An Attitude Of Gratitude

An Attitude Of Gratitude

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Justin Lohden

Gratefulness is defined as warm and deep appreciation for kindness received; gratitude or thankfulness. Something that my family has to work on continually is an attitude of gratefulness. In today’s world, teaching our children gratefulness can sometimes be challenging not only for them but also for us. Have you ever met individuals who constantly complain and seem ungrateful? More specifically, have you ever met Christians who constantly complain and seem ungrateful? I would dare to say most of us try to avoid certain people because you know they are probably going to be complaining about something. Regarding church, do you ever catch yourself complaining about elders’ decisions, something the preacher might have said, or the temperature in the church building? I know I do sometimes! So, what causes a spirit of complaining or ungratefulness? Could it be a lack of faith? Maybe selfishness? In my opinion, they both can cause ungratefulness. For example, we have several accounts in the Old Testament of the Israelites complaining! In Numbers 21:5 we read, They spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” God had just delivered them Egyptian bondage and they still showed a lack of faith and ungratefulness.

Sometimes our selfishness can create an attitude of ungratefulness. We sometimes just want our way or want more and more which can lead to a complaining or ungrateful attitude. There’s no doubt God has blessed our country economically but sometimes that may lead to contentment problems. We have to be careful not to fall in the trap of wanting more and more. Contentment can help produce gratefulness. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-12, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” We know that Paul was in prison when he wrote this. Can you imagine being in prison and speaking of contentment? Then what about us? Surely, we can learn to be content and grateful for the things that we have by Paul’s example.

On top of everything else God doesn’t seem to be a big fan of complaining nor did He take it lightly. In Numbers 11:1 we read, “And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.” Grumbling can be a problem. None of us are above the temptation to murmur or complain, but we need to learn from the book of Numbers that this is a serious issue with God. He sent fire to consume some, swallowed up others with the earth, and sent fiery serpents among the people, all because of complaining!

The Bible also has many verses that touch on the subject of gratitude.

  • 1 Chronicles 16:8 says…..Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
  • Psalm 7:17 says….. I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says….Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:15 says….Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Those are just a few examples, but with having so many verses regarding gratitude there’s no doubt how God feels about it. If anybody in this world should be grateful it should be Christians! God has shown us so much love, grace, and has blessed us both materially and spiritually beyond measure and we should be expressing a spirit of gratitude living as a Christian! We as Christians should being showing gratitude throughout all aspects of our life and let our light shine! If we go around complaining or being ungrateful what kind of example are we setting and how can we expect to evangelize to the lost? They’re response might be, “I don’t want any part of that religion”!

Not only should we show gratitude toward God, we should show gratitude toward our fellow man. Some simple acts of gratitude could be just saying thank you, a thank you card, email, or text. Occasionally, I will receive a thank you note or message from a fellow church member for something that I didn’t think was a big deal but it still meant a lot to receive that.

I would challenge all of us to keep working hard towards a grateful attitude. If you have a moment where you lapse, there are many scriptures to study regarding this subject. Let’s concentrate on the things God has given us not the things we don’t have. Let’s stay focused on the big picture which is our Heavenly home. Having a grateful attitude pleases our Father and is contagious. After all, would you rather fellowship with grateful or ungrateful people? Be careful, as they say misery loves company!

The Age Of Rage

The Age Of Rage

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

For the last few years, it has become vogue to refer to the current state of incivility as “the age of rage.” The British newspaper, The Guardian, featured an article in 2019 by Oliver Burkeman, entitled, “The age of rage: are we really living in angrier times?” Janie Watkins wrote the book, “The Age of Rage”: This is a mad, mad world, in 2005. While it’s written in the context of America, it points back to examples like Nebuchadnezzar, Ahab, and other Bible characters, alongside modern dictators and megalomaniacs. At least one source, Science Focus, wisely observes, “The Age Of Rage: Why Social Media Makes Us So Angry…And What You Can Do About It” (3/20). Writers in Australia, Ireland, and other countries are all observing the same disturbing trend of people who disagree being willing to amplify their indignation with intimidation and violence. Outrage has simply become rage.

