Scripture: Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14
1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat." 10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles." 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?" 13 He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit."
Which is more important to God – clean hands or a clean mind and heart? The Scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus' disciples of breaking their ritual traditions.
They were concerned with avoiding ritual defilement, some no doubt out of fear of God, and others out of fear of pleasing other people. Jesus points his listeners to the source of true defilement – evil desires which come from inside a person's innermost being.
Sin does not just happen or force itself upon us.
It first springs from the innermost recesses of our thoughts and intentions, from the secret desires which only the individual soul can conceive.
God in his mercy sent his Son Jesus Christ to free us from our sinful cravings and burden of guilt, and to restore us to wholeness of life and goodness.
But to receive his mercy and healing, we must admit our faults and ask for his forgiveness. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9).
When Cain was jealous of his brother, Abel, God warned him to guard his heart: "Sin is couching at the door; it's desire is for you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:7). Do you allow any sinful desires to couch at your door?
We do not need to entertain or succumb to sinful desires or thoughts, but instead, through the grace of God, we can choose to put them to death rather than allow them mastery over us.
Only God can change our hearts and make them clean and whole through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God through his Word and Spirit first brings to light our sinful condition that we may recognize sin for what it is and call upon God's mercy and pardon.
The Lord is every ready to change and purify our hearts through his Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
His power and grace enables us to choose what is good and to reject what is evil.
Do you believe in the power of God's love to change and transform your heart?