Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Defiles a Person

"And He called the people to Him and said to them, 'Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.'"  Matthew 15:10-11

There are two wondrous responses to this statement of Christ.  First, the disciples ask Jesus, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?"  Second, the disciples say, "Explain the parable to us."

Here Christ Jesus stands, having just been yelled at for not making His disciples do the ritual handwashing, having just condemned following vain traditions of men, and when He speaks to what it is that defiles, that ruins a person, He points inside man. 

And the disciples don't get it.  First they worry about the reaction of the "Good folk" -- the folk who make sure nothing bad ever touches them.  Jesus dismisses them.  Then they ask Jesus to explain the... parable?  What... parable?  Surely Jesus, surely there has to be some other hidden, obscure point to this!

"Are you also still without understanding?  Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person.  But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."

Don't you get it, guys?  Righteousness, holiness - it's not a matter of a checklist of doing a bunch of outward acts, it's not a matter of jumping through the right holy hoops.  It is a matter of the heart, a matter of motivation.

And in this... our hearts are corrupt.  We are sinners - as we sing, "Our flesh has not those pure desires, the spirit of the Law requires, and lost is our condition."

This is why, over and over, instead of focusing on *what* I can or cannot do, I want to look at *why* something is done.  It's not the outward act that is the problem - it's the why.  If your why is wrong, if you have not love - even giving up your body to be burned gains nothing.

This is why we cannot judge -- we do not see the heart, we cannot see what really defiles.  Oh, we can see wickedness, but that really isn't that big of a deal.  It sees nothing on the inside - no doctor would give a clean bill of health to a man just by looking at him from a distance, nor does an outward aliment tell all about the man's condition.

But how, how then can I know that I do right, that I am not defiled!

The answer is this: you are defiled, for you are a sinner, and everything you do is filled with sin.  And no outward behavior, no discipline, no force of will, no holding to any code of behavior will change that.  That is all a false and misleading dream.  The Law is not your hope, it is but a mirror bright to bring the inbred sin to light.  Your task is useless and in vain, your guilt is ever increasing.  The guileful heart will not be purified by your deeds.  My works, even if I gaze upon the law lovingly, no peace will ever bring.

But Christ, He comes, and He brings forgiveness.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Eh, forget typing, let's just sing.

5. Yet as the Law must be fulfilled
Or we must die despairing,
Christ came and hath God's anger stilled,
Our human nature sharing.
He hath for us the Law obeyed
And thus the Father's vengeance stayed
Which over us impended.

6. Since Christ hath full atonement made
And brought to us salvation,
Each Christian therefore may be glad
And build on this foundation.
Thy grace alone, dear Lord, I plead,
Thy death is now my life indeed,
For Thou hast paid my ransom.

7. Let me not doubt, but trust in Thee,
Thy Word cannot be broken;
Thy call rings out, "Come unto Me!"
No falsehood hast Thou spoken.
Baptized into Thy precious name,
My faith cannot be put to shame,
And I shall never perish.

8. The Law reveals the guilt of sin
And makes men conscience-stricken;
The Gospel then doth enter in
The sinful soul to quicken.
Come to the cross, trust Christ, and live;
The Law no peace can ever give,
No comfort and no blessing.

9. Faith clings to Jesus' cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
Yet faith alone doth justify,
Works serve thy neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.

10. All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise
To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God that saved us by His grace,-
All glory to His merit!
O Triune God in heaven above,
Who hast revealed Thy saving love,
Thy blessed name be hallowed.

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