“And the people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right.”  (2 Kings 17:9)

The seventeenth chapter of 2 Kings records the tragic demise of the northern kingdom of Israel.  During the ninth year of Hoshea who was reigning over Israel at the time, the king of Assyria came and captured Samaria and carried the Israelites away into captivity.  Israel’s demise didn’t really happen overnight.  It happened as the result of years and years of disobedience and rebellion against God.  They had turned from God to worship idols and had walked in the customs of the nations that surrounded them.  The time came when they reached the point of no return and God gave them over to bondage.  Of particular interest to me is a statement that is made in verse 9, “And the people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right.”  This statement implies that outwardly, they maintained somewhat of a facade of loyalty to God, but in reality their hearts were far from Him.  Their worship of God was in pretense.  Inwardly, they loved their idols and secretly committed adultery against God with them.

Because of their secret sins and their idolatrous ways, God delivered His people over to bondage and oppression.  Secret sin always leads in a downward spiral.  Had they been open and honest before God and sought Him with their whole heart, I imagine that things would have been quite different.  The same principle applies to you and me.  Far too many men and women in the average church today are in bondage though they claim to be free, and it is all because of the secret sins of their heart.  Their relationship with God is nothing more than mechanics and dry religion while their hearts are really turned on by lesser things.  They may give God casual lip service on Sunday, but the fact that their hearts love idols and remain unchanged betrays them.  To illustrate this, I could tell you about a man who made free use of Christian vocabulary.  This man talked about the blessing of God and the Christian principles which would become the pillars of the new government.  This man handed out pious stories to the press, especially to the church papers.  He proudly showed off his tattered Bible and declared that he drew the strength for his great work from it as scores of people welcomed him as a man sent from God. Indeed, this man–Adolf Hitler–was a master of outward religiosity with no inward substance whatsoever.

Friend, the most important part of you is your heart. The Bible has so very much to say about the condition of the heart. It is your heart that determines everything about you. When someone trusts Christ, He changes their life and gives them a new heart. That new heart is characterized by love for Christ and a desire for obedience. Though they are not perfect, they want to be.  The true disciple of Jesus is not content with merely surface religion and empty profession. He or she recognizes that the heart is what matters most to God.  Therefore, the disciple wants to serve Jesus with their whole heart.  Disciples don’t secretly follow idols in their heart while claiming to follow Jesus.  My private life matters to God.  He can see where no on else can see.  Every area of my life is under His careful scrutiny and does not escape His Lordship.  We dare not offer Him worship in pretense with only our lips!  God seeks those who worship Him in spirit and in truth.  Secret sin is not to be tolerated in the life of any disciple.  Jesus didn’t die on a cross to simply make me outwardly religious; He died in my place and rose again so that I could be made inwardly righteous.

“Lord, our hearts and our lives are open to Your inspection.  Examine every thought, weigh every action, and refine us as silver tried by fire.  May we never merely honor You with our lips while our hearts are far from You.  As disciples, we desire to be like our Master in every way.  Transform us and conform us to Christ’s image.  Amen.”