The Importance of Inward Transformation

The Importance of Complete Transformation   

Matthew 23:16-29
“So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly, you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

 

            Jesus continues his indictment and condemnation of the religious leaders.  They were rigid in their legalism, for they continually demanded the people to observe external rules and regulations, yet they failed to be genuinely transformed. As Jesus continues to pronounce the judgment upon the Jewish leaders, he denounces their failure to pursue genuine righteousness.  In these, Jesus confronts their lack of integrity and honesty.  Instead of focusing on the importance of being honest in their dealings, they developed an elaborate system in which they could avoid being truthful.  In each of the examples that Christ gives, the religious leaders focused on the minimal requirement needed for righteous living rather than pursuing the holiness of God.  Instead of being honest, they justify when one could be dishonest (16-22).  Instead of being sacrificial in their giving to God and the needs of others, they focused on the minimum required to give.  (vs 23-24). Throughout history, they concentrated on the external show rather than the inward righteousness (25-33). Their approach to righteousness was not the pursuit of holiness but the acceptance of sin.  Their focus was not on striving to reflect God’s holiness but on trying to justify their actions.  

            In our spiritual formation, we need to scrutinize our lives and attitudes.  Are we striving to be as holy as possible, or are we seeking to fulfill religious rules to justify ourselves?  Too often, we look at the standards of man rather than the standards of God.  In other words, if we follow the external rules that focus on legalistic regulations, we have a right standing before God.  However, this leads to a false illusion of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  Genuine disciples do not look at the minimum requirement, the do not judge themselves by the standard of others.  Instead, they consider God's holiness and character the standard of life.  This points us to the inward transformation that comes through surrendering to God.  The Christian faith is not a matter of “does” and “don’t.”  It is about allowing God to transform our lives to reflect his character and holiness in all facets of life.  External faith compartmentalizes our obedience.  It picks and chooses what aspects of God’s moral law we will obey and seeks to justify what we can reject.  Instead of asking, “How can I manifest God’s character in all facets of life?” we ask, “What is the minimum required for me to be a good Christian?” 

            The essence of faith is one of complete surrender.  It is to increasingly allow God to govern and transform every aspect of our life, identity, motives, attitudes, and actions.  It is to recognize that we are on a lifelong transformational journey, one where we will never fully attain a life of holiness, yet we will never be satisfied with anything less.  As Paul points out, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).  There is a fine line between resting in God’s grace and distorting God’s grace.  We rest in God’s grace when we recognize that we are sinners by birth and choice and that we can obtain God’s salvation and blessing only by his infinite grace.  We distort God’s grace when we use his grace as a justification for our sins.  The latter leads to judgment, and the former leads to transformation.  This year, make it your goal to grow in righteousness and to surrender to God’s transforming power. 

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