Saturday, March 22, 2014

from the inside out

The Word for today:
Luke 11:37-52
"A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."
--Senator Everett Dirksen, sometime in the 1960's
Inflation and runaway government expansion have dated Senator Dirksen's immortal quote. Today, our government throws around trillions. But when they throw all that money, what are they aiming at?
They're aiming at what Jesus called the outside of the cup:
When Jesus finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and sat down to eat. The Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus had not washed before eating. So the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of your cup and plate, but inside you are full of violence and evil. Fools! Did not God, who made the outside, also make the inside? (Luke 11:37-40)
All those dollars are spent on the symptoms, not the disease. They are aimed at the effects, not the root cause, of our problems.
But Jesus knew that people live from the inside out. If you want to change the outside, you can't just slap a coat of whitewash over it. If you do, he said, the inside remains foul and putrefied:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27)
When you change the inside, he said, the outside will follow suit:
You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (Matthew 23:26)
In the gospel of John, he told Nicodemus (one of those blind Pharisees) how to "clean the inside" of the cup:
"You must be born again," he told him--renewed from the inside, with a new nature.
What about you? Are you continually whitewashing the outside? If you are, then STOP! You can paint a garbage can, but it's still full of garbage. You can paint the outhouse, but it's still full of ... (my wife told me not to swear!) But Jesus, unmarried, wasn't so constrained:
Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands--that's neither here nor there. (Matthew 15:17-20/MSG)
So put down the whitewash! The only way to truly clean up the outside is to start from the heart and let a new you make it's way to the surface:
Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come (1).
(1) 2 Corinthians 5:17

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