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Changing Inside Out

Matthew 15:15-20

Introduction: This passage of Scripture is one of the most illuminating passages in the gospels, in regard to the great difference between religion and Christianity. Remember, religion is man's approach to God, and Christianity is God's approach to man. Religion is represented here in the text by the scribes and Pharisees, and Christianity is represented by Jesus.
This incident is really a head-on clash and battle between these two views. The result is, though, that we will be able to identify the following:
A. The source of sin and uncleanness,
B. The big lie of hypocrisy,
C. The tragic result of hypocrisy
D. The way to be clean before God; and most important,
E. The true state of our spiritual lives.
So this portion of Matthew is very important to all of us. Listen carefully; don't let what is going on between Jesus and the Pharisees obscure the application of the text to your own life. The outline of vv. 1-20 could be broken down this way: (You might want to write it in your Bibles.)
  1. The Confrontation by the Pharisees--vv. 1-2
  2. The Counter question from Jesus--vv. 3-6
  3. The Counter charge by Jesus--vv. 7-11
  4. The Confusion of the disciples--v. 12
  5. The Condemnation of the Pharisees is defended--vv. 13-14
  6. The Clarification by Jesus--vv. 15-20
  1. The Confrontation by the Pharisees--vv. 1-2.
    1. The Questioners: The Pharisees and teachers of the law from Jerusalem; men who were probably held in special esteem.


    2. The Question: It has two parts,
      1. Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?
      2. They don't wash their hands before they eat.
        Does this mean the disciples ate with dirty hands and were uncouth and unclean men? Not at all.


        1. We must be quite clear that this idea of cleanness and uncleanness has nothing to do with physical cleanness, except distantly, with hygiene.
          -- This is entirely a ceremonial matter.
          -- For a man to be clean was for him to be in a state where he might worship and approach God.
          -- For him to be unclean was for him to be in a state where such worship and such an approach were impossible.

          How did a person become unclean?
          1. This uncleanness was contracted by contact with a certain person or things. For instance,

          a) A woman was unclean for a stated time after she had a child.
          b) Every dead body was unclean, and to touch it was to become unclean.
          c) Every Gentile was unclean.

          2. This uncleanness was also transferable; you might say it was infectious.
          Example: For instance, if a mouse touched an earthenware vessel, that vessel was unclean and unless it was ritually washed and cleansed, everything put into it was unclean. The consequence was, that anyone who touched that vessel, or who ate or drank from its contents became unclean. In turn, anyone who touched the person who had so become unclean, also became unclean.

          How does that impact the passage we are studying?

        2. It was clearly impossible to avoid all kinds of uncleanness.
          For instance:
          1. A man might avoid unclean things himself, but how could he possibly know when he had touched someone on the street who was unclean?
          2. This was further complicated by the fact that there were Gentiles in Palestine, and the very dust touched by a Gentile foot became unclean.


          You can see how determining uncleanness could get very complicated.
        3. So to combat uncleanness among the Jews, an elaborate system of washing was worked out. These washings became ever more elaborate:


          1) At first there was only hand washing in the morning,
          2) Then they drew up an elaborate system of hand washing.
          3) This system was first used by the priests in the Temple before they ate their part of the sacrifice.
          4) Later these complicated washings came to be demanded by the strictest of the orthodox Jews for themselves, and for all who claimed to be truly religious.
          (Turn to a parallel passage in Mark 7:3-5.)

          Example: In "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah," Edersheim outlines the most elaborate of these washings. Water jars were kept ready to be used before a meal. The water was first poured on both hands, held with the fingers pointed upwards, and run up the arm as far as the wrist. It must drop off from the wrist, for the water itself was unclean, having touched the unclean hands, and, if it ran down the fingers again, it would again render them unclean. The process was repeated with the hands held in the opposite direction with the fingers pointing down; and then finally, each hand was cleansed by being rubbed with the fist of the other. A really strict Jew would do all this, not only before a meal, but also between each of the courses--Adapted from William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975, pp. 110, 113-114.


    3. The Accusation: Notice, they are not accusing Jesus of breaking Scripture, just tradition!


      1. Application: I think this continues to be one of the chief reasons for most arguments in religion and in Christianity.
        1. A tradition becomes so closely associated with religious activity that it may become confused with Scripture.
        2. The tradition may even be good and helpful, but if it becomes as important or more important than Scripture, it will eventually cause one to break Scripture at some point!


