From the Inside Out

Did you know that in Alabama, it is illegal to wear fake mustaches that cause laughter in church?   Or how about this one!  In Nebraska, if a child burps in church, his parents can be arrested.  But wait!  In Nicholas Co., West Virginia, no member of the clergy is allowed to tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit!

What is it with us and laws???

I was listening to a pastor’s message  on this very subject and wondered the same thing.  Today’s bible study is from Mark 7:1-22.  Thanks to Pastor Wes Hamilton for his insight on this study.

I’ll ask my question again…what is it with humans and laws?  Do we really think it is possible to write the perfect law and we will suddenly become perfect?  Is it possible to create a law that would save us from ourselves?  In society, why do we even have laws?  Aren’t they created to be broken?

Laws do one thing….they dress up the outside, but they don’t change what is inside.   In the bible, the Pharisees presented themselves as righteous and holy.   They were the first person to point out the faults and law breaking in others without realizing that when you point at someone, there are at least 3 fingers pointing back at you.   Let’s look in on the text from Mark 7:1-5

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

Did you catch it?  “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

There is something that need to be distinguished here.   Laws and traditions are not one and the same.   God gave the Israelites 10 perfectly good Commandments that covered everything that they would possibly come into conflict with.  What did they do with them?  They created 613 laws with 1500 revisions; constantly micromanaging life, thus further moving away from the laws and moving more toward their own traditions.   Jesus tells them this in the next verses…Mark 7:6-8

“He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain;  their teachings are but rules taught by men.  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Wow, he really nailed them there.   I bet you are wondering though…why did Jesus find fault in washing your hands before a meal.   Isn’t that what Mom always taught us?  To wash our hands before meals?  At this point, my pastor showed us a demonstration of what they actually did.  Did you know that all they would do is just pour water over their hands?  No soap, no nothing.   Just plain water.   Sorry, if you pour water over your hands, they are just wet, not clean.    But you weren’t a “good Jew” unless you did this, not only before the meal, but in between each course as well.   So where did the Pharisees get this idea from?

Psalm 18:20 “20 The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.”

Psalm 18: 24 “24 The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

Psalm 24:3-4  “ Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.

The Pharisees took this literally.   Let’s rinse our hands and we’re on our way to Heaven!  (If it were only that easy)  But they missed out on the rest of the story….the rest of the verse.   Psalm 24:4 says   He who has clean hands and a pure heart,  who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Clean hands, meaning living righteously.  Pure heart meaning living with the right attitude.  Even the Apostles didn’t get this when Jesus was teaching and he had to tell them the real meaning.   (Mark 7:18-23) — Do you know how much I love Jesus when he says this…..

“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ “

Did you catch that last part?  All these evils come from INSIDE and make a man unclean.   Nothing on your hands makes you unclean, it’s what is in your heart.

Let me point out a few things that my pastor pointed out in his sermon on this.
1.    Legalism always finds the fault.  It’s always easier to see the fault in others than your own fault when you are being legalistic.   Just remember that there are more fingers pointing back at you than there are at the accused.

2.    Legalism always takes the credit:  we tend to take our own traditions and elevate them to the level of the word of God.  If we are following traditions, then we must be holy…only we are not.   Who are we fooling?  Not God.

3.    Legalism always lowers the bar:  We can pretend to be committed to our religion.  We can serve on all the right committees, teach Sunday school every week, be there every Sunday in the same pew as we always sit…we can go through all the motions, but God sees our heart.   He knows what page we’re on.

Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ “   Remember Jesus’ words here.   We are all guilty of this to some extent, aren’t we?  We don’t like to be called legalistic.  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. We’re all in there friends, and we need Jesus to bail us out.  Do you have any of those things in your heart?  I am guilty of some of those.  Are they inside you, coming out?

I hope this story has awakened you like it did me.  It made me take a good look inside myself … where I saw all the muckiness of them inside my heart….then I asked God’s forgiveness for shying away from Him towards “politically correctness”.

Lord, please forgive us for forgetting to look at what is inside us.  Please help us to seek Your will and to come to your with clean hands and pure hearts in all that we say and do.  I ask this in Jesus’ holy name.  Amen!

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