Monday, November 22, 2010

Of Clean Belly Buttons and Other Important Issues

So the other night as I was giving Emma her bath she said, "I want some soap in my hand." When I asked her why she said, "So I can wash my belly button." I thought that sounded reasonable so I gave her some soap and she proceeded to give her belly button as thorough a cleaning as one can give an umbilicus (look it up-or just use context clues).

Now I was certainly proud of her desire to have a clean navel. But here's the problem-that's all she cared about washing. Her sole focus was on her belly button. And don't misunderstand, I'm not opposed to clean belly buttons. In fact, I'm a big proponent of belly button washing. But if all one washes is the belly button, one can hardly call oneself clean. Which brings us to the point.

Sometimes followers of Christ are guilty of this same type of misguided focus. We place all our attention on a certain area and neglect other things that are equally important. Jesus confronted this very problem (misguided spiritual focus, not belly button washing) in Luke 11. He confronts the Pharisees with these words from verse 42. "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." Jesus says, "You guys are focusing all your attention on one area and are so neglecting all the others." And it's important that we not miss this. It's terribly easy for us in our lives to focus all our attention on a few areas. And usually these are outward things, outward displays of our righteousness. Or said another way, a list of "don'ts". And there are certainly some things we should avoid. Problem is, we focus so intently on these "don'ts" that we ignore the "dos." There is so much more to following Christ than outward rule keeping. Jesus wants us to deal with the heart issues. We get it backwards. We want to deal with outward actions and not focus on the inward realities. But here's something that is just as true as anything I can say-God is more concerned about who you are than what you do. Here's why; I can do all the right things and still be unrighteous. If I've never repented of my sins and trusted in Christ alone for my right standing with God, I'm just a Pharisee. I'm just going through the motions. But if I focus my attention on who I am-my thoughts, my desires, my emotions, the inward part of my being-if my attention is there and I am constantly seeking to surrender these to God, guess what happens? It affects what I do.

Again, don't misunderstand-Jesus didn't blast the Pharisees for tithing; He blasted them because they were doing this and not dealing with justice and the love of God. If I'm not inwardly who I should be, then what I do is worthless. And so Jesus says, "Don't focus so much on the one that you ignore the other." Following Jesus isn't an either/or kind of deal. It's a both/and life. I'm not going to choose between either one thing or the other. I'm going to do both to the glory of God. And I'm going to do both with a heart that is surrendered to the will of God, and completely taken with a desire to see King Jesus glorified in my life.

So is it bad to wash your belly button? I should say not. But if you only wash it and nothing else, you can hardly consider yourself clean. And in the very same way, if all my focus is on outward rule keeping and I ignore inward purity then I can hardly call myself obedient.

Father, thank You for caring about not just what I do, but who I am. Thank You for providing a salvation that can change me completely-not just outwardly, but inwardly. Forgive me for focusing so much on what not to do that I neglect what I'm supposed to do. Forgive me for acting like a Pharisee sometimes, and neglecting the weightier matters of Your law. Help me to bring you glory in everything, and help me live in total surrender to You. Amen.

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