I Samuel 16:7 (NKJV) But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Early each morning, I make a cup of detox tea to sip on during my quiet time with the Lord. Out of complete laziness, I take the tea bag filled “cleansing herbs” and put it in a measuring cup half-filled with water. The microwave brews the concoction while I tend to our dogs. Once inside I can smell the strong aroma of the steaming cup. It’s not too bad with a squeeze of lime and some artificial sweetener. At least, that’s what I tell myself each morning. It is part of my attempt at a new healthy lifestyle incorporated in my routine.
Over time, the cup I use to boil the tea has become stained from the process. It is a dingy brown which hasn’t really bothered me until I wanted to use it to measure some ingredients. This morning after brewing the tea bag, I decided to clean the inside of the cup. Like most mornings as I prepare to spend some time with Jesus, I could sense the spirit of the Lord reminding me to check my cup. Is it clean? The more I scrubbed the more clear the glass became until it was sparkling like new. Have you cleaned your cup lately? Examined your heart. Evaluated motives. Reviewed your routine. Tackled tradition.
For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Salvation is tough for our heart and mind to fully comprehend and live in submission to. Grace is free. It is a gift freely given that cannot ever be earned or deserved but our flesh will continue to try and even try to convince us that somehow it can be accomplished. This is dangerous. It is a trap carefully laid by the enemy to lead us off course. To create busy opportunities. Prideful positions. Deadly distractions. Things that lead us from the Cross and away from the Feet of Jesus. Woe to me…am I a scribe, pharisee, or daresay a hypocrite…
Matthew 23:25-28 (NKJV) “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. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Sliding into my chair this morning with my tea, I wrote down the following words: “the Christian life can lead to false hope when it becomes our ritual, routine or religion. A successful Christian life is based solely and completely on a constant and ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing more and nothing less.” The conversation between Jesus and these men begins when the Lord does not participate in the ritual cleansing prescribed by religion and instead immediately sits down at the table. (Mark 7) They are appalled that the Man of God would ignore the religious ritual. However, the problem is that the Word of God did not call for a cleansing ritual as prescribed by the Pharisees. In fact, the cleansing of the heart is internal not external. It is not for show but salvation.
The Pharisees took the written word of God out of context in oral instruction thereby creating a tradition. Tradition is not a bad thing unless it leads us from obedience set forth in the Word of God according to His Way. Church is notorious for adding to its doctrine a long list of do’s and don’ts not set forth as essential by the Bible. Anything appearance based with no heartfelt impact is frivolous at best and the rest of man once again trying to make themselves appear to be more than a filthy wretch who needs a Savior. The Holy Spirit offers assistance in this area by using God’s Word to wash our heart and instruct us in the righteous ways of the Lord. He urges, nudges, and convicts us in the right way to go. We must learn to lean on Jesus, the Holy Spirit and His Word more than the strict doctrines and religious overbearing rules and regulations to experience true freedom in Christ. Change on the inside produced by God is not hard. In fact, many habits changed in my own life effortlessly with the revelation of relationship overcoming years of religion.
Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV) Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Faith without works is dead. (James 2) I agree completely. However, works remain secondary to the Work of Jesus Christ completed on the Cross. The Word of God sets forth guidelines that will change our life completely and absolutely for the better. There are some who adhere strictly to the Word of God but have missed the Way of God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the only way to come to the Father. Apart from Jesus Christ, our “works” may provide for some earthly productivity but in the supernatural it does nothing to produce God’s Fruit or accept our place as a Child of the Living God. You will reap what you sow. By faith, our life sown into Christ produces full satisfaction and complete contentment. Practical faith produces works based on the Word of God – not to earn something – but out of love and devotion to the Lover of our Soul. If we are not careful, our works become religious. For example, my husband and I have tithed for almost two decades. At first, it was hard. I would pray with each stroke of the pen because it meant trusting God in our finances. Over the years, it became “easy” because it is now part of our routine. I must remember to thank God for His Provision and view giving as an act of worship rather than my spiritual “duty”. The tithe is my Biblical obligation. However, when that giving becomes an offering exceeding what is required and my heart is moved to give more than I am acting based on my relationship and not my religious beliefs.
I do not want to look in the mirror one day and find a scribe, Pharisee or hypocrite looking back at me. There have been times that is exactly who I found in that moment. The only way to be certain is to examine our heart, motives and mind. Wash them in the Word of God. Stop worrying about how you look, what you do, and where you go. Those who focus on abiding in Jesus Christ will not have to put on an appearance, do what is not natural or have a desire to be anywhere other than with Jesus. Obedience is not a burden when based on a relationship. His Grace is enough. His Spirit will lead us, guide us and direct us giving us confidence in Christ first that allows us to serve from the heart and not just with our hands.
Psalm 51:10-13 (NKJV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your Presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your Salvation, and uphold me by Your Generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your Ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.
Our grandson was ready for lunch so I began rifling through his diaper bag for a bib. Digging all the way to the bottom, I successfully retrieved one. Upon closer inspection, it must have been forgotten as it was stained and filthy. I found another one and after getting him settled, I began the task of cleaning the soiled bib. My initial go-to of dish soap did not work. I soaked and scrubbed with no results. So, I grabbed the bleach spray and began brushing it with a soft cleaning brush. Slowly the stain disappeared, so I threw it in the wash, and soon it was as good as new. It is important that we dig to the depths of our soul and seek out those things that seem harmless yet leave a mark never intended by the Lord. His Grace is sufficient. It is always enough. His Mercy for you is new every morning as an invitation to enter in. Spiritual cleaning and repentance are an everyday occurrence in the life of those in love with Jesus. Before I “do” anything for the Lord, I must be certain that it is not an appearance but a deep conviction and devotion to love Him more. God had all the religion He could stand so He sent Jesus to fulfill the Law and give us access to a full-blown relationship! Thank you God for your Love! Thank you Jesus for enough grace to live in it!
Sometimes running our cup through the routine and ritual of a dishwasher is not enough, it must be hand-cleaned and given careful attention. Our heart needs the same. No more superficial cleaning or focusing on the outward appearance but let’s come in close and ask the Lord to “create in me a clean heart, renew a steadfast spirit, and restore the joy of my salvation today.” God is good! He loves you! He wants us to live in close proximity to Him and promises to take of the rest! We must only be clean! Washed in the Blood! Full of His Spirit and washed in His Word! It is then that we are ready to tell others the beautiful love story labeled the Gospel!
Clean my cup, Lord! Fill it up, Jesus!