The way we dress, the way we talk, the amount of television we watch, the books we read, our taste in music, and much more is not what pleases or displeases God.”
Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart – (1 Samuel 16:7)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind – (Romans 12:1)
In other words, God looks for inward transformation, not outward conformity. In fact, the case can be made that this is the major theme running through the Sermon on the Mount. See Matthew 5:13-16; 7:15-20 & 12:33-37.
I believe this is a trap that is very easy to fall into. We live in a capitalistic society, which says if you do so-and-so, you will be rewarded; If you don’t, you won’t. Our society is performance based. Consider your job. Consider your relationships. Even well intentioned marriage books promote this idea. They don’t come out and say this, but it is the bottom line: “I’ll scratch your back the way you like it, but I expect you to reciprocate…”
I think it is natural to view our relationship with our heavenly Father similarly, as performance based. And if you are thinking about it, you may be considering Hebrews 12:6-7, which says,
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
On the surface it may appear that God is displeased with the actions of His children and sets them to chastisement for correction. However, that is not what this verse is teaching.
There are four things that we want to see from this verse:
First, the best of God’s children need chastisement; “every son.” There are no Christians who do not have faults that need correcting (James 3:2)
Second, He will correct all He receives into His family. He will not ignore the failings of His people.
Third, in this God acts as a father: no wise and good parent will wink at the faults of their children.
Fourth, God’s disciplinary actions proceed and make known his LOVE to them.
The point is God’s chastisement of his children flow from His love, not his displeasure. He is less interested in our actions than He is in our inward transformation. Will outward conformity flow from inward transformation? Absolutley! But that is not where God places His focus. He wants our hearts to change.