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No More Pretending – 2-14-16 Sermon

Let’s start today with the 2 questions – “Does God love everyone?” If you answer yes, you’re a winner. Next, “does God like everyone?” If you answer yes, you need to reread the Bible. Jesus likes the pure in heart. Purity in the biblical sense means “clean, not contaminated, unmixed.” So we come today to explore ourselves, our hearts and we ask ourselves if we are pure in heart. Do we qualify?

There were people in the Bible that Jesus loved AND liked. David was a “man after God’s own heart” yet he slept with another man’s wife, then killed her husband, but God still liked the guy! But then there is a real head scratcher, Rahab who was a woman that may have slept with a different man every night but God spared her and her family from the destruction at Jericho. She made the Hebrews hall of fame – a picture of faith and good works.

Apparently God likes a certain kind of person, a person that seems to capture God’s heart, a person who’s picture is on God’s refrigerator. God likes people who are pure in heart, faults and all yet pure in heart. Seems a bit wrong doesn’t it. Before you check out today, you know, take a nap, God does not like “pretenders”. In spite of David’s sin, in spite of Rahab’s lifestyle, God loved them and liked them…..why because they were pure in heart. No matter your sin, God looks at your heart. Now that is Good News!

In today’s Bible verse Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
God blesses those whose hearts are pure—for they will see God.” In the Message, a contemporary paraphrase of the Bible, it says, “You are blessed when you get your inside world, your mind and heart, put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” Notice that the emphasis here is on what’s inside us—in the heart.

In Bible times people thought of the heart as the very center of a person. What you thought, how you felt, your motivations, impulses and passions all flowed out of your heart, from the very core of your being. If you want to know what a person is truly like, on the inside, look at the kinds of things that flow out of their hearts.

Here’s an interesting thought, when God looks at you he pays little or no attention at all on your outward appearance. I’m sorry about that, because I know a lot of you work hard on what you look like “out here”. Some of us, like me, have to work extremely hard on our outward appearance. I like what Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” If you’re really in love with your spouse or anyone, it’s what’s on the inside that matters, not what’s on the outside, it is the same with Jesus.

God doesn’t care what’s on the outside of you because He’s too busy looking to see what’s on the inside of you. What’s going on in your heart. Jesus got worked up over some of the people of his day because they spent an awful lot of time on their outsides: looking good: wearing the right clothes, having long prayer beads dangling down to their knees. Their hair all fixed up nice. All washed up. Teeth nice and white. They loved to stand in the prominent places in the community and pray out loud. It was a nice show, but that’s all it was!

Jesus saw through all the pretty and the pretense to what was in their hearts and he said, using the words of Isaiah, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” By the way, Jesus was talking about “church folks”. Jesus said on another occasion that these folks were like white-washed tombs. All pretty, clean and white on the outside but on the inside they were rotting corpses.

They carefully kept all the law, including the meticulous washing of their hands, before anything went into their mouths. But what came out of their mouths was slander, hatred, vulgarity, and abuse toward those who weren’t so clean, or religious, or “like them”. Jesus said, “Evil words come from an evil heart and defile the person who says them. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you.” (Matthew 15:19,20) What got to Jesus more than anything was their dishonesty—with themselves and with God!

Let me give you some stuff to consider today on to:
1. According to Jesus “purity of heart” isn’t believing the right things. It isn’t going through the right motions. It isn’t just coming to church on Sunday. It isn’t acting more religious than others. It’s doing the right things with the right motives. With the right heart. Think about it… It’s doing the right things with the right motives.

If we praise God with our lips and we worship on Sunday morning and act as though we’ve never met Him on Monday, then we’re like the hypocrites Jesus confronted and our praise and attendance at church is in vain. If we act all spiritual in here, in front of each other, but are devious, dishonest, angry, gossipers, and judgmental when no one is looking out there, then we’re hypocrites and our spiritual actions are in vain,

If we teach honesty and integrity to our children, and then rip off our employers, or others, or they see our deviousness, our dishonesty in little things, our anger, they hear us gossiping and judging, then we’re hypocrites and our teaching is in vain. If we caution our youth about sexual impurity and we know they aren’t, or we sit online in front of a porno site, or we sit together and watch inappropriate TV and movies, then we’re hypocrites and we are ourselves impure.

