We live in a world that is a very image-conscious. People everywhere spend much time and expense to create an impressive outward appearance as if that is all that matters in life. I recently read a story from a British news website about an ugly woman who spent $90,000 on plastic surgery just to transform her face so that someone would marry her. Soon after they got married, a child was born. And her child turned out to be so ugly that her husband accused her of cheating. She then revealed that she had not been unfaithful to him, but the secret she had kept from him was the plastic surgery she had before he knew her. And so he sued her for divorce for deceiving him into marrying her.
This story reveals an important truth. We can’t change what we are from the outside. The real you that is within still remains. You may have a wardrobe full of expensive brand-named clothes and designer shoes to wear, but that will not change your character. You may get your hair dyed, go for slimming treatment, develop ‘six-pack abs’, change your mannerisms, but doing all that cannot change your character. You may be able to fool people into thinking that you have changed, but you can never, ever deceive God. God knows that you are still the same as before. He sees beyond the superficial veneer of the way we try and pretend.
What’s really scary is that God sees beyond all your pretense, outward acts of piety and your outward appearances of purity. He knows the real you. You may be attending church very faithfully, singing in the choir, serving in some Christian ministry, and going regularly on mission trips. Do you think that because of all these you have very good standing before God? Many would like to think so. But please think again – does the Bible say this? You may be shocked to learn what it says.
Let us turn our Bibles now to our passage of Scripture in Matthew 15:1-20. Here we see Jesus being confronted by the Scribes and Pharisees. They were the religious leaders of Israel at that time. And they made sure that everyone knew how religious they were.
Outward Forms may be useful, but only if we are obedient to God’s Commandments. (Matthew 15:2-6).
Outward Worship is meaningful only when there is inwardly devoted to God. (Matthew 15:7-11).
Outward Reform is possible only when there is change inside of us. (Matthew 15:15-20).
Even though we make attempts to change we can’t because the heart of our problem is our hearts, a sinful heart. There’s nothing that we can do to change our hearts. Even your best efforts will fail because they are defiled from the start by our sinful hearts.
Here’s the Good News, Jesus Christ can change our hearts. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Therefore, if you are not saved yet, please do not delay to turn to Christ for salvation. Turn from your sins right now, and ask the Lord Jesus to save you through His death on the cross. Then you will begin to walk with Him and to live your life fully for Him.
When Jesus changes our hearts, our characters will gradually be changed from inside out. This change does not come immediately. We must keep walking daily in the Spirit and not in the flesh. We have God’s wonderful assurance that God will accomplish God’s work of changing us from within. Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are his workman, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
When Christ cleanses your heart, your hands will become clean. May the Lord give all of us the clean hearts we need and through that, clean hands as well.
Join us Sunday as we reflect on Matthew 15:1-14.
“I don’t know how, but I know WHO!”
Reverend Dr. Nelda Barrett Murraine is pastor at First United Methodist Church PO Box 146 – 229 W 4th St. Kennedale, TX 76060