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The Enemy is Within

Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  46:19
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Introduction

Good morning and welcome to Dishman Baptist Church. Whether you are joining us online or in person it is a blessing to have you with us today. If you are joining us for the first time please take a moment to fill out the contact card that is on our Facebook Live feed or in the seat back in front of you. Also, and more importantly, take your Bibles and turn in the with me to Mark 7, Mark 7.
We’re going to be continuing on our study through this great Gospel. Just a Aquick recap of where we are and what has been happening in the book. Jesus has been publicly on the scene now for just about two years. After His coronation of sorts at His baptism and His temptation in the desert, He started His public ministry by proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God and calling the people to repentance and faith. He called His first disciples and astounded the crowds by His authoritative teaching, His healing and miracle working abilities and His consistent refutation of the teaching of the Pharisees and scribes. It was this action on Jesus part that put Him at early odds with the religious establishment that ultimately had led them to become so enraged that they would begin consultations with their political rivals on how to put Jesus to death. Our text this morning find us embroiled in another controversial meeting between the Pharisees and Jesus. As Chuck so ably taught us last week these Pharisees had come up from Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish religion, to accost Jesus because His disciples weren’t following along with accepted Jewish traditions - necessary traditions in their mind for remaining holy and pure. And so now we come to this morning’s text. Read with me in Mark 7:14-23.
Mark 7:14–23 CSB
Summoning the crowd again, he told them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” When he went into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated” (thus he declared all foods clean). And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”
There are times in the life of a church where events happen with such magnitude that it necessitates the pastor stopping wherever he is in his preaching series or wherever he is in the book he’s been preaching through and address them. The events on a Tuesday morning in September in 2001 is an example. Then there are times when events happen that could be addressed but are not of such significance that it would warrant stopping for. Then, through the happy providence of God, there are times when the Scriptures being studied speak directly to the events of the day and allow the pastor to explore how these events affect not only the church at large but more specifically his own congregation. We have come to one such passage this morning.
What would allow us to do this? And how can I say that this passage is specifically applicable to our cultural context in this the 21st century? I almost said 2020 but really with the COVID-19 issues, the murder hornets - where did those go, they were here and an issue and then gone - and now with the protesting and rioting I almost feel like 2020 should be looked at from the perspective of the first chapters of Exodus...like what plague is next? But what makes the Bible applicable in the 21st century? First is the fact that the truths of the Bible are timeless and that even 2000 years after it was written it is as applicable and poignant for our culture today as it was the day it was written. The other is a comment in the text itself. Look quickly with me at Mark 7:19.
Mark 7:19 CSB
For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated” (thus he declared all foods clean).
Notice the parenthesis. This is not something that Jesus originally said, it is an editorial addition by Mark. In fact Jesus may not have originally meant to say that all foods were clean - although that is an application of HIs teaching in this text. In the context of the passage Jesus is addressing the tradition of the Pharisees that required the ceremonial washing of hands before eating. The disciples weren’t eating bacon with unwashed hands - they were still eating kosher, acceptable foods but the Pharisees objection was that they would be defiled by eating with dirty hands. It is Mark who extrapolates a current issue for his audience - the issue of what foods could be eaten - from the teachings of Jesus. And so - while Jesus is not specifically addressing the issues we are facing in our nation there are important principles that we can draw and apply to our context today.
oSo now we come to our text - and we’ll be looking through it from this outline. First we’re going to see that it’s not Nature or Nurture. Then we’re going to see that, even after 2000 years, we still don’t get it. And finally we’re going to see that beauty is only skin deep but sin isn’t - it actually goes much deeper. So there’s our roadmap for this morning. Now before we dig in to the text would you take a moment and pray with me.
Pray for humility, for clarity, and for the truth to infiltrate the hearts of the people.