Any number of current events in the last few years would serve to prove that we’ve gone that far in our society. Civilization depends on civility. More than that, Christianity, as Jesus and His disciples teach it in the New Testament, requires us to “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” as He sends us out “as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Mat. 10:16). You see, it doesn’t matter how the world acts. God expects us to assuage the rage.

The Bible identifies what qualifies as rage. The main word translated “rage” in modern translations is thumos, and it is found eighteen times in the New Testament. The NASB renders it “rage” (Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28), “indignation” (Rom. 2:8), “angry tempers” (2 Cor. 12:20), “outbursts of anger” (Gal. 5:20), “wrath” (Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Heb. 11:27; etc.), and “passion” (Rev. 14:8; 18:3). This word means the “intense expression of the inner self; a state of intense displeasure” (BDAG 461). Louw-Nida says, “an intense, passionate desire of an overwhelming and possibly destructive character” (290). Kittel explains that the verb from which this noun comes originally conveyed “violent movement” and “to boil up” and “smoke” and the noun came to mean what is moved–desire, impulse, disposition, thought, and anger (TDNTA 339). Picture a person’s temperament as a potentially seething volcano. Rather than controlling it, the person allows what’s inside to freely boil over. That is rage!

With intensifying rhetoric from those in the world who threaten harm in expressing their rage, what does God call you and me to do? First, at the basic level, we are not to sin in our anger (Eph. 4:26). Second, never take your own revenge (Rom. 12:19). Third, replace quarrelsomeness with kindness, patience (even when wronged), and gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Fourth, malign no one, but be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men (Titus 3:2).

Warning: This is not how the world thinks nor what the world will do, in many cases. But in the age of rage, we have a higher law. Simply put, it is, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). It’s not a matter of what that may or may not do for our personal causes, but what will it do to advance the cause of Christ. It’s why He has us in this age, to help the world see His way. Those who follow it will experience eternal joy, the antithesis and antidote to this age of rage!

Anger Danger

Anger Danger

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

When it comes to that angry friend, it doesn’t take 1,000 of them to affect you. It only takes one. 

That one friend that has those anger issues can rub off on you. Their mindset, their reactions, and their sin will all rub off on you and you will learn their ways. The word “learn” is the idea of teach. This friend will teach you his ways and you will become his student. There was a study done on the influence of domestic violence and what it can do to not just the spouse, but to the children. 

The study went on to reveal that almost 70 percent of kids that grew up watching their father beat their mother ended up being abusive to their spouse later on in life. 

We don’t always realize that we are being taught. We don’t recognize that we are a student to something that we never wanted to claim as our teacher. We must be careful of our friendship with this dangerous man, or this concern will become a reality, and we will imitate his actions and ways. 

Proverbs 22:25 says, “…Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself.” If you reject the command and ignore the concern mentioned in the previous verses, you will have to face the consequence. You will find yourself ensnared in anger. Genesis four shows us the consequence of anger. In verses 1-8, we are introduced to Cain and Abel. In this account we read that the anger of Cain caused his face to literally distort. This anger drove Cain to murder his brother. Now there have been times in the past that I’ve been mad at my brothers, but never angry enough to kill them. Cain’s anger had driven him to the point of murder.  As a result, verses 10-14 show us that Cain’s life would never be the same again. Unchecked anger will ruin our lives, but more than that unchecked anger will ruin our soul. 

The Better Health Channel did a study on the physical effects of uncontrolled anger which include: 

  • Increased Anxiety 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Headache
  • Digestion problems, such as abdominal pain
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Skin problems, such as eczema
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

The Bible has done a study on the spiritual effect of anger, and side effects include

  • Murder
  • Eternal Punishment
  • And the loss of your Soul

The underground trains at airports and subways will run over and over all day. When many of them reach the end of the line you hear a voice that tells you it’s the last stop. Then the train starts all the way back over and does it again. With anger there is no starting over. The things you say and the things you do cannot be erased. Proverbs 28:13 tells us that the fool lets loose his anger causing irrepairable issues. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.” Eskimo wolf hunters use a special technique to kill wolves. First, they coat a knife blade with animal blood and allow it to freeze. Then they stick the knife in the ground with the blade facing up. When a wolf smells the blood it comes over and begins to lick the blade with the frozen blood. The wolf continues to feverishly lick the blade faster and faster until just the bare blade of the knife is showing. The craving for blood is so strong that the wolf doesn’t even realize that his desire is being quenched by its own warm blood. The wolf is found in the morning next to the knife having killed himself because of his lack of self control. If we aren’t careful, the anger of our friend will become our own, and in the end it will cause the loss of our salvation. 

