In the old covenant, the emphasis was always on the external – “because of the hardness of men’s hearts” (Matt. 19:8). The law emphasised cleanliness in the external. The new covenant, in contrast, emphasised cleanliness “inside the cup” first (Matt. 23:25,26). Jesus said in that verse (v. 26) that once the inside was cleansed, the outside would automatically become clean, so that there would be no need to clean the outside at all. One can see this clearly from Matt. 5:21-30. If one has cleansed his heart from anger, there would be no danger of his committing murder externally. Likewise, if he has cleansed his heart from sexually dirty thoughts, there would be no danger of his committing adultery externally. Clean the inside of the cup and the outside will automatically become clean.
Where the emphasis in a church is primarily on the externals – avoiding cinema going, smoking, drinking, gambling and wearing ornaments etc., – such a church will only become an old covenant church! The way to get rid of external evils is not by concentrating on them first, but rather on the internal worldly attitude of mind which produces those external evils.
There can be no inward cleansing without self-judgment. It is impossible to build the church unless this inward cleansing is constantly preached. The Bible tells us to exhort one another daily in the church to avoid being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13; 10:25). Most Christian ‘churches’ have no interest in such preaching, except perhaps occasionally. Certainly not daily!. Hence they breed Pharisees with cups clean on the outside only. Here the bride of Christ must be different.
The emphasis in denominational Christianity is always on ‘activity’ – street preaching, house to house visitation, missionary work, etc. All this is good. But unfortunately it has taken the place of total obedience to God’s word in the minds of most believers.
Jesus said that we were to teach all Christians to obey all that He had taught (Matt. 28:20). God requires obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). It is a heathen concept that God requires us to go through various forms of physical suffering in order to prove our love for Him. This is very prevalent in the heathen culture in India and has unfortunately pervaded Christianity in our country as well. Spirituality is therefore seen as giving up one’s job and going out to some difficult place, undergoing various hardships, etc. All this may involve much sacrifice, but it can never be a substitute for obedience to God’s Word.
Our love for Jesus is not proved by sacrifice, but by obedience to His commandments – as Jesus Himself said in Jn. 14:15. To obey everything that Jesus has taught us in Matt. 5-7 is a far greater proof of our love for Him than even giving Him 50% of our salary or giving up our job and becoming a missionary.
Denominational Christianity is clearly pictured in the restless activity of Martha (Lk. 10:39-42). She was sincere, sacrificial, unselfish and zealous in her service for the Lord in the kitchen. Yet the Lord rebuked her. Her spirit was sour and critical of her sister Mary, who apparently was not doing anything sacrificial for the Lord. Mary was sitting quietly at the Lord’s feet, waiting to hear His word before doing anything for Him.
This is to be our attitude – not restless activity, but hearing what the Lord has to say to us and then obeying that – not doing what our own reason suggests, but doing the will of God.