How's Your Heart?

Religion or relationship with God--what's the difference? In this week's message, Southside elder Rip Patton shares Jesus's teaching that it's a matter of the heart. With a humble heart, we hear and embrace Jesus's words "You've heard it said... but I say to you", and we allow Jesus to fill in the gaps in the Law, rather than rules thought up by men.

Mark 8:11-17
Matthew 16:5
Matthew 5:17-44


I hope everyone came today to worship… through music… through fellowship—greeting one another, hugging folks we haven’t seen in awhile; to fellowship at a distance with those on missions. We have 5 different mission groups going out: Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, China, Michigan. …And I hope you’ve come to worship in God’s Word.


I’m Rip Patton. We joined in 1988 when we had only 1 son. I’ve taught God’s Word for years and for the last year I’ve been an elder here.


So when they asked me to preach today, I said sure. But I’m nervous about it. I was to get on a plane at 1am yesterday. So the song that says “God is an ocean”... we were in the Virgin Islands for the last week, so that song was meaningful for me.


Do pray for those groups on mission.


In today’s society, we describe people having “warm hearts” and “hearts grown cold”, “heartless”, “big heart”, “things tug at our heart strings”, “good-hearted”, “hearts of gold”, “callous hearts”, “hearts for honduras”, “change of heart”, “heartache”, “hearts sick”, “wild at heart”, “telltale heart”. “Cheating’ heart”, “heartbreak hotel”, “heartbreak tonight”, “achy break heart”, “My heart will go on”. The world we live in is obsessed with the state of our heart.


The NT uses heart 75x. Nathan accused David about his sin. David: “Create in me a pure heart”. And he offers God “a broken and contrite heart.”


Mark 8:11ff - 


Can you imagine being one of these disciples when Jesus asks you “Is your heart hardened?” What if, after all these years of your going to church, Jesus asked you, “Is your heart hardened?”


Some things Jesus tells us to prevent our hearts from being hardened.


in v15 - “caution/beware/watch out/be careful” - what’s he warning about, and what does it have to do with why Jesus came and not having a hardened heart? “the yeast of the Pharisees”


See Mt. 16:5ff - 


This is a key part of protecting your heart, to keep it humble and contrite, as David says.


A vital concept in Christianity: a difference between religion and relationship. A diff ‘tween law and legalism.


What Jesus wants us to understand is clear from Matt 5 (Sermon on the Mount).

Often when we think of this sermon, we think of him standing on top, fancy podium, speaking loudly down to the crowd. 

But Jesus sat down. And they gathered around him. Sat close to him. And he began to teach them. A much more intimate scene than we typically envision. Keep that in mind.

First, he teaches the Beatitudes, the “blessed are” section. Then the recipients of true blessing. Then he challenges them to go out and be salt and light. Then he says, “Don’t think I’ve come to abolish the Law and Prophets…”


How is it that, in one instance, he’s talking about the Pharisees and the Law; and now he’s upholding the Law.


In 5:21- He says, “the Law says ‘do not murder’ but I tell you…”. Then “Do not commit adultery” and then teaches about lust and temptation. And then divorce to faithfulness. Then don’t break an oath to making promises.


Frequently, he takes the Law and makes things even harder. Not just “love your neighbor” but also “love your enemies”.


He’s teaching them the Law. And as he teaches, he says, “You’ve heard it said”. Many of the people hadn’t read, let alone seen the Law. They’d heard it taught.

And he doesn’t undermine the law, but he says the issues go much beyond the law. Jesus intends us to follow and obey the Law. He didn’t abolish. He came to fulfill and complete it. How? In 4 simple words:

“You’ve heard it said… but I tell you.”

Disciples on hillside, close to Jesus, hearing, observing his body language. They were learning from God Himself. The disciples had a person relationship with the creator of the universe and the author and giver of the Law.

Jesus graduates them from the Law to personal instruction.

That scene on the mount is the essence of Christianity. Not merely religion.


So what about the yeast of the Pharisees and my/your heart and how it hardens?


Jesus was teaching about the law, saying it wasn’t enough. He came to compete it. Not just actions, it’s about heart.


