There certainly is no fooling God. He knows our hearts, and He wants our hearts to be focused on Him. He knows when our hearts are not in our actions. And He knows when our actions are external and are not the true expression of our hearts. There is a difference between “seeming” to love and follow God and actually loving God and following Him from the heart. God seems so frustrated at times at people when they seem to go through the motions and miss the point entirely.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high. (Isaiah 59:2-5 NIV)
Then God (through Isaiah) says to the people that fasting is not just not eating food and lying in sackcloth and ashes.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:5-10 NIV)
In the New Testament Jesus always had the harshest words for the hypocrites (usually the Pharisees). Like the people described in Isaiah these people seem to want to seek and follow God but really they do not. If you really want to be close to God and be His child He wants you to give but give in secret; fast but do it so that others are unaware; pray but pray in private using simple and heartfelt words, acknowledging his holiness, asking for forgiveness, promising forgiveness to others, asking for our daily bread one day at a time.
1“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1 NIV)
Then at the end of Matthew 6 Jesus tells us to trust Him.
19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, … 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:19-34, condensed, NIV)
Lord, help me to focus on you, on what’s important; to seek first your kingdom and your righteousnes; to store up my treasures in heaven. Help me to truly love and follow you.