When I went to the grocery store, I could not turn down a tote bag of apples that was on sale. I was excited to have a great supply of apples; however, when I got home I found a few rotten apples that were hidden in the middle of the tote. They had to have been rotting for days, and they had begun to spread their nastiness to a few of their neighbors.
The bag of apples looked inviting until I got to peer at the inside of the bag. In the same way, there may be people who have the outer appearance of living one way, but if you view the inside you would get a whole different story. We spend a lot of time trying to shine up the apples on the top of the tote, the ones everyone sees; however, we do not often work on the inside. Jesus told the Pharisees not to worry about the outside so much, but to focus on the inside. Because when the inside is clean, the outside would soon follow. Whatever is inside overflows outward.
Today, consider the inside of your own personal tote bag. Yes, consider your heart. Look at your motives. Look at your desires. Ask the Spirit to help you examine closely and reveal anything that shouldn’t be there. Today is a great day to toss out any rotten apples and press forward in your walk.
“You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” – Matthew 23:26-27 [ESV]
In Revelation we read about the church in Sardis. The church was spiritually dead. The Message calls them “stone-dead.” They looked alive. They had a reputation for vigor. But they were like the whitewashed tombs Jesus spoke about when referring to the Pharisees. From the outside it looked great but it was a façade and God is not fooled.
You might look like you have it all together. You might tithe, serve at the local soup kitchen, attend Sunday service. You might look like you are being a “good Christian.” But God sees the heart—He sees your heart. He can see right through the work and know if you are doing it because you have a heart for Him and His people or if you are doing it to keep up with the Joneses or to appear righteous.
There was a clear warning to the people of Sardis. Jesus told them to wake up, repent and strengthen what remained in them. Today I pray that you are not a stone-dead worker. May God reveal to you the areas within you that are not alive and may you repent if your eyes are opened to these things. Never aim for a false reputation. Never build up a façade life. There is no point to a dead worker.
“Write this to Sardis, to the Angel of the church. The One holding the Seven Spirits of God in one hand, a firm grip on the Seven Stars with the other, speaks: ‘I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone-dead.’” – Revelation 3:1 [MSG]
I recently moved into a new home. Before I moved in, there was a work crew here making sure that all of the blemishes were no longer visible. The nail holes were patched up. The walls were painted. Where there once was a mark on the wall, there was fresh paint. You know paint can cover up so much. For example, you can have a scrap on your car and a bit of touch up paint will make it go away. It doesn’t mean the scrap didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean you didn’t get a little too close to the garage. But it looks like nothing happened.
Long ago they would whitewash the tombs. They wanted to be sure that the graves were easily marked, some would say covered with lime or chalk, but it helped them consider it pure in case someone walked up to the tomb. Otherwise, if the whitewashing didn’t occur, a person would be contaminated, defiled for being in close contact with the dead.
Today’s passage says we cannot whitewash our sins. We cannot cover them over. We cannot pretend they aren’t there. We cannot take a paintbrush and cover it all up. Instead, we are to admit our sins. We are to confess and repent. If something you have done has not yet been confessed, get it out now. God is quick to forgive. You simply need to confess your sins and move forward. Don’t hide them behind some whitewash and think they will go away. Receive God’s mercy. Confess and receive His mercy.
“You can’t whitewash your sins and get by with it;
you find mercy by admitting and leaving them.”
-Proverbs 28:13 [MSG]
John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River when the Pharisees and Sadducees approached. He called them a “brood of vipers” and commanded that they “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8 NIV). This reminds me of what For King and Country sing, “Let my life be the proof, the proof of Your love.”
The question is when you look at your life from an outsiders vantage point, would there be proof? Are you living proof? The NLT version states it this way: “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” Proof requires an action. There’s something you must do to prove. The answer is there—by THE WAY you live. What should your life show? Repentance of your sins. Living for God.
There are many people who claim to be Christians but no one would see Christ or anything different about the person. If we are not to be of this world, there should be a difference. A person should be able to point to you and say, “Hey, there’s something different about that person. He’s not like most people. She’s not like the people I usually see.” Why? Because of the fruit. Because of the proof by the way you live. Today would someone look at you and say you are different? Would someone notice?
“Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” – Matthew 3:8 [NLT]
When my daughter came home from school yesterday, she gave me this little comic drawing of a coffee cup. On the back she wrote that I was as sweet as coffee. My daughter never tasted coffee and she did not realize that coffee has a bitter taste unless sugar is added. She simply sees me drinking it and assumes it must taste good because I drink it often. Therefore she developed this false impression of the taste of coffee.
The same can be said of the Pharisees in the Bible. People observed them walking around holding people to the Law. People assumed that the Pharisees, being educated in the Scripture, were more knowledgeable and understanding of God and what He desired from us. It was quite a false impression, something that can be seen so easily when the Pharisees are called white-washed tombs (Matthew 23:27). They looked great on the outside but on the inside things were not so great. Just like the coffee looks nice and sweet because I’m drinking it each morning, but it is very bitter without some sugar.
God tells us that He desires our love, and Paul wrote that whatever we do, if it is done without love it means nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). The Bible says that God can see our heart, our true heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He selected David because of what He saw in David’s heart. Our aim should be to have a pure heart, a heart that loves God first, and loves others. There should be no false impression, no confusion as to the appearance of our heart and our motives if we are living our lives with an outpouring of God’s love. The same love that God shows us, we can show others (1 John 4:7).
Today, look at your heart and see what is there.
• Do you love people like Jesus?
• Are you carrying around bitterness and unforgiveness?
• Where are areas for improvement in your life?
We typically take whatever effort we can to not let people see us for who we really are, and to keep up the image we want people to have of us. I saw a neighbour attempting to walk out in his pajamas to get the newspaper. When he noticed that I was fast approaching, he ran back into his home and hid in wait until I passed by, only to then walk out quickly to grab his morning paper. He was wearing pajamas and a robe, but he didn’t want anyone to notice. I guess he assumes people believe he doesn’t wear sleepwear to sleep, or that perhaps he does not even sleep at all. Later I noticed a pre-teen boy fall at the bus stop. He cowered and went by himself to another area because he did not want his friends to see him crying because of the pain he was feeling.
Jesus called the Pharisees white washed tombs because they were spiritually dead inside. They knew all about the Law, down the fine print; however, their hearts were dead. They liked to put on this facade for everyone, making it look as if they were high, upstanding individuals. The truth is that God sees our hearts. He sees what is going on even if we hide behind our screen doors, waiting to make a dash for the paper. He sees that we are crying when we try to hide our face. He sees everything that we do at every moment of our lives. We can pretend with everyone else, but there is no pretending with God.
I find it amazing that God loves me so much despite the fact that He has seen everything I have ever done, and that He also knows what I will do next but does not leave my side. I have found that rather than spend the extra time trying to hide and pretend, that when we are transparent, when we let people see everything, there is a great peace in our lives. Being transparent also allows God’s light to shine through so much brighter. People can see God at work in your life.
I pray that you are able to be more transparent today. I hope that if you are hiding things in your life and trying hard to live up to a particular image, that you let go of the facade and focus on the Truth. God thinks you are awesome despite the flaws. Let God help you and work in your life; don’t hide.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.’”
– 1 Samuel 16:7 [ESV]