A Great Spiritual Check-up for Your Soul
A Great Spiritual Check-up for Your Soul
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared August 4, 2022)
(Revised August 8, 2022 to say this was the 3rd year of Jesus' ministry)
*Please open your Bibles to Matthew 15. In the previous chapter, Jesus was working all kinds of amazing miracles. But here the scribes and Pharisees showed up to accuse Jesus of sin. Their petty accusation prompted a strong response from the Lord. And in today's Scripture we will hear Jesus speak to the Pharisees, the crowd of people, and His own disciples. But we can also hear Jesus speak to us, and that's great because it will help us examine our relationship with God. Please think about this as we read Matthew 15:1-20.
*I always admired Zig Ziglar. He was a very popular Christian author and motivational speaker from Texas. Zig was hilarious, and he helped a lot of people with his positive messages based on Biblical truth. One thing I remember Zig saying years ago is that from time to time "we need a check-up from the neck up, and we need to eliminate stinking thinking."
*We all need attitude checks from time to time, but more than that, we need spiritual check-ups. That's why in 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul gave this command to all Christians: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? unless indeed you are disqualified." The Living Bible puts it this way: "Check up on yourselves. Are you really Christians? Do you pass the test? Do you feel Christ's presence and power more and more within you? Or are you just pretending to be Christians when actually you aren't at all?"
*We all need spiritual check-ups, and the Lord gives us a good one in today's Scripture. It's a simple test with only four questions.
1. AND THE FIRST QUESTION IS: ARE YOU LISTENING TO THE LORD?
*The scribes and Pharisees certainly were not listening to Jesus. We know this because they showed up with a petty complaint against the Lord's disciples. And it's important for us to understand how evil these scribes and Pharisees were. By this point Jesus was in the third year of His ministry. And though the Lord had already worked countless miracles to prove that He was the promised Messiah, these scribes and Pharisees had totally rejected Him with murderous hatred.
*By Matthew 12, they were stalking Jesus, looking for any opportunity to accuse Him of breaking their laws. In that chapter Jesus went into a synagogue and healed a man with a withered hand. But it was on the Sabbath day, and that was against their man-made laws.
*Luke 6:11 tells us that on that day, the Pharisees were filled with rage to the point of madness. And Mark 3:6 says they "went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him." The Herodians were followers of Herod the Tetrarch, and normally they were the Pharisees' arch enemies. But the Pharisees hated Jesus so much, they were working with their enemies to plot His death
*One reason why they hated Jesus was because He rejected the petty rules the Pharisees had added to God's Law. There were thousands of these regulations, like their ungodly law against healing on the Sabbath Day.
*Back then, there were only a few thousand Pharisees, but they held religious and political power far greater than their numbers. For over a hundred years they had basically been in charge of telling all the other Jews what was right and wrong. Then this random, unschooled carpenter from Nazareth showed up, and rejected their precious traditions. They couldn't stand it! (1)
*But there was a bigger reason why the elite Jews hated Jesus, and it is because He rightly claimed to be God. We can find the Lord's claim many times in the New Testament. Think, for example, of the Lord's "I AM" statements in the Gospel of John. Statements like: "I am the bread of life." "I am the light of the world." "I am the good shepherd."
*Jesus spoke these "I AM" statements as clear evidence that He is the LORD God of the Old Testament who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. In Exodus 3:13-14:
13. . . Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?''
14. And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM.'' And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'''
*That's who Jesus is! Our crucified and risen Savior IS the eternal Son of God, the King of all Kings, and our only hope of salvation! He had already backed up this claim by working thousands of miracles. But instead of falling down before the Lord with humble faith and love, the Pharisees went to Him with arrogant self-righteousness and murderous hatred.
*This was the situation in Matthew 15:1-2, where "the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 'Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.'''
