Last time, we began to consider moving beyond communication and relationships and applying Quick to Hear to the Christian life. I introduced the “Straight Way,” the path we take from the narrow gate, where we enter into the Christian life to God Himself. Jesus came to make our paths straight.
We also looked at David’s words in Psalm 19:14 and drew from that two ways we stray from the Straight Way. The first of these was “the words of my mouth,” to which we added deeds. The other was “the meditation of my heart,” the heart representing the whole inner life. Today we will look at these two categories and how they interact with one another.
Jesus, the Pharisees, and the People
In the 7th chapter of Mark’s gospel, we read about one of many interactions Jesus had with the scribes and Pharisees. On this occasion, they challenged Jesus because His disciples ate without first ceremonially washing their hands. Such washings were one of the many traditions that the Pharisees had developed and added to the law. Jesus pointed out they were actually making the Word of God void with all their traditions.
The Pharisees were challenging Jesus and His disciples in regards to something they were doing (or not doing). In our diagram above, what we do is included with “the words of my mouth.” All of our outer life, including all we say and do, is represented by what appears above the Straight Way in this diagram.
After rebuking the Pharisees, Jesus calls the people around Him to hear and understand His teaching. Hearing is the gateway into the inner life that we refer to as the meditation of my heart. Understanding, the second thing Jesus calls the people to do, involves other aspects of the inner life. We will refer to these has the mind, the heart, and the will. These are shown in the diagram below. Note that sometimes the Bible refers to the heart as representing all of the inner life (as in Psalm 19:14) and other times as one aspect of that inner life. The immediate context helps us to determine which meaning is appropriate.
What Defiles a Person
With the people gathered around Him, Jesus goes on to teach them that nothing from outside defiles a person, but what comes out of a person is what defiles him. Therefore, we see a connection between the two aspects of straying from the Straight Way. While we can stray from the Straight Way with our words and deeds, the origin of that straying is the inner life, within a person.
What this tells us about our walk with Jesus along the Straight Way is that when we stray by sinful words or actions, we need to look inside for the origin of that sin. We also see this idea in James’ letter, just a few verses before he instructs us to be “quick to hear.” James writes, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. The desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death” (1:14-15 ESV). James locates the origin of our sin in our desires, part of our inner life.
Jesus Explains Defilement
After His brief lesson to all the people, Jesus enters a house with his closest disciples, who ask Him to explain His teaching further. To help them understand, Jesus points out that whatever goes into a person (food in this context) does not go into the heart but the stomach and is expelled. Jesus is telling His disciples to use knowledge (the mind) to understand His teaching. At other times, we must use our hearts and our wills to fully understand, but I will deal with this at another time.
Jesus then goes on to list several things that come from within a person’s heart (this time representing all the inner life) that defile him. If we look at this list, we can see all the aspects of the inner life represented. Jesus says, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts (mind), sexual immorality (heart), theft (will), murder (will), adultery (heart, will), coveting (heart), wickedness (mind), deceit (mind), sensuality (heart), envy (heart), slander (will), pride (heart), foolishness (mind)” (Mark 7:21-23 ESV emphasis added). As you can see, after each of the things Jesus lists as defiling a person, I suggested an aspect of the inner life that plays a key role in that defilement.
The Good and Bad of the Inner Life
What we see from Jesus’ explanation of His teaching to His disciples is that our inner life (meditation of our hearts) can be both good and bad. We hear and use our mind, heart, and will to understand, but we can also use these same things to sin (stray from the Straight Way). The Christian life is all about Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, working to renew our hearing, our thoughts, our affections, and our willing to be conformed to Jesus’ hearing, thoughts, affections, and will.
Paul describes this transformation this way in his letter to the Colossians. Note a similar list of those sinful meditations which defile a person and sinful words which result from sinful meditations.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Col 3:5-10 ESV)
What makes the difference is old self, which leads to sinful words and meditations and the new self which leads to redeemed words and meditations. We will look more closely at this another time.
For now, I suggest you hear and meditate on the what we have covered here, using your mind, heart, and will, guided by the Holy Spirit. Think of elsewhere in the Bible that we read of such things. And as you meditate, remember to remain quick to hear.