Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Not Plastic Surgery, But Cardiac {Lent Day #37}

I remember my grandmother sitting on the floor in the hallway, her face in a strapped contraption attached to bungee-cord-like ropes that somehow hooked to the her bedroom door frame.  When I inquired about this strange practice, she informed me she was doing a "face-lift."  I suppose it was the 1970's answer to plastic surgery, or just the cheaper version.  Growing up, and even later as an adult, I scoffed at the very idea of plastic surgery.  Privileged to sit across a cafe table from Elisabeth Elliot on two occasions, I later told friends of the beauty of her deep wrinkles and silver hair ~ every one of them telling the stories of a life lived faithfully and sacrificially in Christ.

But lately I've been lifting my face "up" as I look in the mirror, and it certainly does look better that way.  I've been lamenting the silvers and greys, too, but they are so abundant that it would take a monthly fortune to cover them up. I don't think I've ever been as concerned with or focused on external beauty as I am now. {Oh, the pride in thinking I was above such silly, ungodly things.}

But if I really think about it, I've always been more focused on external things than internal.  They've just been mostly in the "behavior" category and not necessarily so much in the "appearance" category.  While asking the Lord to reveal my sin and help me confess this morning, I was reminded of a book Robert and I read on parenting called Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp.  I still highly recommend it, as it encourages parents to get to "heart" or internal issues when disciplining children.
"If you address only behavior in your children, you never get to the cross of Christ.  It is impossible to get from preoccupation with behavior to the gospel.  The gospel is not a message about doing new things.  It is a message about being a new creature.  It speaks to people as broken, fallen sinners who are in need of a new heart.  God has given His Son to make us new creatures.  God does open-heart surgery, not a face-lift.  He produces change from the inside out.  He rejects the man who fasts twice a week and accepts the sinner who cries for mercy."
Shepherding a Child's Heart, p. 69 
I can almost manage my behavior and words.  I can say and do appropriate things, kind things, sacrificial things, but my heart is not always in accord with my behavior.  An amazing thing about the cross and the resurrection, though, is that through them, my heart can be in accord with my behavior.  In fact, by the Spirit my new heart wants to love and serve like Christ.

Today I've been confessing the squelching of the Spirit's work in my new heart, as well as the fact that I was in desperate need of a new heart in the first place.  I've been agreeing with Him about the "face-lifts" I've attempted to earn His approval. If I try to behave my way to Christ through good works I make His torturous death a mockery.  I need forgiveness for doing that so often, rather than coming before Him with a contrite spirit.  He does not necessarily want my external sacrifices, he wants my heart. 

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; you are not pleased with burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Psalm 51: 16-17

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.  Give her the product of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31: 30-31

{I love that the "works" of the woman are received and rewarded ~ but seemingly when her heart and its worship of the Lord are her focus. Mrs. Elliot's great missionary and writing works praise her, but it was her new heart that enabled them in the first place.}

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