*William MacDonald explained that this accusation wasn't about basic hygiene. It's not like Jesus' disciples went around with filthy hands all the time. Of course, they washed their hands. But they weren't following the unnecessary, traditional washing rituals that had been set up by the Pharisees. (2)
*Jesus quickly pointed out their blatant hypocrisy of judging other people, when their own sins were far greater. The scribes and Pharisees had also found ways to justify their selfishness and sin. Listen to the Lord in vs. 3-9:
3. But He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?
4. For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.'
5. But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me has been dedicated to the temple''
6. 'is released from honoring his father or mother.' "Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.
7. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
8. 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
9. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'''
*Here Jesus teaches us that we should honor God's commands over man's traditions. And Jesus gave the example of their wicked tradition that allowed selfish, adult children to avoid taking care of their elderly parents.
*The Temple leaders had established an oath. It's called "Corban" in Mark 7:11, and that word means "given" or "dedicated." The oath worked like this: If your parents needed financial help, and you had plenty of money to help them. But you were a greedy, ungrateful, selfish child, -- all you had to do was tell them your money was "Corban" or dedicated to the Temple, and you didn't have to give them a penny.
*Then you were basically free to use the money any way you wanted to as long as you didn't give it to your parents, and you were supposed to give it to the Temple in the end, but that part wasn't always enforced. (2)
*That was their tradition, even though the Fifth Commandment clearly tells us to honor our parents. And we should always put God's commands over man's traditions. But the scribes and Pharisees weren't willing to listen to the Lord. No wonder that in vs. 14 Jesus called the Pharisees "blind leaders of the blind." They were pretending to follow God, while they were finding ways to make wrong things seem right.
*And in vs. 10-11, Jesus turn to the crowd to point them to true source of our sinfulness. It's not the dirt on the outside, but the dirt on the inside. All sin starts in our hearts. And Jesus gave the example of our sinful words. "He called the multitude and said to them, 'Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.'''
*Sadly, many in the crowd weren't willing to listen to Jesus either. But what about us? Who are we listening to? Who is setting the standards for our lives? There are hundreds of voices crying out for our attention, seeking to lead us away from God, seeking to fill our hearts with lies and meaningless trivia. Don't listen to them. Listen to the Lord!
*We must understand how important it is for us to listen to the Lord. Eight times in the Gospels, Jesus cried out: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Then seven times in the Book of Revelation, Jesus said, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
*Listen to the Lord, and you will hear Him say challenging things like Matthew 4:17, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:19, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." And Luke 9:23, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." Christians: Taking up our cross for Jesus is extremely important, and we know this because Jesus tells us the same thing six different times in the Gospels. (Scriptures listed below.) (3)
*When we listen to the Lord, we will hear Him say challenging things, but we will also hear Him say great, comforting things. For example, in Isaiah 41:10 the Lord says, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
*In Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus says, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
*In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus says, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, you will find rest for your souls."
*And in 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Lord told Paul: "My Grace is sufficient for you." Or as the New English Bible says: "My grace is all you need." And in Hebrews 13:5, "He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'''
*One of the most helpful, Scriptures for me is Isaiah 26:3. There the prophet said this to the LORD: "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."
*God wants us to know that He will keep us in perfect peace, if we will keep our hearts and minds on Him. Author Corrie ten Boom survived a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, and she gave explained it something like this: "Look around and be distressed. Look within and be depressed. Look at Jesus and be at rest. Keep kneeling down and looking up. Then you can see life from the position of Jesus' victory over your problems. He is willing to make you more than conquerors!" (4)
*We are so much better off when we listen to the Lord! So, always be listening to the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. THE SECOND QUESTION IN OUR SPIRITUAL CHECK-UP IS: ARE YOU AIMING TO PLEASE GOD?
*In vs. 12, the disciples were concerned about pleasing the wrong people, so they went to Jesus and said, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" But in vs. 13-14, Jesus gave this answer to His disciples: "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.''
*The disciples were concerned about pleasing those hard-hearted, unbelieving rulers. But Jesus was only concerned about pleasing His Heavenly Father, and He always did.