If we say we love God, and neglect the poor and downtrodded in the whole world, the innocents being killed, yes rail and simply desire to randomly kill verses selectively kill people of another religion, then we’re hypocrites and we do not know the God we say we love. Purity of heart isn’t believing the right things. It isn’t going through the right motions. It’s doing the right things with the right motives. With the right heart. It’s asking yourself before you do something or say something, “what will God think of this?” “Is there consistency between what I say I believe and how I act?” Is this what Jesus would really say or do?

Here’s something else to consider:
2. Purity isn’t only the absence of corruption in your life, it’s also the fullness of God’s Spirit in you. If you were able to rid yourself of impurity in your life, and I seriously doubt that you could do that on your own, but if you could, without allowing God then to fill you and occupy that void, you would become nothing more than a “religious do-gooder” like the hypocrites of Jesus day.
Purity of heart isn’t just the absence of certain things in your life it’s the very presence of God in you. It begins with the shedding of all pretense. An absolute inner awareness of who you really are. Anyone I have ever known, me included, who has become a conqueror over addiction, compulsion, bad attitudes, anger, abusiveness, fear, anxiety, you name it, began the journey toward healing with the recognition that they were helpless. Shedding any pretense, any sense that they had it together, they came to an awareness of who they really were and it turned them toward God.

Remember the first two beatitudes? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The process of purity begins when I understand fully who I really am, truly a sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. A soul that needs to be redeemed by God’s love. A life that needs to be clean in God’s eyes, to be filled with the very presence of God! St. Augustine put it this way, “Before God can deliver us from ourselves we must undeceive ourselves.”

Let’s look at one of my favorite parables in the Bible from Luke 18. Jesus tells about two guys who go into a church to pray. One was a fine upstanding religious looking person, the other a dishonest, crooked IRS agent. The fine upstanding religious looking one stood out in the open, under the light where God could see him plainly and he prayed out loud, “God, I thank you that I am not a sinner like everyone else I know—especially like that IRS guy over there. All my actions are good. I never do anything wrong. I’m in church every Sunday. I give a tenth of what I make to God’s work. I am truly a religious man.”

Over in the corner, toward the back of the room, a trembling voice said. “God, forgive me. I am a sinner.” That man undeceived himself. Jesus said, This man and not the other went home righteous. Jesus loved the fact that he was not filled with “himself” and his outside purity. Jesus recognized he was with sin yet he was pure in heart. Why? Because he wasn’t a phony like the other guy. He was not a pretender. He was real before God. God could do something in a life like that! Look what he did with David and Rahab.

It is such great Good News that it’s not what’s on the outside of you that matters most to God, but what’s on the inside, what’s in the heart. Because what’s on the inside of you can’t help but work it’s way to the outside of you…..sooner or later. This probably will not just happen overnight, but it can happen and living like Jesus can flow into your life more and more when you fill your life more and more with Jesus, in your relationship with Jesus, in your walk with Jesus.

What we need is not more “religion”, what we need is for Jesus himself to enter our lives, fill us with Himself and reformat our “heart drives”. Paul said in Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Praise the Lord! Jesus didn’t die to make you a nice religious church-going person. He died to make you pure, on the inside where God sees you best! Jesus said only the pure in heart will see God, right now in this life, and in the next!

Where is your heart this morning? If you died today where would you spend eternity? Everyone of us will end up in one of two places: heaven or hell. What about you? It has nothing to do with how “religious” you are. It’s a matter of the heart.
What fills your heart this morning? Is your heart filled with God? Are you religious on the outside, on Sunday, on some days, or have you really invited Jesus into your heart to make you pure?

Rev. 3:20 Jesus says, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Are you pretending Jesus is your friend? Are you pure in heart? Jesus desires a real relationship with you and then you will be with him after you have taken your last breath here on this earth.

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