Sunday, February 12, 2006

Matt's Messages - Inside Out

“Inside Out”
February 12, 2006
Mark 7:1-37

Mark chapter 7, verse 1.

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were ‘unclean,’ that is, unwashed.”

Do you get the picture? Jesus is still in the north country near the Sea of Galilee, but his fame is spreading and there is a delegation of religious leaders sent from the Pharisee Headquarters in Jerusalem. And they have gathered around Jesus and are watching his disciples eat. And they are eating with “unclean” hands.

Now, Mark doesn’t expect us to know what that means. So he gives a little explanation. V.3

“(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)” Stop there.

Now, it’s important to understand that this tradition had nothing to do with hygiene. It’s not like Jesus’ disciple didn’t “wash-up” before dinner.

No, this was (v.3) “a ceremonial washing.”

It was probably scooping a little bit of water into the hand and letting it fall through the cracks in the hand in a ceremonial fashion.

This tradition was not in the Law of Moses. The Law merely said that the priests must wash before serving in the tabernacle. But the Pharisees and many others of hte Jews had said, “What’s good for the priests is good for all of us.” And they had laid the burden of doing these washings on everyone.

It’s hard for us to understand how important this was because we don’t live in a society that is governed by the ideas of clean and unclean. But the Law had established clean and unclean as important categories and the Jews wanted to be seen as clean, so they did what the elders had passed down for them to do. Wash. Wash. Wash.

Except for Jesus. Jesus obviously did not teach His disciples do this tradition. Jesus, who never broke the Law [Who actually fulfilled it!], broke this tradition and obviously taught His disciples to do the same. It was obvious, at least, to these Pharisees. V.5

“So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?’”

Now, don’t think that this was an honest question! These people didn’t want to find out why Jesus did what He did. They were shaming Jesus.

They are asking, “Why don’t your disciples know how to behave?!! What’s wrong with you?” There is no faith here.

And so, don’t be shocked when Jesus comes back with the same kind of force. V.6

“He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.’”

Those are strong words. Jesus calls the Pharisees, “hypocrites” or pretenders.

It would have been shocking for the people of the day because no one was more respected in religious circles than the Pharisees.

These were the “holy guys.”

But Jesus says that they were no holy. They were hypocrites.

“They honor God with their lips (or their washed hands), but their hearts are far from God. They worship God in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”

I would hate to hear that my worship of God was in vain. Wouldn’t you?

How was it in vain? V.8

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

They are missing God’s point by following the rules the elders have set down.

Jesus says that this is normal practice for the Pharisees. V.9

“And he said to them: ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' [That’s God’s Law] But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' ([Mark explains:] that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’”

Wow. Strong words.

Jesus uses the example of Corban to show how the Pharisees were all about rules that looked religious but actually negated the intention of God’s Law.

Corban was a word that could be pronounced over some assets to dedicate them to God, to the temple, to the priesthood.

If something was declared, “Corban,” it was kind of like deferred giving. The person who owned the asset still maintain some control over it until he died. But after he died, it would go directly to the temple.

Out of sheer spite and greed, a man could devote his assets to God in a way that kept him from having to support his parents in their old age.

They were using Corban as a loophole to get around honoring their parents!

And the Pharisees were actually behind this loophole, encouraging people to do that.

Did it look religious on the outside? Definitely.

You were dedicating your money to “GOD.”

And your hands were clean because of your ceremonial washings.

But was it holy? Definitely not. Because it wasn’t holy on the inside. At the level of intention. At the level of motives. At the heart-level.


The Pharisees had things “inside-out.”

They were concerned merely with the externals of religion and didn’t have hearts for God.

They thought that if they were clean on the outside, that’s what counted.

And they made up all kinds of rules to maintain that outer purity.

Legalistic purity. C.J. Mahaney helpfully defines legalism as “seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God.” (The Cross Centered Life, pg. 25).

And it is inherently outward.

The Pharisees were about outward legalism.

