Loving or following
In Matthew 23, Jesus tries to get the attention of some religious leaders. They should have been lovers or at least followers. They had the knowledge of the scriptures and where considered experts on anything God related. They were the best at following rules. Following the rules kept them focused on the outside of their heart. The inside of their hearts did not match their outside.
Jesus condemned these men, because their hearts where not wholly in love with God. They followed God’s rules, but they did not share love with Him.
Maybe you know some Christians that are acting like Christians, talking like Christians, involved with Christian music; but have never fallen in love with God. These Christians are focusing on acting like Christians instead of using the religion to develop a deeper love relationship with God.
Or maybe they are Christian workers. They measure their faith by their hard work at learning about how they can put their faith into action. Their target is to be the hardest workers and saying the right things while their doing the right things. The trouble with that approach is that it is not who they are. It’s not enough for God. He wants all of them.
They look real good. They have their part down pat. They know what to say and what not to say. They can pray the prayers and they can sing the songs. Their heart, the most important factor, is not in it.
Your focus on the inside/outside
The main problem Jesus had with these religious leaders was that they were hypocrites. He called them that, eight times. Jesus said in verse 5: Everything they do is for show. He also went on to say: But do not what they do, for they do not practice what they preach (v 3).
Jesus condemns those who were trying to impress others through their religious credentials. Jesus took the reverse approach, being tender and encouraging to those who have share their love with Him. His lovers need to be authentic.
What God wants in a lover – someone who isn’t pretending on the outside to have it all together. That’s one of the ways the word hypocrisy is defined, as “the act of pretending.”
In verses 27 – 28 Jesus goes on to say: You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy …
On the inside their faith has grown cold and was dying.
Choosing following over a loving relationship
In verse 13, Jesus gives a number of indicators that the outside had become more important than the inside: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you Hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
They taught that God’s love and Jesus’ salvation was something that had to be earned. When we learn to truly love God, we find that obedience to God comes from the inside out. Submission to what God wants for our lives flows naturally out of a shared love relationship. It’s not to say that what we do or don’t do doesn’t matter, but what we do or don’t do must come from that loving relationship.
Just like the Pharisees in the Bible, some Christians look like good Christians; but they neglect to share God’s love with Him and others. When looking good becomes more important than sharing love with God; they are aiming at the wrong target.
They find themselves weary of trying to look good in hopes of somehow earning God’s favor without giving up control to God and keep up their secular life. When all they have to do is to: Keep company (love relationship) with me and You’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Matt 11:30).
Missing what really Matters
In verses 23-24 of Matthew 23, Jesus says: … But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – Justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the later, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! …
In the Christian Church we need to emphasize sharing love with God and everything else will fall into place over time.
Where does Jesus catch your attention in this passage? What practices touch close-to-home in your life? How can you avoid what is preached against in this passage? ___________________________
How can you avoid making it hard for others to grow spiritually? __________________________
What about today’s church do you lament over (as Jesus did over Jerusalem)? ______________
From reading this passage, what should today’s teachers and pastors be especially mindful of? How have you seen the “power of the pulpit” used? ____________________________
Do you feel Jesus is a little too tough on the Pharisees? On you? Why or Why not? ___________
God declares that He will faithfully remove the created things which can be shaken – the shakable kingdom. Why? So, that the unshakeable may remain. Created things give cultural Christianity its toehold. Created things defeat us and choke the Word – the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth (Matthew 13:22).
When we cross over the line and refuse Him who speaks, He will separate us from the created things – the idols, the shakeable kingdom – which dilute our devotion to him. If we cannot remain obedient, if we cannot be holy, then He will discipline us for our own good, “that we may share in His holiness.” …
Do not be alarmed if God shakes up your world. Though your first natural thought will disagree, it is a blessing. It is not a sign that you are unworthy – every one of us is unworthy. It is not a sign of hatred, but love. If He did not love you, He would let you completely self destruct. As it is, He cleanses your life from sin….
When God disciplines you by removing created things, by shaking up your temporal kingdom, rejoice and be glad. Created things divide our affections from God and become competition to our devotion. They lure us into the wrong race. They consume our creativity and deflect our thoughts away from the Lord Jesus.
I became a cultural Christian. Created things became idols and divided me from complete, faithful devotion to our Lord. God removed most of the created things I accumulated. I built a shakeable kingdom, and God shook it. Words are inadequate to express the joy and gratitude I feel toward God for the wounds He faithfully inflicted. It may be the single greatest blessing of my spiritual pilgrimage.
(From Walking with Christ in the Details of Life by Patrick M. Morley)