In Part 1 of this article, we considered that being saved from the consequences of our sins cannot be achieved with what we have in our own “inventory”. There’s no amount of human work that can pay for our past rebellion. So, we must add in another “ingredient”, the gift of salvation that God offers through Jesus, in order to get to the result of salvation.
In the same way, followers of Jesus cannot expect to live a life according to His direction and example, unless we start by filling up our hearts with good things.
“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
Luke 6:43-45 NLT
For any of us to demonstrate the same kind of holy love – in action – that Jesus did, it is not enough to practice self-control, read a lot of motivational books, or just try harder. Although there are elements of discipline, study, and effort in the process of following Jesus, the ideal result can never be achieved without a change of heart. I see two elements to this heart-change:
- First, we must be transformed by giving our lives over to Jesus, accepting His gift of life-transformation (as noted above). After that, we must continue to yield to direction from the Holy Spirit and the Bible (which are, of course, in alignment with each other), so that our transformation – or “sanctification” – can continue to move us towards God’s ideal.
- Secondly, we must actually make the effort to “clean house” in our hearts. Unless we get rid of evil thoughts and let go of our unrighteous anger, we shouldn’t expect better things to result from our lives. Unless we fill up on the right ingredients (good things), we shouldn’t expect the outcome to be good, either.
I think that this passage from Ephesians says it well:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT
If we fill up on the junk described in the first part of this passage (verse 31), that’s what will come out of our lives. We will bring all of these broken components together, and find that our life looks like a mess. On the other hand, if we practice and dwell on the good practices and habits from the latter part of this passage (verse 32), we can expect to find our lives starting to echo the sort of righteousness that God looks for from us. We may even find that we are contributing to the blessings of others, while we ourselves experience the joy of living just like God suggested in the first place.
May we collect and fill up on the right inputs, so that the outputs of our lives are something that pleases God. If the flour has bugs, the milk is sour, and the eggs are rotten, we’ll never make a good dessert. However, if we have new flour and fresh eggs (plus some new milk, sugar, and other ingredients), we can make a tasty cake for everyone to share!