14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ “
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”
Jesus’ ministry on earth marks the inauguration, or the coming, of the Kingdom of God, a process/state which will be completed when he comes again. But Jesus gives us a preview of this Kingdom in his ministry, through powerful healings and miracles, and even through his teachings. His teachings are a glimpse into the values of the Kingdom of God, and reveal how different the Kingdom is from how we typically think in this world.
Typically, we think that our actions make us into bad or good people. We do something bad, and we have become a bad person. We do something good, and we have become a good person. The action makes us into who we are. But Jesus turns this mentality on its head, revealing that we have reversed what is the cause, and what is the effect: first we are internally bad, and then as a consequence, we do bad things. Sin does not make us broken – we sin because we are broken.
This may seem just like another one of those strange teachings of Jesus, but there is deep and universal truth in it, a truth that even secular psychological authorities teach, that in order to truly address the bad things that we do, we have to address the underlying motivations behind it. All of the destructive, disastrous, deviant things that we do are actually consequences – consequences of deep deficiencies in our hearts. And because these deficiencies can be the result of our past experiences, our personality, our family, it makes sinful and self-destructive sins and behaviors so much more difficult to leave behind. Identifying these deficiencies and these elements of brokenness is called the process of inner healing – it does not excuse our behavior, but may help us understand it more deeply so that the words of the gospel can have more direct impact.
And ultimately, there is no deeper deficiency that we have than forgiveness for our sins, and only one man can address that need: Jesus Christ. Jesus is always the first, and final, step in our journey of sanctification and self-awareness.
1. Knowing that Jesus is the first step to overcoming our sin, how much of Jesus do you have in your life currently? If the answer is “not much”, how can you have more of the influence and presence of Jesus in your life?
2. Is there a sin, a habit, or even mindset that has constantly been a major problem for you?
3. Going from #2, why do you think this issue is so difficult to overcome? Is it the result of how you were raised? A previous bad, even traumatic, experience? An unfulfilled need that you have? Take a good amount of time to think it over…
4. Is there any verses that you know of that address what you identified in question 2? For instance, if you are afraid of being abandoned, knowing Deuteronomy 31:6, that God never leaves, never forsakes?
Final Notes: Inner healing is a long and personal process, nothing fit for a single devotional, not even a single individual. If you think you need inner healing, please talk to a pastor about it, and they can direct you further!