Friday, December 16, 2011

Inside Out

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." Matthew 23:25-26

These are some strong words from Jesus, and while they were spoken to the scribes and Pharisees, they are also relevant for us. The scribes and Pharisees were militant about keeping up appearances for appearances sake. If they could point to all of the rules they followed and the religious practices they observed then they could consider themselves superior to those around them. 

They checked off all of the boxes and put on a good show, but in their hearts they had no love for others, no compassion, and no desire to reach beyond themselves to help another. 

Jesus looked at their hearts and he called them on it. 

Before we think too badly of the Pharisees we need to take a look at ourselves.  It is easy to get caught up in doing the right things for the wrong reasons. Fasting is one of those things. It's fine for people to know we are fasting but it should never be done for show or to make people think we are some kind of super Christian. 

As you prepare to fast think about your own life. Are there things that you do or say because you think it looks good or is right, but the internal conviction is just not there? 

I don't mean that you deliberately set out to deceive people, but the truth is that you may be deceiving yourself. Are there things that you do more out of habit than out of a desire to serve or worship God? Are your actions in sync with your inner beliefs or would we be surprised to know how you really feel about things? Are you nice to someone just for what you can get from that relationship? 

Before you get insulted and stop reading let me just say that we all have to be careful of this. There are always things that we need to clean out before we can move further in our relationship with God and with others. Here's an example: 

We all would like to say that we are open-minded and not prejudiced at all, but the truth is, we all have thoughts and feelings that are there that pop out at the most troublesome times. Be honest. 

We like to say we have compassion for people in trouble, but how often do we criticize and blame and believe that people make their own trouble.

We like to say that anyone is welcome in our church, but the truth is there are people we'd just as soon go to someone else's church.

You see my point? We all have room to improve. Part of preparing for and experiencing this fast is asking God to give you insight into your inner self. What things do you hide even from yourself that you need to allow him access to in order to change? 

The promise at the end of this verse is wonderful. Did you see it? First cleanse the inside so the outside may be clean also. In other words, we don't have to worry about what others see on the outside if the inside is right with God. And God does the work, we just have to get out of the way and let him do what he does best. Redeem and restore. 

This weekend take some time to be still with God and ask him to show you things that he would like to change about you. Ask him for the courage to let him do it, and thank him for loving you enough to always be working in your life. 

I am praying for you. Have you decided to fast? 


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