Religious Pride and Deception 22

Jeremiah 8:8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes Has made it into a lie. 11 “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.

Matthew 23: 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous.

In verses 25-26 Jesus spoke to the scribes and Pharisees another “woe” upon them. The reason that He did so, in the illustration that He gave first, is that they cleaned the outside of the cup and dish while they were full of robbery and self-indulgence on the inside. This is very pointed and also very powerful words to the modern professing Church. It is easy to see how ridiculous it is to clean the outside of a cup or bowl and leave the inside part of the cup or bowl dirty. The cup or bowl is far from being clean because the part where the liquid or solid food touches (the most important part) is unclean and makes the food unclean. We can think of this in the modern day as a cup or bowl full of germs if it has not been cleaned. When you put food or drink in the cup or bowl, the food or drink does not kill the germs, but instead can become a carrier of the germs.

But of course Jesus was using that point as an analogy to point to the sinful hearts of the scribes and Pharisees. All of their external religion which consisted in external rituals and rules and external acts of morality and holiness did not make their hearts clean at all. Instead, the scribes and the Pharisees were full of robbery and self-indulgence. It is the self that must be denied and it is the self that we are to die. It is the love of self that we must be given grace to turn from that we may love Christ. But the scribes and the Pharisees, the most religious people in Israel, were nothing but hypocrites according to Jesus. These are devastating words of a devastating analysis of the most religious people in Israel and these were spoken by Jesus.

But of course the words of Jesus were not spoken just for the scribes and Pharisees, but for all people of all time. The words that Jesus spoke to the scribes and the Pharisees will not benefit modern people unless they see that they also need to have hearts that are cleansed and not just remain focused on the external. The same things that the scribes and Pharisees were guilty of are practiced in the modern day, though perhaps in principle rather than an exact ritual. It is the heart that preachers need to be preaching against and trying to reach with biblical truths. Even if a man gives up his alcohol that does not mean that he is converted. Even if a person gives up external immorality that does not mean that the person is converted. Those who turn from external sin without a cleansing of the heart can become quite proud of their righteousness in leaving external sin.

We can also see the proud person in the pew or in the pulpit who would never dream that s/he is guilty of violating a commandment and yet does not see the filth of his or her heart as a serial adulterer because of lusting in the heart. The outwardly kind person can be a serial killer because of murder in the heart. The most truthful of people on the outside can be vile liars on the inside. Men and women need new hearts given to them by grace rather than just become moral on the outside. Men and women need the life of Christ as their lives rather than just more religious externalism. While it is so hard for many to see or understand, it could be that so many of the moral movements in our day are simply external acts of righteousness and religiosity rather than true Christianity. We must have God working in us and working love in us by His Spirit that we may truly love Him and others from our hearts rather than just doing outwardly good things. We must be granted repentance from our external religion and our external morality as well as the more open sins in order for Christ to reign in our hearts. He will not dwell where inward sin reigns, but instead He must cleanse His temple in order to dwell there.

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