Fits of Piety and Heart Attacks


17And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”   Mark 7:17-23

We get keyed up about the wrong things; in a fit of piety we move the furniture and try to clean up our lives.

Jesus highlights our misdirected piety.

Instead of attending to the real problem of purity, our piety (effort at holiness) often attacks the wrong thing.

Humanly motivated piety attacks substances. The hope is that by limiting the substances coming into the body then a person will be righteous.

The central concern of piety must be the heart. For its what comes out of my heart that slimes me and others. Jesus gave some examples of what He sees there in the heart:

evil thoughts
sexual immorality

A quick look at this list clarifies my need for a priest, a physician for my heart. I need someone who can attack my heart and change my life.

But who has the priestly power to cleanse me from impurity?

Who is qualified to radically transform the heart?

Who has knowledge of the secret designs of my heart?

Jesus Christ, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the Lamb of God, who comes to take away the sin of the world.

The Holy Spirit motivates a different piety.

This pursuit of holiness is now a pursuit of the Holy One of God, Jesus Christ.

11But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance… Hebrews 9:11-15


Four Profiles of the Heart

The Big Idea: The way you listen to God’s Word reveals the condition of your heart and creates a faith trajectory for your life.  Text: Luke 8:4-15

(Here is the outline from yesterday’s talk at the Origin worship gathering.)

The Parable is preceded by some dramatic scenes:

1.  John the Baptist questions if Jesus is “the one.”

2.  A woman crashes Simon the Pharisee’s party and hears the   announcement that her sins are forgiven; her faith has saved her.

3.  Jesus begins going through the cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God to large crowds with a contingent of committed men and women.

Two Important terms
Kingdom of God:   The age and reality of God’s rule and reign, initiated by Jesus, the Messiah and King, in order to deliver people from the kingdom of darkness through the forgiveness of their sins they may know God and participate in His redemptive work.

Heart:  For biblical authors the heart is more than the organ pumping blood; “it is the control center of our lives, the place where we take in all the data (whether through our brains, our emotions, our imaginations), sort it out and make decisions.  The problem says Jesus, is that not enough of those who hear the good news with their ears are allowing the good news to take over the control centre.  Something or–someone else–runs the control center.”  Darrel Johnson, The Glory of Preaching, p. 42

Four Heart Profiles Revealed by Gospel Proclamation

  1. Hard Heart.
  2. Shallow Heart.
  3. Cluttered Heart.
  4. Submissive Heart.

1.  The Hard Heart.  Vs. 12

“The ones along the path are those who have heard.  Then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”

God “gives” His word, the good news of the Kingdom, to bring salvation.  The devil “takes” so that the process of hearing, believing, and being saved is interrupted.

“But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news?’ But they have all obeyed the gospel.  For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Romans 10:14-17

This heart is hardened against God, His Word, His Kingdom, His life.  It is habitually unbelieving.  People with a hard heart do not “understand.”  That is they do not grasp, comprehend, or “stand under” the revealed word of God and take action accordingly.

Note Jesus’ interaction with His disciples regarding this parable.

a.  Jesus issues a call to all the crowd to “hear.”

b.  The disciples ask Jesus what the parable meant.  vs. 9

c.  He affirms God’s grace to them–the secrets of the Kingdom have been given to you.  vs. 10

d.  Jesus identifies the parables as part of God’s plan to reveal the condition heart condition of people: they hear, but do not “understand.”  vs. 10

2.  The Shallow Heart.  Vs. 13

“And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy.  But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”

These people are happy to receive Jesus and the good news of the Kingdom of God.  However, when adversity because of that word and this relationship comes they walk away.

They have the appearance of discipleship, but they have a hardness just below the surface.  They are shallow.  The Shallow Heart is unwilling to allow the Gospel to penetrate areas of significance in their lives and therefore have no root.

They are not willing to give extensive thought regarding the implications of the Gospel for their lives.  Their primary value remains happiness.  They are easily offended and therefore depart from their walk with Jesus and the fellowship of the church before “the time of testing” accomplishes what God desires in the formation of their heart.

3.  Cluttered Heart.  Vs. 14

“And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”

Like the shallow heart, these people hear the word and have the appearance of a great start with Jesus.  However, their lives are pre-occupied and cluttered with other affections.  Their lives are ruled by other matters.  Jesus identifies three controlling concerns:

1.  cares.

