And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:14-23

Jesus’ audience was deeply familiar with dietary and cleanliness laws laid down in the Old Testament. The idea that something outside of your body, whether food or a dead animal, could make you unclean made complete sense to them. But instead of walking them through Religion 101, Jesus flips the tables on them. It’s not what’s outside but what’s inside your heart that defiles you.

Like the Pharisees in this story, most of us can do a decent job at avoiding something “sinful” if we need to. Or we can at least keep up the appearance that we do. But who can avoid the sinful nature of their own heart? No matter how good we can convince others we look, we all have a broken, twisted nature within us. Romans reminds us, “no one is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). But Jesus doesn’t confront us, or his original audience, with the wickedness of our own hearts to condemn us and leave us in misery and despair. He invites us to do a heart check. In confronting our own sinfulness, we are to turn to the one who can wash our hearts clean.

Take a few minutes and lead yourself through your own Heart Check. Would you describe parts of your heart far from God? If so, what areas are off limits or opposed to him? Where do you notice evil thoughts, envy, pride, or any of the other symptoms of sin mentioned in verses 21-23? Be as honest as possible and ask the Holy Spirit to bring things to mind. Then, confess by sharing those areas with Jesus.. Bring your heart before God and acknowledge the ways you fall short of his way and his heart. Ask him to wash your heart clean and rest in the grace he offers.

By Jessica Rust

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