Hearts far from God
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:7-9
Our Lord's indictment of the Pharisees, "their heart is far from me," ought to elicit from our hearts the prayer that it would not be so with us. A heart far from God is a heart whose allegiance is to something other than God. It means that there is something other than God which we desire more than God. If this is so with us, it means that, even if we are not bowing down to a statue of some sort, nevertheless we are idolators, guilty of transgressing the First Commandment.
This is not only the culprit behind hypocritical and vain religion; it is also the culprit behind apostasy of every sort. "Demas hath forsaken me," says the apostle, "having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:10). It is sometimes the case that a person walks away from the Christian religion because they have been convinced by the arguments from an opposing worldview. But it is always the case that underneath all apostasy and hypocrisy is a heart that is more in love with the world than it is with God.
How do we keep ourselves from getting there? Well, the first step is to recognize the vulnerability of all of us to this evil. This was not just a problem for Pharisees. The reality is that we are all Pharisees to some extent. That in turn ought to lead all of us to fervent prayer that the Lord would help us to keep our hearts with all diligence (Prov. 4:23). And it means that we are constantly calibrating our hearts to the tune of God's word, letting his precepts lead us, not to an external religion only, but to an experience of the things of which the Scriptures teach.
Brothers and sisters, let our hearts be close to God rather than far from him.