One of the most necessary aspects of true religion (genuine repentance, conversion, salvation, Christianity) is that it springs from a right heart. “Heart” is not a reference to feelings and / or emotional reactions but is a particular core purpose from which one produces all consequent purposes, plans, choices, actions, conduct and behavior. Many have merely relegated their religion to the realm of the external actions, often in a continual search for certain emotional experiences they believe will validate the legitimacy of their religious routine. With or without the emotional search, this has become so common and characteristic of 20th and 21st century Christianity that it is difficult to combat. True religion can only be the product of a right internal purpose in response to the intrinsic value of the Most High God due to the internal and external evidence of His value and greatness being seen with, what the apostle Paul once called, “the eyes of your heart.”
Many enter into a routine of external actions defined as activity their particular “society” ascribes as valid. Such behavior, without a right internal purpose as its source, is at best hollow (moving more seriously toward deceptive and, even worse, toward sin). Many attempt to wage war against the sin that so easily entangles them (if they wage war at all); that wages war in their bodily members, purely in the external realm of altered behavior (thank you behavior modification techniques) without ever hearing of or considering the need to make the most fundamental and necessary internal change that becomes the source of all genuine external religion, deliverance and transformation. Shockingly, some begin appropriately but later look to and depend upon a particular external routine to be the source of future growth, deliverance and transformation.
What is the internal change to which I refer? It is commonly, but without appropriate explanation, referred to as “love of God.” Jesus, interacting with the Jews of His day, men and women trained in the religion of Judaism, which was to prepare them for true relationship with and usefulness to God, stated, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life… but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves” (Jn.5:39 & 42). What then is “the love of God”? It is a response to the ultimate, intrinsic value of God by which a human being, in the deepest recesses of his or her being, resolves and purposes to please, honor, serve, worship and glorify God first and foremost, above all else, supremely, as the ultimate end and goal of his or her life. All subsequent, subordinate and consequent choices and behavior extend from and are a manifestation of this central, foundational, ultimate goal. All else is viewed in and flows from this light. This is the narrow way / gate / door of Jesus’ teaching (Mt.7:13, 14; Lk.13:24). In fact, the Luke passage just referenced reveals, “…someone said to Him, ‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?’ and He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.'” (Lk.13:23-24)
I, unlike a recent young man who captured the attention of many by speaking against religion, am not against religion. People will naturally be religious. Some do very unhealthy things religiously while others engage in acceptable behavior religiously. I am in favor of religion that is the manifestation of a right purpose of heart. The problem is not religion; it is religion without proper relationship with God; a relationship that is based on love of God whereby His pleasure, will, purpose, kingdom is truly more important than ours (whether expressed in personal ways or corporate ways [ministries, churches, businesses, governments, etc.]).
“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'” (Mark 12:28-30)
Note: Please read the previous article, as well – http://comprehensium.com/perspective/