What where the Pharisees and Sadducees doing? Teaching the Law. Using many of the same scriptures Jesus used. But the Law’s not complete. Can’t address every issue. So the Pharisees added to the rules of the Law. 100’s of extra rules. And they told people following all of these would lead them to God, to please Him.

And Jesus contradicts that: beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. Beware of what they’re adding. Only God can add to and clarify.


The Law: God-given rules he expects us to live by. Part of God’s truth given in His Word. It’s God’s spoken truth with the instruction that you accept, follow, and live by it.


Jesus’s caution: it’s not complete. And attempts by man to complete it lead us to legalism. And it leads us to misunderstand God. What man adds to fill in the gaps, claiming the same authority, it’s legalism.


True Christianity isn’t legalism. If you go by a set of rules, things you do/don’t do, you have a religion. And if that’s all you have, your religion isn’t Christianity. These may be good rules and good ways to live. But if you think following those rules is all you need, then you don’t understand why you came. The rules of the Law are to stand, and only Jesus can complete them.


What do YOU need to do to complete them? and to have a humble, godly heart? A close, intimate, personal, living relationship with the creator of the universe. You need JESUS to fill in the gaps for you. Only He can do that.


Back at the sermon on the mount… In Mt 6:1ff He addresses giving - and talks to them about humility and the real rewards God offers them. He addresses prayer, fasting - hypocrisy, humility. Material possessions. Heaven. “You’ve heard it said… but I say…” Becoming anxious.


Then “Seek first His kingdom”


Then “How do I handle wrong actions?” He talks about the wrong in their own life first, then they can help others.


Every religion has an extensive set of rules. In Christianity, along w/ the rules, it offers and even demands a real, personal relationship w/ the living Jesus, God, author of the Law. Where every day, every moment, you experience Him saying to you, “You’ve heard it said, … but I tell you”.


First, realize why you don’t have that relationship. As humans, we’re the only species able to have a real relationship w/ him. Rom 3:23 -we fall short.


Rom 6:23 - result is death, complete severance between us and God.


Imagine the hillside and the water. Picture that you’re across the water from him. There’s a huge gap cerated by your sin that separates you from him. When you’re in that state, you can still have religion. You can try to follow rules/law. The Pharisees did that. You can go to church, be seen as a good person. You can call your religion Christianity. I did. I had religion. Followed rules in High School.


THen in College, I joined a discipleship group. Rules weren’t what Christianity was about. And that was the first time I knew I could have a relationship, and that sin broke that.


What God did about the situation: John 3:16; Rom 5:8. While we were yet sinners, unable to have relationship with God, Christ went to the cross. He reconciled and restored us.


What do WE do about the situation? Start by accepting the facts: what our actions did and what God’s actions do. 


Ephesians 2:1ff


Through faith, accept what he’s done for you. When you’re across a great gap, and He looks at you individually, He instantaneously transports you to be right next to him. To see his eyes, to hear the inflection in his voice.


He gives you an advocate  At that moment, 4 simple words ("I say to you"). At that moment, you can sit next to the living God and discuss every dear thing to you: heartache, worry, decision, everything. He’ll open your eyes to the truths of God’s Word and fill in the gaps in your life. Real and personal advice. How to live What to do/stop doing. Much more than a religion. A relationship. True Christianity. It’s the path to seeing God’s plan for your life. It’s how you avoid a hardened heart.


How’s your heart? Your relationship w/ Jesus? Do you feel like you’re on a hillside with him speaking with you? Or do you just have a religion, set of rules. A bunch of things you’ve heard over the years. Things you’re supposed to do/not do, not eat, music not to listen to.


Jesus: Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees.


As we conclude, Will’s going to lead. Maybe you’d say, “Yeah, I’m a lot like you were in high school, Rip. I have rules, but I don’t feel like I’m in relationship with Jesus.”


If you feel like that, I want you to come down and speak with one of us here. You don’t just need to listen to what Jesus has told others, you can hear him speaking to you.


I hope when we come together, we are a church that’s serious about the relationship. And we need to encourage one another. If God is leading you to join us here, come on down.


Most of all, I pray that when you walk out of here, you’ll appreciate the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount. There’s so much more he has for you.