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Inner Righteousness

He really does love us that much…way too much to leave us the way we are.

“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.  Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.  Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”  Luke 11:33-36

Jesus said this to a group of Pharisees, who were the religious leaders and “enforcers” of religious laws of the day.

The Pharisees were all about appearances. They were ceremonial and showy in their religious acts. Immediately after Jesus says these things, the scriptures report that “a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.”

The passage goes on to tell us that Jesus addresses this issue and others to the Pharisees with a series of “Woe to you” statements, confronting them on their self-righteousness.

Since “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we can assume this account is here for a reason. My guess is that it’s here because, unfortunately, we tend to be much more like the Pharisees than we care to admit.

How often do we quietly (or sometimes, not so quietly) judge someone because they don’t do things the way we do or follow “rules” that are very important to us?

How often do we make sure we do the “right” things, attend the right events, give our offering and serve at the food pantry, but do these things with dark hearts, not from a heart of thankfulness and compassion?

How often do we seek positions of influence in our jobs, in the community, or even in the church, not because we truly want to humbly show Christ by serving those in our circles, but because we enjoy the respect that comes with those positions?

How often do we convince ourselves that we are wise when really we are becoming fools as we exchange the true wisdom of God for the false truth of the culture or even our own seemingly good practices?

The point is not even that any of the things the Pharisees were doing were necessarily wrong, in and of themselves. The point is that their DOING was not motivated by their HEARTS. It was just doing. Jesus is basically saying that the works alone are not what he wants from us. He wants our whole hearts.

When Jesus says, “you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness,” is he talking to us? Do we look nice and clean and shiny serving the right purposes, but we aren’t really clean on the inside?

Consider these passages…

Luke 6:45…”A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

1 Samuel 16:7…”But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”

Psalm 139:11-12…”If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Matthew 12:36-37…”But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.”

It seems that Jesus desperately wants us to understand that he does indeed see our hearts, that our words and actions flow out of whatever our hearts are sold out to, that he sees when our words and actions are empty, that we will ultimately be judged for “every empty word” and action, and that he wants our hearts aligned with his so that he gets to be with us forever. He really does love us that much…way too much to leave us the way we are.

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