Jesus didn’t pull any punches, and the religious leaders were often the targets caught in his cross-hairs. One theme of his criticism was that they kept up righteous appearances while they were anything but righteous on the inside. It’s a bit unnerving, is it not, that Jesus could see the thoughts and intents of the heart!
For those who might be tempted to say that the one person in history you would most like to meet is Jesus, maybe you should rethink that!
But then again, Jesus didn’t do anything more than God, the Father, already does. God “discerns our thoughts from afar”; He even knows every word “on my tongue” before I say them. (Psalm 139)
Think about that. Where can I go that God is not present? There is no use trying to hide from God. It’s futile to think that we can.
So, we might as well be honest. God already knows what’s going on in our heads and hearts!
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” Matthew 15:1-9 ESV
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”…. Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:10-11, 17-20 ESV
Jesus leveled his criticism at people who seemed to honor God in the way they spoke and acted, but they didn’t honor God in their hearts. He quoted the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel who carried a similar theme in their writings. The prophets were as harsh on the religious and political leaders of their day as Jesus was in his day.
The statement, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, seems to miss the mark in light of the importance Jesus places on the heart, does it not? Not that what we do isn’t important. It’s just that what we do starts with who we are, and who are is in our hearts.
I feel compelled by the Holy Spirit (I hope) to explain myself a bit. Please forgive me if this gets into a little self-conscious rambling.
I have touched recently on some important doctrinal issues without really addressing them in a doctrinal way. That is intentional, but that leaves me a little self-conscious about it.
I have brushed past many doctrinal issues in this blog, and some of them are themes that I come back to quite often. Recently, I have veered dangerously close to issues like the inerrancy of the Bible and Bible hermeneutics, though I have not used words like that, other than to acknowledge at some points those rocks that exist in the turbulent waters.
I am usually not all that conscious about doctrine in the sense of academic formality or denominational purity. This also is intentional, though it isn’t intended in any rebellious, skeptical or heretic away.
If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. (John 7:17)
Jesus spoke these words after his own brothers expressed their skepticism about who Jesus appeared to be suggesting he was, the long awaited Messiah from God. (John 7:2-5) He spoke these words to a crowd that was also largely skeptical, wondering who he really was. Some were saying he was a good man, but others were claiming that he was leading people astray. (John 7:12)
I keep coming back to this verse (John 7:17) since I heard Dr. Rosaria Butterfield give her testimony of her journey from liberal, lesbian professor who was highly critical of Christians and Christianity to becoming a believer and later a pastor’s wife and having a ministry of her own.
In her world of academia, she was used to doing research and coming to conclusions before being willing to put her faith in a proposition. That is the academic process.
As she was listening to a sermon after having spent many months becoming friends with a pastor and his wife, reading the Bible, and considering the evidence for Christianity, she made a life changing realization. She was approaching Christianity academically. She was not willing to believe until all of the facts were lined up and could be reduced to a certain answer.