*In Matthew 3:17, at the Lord's baptism, "suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.''' Then in Matthew 17:5, on the Mount of Transfiguration, while Peter was speaking, "behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!'" And in John 8:29, Jesus could give this amazing testimony about His relationship with God the Father, "He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.''
*Jesus always pleased our Heavenly Father. Who are we trying to please? We all need the same kind of testimony God gave to Noah's great grandfather Enoch. We see it in Hebrews 11:5-6, where the Word of God says:
5. By faith Enoch was translated so that he did not see death, "and was not found because God had translated him''; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
6. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
*Who are we trying to please? Some of you remember Orson Bean. He was a successful actor and award-winning director for five decades. Orson starred on Broadway for twenty years. He also regularly appeared as a panelist on game shows like "To Tell the Truth."
*But in spite of his success, Orson found himself empty and addicted to hard drugs and alcohol. Late in life, Orson became a Christian, but he took a rough road to get there. And his testimony is pretty rough around the edges.
*But please listen to part of it. Orson wrote: "For most of my life I didn't believe in God. Who had time? I was too busy with things of this world. . . The fame made me happy. It made me money, and it was fun.
*I wanted more, so I graduated to drugs and booze. They worked, too, for a while (quite a long while, actually). But when they finally stopped working, when my wife left, and the game shows stopped calling, I realized that it was time for a change. I enrolled in a 'twelve-step program.'"
*They kept talking about a Higher Power, but Orson kept resisting turning his life over to God. A big turning point came when Orson talked to a tough ex-con named Bobby. Bobby had done hard time after a roof-top battle with police, but by then, he was a leader in the twelve-step program.
*And Orson wrote, "I caught up and introduced myself. I told him about how I had a few months clean and sober. And about my reluctance to think about my higher power as God. What advice did he have, I asked?"
*Bobby told Orson, "Get down on your knees, and thank God every morning. Then, do it again at night." "But I don't think I believe in God," Orson replied. "It doesn't matter," Bobby said. "Just do it." Orson's last question was, "Why do I have to get down on my knees?" "He likes it," said Bobby. (5)
*That's what caught my eye: "He likes it." God likes it. Church: That's reason enough to do anything God wants us to do. He likes it, so start aiming to please God.
3. THE THIRD QUESTION IN OUR SPIRITUAL CHECK-UP IS: ARE YOU LEARNING FROM THE LORD?
*In vs. 14-16 Jesus was talking about the Pharisees, when He said:
14. "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.''
15. Then Peter answered and said to Him, "Explain this parable to us.''
16. So Jesus said, "Are you also still without understanding?"
*In many ways, Peter's answer had to be "yes." There was so much more for him to learn. And Church: There is much more for us to learn. But the good news is that the Lord wants to teach us!
*Jesus Christ wants us to learn how to live and love like He does. The Apostle Paul talked about this essential learning in Ephesians 4:17-24, and there he wrote:
17. This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,
18. having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart;
19. who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20. But you have not so learned Christ,
21. if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:
22. that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
23. and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
24. and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.
*What does all of this teaching mean on a practical, everyday level? Paul went on to give us some details in Ephesians 4:25-32, where he said:
25. Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
26. Be angry, and do not sin'': do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
27. nor give place to the devil.
28. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
29. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
30. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
32. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
*The bottom line is that the more we really learn from Jesus, the more we will be like Him. Our prayer ought to be, "Lord, help me to learn everything I can from You, so I will be more like You." But are you learning from the Lord?
4. THE FOURTH QUESTION IN OUR SPIRITUAL CHECK-UP IS: HAVE YOU FOUND THE RIGHT HELP FOR YOUR HEART?
*In vs. 17-20 Jesus helps us to see that the terrible problem we all have with sin starts in our spiritual hearts. Jesus asked:
17. "Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?
18. But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.
19. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
20. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."
*Everybody needs help for their heart. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," so everybody needs help for their heart. And God has promised to give it!
*Ezekiel 11:19-20 is speaking first to the scattered Jews, but the promise is for anyone who will put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. There the Lord says:
19. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,
20. that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.
