It seems our first instinct when we want to change is to do something. We think activity will change us. We want a list of do’s and dont's. In Jesus’ day, people thought they could be pure through ceremonial washing. Today it can be spiritual disciplines or sets of laws. I’ve tried these approaches. I’ve written out little rituals to perform every morning. I’ve tried to regulate my behavior with lists. Many of these things are good in themselves, and we’ll discover the role they can play in helping us grow in holiness. But our rituals and disciplines can’t change us.
‘Are you so dull?’ [Jesus] asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him “unclean”?...What comes out of a man is what makes him “unclean”. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man “unclean”.’ (Mark 7:18–23)
External activities can’t change us, says Jesus, because sin comes from within, from our hearts. Our rituals might change our behavior for a while, but they can’t change our hearts. And so they can’t bring true and lasting holiness. We need heart change.
Excerpt from You Can Change by Tim Chester.