I read this verse the other day in Joel:
Rend your heart, and not your garments ...
And it made me think of Jesus's words to the pharisees in Matthew:
Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. First cleanse the inside so the outside may be clean as well.
These verses just reminded me how much more important it is to the Lord for our hearts to be clean and pure, and not just our actions.
I do think it's a little tricky, though. Because, even when your heart feels a certain sinful way toward a situation, we are still called to act well. I don't think this verse gives us excuse to behave without self-control when we feel a lack of self-control on the inside. I think, in that case, what keeps us from hypocrisy is having a heart that desires and is willing to change.
So maybe that's the first step toward a clean inside - recognizing and calling our sin what it is so that we feel the desire to please the Lord and feel convicted when the miry filthiness of our hearts bubbles to the surface.
Judgmental thoughts toward others seems to be the place where I find many incongruencies between how I act and what my heart is thinking. I do recognize it though, and try so very hard to change.
One way the Lord has shown me to combat those thoughts is to immediately, or as immediately as possible, turn that judgement into some sort of prayer or praise or spiritual truth. I read or heard somewhere one time (ha! helpful reference, right ;) that, if you turn these types of sinful thoughts to prayer, the enemy is going to think twice before attacking you in that way. I like that.
So here's what it might look like in my head when I'm tempted to be a judgmental fartface:
(Scene: A sunny Sunday morning at a local church in Southeastern Virginia. Our protagonist sees a young mother juggling her unruly children)
Protagonist (inside her own head): Good grief, I would never let my children ... sorry Lord. Thank you that she's here. Thank you that she's bringing her kids to learn about you. If she's had a really hard morning I pray you can calm her spirit and ... does that one have cereal in their hair?!?! Why on earth didn't she ... ack! Sorry Lord. Thank you for providing food abundantly for us. Thank you that you accept us in worship, even with cereal in our hair. Please help my stupid brain not to do this anymore ... please, help me ... cleanse my heart ...
So, anyway, that's a bit of my battle strategy. At the very least, I'm better at recognizing these awful tendencies and attempting to turn them into something positive. I try so, so hard to not let myself indulge in these pharisaical moments. It takes work, but I think the Lord is pleased when I at least give it my best shot.
This week I've just been praying for God to show me where my Regina George insides don't match my Pollyanna outsides. And then praying for strength and strategy to change. And, once a good work has been started, the Lord won't return void.
I'm so thankful for that.
How about you? Where is it hardest to match your heart and behavior? What are your strategies for combating these attacks? Do you also tend to feel all Mean Girl on Sunday mornings? What is up with that??