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Part 2: If I Make the Right Choices, Will I Grow Spiritually?


A massive emphasis with many programs about drugs, pornography, alcohol, etc., is to teach people to make the right choices. We give them the information, let them know their choices and consequences and then allow them to choose what they think is right. Making good choices, we are told, is all about knowledge and willpower. As Christians, we can see this as a tool for spiritual growth. Is this the case?




In Matthew, Jesus explains a parable that explains that what comes out of a man defiles them. What we speak comes from our heart. This is what defiles or dishonours us. This is where sin or evil behaviour comes from. It does not matter what we do on the outside. If our heart is not good, we cannot stop doing the wrong thing.


15 Peter asked Him, “Explain this parable [about what defiles a person] to us.” 16And He said, “Are you still so dull [and unable to put things together]? 17 Do you not understand that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But whatever [word] comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what defiles and dishonors the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts and plans, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slanders (verbal abuse, irreverent speech, blaspheming). 20These are the things which defile and dishonor the man; but eating with [ceremonially] unwashed hands does not defile the man.” Matthew 15: 15-20 AMP


In Mark, Jesus calls us hypocrites if our actions do not align with our heart. We are hypocrites just like the Pharisees who did the right thing outwardly, BUT inside their hearts were not aligned with the heart of God. Our evil actions reveal an evil heart. We can also act or choose to act in a certain way, but our hearts do not align with our actions. Our heart condition will be found out in the end. We can only act for so long before our heart state is revealed. Even worse, God knows the state of our heart anyway. It does not matter how much we act. We are not going to fool God.


6 Jesus replied, “You are hypocrites! How accurately did Isaiah prophesy about you phonies when he said:

‘These people honor me with their words

while their hearts run far away from me!

7 Their worship is nothing more than a charade!

For they continue to insist

that their man-made traditions

are equal to the instructions of God.’

8“You abandon God’s commandments just to keep men’s rituals, such as ceremonially washing utensils, cups, and other things.” Mark 7




Paul, in Romans 7, identifies the issues very clearly. He says we are trapped in a position where we do what is sinful, even when we want to do the right thing. I hate this, but I cannot stop. Sin has control of me, and I am powerless to do anything about it. Even when I hate what I do, I cannot do the right thing. I cannot make the right choices alone and am doomed to failure.


14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. Romans 7:14-17


If the condition of the heart is so critical, what is the most important? Is it to learn to make good choices or to work on the heart first, and then everything else will flow from what you do with the heart? When reading from Matthew 15, Jesus lets his listeners know that it is what comes out of the mouth, and everything that a person does comes from the condition of their heart. If their heart is wrong, then they will choose to do evil. If their heart is good, then they will act and behave in a godly way.


It is scary when you read what Paul says in Verse 7. We are powerless, and it is impossible to make good choices. We are under the influence of sin, no matter how good we feel. Fortunately, in Chapter 8, we read that there is a way to deal with this sin.


1 Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. 2For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3


The Bible is obvious that we are in a constant war with sin. If we try to deal with this in the flesh, we will not succeed. Sin is too powerful. The only way to walk free of sin and condemnation is to come under the new law. This is the law of life. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour and walk in the Spirit, we have a change of heart and an ability to walk free of sin. God’s Spirit is able to deal with our heart condition and guide us, gives us strength to do the right thing and convicts us if we go off track.


There are some misconceptions. One is that we do the right thing, and then the feelings will follow. For example, I want to stop from drinking. The problem is that you may be successful for a while, but when you fall, it is a lot worse than when you started. Your commitment not to sin works for a while, but you are tempted, give in to temptation, and then you often end up in a worse position than before. Even when we want to change, there are often things much deeper that cause us to desire to sin and to act accordingly. Jesus explains how this works from a spiritual perspective.


In Matthew 12:43 we read:

43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”


We are defiled by what comes out of our body. Our actions and our words.

Jesus Explains What Truly Defiles

14 Then Jesus called the crowd together again, saying, “Hear my words, all of you, and take them to heart. 15 What truly contaminates a person is not what he puts into his body, but what comes out. That’s what makes a person defiled.”


As the condition of the heart is so important, what does the Bible say that will help us to understand how to find out the condition of our heart and to have a clean and pure heart so our actions and decisions will be ones God will be pleased with? Through the Bible, there are several key things we need to do:-


ONE: Repent before God.


Ask God to expose anything wicked that will cause you not to think, act, and speak as He calls you. We are all dealing with sin. Be honest with God and ask Him to forgive you, and you bring your sinful heart to God.



8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.


14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14


21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21


TWO: Seek God with all your heart.


13 When you look for me with all your heart, you will find me. Jeremiah 29:13



Do as Jesus did. Seek after God and put everything into connecting with HIm. Do this with all your heart! Do not be lukewarm, as God is not happy with those who put on an outward appearance of being godly but their heart is not fully for God.


15“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.16So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.


THREE: Allow God to chastise/correct you.

God corrects and disciplines us so we can complete all God has given us to do and allow us to walk into blessing.


2 Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; Psalm 26:2


18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18


FOUR: Humble seek God for leading, guidance and direction regularly

An essential part of a follower of Christ’s life is stopping and seeking God and His direction for our lives. This comes through reading the Bible, prayer and worship. God is calling His people to live lives where we are constantly listening and being guided by Him.


5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5


26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26


2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2


FIVE: Live a life of peace, thankfulness and gratitude.

Many people have lives full of stress, worry and fear. God is calling us to be people of peace, people who are thankful and grateful for all God has done for them.


27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27


1 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1


SIX: Flourish

As we go to God and ask Him to change our hearts, He will take us on a new journey where we can become all HE has made us to be. We will be confident, blessed and mature as followers of Jesus.


4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4




Conclusion


The doctrine of Willpower will always fail. When trying to do the right thing, we find that the power of sin in us always causes us to ultimately make the wrong choice. We are doomed to failure. Only when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and learn to walk filled with God’s Spirit can we truly grow spiritually.

God is calling us to a life where our heart and will are integrated. We can only make good choices and carry them out consistently when dealing with our heart condition daily. This can only happen when we come to God, repent and are filled with His Spirit. We cannot grow spiritually just by making good choices. Godly choices and the strength to follow them through can only come from a heart that God transforms and fills with His Spirit.


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