The Mind Is the Battle Ground of the Soul :: By Sean Gooding

Matthew chapter 15:10-20 (continued)

When He had called the multitude to Himself, He 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.’ Then His disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying? But He answered and said, ‘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.’

Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ So Jesus said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.’”

In our last post we looked at the idea of religious hypocrisy.  In particular, we looked at the scribes and Pharisees and how they had been teaching the ‘doctrines of men’ rather than the Laws of God.  They had added such a burden to the people with all these new rules that most of the people were more familiar with the rules of men than the laws of God.

Today we have the same kind of thing happening, New Testament churches have added such rules and by-laws to the clearly written laws of God that the laws of God are choked out and forgotten.  In this particular case the Pharisees complained to Jesus that His disciples ate without first washing their hands.

This is not about using the right soap, but a ritualistic course of washing their hands that was designed to tell the world and their peers that they were super religious. This is so typical of religion, there is such a focus on the outside and Man’s abilities that the true power of God is either negated or forgotten. Thus the outer man looks very religious and holy, but there is no real transformation inside.

Today we will continue in this lesson. Jesus uses the hypocrisy of the Pharisees to teach a lesson about what really defiles a man/woman. Let us be real and clear, Jesus is God, He understands the need to wash your hands and to be clean. God knows about germs and how they are transmitted so please do not get the idea that we do not need to wash our hands before we eat. Jesus has moved on from that and so should we.

What You Say Reflects Your True Inner Man, Verses 10-11

Jesus made the point that it was not eating with dirty hands that made a man/woman unclean. Rather it was what came out of your mouth, referring to our words that made us dirty. The writer James puts it this way in James 1:26:

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”

So if your tongue is not controlled, then your religion is useless. This hits me very hard. I often have a hard time controlling my tongue. I am not one to swear, but I can be sarcastic at times and painfully so— to those I profess to love. How are your words? Do they help or hurt others?

Later on, we will deal with speaking offensive words and when that is okay. But in general, how is your mouth? Does is speak life or death? Do you tell sexual jokes? Do you use profane language? Are you involved in crude conversations about the other sex?  Do you use the Lord’s name as a swear word?  Do you curse your parents and dishonor them behind their backs? These are all sinful and evil words from our mouths. Our religion is useless. In James 3:5-12 we find these verses:

“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.

Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear fig? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”

Wow, these are harsh words that I/we need to take heed of. We speak a lot about religion and about Christianity but in truth if we were to gauge our progress in Christ, if we measured our maturity in Jesus against these verses, then how mature are we? Verse 10 in particular strikes me, how can blessings and cursing come out of the same mouth?

James concludes that these thing should not happen. So where is the balance? How do we bridge the gap? How do we grow in the area of the mouth? First we must realize that we cannot tame our own tongue, see verse 8, thus we must surrender it to God. Romans 12: 1-2 reminds us that we need to be transformed from our lost and fallen state to the saved state that Jesus has redeemed us into. The Holy Spirit alone has the power of the living God to tames our tongues.  But we must obey the prompting of God to shut up!

The Truth Is Offensive, Verses 12-15

Jesus spoke absolute truth. His words “cut to the bone” as they say. Jesus’ disciples had a reverence for the religious leaders of the day. It is no different than today. Today many in the “Christian” world pay homage to the Pope, or some other religious leader and we have this awe about them because of the pomp and show that surrounds them.

They are treated like gods and no one dares to call them out. This was what it was like even in Jesus’ day, the disciples were all in awe of the religious leaders and from a young age they would have been taught to have reverence for their religiosity. Their robes, head gear, wealth and apparent knowledge of God’s word.  But Jesus knew better.  He knew their inner man, not the persona that they played out each day in the streets and synagogues of Israel.

The truths that Jesus spoke offended the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Scribes. Jesus went on to point out that the reason people got offended at the truths of God were that they were not part of God’s family. They were not indwelt by God and they had closed themselves off to the power of God. Jesus then calls them blind, not physically but spiritually, these were blind men. They were blind to the truths of God and then Jesus tells the disciples to “leave them alone” (verse 14).

It is pointless to argue with blind men who refuse to accept that they are blind. Let them walk and fall into a pit, and let those that follow them do the same. This is hard for us to do; we want to argue religion with them either to boost our selves or convince them of the truth. But the only way for this to happen is if they fall, and fall hard.

