Have you ever noticed that humans, as a group, tend to be extremely superficial and shallow? We expend enormous amounts of time, money, and energy making sure that we look a certain way – wear particular brands of clothes and shoes, dye our hair, even have surgery. We go to great lengths to change our outsides … but do almost nothing to change what really matters.
Even back in Jesus’ day, folks gave more attention to how they looked. This is what Jesus had to say to some people who worried too much about appearances:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:25-28
In many parts of the world, packaged foods are required to carry a list of ingredients used in the making of that particular food. The ingredients are listed in descending order – the ingredient that’s listed first is more than any of the other ingredients in that particular product.
Say for example that you’re shopping for orange juice. All of the packages look inviting – pictures of bright, juicy oranges and tall glasses of orange juice with just the right amount of condensation on them. The packaging people have done their research, but if you look carefully at the ingredient lists on the package, you’ll find a very different story.
One package has this list: “water, high fructose corn syrup and 2% or less of each of the following: concentrated juices (orange, tangerine, apple, lime, grapefruit), citric acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), Thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), natural flavors, modified cornstarch, canola oil, sodium citrate, cellulose gum, xantham gum, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium benzoate to protect flavor, yellow #5, yellow #6.”
Um, where’s the orange juice? If you look closely it’s listed third: “2% or less … concentrated juices (orange…)”.
Pick up another juice container and check its ingredients list: “100% pure squeezed pasteurized orange juice.”
Wow! If you just looked at the pictures on the packaging, you wouldn’t be able to tell that one of the bottles of juice is going to be much healthier than the other. One is going to be much more expensive as well, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.
Anyway, one of those containers is actual orange juice and the other is a chemical cocktail made to look and taste like orange juice.
If I came with the ingredients of my heart and mind listed on a label, what would you learn about me by reading it? What would be the first ingredient listed? Would I be able to call myself Jesus-flavored or Jesus-filled? Would my packaging match my ingredients? Or would I be like the Pharisees, “whitewashed tombs … full of dead men’s bones?”
The next question is, how do I become Jesus-filled?
“As we behold Jesus in His Word, we are changed. New thoughts replace old ones. By beholding Him, we become more like Him. ‘It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature that by beholding we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence. Man will never rise higher than his standard of purity or goodness or truth. If self is his loftiest ideal, he will never attain to anything more exalted. Rather, he will constantly sink lower and lower. The grace of God alone has power to exalt man. Left to himself, his course must inevitably be downward.’” (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 555)
“By beholding we become changed.” Doesn’t that sound simple? Everything we put in our brains, pushes us in on direction or the other – either to a closer relationship with Jesus or leads us farther away from Jesus.
Not too long ago I heard a Native American story called “The Wolves Within.”
In the story, a little boy comes to his grandfather because he is angry at a friend. The grandfather admits that he, too has struggled with feelings like hate and anger. He tells his grandson that those emotions only hurt the person who experiences them. Holding on to those emotions is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.
The grandfather continues,
“It is as if there are two wolves inside of me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when none is intended.
“But the other wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into fits of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate consume him. And he is helpless because anger doesn’t change anything.
“It is hard to live with these two wolves inside me because both of them are trying to dominate my spirit.”
The boy studies his grandfather for a few seconds and then asks, “Which wolf will win?”
With a smile, the grandfather says, “The one I feed.”
Many of us grew up singing the song, “Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes.” It reminds us to guard the information that enters our mind no matter which pathway it follows.
“Oh, be careful little eyes what you see …
Oh, be careful little ears what you hear …
Oh, be careful little hands what you do …
Oh, be careful little feet where you go …
Oh, be careful little heart whom you trust …
Oh, be careful little mind what you think …”
Paul gives us some advice on how to feed the good wolf. In Philippians 4:6-9, he says,
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
And in Romans 12:1-2,
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”