From the Inside Out
Modern Day Pharisees From the Inside Out Matthew 23:25-28 Pastor Pat Damiani July 21, 2019 NOTE: This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript. How long did it take you to get ready for church this morning? My guess is that for some of you, it didn’t take you long at all. You jumped out of bed at 9:00, took a quick shower, brushed your teeth, threw on some clothes, grabbed an Egg McMuffin and a cup of coffee in the McDonalds drive through and quietly squeezed into your seat about 9:35. Others of you took much longer than that. Maybe you got up earlier, fixed a nice breakfast, read the Sunday paper, took a leisurely shower, brushed your teeth, got dressed, and then took a nice relaxing drive to church and got here by 9:15 and sat down and had a cup of coffee with some of the other early arrivers. But regardless of which of those two descriptions is closer to your Sunday morning routine, so far I’ve only addressed all the external preparations you made for coming to church today. And frankly, whether it took you 30 minutes to get ready or 2 hours and 30 minutes, those physical preparations probably won’t have a significant impact on your ability to worship this morning. But let me ask you another question. How long did it take you to prepare your spirit and your soul for worship this morning? Have you taken time this week to read the passage that I’ll be talking about in just a moment? Have you spent time this week praying for that message and for me and the worship team and our Hospitality Team and our children’s teachers? Have you taken time this week to consider last week’s message and taken some practical steps to apply it personally? Frankly that’s a much more important question because those internal preparations, which nobody else will probably ever see, will impact your ability to worship this morning. Today we will wrap up our current series – Modern Day Pharisees – in which we’ve been studying Jesus’ words to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew chapter 23. So far each week, I’ve started the message by sharing the six traits that might indicate that you are a “modern day Pharisee”, but this morning, we’ll wait and do that at the end as a review of the entire series. So let’s just jump right in with the sixth and final trait that we’ll be focusing on this morning: [Read Matthew 23:25-28] Before we talk about how we can apply this passage to our own lives. Let me give you a little background that will help us understand this passage better. In the Old Testament Law there are a lot of complicated instructions about how a person was to remain ceremonially clean. And that was important because anyone who was not ceremonially clean was prohibited from entering the Temple or synagogue or otherwise engaging in worship. Under the at law, if anyone who was unclean touched a vessel, that vessel became unclean and anyone else who then touched that vessel also became unclean. The purpose of those laws was to remind the Israelites that God was holy, but that because of their sin, they were not. The complicated laws regarding how to cleanse something or someone that had become unclean illustrated how thoroughly sin had corrupted their lives and how difficult it was to remove the effects of sin. Not surprisingly, the Pharisees meticulously carried out the prescribed procedures for cleaning their plates and cups. But they had completely ignored the purpose behind those laws. So while their dinnerware may have been spotless on the outside, the food that was contained in those vessels may have been obtained by cheating or extortion or eaten in gluttony. The second illustration in verse 27-28 has to do with whitewashing tombs and it also involved outward uncleanness. In the spring prior to Passover the roads in Palestine would be crowded with pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the feast. Since coming into contact with a tomb would make one unclean and there were a lot of unmarked tombs all over the countryside, about a month before Passover, the Jews would whitewash all the tombs along the roads so that no one would accidentally come into contact with one and be rendered unclean and unable to participate in the Passover activities. Those whitewashed tombs were an appropriate picture of the Pharisees. While they looked good on the outside, on the inside they were like the rotting flesh of a corpse. It’s pretty easy to see what Jesus’ main point was here. The Pharisees were so concerned with looking good on the outside that they neglected the things they could have done to develop their lives on the inside, which was far more important. They worked harder at looking good than being good. We’ll use the same format this morning that we’ve employed the rest of this series as we focus on how to apply this passage to our lives. First, we’ll see how this passage can help us tell if we’re a “modern day Pharisee”. Then we’ll look at some Biblical remedies. HOW TO TELL IF I’M A “MODERN DAY PHARISEE” 1. I value rules and religion over relationship As we’ve talked about before, in many ways it’s much easier to follow rules and engage in religious activities than it is to develop relationships – with God and with others. And that was certainly true for the Pharisees. We’ve seen throughout this series that their attention and focus was primarily directed in getting others to follow the rules and religious practices that they had created, often ones that they themselves failed to adhere to. So they meticulously followed the rules to make sure their plates and cups were ceremonially clean, but they ignored the bigger issue of their own sin that created a separation between them and God, and ultimately between them and other people. We’ve covered this idea pretty thoroughly throughout this series, so we won’t spend a lot of time here. But if your idea of being a disciple of Jesus is all about following