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#10 It’s What’s Inside That Counts

September 8, 2008

It is interesting how God works things out isn’t it! We have been dealing with the attitude of the heart and much of our focus has been on obedience in the inner man of the heart rather than mere lip service. As we return to our study of the book of Romans we are confronted again with this truth. It is not outward ceremonial rituals that God looks at. Remember that the Jews had been given the Law and the Ordinances of worship but they were not a means in themselves!

 

These rites were to be performed as worship to God. Those who participated in the sacrifices weren’t just killing an animal. The rites performed were an illustration of the sacrifice of another for their sins. It was a picture of the truth that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. During the sacrifice, the sins of the people were symbolically placed on the heads of the animals to be sacrificed.

 

Now this in itself was not going to forgive sins. And remember that not all Israel was Israel. You see, many people went through the rituals to get ‘a clean slate’ much like Catholics do. And then they went back to the same old sinful pattern of living. This is true today. Many go to church in order to score points with the man upstairs. But when they leave it is to go back to their same old manner of living!

 

Others however came trembling before God and pled for forgiveness for their sins and strength to walk with God in a manner that would please Him! Again, there are those, the faithful remnant, who truly love the Lord their God and they come to church to worship. Their minds are on the Father and they are totally caught up in worship before the throne.

 

As the title of the sermon suggests, it’s what’s inside that counts. It is not the outward ritual but the attitude of the heart that matters. Are we worshiping God or merely killing time? Consider David. Remember that after God had rejected Saul He sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint His king, David. Now David is called a man after God’s own heart which means that as much as he was able, David wanted what God wanted. He sought to live in a manner that would glorify God. And he did all of this because he loved God.

 

This is different from the hearts of most men. We read of the day when Samuel came to anoint the new king in (1Sa 16:7) All of Jesse’s sons were paraded before Samuel for the purpose of finding the man God had chosen.

 

The first to come was Eliab. Now it seems obvious from the text that Eliab was a good looking man, possibly even kingly in appearance. But his heart was not with the Lord God for we read that after Samuel was captivated by his appearance the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” You see, many people are able to look good outwardly. They are able to make an outward show of things. Many people are able to ‘look Christian.’ They wear a Christian mask, a church suit if you will. Some are so good at what they do that they are able to get into positions of leadership in Churches. Unfortunately for the unwitting congregants who have been deceived by his or her charm, they are now being led by one of Satan’s servants, unaware that this individual is merely masquerading as a ‘minister of righteousness.’ They have been charmed by one of many snake oil salesmen who have crept into the church unawares, whose smooth tongues have fooled those who haven’t taken the time to call upon the Lord.

 

This is an important point and must not be passed over lightly. We get into a lot of trouble when we neglect to consult God and instead ‘go with our own instincts.’ We saw the trouble that can arise in our study of the lives of the children of Israel. They were entering the Promised Land and at first they looked to God and listened to Him. But then they got full of themselves and they neglected this means of grace to their own hurt. Instead of looking to God for direction, they ran on before Him. They trusted in their own wisdom thinking as all men do; that they know best, that “we can take the city of Ai with just a few thousand men.”

 

Their own wisdom told them that the travelers from nearby Gibeon must be telling the truth. Surely they have come from a great distance. Why just look at their accoutrements… their torn clothing and worn out shoes and moldy dry bread!”

 

In the same way we are told by the wise, the scribes, the disputers of this age to trust our feelings. “Go with your heart!” say the modern philosophers. Find your own voice, be your own person. Do what you think is best. And yet we know from the scriptures that this is folly. The bible tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)  That means that we cannot trust our feelings, our emotions! We don’t know what is best for the thoughts and intents of the heart are still only evil continually!

 

And so with the Hymn writer whose mind was set on things above and not on things of earth we say;

My hope is built on nothing less that Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

And again;

 

How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord,

is laid for your faith in His excellent word.

What more can He say than to you He has said,

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.

 

You don’t want to be numbered among those who began well but were not able to finish do you? It is only those who endure to the end who will be saved! As Pam shared with me a few weeks ago, ‘will you listen to worldly wisemen?’ This must not be the case. We must not look to worldly wisemen for anything. They have nothing to offer us! Their council is the doctrine of devils no matter how wonderful it sound, no matter how much it pulls on our heartstrings!

