MARK 7:18-23: “So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: On Sunday, December 29, 2019, there was another tragic shooting at a Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. I was visiting my sister and her family only a few short miles from this location. The reality is – it could have been any church! And, in the midst of the sorrow and confusion, it did not take long for the political pundits to begin crying for solutions, including more gun control laws.
Now, let me make it very clear, I am not a gun owner. I don’t like guns. The closest thing I have to a gun is a Red Rider BB Gun that was given to me as a souvenir. I have stayed outside of the fray of this discussion, because, to be honest, I think there are more critical things to discuss. Yet, as I read these verses today I was reminded by the words of Jesus,
Guns don’t kill!
The context of Jesus’ explanation of His teaching to His disciples was the commandments of men that were being taught by the religious rulers. They had taken God’s dietary laws, which were given for the benefit of man, and made them the end rather than the means. They viewed food as the most important part of the command. Jesus viewed the heart as the central issue.
Jesus made it very clear. Food goes into the stomach and is eventually eliminated. Therefore, food is really benign. Whereas, what comes out of the heart is what truly defiles a man.
- “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
Let’s use some simple logic to emphasize this point. Place a loaf of bread and a revolver on the table. Now, tell the loaf of bread to make you fat. It cannot – unless it is consumed. By itself the loaf of bread is benign. Now, tell the gun to shoot and kill you. It cannot -unless it is held in the hands of a man or woman who has murder in their heart. The gun, by itself, is also benign.
It is true – overeating and guns can kill. Yet, they can only do so in the hands of a man or a woman who has uncontrolled emotions and sin in their heart. Jesus did not blame swords or spears for the deaths that were occurring in his day.
Jesus blamed the heart.
So why is this so important? It clearly illustrates how foolish it is to try and legislate morality through external means. Even when we create laws it does not stop evil and crime. The only thing that stops evil and crime is the transformation of the heart. And the only thing that transforms the heart is faith in Jesus Christ!
During the Welsh Revival of 1900-1905, the impact of men and women turning in faith to Jesus Christ had a dramatic impact on crime. Larry Brown, in his paper entitled The Welsh Revival And Other Revivals Worldwide, 1900-1905 writes;
- “Drunkenness was immediately cut in half, and many taverns went bankrupt. Crime was so diminished that judges were presented with white gloves signifying that there were no cases of murder, assault, rape or robbery or the like to consider. The police became unemployed in many districts. Stoppages occurred in coal mines, not due to unpleasantness between management and workers, but because so many foul-mouthed miners became converted and stopped using foul language that the horses which handled the coal trucks in the mines could no longer understand what was being said to them” (Towns and Porter, 33).”
In White Settlement Texas we witnessed the difference between two hearts. There was the heart of the shooter who intended to kill and destroy as many lives as he possibly could. Then, there was the heart of a church member, who laid his life on the line to protect others and shot the man who intended evil, keeping a terrible event from becoming an even more horrific event. Three people died in this church. This was three people too many. Yet, it was not a gun that killed the two innocent men, but a heart that was filled and controlled by evil.
The church needs to pray for revival. The church needs to preach the Gospel. The church needs to call men and women to repentance. If the pulpits of our land are only filled with “how to” sermons, and avoid the difficult issues of the day, we will never see revival. Violence, hatred, murder, and moral decline will be the norm of the day. Yet, when hearts are changed society is changed too! And, it is only a changed heart that can solve the issue of violence in our day. You could confiscate all the guns from all the law abiding people in the land and it would not remove them from the hands of unregenerate hearts that intend to do evil!
The Bible and the Gospel are our greatest weapons against the sin and violence that is so prevalent in our land. Just as evil regimes have taken the guns away from law abiding citizens, so the enemy has taken the Bible, prayer, and the Gospel away from our churches and our public square. The church seems to be more interested in entertaining than saving, pacifying than prophesying, and accommodating than calling for repentance.
Jesus was not crucified on a cross because He fed the 5000, healed the sick, or cast out demons. Jesus was crucified because He spoke the truth and uncovered the hypocrisy of His day.
Are we willing to do the same?
Lord, forgive me for my complacency. Forgive me for the areas of my life where I have allowed the commandments of men to crowd out the commandments of God. Fill me with a boldness to proclaim Your Word, to share my faith, and to lead others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Bring revival to my heart – and to this land!
In Jesus Name!