*The cross of Jesus Christ opened the door for this prophecy to be fulfilled in the lives of all believers. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He took our sins. Then Jesus rose again from the dead so that we could have a new heart, a heart like His. And we will when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
*Believers get a brand-new spiritual heart, so in 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul could write: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." And in 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul could say, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." In other words, "God the Father made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
*Jesus never sinned, but He took all of our sins on Himself when He died on the cross for us. The risen Christ did that so we could have His righteousness when we receive Him as our Lord and Savior.
*Speaking of this amazing trade, Bill Bouknight said, "My sister Martha is 3 years older than I am, and has always been considerably smarter. This put me at a disadvantage. Teachers in school would compare my work to Martha's and wonder if I came from the same litter.
*When I was 4 or 5 and Martha was 7 or 8, she sometimes took advantage of my financial ignorance. I would have a dime and she would have a nickel. Showing me that the nickel was clearly larger than the dime, she would suggest a trade. I would gladly do so, wondering how my sister could be so dumb as to make such an offer.
*Not all trades are fair. Some take advantage of the ignorant or uninformed. But occasionally one bumps into a trade that is so caring, so loving that it rattles our selfish bones.
*At the heart of the Gospel is a terrific trade like that: A sinless Christ took upon himself the sin of all people, bore it to Calvary, suffered and died for it. And in exchange covered all believers with His perfect righteousness."
*Then Bill said, "Let's suppose that I am wearing a coat that reveals the state of my soul. Every commandment I ever broke, every needy person I ever ignored, every lustful thought I ever had, every profanity I ever uttered, -- all have left dirty marks on my coat. What a filthy garment it is! I must wear the coat and no cleaner on earth can remove its stains, and smudges.
*Let's suppose that Jesus approaches me. I try to hide because I don't want Him to see my filthy coat. It reveals everything bad about me.
*But Jesus finds me and says, 'Bill, I know all about your coat. I love you anyway. Give me the coat.'
*Miserable with shame, I turn the coat over to him. Then I watch as He marches off to Calvary. He wears it on the cross, bearing the penalty for every smudge and stain. And at that very moment when He cries out from the cross, 'It is finished' and breathes His last, suddenly I become aware that I am wearing a new coat.
*Instantly I recognize it. It is Jesus' coat! And there's not a smudge or a stain on it. It's a coat of perfect righteousness. Now I can walk into the very presence of God, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ." (6)
*What a trade! Only it’s more than a new coat. It’s a whole new life, eternal life! Jesus took our sin and death so that we could have both His righteousness and His eternal life. Have you made this trade? Have you come to Jesus Christ for your spiritual heart trouble? It is the most important thing you will ever do in life. And God wants you to do it today. So, call on the Lord Jesus Christ to save you, as we have a time for silent prayer.
*And I am asking all of us to take this spiritual check-up, so here are the 4 questions again:
-Are you listening to the Lord?
-Are you aiming to please God?
-Are you learning from the Lord?
-And have you found the right help for your heart?
*Jesus is the only person who can give you a new spiritual heart. Put your trust in Jesus Christ, and call on the Lord to save you today.
-BibleVerseStudy.com - "Who Were the Pharisees?" - https://www.bibleversestudy.com/johngospel/john7-pharisees.htm
(2) "Believer's Bible Commentary" by William MacDonald - Edited by Arthur Farstad - Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Copyright 1995 - "Tradition Versus the Word of God" - Mark 7:1-23 - Downloaded to e-Sword by Rick Meyers - Copyright 2021
Matthew 10:38 - "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me."
Matthew 16:24 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
Mark 8:34 - And when He had called the people to Him, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
Mark 10:21 - Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.''
Luke 9:23 - Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Luke 14:27 - "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."
(4) Adapted from:
-"How Orson Bean Found God" - December 6, 2008 - Posted by Scott Johnson at 5:09 AM - http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2008/12/022236.php
(6) Sermons.com sermon "A Terrific Trade" by Bill Bouknight - 2 Corinthians 5:17-21- 2002