a bunch of rules or engaging in some religious practices, then you might be a “modern day Pharisee”. If you think that all it takes to be a Christian is to come to church on a regular basis or pray a prayer or give your offering each week, or to serve in some ministry, or be baptized or participate in the Lord’s Super, then chances are that your focus on all those externals is preventing you from having a meaningful, personal relationship with God. And it probably also impacts your relationships with other people, too because it likely means that you tend to be very judgmental about those who don’t follow the same rules you do. 2. I am driven by my desires When I focus on trying to look good rather than be good, it is much more likely that I will be driven by my desires. In verse 25, Jesus uses two words to point out that the Pharisees are driven by their desires. He says that they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Both words that Jesus uses there are very difficult to translate into English with just one word. While “greed” is not a bad translation of the underlying Greek word, that particular word conveys the idea of plundering or pillaging. The NASB translates that same word as “robbery” and the KJV renders it “extortion”. The idea here is that the Pharisees had no problem obtaining what they wanted by taking it away from others by almost any means. The word translated “self-indulgence” conveys the idea of a lack of self-control. The KJV translates it “excess”. Because they were so focused on making a good impression on others, the Pharisees exercised very little self-control when it came to getting what they wanted. Because they were driven by their desire for power, honor, and even financial gain, they were plundering both the wallets and the souls of the people they should have been serving and used those ill-gotten gains to serve themselves. When we are driven by our desires, it often results in taking advantage of others in order to get what we want for ourselves. • In my marriage, I will manipulate my spouse’s feelings in order to get what I want from him or her. • In my job, I won’t have any problem taking credit for someone else’s work or padding my resume in order to get a raise or a promotion. • When I want to obtain some material possession, I’ll manipulate someone else into buying it for me or I’ll put off paying a bill that I owe in order to be able to buy what I want, or I’ll deceive myself into thinking that I really need something that I can’t afford. • I’ve even seen situations in the church where people campaigned for leadership positions for selfish reasons like pride, ego, or even because they thought it would help them get more business. If you are being driven by your desires, that’s a good indication you might be a “modern day Pharisee”. 3. I engage in a lifestyle of secret sin In verse 28, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of being full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. We talked about hypocrisy a couple weeks ago and determined that it describes someone who puts on a mask and who tries to deceive others by being different on the outside than he or she is on the inside. The word translated “lawlessness” here literally means “without the law”, but in this context, Jesus uses it to describe their contempt for the law. That had to be a hard pill to swallow for these men who prided themselves on being guardians of the law. But the problem, as we have seen repeatedly, is that they were only focused on the letter of the law and completely missed the spirit of the law, which was intended to remind them of their own sinfulness and their need for a Savior. So while they may have appeared pious and righteous on the outside, they were living a life of deep-seated sin that they wouldn’t admit to themselves and that they hid from others. We see this clearly in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector when the Pharisee prayed like this: The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (Luke 18:11–12 ESV) As we’ve seen in this series, and especially in today’s passage, these Pharisees were actually unjust and extortioners - at a minimum. But they had learned to hide that very well from others so that they would still look good on the outside. There are almost limitless ways that we can live in a lifestyle of secret sin. We can fight in the car all the way to church on Sunday morning and then walk in the doors of this building and pretend that all is well. We can put on a great façade and appear to have things together in our families and marriages, when in reality they are falling apart. We can be consumed with some addiction, yet still put on a front and appear as if our lives are under control. If you are engaged in e lifestyle of secret sin, then you are almost certainly a “modern day Pharisee”. THE REMEDY 1. Be authentic and transparent I know that we have a number of people here this morning who struggle with an addiction of some kind. I know that because many of you have been open and transparent about those struggles. And if you are one of those people, I just want to commend you because I know that is not an easy thing to do. At the same time, I know that in a group of this size that we also have some other people here who are struggling with some pervasive sin in your life that you have kept to yourself. In some cases it’s even possible that you’ve kept this from your spouse or your parents or the other people who are closest to you and you’ve most certainly kept it from me or from the church. And you’ve likely done that because you’re afraid of what other people might think if you went public. It’s pretty obvious which of those two approaches is the most effective when it comes to dealing with my sin. It is only when I’m willing to be honest about my sin – both with myself and with others – that I’m able to take the second, and most