Anger can affect so many areas of our lives. We can be angry at ourselves, we can be angry at others, we can even be angry at God.  And this holds us back from our salvation.

If we are angry at ourselves for a past sin, the circumstances we were raised in, or the quality of our lives because of our own past decisions – this can hold us back from salvation. 

If we are angry at others, a brother or sister at church, our parents or our friends – this can also hold us back from salvation. 

If you’re angry at God, realize that He is the only One that can give you peace and cure you of that spiritual disease.

Don’t focus on the anger in your life, but on the love in Christ. The Love shown as men spit in His face. The Love shown as he was mocked. The Love as He was tied to a post, as He was scourged, as He carried His cross through the street. The Love shown as men drove nails through His hands. As they shoved the crown of thorns on His head…all of this and still He could look up at the Father and say, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” If anyone had the right to feel anger – it was Him. The Son of God did not go through all of that so anger could eat us up. 

Don’t let anger keep you from the peace and love that Christ has to offer. And don’t let anger strip you of experiencing eternal life with Him. 

What Does Our Face Say About Us?

What Does Our Face Say About Us?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

Your heart is only a little bigger than your fist and it weighs a mere 7-15 ounces. Despite it’s small size, on the inside you’ll find a massive stadium. There are battles that take place in this stadium on a daily basis. In the movies the good guy will always win, but in this arena? It will depend on who or what is the strongest. 

The Bible gives us several vivid descriptions of what goes on inside the heart, so let’s explore that. 

How can we know what’s going inside your heart today? 

A cheerful disposition can be the sign of a healthy heart according to Proverbs 15:13. This tells us that our outward appearance can give away our interior. 

Check out this section of scripture to see that in action. 

“On Abel God looked with favor, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. God said to Cain why are you angry why has your countenance fallen? If you do right will you not be accepted? But if you do that which is not right, sin is crouching at the door” 

Gen. 4.5-6

God already knew what was in Cain’s heart but notice how He explains to Cain that his body language had given away his inward struggles. 

Cain is livid and his countenance had fallen. In the following verses Cain ends up killing his own brother because that darkness had taken over. 

While we can assume what somebody might be dealing with by observing their countenance, we can’t be absolutely sure. Some people are great at masking their inward selves but God isn’t fooled by our camouflage. 

Here are two prime examples of that truth. 

In 1 Kings 12, Jeroboam takes the throne and is now leader over the Northern tribes of Israel. In the Southern kingdom, they had the capital of Jerusalem where all the Israelites in that region would gather to sacrifice to the Lord. 

The Bible indicates to us the very plans that Jeroboam said in the “privacy” of his heart. He built his own place of worship and foolishly placed those golden calves up for his new kingdom to worship.

In Luke 16.15, Jesus will prove once again that He’s the son of God by listening in on the secret conversations of that take place in the heart. 

May we never forget that we serve a God who has a perfect and intimate knowledge of us. There might be things hidden within us that nobody on earth knows about, but it’s not hidden in heaven. To deny the fact that God can see through you is to deny the fact that we are all humans created in His image. Who is the champion of your heart today? 

We Gotta Stop!

We Gotta Stop!

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

If you’re reading this right now, it means you have access to electricity and internet. If you have access to those, you’re already familiar with the subject of this article. This specifically applies to Christians living in the United States, but I encourage those who don’t consider themselves religious to think about the following as well. There’s no other way to address this, so I apologize for having to write it.

“Let’s go Brandon” is everywhere: gas pumps, sporting events, social media posts, bumper stickers, etc. I thought it would die out by now, but it’s everywhere. I see it almost every day on gaming platforms, with many adopting some form of it as a username/handle. It’s become colloquial, used to “thank” the president for any less-than-ideal circumstance.

I am not a fan of our current president. If you drive, you know how much gas is right now. Afghanistan. The Russian ammo ban (and other anti-freedom measures). If you eat food, you’re already familiar with inflation’s impact on groceries. We could go on for a week, but this is a long-winded disclaimer and I need to get to the point.