Holiness, cleanness before God achieved through self-effort and outward conformity to the Law and a bunch of rules that they added to the Law.

But it’s not about the outside.

You can’t get holy by dressing a certain way.
You can’t get holy by wearing certain clothes or not wearing certain clothes.
You can’t get holy by following a list of do’s and don’ts.
You can’t get holy by simply adjusting your outside. Even by adjusting your behavior to some degree.

For those that are in or have taken the Changing Hearts/Changing Lives class, we’ve learned to call that “fruit-stapling.”

Like staple-gunning some nice looking fruit on an old dead tree. It might look good for a while, but it’s not real, and it’s not going to last.

Because it’s not about the outside.

That’s what Jesus says. V.14

“Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'’”

“Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him.”

Not even alcohol.
Not even bad television.
Not even (believe it or not) pornography.

As evil as those things can be, it is not them going into us that make us unclean.

Because it’s not about the outside.

#2. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE INSIDE. V.15 again.

“Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'”

It’s about what is already in there.

It’s about the heart.

Now, we hear the phrase, “It’s all about what’s inside, not what’s outside” and we might think that’s good news. But it’s really not good news (at first) because what we find out is that the inside is even worse than the outside!

Our hearts are sinful.

The Bible teaches that our hearts are sinful.

When my friend Russell Muilenburg preached on this passage, he said:

“Picture a river if you will. Every river has a starting point, a spring or a lake. And at the start of this particular river I want you to envision a big old ugly factory. Its windows are broken or boarded up. Its walls are cracked and crumbling. But it is still producing. Its black, sooty smokestacks are belching out noxious fumes. And at its base, running right into the source of our river, are a couple of tiles pumping out toxic green sludge. It’s foul, and it’s deadly. And from that point forward, all of the water that flows down our river is contaminated by it. That, Jesus is saying, is what our lives are like. Our lives are like that river. They are polluted right at the source. Right from our very hearts come these toxic, deadly and foul things.” [Sermon: “The Human Heart” February 14, 1999]

And the Pharisees had everything inside-out. Russell says, “...the Pharisees were like environmentalists who come to our river and try to clean it up by washing off every rock and resuscitating every fish. But they never get around to addressing the source of the problem, the factory that is pumping all the sludge into the water in the first place. They were trying to change human behavior, but they weren’t changing the human heart.”

It’s All About the Inside.

That’s what Jesus teaches when He gets his disciples indoors. V.17

“After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.’ ([Mark adds:] In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean.’ [That was lesson that took a long time for the church to really learn.]) He went on: ‘What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'’”

It’s all about the inside. It’s all about our hearts.

And they can be really ugly.

Jeremiah says that “the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things.”

Jesus says, “from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'’”

This means that we need to take personal responsibility for our sins.

We live in a culture of victimization.

No one is responsible for what they do.

“It’s in my DNA.”
“My parents messed me up.”
“He makes me so mad.”
“If you had had the schooling I had, you’d act like this, too.”
“That was the alcohol speaking.”
“That was my depression speaking, not really me.”
“It’s her fault.”
“It’s his fault.”

All of those things are powerful forces that have a shaping influence. But they don’t defile. They don’t make us unclean.
What comes out of us is what makes us unclean.

We need to take responsibility for our sinful hearts.

That’s the first step towards healing. Believing that we are the problem.

Our sin comes from our “causal core”–our hearts.

And we need more than just a little water splashed on our hands to solve this problem!

We need blood applied to our hearts. Righteous, perfect, godly blood!

We need our hearts washed with the “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

And we need new hearts.

That’s what Jesus died to purchase for us. New hearts.

The essence of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood is a new heart. A heart that is responsive to God. A heart that is moldable and living, not cold and stoney and dead. A new heart.

It’s God’s work to put a new heart in you.
And He calls you to trust Him with it.

He calls you to trust in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection to purchase new life for you.

If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior and your Lord, I invite you to put your faith in Him today.

