Make-up lines, hair salons, clothing, tanning, gym memberships, plastic surgery...name your favorite segment.
The entire world is telling you that who you are is inescapably tied to how you look, for better or for worse. The fashion world says, wear this to make a statement about who you are.
The business world says, wear this to be successful. Hollywood mercilessly labels its winners or losers based on red carpet fashion choices. Worn down by these messages, it’s no wonder that people subconsciously accept the idea that physical attractiveness equals happiness in life.
Proverbs 27:19 says, “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” In the same way that you can look into a still pool of water and see yourself staring back, you can look in your heart, past all the exterior things, and see who is there. But most of us would rather not look that deeply into ourselves. What if we don’t like the person that we see there? It’s much easier to remain in the superficial realm and live on the surface. We prefer to be defined by the likes and dislikes we list on our social networking pages.
But the inner workings of a human heart could never be reflected on something as canned as a Facebook profile.
The heart, as pretty and red as it is in Valentine's Day marketing, is not a pretty place in its natural state. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” As darling as children are, they are not born knowing how to behave. They do not have to be taught how to lie…how to hoard possessions without sharing…how to act, above all, in their own self-interest.
As we get older, we learn how to suppress these knee-jerk instincts. But that ugly seed of self is still there, though usually well-disguised, regardless of our age. Jesus even went so far as to say that hating another person is the same thing as murder, and that what comes out of our mouths is what is overflowing out of our hearts, for good or for evil. “No one is good except God alone,” he said in Mark 10:18.
That means no one. No one walking around on this planet, at least.
And you would think it might be okay to have some darkness inside of us, since we’re all so consumed with externals, except for one uncomfortable fact: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). The One who set the world in motion and made us – he knows everything about us.
And He is holy. Perfect. Unblemished. Very much unlike ourselves. Ugliness inside of us creates a big chasm between Him and us. A chasm that cannot be bridged by our own goodness or even by religion…because our righteousness is like filthy rags before him (Isaiah 64:6). Even on our best day, that chasm is still just as deep and as wide as it ever was. There is no way we could ever reach Him on our own.
But Jesus changed all that.
C.S. Lewis famously said this about him in his classic work Mere Christianity:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."We needed someone to intervene. God Himself, in his unfathomable love, sent His own Son to do so. Jesus was not stained with any of the ugliness that stains our lives. But in order to bridge that chasm between us and God, he literally became a stain for us when he suffered on the cross. Someone had to bear the blame for everything wrong within the heart of mankind, and only He, in all His perfection, was fit to do it. In John 11:25, he said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.”
That is not the kind of thing that a “good teacher” says.
If you are wondering what your heart looks like, the answer is not in how you view your past. It’s not in the way that you present yourself to the world. It’s not even in your best attempts at being a good person. Your heart is what’s there when everything else is stripped away. God says He is able to give us an undivided heart and put a new spirit in us – to remove from us our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).
As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.
Hearts don’t require make-up, though they might be bruised, beaten down, depressed, marred with guilt, or bristling with offense at the very suggestion that they might not be what they thought they were. Whatever it is that you see there, Jesus is able to handle it. Nothing is too gruesome, too far gone, or too stubborn. He has seen it all. He is the heart-changer, the purifier, the new life-giver, the prayer-answerer, the hope-filler, the faith-sustainer, and the answer to every longing of the human heart. He has proved it in every way, not only historically, but in what he has done in the changed hearts of millions of people on planet Earth for thousands of years.
And one of those millions was mine.