      2. Application: What is the answer?
        1. Ask yourself, "What does the Bible say"? (Like Billy Graham, "The Bible says. . . ")
        2. We must be careful that our man-made rules, or application of the Scripture are not elevated to the place of Scripture.


          Here are some examples where really good man-made rules might become confused with, or equal to, Scripture.
          a) Worship forms: what should happen in a service? How often should we have communion?
          b) The manner in which a person has a quiet time
          c) The need for small groups; how should they operate?
          d) Specific responses to social issues
          e) How our services should close
          f) How we conduct a prayer meeting
          Note: Each of these areas or activities has a set of rules or preferences attached to them.
          Let's make sure we don't allow our principles to be elevated to the place of Scripture.


      3. Caution: Now don't misunderstand; I believe these are adequate applications, but they are not Scripture. (Expand)
      4. Answer: Most important are the commands of Scripture: Are we praying, studying the Word, worshipping, caring for the needy, and spurring one another on toward love and good deeds?
      5. Remember: Our application of Scripture is not inerrant.

    It is interesting how Jesus responds to the Pharisees' question. Notice:

  2. The Counter question from Jesus--vv. 3-6.


    A. The rebuttal. Jesus doesn't answer the question directly, yet. v. 3--Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition"?


    B. The reason for His response. v. 4--For God said, "Honor your father and mother" and "Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death. 5] 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' 6a] he is not to 'honor his father' with it."


    1. Here the Lord is drawing the distinction between the authority of the "commands of Scripture" and "traditions of man."


    2. So He turns the question to the real issue.
      By the way, this is a good response if we are questioned in a similar way. It gets to the real issue. For example:
      1. Why do you believe the Bible is true and has anything to say to you?
      2. Maybe a more important question is, "Do I believe there is a God who loves me"? If there is, then I believe a supreme being could and would write, through his prophets, the things He wants us to know.


    3. The Pharisees were breaking the commandment of God in a number of ways: Ex. 20:20; 21:17; Deut. 5:16; Lev. 20:9.
      1. How were they breaking the commandment? (Look again at vv. 5-6a.)


      2. The answer is found in the statement: ". . . a gift devoted to God. . . "
        It was because of what the Pharisees were doing, that Jesus didn't answer them directly.


        1. What Jesus did was to take an example from the oral and ceremonial law, and show them how far their observance of the law was from obedience to the Lord.


        2. This is what they were doing:
          Illustration: Suppose a Pharisee had a mother or father in poverty and in need; and suppose that his poor parent came to him with a request for help.
          -- There was a way in which the man could avoid giving any help.
          -- He could say he had officially dedicated all his money and all his property to God and to the temple.
          -- Therefore, he could say to his father or mother: "I'm very sorry, I can give you nothing; all my belongings (material goods) are dedicated to God."
          Note: See parallel passage in Mark 7:11. There we see the phrase "It is Korban." This is another way of saying the same thing!!

So what is the result of this "theological slight of hand"? Jesus said:
C. The result is: "Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition"--v. 6.


Obviously the Pharisees were trying to sidestep the commands of God.
  1. They were using a ritual practice to evade the basic duty of helping and honoring their fathers and mothers.


  2. In essence, they wiped out one of the ten commandments by substituting a tradition/ regulation.
    This was not uncommon for the Pharisees:
    1. Much of their tradition was not only elevated to the place of Scripture, it actually broke the commands of God.


    2. This is the reason for Jesus' counter question.



  • Application: Again, we must be careful we don't do the same thing.


    Here are three principles:
    a. Principle #1: If we manipulate Scripture to say what we want concerning a particular practice, we will manipulate other passages and usually break explicit commands of God in the process.


    b. Principle #2: A command of God is never to be violated by an application because Scripture is not in conflict with itself.


    c. Principle #3: Our piety and tradition must be adjusted to God's Word.
    It should never take precedence over God's will.


  • Personal illustration: What does this say to us here at Hillcrest?


