From Lip to Heart

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“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” never seemed to apply to the religious leaders of the Lord’s day. When they pushed Him, He pushed back. In Matthew 15, some Pharisees and teachers of the law criticized Jesus for allowing his disciples to eat without washing their hands. It wasn’t that the Public Health Department would be after their hides if they didn’t (unless they were serving the food they were handling to other people). The religious leaders had a rule, a tradition, that hands should be washed. Good precaution but hardly a hanging offense!

Jesus pushed back, reminding them that they regularly broke their own rules and taught others where to find the loopholes so that they could break those same rules when it was convenient. Then came these fateful words:

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules’” (15:7-9).

Matthew 7:16 reminds us, speaking of those who look good on the outside but aren’t so good on the inside, that: “By their fruit you will recognize them.” The Pharisees and their like looked good. They said all the right stuff, and their worship was impeccable. But what they taught revealed the state of their hearts. They taught people to disobey God while insisting that others obey them. They encouraged people to “cheat,” to find loopholes, to fake their spirituality.

I can’t, nor can you, judge the heart. I need to accept at face value what I see of others’ spirituality. Only God knows the motivation behind what we see. But I can judge their actions because it is out of the state of the heart those actions flow. While extraordinary discernment is a spiritual gift, normal discernment is expected of all of us. The ability to discern between what is true and false in the spiritual realm depends on how closely we walk with the Lord and how much time we spend soaking in His words and His teachings as we study the Scriptures.

In a world where falsity is commonplace, even in the church, we need desperately to focus more attention on growing in wisdom and knowledge of His Word ourselves so that our hearts and our worship is a pure as it can be, and so that we can tell truth from fiction.

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