The worship leader says, “Go ahead and take a seat,” as we move into Communion. Then invites us to sing, “We stand and lift up our hands.”
“Stand with me as we sing…‘We bow down…'”
“I am free to run. I am free to dance” we sing.
“I’ll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned.”
We sing these things every week, but don’t do them, most of the time. That’s okay, though, because “God is after your heart.” God is after our motivations and our thought-life. That is the creed of evangelicalism, or at least the “seeker-sensitive” movement. But at some point I have to ask, are we taking “…in my heart” a little too far?
Is “worship” really working if it creates only feelings but nothing concrete that moves beyond the church doors?
I’m On A Diet In My Heart
It’s popular to say things like “well, I’m standing strong for him in my heart.” Or, “I might be standing but I’m bowing down in my heart.”
Those things are no doubt true. But what if we encountered other people living their life “in their hearts?”
What if we went to lunch with our friends?
“Where do you want to eat?”
“Let’s meet at Pizza Hut; I’m on a diet.”
“Pizza Hut for a diet? You know all they have is pizza and cheesy-carby-heaven-bread, right?”
“Yeah. I’m on a diet, but it’s ok.”
“You just going to get a salad, then?”
“I just thought you were on a diet, that’s all.”
“Oh, I am. I’m on a diet in my heart. I really want to lose weight, and in my heart, I’m getting healthier.”
I could probably keep going with these but it would feel like a ranting trip into condescending-ville.
And I want to avoid that; I do have a pastoral point.
How Far Can We Take “In My Heart” Theology?
How far does this go?
I have no doubt that people who say such things really are trying to actively submit to God as King while they sing these songs.
In fact, I am guilty of the same! I sing “we bow down” but don’t bow. I sing “I will dance” and firmly plant my feet. My heart may really mean it.
Or maybe it doesn’t. Just as I can claim I am guilty of not doing the things I’m saying, I can also say that—far too often—I am guilty of doing absolutely nothing with the Sermon and Worship I come and consume, at least not outside the church walls. More often, and I fear this is the reality for many of us, these songs give us a spiritual feeling. Or a devotion feeling. Or put us in a worshipful mood. But we may not actually be worshiping.
Really, I ask, how far can we take this? When Moses came before God in the burning bush, did he take off his sandals in his heart, or bow with his face tot he ground in his heart? He bowed in fear and reverence because that is the correct posture when facing a perfect, holy, mighty, righteous and just king.
Saul disobeyed God, and tried to play the “in my heart I was devoted” card. Here was God’s response.
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen [is better] than [sacrificing] the fat of rams.
For those unfamiliar with the context here, the “fat of rams” was a sacrifice that created an aroma “pleasing to the Lord.” It was religious ritual that pleased God. But his preference was obedience.
Guilty, as Charged
I have to bow my head in humility here. I am guilty of this. I care about the needy in my heart. I do. But I don’t always act as if that were true. I care about those who don’t know Christ. But faced with such a person, I don’t always offer them the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I believe in my heart that uncontrolled anger is sinful, yet I get frustrated and raise my voice with my wife, son, friends and colleagues.
How do I explain these inconsistencies? Maybe those things aren’t really in my heart. Maybe I’m telling myself they are so that I can sleep at night.
When I see someone in need, especially a friend in whose life I am actively involved, but do nothing, how much can I say I care?
When I say I am forgiven, yet refuse to forgive (yes, I believe that is a choice), do I really believe Christ has forgiven me?
When I see someone trapped in sin, and yet enable them, hoping they will “come to their senses,” do I really understand the magnitude of sin?
When I tell people there is no shame in Jesus, why do I hide my shortcomings (totally ashamed of them, by the way)?
When I see a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and I say them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
At least I believe it “in my heart.”
I want to be the type of Christian that acts on what is in my heart. Jesus said “out of the heart, the mouth speaks.” He also said that they type of tree (what is on the inside, or “in the heart”) determines the fruit. Maybe there’s something to that.
I’m guilty. But please don’t judge me too harshly.
Or do. But do it in your heart.