We’ve just celebrated the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ over Christmas, and it’s been a time of celebration and feasting. It’s the season to be joyful, we are told, and to think about our blessings. Now, a week later, we find ourselves cast into an ascetic vision of diets, Dry January, or increasingly these days, Veganuary. The papers and TV which just over a week ago were providing tasty recipes for our Christmas dinners are now emblazoned with headlines such as “15 Minutes a Day to a New You”. This happens every single year, so it becomes boring and predictable. I’m sure some of us could do with losing a few pounds, or giving up a bad habit, being more active, etc. But ultimately, how much will our lives be changed? We may feel better that we’ve addressed a particular issue, but what tends to happen then is that dissatisfaction with another area of our lives takes the place of the thing we’ve just dealt with.
Jesus spoke about the issue of the heart and how its sinful desires control us and lead us to behave in ways that are contrary to God’s commands and generally bad for us and those around us. He was speaking to some of the religious teachers of His day, who were picking fault with His disciples for eating bread with ceremonially unclean hands (Mark 7). Jesus did not mince His words and called the Pharisees “hypocrites” (v6). They were more interested in keeping hundreds of extraneous rules than in actually loving God and their fellow-men.
Later, Jesus called a crowd to Him and said to them;
“There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man…..What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” v15, 20 – 22
Our main problem is not that we eat the wrong foods or drink too much, smoke, are lazy, etc. The main problem is a heart problem. Our hearts are selfish and sinful, and therefore we behave wrongly and eat too much, drink too much, can’t control our tempers, etc. Any adjustments we make to our lifestyles will only be skin-deep. We need a heart transplant and the only One with the authority and ability to accomplish that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He went to the cross and died a cruel death in order that anyone who puts their faith in Him might be made new, having a new heart with new inclinations. When we come to Him in faith, we suddenly find new desires for intimacy with Him replacing old ones which only served ourselves. We will still need to rely on the Lord every day to walk in His light, but our old, sinful heart will have been replaced for good.
So as we are bombarded with promises of a “new you” at this time of year if only we follow a certain diet or exercise programme, let’s remember where real change comes from; in fact, Who real change comes from.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26