“. . . these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men” (Isaiah 29:13).
WORDS ARE POWERFUL THINGS, BUT THEY SHOULD NEVER BE USED TO COVER UP THE CHANGES WE NEED TO MAKE. When what is going on is not good, the temptation is for us to cover up our wounds with the bandages of fine-sounding words. We may “draw near” to God with our mouths and “honor” Him with our lips, but if our hearts are far removed from God, then our words will not be accepted by Him as a substitute for real worship. We may mislead other people who can’t see the true condition of our hearts, but God will not be misled. He is not looking for verbiage but for hearts willing to be transformed. And if our hearts are not willing to be turned toward Him, then no amount of “image management” will get us where we want to go.
It may be that we underestimate the amount of transformation that is actually possible. Discouraged by our past efforts to become what we want to be, we give up and lower our expectations. Not convinced that God can make any real difference in our dysfunctional behavior, we content ourselves with talking as if He had made a difference. Doctrinally, we may go so far as to believe that the Christian doesn’t even have to live a life qualitatively different that the non-Christian. Since salvation is by grace and not by works, the Christian is different only in being forgiven.
But while it is indeed true that salvation is by grace and the perfection of our holiness must await the resurrection, it is also true that our transformation begins in this life. Writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul said, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). And in the same letter, he said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). God’s purpose for us goes far beyond words and images and outward reputations. He intends nothing less than to actually turn us around!
“Faith means being grasped by a power that is greater than we are, a power that shakes us and turns us, and transforms and heals us. Surrender to this power is faith” (Paul Tillich).