“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.Matthew 23:25,26
The hotel manager was asked about renovation plans for his facility. I was a few feet awaiting finishing a complimentary breakfast of scrambled bland eggs and tasteless sausage. “I think we’re two years or so away. I’ve not been given a date yet.” He paused as if looking around for spies and then continued, “Really, I hope they’ll just update the outside and forget about the inside. Maybe people will be impressed with a new exterior and they won’t notice the inside is old.” Frankly, it looks pretty good to me. I’ve stayed here before and I’ll be back. But his comment about overlooking the inside caused me to think. A new outside says nothing about the inside
To me, the inside is far more important. When I travel, I stay inside the hotel. I’ve never sat and gazed at an outside wall. Likewise, it’s the inside of man that is most important.
The Outside can be faked.
John Travolta created the cowboy image with his film Urban Cowboy in 1980. Suddenly, city boys were wearing cowboy hats and boots. The truth is, those guys wouldn’t know the difference between a bull and a heifer but they could fake the look.
In Matthew 23, quoted above, Jesus warned about the superficial cleansing commonly done by the scribes and Pharisees. It’s a message for us today too. You see, it’s pretty easy to fake the Christian look too. A well-placed cross pin, a crucifix necklace, and an ichthys-like bumper sticker (fish) and you’re super Christian.
Anybody can buy a crucifix, they are less than $20 at the box store. Changing the inside is so much harder,
The Inside is real
“Character is what you are when no one is looking” was a quote sometimes attributed to coach John Wooden, a great ball player, coach, and encourager. He’s right. True character is on the inside. Reputation looks at the outside, character inside.
The Jews were to circumcise male children shortly after birth. It was an external covenant marking. But the Lord also told them to do some work on the inside.
“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”Deuteronomy 10:16
“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”Deuteronomy 30:6
“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”Jeremiah 4:4
In the New Testament, when covenantal circumcision was no longer required for Christians, Paul reminded the Jews of the practice and emphasized the important internal character of man.
“For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”Romans 2:28, 29
Faith and devotion to God has always been internal. Real change demands change on the inside and that is hard.
Changing the inside.
Let me offer a few thoughts on making permanent changes.
- Are you ready to be changed? When does a person lose weight? When does he stop drinking? When he is ready! Until you are really weary of an empty life you will not make a change. Some say you must hit rock-bottom before you will alter your path. Stop waiting for God to snatch you up and change you. Paul said we must “seek” God (Acts 17:27). You must make your own decision.
- Change demands honesty. I’m not talking about being honest with others, although that’s important too. Be honest with yourself. Inventory your life. Make an assessment of your weaknesses. Only then can you begin to change. To pretend a problem doesn’t exist is to guarantee it will grow stronger. Look beneath the surface. What’s your sin problem? Speak it out loud, God already knows it, and steal its power. Paul says we are not ignorant of the way Satan works (2 Corinthians 2:11). So put your knowledge to work.
- Empower the change. Virtually everyone in the world has access to the Scriptures but not everyone is changed. The problem is not the Bible. The problem lies with the reader. If you really want to make lasting change in your life you must tap into the power of the word. Romans 12:2 says we will be transformed by knowing Christ. You come to know him through a study of his word. Here’s a promise: The more you give yourself to Scripture and allow it to change you, the more you will become like Jesus.
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