Not Nature or Nurture

There is a debate that takes place among psychologists as to whether human behavior can be attributed primarily to nature or to nurture. Nature is viewed as the internal genetic and other biological factors that we are endowed with at birth. In this case we would be predisposed to certain behaviors based on the genetic, hormonal or neuro-chemical makeup of our brains and bodies. The nurture view purports that everything can be explained by external influences and how they impact our development and behavior. Basically we could be a tabula rasa - a blank slate - at birth and as we are exposed to life experiences we will become conditioned to behave in a certain way.
Looking at the culture of first century Israel you could see signs of the nurture view among the Pharisees in the way they attempted to influence the people of Israel into proper moral behavior by instituting lots of external stimuli that would influence them to behave in a certain way.
Their view of sin could be seen as being more in line with the nature ideal - in that the negative impacts in a person’s life were passed on judgements for sins of parents - ala the disciples question regarding the blind man in John 9 as to whether he or his parents had sinned.
Jesus would answer both of these views in the same way He answered His disciples regarding the blind man - neither but this takes place so that the glory of God may be shown in men’s lives. It is not nature - meaning it is not the sins of the parents that predispose us to sin nor is it nurture meaning that the outside influences and experiences that we encounter in life do not determine our behavior. We’re corrupted on a much deeper level.
Having just reprimanded the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus calls the rest of the crowd to Himself. This is not an indication that any time has passed, but more that Jesus is calling the crowds attention back to Himself. He says listen to me - listen up. This is important. We’ve seen Jesus call the crowds this way often throughout His teachings in the Gospels. Of particular note for us is the way that He called to the crowds in Mark 4
Mark 4:3 CSB
“Listen! Consider the sower who went out to sow.
This is the present imperative tone - meaning you had better pay attention to what is about to be said next. And Jesus underscores the importance of what He is about to teach them by going on to say Listen up and understand. He is telling the crowd that He is about to give them an important insight and that it would behoove them to grasp it. This is about to be profound. This is going to have eternal significance so you’d better catch this. You can almost sense the anticipation of the crowd - He had just laid into the Pharisees and now He’s going to say something profound.
“Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
And that’s all that Mark records. Matthew records these words slightly differently.
Matthew 15:11 CSB
It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth—this defiles a person.”
And with that one statement Jesus debunks certainly the nurture argument for behavior but also the nature argument. He is making a statement specifically applicable to the Pharisees original protest against the disciples that they ate with unwashed hands. He is saying that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person but instead what comes out of him. And we really shouldn’t just gloss over the issue of defilement and move on to points because defilement was a big issue for the Jewish nation. It was the biggest impediment to their participation in worship and society. Lepers were forced out into the wilderness and forced to call out “unclean, unclean” to anyone who would come close to them. The ritual purity laws catalogued in the Old Testament and clarified, deepened and enforced by the Pharisees were meant to demonstrate the people of Israel as a set apart people, sanctified for the Lord. And yet Jesus routinely crossed these boundaries of society to touch those who would have made Him ceremonially unclean.
The leper in chapter 1, eating with tax collectors and other sinners in chapter 3, the man with the demons in chapter 5 (and especially because he wasn’t Jewish), the woman with the bleeding issue in chapter 5, the dead girl at Jairus’ home in chapter 5 - every single one of these interactions should have resulted in Jesus ceremonial uncleaness. Except for one thing - He’s God. Even the Old Testament standards were meant as a picture of the individual’s heart and need of cleansing. As such, uncleaness and defilement are matters of intention of the heart, not the violation of the cultic rituals and formalities of manmade standards (as the Pharisees interpretations and extrapolations of the law had become).
Jesus point here, and Matthew makes this explicit, is that the best way to determine the defilement of a person is through what comes out of his mouth. Jesus brother James has much to say about the power of the tongue in his epistle
James 3:5–7 CSB
So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. Every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish is tamed and has been tamed by humankind,
Solomon writes in Proverbs 6:12
Proverbs 6:12 CSB
A worthless person, a wicked man goes around speaking dishonestly,
and then again in Proverbs 15:28
Proverbs 15:28 CSB
The mind of the righteous person thinks before answering, but the mouth of the wicked blurts out evil things.
Jesus is saying that the best way to determine the condition of a person’s heart is to look at the things they say. Yes there is something also to be said for examining a person’s actions because there are many sins that can be done in silence but overall it is through our speech and the desires, thoughts and attitudes behind our speech that reveals what is in our heart. And in our modern context another good indicator is what flows out of our fingers.
There was a saying that made its way around the church a few years ago that was something like “if you were arrested and put on trial for your faith, would there be enough evidence in your life to convict you?” Let’s expand that a bit. If you were arrested today and put on trial for your faith would there be enough evidence on your facebook, twitter or instagram account to convict you? Some of us give far more evidence of being conservative and far too little evidence of being Christian.
Jesus words here say that the issue goes beyond the external rituals or laws that we follow and instead penetrates straight into our heart. This is also a warning to many of us. For many years tradition has carried the church - to the point now where to the outside world we protestants are more reliant on tradition and we’ve become known for that. Zac, the pastor of the Rock, and I were discussing this just the other day. There was a news article written by an atheist reporter who was highlighting the idea that Catholics who once were strong on the tradition of in-person worship and the necessity to be in church for worship to take place are now okay with continued separate worship in which each person is essentially in charge whereas protestant churches are the ones clamoring for everyone to be back together in corporate worship as if we can’t trust the individual believers to manage their own spiritual lives without having them in the building and under the guidance of a pastor.
And while she is completely off base with her assumptions - one of the core tenets of the Reformation was the priesthood of the believer - and we know that our desire for corporate worship is not to put you under our thumbs if you will but that this is where God gets the most glory in worship when His people are together in worship of Him, there is some truth to the idea that for some in the church there is more reliance on the traditions of being a good person and doing all the right things with respect to church but their heart is far from where it should be with God. There are two issues here - that a person may think they’re saved but are not is the most concerning issue. The other is that a person may be saved but not as mature as they could be in their faith because of their reliance on their own actions rather than the continued transformation of their heart.
Where are you today? This morning? Have you fallen victim to the idea that traditions are more important than heart change? Are you maybe not as mature as you could be because you’ve gotten complacent and allowed adherence to traditions to carry your faith and actually separate you from God rather than constantly seeking Him with a diligent heart, a yearning desire to know Him?
Jesus words here would have shocked his listeners - both for their brevity “surely there has to be something more” and for their content which flew in the face of everything they had been conditioned to believe. Most of your Bibles have a missing verse here - if you look it goes from 15 right to 17. That is because verse 16 isn’t included in some of the earliest manuscripts of Mark and so it has been determined to be an addition by a scribe at a later date and was not in the original autographs - but the words that it says are interesting. “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” The same way that Jesus closed the parable of the seeds - highlighting the deeper spiritual nature of what He was driving at.

