Personal holiness and inward cleanliness

24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! Matthew 23:24 (LSB) 

A huge trap that Christians can fall into is self-righteousness. It is a form of idolatry and that always causes spiritual blindness (Romans 1:24-25). Self-righteousness puts all effort towards godliness in the wrong place. It creates a form of piety that is all about outward appearances while putting little or no priority on matters of the heart. It is all about being concerned about appearances and what others think rather than being totally committed to abiding in Christ from within first. The self-righteous are consciously holy. However, that is not what we are called to be. Christians must be consciously repentant and unconsciously holy. The difference is huge for these are totally opposite walks.

The self-righteous view their sanctification from as what they do through works in order to be worthy. The humble Christian, on the other hand, views sanctification as God’s work in them as they walk in repentance by His grace. Their works are simply acts of obedience while their worth is all wrapped up in who their Saviour is instead of what they have done.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the Law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! Matthew 23:23-24 (LSB) 

Those being rebuked by our Lord were so blind in their self-righteousness that most of them could not comprehend what He was saying. They only perceived that His message did not match their expectations so it could not be right. Our Lord called them hypocrites. This is the Greek word ὑποκριτής (hupokritēs). This is the word that the Greeks used for actors who performed on stage wearing a mask impersonating a character. Therefore, when our Lord called the scribes and Pharisees ὑποκριτής he was accusing them of pretending to be one thing when they were something else. These fellows went so far as to count out their mint, dill and cumin in order to precisely tithe from them. They were zealous for the forms and ceremonies of the Law, but neglected the weightier matters of it, which are justice and mercy and faithfulness.  View article →