Preaching Date: September 15, 2019
Key Sentence: Does my heart match my words and behavior?
I. Light, not darkness (Luke 11:33-36)
II. Reality, not pretense (Luke 11:37-44)
III. Faith, not legalism (Luke 11:45-54)
Do you like to get your car washed? I usually don’t, except in the spring, when the live oak trees begin their cycle. First leaves, then pollen, then flowers fall on my car. Eventually it gets so bad I’ve got to wash it. And it’s really nice to get it looking nice. On the other hand, as many of you know, I am not a mechanic. I try to keep track of maintenance, but it's not really my thing. And lately my cars have started to burn oil, so I need to keep on top of it. Now when you put these two things together, you have a problem, or at least, I have a problem. Somehow my brain gets confused, and I begin to think that when I've washed the car, I've taken care of it. Haven't you ever had the feeling that the car runs better when it's clean? So, I would forget to put oil in my cars. This got so bad a couple of times that I actually started to hear the rods knocking in the engine. The car was clean on the outside – but it was two quarts low on the inside.
The question I want to ask today is this: Have you ever felt that way emotionally and spiritually? That you were doing fine on the outside, but you were a couple of quarts low on the inside. Or to put the question another way: Does your heart match your words and behavior? Are you as well off on the inside as you are on the outside? In today's episode of Luke, chapter 11 verses 33 to 54, Jesus challenges the crowd, the pharisees, and the experts in the law with this kind of question. He says that their hearts, their insides, did not match their words, their behaviors. They were, perhaps, right on the outside, but they were wrong, they were impure on the inside. Let's look at the challenge Jesus gave them, and ask ourselves the question: Does my heart match my words and behavior?
We begin with Luke 11:33-36 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
Light, not darkness. Jesus desires that we be filled with light Not light on the outside and dark on the inside, but 100 percent light. We see in verse 33 that light is something to be displayed, not hidden A lamp is something to be put on the stand, not under a basket. The purpose of the lamp is to give light, which is obviously a good thing, to those who come in. In this context light is a positive quality that comes from your life, the lamp, and lights up those around you.
In verse 34 the image changes a little bit: Jesus says “your eye is the lamp of your body.” I think the way the image works here is that your eye now gathers the light, and projects it into your body. He says, if your eye is healthy, or clear, or sincere, your whole body is full of light But when your eye is bad or evil, it is full of darkness. It's like a camera. The lens is the lamp to the film. If the lens is good and clear, the image will be filled with light. If the lens is bad or cloudy, the film will be too. So your eye, what you look at, focus on, concentrate on, is the gateway for what’s inside you.
In moral terms, Scripture equates light with good, dark with bad. Elsewhere in the New Testament, we that find light symbolizes purity and truth, while darkness symbolizes sin and evil. Listen to John 3, for example, for links between light, purity and truth, darkness, sin and evil. “19This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Two other strong passages you might want to study are Ephesians chapter 5, especially verses 8-14, and 1 John chapter 1, especially verses 5-9. Ephesians 5:8-14 and 1 John 1:5-9
Light symbolizes purity and truth so if your eye is filled with light, if you are focused on purity and truth, then your body will be filled with light, your life will be filled with purity and the truth of God. In you there will be no place in for darkness, for sin, impurity, and selfishness. So ask “does my heart match my words, and my behavior? Am I filled with light, or does all the good stuff stay on the outside?” David Mains of the old Chapel of the Air radio broadcast used to ask “how much darkness do you tolerate in your life? Five percent? Ten percent? If I was to obtain a video of your thought life what percent would you have to edit out before I could play it in public? What percent is filled with impure thoughts, anger, jealousy, self-pity, or greed?” God desires that we be filled with light, 100 percent, no darkness at all.
Now you and I recognize that that “no darkness at all” is hard. In fact, impossible. Yet it’s also what God desires. It’s what he received from his Son, 100 percent light-walking. He was the light, the light of the world. And light naturally fills every space you let it into. If you open the curtain the whole room is filled with light. If Jesus is the light and you open your life to him, then it is natural that your whole life would be filled with his light. You can keep doors closed, you can keep curtains shut. You can keep some percent dark. But I encourage you to open every area of thought and heart to the light of Jesus, that your life may be filled through with his purity and truth. Light, not darkness.
In verses 37- 44 we see another angle on what the reality of our hearts should be, as opposed to the pretense we display to the world. While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. 42“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
Once again Jesus forces us to ask the question “does my heart match my words and behavior?” Here the contrast is between the external pretense of religion, and the internal reality of devotion to God. This Pharisee invites Jesus for lunch. But the Pharisees were very concerned with ceremonial purity. They would pour a stream of water over their hands to make them ceremonially clean before eating, and the Pharisee is shocked that Jesus has not done so. Gail has been of the opinion this week that Jesus did this on purpose, as a provocation, an illustration, almost a children’s corner for the Pharisees.
