How does true spiritual change occur? Sometimes we focus on the outside and try to change ourselves through what we do. But we don’t become clean by paying attention to external “religious” behaviors. In this sermon we’re challenged with the example of generosity to the poor and learn that becoming clean is an “inside-out” process, where we allow the Spirit of God to transform us on the inside so that our outside behavior lines up with his Kingdom.
How do I get clean on the inside? We can all agree with the fact that most of us look better than we actually are. We live with incongruity. Our hearts are more sinful than they appear (Jer. 17:9). We have darkness on the inside.
There is a religious solution to this problem, which correlates with what Jesus confronted in this passage. The Pharisees focused on the external performance as a measurement of internal cleanliness. But there are three problems with this solution.
Problem #1: It presupposes a non-Christ-like picture of God. This picture of God envisions a God who loves behavior and beliefs more than people. Our picture of God must be centered on Jesus, and Jesus never conditioned his love based on behavior.
Problem #2: There is NO LIFE in External Religion. Even when we DO all the right things, it doesn’t meet the hunger in our heart. We have a non-negotiable need to experience love, worth and significance. We hunger for this.
Problem #3: Because it doesn’t address inner self, it has no power to transform. EXTERNAL religion CONCEALS wounds and sin, but it cannot HEAL wounds and eradicate sin. At the same time, the belief that getting clean on the inside has nothing to do with external behavior is as mistaken as the belief that you can get clean on the inside by focusing on external behavior. External behavior will be in congruity to what is on the inside.
So how do we become clean? The fact is that no one can make themselves clean. This kind of internal transformation is only a work of God within us. When we surrender and place all our trust in Christ, we are made new, made holy, made clean, a new creation with a new heart, new essence and new destination. Heaven begins to be formed on earth in us.
When we participate in the life of the KINGDOM, one of the first and most fundamental evidences of this is generosity toward the poor. This is why Jesus says, if you get focus of externals and give generously to the poor, it’s an indication that you are clean on inside. Hide Extended Summary