One of the most powerful chapters in the New Testament, to me, is found in Matthew 23, where we find Jesus speaking sternly concerning the religious elite. One of the thoughts that stands out to me is found in v5, which says, “But all their works they do to be seen by men.” The transformation which God yearned for in these people was only superficial, an outward disguise covering an inner problem. As much as I wish to distance myself from such a thing, I know all too well how easy it is to get to such a place; where what others see is all there is to see.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery.”
The scene of Matthew chapter 5-7 must have been amazing, with multitudes before Him, Jesus sits down and begins to teach His disciples and those who had come to hear Him. His teachings “astonished” His listeners (Matthew 7:28), “for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29). I think one of the things that was so astonishing is that what He taught went beyond the surface, as the teaching about adultery reveals. Jesus wants His followers to go to the root of the problem, their hearts. Jesus says that “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). So critical is this matter, that Jesus uses extremes to make His point! Pluck out the eye, cut off the hand, for that would be better than “your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29). Jesus wants us to go beyond surface change.
Some have said that if you change the outside, eventually the inside will come along. Apparently, that was not the case with the scribes and Pharisees. There was a time that I thought that to be true, but not anymore. Transformation, if it is to be what God yearns for, must go beyond the surface, changing the way we think: it needs to be an inside job.
With that in mind, I realize that much work needs to be done with my inner man. I am thankful for God’s mercy and grace over the years, for it has been needed. Still, I don’t want to abuse that kindness. So, help me, Lord, to grow in Your likeness as I “run with endurance the race that is set before” me (Hebrews 12:1), always “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). May You be glorified, as You mold me into the image of Your Son and my Savior, from the inside out. Amen