I have an entire list of things from the Bible that I wish to NEVER hear the Lord say to me. Along with Matthew 7:21-23 when the Lord says, "......depart from me you worker of iniquity. I never knew you....", the following passage is right up there at the top of that list:
The passage (Matthew 23:27) reads like this in the New King James:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness."
In The Message it reads:
"You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds."
I have been pondering this verse as of late for many reasons and have had some life experiences that serve as tremendous analogies that I'd like to share with you.
I recently overheard a customer at the table next to ours at a local restaurant order a drink with no ice. "I don't want a bunch of ice that waters down my drink and takes up space when I can have more of the real thing" she said. If we're not careful, making sure we are spending time with the Lord in the Word and in prayer as well as continually checking our hearts, we can have an abundance of watered down religion that fills up space in our spirits instead of the "real thing".
Several weeks ago I spent a painstaking amount of time preparing a complicated cake recipe. I was extremely excited to see the finished product only to discover a huge drop in the center of the cake. The cake sunk in the middle and looked more like a giant donut than a cake. I was crushed. My daughter consoled me, "It's okay, mom, just fill the middle with extra frosting until it's level with the sides and no one will ever know. I'm sure it tastes great." Obviously, I missed something in the recipe or didn't follow instructions properly and that resulted in a far cry from what I was trying to create. When we fail to follow the Lord's instructions and boundaries or choose our own way, thinking we know better, we create in our lives something that is a far cry from what God had destined for us. We fail to receive His best. We look good on the outside but we have no substance. It's all fluff!! We are filled with ice or frosting and become like painted over tombs looking good on the outside but filled with dead men's bones.
Jesus was saying something really, really rude to the religious leaders when He said they were like tombs painted white. To put it in context, tombs were painted white so that people didn’t trip over them at night and therefore become ‘unclean’ through contact with the dead. He was basically saying that they were painted cover-ups of decay.
Perhaps you've seen the "prank cake" online. It's a balloon decorated to look like a cake so the unsuspecting victim gets and explosion when they cut it. The "cake" is beautifully decorated but it's a fraud. It's pretending to be a cake. No matter how beautifully decorated the balloon is, it will never be a cake. We may know all the "christianese" phrases, dress modestly, act holy but be nothing but hot air inside if we are not being real with God and naked before Him. We must be willing to surrender all to Him no matter how painful it may be.
One last illustration and being completely transparent with you, my friends. I do not wear my seat belt most of the time. Before you email me and lecture me on all the reasons why this is so wrong (including the fact that I'm not obeying the law), let me just say I'm trying to do a better job at this. I'm not going to give you all the excuses why I don't like to wear my seat belt, rather I'm going to get straight to my last illustration. I recently was commuting to work and noticed a police officer ahead. I quickly grabbed my seatbelt and pulled it in front of me and held it, not locking it in place. It looked like I had it on when I went by the officer. However, in the event of an accident, this misuse of my seat belt would surely fail to save my life. If we take Scripture out of context to fit our own agenda, if we grab our Bibles when we go to church and we post tons of Scripture on Facebook but we don't really study, pray and worship on our own time, all those outward acts will fail to save us in the end. Only a heart truly right and obedient before the Lord will know Him and be known by Him. He's not impressed by how much Scripture we can quote, how many hours we pretend to pray or how many times a week we are in church. He knows our hearts. I should be so busy examining my own heart, making sure I'm in right standing with the Lord, changing the areas He wants me to change and focusing all my attention on pleasing His heart that I have no time left whatsoever to point out the faults and failures in others.
Lord, help me to be a woman of substance. I want to live out my faith and not be filled with fluff. I recognize that who I am is who I am when it's just You and me and no one is watching. Help me to be real and not get caught up with only how things appear. Create in me a clean heart and continually renew a right spirit within me. I'd rather the outside be falling apart while the inside is pure before You than the other way around. I surrender all to You and ask You to have Your way in me. Holy Spirit, change me, mold me, make me more like Christ.