important step. 2. Let Jesus clean up my life from the inside out Notice that Jesus didn’t condemn the Pharisees for cleaning the outside of the plate and cup. He never says that outward appearances are not important. But what He does make clear is that the way we develop the proper appearances is not by focusing on them first, but rather by letting Jesus change us from the inside out. Once the inside – the heart – is where it should be, then the outward appearance will follow. The problem with focusing on the outward appearance first, is that we’re incapable of making any lasting change unless we first deal with our heart. Let me illustrate. When my check engine light comes on in my car, I can do one of three things. • I can put a piece of tape over the light and pretend that everything is OK. • I can try to fix the problem myself. But in my case, I have neither the knowledge nor the tools required to do that. • I can take it to my mechanic, let him diagnose the problem and then let him fix it. He is able to do that because he has the right knowledge, skill and tools to make the repair. The same thing is true with my life. Everyone one of us here this morning has the same problem the Pharisees had. No matter what my life might look like on the outside, on the inside it is full of death and decay. And I’m not capable of cleaning that up on my own. The apostle Paul described what we’re all like without Jesus: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1–3 ESV) At one time, all of us were dead in our trespasses and sins and because of that we deserved God’s wrath. And I can do one of three things with that problem: • I can ignore it and just pretend it doesn’t exist. That’s the equivalent of putting a piece of tape over my check engine light. • I can try to fix it myself. But I’m incapable of doing that. Just as someone who is physically dead can’t do anything to revive himself, when I am spiritually dead, I am completely incapable of doing anything to revive myself spiritually. • I can let Jesus make the repair. And the good news is that He has already done everything that He needs to do to make that possible. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:4–5 ESV) Notice that it is the God who is rich in mercy who has made us alive. We’ve done absolutely nothing to make that possible. As Paul reminds us just a couple verses later, even the faith that is required to accept this new life in Jesus is a gift from God: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV) When I allow Jesus to clean up my life, rather than trying to do it on my own, Jesus always works from the inside out rather than from the outside in. He begins by changing my heart, knowing that as He does that, the outside will begin to change, too. Over the last six weeks, we’ve identified six traits that might indicate that you’re a “modern day Pharisee”. As I’ve pointed out several times in this series, the purpose of these messages is not so you can identify other people who exhibit one or more of these traits and call them a Pharisee. In fact, you are almost certainly a “modern day Pharisee” if you use these messages for that purpose. These messages are intended to help all of us evaluate our own individual lives to see if maybe we’ve slipped into some of these traps. Beginning today, we’re going to make some changes to the way we end our worship gathering in order to give all of us a more extended opportunity to allow God to speak to us and for us to respond to Him. But I want to encourage you to begin that process right now as I share these six traits. As I do that, would you prayerfully consider whether any of these traits describe your life. And if you sense that maybe one or more of these apply to your life, would just jot down the appropriate ones as a reminder to deal with them as God leads. You might be a “modern day Pharisee” if… • You judge the Scriptures rather than being judged by them • You think you’re better than other Christians • You are more interested in making clones of yourself than disciples of Jesus • You look for loopholes in God’s Word in order to excuse your sin • You major in minors and minor in majors • You work harder at looking good than being good Earlier this morning, we sang the song “From the Inside Out”. This has long been one of my favorite worship songs because it emphasizes what we’ve been talking about this morning – letting Jesus change me from the inside out. In many ways, this is what I would consider to be the “anti-Pharisee” song. It is a song that no Pharisee could sing and really mean it. It begins with an acknowledgment of how I have constantly failed God, but how He has remained faithful to me with His mercy and grace: A thousand times I've failed Still Your mercy remains And should I stumble again I'm caught in Your grace But it is the chorus of the song that speaks to my heart every time we sing it. It is a prayer to Jesus to change me from the inside out: In my heart and my soul Lord I give You control Consume me from the inside out, Lord, let justice and praise Become my embrace To love you from the inside out Would you pray those words as a prayer with me as we conclude the message this morning? Discussion questions for Bible Roundtable 1. What are some rules and religious practices that could hinder us from having a personal relationship with God? 2. Why do you think we usually focus on changing outward behavior when dealing with sin in our life? Why does that not usually work? 3. Why is being authentic and transparent – with ourselves and with others – a crucial step in dealing with recurring sin? What keeps us from taking that step and how do we overcome that? 4. Why are my own efforts to deal with my sin on my own always unsuccessful in the long run? 5. Does the idea of letting Jesus clean up my life from the inside out mean that I just sit back and do nothing? What is my responsibility in that process?