    1. I frustrate people from time to time because I don't give them the rules of Hillcrest.
    2. Obviously there are preferences, wise approaches, guidelines, a philosophy of ministry, administrative procedures, goals and plans, but beyond that, I'm not going to give a list of rules that might be construed as the law for this church.
    3. We have one rule of faith and practice and that is the Word of God.
    4. That is all we need and all we can obey.
      1) We have all the grace (power) we need for obedience to the commands of Scripture,
      2) But we only have natural strength and human initiative to obey the rules.
      3) We all know natural strength is never enough--it runs out.


    5. We can and should deduce principles for Christian behavior, but they cannot be equal to Scripture. (We hold the commands of Scripture tightly and application loosely.)

    So what is Jesus' response? He really comes down hard on this one.

  • The Counter charge by Jesus. The mask is taken off--vv. 7-11.



    1. The charge is made. v. 7a--"You hypocrites"!


      What is a hypocrite?
      1. Definition: We are talking about someone who plays a part. The hypokrites in classical Greek was an orator and an actor. The word itself means "to mask," because in Greek theater one person could play many parts. To distinguish between characters, the actor would pick up various masks with handles attached to hold in front of his face.



      2. Description:
      1. The word "hypocrite" came to mean then, that which is not real, or that which is phony.



      2. The goal of the hypocrite according to Matthew 6 is "to be seen and honored by men" (see Matt. 6:5,16).



      3. The Pharisees fit this description perfectly: "They had a ravenous hunger for recognition and the praise of men."



      3. Distinction: By the way, this incident must have been shocking to the Pharisees, because it was the first time Jesus publicly called them hypocrites.
      Note: Jesus' words must have been like thunder going off!

      How did Jesus come to this conclusion? By the Scripture. Notice:

    2. The collaboration is given. Verse 7b--"Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you..."
      Jesus is saying that Isaiah's prophecy could be directly applied to the Pharisees.


      vv. 8-9--"These people honor me with their lips (exterior observance, play acting), but their hearts are far from me" (interior far from God). 9] They worship me in vain, theirteachings are but rules taught by men."



      1. The Lord says a number of things here by using the quote from Isaiah. He says:
        1. When the Pharisees honored God, it was only on the exterior.
          Definition: It appears they are honoring God, that is why it is hard to detect, and also why they themselves might be deceived. But,



        2. Their hearts are far from God.
          Note: They aren't even close; they are as far as those who have only an exterior religion. So don't let the outward acts of others, or yourself, impress you.
          Note: Don't find yourself excusing people from obeying Scripture by saying: "they are such good people because they go to church, are faithful, read their Bible, etc."




        3. Jesus said the Pharisees' worship is in vain.
          Definition: This means their worship is considered foolish and fruitless by God. It doesn't count, no matter how glorious, melodic, or sincere it may seem on the surface.



        4. Also, Jesus said the Pharisees' teachings are merely rules taught by men.
          Note: Here's the definition of the phrase, "For the sake of your traditions..." It is used in vv. 1,3, and 6. Does it have value? Should it be compared to God's Word?
          No! "The teachings are rules taught by men.."


        Now these are heavy words for the Pharisees, and they certainly should cause us to ask: "Is it possible this condition of hypocrisy might be in my life too"?

      2. This quote from Isaiah applies to all hypocrites throughout the ages--vv. 8-9.
        It says the following to our age as well:
        1. Many are deceived by their own pious, religious actions.
          1) They may think they are close to God,
          2) They may sound and look close to God,
          3) But they are far from Him.
          -- The problem is, each age has its own subtle hypocrisy.
          -- Looking back at the Pharisees, it is easy to spot; but what about our age?


        2. Some of us might have set religious rules, and the performance of those rules above the true condition of the heart, but they are not easy to spot.



        3. Many today are worshipping God, but God is not impressed if they don't obey His commands and honor Him from the heart, no matter how they look sound.



        4. Is it possible many of us may be worshipping God in vain?



        5. On the other hand, many are attempting to represent God, but they represent Him in an inappropriate way.
          1) The result is, children/family/friends think God is a God of exterior rules.
          2) But the opposite is true.
          3) Jesus is the true picture of God, and He's not like the religious systems set up by men.
          4) Right in this service there may be some who have rejected Jesus because they think the unattainable rules, made up by men, are what God asks of them!!!


