Flower

Call To Worship April 15 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 11:37-54

“Let us notice, secondly, in this passage — the foolishness which accompanies hypocrisy in religion. We are told that the Pharisee with whom our Lord dined, marveled that our Lord “had not first washed before dinner.” He thought, like most of his order — that there was something unholy in not doing it, and that the neglect of it was a sign of moral impurity. Our Lord points out the absurdity of attaching such importance to the mere cleansing of the body — while the cleansing of the heart is overlooked. He reminds His host that God looks at the inward part of us — the hidden man of the heart, far more than at our skins.

And He asks the searching question, “Did not He who made the outside — make also that which is inside?” The same God who formed our poor dying bodies — is the God who gave us a heart and soul.

Forever let us bear in mind that if we would know what we are in religion — the state of our hearts is the principal thing that demands our attention. Bodily washings, and fastings, and gestures, and postures, and self-imposed mortifications of the flesh — are all utterly useless, if the heart is wrong. External devoutness of conduct, a grave face, and a bowed head, and a solemn countenance, and a loud amen — are all abominable in God’s sight — as long as our hearts are not washed from their wickedness, and renewed by the Holy Spirit. Let this caution never be forgotten.

The idea that men can be devout before they are converted, is a grand delusion of the devil, and one against which we all need to be on our guard. There are two Scriptures which are very weighty on this subject. In one it is written, “Out of the heart are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23.) In the other it is written, “Man looks on the outward appearance — but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7.) There is a question which we should always ask ourselves in drawing near to God, whether in public or private. We should say to ourselves, “Where is my heart?”

Let us notice, thirdly, in this passage — the gross inconsistency which is often exhibited by hypocrites in religion. We read that our Lord says to the Pharisees, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs — but you neglect justice and the love of God.” They carried to an extreme, their zeal to pay tithes for the service of the temple — and yet they neglected the plainest duties towards God and their neighbors. They were scrupulous to an extreme about small matters in the ceremonial law — and yet they were utterly regardless of the simplest first principles of justice to man and love toward God.

In the one direction, they were rigidly careful to do even more than was needful. In the other direction, they would do nothing at all. In the secondary things of their religion, they were downright zealots and enthusiasts. But in the great primary things, they were no better than the heathen!

The conduct of the Pharisees in this matter, unhappily, does not stand alone. There have never been lacking religious professors who have exalted the secondary things of Christianity, far above the primary things. And in their zeal for the secondary things — they have finally neglected the essential things entirely. There are thousands at the present day who make a great ado about daily services, and keeping Lent, and a gorgeous ceremonial, and other religious rituals — but never get any further. They know little or nothing of the great practical duties of humility, charity, meekness, spiritual-mindedness, Bible reading, private devotion, and separation from the world. They plunge into every gaiety with greediness. They are to be seen at every worldly assembly and amusement — at the race, the opera, the theater, and the ball. They exhibit nothing of the mind of Christ in their daily life. What is all this but walking in the steps of the Pharisees?

Well says the wise man, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9.) The generation which tithed mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs — but neglect justice and the love of God — is not yet extinct!

Let us watch and pray that we may observe a scriptural proportion in our religion. Let us beware of putting the secondary things out of their place — and so by degrees, lose sight of the essential things entirely. Whatever importance we attach to the ceremonial part of Christianity — let us never forget its great practical duties. The religious teaching which inclines us to pass over the great practical duties of the Gospel — has something about it which is radically defective.”

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