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

Blindness and Learning to See – When you Think You Can See

Oblinds-1436458-1279x1646n Sunday we are continuing in our series “The 7 Woes” for Lent. We are looking at the condemnations that Jesus makes to the religious leaders of his day, and asking what he would say to us. I know it’s not easy, but necessary.

On Sunday we are going to look at this “woe”:

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!  “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’  Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred?  And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding.  How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.

We are going to be looking, in essence, at how we can be blind to what God is doing, and how we aren’t actually following God. This is a pretty big topic and a pretty hard topic because here is the truth: the Pharisees thought they were following God but they were in God’s way. And the same thing can happen to us. We can think we are following God with righteousness, holiness, and dedication only to have Jesus say we are blind and a blind guide.

So to prepare for this Sunday here is what I think we should all do – we should pray and ask God to reveal himself to us. We should ask him to reveal the ways in which we are blind. Because the truth is if we are moving in the wrong direction, we need to know The trouble is we need to hear God first. So my challenge before we even get to Sunday is just this: to listen to the Spirit. That’s the first step to learning to see.

“Judge Not” – Jesus…Pretty Clear Right?

1409595_99556189On Sunday we looked at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7 where he says don’t judge. What I think is important to recognize is that here Jesus isn’t saying there isn’t right or wrong. He isn’t teaching some relativistic ~ do whatever you want just don’t hurt anyone. What he is teaching is how to go about dealing with right and wrong in the context of relationships. He is talking about what to do with the hurt, missed expectations, and messiness of relationships.

He begins by reminding us not to judge. This is because judgment always separates us from God and others. Whenever we judge we separate ourselves from another person, place ourselves above them, and set expectations of them. This is the essence of what we do when we judge someone. Think of a court where the judge is high and distant from the accused. This is what we do in a relationship when we judge.

We also separate ourselves from God. We actually place ourselves in his role and his seat when we judge others. The bible is clear, God is the judge, which means we are not. D. A. Carson writes, “The disciple who takes it on himself to be the judge of what another does usurps the place of God, and therefore becomes answerable to him”. This is serious stuff. Judgment separates us from God and others.

It also blinds us. Bonhoeffer writes, “By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are”. His point is that when we judge we place ourselves in God’s shoes, and forget that we aren’t perfect and we need grace just as much as everyone else. The serious part of Jesus’ challenge though is that he says the measure you use to judge others, will be the measure used to judge you. So if you refuse to give grace and mercy to others, which is every time you judge, then God will not be able to give grace and mercy to you. Carson puts it this way: The judgmental person, by not being forgiving and loving, testifies to his own arrogance and impenitence, by which he shuts himself out of God’s forgiveness”.

This is why it is so serious and can’t be part of the Kingdom or Christian’s lives.

So Jesus goes on to teach then how to deal with hurt and wrong in relationships. His point isn’t that everything is healthy, but how to deal with the unhealthy stuff in relationships. So he says deal with your own plank, before trying to help someone else (Matthew 7:3). The point is that we are called to deal with our sin, stuff, and brokenness before trying to fix someone else.

The brilliance of Jesus is that as we deal with our stuff, and experience God’s grace, blessing, and transformation it will change how we relate to others. No longer will we be relating to others through judgment and condemnation on our high horses. But instead, we will stoop low and help to support and love broken and hurting people.

Jesus’ challenge to Christians is to stop judging, deal with your own stuff, and then help others. And I think this is a challenge I know I need to hear. It’s so easy to judge, but Jesus is calling us to do the hard work of living differently.

So I left us with a challenge to try to simply get rid of judging this week. I know it will be hard, and maybe even impossible. But the beautiful thing about God is that he sometimes steps in and the impossible happens…

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Stop judging, and start dealing with your stuff

Take Aways…

  • What if we actually did what Jesus said?
  • The temptation: to turn our good actions into reasons to rank ourselves higher than others
  • Judgment separates and blinds us
  • The disciple who takes it on himself to be the judge of what another does usurps the place of God, and therefore becomes answerable to him. D.A. Carson
  • By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • The judgmental person by not being forgiving and loving testifies to his own arrogance and impenitence, by which he shuts himself out of God’s forgiveness. D.A. Carson
  • We need to deal with our stuff, before focusing on someone else’s stuff.
  • When you deal with your stuff, you’ll be in a position to help, because you’ll have been transformed by grace.
  • Give up judging this week
  • Condemnation – giving and receiving it – is such a large part of our ‘normal’ human existent that we may not even be able to imagine or think of a world without it. Dallas Willard
  • Notice when your judging, choose to love, and confess our sins to God.
  • When we judge other people we confront them in a spirit of detachment, observing, and reflecting as it were from the outside. But love has neither time nor opportunity for this. If we love, we can never observe the other person with detachment, for his is always and at every moment a living claim to our love and service. Bonhoeffer
  • How can I love them
  • What plank do I have in my eye?
  • If when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil, we should look for evil where it is certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts. Bonhoeffer

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

What did you find hardest about this teaching? How natural does judging feel for you? Why is it so hard to give up judging? What “reward” do you get from it? What situations do you find yourself most likely to judge? How can you start to practice what Jesus preaches? Who are you called to love this week rather than judge? Who can help you to follow in this teaching? What plank is Jesus asking you to deal with? Who can you ask about your “planks”? What do you think about the last Bonhoeffer quote?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Today rather than talking to your kids about this teaching, and judging. Ask them if its something they do a lot or not. Teach them that judging is wrong, but loving is right. Ask them to this week whenever they feel a judging thought – to instead think of one nice thing about the person.

Challenge for this Week: Give up judging