        So we will know if this is the case in our lives, listen closely to what Jesus says now:

      3. The charge is elaborated on. v. 10--"Jesus called the crowd to him and said, 'Listen and understand.'"
        Note: This is a command to us as well. "Come on now, listen and understand." This is the first of two commands to note.
        v. 11--"What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'"


        This helps us to center on what makes a person unclean or defiled. This tells us plainly:

        1. Defilement does not come from the outside.



          1. It is not what a person does or eats.



          2. It is not what a person looks like.



          3. It is not what a person says in a religious service. (We can all talk religious at certain times in our week.)



        2. Defilement/sinfulness comes from within.



          1. In other words, it is what comes from out of a man's mouth that reveals his heart.



          2. It is the heart, reflected in the mouth, that makes a person UNCLEAN.
            -- Now this is expanded on later, so we will not comment yet.
            -- But notice that in relationship to the charge of the Pharisees in vv. 1-2, Jesus is still not answering their question.
            -- He is saying that formal washing does not make a person clean, nor keep him from being unclean.


            Now this blew the disciples' minds.

          3. Apparently the crowd broke up, and some of the disciples walked over to the Pharisees and said something nervously like, "Well, that was quite a sermon, wasn't it, uh, what do you think"?



          4. The Pharisees must have been uptight and offended and let the disciples know.



          5. Application: This often happens in churches, too.
            People don't often come up to me and say, "Hey, what you said this morning stinks and I'm really offended by it," but I usually find out via someone else.


        This is what happens here. Notice:

      4. The Confusion of the disciples. v.12--"Then the disciples came to him and asked, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this'"?
        1. It seems the disciples missed the whole point of what Jesus was saying.



        2. They had not heard the Pharisees being nailed like that before.

        Well, Jesus doesn't even respond to the offense question. He heats up the fire a little more:

      5. The Condemnation of the Pharisees is defended--vv. 13-14.


        1. Judgment is predicted. v. 13--He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots."
          Note: This is another way of saying what He said in Matt: 13:40-42--"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41] The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42] They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."


          How are the disciples to respond to the Pharisees then?

        2. Judgment is applied to the Pharisees. Here is a strong command: v. 14--"Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."


          In other words,

          1. "Don't pay attention to them or worry if they are offended; leave them." Why?



          2. "They are blind--blind guides." Implied is, they are leading others, even though they cannot see themselves.


            The result is,

          3. "They will lead people into a pit."



            1. Now I want you to notice something that is very important in ministry.


              1. Jesus will show great compassion to the sinful, the sick, the injured, and the honest inquirer, but that is not the case with the hypocrite.
              2. He doesn't care if the hypocrite is offended.
              3. He is not trying to please them, nor coddle them--He blasts them!



            2. I want you to know I have learned that from the Lord.



              1. He has given me great patience for people who are progressing in maturity, even though it is terribly slow.
              2. He has given me compassion for the person who fails and falters.
              3. I want you to know, however, I am not patient with a religious phony who tries to impose man-made rules of spirituality and whose life-style is far from exemplary.
              4. I hate hypocrisy in myself and others and I have no patience with it.



            3. So, we should not cover our sin with high sounding spiritual words, nor by pointing to some religious action we have done. (The Lord hates that.)


          4. Judgment applied to us. Does the Lord's teaching say anything else?



            1. It says, "beware of the yeast of the Pharisees in your life, your church and family."



            2. The effect of hypocrisy in my life and yours is horrendous.


              1. It blinds both us and those who follow us, i.e., a friend, a mate, a child.


              2. It leads the guide and the follower into a pit.



            3. Mark it down: God will allow hypocrisy to lead to its ultimate end--destruction.



            4. So don't follow a hypocrite and don't be a hypocrite.



            5. On the other hand, it is important to understand, not every sinner is a hypocrite; we are all sinners, but not all hypocrites.



              1. The one who knows he is a sinner, does not cover up the fact nor want to change, he is simply a lost sinner.



              2. But the one who knows he/she is a sinner
                -- and covers that fact by pious, religious and even Christian actions,
                -- He/she is a hypocrite.



              3. The one who lives his life totally at an exterior level, gives little or no attention to the heart and is not honest with God, himself, or others, is also a hypocrite.



