Do You Possess Knowledge without Heart?

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published: Sep 18, 2023
Do You Possess Knowledge without Heart?

 I don't want to get to the end of my life and realize I got it all wrong. Barely skimmed the surface of what it means to know and be known by my Creator.

In Luke 22:63-71, Jesus was mocked and beaten for our sake. It was the teachers of religious law and leading priests at that time who accused Him, those known as highly religious, intellectual, and well-versed in reciting the Scriptures. They appeared godly, though their overly pious behaviors often made others dislike them.  

While it might come across as shocking, those who should've known Jesus the most actually knew Him the least. And today, we shouldn't strive to be like them, but Jesus. 

The fact of the matter is that although these religious men held knowledgethey never allowed it to touch or penetrate their hearts. 2 Timothy 3:5 (AB) writes these words: "Holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. Avoid such people and keep far away from them."

Relationship or Religion?

For the last few years, I've struggled not to allow my relationship with God to become a religion. I've clung too tightly to my schedule and agenda, and I've often left no room for the Holy Spirit to speak or intercede. Even worse, I've prioritized checking off my Bible plan or listening to Scripture readings without focus just because I know I should or to be a good person but rarely because I desperately long to hear from God and His Word. The truth is, if I did, I'd forsake all means of tradition and religion if it meant I'd hear from Him. 

In my heart, I know I love God and long to know Him deeply. I firmly believe that though our hearts can deceive us, God knows our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9;1 John 3:19-20). Somewhere between years of suffering and discouragement, trauma and struggles, pain and unanswered questions, however, I've clung tighter to religion than to Jesus.

A Painful Reality

Nothing is holy about reading your Bible only out of guilt when you're already exhausted and just need to rest in His presence. 

Nothing is godly about forcing yourself to stick to a Bible plan when the Spirit is clearly leading you to another passage or form of connecting with Him. 

Nothing is spiritual about spreading yourself too thin between half a dozen church service groups when quality over quantity is how we're most effective with our gifts. 

Nothing is further from a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ than caring more about how you appear as a Christian than what you actually are. 

This is the heart of what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3! It's also what I believe was at the center of the religious scholars and leading priests in Luke 22:63. They acted religiously up until they turned Jesus over to be crucified. And even then, they clung to pride. A pride that didn't want to be wrong. Was closed-minded to who Jesus might really be. More proud of who they were in the flesh than who they could be in the Spirit. 

If they were true followers of Christ, why would they reject the power that could make them godly? Like Jesus? Transformed by the Gospel?

Because they valued religion over relationships. 

Unlike them, I don't want to get to the end of my life and realize I got it all wrong. Barely skimmed the surface of what it means to know and be known by my Creator. No, I desire to be deeply and intimately enthralled with Him alone as was intended. 

A Sense of Pride

The leading priests and teachers of religious law had no reason to ask Jesus, "Are you the Messiah?" (Luke 22:67). They'd already mocked and denied He was (Luke 22:68-69). Yet, they were the ones who got it wrong (Luke 22:70-71). They chose selfish pride and ambition, closed hearts and minds, and power and greed over giving their bodies as pure, holy, living sacrifices before God (Romans 12:1).

I'm not sure who this resonates with today, but I know it's been heavily laid upon my heart. I'm doing a hard and deep work. Pruning and clipping all that doesn't bear fruit. Slowing down–or trying to, and getting out of my familiar routine so I can fully abide in His ways. 

Especially as someone who struggles with high-functioning anxiety, busyness, and an addiction to productivity, this can feel impossible. Unchecked days on my Bible plan where I've gotten behind haunt me. Days my husband and I haven't had time to read our marriage devotional riddles me with anxiety. Times I'm too mentally exhausted to pray or read another verse make me question my relationship with God. I wrestle with the voices that tell me I'm a "bad Christian," "letting God down," or "not strong enough," when I challenge these routines. 

But when I'm more concerned with catching up and checking boxes just because I'm "behind" than actually spending time with my Father, I've lost the heart of what I'm striving to pursue. I've lost the passion behind what I'm doing. In a sense, I've succumbed to an anxious flavor of pride. Not one that is power-hungry and self-seeking, but one that feels insecure and a need to prove her worth. One that buys into the false belief that I need to do more just to be holy or right with God. 

Works in Progress

This side of heaven, I'll never be perfect in correcting this. I'm still learning to pave a new path where God leads and I follow. Where I cling to Him more than religion. Because these habits in and of themselves aren't bad. They are important things that make up our faith and help us grow. But our relationship with Jesus must come first. Even over the religious habits that may tell you otherwise.

Friends, this is what the Pharisees got wrong. They were cold, closed-minded, ignorant, foolish, and selfish. They so desired holiness that they did all the wrong things to actually achieve it. Because holiness and a pure relationship with God aren't characterized by loud prayers (Matthew 6:5-15), boastful messages (Luke 18:10-14), majestically colored sashes, or outward appearances of religion. They are characterized by the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Jeremiah 17:10). 

God knows this, and He's rooting for you today. Prioritize the heart the best you know how. Create a clean and pure heart within each of us, Lord. We look to you for your ways (Psalm 51:10). 

Agape, Amber

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/kieferpix

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.