Remember the old saying: ‘It’s what’s on the inside that counts’. I thought that meant how good of a person I was or should strive to be. My efforts.
Then came a time when I read this: “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6a NLT) All of them, all those ‘good’ things I’ve done and do – all? Because of sin. Without Jesus dwelling in our hearts, more often than not, the good things we do are selfishly motivated. Sure, occasionally, we might act in the best interest of others, but then we’re still patting ourselves on the back for ‘our’ goodness.
A short reading in Mark 10:17-31 proves the point. Here was a young man who seemingly had it all. He could even claim that he had kept God’s commandments since he was a boy. He wanted to know what he must ‘do’ to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to give up all his riches – in other words, all he held dear – and to follow Jesus. “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:22 NIV)
Dearer to him was earthly wealth. Dearer than eternal life, dearer than surrendering to Christ. So it is with many. Possessions, popularity, power – more highly esteemed than anything else. Even after giving my life to Jesus, I confess, I have held tightly to things that aren’t mine to begin with. Namely my children. It’s been oh so hard for me to let them go and trust that God loves them more than I do. What do you hold tightly to?
Once the Holy Spirit abides in us then we start to give God the credit for any good in us. Any good deed, righteous act, selflessness – truly is motivated by a good God working through us. To give credit anywhere else is self-deceiving.
I can hardly wait for the day to ask my grandchildren: ‘does Jesus live in your heart’? Because when they come to an age of being able to answer affirmatively, then we can talk about what’s on the inside. Jesus on the inside is what counts. And the added bonus of Jesus on the inside is the peace it gives in life’s trials, for He tells us: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1John 4:4 NIV)
Whose inside you?
(Learn more about the Holy Spirit in Anne Graham Lotz’ latest book: https://www.annegrahamlotz.org/jesus-in-me/)
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