              4. But the one who acknowledges he is a sinner, is honest with God,
                -- and seeks to have Him rule every area of his life and heart, even though he/she is not perfect.
                -- They are not a hypocrite; they are a saint!



            6. There are also many people who are so focused on the exterior of their lives, what they are doing and accomplishing, they are not aware of their hypocrisy.
              Note: These are the ones I believe this message can have the greatest impact upon.




        3. The Clarification by Jesus. Well, Peter doesn't understand what the Lord has said, so he asks a question. The Lord gives Peter and us a very helpful answer.



          1. The question Peter asked is: "Explain the parable to us"--v. 15.



            1. Why Peter? Well, I think he just expressed what all the other disciples were feeling.



            2. What is the parable he is referring to? It is found in vv. 13-14.


              13] "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots." 14] "Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

              Let me ask,

            3. Is the interpretation obvious to you?


              Answer: It should be, because the Lord gave the disciples and us two commands concerning hypocrisy, and He doesn't give us a command unless it is possible to carry out.



              1. The first command was in v. 10--"Listen and understand."
                In other words, "get with it, don't be foggy about what I am saying to you"!



              2. The second command was in v. 14--"Leave them."



                1. We are to leave the negative influence of the hypocrites, and I would add, we are to leave that tendency in us for the same reason. Why?



                2. They will be rooted out at the end of the age.



                3. They will lead themselves and others into a pit.



            4. The interpretation of this parable should be obvious, but how about all the Lord's followers present here, are we listening and understanding?
              Are we foggy about what Jesus is saying?


          2. The answer from Jesus is two-fold.


            1. It is first of all a correction. v.16--"Are you still so dull"?



              1. Implied by the statement is His amazement that Peter (and the other disciples) haven't understood yet.
                Paraphrase: The sentence could read: "Even at this crucial moment are you still without understanding"?


                What's the answer? Why don't they understand?

              2. Because they are dull.
                1. Definition of dull: They are slow to understand.


                  Let me give you an illustration of dull.

                2. Description of dull: Have you ever tried to cut a tomato with a dull knife?
                  -- It is not pleasant. It wipes out both you and the tomato.
                  -- You see, "iron sharpens iron" if both pieces of iron cooperate with the process; but the disciples have not responded to the experiences around them.
                  -- The teaching, miracles, and association with the Lord have not sharpened them up like they should have.
                  -- They are dull and therefore they cannot cut it.



                3. Application: You know, some of us are like that as well.


                  1. We should by this time be so sharp, but we just are not listening to the Lord.
                  2. He wants to sharpen us by our life experiences, by our friends, and by the reading of His Word, but:
                    -- we aren't cooperating, and
                    -- we aren't using our minds;
                    -- we aren't stretching ourselves through prayer and study to grasp spiritual truths;
                    -- we are dull!



                  3. He wants us to learn from what we see and hear. For instance:
                    1. How many times do we have to see someone ruin their life before we believe sin will destroy us?
                    2. How many times do we have to see the results of a shallow spiritual life before we get with it and allow God to invade the deepest part of our being?
                    3. How many times do we have to see someone sweet-talked, or influenced by a religious phony into a negative situation, before we wise up?
                    4. How many times will we be impressed with a salesman or a teacher simply because that person might throw a few religious phrases into their presentation?
                    5. How long will it be before we are discerning?


                  4. The Lord is calling us to be sharp.



                  5. The Lord is not pleased with our dullness.

              With that in mind, notice the summary statement and clarification given by Jesus:

            2. It focuses on the heart again. vv. 17-18--"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18] But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'"



              1. It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, i.e., food.



                1. Food has nothing to do with moral purity.
                  Note: Mark 7:19b--" saying this, Jesus declared all food 'clean.'"



                2. So washing hands has nothing to do with moral purity (this is the answer to the question we find in vv. 1-2 of this chapter).
                  1. "Cleanliness is not next to godliness." (That is not found in the Bible!!!)
                  2. Obeying certain man-made rules will not make us holy (even the good rules we make up about prayer and Bible study).


                How do we know if we are clean?

              2. It is what comes out of the mouth that reveals the heart. v.18--"But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'"



                1. The heart is the seat of all thoughts, emotions and volition, and it is revealed often through the mouth.



                2. The book of Proverbs says, "Above all else, guard the heart, for it is the wellspring of life..."
                  Note: "Guard it," for everything in our life flows from the heart.


