Did the said pastor preach correctly? Is God really just concern about the intent of the heart in actions that are taken?
At first glance, we might say, "YES", the statement made by the pastor is correct. But careful analysis of it, coupled with an examination of the Bible will lead us to the conclusion that the intent of the heart is not the only basis for God's approval of our actions.
Let me say first that there are many instances that, yes, our actions are governed by good intentions from the heart that people may applaud. But that does not mean that the actions are morally correct. Take, for example, the person that lies to protect another person. The intention for lying is good but the act of lying is wrong in God's sight as He commands, "Thou shalt not lie" (Exodus 20:16). The same goes for the person that steals so that he could feed his starving family. If good intentions is the only criterion for God's approval of our actions, then same-sex marriage will be right because same-sex couples say that they do it because of love. But we all know that God disapproves of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Job 34:12 clearly states that, "...surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment."
So, what is God's criteria for approving our actions? The Bible tells us that our heart must be in every action that we do (Colossians 3:23 "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men"), but it does not stop there. God wants that in doing things from the heart, the intent for an action must always be in accordance to TRUTH, and the Bible is our source of truth. This is why the psalmist pleaded, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day (Psalm 25:5)"; "O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. (Psalm 43:3)"; "Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name (Psalm 86:11)".
Psalm 51:6 tells us this... "Thou desires truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom." What does God look for in our inward parts (heart)? It's so clear... truth. The verse also shows us that if truth is behind every intentions of our actions, then we will always act in wisdom. You can even see God's preference for the marriage of heart intentions and truth in the worship we render Him as He declared in John 4:24, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." This makes a lot of the things we do in worship services unapproved. If corporate worship practices do not have any biblical basis, then we really do not worship in spirit and in truth. If songs we sing in corporate worship do not mirror what the Bible declares of God then we also fail to worship in spirit and in truth. Colossians 3:16 declared, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Songs we sing, from this verse, must result to teaching and admonishment. How much of the songs we sing in church teach and admonish? Sadly, very few, therefore, we sing not in truth.
Truth must be central in the actions of any Christian. Even the preacher must be sure that he correctly handles the Word. This is the reason why messages should be the product of strict exegetical Bible study. Evangelism must be done biblically and not out of craftiness. Even the Gospel message is under attack in our time. So many Christians share it in a watered-down way, lacking the emphasis on sin, righteousness and judgment that Jesus and His followers gave it.
Why does God want truth to always be the rock where our intents for actions are anchored? The answer is simple... Because He is Truth (John 14:6)! This means that every time we do things in truth, we honor Him. And when actions are not in accordance with truth, we dishonor Him.
God wants our actions to always be anchored on truth because if we do this, we will be free from His judgment and we will declare to people around us that we are Jesus' followers. This is what is being implied in John 8:31-32, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
May God help us to always do things heartily in truth!