“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”
Matthew 15:8-9 NIV
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were hypocrites, for they professed one thing but did another, as a matter of practice. Jesus said that they were good at cleaning themselves up on the outside to look good to others while their hearts were full of wickedness.
For, they tried to pass themselves off as righteous via all the outward and physical rituals and traditions that they followed. And, they criticized anyone who didn’t follow their same man-made rules and regulations. But, inwardly they were filled with all sorts of evil.
Now, we might be tempted here to point fingers at them, and to call them legalists, and to think this only applies to those who are trying to earn their way to heaven by going through religious rituals and ceremonies. But, this doesn’t just apply to them. This isn’t just about those legalists who follow a bunch of human traditions and who think that is going to gain them entry into God’s heaven.
This applies to anyone who confesses with their mouths Christ Jesus as Lord, and who professes to believe in him as their Savior from sin, but their professions of faith and their outward confessions are lip service only. For, he is not Lord of their lives, although they say he is. For, they are still the ones in control of their own lives. And, He is not their Savior, because they have refused to die with him to sin and to live with him to righteousness.
Too many people are relying on Romans 10:9-10 to get them into heaven. They think if they outwardly confess Jesus with their mouths (their lips) as Lord, and if they profess to believe in his bodily resurrection from the dead, that they are saved from their sins, and that heaven is guaranteed them.
I know this passage of scripture says this, but it has to be read in context of the whole of the book of Romans. For, in the book of Romans we are plainly told that we must die with Christ to sin and we must live with Christ to righteousness as part of our salvation from sin. We are told, too, that we must walk (in practice, in conduct) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, and not according to the flesh, if we want eternal life with God.
Two sides, same coin
So, man-made Christianity has two sides to it. One side is the legalists who think they can earn their way into heaven by following a bunch of rituals and traditions (all outward). And, the other side is comprised of those who think faith in Jesus Christ requires nothing of them – no submission, no obedience and no repentance.
For, both sides are man-made. They are both of the flesh, for neither side submits to Christ as Lord, even though both sides may call him Lord. They are both operating in the flesh, making their own rules, and interpreting scriptures according to what they want to believe, to fit their own chosen lifestyles. But, they are both false, because they are both man-made.
For, Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self (his self-life), take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. For, if we hold on to our old way of living to sin and to self, we are going to lose our lives for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin) for our Lord’s sake, then we have the promise of eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 6:7-8).
Hearts far from Him
We can make all the professions of faith in Christ that we want, and we can confess him as Lord out loud for all to hear, and it can mean absolutely nothing at all! For, if what we profess with our lips does not change our hearts, and if we go on living in sin, pleasing ourselves, then scripture is real clear that we don’t really know God, he doesn’t know us, and we don’t have eternal life with God at all, no matter what prayer we might have prayed.
For, true faith in Jesus Christ is not only God-given, but it is divinely persuaded, and thus it submits to Christ as Lord, and it repents of (turns away from) lifestyles of sin, and it walks in obedience to our Lord in purity, holiness, righteousness, honesty, and uprightness – all in the power of God now living within us and working his will and his way in our hearts, as we cooperate with him in that work of grace.
For, Jesus didn’t die on that cross merely to forgive us our sins so that we can go to heaven one day. He died that we might die with him to sin and live with him to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us. When he died, in fact, he bought us back for God with his blood so that we would now be God’s possession and so that we would honor him with our lives (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Co. 6:20; Tit. 2:11-14; Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
Worship in Vain
When you hear the word “worship,” what comes to mind? What I often hear from other people is mention made of worship services in church gatherings where they sing praise and worship songs. But, is that true worship of God? It can be, if our hearts are in the right place. But, if our worship of God is lip service only, because we have not surrendered our lives to him, and we are still holding on to our old selfish and sinful lifestyles, then our worship is in vain. It is meaningless. It is empty.
For, true worship of God is not just singing a bunch of praise and worship songs. Singing praise to our Lord is part of worship, so don’t get me wrong here, but singing with our lips does not necessarily mean our hearts are truly giving God our honor and praise.
For, the worship he wants from us is our lives on the altar, surrendered to him, holy and pleasing to him, no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but transformed in heart and mind away from sin and to God in obedience to him (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
Persecuting the Saints of God
The Pharisees were Jesus’ biggest persecutors (along with the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, and the scribes). And, they were also the biggest persecutors of Jesus’ followers, too. And, all the time they were criticizing Jesus and his followers for not following their man-made religion. And, so they accused them falsely, and they hounded them, and they hung Jesus on a cross to die, and they killed many of his followers, too.
But, again, it is not just the legalists who persecute the saints of God. It is also those who give lip service to God but whose hearts are far from him, because they refuse to bow the knee to him and to honor him as Lord of their lives. For, they feel their salvation gives them the freedom to continue in their sinful practices without guilt and without punishment. And, so they are often on the all-out attack against the Lord’s servants who are teaching the true gospel of our salvation and submission to Christ as Lord.
So, if you are one who is following the true gospel, and you do submit to Christ as Lord, and you are walking according to the Spirit, though not perfectly, but consistently, and you are not living (in practice) to please your sinful flesh, then don’t be surprised if some of your biggest opposition will come from within the gatherings of the church.
For, those who want to give lip service only to our Lord, and who are holding back their own lives from surrender to Christ as Lord, will most likely come against you at some time or another if what you are sharing (and living) is obedient faith which submits to Christ as Lord. But, don’t let that unsettle you. And, make certain that you love them in return, and that you forgive them, too, for their offenses against you, and that you pray for them, too.
All Through the Night
An Original Work / December 7, 2013
Based off Various Scriptures
Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.
When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.
Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.