 

This world of sin is as deceitful as our wicked hearts and rightly so for the world follows the leadings of the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Antichrists are swaggering to and fro throughout the land belching out blasphemies in order to gain votes from those who have been duped by their message.

 

They have their mouthpieces speaking from pulpits and talk-shows and the message is the same: “It’s time for a change, they say! But the change they want is a change toward horrible, hideous wickedness and the exaltation of every unclean thing while at the same time removing the last vestiges of anything good, all in the name of progress or as they would rather refer to it, evolution!

 

Many of these would be leaders even go to church and make that outward show of the religiosity I have been speaking of. But we know going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger. In reality they are merely paying God lip service. They invoke the name of the LORD for the purpose of fooling you!

 

Remember that a wolf will not look like a wolf. The wolves of this world have dressed themselves up in fine apparel and they steal the hearts of the people like Absalom did; by appealing to the flesh. They give things away and so capture the hearts of those who have chosen to plug their ears to the truth. They are so good at what they do that Christians, even the elect are being led astray!

 

The truth of the matter is that these deceivers are weaving a deceptive message in order to fool Christ’s followers for the sake of gaining power over them. Once they have your ear it is incredibly hard to get away. Even when confronted with the truth, people say; “I don’t care. They are doing many good things and I am going to keep on listening to them; NO MATTER WHAT THEY STAND FOR!

 

The bottom line for all antichrists is “We want power. We want what is rightfully ours and we will do anything to get it! “ But we must understand that these smooth talking people, like all sinners, are wearing masks. They are in disguise, working under the covers. But it is interesting that once they have been installed as the new leaders, the new people of influence, the masks begin to come off as they slowly begin their monstrous work of deception!  They are subtle like their master the devil.

 

As I said, many of these people go to church and make a claim of knowing Jesus but the sad truth is they are ‘Christians’ in name only. Their religiosity is a mere expedience, a means to an end; something to be discarded once it is no longer useful. They may be wearing the disguise of Christianity but instead of a new heart what’s inside them are dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Instead of good works done for the glory of God, what we see are deeds of the flesh designed to promote their reputations and to receive the praise of men. Remember what Jesus said of such people; “THEY HAVE THEIR REWARD!”

 

Now consider what Paul has to say about all of this in our text found in (Rom 2:25-29). Paul was dealing with those who were trusting in themselves that they were righteous by virtue of the outward sign of circumcision. And remember they were also preaching their message to anyone who would listen for Jesus said that they covered land and sea to make one convert to their message. But He also said that they became twice the sons of hell as those who had converted them. This should be a warning to all who choose to listen to worldly wisemen!

 

God had given the sign of circumcision to Abraham as an outward means of identifying him as a follower of God. This outward sign was a symbol of the inner man of the heart! And remember that Abraham actually believed God. He really trusted in God and proved his belief by living a life of obedience to God.

 

But like all truths in the hands of men, things got a bit muddled. The Jewish religious leaders came to hold to the belief that circumcision was a ticket to heaven much like Catholics trust in the sacraments to deliver their souls or like the paedo-baptists who believe that baptism makes their children ‘covenant children’ and that they are now sealed for salvation at some future date.

 

But again I call to your mind the title of the message. It’s what’s inside that counts! Out text will bear this truth out. Paul says; 25 “For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; In other words, if you are a doer of the word then you prove that you are His disciples.

 

It is interesting to me how people say that the messages of Paul and James contradict one another. But as you see here, they are one and the same. Faith is a verb. We live by faith! The inner faith that we possess manifests itself in outward deeds. Indeed, John spoke of the practice of your life; what you do on a daily basis. Your life speaks volumes about who you are and what you believe in!

 

John says in (1Jo 2:29) “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. And in (1Jo 3:7) we read, “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; So you’re circumcised! So you claim to be a Christian! What is the practice of your life? What do you live for on a daily basis? Who are you listening to?

