Sunday, August 14, 2016

Is That Really In The Bible? - Part 1 - Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness - Matthew 23:25-26

Today I am sharing the first of many posts that asks the question, "Is that really in the Bible?"

You know...there are dozens of popular sayings that people think are from the Bible. We're going to spend the next several weeks looking at some of these phrases and comparing them to what the Bible has to say. Unfortunately, in our day, there is a great deal of biblical illiteracy in the members of our churches. Here are some things that may point to the fact that you're not spending enough time with your Bible...

  • You think Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife
  • Your favorite Old Testament hero is Hercules
  • You think Abraham, Isaac & Jacob were a rock group from the 1960's
  • You find the book of Micah and a WWII savings bond falls out
  • You're frustrated when you can't find Charlton Heston in the Concordance
  • You tell your kids or grandkids the story of "Jonah the shepherd boy and his ark of many colors"
Now we laugh about some of these things of course, but Biblical illiteracy is a fact among Christians. Now it may surprise you to learn that the title of our first sermon in this series..."Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness" is not in the Bible at all. This was probably an old Hebrew saying that had been around for centuries and passed down through generations and then someone along the way decided to tack on...you know the Bible says...

The reality is that the majority of Americans actually believe this phrase comes from the Bible. Now...whether you think it should be in there somewhere or not...doesn't put it there. Remember what we learned about Bible study 101...if it's there, you can't take it out and if it's not there, you can't put it in.

Now...I'm all for baths and showers and deodorant...but let's see what the Bible says about us "being clean." First notice that...

THE JEWS BECAME MORE CONCERNED WITH OUTWARD APPEARANCES THAN INNER PURITY

Through the centuries, the purity regulations of the Jews grew into empty rituals that became substitutes for a personal relationship with God. By the time Jesus came on the scene, all these clean and unclean laws had become ridiculous and we find Jesus and His disciples colliding with them.

Mark 7:1-4, "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 defiled, that is, unwashed. (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.)"

Listen folks...Jesus and the disciples weren't eating with dirty hands...they just didn't observe the "tradition" of washing their hands in a ceremonial fashion. That's why the Pharisees complained. God protected the Jews through the Laws that addressed cleanliness but over the years, the Jews took it to the extreme until they had lost the true meaning of the laws. They reached a point where they mistook physical cleanliness with holiness. To them, cleanliness was not next to godliness...it WAS godliness to them! That's why we see the correction of Jesus. He was really bothered by what the Jewish leaders has done. They substituted all these rules and traditions for God's Word. Let's read more from Mark 7...

Mark 7:5-9, "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 defiled hands? 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 merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. And he continued, You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" Verse 13, "Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down."

Folks...that's the problem with most religions out there today–they focus on cleaning up the outside of a person without ever touching their heart. The Jewish leaders thought they were cleaner than Jesus and His disciples because they washed their hands a certain way before they touched their food. It made them feel good about themselves and better than others. Listen...there's a lot of false religion out there that's only concerned with making you feel good on the outside. The Word of God is different and the truth of the Word will set you free on the inside.

God doesn't want you to embrace a religion, He wants your heart to be clean, and that can only happen when you know Him. And that brings us to the second thing today. What the Pharisees didn't understand was that...

WE HAVE AN INNER STAIN THAT SOAP AND WATER CAN NEVER CLEAN

Even in Old Testament times God was trying to teach people that there is a big difference between outward appearance and inner purity. The Jews kept washing and cleaning up their bodies thinking they were presentable to God. But listen to what God said to them through Jeremiah...

Jeremiah 2:22, "Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Sovereign Lord."

God's desire is that we become holy and pure...spiritually. Soap is good for cleaning the outside of the body, but it can never get below the skin and into our heart. How clean are you today? I'm not talking about your skin. How clean is your heart today? Now you might say, "Well...I'm pretty clean...I'm better than a lot of people." So let me ask it a different way... Is your heart pure today? Is it totally pure? Do you think God is pleased with the condition of your heart today?

God wants your heart to be pure and it can be pure today. That's why God sent this invitation through Isaiah...

Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, let us settle the matter, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Do you need an inner cleansing today? Listen folks...there's only one way to be really clean before God and that's to let Him clean you up. That brings us to the last things today...

JESUS CAN CLEAN YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Back to our verses from Matthew 23, Jesus said this to the Pharisees, "First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."

Folks listen...Jesus offers the opportunity to come to Him and have your life cleansed from the inside out. His blood will make you clean. Do you know Him? We need to understand that we are all sinners by nature and by choice. The only way to have our sin washed away is by trusting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Not only will His blood cleanse you, His Word will keep you clean. What a bath does to your body, salvation does to your soul...it cleans you up on the inside. But folks listen...as we walk through this dirty world, we have to stay in His Word to stay pure and clean.

Do you need forgiveness today? Do you need cleansing on the inside? You know there are times even as Christians that we need to come to Jesus for cleansing. Scripture makes it clear that we'll never be perfect, but you know we can be clean and pure before the Lord.

I found this story about a woman who had nine children. One of her boys fell into a tar pit and she was working hard to scrub him clean. She said, "Son, I think it would be easier to get rid of you and just have another one than to clean you up!"

Folks listen...the reality is that In our sinful, stained condition, God could have said, "I'll just start over." But instead He sent His Son to die for our sins so we can be clean. That's why He says, "Come on, let's have a relationship. Though your sins are like scarlet, I can make them as white as snow."

If you're talking about dirt, then cleanliness is not next to godliness. But if you're talking about sin, well that's a whole other story. Revelation says that "nothing unclean will ever enter heaven." 1 John tells us that, "The blood of Jesus, God's son cleanses us from all unrighteousness."

So I ask you today...do you need a cleansing from God? Do you need to pray like David and ask God to create a clean heart in you? Folks...He is ready, willing and able to wash you whiter than snow today. All you have to do is ask.