they are progressing.

Jesus is telling us the same measure can be applied to our faith. Our faith is in a constant state of testing to some degree and we all measure and evaluate each other based on how we appear to be doing. We look at the outward life of a person and determine the state of their inner heart. Not only do I come to rely on this measure for self-evaluation, I generally deceive myself with it. I look at the miniscule visual positives that I determine can demonstrate holiness. These are typically just the outward signs that prove my holiness. Yet, I ignore the negative indicators and focus on hiding them from myself and others. All of this to present a false picture of my faith to myself and to the world.

Jesus calls me to something deeper and more meaningful. He would have me humble myself… To dig deep into the weightier matters of faith: justice, mercy, faithfulness. It is basically a rephrasing of Micah 6:8. Jesus tells us that we should continue to work on our outward holiness, but that change truly comes from the inside out. That there must be a great change before there can ever be an action change. Our focus must be inward as we seek to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Not neglecting one over the other, but training myself to see outward holiness through inward faithfulness.

My heart and mind is key. This is why the psalmist asks the Lord to test them both. The testing will reveal not only the weak spots, but will reveal the strengths. I need both to be revealed to truly walk in faithfulness and humility. Takeaway from this morning is that I should not only not be surprised when testing comes, but I should invite this testing into my heart and mind. I need to be actively seeking to shed the light of Christ into the deep recesses of my heart and mind. I need to uncover what is hidden within and examine the true extent of sin in my life. It’s not something to be afraid of, but it’s something that should be sought after as I walk this path of faith and continue on this journey toward my heavenly home. Jesus is lowly and gentle in heart. He is not only ready to forgive and comfort me when I stumble and fall, this is what excites him. He wants me to come to him with my hurt and pain. He wants me to draw near to him. He wants to see me fighting for holiness in my life as I strive to demonstrate my love for him. There is no need to hide my sin and shame and guilt, for he is already vastly aware of my failing. He wants me to be aware and turn toward him and embrace his love, mercy, and grace.

The humble will be exalted… The self-exalted will be humbled. We will all be humbled in this life. The only question is who will do the humbling. I want to live a life of humility that emulates Christ. A life that reflects his heart and lives out a life of justice, mercy, and faithfulness.