But Jesus probably shocks the man even more with his reply, which asks him him to focus on the heart reality of devotion versus the external behavior of religion. He says the Pharisees clean the outside of the cup or dish, but if you looked inside, you’d find it full of greed and wickedness. Interesting choice of words. Greed is wanting the best, wanting it all, a self-centered approach to life. Wickedness is the outside of that, evil intentions toward others, without love, without regard for their interests. “If I’m going to be up, you must be down.”
From Old Testament times to the latest headlines, religion has been used as a cloak for wicked self-interest. Ezekiel 34, 400 years before Christ, vividly makes this same accusation. “Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.” But a little later God says “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them.”
We want our faith to so move us that we become good and reliable shepherds who care for others. But if each of us were to examine our hearts, watch that video of our thoughts and imaginations, I’m afraid we’d find a lot of self-interest and even a bit of evil intention there. Our internal reality does not match the clean image we want to project. So Jesus says “You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?” You think you can impress God by external behavior? The Old Testament teaches that God looks on the heart.
Jesus says “give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” If, instead of greed and evil intent toward others, you can generously give to God and to others from the heart, that is a pretty clear indication of what’s within you. The outward things themselves are not a sure indicator, but if you can examine yourself and find you’ve got both things going on, heart reality and outward response, that’s integrity, what Jesus was looking for.
Then in verse 42 he says it another way: “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” The law taught God’s people to give a tenth of the harvest. This is still good, though we’re not bound to 10 percent in the New Testament, but called to generosity. The problem is if we think that giving or any other external behavior, is the highest expression of our faith. “Okay I just picked four sprigs of mint. I need to take two fifths of a sprig to the temple for an offering. Look the mustard is ripe. Now be sure you count those little tiny seeds and separate out one in ten before you use it.”
Jesus says we’re preoccupied with the details, neglecting the more profound calls to justice and the love of God. Do you have really have a heart of love for God? Do you have honest concern for others? Or is that a mask you wear on Sunday morning? How are you on Monday? Do you strive for what’s best for others, what’s fair and right? Or do you make people conform to your self-standards, your zeal for trifles. Are you encouraging those closest to you to love God and others? Or are you only about rules and external behaviors? Jesus says to emphasize love and justice without neglecting the other. Attention to the specifics is not wrong, if the specifics flow from an internal reality of love.
Reality, not pretense is the key, but Jesus accuses these Pharisees of acts that are pure pretense. They want the best seats in church, elaborate greetings at the store. They like to be recognized, like to be important. Now you can laugh at these folks, but I know at times the desire to be recognized can derail me. In life and ministry one of my triggers is feeling like a second-class citizen. When someone says something negative about our church or about my ministry, or compares these things negatively, that phrase pops into my brain.
Rather than listening for ways to do better, I often just get down, because I assume they are saying that we, or I are just useless, left-behind and failing. I’m trying to learn not to crave useless recognition but to benefit from criticism.
Finally, Jesus says, strongly that they are like an unmarked grave people walk over. He says something similar, as for much in our verses, in Matthew 23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” In Luke Jesus refers not to a whitewashed tomb but to an unmarked grave. For the Pharisees, when you walked over a grave, whether marked or unmarked, you became ceremonially unclean. Jesus accuses them of defiling others, because like graves they are filled with decay and rot, and their pretense of righteousness allows all that to touch others. If you haven't been convicted yet, think about this. “My heart attitude determines my influence. If I’m a mess on the inside, no matter how good my act, I may be a negative influence on those around me.”
So, are you characterized by light and not darkness? Are you characterized by reality and not pretense? And finally, are you characterized by faith and not legalism? Verses 45-54 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” 53As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
At this point, you have to wonder what you can do, to make your heart reality match what you believe. You’re pretty sure you don’t have complete integrity, but what can you do? You might be tempted, as the experts in the law were, to establish a clear set of rules, which, if followed, would insure righteousness. That was what the Pharisees and the experts in the law had tried to achieve.
God had given the law. If they could only understand it well enough to obey it under every circumstance, they’d be good. So, for each command in the Torah they created a web of commands which tried to cover every conceivable situation.. For example, the Law said “you shall not do any work” on the Sabbath. The teachers said "a man may not carry a burden in his right hand or in his left hand, or in his cloak, or on his shoulder, for this is work, but he may carry something on the back of his hand, or with his foot, or with his mouth, or with his elbow, or in his ear, or in his hair, or in his shirt, or in his purse if the open part faces down.” This level of detail became common as the teachers tried to build a fence of words around the law so it could never be violated. But by all this law they created a burden too heavy to bear. They made more laws to break, and most people couldn't even remember what was legal and what not.