No Christian should ever adopt the mentality behind the phrase at the beginning of the second paragraph. Besides the crass and hateful language it represents, it’s a sinful way to view our president. Christians are supposed to respect their government leaders (I Pt 2.17). In that passage it’s not a suggestion, it’s an order. The word τιμᾶτε (timate) is an imperative. It means “to show high regard for” someone (BDAG, τιμάω).

Paul wrote, “You should pray for rulers and for everyone who has authority. Pray for these leaders so we can lead a quiet and peaceful life…” (I Tim 2.2). Paul was under an emperor similar to our own president. God’s expectations for Christian behavior don’t change when the president is bad. We don’t have to like him, but we certainly have to respect him and pray for him.

We should not expect to live with God forever if we talk about the president the way so many others do. I get it – it’s hard. Politicization of the medical field under his administration has had a direct impact on my own quality of life. Praying for/respecting the president is not easy at all. But it wouldn’t have been easy for Christians under any of the Roman emperors in the first century, either. If they could do it, so can we. Please think about the serious impact our words have on where we spend eternity. Our first allegiance is to God. If He’s really our King, we’ll have respect for our president.

Image courtesy Flickr.
“I Wish The Church…”

“I Wish The Church…”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

  • “…Cared More About The Lost!” (But, when did I last invite someone to church or invite someone to study the Bible?)
  • “…Checked On The Sick And Shut In.” (But, when did I last make a call or visit to them?)
  • “…Was Friendly!” (But, do I talk to, welcome, and make feel at home visitors and more than my close circle of friends?)
  • “…Did A Better Job With The Singing.” (But, do I sing out, show enthusiasm, and participate with my whole heart?)
  • “…Invested More In The Youth.” (But, am I doing all I can to help them grow, from my attitude toward the church to my personal investment in them?)
  • “…Was Active!” (But, do I volunteer when help is needed, prioritizing it over the things of the world?)
  • “…Was Growing.” (But, how invested am I in being an ambassador for Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20?)

So often, we talk about “the church” in a passive, third-person way. We are critical of her leaders, her activities (or lack thereof), and her members as if we are detached observers. The picture of the early church was of individuals who were personally invested. We are overcome by the consumer mindset of the culture when we sit back and take shots at the perceived shortcomings of our local congregation. Look at the New Testament Christians. Barnabas didn’t fret about how stingy or discouraging the church was; He was generous and encouraging (Acts 4:36-37). Stephen didn’t express his frustration at the church’s lack of courage and conviction; He literally preached himself to death (Acts 6-7). Dorcas didn’t wring her hands at how uncaring and detached the church was; She continually did deeds of kindness and charity (Acts 9:36). They may have been extraordinary in their actions, but they were just “regular members of the church.” They were the church. They didn’t sit in judgment of her. Why? They were too busy working to build her up. When I am tempted to play armchair analyst, I should begin with my own faithfulness and involvement. There is so much the Lord expects me to do to help the church. My investment may cause others to be grateful and excited to be a part of the church! I can most influence me (2 Cor. 13:5)! 

On January 20, 1961, in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, he uttered the famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” Here is the very ending of the address: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” If that is true of a citizen’s mindset of a nation, how much more a Christian’s mindset in that holy nation, the church? 

But Grow In Grace And Knowledge…

But Grow In Grace And Knowledge…

GUEST WRITER: Charlie Smith

smith20web20column_2

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:18

Peter writes this letter knowing that he’s going to die soon (2 Peter 1:14), and he wants the church to remember his teachings after he’s gone (1:15). This illustrates how deeply invested Peter was in the church’s success:

  • He had been on the ground floor of Jesus’s ministry, literally walking off the job site, leaving everything behind, to become a fisher of men
  • He had seen the crucifixion, the empty tomb, and the pierced side of his resurrected savior
  • He had helped the church grow from 120 to untold thousands covering the entire known world in one generation

And now Peter realizes that he’s soon going to be gone and the church will not have the direct guidance of the apostles but instead will need their indirect guidance through the New Testament writings. What are the last words of this apostle, his final thoughts for the church that he loved so dearly, which continue to echo down to us today as the spiritual successors of those first-century Christians?