We Still Don’t Get It

Jesus words not only shocked the crowd - they shocked His disciples as well. They had grown up in the same system and were conditioned to believe these were necessary for purity. So as soon as they get Him alone they ask - Matthew tells us that it is Peter who speaks up but first he gives us a few more pertinent details
Matthew 15:12–15 CSB
Then the disciples came up and told him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father didn’t plant will be uprooted. Leave them alone! They are blind guides. And if the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit.” Then Peter said, “Explain this parable to us.”
Jesus wasn’t concerned that He had offended the Pharisees because He knew their hearts. By this time they were already plotting to kill Him. Their heart condition was revealed as they, at every turn, sought to refute or thwart Jesus teachings in order to protect their own status. They even accused Him of having a demon. So He tells His disciples to leave them alone, let them be offended. His words offended them because they knew they were wrong - but they were more interested in keeping their power than submitting to this backwater rabbi from Galilee who would have changed their whole narrative. There were offended because, as Paul Washer likes to say, “when you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is the one that got hit.”
So Peter asks the question - explain the parable to us. And here Mark picks up saying “Are you also lacking in understanding?” Now let’s just stop there. Jesus question is legitimate. These men had been with Jesus for two years now you would think that somethings - and this is pretty basic - would have started to penetrate by now. But are we really that much different? And we’ve had 2000 years and we still don’t get it.
The disciples had been ingrained in the tradition of the Jewish religion. We’ve been ingrained - and are continuing to be ingrained - in the false ideas of race and racial tensions. Now this is not going to turn in to some screed against Black Lives Matters or to say that there are not injustices that certain communities may experience. There are - and we should certainly seek to do something about those. But the issue is that, just as the Pharisees had changed the starting point for the purity of the Jewish religion - shifting it from the individual condition of the human heart to the external adherence to a set of extra-Biblical standards, we have shifted the starting point for dealing with these issues away from addressing the internal source to pointing to external standards that seem to be in operation. Like Don Quixote charging windmills we are chasing phantoms and attacking them with inadequate tools for the job.
First let me say this very clearly - there is no other race other than the human race. Scientifically, empirically, emotionally, physically there are zero quantifiable differences between us with the exception of the amount of melanin in one person’s skin versus another’s. So can we please stop talking as if there are different races and buying into this secularly concocted standard that only makes it easier to divide rather than unite and only distracts from the real issue at hand - the condition of the human heart.
The second thing we’ve failed to do is to continue to unleash the only powerful weapon we have - the Gospel. Charles Spurgeon once said this regarding the Gospel
2,200 Quotations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon: Arranged Topically or Textually and Indexed by Subject, Scripture, and People Apologetics

18Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion. There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them that they should kindly stand back, open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him. And the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch. Preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries. This was how Christ’s first disciples worked. They preached Jesus Christ wherever they went. They did not stop to apologize, but boldly bore their witness concerning him.