              3. It is what is in the heart that makes a person clean or unclean then--vv. 18,20.



                1. First, the heart is the source of good, i.e., words, actions, attitudes, motivations, emotions.



                2. Second, the heart is also the source of evil. Jer. 17:9--"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure..."



                3. Third, the mouth is the indication of both. Matt. 15:18--"But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'"

                  In Matt. 12:33-37, Jesus used the analogy of a tree to represent the heart:
                  "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34] You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35] The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil out of the evil stored up in him. 36] But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37] For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."


              This passage and Matthew 15 say some very critical things about our spiritual lives.

            3. It gives some ways to evaluate our spiritual lives. How do we know if we are doing okay?


              1. First, we need to listen to ourselves outside our religious life, because our words are revealing our heart.
                1. Matt. 12:34b--"Out of the overflow of the heart a man speaks."
                  1. I can catch a glimpse of my heart by what I am saying.
                  2. I will speak from the good and bad stored in my heart.
                  3. My heart is a storehouse of good and bad, and my mouth will draw from what is there.



                2. Now this isn't saying sin only occurs when the contents of my heart are uttered through my mouth.
                  Note: What Jesus is going to show us in a moment is that sin takes place in the heart, and our mouth just reveals the sin or good already there.


                  Example: I want to be careful and kind when I say this, but Jesus unmasks a positive confession doctrine here.

                  1. The doctrine states: "what you confess you possess." But what happens if what you are confessing and asking God for are all kinds of things for your consumption and your betterment? According to the Lord, if that is the case, those confessions are the reflection of a greedy heart.
                  2. On the other hand, what happens if you follow the guidance of this doctrine, begin to confess good things for others, and express the promises of God even when you don't really want them or believe you will receive them? This could be a doctrine used to create hypocrisy.
                  3. What we need to do is find out what God commands, plant that in our hearts, water it, pray over it, and obey it. Then when we speak from that context, it will be speaking the truth of God's Word as well as the overflow of the heart.


              2. Second, in general, this passage tells the difference in focus between religion and Christianity.



                1. The Christian life must be shaped from the inside out.



                2. The religious life cleans up the outside and leaves the inside dirty.
                  Matt. 23:25-28--"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26] Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27] Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28] In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."
                  Note: So the answer is found in v. 26--"...First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." As believers, we clean up the inside and then the outside will be clean as well.



          3. The Answer is Expanded. Matt. 15:19--"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander."



            1. This tells us a very profound truth:
              -- Sin can be both an act which is done, and
              -- Sin can be an attitude which is in the heart.


              1. Jesus is saying a man or woman can commit sin in their mind, even before the act is carried out.



              2. Therefore, temptation can come, and sin can be complete before the act is even carried out.



            2. This is not something new.
              1. Jesus has taught this already in the Sermon on the Mount.



              2. He has also taught this through the giving of the Ten Commandments.



                1. What is the tenth commandment? Ex. 20:17--"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
                2. That commandment is centered on the heart, and shows that God has always seen sin in the heart even before the act is carried out.
            3. This is shown in each of the following sins; they begin in the heart:



              1. Evil thoughts:
                1. The Scriptures are full of passages that indicate sin begins with a thought.
                  1. Ps. 94:11--"The Lord knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile."


                  2. Prov. 15:26--"The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him."



                2. The process is four-fold (see The Problem of Temptation, by Bob Stone)
                  1. The first step is the suggestion to sin. You cannot avoid the suggestion, this is temptation. If Jesus was tempted to sin, so will you. This is not sin, but it must be dealt with or it will become sin (see Matt. 4:1-11).


                    As my grandfather told me and I've mentioned before, "You can't stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair." The ancestor of every sin is a thought.



                  2. The second step of the process is meditation.
                    1. This is where we entertain the suggestion by mulling it over and thinking about it.
                    2. This is where lust begins to take over and quickly leads to the third step.



                  3. The third step is consent.
                    1. This is where sin is committed.
                    2. This happens before the act, when you purpose in your heart : "If I had a chance and could get away with it, this is what I would love to do."



