*What is your inward temper?
“They should repent…and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
Acts 26:20 NIV
If the conscience of believers is thoroughly awake, how much sin do they find cleaving to their actions also? Indeed, are there not many, whom the world would not condemn, who cannot be commended nor even excused if we judge by the Word of God?
Many of their actions are not to the glory of God; frequently they did not even aim at His glory. Many are doing their own will at least as much as His and seeking to please themselves as much if not more than to please God.
While they are endeavoring to do good to their neighbor, do they not feel wrong tempers of various kinds? Hence, their good actions, their works of mercy, are polluted with a mixture of evil. Is it not the same case when they are offering up their prayers to God, public or private, or engaged in the most solemn service? Are not their hearts often wandering to the ends of the earth?
Again, how many sins of omission are they chargeable with! We know the words of the apostle James, “To him who knows to do good and does not do it…it is sin” (James 4:17 NKJV). And do they not find in themselves a lack of love and holy tempers, and other inward defects without number? So that they cry, with Job, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6 KJV).
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In this thirty-first lesson on prayer, Wesley asks in essence, “Are you ministering to the Lord and those around you with a pure heart? Is the temper of your heart at odds with, or in alignment with, the good actions, the works of mercy, you involve yourself with?”
The verse Wesley begins with is in the account of Paul before King Agrippa in Acts 26 where Paul has finished defending his call and ministry and says, “19“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”
Notice Paul puts the acts of repenting and turning to God before performing deeds appropriate to repentance. In other words, until our heart is right with God, no action, good or even merciful, is without a selfish motive. The heavenly vision is fulfilled in our works when we minister with a pure heart. When we fail to keep our hearts pure before God, and yet act outwardly as if they are, we are deceived, and lie to ourselves as well as God.
In Acts 5:1-11, we see how serious deception can be:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. 7Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” 10And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things (NASB).