Outward vs. Inward

“And the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

• 1 TIMOTHY 1:5 •

Life is so complex, with it’s different seasons, challenges and ever-changing circumstances, that it would seem impossible to narrow down a single goal for our lives. Could it ever be so simple? Simple, maybe not. But simplistic, indeed. Leave it to us to try and make our lives about doing, proving and chasing, when the Lord has called us to live a life of love, freedom and faith. And in order to do this our focus needs to be on the condition of our heart and not our outward appearance.

OUTWARD FOCUS:

  • your works
  • your accomplishments
  • your ability to make yourself righteous
  • your appearance

The truth about exclusively having an outward focus is that it can so easily lead to a legalistic mindset. And that is exactly what Paul was warning Timothy about in 1 Timothy. The people in Ephesus were skewing the gospel and making it about their own efforts to make themselves righteous. But, remember righteousness, a pure heart, sound doctrine, and faith all come from the LORD. It starts and ends with HIM, and He is always the answer. When we try and make the answer about our own doing, we will eventually harness condemning thoughts for ourselves and those around us, because we will notice that no one meets the standard. We need to renew our minds and fight off legalistic thinking, because is leads to fear, condemning thoughts and pride. By God’s grace are we declared righteous before Him, and by His grace are we able to be used for His glory.

Does this mean that having high standards of virtue is being legalistic?

Having a set of standards at which you choose to live your life is not legalistic. I wrote a little about personal standards in my “What are your values?” post. And I love what David Guzick says about the topic: “Having standards and keeping them does not make us legalists and obedience doesn’t make us legalists. We are legalists when we think what we do is what makes us right before the Lord.”

INWARD FOCUS:

  • love from a pure heart
  • good conscience (freedom from fear of condemnation)
  • sincere faith

This focus is the opposite of legalistic. It is what we strive for in every season of our lives. I know I personally would love to live my life in freedom, knowing that by accepting His gift of grace I have no reason for fear of not meeting the mark in His eyes. We are loved without the striving and we are meant to love others the same way. An inward focus is an eternal focus. The beautiful part of this remembering this is as our goal is that. Is it to say we should never consider our behavior as an element of importance? Nope. I believe sound doctrine (inward) + virtue (outward) must go together. Because it is by accepting and experiencing His love, are we able understand what it means to love others out of a pure heart as a result of our faith in what He did. But above all, our goal is to love from a pure heart, keep a sound doctrine and sincere faith. ♥

CHALLENGE:
Fight the legalistic mindset of needing to work towards acceptance and justification before the Lord. And actively love others the way God has accepted and loved you no matter where you are in life.

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