Heart matters

What takes root in your heart is what drives and controls you.

No, what you allow to grow and take root in your heart is what drives and controls you. It is a choice that you need to carefully make.

And that was the choice the Lord Jesus put to the rich young man in Mark 10:17 – 22. Here’s the story:

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One—God.  You know the commandments:

Do not murder;
do not commit adultery;
do not steal;
do not bear false witness;
do not defraud;
honour your father and mother.”

He said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.”

Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”  But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

This young man came, on the one hand, to justify himself while on the other, he knew that there was something lacking in his life which was holding him back from the fullness of eternal life, the life God intended him to have. Hence his enquiry.

After reminding him of the commandments which he confidently replied to in the affirmative, the Lord now went one step further with a demand that located this young man’s heart – to follow Him at all cost. It was as if he was shot by a police stunt gun. The bible says “…he was stunned at this demand,” (vs 22). Electric shock waves zipped through his body as the Lord made it clear to him that this was what was lacking in his life that was holding him back from living the life God intended for him. All the law, all the commandments, all the rituals were in place and had been so for a long while (“Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.”) except the heart. This young man did everything right, went through all the religious motions, ticked all the right boxes but without the involvement of his heart. His heart was as distant from God as it could ever be even though he was ticking all the right boxes on the outside.

At the end of the day, it is not about the motions we go through but the heart that we put in our faith that counts. And for this young man, his desire to generate wealth which he had allowed to take root in his heart so deeply and extensively precluded him from inheriting the life which he so desired himself.

And the only way out of his predicament, the only deliverance from such a state was to uproot whatever had taken root by getting rid of it intoto. And that was the Lord’s prescription too. What had taken root in his heart had done so exceedingly deeply that the only deliverance from it was total eradication. That was (and still is) the only means of dethroning whatever else takes prime position in our hearts other than Christ.

Jesus offered the only solution – heart issues are dealt with radically and comprehensively. There is no softly softly approach here. It doesn’t work so why bother wasting your time over such an approach? For which reason the Lord did not beat around the bush but went straight to the heart of the matter (pun intended). He raced past all the other issues in transit not bothering to waste time over them as he saw that the young man’s heart was caught in the vicelike grip of wealth. Jesus dropped all the niceties and immediately went to the heart of the matter – literally and figuratively. The problem was his heart and the heart of the problem was wealth – his devotion to it.

It is as if this young man already suspected there was a problem for why would someone who was so confident – almost to the point of being cocky – that he’d kept all the commandments since his childhood come to enquire about what it takes to inherit eternal life? He felt something was missing, he was uncertain of his eternal security. He suspected something was amiss as he lacked the inner assurance of his salvation. Jesus offered it to him loud and clear – grab hold of what has been grabbing hold of your heart and uproot it, liberate your heart from what is holding you in its clutches by ridding your life of it entirely, then come, follow me. That is, if you wish to secure your eternal life. The young man was stunned at Jesus request thinking, “That’s too much of a sacrifice to party for eternal life!” for he had “many possessions” (vs 22)!

The many possessions he had had taken such deep root in his heart that they now dictated the terms of his life. He could not even do that himself anymore, his own life was now out of his own hands.

Something else which he had given room to in his heart, which he had fed and grown now became the monster he feared and dreaded, the monster he had to take care not to offend or disturb. He was paralysed with the fear of offending this monster, of violating his wishes and contravening his desires.

Make no bones about it that the young man found it heart breaking and grievous as he walked away because he was told loud and clear that he cannot have his cake and eat it. He cannot have it both ways – have the life of God but leave his heart elsewhere whether it be with money, power, fame, sex or anything else. Remember Jesus words, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)?

It seemed that this young man had hoped he could somewhat steer a middle ground between Christ and the world, between God and wealth, between the lordship of Jesus Christ and that of money over his life.

He had hoped that he would somewhat make it to heaven without letting go of his possessions, of that which preoccupied and controlled his heart. But Jesus told him “No way!” It’s either one or the other and by no means both.

When it comes to the lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives a decision has to be made one way or another – either He is or He is not, there is NO middle ground, simply not. Many Christians walk through their entire lives on earth attempting to steer a middle ground between the two ending their lives without ever finding it – because there isn’t one.

And the sooner we settle that in our minds, the better. Here is what Jesus had to categorically say about the matter, “You cannot serve God and money!” (Matthew 6:24) The middle ground was banished by Jesus. He was categorical and final about it and we would do well to realise and accept the truth that’s come from the Master Himself. He knows what He is talking about unlike anyone else. What He says and speaks about is what He knows for certain and that is what makes it final.

We would do well to take heed, pay attention and take the necessary action of ridding ourselves of all that competes for lordship over our hearts. For what we allow to grow and take root, what is enthroned in there will rule over our hearts and eventually, over our destinies too.

Don’t waste half of your life attempting to negotiate a middle ground that doesn’t exist between the lordship of Christ and that of the world.

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