 

If you are a Christian you are going to be listening to God! You are going to be seeking godly council from those who are committed Christians rather than looking for wisdom from someone who, ‘sounds good’ or someone ‘you like a lot!” Who you look to for answers or comfort or happiness etc, will tell you who you have placed your faith in! Those who love the Lord will seek His face and His will. They will look into His word for peace and happiness and comfort. And unlike those who merely make an outward show of things, they will put into practice what they have heard! They will be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving themselves. They will practice the law (obey Christ’s commands) and prove that their circumcision is a circumcision of the heart, by the hand of God. They will prove that they are really disciples!

 

Mere outward obedience without love for God is worthless. The Pharisees did that! But time and time again they showed what was in their hearts as they dealt with Jesus Christ. (Isa 59:13) speaks of the nature of the wicked ones. They are “Transgressing and denying the LORD, and turning away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving in and uttering from the heart lying words.” And Jesus tells us where sin begins! (Mt 15:18) “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

 

And Paul says but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. In other words, if you claim to be a Christian but your outward actions do not mirror your claim of faith, then you are not a believer. You are a liar and the truth is not in you! You are merely a hearer of the word and not a doer.

 

Now he makes a contrast between those who have had experienced the actual physical act of circumcision and those who have been acted upon by God in salvation, saying in (Php 3:3) “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, and in (Col 2:11) he speaks of the only circumcision that really matters. True Christians are in Christ…and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;

 

The first group may or may not believe God. They may or may not obey Him and Paul says that many of these were trusting in this physical act to save them! In contrast, the second group are those who have been acted upon by God. They have been interfered with, arrested on their way to spiritual Damascus and have been turned toward the path that leads to life.

 

One group obeys from compulsion or because they think they can get something from God. The other group has the attitude of Job who said “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!”

 

Now note what Paul says. 26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? He will prove by his deeds that he belongs to God! 27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? Aha! Now we get to the heart of the matter. Doers of the word are a natural rebuke to those who are merely sporting the name Christian. I call your attention to one of the episodes of The Holiness of God. R.C. spoke of a certain golf pro who once played a foursome which included Billy Graham. When he was finished, one of his friends came up to him and asked; “What was it like to play with Billy Graham?” The first reply was one of rage “I don’t need Billy Graham ramming religion down my throat!” The man then went to the driving range and began to pound out shot after shot. After he was finished his friend said; “Billy came on pretty strong huh?” The man replied saying that Billy never said a word about religion.

 

You see, Billy Graham represents religion to a multitude of people. His name is more closely associated with Christianity than almost any other. His ministry has had a world-wide effect. And this man was brought to see himself as he was in the presence of Billy Graham and he didn’t like what he saw!

 

Now that is an example of the effect of a believer on an avowed unbeliever. Let us consider further the effect that Jesus had upon the Pharisees. These pompous religious leaders put on airs of being right with God. They were the bible answer men of their day. But for the most part, they were merely playing with religion. They were merely putting on an act of being holy. But when Jesus, who really was holy, came to town, He showed them up as the lot of deceivers that they were! They were condemned and convicted at heart and the only way they could think of to rid themselves of this open rebuke was by killing the Holy One.

 

And here you see the heart. Here you see what’s inside! 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”

 

John Bunyan in his book titled “Christian Behavior” said, “Beware of being painted fire wherein is no warmth; and painted flowers where in there is no smell and of being painted trees whereon there is no fruit. (Pr 25:14) “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.  In other words those who call themselves Christians but whose lives testify otherwise, they are like a picture of a fire to a frozen man. They are as satisfying as the gift of a bouquet of plastic flowers. They are as fulfilling as empty fruit trees to a starving man. And they are a storm that fizzles out before dropping any rain.

 

In short, they are cold, fake, fruitless and empty!

 

God calls us to make our calling and election sure. He calls us to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. This is a call to make sure we are not just playing church. Many people do that. As we have seen in this lesson, many, many people claim to have ‘the answers.’ Many worldly wisemen and women stand forth and say, “Listen to me” and many do to their own damnation!

 

Jesus calls us to be as harmless as doves and as wise as serpents. Who are you listening to? Do you find satisfaction and pleasure listening to men and women of the world? Do you find comfort and peace hearing these doctrines of devils? Or are you discerning enough to look deeper than the skin, down to the heart! It’s what’s inside that counts!

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