Always keep growing!

First, he asks us to grow in the grace of Christ. When we obey the gospel, our sins are completely forgiven; God forgets them; we are “saved to the uttermost,” according to Hebrews 7:25, and when we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins (1 John 1:7). So how can we grow in something that is complete?

I think a key is found in 2 Cor. 12:7-9. Paul has been given this thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment him, and he prays three times that the Lord will take it away. But God tells Paul that His grace is sufficient. It was enough that Paul was a Christian; Paul did not need any particular problem taken away; God’s grace sufficed.

Likewise, no matter what we face in this life, it really doesn’t matter if we’re a Christian.  God’s grace is enough. It takes effort and maturity, though, to gain this perspective. We need to keep growing in the grace of Christ!

Second, Peter asks us to grow in the knowledge of Christ. This is an easier interpretation: We must go to The Book! In my experience, and from what I’ve observed in others, those who grow as Christians are those who study the Bible on their own, digging in to see for themselves what God says. The preacher who baptized me told me one time that, in addition to his other study, he read a chapter a day from Proverbs and the gospels because he wanted to remain connected to the wisdom of God and the heart of Jesus; this is the attitude of someone who, know matter how much they know about the Bible, is still striving to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

May we all have this desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We’ve been blessed to have the Smiths at Lehman since last August. Charlie begins work as an economics professor at Freed-Hardeman next month. We’re so sad for us, but very happy for them. What a wonderful family!
What Was Their Secret?

What Was Their Secret?

Gary Pollard

What got early Christians through hard times? What helped them grow? How were they able to thrive when their jobs, families, and personal safety were threatened?

They focused on hope. Biblical hope is confident expectation. God promised us a perfect life after this sometimes stinky one. The early church’s hope for death’s freedom gave courage and comfort (I Peter 1.3). Their hope for a perfect life had the same effect (II Peter 3.13; Romans 8.18ff).

They focused on grace. It keeps us from falling out with God, and it helps keep our motivation high (Romans 7.15ff; I John 1.7)!

They focused on God’s message to humans (I Peter 2.2). We have to view reality through God’s eyes. This isn’t possible without deep, meaningful, and unbiased study! The Bible is a collection of rich, fascinating insights into God’s nature and our future! It’s very helpful to use a version that’s easy to read and modern.

They focused on each other. The early church spent a ton of time together (special circumstance, but still cool: Acts 2.44). Their relationship provided encouragement and strength! Managing conflict healthily is also crucial for the church’s health (Matthew 18).

They focused on selflessness. We aren’t animals, so we should put the needs of others above our own (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8; All of Philippians). A selfless family can get through anything!

Love And Fear

Love And Fear

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

 
How many Christians are afraid of the judgment day? Maybe we are worried we haven’t done enough, or maybe we are thinking of a specific sin that would keep us from entering heaven? It is also a possibility that we may just be plain scared of everything that will take place on that day. 1 John 4:18 is one of the most comforting verses in Scripture. It tells us that if we are a faithful Christian there is no reason to be afraid.
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – 1 John 4:18
 
While this verse can very easily be taken out of context, the true meaning should give us hope and comfort. John tells us three important fact concerning the Christian and judgment day.
 
Love = No Fear
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” This love is strong enough to calm our fears concerning the day of judgment. But what is perfect love? When we hear the word perfect we think of taking something flawed and making it flawless in every way. Does this mean we need to have a love that is flawless in every way? This word perfect is teleos which is defined as “attaining an end or purpose; complete.” This word is best illustrated like this, if your flashlight batteries die and you need 2 AAA, it doesn’t matter if you have an unopened box of AA’s. The used AAA’s in your TV remote are perfect for the job.
 
Our love is complete and perfect when we abide in God. Love cannot cast out our fear of the judgement day if we are loving the wrong things. Our perfect and complete love can cast out fear when we abide in the ONE who is, and always will be, the author and perfecter of love. Perfect love that is found in the Christian who is wholeheartedly abiding in the Creator has no reason to be afraid of the judgment day.
 
