External Obedience vs. Internal Righteousness

What role should our sincerity. And our motives and our feelings play. Whenever we are externally observing a command of God. Or seeking to Obey God? If you were with us.

This last Sunday I preached a Message from the Gospel of Mark, chapter Seven. Where Jesus is in a Confrontation with the Pharisees. And the Jewish elders. And the teachers of the Law. As they accuse Jesus of his disciples not ritually washing before they eat.

And, of course, there were all these strict rules that come from the Old Testament. About ritual and ceremonial washing. But what we looked at on Sunday. Is that what the Jewish leaders had done. Is added a lot of manmade Rules to these things.

And what Jesus says to them there in the middle of Mark, chapter Seven. I just want to remind us of it. It’s such an indictment. He says, these people honor me with their lips. But their hearts are far from me.

They’re Worshipping me in vain. Their teachings are merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God. And are holding on to human traditions. He’s quoting from the Prophet Isaiah there.

Jesus is as he’s talking about the Jewish leaders. But it makes us think. So Jesus is talking about the importance of us having a clean heart before God. And that being more important than mere external observance to the Law. But what that might cause us to do.

Is to think that Jesus is saying that what we do, our actions don’t really matter. That really what matters is what is inside. So, again, what role should our motivations play whenever we obey God? What role should our sincerity play? Is that why Jesus got on to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law?

I want us to think about this question for a moment. Because when you look at the story on the surface. It looks like that’s what Jesus is doing. But let’s be really, really clear. The problem with the Jewish leaders and the Pharisees.

Who were prioritizing External observance. It really wasn’t their sincerity. They were extremely sincere, weren’t they? They were extremely zealous. They thought that they were sincerely doing the right things.

The indictment from Jesus is not so much simply about their sincerity. That is one piece of it. But is rather that they were doing what they were doing externally. And observing the law. As well as some man made rules.

But doing these things without any internal affection towards God, any internal piety towards God. They were doing it on the outside. And they were giving God lip service, so to speak. But their hearts were far from God. That is the larger indictment there.

So when we read that, it might cause us to think, well, then isn’t it hypocritical, or at least intellectually dishonest for us to do external things for God if our hearts are not really in it, or if we’re not really feeling particularly close to God, isn’t that hypocritical? Why would God want us to do something if we don’t really feel particularly close to him in that moment? Well, hypocrisy, let’s be clear on this. Hypocrisy is not doing something even whenever you’re not feeling particular love towards God. We need to not wrap ourselves up in knots around our feelings.

This isn’t so much a feeling things. There are lots of times that we do things externally when our feelings are not quite in place, and there are going to be times and seasons when we’re internally not feeling particular affection towards God. But God still wants our obedience in those things. The issue with hypocrisy, and it becomes hypocritical when we do external things again and prioritize that to the detriment of our internal piety towards God. It is looking at the source of our righteousness as being external, but internally, our hearts being far from God.

That is what is hypocritical. So this isn’t so much a feeling thing. And in some ways, at times, it’s not even a sincerity thing. So does God want our external obedience? Does he want us to do the things that Scripture commands us to do?

Does he want us to read Scripture? Does he want us to pray? Does he want us to give? Does he want us to serve? Absolutely.

God wants our obedience. And that is more important than us just saying that we follow God. Yes, we’re to put our faith in action, but God also wants our honesty. And it’s okay for us to be honest with God and to have times whenever we don’t feel particularly close to him. And let’s just acknowledge that before God.

But that doesn’t mean that then we shouldn’t seek to also obey God. Our lack of feeling or our lack of sincerity in obeying God should not keep us from actually obeying God. It should just be that whenever we do obey God, we’re not doing it externally to the detriment of our pursuit of seeking to love God at all times. So you can see that there’s some nuance here. And ultimately, God is our judge and he knows the motives of our heart.

So obedience matters and our internal motivations and our sincerity matters. But ultimately is where do you put the source of your righteousness. Is it in what you do? Or is it in what Jesus has done for you? That is the distinction there.

Thanks so much for joining us today. I hope that this has been helpful.