Content – Heart vs. Head
I’ve talked about the teaching setting, the call, and the methodologies of discipleship. But the most important characteristic is the content of what is taught and practiced. There are two themes running through all of what Jesus taught: the fallen nature of the heart of man, and the essentialness and preeminence of Himself. Let’s look at the first of these themes.
We Christians tend to focus more on head-knowledge and externals. Good doctrine and actions are essential. But Jesus did not teach dry-facts about God or outward observance of the Law
To be unjustly angry at your brother is the same as murder (Matthew 5:21-22).
To lust after a woman is the same as committing the act (Matthew 5:27-28).
We are to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-44).
We must become humble as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4).
These teachings, and many more, focus on who we are on the inside. It is not enough to appear good and righteous outwardly (as Jesus often spoke out against hypocrisy – Matthew 23:27). We must be truly good and righteous on the inside. This was the problem with the Pharisees and Jesus’ disciples, and it’s our problem also. It’s my problem.
We may have doctrine down pat, but it’s depressing how often we fail in the areas that Jesus homed in on. We seize every opportunity to make ourselves look good. We won’t associate with the social outcasts. We proudly tear down those who hold minor theological differences, and angrily speak out against those in authority over us
Jesus, on the other hand, taught the humility, submission, obedience and faith that comes of agape love. He didn’t just use words. He lived it in relation to His heavenly Father, and expressed it in His relationships towards those around Him, so that His disciples could see how it worked out in real life.
He brought salvation to a sinful tax-collector, saying “the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” (Luke 19:1-10).
He crossed a storm-tossed sea just to save a demon-possessed man, and then crossed back over (Matthew 8:23-9:1).
Jesus did not return evil for evil but forgave those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34).
The Son of God modeled love for us, and thereby simultaneously taught God’s love for man.
When Jesus spoke more directly of the Father’s love, it was not just facts, but heart… passion. For example, Luke 15’s parables are about the Father’s loss and then joy when He found what was lost. Jesus spoke of the Father in such a way that we might feel for His loss.
We cannot love people in this way. We have a heart condition that won’t be cured merely by acting the right way. Trying to get the outside actions right without an inward change is futile – it won’t last.
“So every good tree produces good fruits, but the worthless tree produces bad fruits. A good tree cannot produce bad fruits, nor a worthless tree produce good fruits.”
– Matthew 7:17-18 (JND)
But if the heart is changed, the outward actions will follow.
That’s a matter for the second theme.