Do you agree that we often place far too much emphasis on outward appearances? And in doing so, are sometimes guilty of misjudging someone? After all, isn’t it still true that looks can be deceiving?
Consider this lesson from the gospel of Mark.
One day Jesus was confronted by a group of Pharisees and scribes because they had observed his disciples eating bread with unwashed hands.
You see, the Pharisees were all about maintaining outward appearances, and they used this opportunity to inform Jesus that his little band of followers were now defiled for failing to keep up with tradition.
Then, as now, we humans seem to have this need to elevate ourselves while tearing down others. Why is that?
At any rate the Pharisees were all about outward appearances and traditions, believing that putting on a good external show somehow equates to a healthy inward relationship with God.
Hmmm…makes one wonder if not a lot has changed over the space of a couple thousand years. OK….back to the topic at hand.
After Jesus admonished the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” Mark 7:9 NKJV
In other words, Jesus is telling them that they rejected God’s word and his teachings in favor of their own man made traditions. And this is a snare that all of us must be on guard to avoid. Jesus came to set us free, but I dare say many of us are ensnared in traditions of our own making, thus rendering the word of God of no effect.
Instead of worrying about and focusing on trivial things that mattered little, if at all, in the grand scheme of things, Jesus went on to explain to them what truly defiles a man.
“And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.””
Mark 7:20-23 NKJV
Notice anything missing from this list? None of the things on it are matters of tradition or outward appearance, but matters of the heart!!
What defiles us, what condemns us are the evil, sinful acts born out of an unregenerate heart. That’s what Jesus is saying here. A heart that has resisted the love of Christ and has determined to forge its own path is a heart that is capable of doing the unthinkable.
As lest any of us should be lifted up with pride because we are so good, residing within each of our hearts are the seeds of each of the sins Jesus mentions above. I don’t care who you are, that’s a powerful and sobering thought.
The point is, our good intentions will never be good enough, but instead a life lived apart from God will give way to a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it”? Jer. 17:9
There is but one cure for such a thing; the Lord Jesus. He alone has the cure for what defiles a man. Only Jesus can transform our hearts from one of stone into one that is fully alive in Him. He is the heart mender.
It’s what comes out of a man that matters most, and when Jesus has been given control of our lives we must continually strive to gain control of the flesh that produces the things which defile.
Walking with Jesus is not about keeping church or religious traditions, it’s not about maintaining appearances or your standing in the church. Walking with Jesus is about relationship, one that produces the fruit of the Spirit, not the deeds of the flesh.