Category Archives: Heart

Inside Issues for Spiritual Leaders: Are You Clean?

In Luke 11:37-41 Jesus is addressing a crowd of people when a Pharisee invites him to dinner.  The Pharisees were religious leaders in Israel that sometimes also served as politicians and social guardians within Jewish society.  At this point in the narrative the Pharisees were already bent on trying to discredit and destroy Jesus  over perceived violations of the Jewish Sabbath.  They were questioning his authority.  But Jesus accepts this particular Pharisee’s dinner invitation.  Upon reclining at the dinner table, the Pharisee is appalled that Jesus did not first wash before dinner.  This was not just an issue of clean hands to be germ free before a meal.  This was a religious legal issue of being ceremoniously clean.  This was a Pharisaical rule, not one derived from the Old Testament Law.  Jesus responds with two observations and a command.

First, Jesus makes an indicting observation that the Pharisees in general pay close attention to ensuring that utensils are kept ceremoniously clean but are unconcerned about the issues of the heart.  Jesus notes that the condition of their heart was one of greed and wickedness.

Second, Jesus goes on to declare them foolish and to remind them that the one who made the outside made the inside.  The condemnation of being foolish reveals that the Pharisees in general were ungodly and full of false piety.  The emphasis is on the fact that God is the maker of both the outside and the inside and therefore equal weight must be given to cleansing both.

Finally, Jesus commands the Pharisee to give alms as a way of gaining cleansing.  But this is not works righteousness.  Jesus is using a ritual activity the Pharisees knew well, the giving of alms.  But he places a twist on it by stating that the alms they must give are on the inside.  The notion is that they should give up their greed and avarice and they will be clean.  Cleansing is always an inside issue, an issue of the heart.

The problem with spiritual leaders is that we can look clean for quite awhile.  We can say the right things, do the right things, be regarded as righteous and worthy. But inside there is greed, covetousness, and the desire for all forms of gain.  It will show up eventually.  It usually shows up in the form of pride and legalism.  And people begin to feel it.

The Pharisees were often accused of being hypocrites.  Today our society has looked at the Christian faith and given us the same label.  When we over emphasize external behaviors as markers of holiness and disregard the heart we set the stage for hypocrisy.  Jesus was placing an emphasis on inward cleansing.  If the inside is clean then you are clean.

Here are three questions for us as leaders to help make application to our lives:

1. What external markers of righteousness are you holding others to that may not match Scripture?

2. How is your heart?  Are there forms of greed lurking there?  Do you covet some other leader’s ministry, fame, or success?  What are you counting as gain?

3. Are you willing to confess those attitudes, repent, and give them away to the grace of the gospel for inward cleansing?

King David once prayed, Create in me in a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

May that be our prayer today.  Lead well!

What’s Necessary to be King

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 outlines for the nation of Israel some necessary qualifiers for a king to reign over them.  This book of the Bible supplied a restatement of the Law for the people of Israel as they prepared to enter the promised land of Canaan.  Deuteronomy exhorts the people of Israel to obey the Law, to give allegiance to God alone, and to remember that repentance can restore them to the land and to relationship with God-if lost.  This particular passage foresees a time when Israel will demand a king to be like the nations around her.

There are two primary concerns for any king of Israel:  that his heart not turn away from serving Yahweh and that his heart might not be lifted up above those whom he leads.  In summary, the concerns are for an unconsecrated heart and a proud heart.  These should be our deep concerns too as we lead.

What is crucial here is to think with a Hebrew understanding of the word “heart.” We relegate this concept to mere emotions.  The Hebrew understanding of the “heart” is more holistic.  It includes the mind, will and emotions.  The heart is our governing center-it is that part of us that chooses all day, every day-either for good or for bad.

v.17 states, And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.  Let’s be honest, these are two things that men are always susceptible to-the love of women and the love of money.  But women leaders can struggle likewise.  A preoccupation with money or material things and men can also turn their hearts away from a single minded focus. These pursuits have great potential to turn any heart away from a pure devotion to God. King Solomon may be the greatest biblical example of this (see 1 Kings 11:1-3).  An unconsecrated heart becomes an independent heart.  Even the exhortation to not seek many horses (v. 16) was meant to sustain a pure national identity and a holy dependence on God alone.  To say it conversely, a consecrated heart is one in full dependence upon the Lord.

v.18-19 exhort the king to keep a copy of God’s Law close by and to read it all the days of his life.  This was to keep him with a right reverence for God and that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.  The writer ties not only a humble spirit to the constant reading of God’s Word, but also leadership longevity.

You see, for the Christ-centered leader, if our hearts become unconsecrated-if our hearts turn away from a determined pursuit of God and His kingdom-then we risk the same fate as Solomon-a broken and divided kingdom.  If our hearts become proud then we become only self interested.  We are no longer in a good position to serve those we are meant to lead.  We will serve ourselves. And our leadership lives will be cut short.

Consecration and humility-these were necessary requirements for he who would be king in Israel.  These are also worthy heart pursuits maintained by the grace of the gospel for any spiritual leader today.