The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” -Isaiah 29:13 NIV
What does it mean to honor the Lord with your lips, but have a heart that is far from Him? It means you tell others, “Oh yeah, I am a Christian.” but your actions speak differently. It means you make it to church every Sunday, because that is a rule to being a good Christian, but in secret you are addicted to pornography (or any other secret sin). With our lips we tell Jesus “You are my Lord!!” then turn to serve our selfish gains. This is what got Israel into trouble with God, and it is what caused them to murder their own Messiah.
If we are all honest with ourselves and with God we will be quick to admit that we all struggle, to varying degrees with this. What we need to know, and what God is constantly having to remind me of, is that all he really wants from me is my heart. That I would truly love Him as He loves me. If I love God, then all the rest will fall into place. Jesus in rebuking the Pharisees once said “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices– mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law– justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Mt. 23:23). The teachers of Israel were very good at giving all their sacrifices and tithes, down to the very spices of their gardens. Yet, they neglected the more important things like justice, mercy and faithfulness.
The original Websters dictionary provides some insight into what these words mean, stating that Justice is “The virtue which consists in giving to every one what is his due; practical conformity to the laws…honesty…impartiality…equity.” How do I show justice? It means if something is due to someone I give it. If an employee works for me and I refuse to pay him then I am neglecting justice. Mercy is “That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice; and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant.” Sometimes it would be justice for me to punish someone who wrongs me; maybe someone attempts to steal from me for example. Justice would be to punch him in the face. Mercy is to give him what he wants and tell him Jesus loves you while he takes your wallet. Lastly, faithfulness. Websters defines it as “fidelity; loyalty, firm adherence to allegiance and duty”. We should be faithful to our promises, faithful to our allegiances and most of all faithful to God. These three things are things that must come from the heart, not our lips, or else they are of no value to God.
We all struggle, that is part of being a Christian. We are not perfect. That said, if you have no interest in God and in His word, or if you could care less about showing mercy and compassion to others then you really need to check your heart to see if you really are a Christian or not. This is the plague that is affecting my country, the United States of America. We are a people who come near to the Lord with our mouth and honor Him with our lips, yet our hearts are far from Him. How many times have you heard a politician who doesn’t even believe in God say God bless at the end of his speech? It is time that we all repent, including myself, and draw near to the Lord in our hearts. Forget about trying to look perfect on the outside, because what God wants is on the inside, our heart– our love.