                  4. The final step is the commission. This is where we usually involve someone else, either by making them a victim, or by including them in our sin. Let me show you this in the following list.



              2. Murder: Matt. 5:21-22a--"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment."
                Note: Anger of the heart receives the same judgment as a murderer.



              3. Adultery and sexual immorality: Matt. 5:27-28--"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28] But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
                Note: Lust means "purposeful and repeated looking." It is using the eyes to excite longing. It means "to fix desire upon." This would include thern, all forms of pornography and all sexual fantasies, as well as the act. Sin is committed in the mind.
                Note: Some of you are struggling with whether God thinks sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong. This answers that question as far as the act is concerned, as well as the mind.



              4. Theft:
                1. This likewise includes the attitude and the act.
                2. The attitude is expressed in the tenth commandment again. Ex. 20:17--"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
                  Note: This tells us then, thievery begins in the heart, and it begins by coveting what someone else has.
                  Comment: Understand, as with all of these, if you think about something long enough, you'll do it.



              5. False testimony:
                1. This is that which is not true; giving untrue or deceptive testimony about another.
                2. Paul says it is breaking the commandment of love. "Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to his neighbor"--Rom. 13:9b-10.


              6. Slander: (Blasphemy in the KJV)
                1. This is the worst kind of slander.
                2. This is speaking against another openly.
                3. This is one of the great evils of our age.
                  1. It is not always recognized as sin amongst Christians.
                  2. It is also something Jesus says, is sin in the heart.
                  3. If I slander someone in my heart, secretly or openly, I am sinning.


          Now what does all of this say to us? The following might be:

        4. The Concluding commitments of every believer. Write these down and ask God to help you fulfill them.



          1. First, I must focus on my heart and make sure it is clean.



            1. The heart is the source of sin. Remember, Jesus taught us:
              1. Sin is first an attitude,



              2. Before it is an act.
                1. Sin is conceived in the heart by my own evil desires.



                2. Sin is birthed in the act of sin.



              3. Here is an example of hypocrisy as it relates to sexual immorality and adultery.
                1. "Hey, I'm doing fine. I'm committing sexual immorality, but we love each other."
                  Note: That's just like the Pharisees who made up a rule so they could bypass the explicit commands of Scripture. There is no rule that you can conjure up that makes immorality okay. No: "We love each other" rule will allow us to bypass Scripture.


                  Here is another example of hypocrisy:

                2. "Hey, I'm okay. I haven't committed adultery or sexual immorality, I'm just having a private love affair in my mind."


                  And another example:

                3. "Hey, I'm okay. I've never done any harm to my enemy; in fact, I'm even civil to him. Deep inside, however, I sure would like to hurt him. I'm so angry at him"!



              4. Jesus says we are a sinner and also a hypocrite if we make these kinds of statements.



              5. What matters to Him most is not just how we act, but why we act.



            2. It is important then that I focus on my heart and clean up the evil. Matt. 23:26--"Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."



            3. We need to ask ourselves:



              1. Have I seen any evil intentions in my heart?
              2. Am I pleased with what I hear my mouth saying in unguarded moments?
              3. If I sin inwardly, do I quickly confess and repent of it?


            My first resolve is to focus on my heart and make sure it is clean.

          2. Second, I must store/sow good things in my heart.



            1. The heart can also be a storehouse of good--Matt. 12:35.



            2. It is not a matter of repression or expression, but of substitution.



              1. I need to sow a garden of good thoughts; of love, of purity, of correct attitudes and motivation.



              2. I need to confess my evil thoughts and intentions and immediately substitute what I should think.



              3. I need to sow and store up what is good.


              Illustration: What do you think of when you hear the comment by Mary Slessor? Mary was a single woman who left Scotland at the turn of the century to go to a part of Africa that was infested with disease and indescribable danger. She had an indomitable spirit and kept going when lesser men and women broke down, ran, and never came back. Once, after a particularly draining day, she found herself trying to sleep in a crude jungle hut. Of that night she wrote: "I am not very particular about my bed these days, but as I lay on a few dirty sticks laid across and covered with a litter of dirty corn shells, with plenty of rats and insects, three women and an infant three days old alongside, and over a dozen sheep and goats and cows outside, you don't wonder that I sleep little. But I had such a comfortable quiet night in my own heart"--Ibid, p. 26.


