We have a toilet bowl at the house that started to show a little leak around the bottom of the bowl. The donut ring seal had gone bad. I pulled the bowl from the floor and changed the seal. Just a few days later, it was leaking again and now notably rocking. I pulled it out again and found it had been leaking under the toilet for many weeks before it became noticeable outwardly. Now the foundation (floor) was warped and no matter how many times the seal was changed, it was no good. Why? No seal can work if it's on a broken foundation. It had been looking nice on the outside the whole time, but the mess that was seeping through had destroyed the inside. Jesus had a similar Parable in His days—actually even more harsh and dirty than this one: Matthew 23:27-28, 33. Jesus preached to people of all social and moral classes, from filthy rich to filthy beggars on the street; from extremely religious to the scum of the city. But by far with which group do we see that He was the most forceful and angry? The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes—those with the most truth in their heads and lives. Those who outwardly lived much more righteous and productive lives. Those who morally felt just a little better than the sinners around them. Since we happen to look most like this group today, shouldn't we look very closely at exactly "why?" Jesus was so frustrated and urgent with them? The comparison just might take us as much by surprise as it did that contented and upstanding group in Jesus' day.
Jesus was so much harder on the Pharisees and other "religious" people of His day because He knew they felt safe and even righteous based upon their knowledge of Him and their better actions and lives before men; but their hearts were just as dark and self-focused as anyone else—actually worse because they did have the Truth of God to guide them. They did know that God wanted their hearts more than their obedience. And Jesus knew that they felt so smug, safe, and contented where they were at that they would sit in total denial and indifference to the Truths that were given to them. These people were in reality farther from being saved, farther from Truth than the lowest sinners around them who knew exactly where they stood. Based upon this example, we have to wonder just how many here today and in the sound of my voice may just be more lost sitting in these seats right now than the most defiant and shocking sinner outside these walls. Jesus hardly ever spoke and taught about many of the things others religious leaders spoke about, or about many of the things we even speak about today. He didn't give 5 point sermons on how to control lust, or on the emotional and physical benefits of forgiveness. He hardly ever even focused on better actions or living better, blessed lives now—He didn’t want more converts; He didn't want better behavior; He didn't want more money or volunteering. Jesus was different, radical, concerned for one thing and that one thing was not a changed lifestyle, but a changed you. He wanted a hungry, passionate follower who was in love with Him; whose heart had changed so completely that these things were simply a natural reaction to the deep desire to trust and follow Him. Stop and compare the attitudes of people following Jesus in His days on earth to us today and listen to His response, which always brought it back to nothing but their hearts. They came for healing, deliverance, blessings and freedom, and He said, "Take up your cross and die for Me. Take on more persecution and struggle on My behalf to show what you would give for Me, not what you want from Me." They wanted the Kingdom won for them, brought to them; wanted Him to change their world and He said, "Go win the kingdom with me. Change the world for me, to show your love for Me and those around you." They asked to be save us from their enemies and the trouble they brought into their lives, and He said, "Go to your enemies. Love, serve and pray for them from the heart with true compassion, or you are as selfish and hate-filled as they are and you do not see their true worth in My eyes." They wanted those disgusting sinners around them to be called out and punished. He said, "You are a disgusting sinner who's been forgiven. Go serve your brother in love, showing the grace and love you’ve been shown, and lead him on the path to forgiveness like you. They said, Lord make our lives better and easier, He said, "If you hold onto this life you will lose it. If you are more worried about a better life than having more of Me, you are not mine but the world's." They said make other people treat us justly and fairly as we deserve. He said, "If they make you walk a mile for them, walk a second one in love. If they steal your shirt, give them your coat too. Because showing them real love, undeserved worth is more important than getting your justice." They said ease our burdens so that we might have peace and joy. He said, "Find your peace and joy in Me and your burdens will be eased wherever you are in life." They said we should avoid those people that act and talk like the world to protect our righteousness and not look bad to others. He said, "You can't give them light to find their way unless you walk with them. You can't be the one to preserve their conscience and remind them of their worth if you don't touch them.”
