Heart Exam: A Corrupt Standard
When we think of corruption, we normally think of people in places of power that are driven toward personal gain, no matter the act of dishonesty to get it. For some, this is a standard by which they live. This is a very broad view of corruption, but what does this really mean closer to home, meaning, for you and I?
It may seem obvious why Christians would want to examine their heart, especially when it comes to recognizing and defining corruption, but we can talk ourselves into anything. Anything can be justified. Anything can be okay in our minds, so in many ways, this heart problem can be very subtle.
The prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it" (Jeremiah 17:9)? This seems like a harsh indictment, but is it really true? And what does corruption have to do with it?
Lack of honesty separates good from bad
The best definition I could find for corruption was the willingness to act dishonestly for personal gain. If you think about it, personal gain can really be defined as sin. Sin is selfish (Philippians 2). It wants what it wants. Think of any sin and see if personal gain isn't the motivator. Let's not take this too far though. There are plenty of things we can and should do that relate to personal gain that are perfectly fine; it's the dishonest part that separates good from bad.
As children of God, our Father has been completely honest with us. His promises are true (Psalm 18:30). He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). We struggle at times to return this to Him though. We are willingly dishonest when we allow our own desires to move ahead of our commitment to our Creator but fail to admit it.
As baptized believers, we've made a commitment to our Lord to live for Him. To be the light of world for Him (Matthew 5:14). To return our love to Him as He first loved us (1 John 4:19). When we put anything in front of this relationship, we have broken the bonds of honesty, especially if we refuse to acknowledge it and make it right.
Who can understand it?
Why would we do such a thing to the one who created us (James 1:14)? The heart is deceitful, Jeremiah says. It's desperately sick and we can spend our lives trying to understand why our desires to seek personal gain (sin) are a challenge, but we'll never understand it. It is only through Christ that we can overcome our deceitful heart (1 John 2:1). Only through Christ can we train our heart to seek Him and to set aside personal desires for His glory (Romans 12:2). We will fail at times, but our Savior is there to forgive the child of God who seeks Him out with an honest heart (1 John 1:9).
What we practice becomes our standard
John tells us in 1 John 3 that what we practice is what matters. It's not the failures that define us as children of righteousness, but what we practice; I think of a standard in this way. A standard is an established way of doing something. Living the standard (our practice) of righteousness is the call of the child of God. Living for personal gain (sin) can also be a standard, the end of which is destruction (James 1:15).
So as we exam our hearts, we must always ask: "Are we being honest with ourselves?" "Are we living by the standard of righteousness?" "Am I living in a dishonest way before God?" This is perhaps the most difficult thing to be honest with yourself about. The heart is deceitful and the source of sin in our lives. We may fool ourselves about this deceit, but we'll never fool God. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). A pure heart is one that is honest and blameless before God, living by the standard of righteousness and not a standard of corruption.
Let's pray for and encourage one another to live with pure hearts and live according to the standard of our calling.