Aligning Our World
February 24, 2020

Getting Spiritually Aligned
“Aligning Our World”
Matthew 23:25-26

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A very influential leader would often use Christian vernacular in his public speeches. He talked about how the blessing of the Almighty and the Christian confessions would become the pillars of his new government, and would show off his tattered Bible and declared how he drew strength from it. And the people welcomed him as a man sent by God

The man was Adolf Hitler. He mastered outward religiosity, but without its inward reality.

We see this same hypocrisy in our local supermarkets as we go shopping for deals. But we may actually be getting less than what we thought. According to the U.S. News & World Report, some manufacturers are selling us the same size packages, but putting less of the product inside. In the report they noted one detergent that once held 61 ounces now only contains 55 ounces, but it is still sold at the same price and in the same size box.

What we could say is that the outside doesn’t always portray what’s on the inside, and this goes for us as well. That is why God is interested in what’s inside more than He is interested in what’s portrayed on the outside.

Take for instance the Old Testament Tabernacle, the place where God’s people worshipped the Lord. The outer appearance was not all that eye appealing. It wouldn’t have shown up on the cover of Better Homes and Garden. It was made of goat and badger skins. Now, for durability and protection these couldn’t be beat, but they’re not that pretty to look at. And so, by the way it looked, we wouldn’t think much of it.

But the inside it was a different story. There were intricately woven tapestries, along with beautifully made articles of gold, silver, and bronze.

The wilderness Tabernacle is in many ways symbolic of the spiritual tabernacle that God sets up in the lives of those who believe in Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul points out that as believers our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). And the beautiful tapestries and furnishings reveal how the Holy Spirit weaves the qualities of Jesus Christ into our lives as He brings us into alignment with God.

What all this speaks to is that God’s kingdom is not only inside out, but when we compare it to the world’s way of thinking, it is also upside down as well.

First, in order to live, we must die. Jesus said that He is the resurrection and the life, and that whoever believes in Him, even though they may be dead, they will still be alive, and those who are alive and believe will never die (John 11:25-26). Later, Jesus taught that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it will not produce life (John 12:24).

Another upside down kingdom principle is that to be the boss, we must become servants. To be the chief, we must serve. And to illustrate this point, Jesus took up a towel at the Passover Meal and washed the disciple’s feet, taking on the form of the lowest servant in the household (John 13:1-17).

There’s also the idea that if we want to be exalted and lifted up, we must humble ourselves. Jesus said that whoever exalts themselves will be humbled, but whoever humbles themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:12). The Apostle James tells us to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, and then He, the Lord, will lift us up (James 4:10). And the Apostle Peter says that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).

And then, if we want to be whole, we must be broken. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3), where there is no more sorrow, suffering, pain, or tears (Revelation 21:4).

And so it’s not what we make ourselves out to be, but it’s what we are on the inside that determines who we really are.

Let’s take a look at what Jesus said about this when he confronted the Pharisees.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Matthew 23:25-26 NKJV)

Within the context of the whole chapter, Jesus comes against the religionist of His day, the Pharisees. Now, while Jesus encourages us to obey what they taught, because they taught the Law of Moses, He also told us not to follow their practices, because while they talk a good game, they didn’t practice what they preached. In other words, they placed commandments on the people that they didn’t follow.

And so, Jesus pronounced judgment upon them, because they shut the door of God’s kingdom on those who were truly seeking. They corrupted people’s faith, and reversed the truth of God’s word to fit their needs. They turned God’s values all around, elevated the importance of rituals, and sought to exalt themselves according to their own set of standards.

But Jesus came to institute a new way and a new community based upon a relationship with God instead of following religious rules and rituals, which is what the Pharisees had made God’s word and law out to be. Jesus wanted to strip away the religion and start to grow the relationship.

Have you ever noticed how a diseased tree still looks okay on the outside, but inside it is decaying, dying, and wasting away. Eventually the outside begins to match the inside as it shows signs of the corruption.

But also, have you noticed that after the fire the outside of the tree is burned and blackened, but not long afterwards green springs begin to show up on the branches. That’s because the life force of the tree isn’t found in its outer bark, but lies deep inside as life giving nutrients flow through the interior, which then shows up on the exterior.

Like the tree, we appear one way on the surface, while something completely different is occurring inside. The real change doesn’t occur on the outside, no matter how nice we may dress, or the cosmetics we apply. Real change occurs on the inside, so what we need is a new and improved inner life.

And to have a right life on the inside, we need Jesus to reside on the inside.

Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20 NKJV)

To the lukewarm church of Laodicea, Jesus said that if they didn’t repent and turn from their self-sufficient ways that He would vomit them out of His mouth. What He was telling them is that a change was needed, but one that only happens when He takes up residency inside.

What Jesus is advocating is for a changed life, and for our lives to change we need a transformation, that is, and inside-out change to take place, and it all begins by changing our inside operating system.

