Apr 6 2013 - Luke 11:37-12:7 – Good looking Christians
In the closing verses of Luke 11, Jesus utters a series of woes against the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They like to put on a good outward show of piety while inwardly they are full of corruption. They are hypocrites, play-actors, those who pretend to be something they are not. Jesus challenges them saying, “You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?” (Luke 11:40). God is not satisfied with an outward show; he sees right into the heart.
Later, Jesus says to his disciples, "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (12:1). This kind of behaviour is catching; it easily infects us.
It is natural for us to imitate the behaviour of others. God made us that way for good reasons; it’s one of the most important ways in which we learn. We imitate others from our earliest years. A baby learns to clap by watching us and imitating our clapping. Young children learn to speak by imitating the sounds we make. Later, our children learn to pray by hearing us pray. Behaviour is easily imitated. But as we grow up we can continue to behave in the way that is expected of us even when our heart is no longer in it. Our behaviour then becomes pretence. We can carry on attending church and even singing along with others long after we have ceased to worship.
There is an element of the hypocrite in all of us: we want to present our best face to those around us; there are things going on in our hearts and minds that we keep well hidden and are glad that no-one else can see. We fear the moment when the mask may slip and we betray what we are truly like.
In recent months, Jimmy Savile has been much in the news. His public face as a light hearted TV personality, eager to raising money for charity and to fix up opportunities for children has been shown up to be just that – a public face. Underneath there was a dark side of abuse and devotion to satisfying his own desires. His life turned out to be a sham. It has been a terrible illustration of Jesus’ words, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (12:2-3).
It’s good to go through the actions of Bible reading, prayer and church attendance, but outward conformity is not enough. God looks for more than imitated behaviour; he looks at the heart.
The Christian life begins with the knowledge that nothing is hidden from God; he knows us fully and intimately. We need not and cannot pretend with him. He loves and accepts us as we are; but he does not intend to leave us as we are. He cares about us too much for that; “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God… Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (12:6-7). His purpose is to transform us from the inside out; to give us a heart which is the reflection of his own heart. He who made the outside made the inside also. He does not want us simply to look the part; he wants us to be the people he created us to be.
Lord Jesus, I cannot act the part before you. You see right through me and know me as I really am. Show me my own heart and make me aware of those places where sin still skulks around within. Help me to root out all those things that displease you. Through your shed blood and risen power, make me clean from the inside. May my life shine with the beauty of your living presence for the glory of your name and the blessing of those whose lives I touch.