2.  riches.

3.  pleasures of life.

The Cluttered heart refuses to allow Jesus to reorient or reorder the priorities of their lives.  They may be around the fellowship and show promise of fruit in keeping with the kingdom however, they never become multipliers or reproducers; they never reach maturity.  They hang around, but never produce.

4.  Submissive Heart.  Vs. 15

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

The good soil represents those people who hear the word of God and are responsive.  In the final sense of this parable they are the one who have been graced to hear, believe, and be saved.

Jesus notes three aspects of their responsive.

1.  They hold it fast.

2.  They hold it fast in an honest and good heart.

3.  They bear fruit with patience.


This parable has both promise and warning for us as listeners to God’s Word.  The way you listen to God’s Word reveals the condition of your heart and creates a faith trajectory for your life.  As a listener there may be seasons or areas of my heart that are hard, shallow, cluttered or submissive.

For those engaged in the ministry of God’s Word through personal witness, proclamation, discipling, or teaching or preaching, this parable serves to instruct us and encourage us to persist in that ministry even though we do not immediately see crowds changed by the good news of Kingdom of God.  The “seed is good.”  Our task is to keep submitting and to keep sowing.

Building Trust by Building Connections

We build trust in relationships in at least two ways.  I am most comfortable with “doing what I say I will do.”  However, it’s the second that is a growing edge in my life:  building trust by building connections.  A connection occurs when another person knows we understand their heart.

Henry Cloud writes about building trust through connection in his book Integrity.

“Fundamentally, what undergirds this component [building trust through connection] is involvement in the “other.”  Connection is the opposite of “detachment,” whereby a person is a kind of island unto him– or herself.  Now, don’t confuse that with being introverted or extroverted.  Those are styles that can be used in the service of either connectedness or detachment.  You can be very extroverted, and even nice to people, and never establish a deep bond.  In fact, an extrovert’s wordiness can even serve to keep people at bay and never allow them in.

Detachment is about not crossing the space to actually enter into another person’s world through curiosity and desire to know them, to understand them, to be “with” them, to be present with them, and ultimately to care for them.  Sadly, a lot of loving and nice people are detached in this way, and their relationships suffer for it.

People feel cared about, and trust is built, when they know that we have a genuine interest in knowing them, knowing about them, and having what we know matter.”  Dr. Henry Cloud, Integrity, p. 56.

Because I am an optimist I often fall into the trap of dismissing how my wife, children, or friends feel by saying something like, “Oh that’s not too bad.”  or “Oh that will surely work out.”  or the real connection killer, “You don’t really feel that way.”  Each of these statements dismiss or minimize not just the feelings of the other, but the connection opportunity that we had before us.

The Gospel presents us with Jesus who “sympathizes” with us through His incarnation and therefore is able to connect.  Most often my unwillingness to enter into the emotion of another is really a reflection of my own discomfort with emotionally realities in my own life.  The grace of God expressed through Jesus presents me with a saviour who gives me a new heart for Him and for people.  Now as a responder to grace I am looking to give this grace to others around me.

There is nothing like “being understood.”  It can be both a freeing and scary experience.  Understanding is one of the best gifts you can give to your spouse, children, friends, or coworkers.  Francis of Assisi asked God to help him so that he “would seek not so much to be understood as to understand.”  The writer of Proverbs identifies both elements of trust essential for healthy growing relationships.

The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters,
but a man of understanding draws them out.

Many a man claims to have unfailing love,
but a faithful man who can find?  Proverbs 20:5-6 NIV

Drawing out what is in the heart of another person requires that we have an internal attitude like Christ, of having an interest in the other.  (Philippians 2:3-5)  But it is also a skill.  When we hear the emotive language of another acknowledging that we have heard and understood the feeling this person has is part of building trust.  For the “older brothers” among us saying, “Wow, you must feel really angry about that,” or “I can see how you might be very worried about this situation,”  sends fear down to our toenails, because we are afraid that acknowledging a feeling means that it is “right.”  Not so, acknowledging the emotion of another’s heart gives the gift of understanding and reduces anxiety so that you and the person across from you can grow.

Try it out with those close to you:  seek to connect to their hearts by hearing the emotion conveyed in their verbal and non-verbal cues.