Another version is like this
“The Word of God is like a lion. You don't have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”
Instead we’ve reverted to ideas like Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality to try and diagnose the woes and wounds of our society. We as a church have failed to simply call sin what it is and instead are now seeking to delve deep into our own psyche’s to reveal unintended or undiscovered sins of hatred and ignorance. It has led Christian leaders to advocate for other non-Gospel centered solutions and actions.
Recently Ed Stetzer tweeted
“You might consider joining such a peaceful event in your own area this weekend yourself, because protesting is what we Protestants have been doing since day one.”
And there is the core of the issue - he conflates the Gospel truths that the Reformers fought for with the social concerns of our day and age. He makes it a gospel issue. The problem is that it is not a gospel issue - not primarily. And listen - if you want to participate in the protests I think you should but do not conflate marching in that protest with the Gospel. No amount of marching, protesting or moralizing will ever fix this issue.
Another writer, Darrell B. Harrison, says it clearly
“The church is confusing the gospel with moralism. If the answer to society’s ills is simply more good works, then the gospel is unnecessary. The Gospel isn’t merely about good works. Every religion advocates good works in one way or another. But the Gospel goes far beyond that.”
We’ve traded the Gospel truths that Jesus came to die for sins and the eternal perspective for the moralistic idea of making life here in this temporal time tolerable. The real problem is that we’ve strayed from effectively diagnosing the problem to instead blaming our defilement on external systems and structures, on privilege and circumstances, and yes even on the skin color of each individual person.
Jesus goes on to say that it is not what is external that defiles a person - a system cannot account for our sinful heart - but instead what comes out of a person is what defiles him. We haven’t gotten what Jesus was teaching His disciples. Just as they were confused with regards to what can defile a person, we are revealing by our actions that we are still confused. Let’s hear Jesus words again and understand.

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep…But Sin Isn’t

Jesus goes into more detail for the disciples saying that it is no simply what comes out of a person, it is specifically what comes out of their hearts. He explains that for the disciples in a couple of lists. The first is made up of seven actions all in the plural and then there are six that are in the singular.
The entire list starts really with a categorical identifier that characterizes the rest of the list - evil thoughts. These are the general thoughts of a man that are inclined toward evil. We are conceived in sin. We aren’t sinners because we sin, we sin because we are born sinners. David, in his great Psalm of confession, wrote
Psalm 51:5 CSB
Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.
The prophet Jeremiah says regarding the heart
Jeremiah 17:9 CSB
The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?
The heart is full of wickedness, a cesspool of deceit and Jesus diagnoses what can be expected to come out of that type of heart. The first is sexual immoralities which is a reference to any category of sexual sin. Then He says thefts, murders, adulteries, greed - all these come from the Ten Commandments. All of these make up the idea of wickedness - really a summation of anything else that violates the Law of God.
Then there are six attitudes that support and supply the wickedness necessary to perform those actions already talked about. Deceit meaning craftiness or a willingness to deceive. Envy - one of the deepest sources of sin is the desire of things you don’t have that someone else does. Slander is the willingness to run down another person - another image bearer of God, created and knit together by His hands. That’s also the one thing that is missing from all of these issues - that ultimately the hatred directed against another person is directed against the One who made them. If you disrespect my daughter, you’re not simply disrespecting her you’re also disrespecting me as her father and charged with her protection. When we disrespect a fellow human being by slandering them we disrespect the God who created them.
Then Jesus comes to pride - really an underlying source of most sins is pride - either thinking you are better, you deserve better than someone else or your current circumstances.
The word foolishness is an apt summary for all of these sinful attitudes.
It is all of these things that proceed from within and defile a man.

Conclusion

Have you listened - do you understand? Surely we respect all lives - from conception to death - and recognize the inherent dignity in each of them. We also recognize that the deepest need of each of those lives cannot be met by a forced equality, the tearing down of systems and structures or the moralistic imposition of a set of beliefs. It is only through the Gospel that true change takes place. It is only through Christ that the deceitful heart can be changed from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.
How are you doing? Have you relied on traditions to carry your salvation and are you still nursing a darkened heart? Have you allowed traditions to get in the way of a truly intimate relationship with God? Have you continued to be blinded by the traditions and worldly ideas being foisted upon the church and failed to recognize that no external system can account for the darkness of men’s hearts. It is only through a proper understanding of anthropology - that all men are born sinners because of their lineage leading back to one man and all are in need of a Savior. Therefore all men are equal and the same in their lostness and ancestry. Then we can move on to soteriology - that theology surrounding salvation and recognize that through Christ and His death on the cross salvation has been provided for every “nation, tribe and tongue” and that we will all one day stand around His throne.
Should someone ever have to leave there home in fear of violence being done to them by another person (regardless of profession) - no. But the hate that perpetrates such violence is the same hate that caused Cain to kill Abel and is systemic in all of our hearts until Jesus changes us and makes us a new creation.
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