When I evaluate my life I realize that there are parts of myself that I am satisfied with, and there are parts of me that I find disturbing. I wish I could consistently be the good person I see glimpses of, but I know that bad person within me will emerge more often than I would like.
For instance, one of the realities I know about myself is that I am a jealous person. When I hear good news about someone else, the success they are experiencing or the blessing they received, it is nearly impossible for me to be happy for them. I always wonder, “Why them and not me?”
I am a jealous person, not because jealousy imposed itself on my heart, but because I consistently chose to be jealous when I heard about the successes and blessings of other people. The expression of jealousy in my life is the natural result of cultivating jealousy in my heart. My jealousy reveals what is true about who I am.
We must clearly understand that there is a rigorous consistency in the human self and its actions. This is one of the things we are most inclined to deceive ourselves about. If I do evil, I am the kind of person who does evil, if I do good, I am the kind of person who does good (1 John 3:7-10). Actions are not impositions on who we are, but are expressions of who we are. They come out of our heart and the inner realities it supervises and interacts with.
Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, p. 39
Our actions will reveal to us the reality that exists in our hearts. (Tweet this sentence) Yes, we can deceive ourselves and claim that the sin that we commit is due to other causes. We can claim it is because we are tired or that we are under a lot of stress, but when we do that we ignore reality.
The reality is that time and time again we have responded to certain circumstances with anger, lust, greed, hatred, jealousy, or violence. Try as we might to explain these things away, there is no escaping the pattern that has developed in our lives. There are times in our lives when our natural response is not righteousness, but sin.
It is important to realize that we do this, because then we will not deceive ourselves, and we can bring the work of Christ into these areas of our lives. If we are not willing to ask for cleansing and healing of our hearts, then we will not experience spiritual formation. Instead of becoming more like Jesus, we allow the jealousy, hatred, bitterness, or violence to become more entrenched in our hearts and continue to contribute to who we truly are.
Our actions reveal the condition of our hearts. The transformation that we seek through spiritual formation is not just changing our behavior, but changing our heart. A changed heart not only produces different actions, but creates a different person.