Don't think for a moment that we are better than people without Christ. We've made a decision to follow Jesus and we are being transformed from what we were, but we have all come from that same place of sin. What we are becoming is all about the grace of God but our flesh is still weak and we still mess up. Maybe we do not mess up as often but we still make some pretty good messes. So if the difference is not perfection it must be the way we handle our messes because of the desire of our heart. That's it there: the biggest difference is our heart, our motivation, our desire and then what results from this. Out of the heart flows authentic love which produces repentance and forgiveness. I think these are the two biggest differences, the constant willingness to admit our mess ups, to seek forgiveness and to offer forgiveness. Yet, these are the two things that you will find disciples of Christ struggling with the most, and I believe it's because we belong too much to this world instead of Jesus.
The Word encourages:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)
Jesus taught about the importance of the heart. He told us that wherever our treasure is, whatever we consider to be important and a priority, worthy of our time and effort, that is where our heart will be also. That is worth reflecting on. There are many attractive things in this world that would like to steal our heart away from the lover of our soul. Sin can be a very attractive thing but it is also a divider of the heart from God. It begins with distraction, temptation, before it becomes all consuming. Remember Eve, she was doing okay until the serpent distracted her and she looked at the fruit that became her longing. She looked before she desired which led her to touching and taking. The sin came after when she tasted. There are many things in this world that look innocent at first because the real danger is in its power to distract us, to create a longing in us before it consume us and separates us from our purpose. Set your hearts on things above.
This is easier said then done because we live here and belong with Jesus. We are subject to the rulers and laws of this place but we do not have to possess the same attitude. We have to follow the rules but we do not have to live by the same perspective. We can live by the laws of this land but we do not have to give this land our hearts. In Matthew 22 the leaders had come up with a way of trapping Jesus; they were going to drag Jesus into politics by asking him about taxes. If he said that the Jews should not pay taxes they would report him to the Romans. If he said that they should pay the hated tax to this enemy of Israel then they would lift him up as a traitor, a collaborator of Rome. It looked like a no win situation for Jesus, from the perspective of this world. But Jesus` heart did not belong to this world:
“You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:18-21)
A simple matter for Jesus which left his would-be trappers speechless in the simplicity of the response. There are things we must do in this world because, while we are here, we are subject to its rules and laws. We must work, pay taxes, contribute to our society, obey the law and pay the consequences when we don`t. Jesus clearly states here that we are not above the law. But the thing we possess that does not belong to this world and belongs to God is our heart, and along with it our mind:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
This is what the enemy works so hard at robbing from God, trying to distract us with flattery, or anything he can use to get us looking elsewhere, anywhere but Jesus. It is usually subtle. Could be things that are good for us like exercise, where we start putting more time there then we do in our relationship with Jesus. It could be our favorite sitcoms, movies, friends, music, gaming, even education. These things in themselves are not bad but the real danger exists in the distraction they provide so the enemy can start working on our perspective and attitude. Anything that distracts our heart and mind from Jesus is not good because we are easily influenced. I would even dare to say that the wrong attitude toward church and worship can become a stumbling block to us, stealing away our heart from the one they are suppose to help us focus on.
So often I hear from struggling disciples of Jesus, "I don`t see him any more", or, "I don`t sense him", "I don`t know if he is real". My first question is always, what have you been doing with your time? There is nothing complicated about it, whatever you consider to be a priority is where your heart is going to be. Whatever is important to you will have your time, attention and dedication. How can you "sense" Jesus if you are not spending the time with him, if he no longer has your heart, if he is no longer your focus point? Jesus is real, present, involved, loving, compassionate and everything else we see him to be toward us but there is one missing ingredient: your heart.
It's not hard to tell if Jesus has your full attention, all of your heart and mind. Just look at your attitude. Are you a forgiving person? Is there any unforgiveness in you, any resentment, a grudge, perhaps hatred? Then Jesus does not possess your heart. Are you a repenting person? Is it easy for you to admit your sins, mistakes, when you are wrong? Is it easy for you to seek forgiveness? You do realize a repentant heart is not a one time thing but a constant condition of a heart possessed by Jesus? There is no room for stubbornness or pride; only humility. Use these two things as a check to see if your heart and mind are distracted or if they are set on Jesus. We may have to abide by the rules of this place but it does not mean we are defined by this place. We are defined by our relationship with Jesus, our Lord, Saviour and lover of our soul. It is not so easy to live here and belong to him, and we must always be aware of just how difficult it can be. The apostle Paul told us to work out our salvation daily; work at it, force your body to obey, maintain your focus, make sure that your heart and mind are set on things above and not anything of this place. We belong to Jesus.