              The comfort and quiet in the heart was something Mary Slessor developed with God's help. So if we are going to have a good heart, we are going to have to make it a project.



              A PROJECT



              1. If you hear yourself slandering someone, stop and substitute what you should say.
              2. If you are beginning to lust, stop and substitute what should be your attitude; declare God's love for them; that they are those for whom Christ died.
              3. If you are angry at someone, ask God to forgive you, and begin to pray for them that God will work in their lives so eventually they will know God's best. Then say, "God, I leave all vengeance to you; you repay."



            3. It will take time, but in due time you will receive a beautiful crop from your garden.



              1. Gal. 6:7-10 says, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8] The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9] Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10] Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
              2. Phil. 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things."



            4. If we concentrate on the heart, we will find the outside, our actions, will be clean as well. So look for character!

              Illustration: In a lonely moment in Washington, when John Quincy Adams was overwhelmed by homesickness for his Massachusetts family, he wrote them a letter, addressing comments of encouragement and counsel to each son and daughter. To his daughter he wrote about the prospect of marriage and the kind of man she should choose to marry. His words reveal how highly he regarded an ordered private world. "Daughter! Get you an honest man for a husband and keep him honest. No matter whether he is rich, provided he be independent. Regard the honor and moral character of the man, more than all the circumstances. Think of no other greatness but that of the soul, no other riches but those of the heart"--Ibid, p. 18.


              So guard your heart, and as Galatians says, "Sow that which will please the Spirit." The second resolve: I must store or sow good things in my heart.



          3. Third, I must remember my actions don't initially reveal the true condition of my heart.
            They will eventually, but not initially, because of the problem of hypocrisy.



            1. The potential is:



              1. I can be faked out.
              2. I can substitute religious action for a clean heart.
                Illustration: David and Nathan (See II Sam. 12:1-7.) Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man."


              How do we eliminate the potential?
            2. The solution is to pray for an understanding of our heart.



              1. Meditate on Psalm 139:23--"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."



              2. This is what I would encourage you to do.
                1. Write Psalm 139:23 down on a 3 x 5 card.
                2. Pray through it each morning.
                3. Study what the words mean.



              3. This week, as the Lord reveals something in your heart, write it down and then ask Him to forgive you and replace it with a right attitude.


            Summary: Third resolve--I must remember my actions don't initially reveal the true condition of my heart. I must consciously look and listen.


          4. Fourth, I must bring order to my private world.
            1. This must be a lifetime resolve, to invite God to rule in the deepest recesses of my heart.


            2. The development and maintenance of a strong inner world must become the most important single factor of our existence, or we will develop a sinkhole in our lives.



        5. The Covenant Prayer with God. Pray this often, and after me:



          1. "Lord, walk into my heart..."



            1. "Lord, walk into my thoughts: Are they evil? Am I ashamed to show you what I am thinking"? Search me O God and know my heart. Test me. . . "



            2. "Lord, walk into my feelings and emotions. Do I hate someone? Am I angry with someone? Would I like to see them dead? Forgive me Lord, I repent." " Let your peace and love be planted in me."



            3. "Lord, walk into my fantasy world. Is it filled with lust? Am I carrying on an affair in my mind? I repent. Let me value and love others, my friends and family as you do."



            4. "Lord, walk into my desires. Do I covet someone else's property, position, success, or acclaim? Am I plotting a theft of goods or a relationship? Forgive me, I repent. Let my desires be conformed to your will and word"



            5. "Lord, walk into my thoughts of others. Am I scheming that I might belittle another person and make them look bad in other people's eyes? Am I thinking about ways to make another person suffer? Help me to be a loving servant who serves and sees people as you do"!!!


            Let me pray often then:

          2. Psalm 139:23-24 is my prayer: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24] See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

          Song: "Let us search and try our ways."
          Song: Psalm 51--"Create in me a clean heart..."


          Confession: If you are not pleased with what you see in your heart, I want you to confess it to someone.


          -- The only way to break hypocrisy is to acknowledge it, because the motivation of a hypocrite is to look good to others. The hypocrite says, "Oh God, I'm thankful I am not like other men."
          -- The way to health is to pray, "Oh Lord, be merciful to me a sinner."