Today at Grimsby Bible Church we looked at the radical nature of mankind's problem according to Jesus. What makes it radical is that it is an internal rather than an external problem. It is commonplace for human beings to locate the source of our problems in the environment, whether that be economics, or politics, or education, or in the moral, religious and psychological realm. But that is not what Jesus says in Mark 7:14-23. Over against the religious leaders of his day he says that we are defiled from within and that from out of our hearts come all kinds of evils that make us unclean. This is not something that we generally like to hear but failure to receive what Jesus is saying results in a superficial understanding of the root of our problems that will in turn lead us astray when it comes to seeking an answer.
If we take Jesus seriously we will see that mere religion and spirituality are not enough. They are too superficial in themselves and do not deal with the root cause of our problems. It is like treating cancer with aspirin and a bandage. Nor will a little church attendance or Bible reading or prayer be sufficient. Something more is needed. But what?
Our radical problem calls for a radical solution. We need a special kind of 'heart surgery' that can only be done by Jesus. We need the power of his atoning death and triumphant resurrection applied to the core of our beings. This does not result in perfection in this life but it begins a process that will culminate in our complete salvation at the end of the age. The satisfaction provided by Jesus on the cross must be applied to us by the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit can touch us deep inside and make us a new creation in Christ Jesus.
Jesus' teaching about the radical nature of the human problem has many implications for ministry. First, spiritual power is more important than proper technique. Second, conversion is more important than being 'churched'. And third, heart renewal is more important than reformation and theological precision (as important as these are in their own right). Practically, Jesus' words in Mark 7:14-23 helps us understand that exhortation of the king of Israel many years ago when he wrote: "Above all else, you must guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23).