Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 5: The Walking Dead, Corpses and Dead Hearts

TWD_PROLOGUE_TITLEOn Sunday we continued in our series realizing one key truth from Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees:

You can be good, you can be moral, you can even be religious and still miss the point

Our morality, and our religiosity is no guarantee that we are actually following the will of God. And this sounds controversial and challenging because it is. The Pharisees were moral, upstanding citizens, incredibly faithful and religious and missed the point. So we then as Christians need to take a hard look at our lives to ensure that we aren’t missing the point.

And we did that on Sunday through looking at one of the “woes” of Jesus. Jesus says this in Matthew 23, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

And while there is lots of contextual stuff going on here, here is the main point Jesus is making. Jesus is saying, you look good on the outside (like a tomb painted white) with all your good actions, but inside you are filled with death, decay, and disease. Jesus hits the Pharisees hard saying that while their outward actions are holy and good, their inner hearts are filled with impurity, hypocrisy, and lawlessness. That they may look good on the outside but inside it’s dark and diseases filled.

So rather than unpacking this theology more, I unpacked the reality of this more. I shared stories of how in my own life recently I’ve taken the right action, with the wrong heart. And how easy it is to be good, religious, and moral but miss the point. How right actions are not a guarantee of a pure heart.

And so we came to this point. We are all broken and need to acknowledge the places, areas, and parts of our hearts where we need Jesus. We cannot ever pretend we have it all so together that we don’t need Jesus. We need him, but we can use our religious activity as excuse to not allow him to challenge us, convict us, and shape us. So on Sunday we landed on this main point: we all need heart surgery. We all need Jesus to come in and cleanse our hearts, to convict us of our lack and brokenness and change us. The one thing we cannot do as Christians is to pretend we are so put together that we are no longer in need of Jesus and his cleansing.

So we closed on Sunday with a simple challenge. To sit and take a courageous moral inventory of the things that God might want to change in our lives. To sit and listen to the Spirit and what he might call out in us. Because while we might be moral and religious it’s no guarantee we aren’t missing the point. And the true point is that if we want to live like Jesus, we had better learn to listen to Jesus.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaWe all have junk within

Teaching Points:

  • You can be good, you can be moral, you can even be religious and still miss the point
  • Whitewashing was a signal that there was death within
  • People who look like they have it together, but deny their need of a saviour, denying that anything needs to change
  • It is so easy to hide behind religious actions.
  • We all need heart surgery

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? When have you done the right thing, but inside things were off? Why do you think we can do the right things, but still miss the point? Are you willing to do a courageous moral inventory? Who can help you to ensure not only that it happens, but that changes happen.

Discussion Questions for Families:

Today do something tough – model what you want to see in your family. Sit down and share with your kids or family some of the ways that you have failed with them. Maybe times when your heart wasn’t right. And then talk to them about how it’s important that we be honest with ourselves and with God about where we failed, and that’s how God changes us. Model what you want to see – honesty, and courageously owning your own stuff.

Challenge for the Week: Take a courageous moral inventory

The Walking Dead

TWD_PROLOGUE_TITLEYes I know the title of an incredibly popular TV show, but really, Jesus should have the credit for this title. Because as far as I know he is the first person to actually talk about people being literally places of walking death.

Jesus actually goes to the Pharisees and calls them whitewashed tombs. Quite literally calling them places of walking death, disease, and decay. And that is quite similar to the AMC show, implying that they are spreading their contamination around. And while there are lots of contextual things that Jesus is saying, here is the point we are going to unpack on Sunday.

You can be good, you can be moral, you can even be religious and still miss the point.

Because the Pharisees are good, moral, and super religious and Jesus says that they still miss the point. That while their actions look good, inwardly their hearts are full of death, disease, and decay.

So we are going to unpack all that on Sunday but here is why this matters for you if you are a follower of Jesus – we can be just like the Pharisees. We can be moral, good, and religious and we can still miss the point. We can still end opposed to God and his kingdom. And if we are Christians that’s the exact opposite of what we want. So on Sunday we’ll look at how to ensure our hearts and our actions are pointed in the right way.


Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 4: Cleaning the Dishes and Heart Transformations

clean-1445150So on Sunday we continued our series of Lent looking at the seven woes. And the “woe” we unpacked was this one from Jesus:

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish and then the outside will become clean too.

And here Jesus enters into a debate on the cleaning of cups. And there are lots of cultural things going on here that we unpacked on Sunday but the main point of Jesus really is this: having stuff clean on the outside (our actions, our religious rituals, our following the rules) doesn’t matter if inside we aren’t clean (our hearts, desires, and wants).

Jesus is trying to point out something that is obvious to anyone – you can do the right thing with the wrong motives and it misses the point. That your kids can clean their room not because you want them to, but because they want to to go to a party. Your employee can go above and beyond, not because they care, but because they want the weekend off. Your spouse can be all thoughtful and caring, for you to only realize they got in a fender bender. The point is that the right actions without the right heart is deadly. That what good is it if you do the right thing – but your heart and motives are off? What good is it if you follow all the rules of the Bible – but inside you are seething with greed, excess, and sinful desires? What good is the outside of a cup looking clean, if the inside is full of junk?

Jesus’ desire to move our focus from the outward to the inward and where the work needs to be done. Because here is the truth: all of our hearts are dirty and filled with junk. Everyone has some brokenness, some greed, some hurt, some pride, some agenda, some mixed motives and desires that need to be changed.

And the truth though is that following the rules doesn’t change our hearts. I know this because my kids sometimes follow the rules, but they aren’t doing them happily and their hearts remain unchanged. For our hearts to be changed we need an encounter, and an experiences specifically with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

So on Sunday we unpacked this main idea: that we all need a heart change, a heart transformation, and a heart cleansing.

And so to do this we took communion and took time to connect with Jesus. We took time and created space to ask for a heart cleansing, because that is what we all need. We all need some transformation from hurt to healing, from grime to grace, from hate to hope. And the way this happens isn’t by doubling down on following the rules, but doubling down on an encounter with Jesus. And that’s our challenge for the week: to have an encounter with Jesus that changes us. Because that’s where the magic is of following Jesus, not out of duty and legalism, but out of freedom with a new and changed heart.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaWe all need a heart change, a heart transformation, and a heart cleansing

Teaching Points:

  • “I think what Jesus is warning us about is that it’s entirely possible to be a religious, dedicated Christian, and yet totally miss the life-giving nature of a life centered squarely on his teachings. Some of us have exchanged Jesus for a Christian religion.” Benjamin Corey
  • The inner life is what matters.
  • Following the rules and the law doesn’t matter unless your heart is changed.
  • A heart change matters more than following the rules.
  • What God wants aren’t people who just follow the rulesGod wants people who have hearts like his.
  • Following the rules doesn’t change your heart.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Have you ever had an experience of someone “following the rules” for the wrong motives? How did it make you feel? Why don’t you think following the rules changes our hearts? How can Jesus change our hearts? How can we ensure that they stay changed?

Discussion Questions for Families:

Use the example I gave from Hudson, or maybe one from your own life to talk about motives. Talk about how we as parents love when our kids do the right thing, but more than that want to see the right heart. Ask them what the difference might be in simple and easy thing like dishes, like cleaning up toys, etc.

Challenge for the Week: Have a heart change