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Our private world
- Jacob Ninan
The Bible says that while man looks at the outward appearance God looks at the heart (1Sa.16:7). We can be impressed by other people's looks and by what they say and do. Or we can form a low opinion about people based on how unimpressive they appear to be. But God may have an entirely different opinion about these people. He looks inside, at the thoughts that go on, the attitudes and motives, and the values people hold.
As Christians we are keen that we should present before people a good Christian testimony. So we are careful about how we behave and what we speak, especially in front of the people whose opinion matters to us. But it is possible that what they see and hear may not be the real us.
If we have unkind thoughts about people in our mind most of the time we are unkind people in fact, even if we know how to say kind words and do kind deeds. If our thoughts are critical, self-centred, proud, self-righteous, unforgiving, complaining, envious, jealous, bitter, resentful, dirty, etc., that is what we really are.
We may be 'comfortable' with a private world of our thoughts where we can indulge ourselves in any way we like, because we fool ourselves into imagining that what we are is what people think about us. We may be tolerant of wrong thoughts, attitudes, motives and values because people do not generally know what is going on in our minds.
But don't we realise that our hidden life speaks out very loudly in God's ears? He is not fooled by what we say and do outside if there is something very different inside. He knows our thoughts even when they are still on their way! (Ps.139:2).
The point I am making is not so much about whether we are hypocrites, acting before people, as about whether we are fooling ourselves about what we are. Do we evaluate ourselves based on the impression people have about us or on what we are inside?
God tells us what we should focus on. He says that all our life springs forth from our heart (Pr.4:23). Jesus pointed out that it would be foolish to focus on the external things because all our deeds proceed from the heart (Mt.15:17-20). Trying to control our words without focusing on having good thoughts inside is a futile exercise (Mt.12:34).
If we want to be the type of people that God wants us to be, we have to, slowly but steadily, learn to think in line with His thoughts. This is why Paul exhorts us to bring every thought to be in obedience to Christ (2Co.10:5). And then we will be renewed in our mind more and more, and we will come more and more into conformity with the will of God (Ro.12:2).