Isaiah 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
When the prophet Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint the successor for king Saul, God told Samuel, “…the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Religion places an emphasis on the outward appearances, but God places the emphasis on the heart, the attitudes, the motives. The Pharisees were a religious group that zealously separated themselves to keep their manmade and unbiblical traditions. They upheld their oral traditions above the teachings of Scripture. On the outside, they were very impressive. They zealously prayed, fasted, tithed, observed the Sabbath and holy days. But Jesus called them hypocrites – actors, a false representation of true religion (Mark 7:1-13). In fact, in Luke 18:9-14, one of these men was in the temple praying (NOT!) and telling God how holy and righteous he was compared to the “despicable and unclean” publican. He could not be more deceived. Read the story. These religious frauds said “the right things” and even did “the right things”, but their heart was far from God.
Before we point a finger of judgment at these religious frauds or anyone else this morning, let me ask you a few very pointed questions. Are you more impressed with “keeping up” a good show on the outside, while inwardly you are filled with a critical, self-righteous disposition towards others who do not outwardly meet your religious standards? When we worship The Lord, are your lips saying the right things, but is your heart a million miles away, or “critiquing” the way others are worshipping? Beloved, God is far more concerned with what is going on in your heart, than how high you lift your hands during worship. Scripture says that we do not even know what is going on in our own hearts, let alone someone else’s (Jeremiah 17:9). Beware of being guilty of judging Another Man’s servant (Romans 14:4). The Spirit of God will not conform you into the image of a judgmental, critical, holier-than-thou Pharisee, but into the image of Jesus Christ. Think about the people who gave Jesus the hardest time during his ministry. There is nothing new under the sun. Beware of becoming a follower of contemporary Christianity, which is a form of godliness on the outside, but void of the life, grace, love, and mercy of Jesus on the inside. What Spirit is in your heart this morning, beloved?