Tom Ponchak recently stated on Next-Wave Ezine that,
“The attitude of the heart is what makes all the difference. Spirit-filled, faithful engagement with God through religion is a powerful means of receiving, experiencing, and growing in grace. Jesus himself declared that he did not come to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.”
The article argued religion is not bad, just our “half-hearted” attempts. But this begs the question: what is the attitude of the heart? How does this attitude make the all the difference? How do we find this “attitude of the heart?” None of these questions were addressed in the article. While to some the answer to the question is obvious, we must consider the cultural implications of such a question. We have a cultural understanding of heart. The heart is the emotional place inside of us where we make decisions. But how we make decisions is based on how we understand ourselves which, consequently, is based on our culture. Whether or not we like our culture, we are defined as men and women by our cultural concepts of an ideal man or woman. An ideal man is strong who holds back his emotions, while women are called to be weak willed to the point where all their emotions shine through. Second we have a cultural understanding of attitude. In certain situations, such as in the midst of powerful worship songs, we are called to have an “attitude of worship.” This attitude is one of emotional heightening. Is this emotional heightening of God or of culture?
If all that matters is the “attitude of the heart” then can I do whatever I want as long as my heart is right? Can I have sex with a monogamous partner if we are engaged because our heart is in the right place? The slippery slope of this argument can go anywhere. Rather, we might suggest that Jesus saw nothing wrong with religion. Jesus and the prophets only saw evil in our lack of religion, our lack of obedience and total devotion to God. Again and again in the OT, God calls his people into a covenant relationship of obedience.[i] We MUST stop using vague language to describe a concrete reality.
[i]Genesis 22:18, 26:5, Exodus 5:2, 12:24, 19:5, 24:7, 34:11; Leviticus 18:4ff, 26:1ff, Numbers 9:19ff, Numbers 15:39, Deuteronomy 5:27 (see the book of Deuteronomy as a whole to see a wonderful book on obedience to God), Joshua 1:7, Joshua 22:2, I Samuel 12:14 (David and Saul are good examples of those who obey and who do not obey the LORD), Psalm 119:17, Isaiah 50:10. and much more.