But Jesus carries the accusation farther, against these experts in the law. Verse 46, “you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” Historical records say the Pharisees and teachers of the Law despised the people of the land, the average Joe, mostly for not keeping their extended version of the law. But at the same time, as Jesus points out over and over in the Gospels, they found loopholes in the law that they applied to themselves so as to not conform to the really hard parts.
Compounding the law is not the answer to our desire to live righteous lives. It simply adds more guilt. But who will tell us how to live? Jesus implies to the experts in the law that they had ignored God's response to that question. He says “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs.” The answer, Jesus implies, was with the prophets, and you are complicit with your forefathers in rejecting the prophets. You build tombs to them, but you don’t listen to them. Again, a heart problem. There is an outward show of respect but no intention to change their lives.
But God in his wisdom says, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.” This is not a quote from the Old Testament, but Jesus giving us his understanding of God's purpose. Speaking as a prophet he says “You reject the message of the prophets, which pointed not to minute interpretation of the law but to justice, mercy and obedience.” And in rejecting the message they also rejected its messengers. Every prophet who comes to you, Jesus says, you kill or persecute. He gives the example of two righteous men who were killed, Abel, at the beginning of the Old Testament, and Zechariah, at the end.
The Old Testament identification of Zechariah is disputed, with several reasonable possibilities. One is Zechariah son of Berekiah whose prophecy is recorded as the last book of the Jewish scriptures. Though his death is not recorded in Scripture, it could easily have been a remembered martyrdom. Jesus says that because they have the same heart as those who rejected God’s prophets from A to Z, they bear the responsibility of their murders. Furthermore, they have rejected the truths the prophets contributed to the full counsel of Scripture.
As a result, verse 52, “You have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” In emphasizing the law and minimizing the rest of the Old Testament the Pharisees have rejected what Jesus calls the key to knowledge. What had they missed? And what do we need to embrace to get our heart attitude right? I think we find answers in the parts of the Old Testament the Pharisees neglected.
I can easily point to three key attitudes that can help us form our hearts, so that our hearts agree with our words, our behavior and our beliefs. First: Fear of the Lord. Jesus says that they have rejected the key to knowledge. He may be quoting from Isaiah 33 “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. 6He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Did you catch that? The fear of the Lord is the key to salvation and wisdom and knowledge. Proverbs teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fear of the Lord involves true fear because of his holiness, awe because of his greatness, and deep respect because of his sovereignty. That reverence for God is key to really knowing him, not approaching his word as a skeptic or a critic or a hypocrite, but as a student receiving instruction and a beloved receiving a love letter, and a believer receiving heart knowledge. So the first way to get our hearts right is to cultivate the fear of the Lord, to cultivate awe and reverence and respect.
Another way is to turn to the Lord, to repent. Jesus says they’ve rejected the message of the Prophets. If there was any one key prophetic message, it was turn: Turn to the Lord, return to the Lord, repent. There is a key Hebrew word used over a thousand times in the Old Testament: Shuv and it means to turn around or, often, to let God turn you around. It is the key word used by the prophets to call the people back to a heart knowledge of God. Jeremiah 3:12-14 “‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. 13Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the Lord. 14Return, O faithless people, declares the Lord.”
Your heart will never agree with what you say you believe unless you turn from sin and toward God. This may be the key thing the Pharisees and experts rejected. In pride or complacency it’s easy to make a show of religion, a pretense, with no actual change, no turning to God. But if your heart cries out because you know your sinfulness, you know the darkness inside, the lack of purity and truth, you can repent and turn from that sin. Listen to the prophets.
How do you get your heart right? Fear the Lord. Turn to the Lord. And finally, trust the Lord. This was the message of the Psalms, which the Pharisees seem to have also missed. Psalm 40 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. 4Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust.” The Lord rescues those who trust in him: He always has. The Scriptures declared it, a thousand years before Christ. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Have faith. Believe. You and I won’t become righteous by our own efforts. We will simply become like the Pharisees: clean on the outside, filthy on the inside. No, if we wish to have a pure heart, we learn to fear the Lord, turn to him, and trust Him. We can believe that Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice for our sins, to wash us clean on the inside. It is his blood and his righteousness that purify us and give righteousness. What we get to do is turn to him in trust.
If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can put your trust in him right now. Cry out in your heart that you know he died for your sins. That you turn from those sins to him. And that you trust in him to save and rescue and cleanse and to give you a new heart that is able to agree with him. What you do and say will flow from that clean heart. And as you live as a Christian, keep in mind those three lessons from the old Testament that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law missed. Fear the Lord. Turn to the Lord. Trust in the Lord. Do this and your heart will begin to be right.