In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus teaches that it’s the heart one is born with that defiles every person. The Bible is crystal clear about this, especially in Jer. 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? In light of that, attempting spiritual transformation through external acts of religion is vain idolatry. That’s because these efforts are empowered by the flesh and thus the glory goes to the person when something is accomplished. You can tell this is resident in your thinking, when upon sinning, you makes promises to the Lord, such as that you will read your Bible more and attend church more consistently. Those actions are certainly means of grace, but apart from producing more abiding faith in Christ, they cannot cleanse the heart one bit.
This is because our greatest enemy and our biggest problem in our lives isn’t outside of us, even though we like to blame our spouse, kids, co-workers, boss, or neighbors. It’s true that there are many factors that are involved in our sin, but nothing outside of us can cause us to sin. This is despite the fact that the greater the adversity from outside of us, the easier it is for us to adopt a sinful response and excuse ourselves from obeying God’s word. We are too easily tempted to think that external factors are contaminating our lives. There’s no doubt that people and circumstances can make our lives difficult and even painful, but perhaps we need to consider that’s it’s our sinful response to those external factors that defiling us.
In the end, what one believes about the condition of the human heart is evidenced by how one seeks to relate to God: Do we seek establish our own righteousness by adherence to our own man-made standards of Christianity or do we trust in God’s righteousness being given to us as a gift by faith and does that trust result in enabling grace from the Spirit to become more and more holy over time?