“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”- Matthew 23:25-26
Throughout Jesus’s time on earth, we saw Him connect with and show compassion on the masses. We read of Him reclining at the table with tax collectors and all kinds of sinners, embracing the souls of all while never once praising the sin of any.
He knew he was going to die for each and every sin ever committed. He knew that even the most seemingly holy, those washed and scrubbed and ritualized through and through, were dirty without His sacrifice.
Yet, His focus in conversation leaned much into His love and healing power rather than the sin, and He never once called even the most well-known sinners a hypocrite.
In fact, quite the opposite.
It was those that were so concerned with looking holy that they forgot about their own hearts that He reprimanded.
Those who, despite the reality of their broken and dirty hearts, were determined to be seen as anything but.
Those who sought the praise and intimidation of man over the love and continual flow of grace from a perfect Savior.
“Ugh, I can’t stand it when I see myself in the Bible as the Pharisee in the story. I would rather be the sinner who was allowed at the table that the Pharisees are sneering at than the Pharisee Himself, and for good reason. Jesus was constantly getting on to the Pharisees for their lack of heartfelt worship. They continued to be more concerned with the outside appearance, with what man thought of them, than what God said or thought. I hate this. I don’t want to be this. But in so many different seasons of life or areas of my current life, I see it more than I would like to admit. Anytime we make the focus of the Gospel anything but Jesus, we have missed the point.” – p. 13, On Milk and Honey
I spent the first few years of my Christian life thinking that people would know I was a Christ-follower by a clean slate or a moral life. I think many of us slip into this dangerous line of thinking at times. As a high school girl, I truly thought if I could stay away from sexual activity, getting drunk, and talking bad about others, I would have arrived at some point of super spirituality. The problem was, I couldn’t seem to find a way to get it right. I would go on streaks in which I would behave, whatever that means, only to fall into old patterns and “dirty myself up” again.
There were so many twisted aspects of the thought pattern above, to be summarized in this way:
That is not the Gospel.
The only thing my bad behavior has to do with the Gospel is the good news that Jesus died for it.
I spent so many years attempting to clean myself up and put my act together, yet it was when I finally gave up that I found Jesus.
You see, the greatest hypocrite of all is the one who doesn’t see their own sin; who pridefully thinks that outward holiness equals inward perfection.
On page 13 of Milk and Honey, I go on to say this:
“…my sin does not begin from the outside, my sin begins directly at the heart. Sometimes I think we prefer to think that are actions are what make us sinful because we pridefully forget that we are guilt-ridden through and through.”
Guys, nothing- yes, I said nothing- that we do or don’t do can save us from this truth about ourselves. In a recent sermon, our senior pastor, Matt Mason, reminded us that our hands will always be dirty on this side of heaven. Justification and sanctification are two totally different things. We were justified once and for all at the cross; a work that only God Himself could do. If you are in Christ, you are continually being sanctified, but this process will not come to completion until you meet God face-to-face.
Now, don’t miss this: whenever you accept this justification done only through the blood of Jesus at the cross, you receive the Holy Spirit. This Spirit within causes you to no longer have blind eyes toward sin and to see it for what it is: death and destruction. If you are a Christ-follower, you may struggle with the same sin for years and years, yet you will not embrace your sin or the sins of others; you will hate sin and see it as God sees it. God did not send His only Son to die for sin only to watch the people He died for casually clinging on to the very things His blood did away with. Grasping both the truth that your salvation and holiness comes only from God while also understanding how God sees sin is critical in your spiritual growth. I spent years much more worried about what others thought about me than what God’s Word said about me, and because of that, I am passionate about not watching anyone else struggle through that false mentality.
The truth is, because it was for freedom that Christ set us free, we no longer have to hide. We should all be under the assumption that while our hands are dirty for different reasons, our hearts are all being made clean by the same One. We do not flippantly accept sin, yet we are aware that it exists in each of us and that saying anything but screams hypocrisy.
The day I began speaking and writing was no more clean than the day before. I still struggle with some of the same things, and while I am committed to battling the sin in my heart til the day Jesus calls me home, I am comfortable admitting to you and anyone who asks that my hands are dirtier than I would ever like to admit. This is why I’m so passionate about preaching His name, because He is the reason that I will one day see Holiness. I am not a “good person”; yet I am His and He promises me that He is making all things new. Friends, there is no greater joy than being so confident in His work on the cross that you can spend your days worshipping and praising Him while loving all the more as an outpouring of the love He has filled your heart with. My prayer for you today is that you would briefly see your dirty hands yet consistently look up to the One who can make them clean. May our praise exude from the inside out, and may we fight the temptation to pretty up the outside instead of seeking His grace to cleanse us from the inside out. He is able.