From Where I Sit: True Christianity starts in the heart

By: Tom Rupp, Special to the Telegraph
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For the Christian, the Bible is the book that introduces us to God and His Gospel. In it we discover who Jesus is, what he came to do and why it matters.

In addition, the Bible tells us how to live for God in this world. As someone said, it is our “basic instructions before leaving earth.”

However, it is more than merely a list of do’s and don’ts. The Bible gets to the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. Although it is important what we do, it is most important why we do it. The “why” is more important than the “what.”

Our motive determines the worthiness of our action. Jesus addressed this particularly in the Sermon on the Mount when, in Matthew 6:1 He declared, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

The key phrase here is “to be seen by them.” In Matthew 6:1-18 Jesus talks about giving, praying and fasting. He says that we do these acts of religious devotion for an audience of one – God. Any other reason, or any other audience, renders the deed eternally meaningless.

It may be temporarily beneficial but it does not register in heaven. Why? Because the motive that prompted the deed was for others to see it and think highly of us. It becomes all about us, and when it is all about us it is no longer about our heavenly Father.

I like The Message rendition of this verse – “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.”

Those of you who are familiar with the Bible know that Jesus, here and elsewhere in the Gospels, refers to the Pharisees as good people gone wrong. That is, they loved God, loved His Word. They also loved being highly thought of, and that proud attitude trumped the other loves. Like the insidious cancer it is, it took over and poisoned everything.

Though people look on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:9). It all starts in the heart. It doesn’t stop there but it starts there. May God change us, heart first.

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