A fever is a symptom of a virus or an infection. The fever is not the problem but is a signal that something is wrong and needs to be investigated. The virus or the infection is the real problem that needs to be addressed. Pain in a joint is a symptom that something else is wrong. There could be inflammation or a tear that is causing the pain. The ability to diagnose and treat the problem and not just the symptom is important. If a patient has an infection, they need an antibiotic not just Tylenol to treat the fever. A tear in a ligament requires surgery to fix the problem not just pain medicine to relieve the pain.
In the spiritual life there is the same importance to get to the root issues and not just treat symptoms. Often times, in the church we are focused on the symptoms which are no doubt offensive and sinful, but the symptoms are not the root problem. Jesus says in Mark 7:14-15,
"Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.”
Symptoms are displayed on the outside. This is what we see. The parts that we see are only a symptom of what is taking place on the inside of the person. In Mark 14:20-23 says,
"What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
Notice that Jesus says, it is out of the heart of men that all of these horrible symptoms come. The issues of our culture are not the external manifestations of sin, but the condition of the heart. Long before you and I became aware of each other’s sins, the heart had gone astray. This is why Jesus said in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, that if we talk bad about someone, we have committed murder in our heart, or if we lust then we have already committed adultery. Jesus is teaching us the inner life must be in order before the symptoms of sin will ever cease.
So, where are you more focused, the actions people see or the thoughts and intents of the heart that God sees? Let each of us set in order the internal working of our hearts with God this week.