by Thomas E. Brewton
Too many of us just go through the motions without commitment.
1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ (Matthew 23:1-7)
23"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:23-28)
Like the Pharisees who too often told others what to do without doing it themselves, we too often mouth platitudes about the Christian way of life without following Jesus. To succeed at anything, from sports to religion, requires sincere dedication and continued application. We have to get serious about it.
First, we have to be saved by becoming believers in Christ Jesus. That justifies us before God through Jesus’s willing sacrifice of His own life. But to be truly saved we must travel the lifelong road of sanctification - becoming as nearly Christlike as our human condition allows.
By their fruit you will recognize them. ( Matthew 7:16)
Traveling the path of sanctification necessitates motivation. That is a function of what’s inside us, what’s in our hearts. An outward show in the manner of the Pharisees criticized by Jesus won’t do it.
What helps us to stick to the path of sanctification?
First, prayer. As the Apostle Paul advised the Thessalonians:
16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ( 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Second, study the Word of God.
12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Third, while faith, not works, is the path to salvation, we must work to be truly faithful and to purify ourselves.
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Fourth, seek fellowship in the body of the church, where mutual help can be found.
Finally, stick to it.
16 for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. (Proverbs 24:16)