Possibly the most seductive weapons against Christians are their own desires for self and self-preservation. Desires to satisfy self is one thing, but when selfishness is protected and preserved, it becomes a weapon that delivers staggering damage to Christian values and priorities. Once a sense of entitlement is given to self-desires, the sinful flesh wars to retain that position of authority. Surrendering the inner ruling throne of self to Jesus Christ as Lord is often fought against vigorously. Consequently, the battle rages between submissive obedience to Christ as Lord, or, to only put on the appearance of submissive obedience.
Into this bloodthirsty battle for the heart steps the Bible’s example of the scribes and Pharisees. Woe 5 – Mat 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”
The public appearance of these religious leaders looked nice and righteous, but inside, they were evil. They looked religious and appeared to fear God because of their attention to detail. Yet, they were hypocrites because inside they were loaded with many sins of the heart that people could not see, but God saw it perfectly (1 Samuel 16:7).
In Matthew 23:25, Jesus identifies two prevailing sins. The first is obvious, their hypocrisy. Their double standards. Their untrustworthy two-faced character meant their outward living was just a mask covering their sinful hearts. Secondly, inside they were greedy and self-indulgent. Greed and self-indulgence are two expressions of the one sin – selfishness. These two sinful qualities work together to express the motives and desires of the heart that loves self-first.
Greed always looks for ways to get more for self. It makes no difference if it is looking for more attention from others, more freedoms, more authority, more possessions, or more money. Greed always demands more, often wanting what belongs to others, those things which it is not entitled to. Greed then creates ways of justifying and getting those things. Then, self-indulgence spends the things it accumulates on self. A self-indulgent heart has all its priorities upside down; it is always making excuses for neglecting others for the sake of self. Self comes first, and there is no room for anyone else, including God.
Jesus response is, “first clean the inside… that the outside also may be clean” (Matthew 23:26). Jesus’ point is this, right behaviour flows from a right heart. And only Jesus Christ can transform a sin-focused, self-preserving heart into one that desires to be ruled by Christ through righteous attitudes and behaviour. Only then, can the healthy heart produce healthy fruit.
Only Jesus Christ is able to save us from the many sins of self. Jesus saves us not because of works done by us in righteousness (self), but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Trusting that Jesus was loaded with our sin, and that He was judged and died in our place on the cross because of our sin, launches spiritual rebirth into a Christ-dominated life. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). This spiritual transformation enabled Paul to say, the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14), to me to live is Christ… (Philippians 1:21), and not self.
Only the Lord Jesus Christ can conquer and dethrone self with its recurring desire to rule your heart and behaviour. May we today, by faith, live Christ-dominated lives.