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Create in me a Clean Heart

“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. “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” (Matthew 23:25-26)

Today we are looking at the sixth woe that Jesus pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees. As we have learned thus far the problem with the scribes and Pharisees was that their attention was to the external appearances they presented and not to the inward men that they were. We have previously defined hypocrisy, simply, as appearing to be one way when actuality in truth we are quite different. This was the case with the scribes and Pharisees and it is also the case of most folks as well as us. We must remember that we are men, not fully sanctified, we are not the image of Christ but growing into the image of Christ. This is a maturing process that we are all going through in the power of the Holy Spirit. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2

Beauty is an important asset and people in the world spend a fortune trying to look beautiful. Here in the United States it is a billion dollar business and that’s ok as it does keep people employed. I am sure, as you have also learned, that beauty is not always beautiful. Like any other young man I sought out the good looking babes and most of the ones I snared turned out to have personalities that would drive away even the best of us men folk. Outward appearances will fade into the inward truth of one’s inner intention and motive. The heart of a person will always reveal itself sooner or later. Physical beauty will also fade with time. I remember a lyric by the Captain and Tannille, “Young and beautiful, but some day your looks will be gone.” I grew up in a generation that felt life to be over after thirty. We just didn’t want to become old and decrepit. The truth is some are blessed with good looks, like the babes at the beech I spent many a weekend salivating over, but the real beauty of appearance comes from the inside, it comes from the heart. If Christ is on the throne of our heart then we are not beauty but beautiful.

The scribes and Pharisees went to great pains to appear virtuous, to be the most Divine in righteousness. They gave no credence to the graces of God’s Holy Spirit, which in the sight of God are ornaments of great price. The only value they had in other men was what they could receive from them in service and treasure. Their righteousness was self-righteousness and the giving brought a price to those whom they served. They paid no attention to the eternal value of men that God has invested so much in them. God sent His only begotten Son to sacrifice Himself that the way for their restoration into fellowship with God could be restored. The scribes and Pharisees cared little for that cause and were living not with their minds set on eternity but only on the present day they were in. As we have learned earlier that attitude has had adverse effect on the Church to this very day.

In the inward heart of the scribes and Pharisees was extortion and excess. The twisted unrighteousness of their heart produced impurity, intemperance, covetousness, and wickedness. To the Jews they were the leaders and appeared to be the picture of righteous behavior or as those babes on the beech they were objects of beauty, but it was about the show as their heats were filled with intentions motivated for their self-gain. They made a good show for the people but God sees the heart of man and Jesus exposed them for the cancer that they were in the religious community of the Jewish culture. The appearance of righteous living on the outside and evil motives on the inside is the wickedness of deception. We are to discern the spirit of a man as the heart of a man will reveal the inner self. “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” (Matthew 15:18)

The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees is a dangerous thing to the Kingdom of God. Because of the position of respect from those who they taught and led in the Jewish religion of their day they were actually deceptive. People believed them to be of Divine nature when actually they were of demonic nature. The Christian is not to be naive and be on the watch for those who come in sheep’s clothing and teach us as what the wolves’ desire. The Christian is always to watch and pray. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) Hypocrisy is the tool of our adversary. “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (Revelation 12:9)

It is interesting that the words that our Lord spoke was in the second person point of view. “You blind Pharisee.” Jesus was speaking with a singular number although he was addressing a group. I believe He did this to give a vivid personal effect, and the epithet accentuates the absurdity censured. Jesus was instructing them to reverse their practice of cleaning their appearance on the outside to first cleaning the inward man. In relationship to the use of cup and dish in order to have clean food more attention should be given to the cleanliness of the inside of the cup or dish than the outside. In matters of the heart of man we should clean the inside of our vessel more carefully than the outside. The external purity should proceed from the cleanness of the internal purity. The scribes and Pharisees ceremonial purity is a mockery and a display of their hypocrisy because it did not come from a pure heart.

The man is not pure unless his heart is pure, unless his soul is enlightened by the teachings of God’s Word. Man’s heart cannot be pure while it is stained by the soil of sinful living. Moses came down from Mount Sinai aglow from being in the presence of God. (Exodus 34:29) Inward saintliness cannot be hidden; it shines forth in the countenance; it is known by speech and action; it sheds sunshine wherever it goes. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

The allusion is to their traditions about washing their cups and pots, and brazen vessels; see which they strictly observed. (Mark 7:4) In their oral law is a whole tract, called “Mikvaot”, which gives rules about the places where they washed, the things to be washed, and the manner of washing them; about which they were very nice, pretending to much outward cleanness, but had no regard to inward purity. Yet the food and drink the scribes and Pharisees placed in the cup and dish were gotten by oppression and by devouring widows’ houses, and extorting unjust sums from the fatherless, the poor, and the needy; and were abused by them, to luxury and intemperance.

As Christians, followers of Christ, our greater concern should be towards our inward purity. That our hearts are purified by our faith in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. The principles of God’s grace and holiness be formed in our hearts by the Spirit of Truth. Then the words that come forth from our mouth will come from a pure heart and the countenance of God will shine through us. The Christian is to be a light of God’s truth for all the world to be enlightened by. We must avoid the deception that the scribes and Pharisees fell into by their selfishness. External reformation, or an outward show of holiness, and bare pretensions to it, without internal grace, will never be of any avail in the sight of God. This is the point of Jesus’ rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees that God judges man by his heart but the world sees the fruit of the heart. The Good Fruit of a pure heart is the strength of our testimony for our Lord Jesus Christ. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, September 7, 2014

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