For the summer I've been reading the Old Testament and I've been struck by a theme that keeps coming up. Over and over again, God is calling Israel to return to Him. And it's more than just a call to start doing the right things.
God is calling Israel to return to Him with their hearts. With their attitudes and their motives.
God doesn't want them to do the right things just because they are the right things. He wanted them to do the right things because they wanted to do the right things.
"I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know Me
more than I want burnt offerings."
(Hosea 6:6, NLT)
In this verse, God is calling for Israel to return to Him with their hearts. He doesn't want their sacrifices and offerings, unless they're flowing from a heart that wants to do them.
God wants them to show true love to each other. God wants His people to know Him - to spend time on their relationship with Him.
I believe this is the same thing God wants for us today. He wants us to do the right things because we love Him and know Him. He wants our attitudes and our motives for what we do to flow form our relationship with Him.
When our hearts are no longer a part of what we do, it can be easy to fall into the trap of legalism. We do the right things to earn God's approval and favour. It becomes all about actions.
And legalism slowly kills us. When we're doing things because we're supposed to, we miss out on what God really has for us - the life He really wants us to live.
Legalism will never satisfy us. And it will always end in defeat.
That's why God tells us over and over that it's our heart that matters. If we're doing something because of where our heart is at, then it will bring us life.
If our attitudes and our motives are about bringing glory to God and knowing Him more, then the things we do will bring us life.
If our attitudes and our motives are about doing the right things - legalism - then the things we do will bring us death.
Why are you doing what you're doing in your relationship with God?
If you're straying into legalism, then maybe you need to be honest with God and ask Him to change your heart. That is His specialty - but He won't force it on us.
That's the best part of this all - Just because we've been living one way doesn't mean it can't change. We can turn to God with all our hearts, even if that's not how we have been living.
How is your heart?