Living Inside Out
by Pastor Gene
It’s a theme that runs throughout the New Testament: to follow Jesus means to live inside out. That’s not to say that the outside doesn’t matter – it does! God holds us accountable for what we do and say. He expects obedience of us, and a good testimony – and confession, if sin has broken our fellowship with Him.
The problem is this: while were often more concerned with the ‘outside,’ God is always more concerned with the ‘inside.’ In fact, over and over again in Scripture we’re reminded that if what’s ‘inside’ is pure, what’s ‘outside’ will be too.
A Vessel Useful to the Master
Paul talked about what it means to be a vessel useful to the Master. He wrote:
God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work (2 Timothy 2:19-21).
So, before the Lord’s worker can effectively join Him in His “good work,” he must first cleanse himself from all that is dishonorable.
The Trouble With Pharisees
Jesus, as most of us know, often tangled with the scribes and the Pharisees, the Jewish religious leaders famous for their haughty hypocrisy. They ALWAYS did what was right. They were meticulous about their religious garb – they certainly looked the part! They tithed carefully and gave publicly. But Jesus had a word or two to say about their ostentatiousness. The scribes and Pharisees, He said ….
“ … do all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matthew 23:5a).
“They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long” [there’s the religious garb I was talking about!] (Matthew 23:5b).
“They love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others” (Matthew 23:6-7).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you TITHE mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)
[Yikes! Jesus says they were meticulously avoiding swallowing a gnat (listed as an unclean thing in Leviticus 11:42), but they were happily gulping down a camel (also listed as an unclean thing in Leviticus 11:4)! In other words, they were majoring in the minors and missing the heart of God entirely in the process!]
Oh, but here’s the corker! He challenged them to repent and to live the only way that truly pleases the Father: inside out!
“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)
And the Lord was NOT DONE!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28).
Now, I wish I could report otherwise, but I’ve done some of these things. I’ve certainly been guilty of tithing my salt while forgetting about mercy. You?
Outer Purity Flows from Inner Purity
See what I mean about living inside out? This personal cleansing – this ‘cleaning the inside of the cup’ – is a continual cleansing. It’s living our lives as imitators of God as beloved children, children who long to be like their Father. It’s asking Him to remove from us anything impure and godless. And that purity will find its way out!
Paul encouraged believer to seek an outer purity that naturally flows from an inner purity. He urged us to walk as what we truly are: “children of light!”
Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Therefore, do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret (Ephesians 5:1-10).
O Christian, you ARE LIGHT IN THE LORD! And Paul says that the “fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true”! So, we should take pains to be sure that what’s on the outside is flowing from what’s truly on the inside – and to do all we can to discover what is truly pleasing to the Lord.
Let it Rain!
Each time we break up the hard ground of our hearts and present them to the Lord we’re sowing righteousness – righteousness that will somehow find its way out! And as such we can expect a harvest of God’s steadfast love! I love Hosea 10:12: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you!”
O, Lord, let it rain!
Jesus beautifully challenged those who give alms to “give as alms those things that are within.” But let’s not forget the entire quote! Jesus said, “Give as alms those things that are within and behold, everything is clean for you” (Luke 11:41).
There it is: Inside out. And if we are diligent to tend to what’s within, all that flows out from us will be clean.
To consider …
- This is a good time to take a long, hard look at our spiritual lives.
The outside might look great – available, attending, serving – but how do things look inside?
Are you struggling with purity?
Do you give your heart to Jesus each morning, or do you hold some of it back?
Do you feel that you’re a vessel useful to the Master at this point in your life? Or is some lack of inner purity limiting your effectiveness as a witness of the truth?
Is your own agenda for your life clashing with God’s agenda?
- Did you get zinged by any of Paul’s statements quoted in this blog?
“Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
“If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”
“Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us …”
“Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you.”
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking … but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
“At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true).”
“Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
- Which of these do you find particularly challenging? Being honest about them is the first step in conquering them in the Spirit.
- How about Jesus’ words to the Pharisees? Any zings there?
“They do all their deeds to be seen by others.”
“They love the place of honor …”
“You clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”
- Do you think it’s time to do some inner cleansing? To ask the Father to remove from us anything that is impure and godless so that genuine purity can work its way out?
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