You can squeeze from the outside and get an appearance of good that actually has not penetrated the heart. And often, the danger that has crept in among believing people is to so emphasize the external that you actually have a generation that has no internal relationship with the Spirit of God. And the next generation has nothing of Christianity because it actually filled up the church with dead people.I doubt that anyone preaches contrary to this truth. Well, okay, some do. I've heard a couple. I doubt that many people do.
Listen to the words of Jesus: "You whited sepulchres, full of dead men's bones." He was saying that to the religious leaders of the people of Israel. And so we have to constantly, constantly remind ourselves that genuine spiritual life is something that comes from the inside by the work of the Spirit, and then, and let's not miss it, then, then bears fruit.
Okay, because here's the objection, and we're living right where Galatians is with this objection. And you say, "But Pastor, you're basically saying that we can't deal with anything on the outside now." And I'm saying, "No!" Because if the inside is being changed, here's nine things that the Spirit of God is going to produce. Love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, self control.
So don't get into a game of saying, "Well, It's either got to be external or internal." It's actually supposed to be both. But which comes first, and which controls? Because if you start with external, you have no guarantee that you'll get to the internal.
And in fact, and I can say this on the basis of observation in the Scriptures and life, there is ample evidence that if you start at the outside, you actually never get to the inside because what you create is self-righteousness. What you create is judgmentalism. What you create is a life that lives by appearance rather than reality. And what we have to do is recognize that we must go for the heart because that's where the Spirit is at work, and if the Spirit's at work, that will produce it.
I'm convinced the greater danger in our circles is that we teach salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. But we get a little ambiguous on sanctification, possibly emphasizing the role of our effort in accomplishing that ongoing transformation a bit too much. And then the weight of the rules and discipline-heavy culture we've created in our institutions teaches far more powerfully than words ever could.
There's also a terrific example of humility and transparency at the end of the sermon. It's been rare in my experience for a pastor to expose his own struggles to his congregation, and I'm grateful that the trend line seems to be reversing.