Up to this point, sin was our operating system, but what Jesus wants is for us to make an upgrade, that is, from a sinful nature to having Jesus setting up residency, and when Jesus takes up residency, He places within us the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to make the necessary changes, and leads us into God’s truth to help in the process.

Now, this new operating system can only be installed through what Jesus called being “Born Again” (John 3:3). This is a new birth, a spiritual birth, where our sins are forgiven by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.

One day while walking through the woods surrounding his farm, the farmer found a young eaglet that had fallen out of the nest. He took it home and put it in the chicken coop for the hens to raise. For several years it acted like a chicken, ate like a chicken, and lived like a chicken. Yet within it lay the nature of an eagle, a nature that couldn’t be removed. Then one day it saw another eagle soaring high above, and the eagle flapped its wings and flew the coop, so to speak. It soared high among the clouds as it was born to do. And then it came back and ate its family. (No, that is not part of the story, it’s just my warped sense of humor.)

The inside nature of the eagle determined its outside behavior. As believers we have a brand new identity, and it comes through what Jesus Christ has done inside our hearts.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

Now, a new inside requires a cleansing work to go on, and it all begins with our minds. And this is what the Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the church in Rome.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

So changing the inside begins by changing what we allow in our minds. And as we plant the Word of God in our minds, it will take root and grow, and that is when we’ll start finding ourselves aligning with God.

This change also happens in our hearts as Solomon points out saying that as we think in our hearts, that is who we will become (Proverbs 23:7). If our sins and character flaws are not exposed to the power of the Holy Spirit and the cross of Christ, then they will spin our emotions out of control, disrupting our lives, ruining our relationships, causing us to miss out on God’s destiny, and life becomes unmanageable, and it becomes apparent to all.

When Leonardo da Vinci was working on his great painting, “The Last Supper,” he asked a young man named Pietri Bandinelli, to sit for the character of Jesus. Over the next 25 years Da Vinci continued this great work until all that was left was the face of Judas. After searching for some time, he noticed a man in the streets and asked him to be his model. The man’s shoulders were bent forward, and he had a cold, hard, and evil look. Just the man Da Vinci was looking for.

When this man came into the studio, he looked around and a sad look of recognition came him. He said, “Maestro, I was in this studio 25 years ago, I then sat for Christ.”

Many people claim to be Christian because they have grown up “in church,” but the real change cannot happen until we are “in Christ.” And only when we are “in Christ” can we be all that we are intended to be “in church.”

And so an inside work is needed, and this inside work requires an act of faith.

Evangelical theologian, J.I. Packer said, “It is a part of healthy Christian experience to enjoy a continually increasing degree of deliverance from sins! Few things afford the Christian such relief and encouragement as the memory of sins that once ruled him, but which he has conquered by the power of the Spirit of God.”

Now, this can never be accomplished through rituals and religious acts. Jesus spoke against this saying to the Pharisees to quit focusing on the externals and start dealing with what lies on the inside.

Jesus said, “Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:26 NIV)

True cleansing comes only by the power and grace of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit working from the inside out. It is through confessing and asking to be forgiven, and then turning from our sins, that which is known as repentance, and then living our lives in accordance to God’s word.

If not, well, let this story told by a Haitian pastor burn into our souls.

There was a man in his community that wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted to buy it, but could only afford half the asking price. After much haggling, the owner agreed to sell it at half price, but with one stipulation, he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from over the door.

After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from that single nail over the door that he still owned. So the house became uninhabitable, and the family was forced to sell the house back to the owner of the nail.

The Haitian pastor’s conclusion was that if we leave the devil with even one small peg in our lives, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making our lives unfit for any sort of godly habitation.

The closer we get to Jesus, and the more room we allow Him in our lives, then the more He’ll expose the dead dogs and unholy pegs so we can repent and change. Someone said that God loves us just the way we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us that way.

God changes us from the inside out as we focus more upon Jesus. We don’t change by focusing on the outward behavior; rather we change by focusing inwardly and upon the nature of Jesus Christ residing within.

One church leader, while trying to impress the children’s Sunday school class, asked, “Why do people call me a Christian?” After a moment one young boy said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.”

Our whole society is built upon appearance: physical looks, financial success, nice house, cars, and clothing. It’s all about perception. If the inside is wrong, however, then it really doesn’t matter what the outside looks like.

But what Jesus says stands the world upon its head, in an upside down, inside out sort of way, because it is radical and goes against all conventional wisdom.

On our part it begins with a simple prayer, “Lord Change Me.” Notice that we’re not asking for an outside in change, that is for God to change what is going on around us, but to change us instead, and then we will see the world around us change.

Therefore, as Jesus tells us, let’s clean the inside, and then the outside will follow.

To do so we must return to ground zero of our faith, that is, to return to the foot of the cross, the simplicity of forgiveness and repentance, and return to a total trust in God and in His word.

That is how we align our world to God.

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