Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Church’s Primary Calling

“Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:28 NLT)

During His public ministry, Jesus had no problem reaching society’s down-and-outers. But amazingly, He had an almost impossible time reaching religious and moral people who were under the delusion that outward rituals and good living made them acceptable to God.

The Pharisees were moralists to the extreme, so careful to keep what were, in their perception, even the smallest points of the law. But the result was a feeling of self-satisfaction. They believed that because of what they had done, they had obtained God’s approval.

They were so spiritually blind that when God in human form walked among them, they didn’t receive His message and even had Him put to death.

Jesus summarized it well when He said, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28 NLT).

In other words, we are missing it when we only concentrate on the outward. We must first take care of the inward.

This brings us to the primary call of the church today. Is it merely to try to stop the spread of corruption in our society? Is it merely to try to lobby for political candidates who reflect our values?

Even if we’re somewhat successful in passing some laws, even if we elect candidates who reflect our values, it still isn’t getting to the heart of the matter. That’s because when people truly find Jesus Christ, He changes their lifestyle.

Our clear mandate, given from the lips of Jesus Himself, is this: “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT).

If we allow other things to detract us from this one calling, then we’re missing it. Jesus said, “First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (Matthew 23:26 NLT). That is where we must focus our efforts.

By itself, morality leads to self-righteousness. It can even be a damning thing. That’s because people are better off being immoral and recognizing their need for God than being highly moral and thinking they have no need for Him.

Of course, how wonderful it would be if everyone in our country were moral and no one broke the law. How wonderful it would be if we all were kind and considerate people. That would make a nice society.

But sometimes we’re a little too preoccupied with the temporary and lose sight of the big picture. Morality apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ can be dangerous because it can blind us to the truth.

Morality won’t change our hearts. But if our hearts have been truly changed, then there will be a change in our actions and our lifestyle.

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