Turn from trying to do it your way. Your way will only change the outside and will never last.

His way will give you a new heart and will last forever.

Put your trust in Jesus Christ.

Trust Him with all of your heart.

Because it’s all about the heart.

It’s All about the Inside.

And putting your faith Christ is just the beginning.

We need to all engage in a process of gradual heart-change by repentance and faith.

Every day.

Every day we need to turn from doing things our way and trust in God’s way.

Putting aside our legalistic attempts to follow some rules.

And turn to worship and trust and love God with our whole hearts.

Recently, I’ve taken another stab or two at gaining victory over some difficult temptations for me.

One of them is gluttony. And the other is compulsively reading various things online I should be doing something else.

These are both temptations that I struggle with. Both good things. Eating food. And reading good materials online.

It’s not like I’m eating rocks or looking at pictures I shouldn’t.

No, my trouble is more subtle. It is an inordinate desire for some good things.

Well, I’ve been fighting these temptations this month, and what do you think I’ve been trying to do to win the fight?


I’ve been setting up rules for myself (disciplines) of what I can and cannot do. What I will and will not do as a way of keeping myself holy and free from temptation.

Now, these rules I have are good things. I don’t think they are, like the Pharisees here, traditions that I’ve set up to negate God’s command.

But they don’t have any power to actually clean my heart, either!

Because it’s not about the outside.
It’s all about the inside.

And I have to have my heart cleansed, or I won’t have any victory over my gluttony or my lust for information.

My heart needs to change. And only God can do that.

I need to give Him my heart. I need to repent at the heart level. And I need to trust Him at the heart level.

Because it’s all about the inside.


Just because it’s “all about the inside,” don’t think that the outside isn’t important at all. It is, but as a fruit, not a root of the problem. And a fruit, not a root of the solution.

Because the inside always comes out.

Notice that Jesus says that in v.21. “From within, out of men’s hearts come...”

What is in the heart inevitably comes out.

And that is surprisingly illustrated in the next story. V.24

“Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. [There’s the crowd again!] In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.”

Now, stop a second.

Is this woman clean or unclean?

This is one unclean woman! At least, on the outside.

She is a Greek. A Gentile. That makes her unclean.
She is from Syrian Phoenician. In the Old Testament, that was a really bad area. Anyone from there would be considered an unclean pagan.
And her daughter has an unclean spirit!
She’s living with an unclean spirit right now.

This is one unclean woman!

On the outside.

But what is on the inside?

Jesus tests her to find out. He, basically, tells her, “No.” V.27

“‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.’”

He calls the woman a Gentile dog. And He says that He is here for the children of Israel.

And this amazing woman, rises to the bait! V.28

“‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.’”

Yes, I’m a dog. But your table, the table of the Messianic banquet, of the superabundance of your grace is so full of food that I’m sure that you have something for me, too, and not just Israel.

Wow. What a response! Jesus is impressed. V.29

“Then he told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’ She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.”

Jesus was impressed. Jesus was pleased.

And what does it take to please Jesus?


What was inside this woman’s heart?


In Matthew’s account of this story Jesus says, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (Matthew 15:28).

This extraordinary woman looked unclean on the outside. But it’s not about the outside.

She had faith on the inside. And it’s all about the inside.

And the inside always comes out.

Can I ask...What is inside of you?

By nature, you (like me) have a cess-pool inside of you.

But Jesus Christ has shed His precious blood to cleanse your heart.

Put your faith and trust in Him.

And let Him begin to clean you up from the inside out.

Do you have some particular bit of dirt on your soul right now?

Confess it to God. And turn from it–on the heart-level. Not just legalistically in your own power. But from your heart, turn from that sin and trust the Savior.

Ask Him to give you strength to say “No” to that temptation this week and be filled with His Spirit instead.

Exercise faith in Jesus Christ. Like this woman.

On the inside, set apart Christ as Lord. Trust him on the inside.

And the inside will come out.