Punishment = Fear
 
One of the worst phrases you can hear as a kid when you get in trouble is, “just wait till your father gets home.” The thought and anticipation of punishment brings about fear and dread. 1 John 4:18 says, “For fear has to do with punishment.” The fear we may feel concerning the judgment day stems from the punishment that might come upon us. And it is only right that we should fear the punishment of hell, a very real place that is saved for those who have chosen to do nothing about their sin problem. The thought of hell should scare us. It is a place that will forever torment the souls of those who are lost. Fear has to do with punishment, so will we be punished on the judgment day?
 
Punishment equals fear, but there’s good news for those in Christ. We have NO reason to fear the judgment. The judgment day will be a day of reward for faithful Christians. There is no fear of punishment because God has promised us a place in heaven with Him.
 
Fear = Imperfect Love
 
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
 
If we are afraid of the judgment this could mean several things about our Christianity:
  • Fear shows us that we have room to grow (Our love hasn’t reached its designed end with God)
  • Fear can reveal a possible lack of faith (maybe we are afraid because we doubt the words we read in 1 John 1, or revelation 21?)
  • Fear exposes the sin in our lives (if there is sin in our lives that is continuous and habitual we SHOULD be afraid)
 
With these facts in mind we should take this verse and use it to shape our attitude concerning that day. Let the love of God change the way we live. Let the love of God influence our decisions and actions. Let the perfected love of God give us confidence on the day of judgment.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEART AND ATTITUDE

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEART AND ATTITUDE

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

Jesus was teaching around the Sea of Galilee when some Pharisees from Jerusalem saw some of His disciples eating bread with unwashed hands. They considered this ceremonial impurity (Mark 7:1-2). Mark gives a short list of examples of rules the Pharisees inherited from their forefathers and pushed as divine law (3-5). This law-making upsets Jesus considerably. In Mark 7:6-13, Jesus rebukes them for confusing tradition and God’s commandments. They were so in love with their traditions that it actually caused them to violate God’s will. 

Then, He uses that episode as a springboard to discuss a related spiritual concern. The central thought was, “The things that proceed out of a man are what defile the man” (15b). The point was probably missed on the crowd because it was missed by the disciples (17). Mark tells us that Jesus was declaring all foods clean (19), but there was a deeper, spiritual point. He makes it plainly when He says, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (20-23).

I wonder how this initially hits the disciples. The Pharisees definitely would not have appreciated it. They considered themselves spiritually superior, but context would suggest they would have been as big offenders as anyone in this. Some of what comes out of the heart that Jesus mentions is “big” enough to make our sin’s “hall of fame” or at least its “all-star” team. Wouldn’t you be quick to put fornication, theft, murder, adultery, and wickedness on the “evil things” list?

But Jesus digs deeper and exposes our hearts further. Look at what makes His “big” list with those other sins: evil thoughts (literally, harmful reasoning), deceit, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness (lack of good judgment). Before we brush these aside, consider some practical application.

What is it when we assume others’ intentions and motives without tangible evidence? What about when we have such a tainted perception of someone that we cannot be civil and peaceable, much less tenderhearted, kind, and forgiving toward them (cf. Eph. 4:32)? What of using opportunities to gossip and slander a brother or sister in Christ? What about the words we say when our pride is wounded or we feel slighted? What about a failure to be discreet about people’s situations we come into the knowledge of? 

Scripture tells us how vitally important a good, Christlike attitude is. Philippians uses the word “mind” to admonish proper attitude. A mind fueled by encouragement, love, affection, and compassion lead not only to unity, humility, and high regard for others, but it also reflects the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1-11). It eliminates grumbling and disputing (Phil. 2:14). It shows us to be above reproach in the middle of a world that lives out the kinds of things Jesus reproves in Mark 7:20-23 (Phil. 2:15). 

If I have a heart filled with the kind of “evil things” in Jesus’ Mark seven list, how can I have the right, Christlike attitude He expects me to have? I will likely be biting, sarcastic, bitter, hateful, negative, complaining, and critical. Whatever that says about the object of my bad attitude, it does not excuse me in His eyes. He would tell me I am defiled. That means unclean and unacceptable. To see it that way convicts me to watch my heart so that acidic content does not spill out and hurt my reputation, my relationships, and my Righteous Ruler!