Their entire belief system has to be uprooted and proven false. I have spoken to people in false religions, even ones that name the name of Jesus and they are blinded by their beliefs and truly they are being led by blind men. But the truth is that they choose to be blind.

The Bible is a book that makes its case for our faith. We are not called to have “blind faith” in God.  He has proven Himself to us in His Word and in our lives, in fact in the very creation around us His power and glory are declared.  People simply choose to be blind and there is no one as blind as those who refuse to see.

There will be many people who chose hell. They simply could not accept  what God has to offer, although very good—is for them. Thus they reject it and try to find another way.  There is NO OTHER WAY but Jesus Christ. John 14:6 declares this very clearly, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Our Hearts Are the Root of the Problem, Verses 15-20

In Jeremiah 17:9 we find this very sobering verse, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable–who can understand it?”

We live in a world that tells us to follow our hearts. We have books and movies and slogans and on and on telling us the very opposite of what God says. We are intrinsically evil.  Just the other day I was able to listen to the recording of a 3-year-old little girl discussing with her dad that the Barbie doll had told her to use the nail polish in her room. She insisted that the doll had spoken to her over and over again, and even though she had said no, no, no, the doll would not listen. This little girl was lying to her dad and blaming it on the doll.  She was only 3 years old.

The sin nature shows up early and often. From birth we are sinners, to the core, that little, cute, precious and priceless bundle of joy your call your son or daughter will lie to you, steal from you, sneak around behind your back and disrespect you to your face because they—like you, are sinners. Their hearts are deceitful and wicked just like yours and mine. They get their sin nature from us, their fathers.

Thus what comes out of our mouths is a reflection of the evil in our hearts, Jesus goes on to describe those things in verse 19:

“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”

What is needed is not a religion, that only changes the outside, kind of like paint on a rusting car. It only covers up the rust for a while, but eventually the true nature of the rust comes out and you see the rust. What is needed is a rebirth. We need for God to kill off me and make a new me in Jesus.

Then and only then can I become like Jesus. But we do like the guy in the mirror, we think he is okay and we think that all he needs is a little sprucing up—like a spring cleaning and we will be okay. That is the Devil speaking.

God says unless you be born again, you cannot see the kingdom of heaven. Jesus told Nicodemus that in John 3.  Remember that it was the religious people who called for Jesus’ death. They plotted and schemed and bribed one of Jesus’ associated to betray Him. Religion kills and destroys truth.  In turn truth destroys and exposes religion to be just a band-aid on a dying man.

We need to be renewed in Jesus, by Jesus and for Jesus. Stop depending on your own righteousness, you have none; zero, nada, zip and nothing.  Only Jesus’ righteousness is enough to satisfy God, and salvation simply means that you repent, stop depending on your own righteousness and put your full trust and dependence on Jesus’ righteousness for you.

You and I have no other hope for salvation. Once we have been born again, then Jesus goes about giving us a new heart, one that is righteous. His Holy Spirit moves into us and begins to convict and chide us about the way we think. He begins to point out sinful thoughts and evil ideas. He disciplines us with shame and guilt when we think sinful things. Then we start to take our thoughts captive, we begin to say no to certain thoughts. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we find these powerful and hopeful words:

“We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ.”

As a new creation in Jesus we begin to learn in Jesus and by the power of His Holy Spirit how to take our thoughts captive, to tame them and discipline ourselves to not think certain ways or if we do think a certain way, not to keep that thought for a long time.

For example, I am a married man, I see a cute girl at work. I acknowledge that she is cute and then move on to some other work and series of thoughts, no sin has been committed. But if I continue to look at that girl, find ways to get to talk to her and start to imagine myself with her, then I have committed sin in my mind. If I allow that sin to go unchecked in my mind, then I will act on it and commit a more overt sin either in my talk (mouth) or with my body.

It is essential then that we give ourselves over to the power, conviction and discipline of the Holy Spirit. True Christianity begins in your mind, as God changes the way you think because you have been born again in Jesus. God changes the way you think with His Word—the Bible. Careful and disciplined reading and study of the Bible will give you and the Holy Spirit the tools to change your way of thinking and bring you into submission under God.  We have this plea from God through the pen of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2, let us be obedient:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].”