We live in a consumeristic world. The engine of our capitalist economy is founded in the thought that more is better. Newer is better. Faster is better. And to the extent that you accept this thought and participate in this market, you are better. You are cooler. You are smarter. Your life is easier. And you will be happier.
Our culture repeatedly encourages us to “try this, taste that, buy these, go there, experience this, watch that, try these”. Whether we realise it or not, this worldview is oriented from the Outside to the Inside.
This philosophy of life begins with the perspective that goodness, joy, completeness, and purpose are “out there”, outside of ourselves. They exist for us to grasp, or at least to pursue with the hope to grasp.
As I write this, the Cleveland Cavaliers have just won the NBA Championship. It represents the team’s first ever championship and the city’s first professional sports championship in 52 years. I wonder how many fans longed and dreamed of this day. They pour into the streets to greet the players. They throw the team a parade. They feel on top of the world. Then in a few days, a week, perhaps a month they begin to wonder… “When will the Browns win the NFL championship?” or “When will the Indians bring home the MLB championship?” The euphoria subsides and life goes on.
Jesus taught us a different way of viewing the world. He introduced us to the worldview “Inside Out”.
In Mark 7 Jesus addresses a crowd of people who concerned themselves with ritual purity. In this particular instance the discussion revolved around washing hands before a meal. While our mother’s told us this for health reasons, these people believed it would help them maintain purity before God. God himself had earlier given Israel detailed instructions about clean and unclean foods and lifestyle practices. For the people accusing Jesus however, rather than pointing them to God, these instructions had become a goal of their own.
Jesus then makes this astonishing statement to this crowd, “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” (7:15) At the end of this conversation Jesus provides a list of sinful behaviours and concludes “All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Jesus knew that the state of our hearts determines our outlook on life and our standing before God. Joy or grief. Hatred or love. Generosity or envy. These attitudes may be influenced by events outside of us, but ultimately the state of our hearts, our character, determines how we live our lives and how we respond to our circumstances. With this worldview in mind, as Jesus prepared for his death he comforted his followers with this promise,
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth… You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will be IN his followers. From that point on we consciously live Inside Out. We can find all the peace we need in the Spirit within us. We can find all the joy we need in the Spirit within us. We can find all the courage and all the purpose we need in the Spirit within us. When we find ourselves seeking fulfillment in food, books, pornography, relationships, busyness, or the pursuit of wealth or security, we should recognise that we’re no longer living in the Spirit.
It’s great to have life goals that we pursue, but they don’t define us. Our identity and self-worth has been gifted to us by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and we now travel through life from the Inside Out.
Over the next couple of months I’ve coordinated with a great group of church leaders and writers to explore some of the practical applications for individuals and churches of living Inside Out. I believe you’ll be blessed and challenged by their thoughts, so please make an effort to check back to this blog throughout July and August to join this Summer Blog Tour. To promote the Summer Blog Tour, we’re also giving away one set of Church Inside Out, both book and workbook. Just leave a comment below then enter over HERE.