The Pharisees and other religious people of Jesus' day went to great lengths to look and act right in front of others and yet, in their minds and hearts they lusted, hated, were unforgiving, were proud, and self-serving. Jesus made statements about the condition of their hearts towards sin that were so radical and powerful that we still simply gloss over in cliché and never take to heart the seriousness of what He said. Listen with a new ear: Matthew 5:27-30. Do you grasp the intense importance He is placing on our hearts towards sin in this passage? For most of us, obviously not because we treat our hidden sins so flippantly as long as they are not found out. Of course, Jesus is not being literal and condoning self-mutilation; but in the most graphic way possible, Jesus is telling us that our sins of the inner heart are this drastic and devastating. Think on the gravity of this passage: Jesus is saying that He would rather see you with physical disabilities—would rather see you literally suffer through life with terrible physical difficulty and hardship—than embrace that hidden sin that you are coveting and holding onto right now. Why? Because it controls your heart and steals you away from Him. It takes away your ability to seek His will. It destroys the worth and love you have for others. He would rather see you lose any body part you have than to see you slowly destroy your heart—just like the hidden leak under the toilet bowl. Do you and I see our hidden sins of the heart as that urgent and terrible? We simply measure them according to how risky they are to hide; by how much we can get away with before He punishes us; by how good we look next to the people around us—never by what they are costing us in our relationship to Him or how useless they are making us we to His Kingdom, or how much they may keep us from truly loving others like Him.
Do we truly love Him the way He asked of those following Him in His day? Or are we just like those in His day whom He preached the hardest against? Those who come to Him for the wrong reasons, those who try to use Him for their own gain, those who always want from Him rather than ever wanting to give back to the One Who has given everything for us. Are we like those who want to look and act just good enough to be accepted by the status quo; thinking it will make Him happy as well, thinking He'll just overlook their faults in understanding—not truly worried about whether our sins separate us from Him or hurt others in our lives? Are we more worried about having an easy life, having our enemies brought to justice; having the Kingdom handed over to us in a bow and being successful in the eyes of those around us than we are winning the hearts and salvation of those who are even hurting us? Sacrificing our lives for the sake of our King and those He loves and helping to grow the Kingdom that we say we are longing for? Could it be that many of us today are as completely fooled as the Pharisees and even the disciples in the beginning? Could it be that we are even farther away from God and His salvation than those who are lost and proud of it? Many of us today need to completely rethink our faith, our proclamation of love for God and our love for this world. Many of us today need to realize that we don't have any more of God than we do in our lives; that we are not hearing and experiencing Him anymore than we are because we have never truly given our hearts over to Him completely. Instead, we have given ourselves over to a form of godliness and outward goodness that is lukewarm and self-serving. We are not passionately seeking Him, studying His Word with reverence and desire to grow close, praying to be in His Will and praying to be an intercessor for others He loves. We are simply loving the world, fooling those around us and deceiving ourselves. Maybe a number of us hearing this message today are awaiting for the shock of their lives in that moment they step to the other side: Revelation 3:15-17. Does that not sound like the language and attitude that Jesus used with the Pharisees? Revelation 3:18-20. Stop counting the cost and then stepping away again. Stop hiding your sins and enjoying them. Stop loving the world more than God. Stop being ashamed of Him and dreading the weight of serving Him. Embrace loving Him at any cost; welcoming the cost, the shame, the trouble. Truly give up your own life radically because He loved you enough to completely empty and destroy His own body and soul for you. That is what Jesus preached to the people of His day, and it is exactly what He would preach to you and me right now if He were in this pulpit today. And this was often their response: John 6:66-69.
Will you go away too, or do you truly believe Jesus is the Holy One of God, worthy of your all or nothing at all? If you do believe this—act like it, live like it. Not in your own power, you can’t do it—but you must be willing, wanting before He will help you. Will you stand up and follow Him with all of your heart?
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