“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Beneath the Surface, by Randall D. Kittle
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“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

— Hebrews 4:13

Recently, I had a challenging encounter with God. I had parked my car in the corner of a church’s parking lot. When I got out of the car, I noticed dense vines growing on the retaining wall in front of me. From where I was standing I could tell they were wild grape leaves and thought how nice that this church had these attractive vines providing fruit for the wildlife in the area. Suddenly I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit to take a closer look at the vines. I stepped closer but nothing appeared out of the ordinary. With that I heard the voice of the Lord pressing me, “Look beneath the surface and see what lies beneath.” Taking hold of a grape vine and lifting it up I noticed that the grape vine was actually growing on top of a rather large and healthy patch of poison ivy! Many of the green leaves I had seen in the vibrant foliage weren’t grape leaves, but poison ivy.

The Lord spoke to me, saying,
“This is how it is for too many in the Church. On outward inspection they look healthy and even fruitful, but beneath the surface they still have poisonous attitudes that produce destructive deeds. Far too many who call themselves My own are covering their impure lives with a thin veneer of hypocrisy, but nothing is hidden from My sight. Unless they repent and renounce the idols they have been treasuring in their hearts, they will lose their spiritual vision and become unable to see Me for who I am or what I am doing. Call them to pursue hearts of purity and sincerity, for hearts like that will open My hands toward them and open their eyes to see Me.”

Who are you beneath the surface … in your heart? When you take off your mask and look in the mirror, who do you see? After all, that is who God sees all the time!

If the level of our Christianity only rises to the level of doing outward things to be seen by others, we will always try to do what looks good, while criticizing others who don’t, and silencing any who would show us our shallowness. In essence, we will become like Pharisees. The Pharisees put on a religious facade that covered their impure and insincere hearts.

Hypocritical Pharisees
The two primary characteristics of the Pharisees that Jesus declared during His earthly ministry were that they were hypocrites and they were blind. We can see this clearly in Matthew 23. Seven different times Jesus proclaims, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” The Pharisees were hypocrites … “play actors.” They played the part of having utmost devotion. The Pharisees would painstakingly perform deeds that displayed pious devotion to God. While their deeds indeed seemed impressive, they didn’t represent who they really were. The life of many Pharisees was little more than an insincere show. While the Pharisees might have looked good on the outside, they were full of death and decay on the inside. “Woe to you … Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).

What do you and I look like beneath the surface? Are you the same person at church as the one who lives in your house … or are you playing a role? You can count on this truth: what is on the inside of you will make its way out! But even more alarming to those who long to please the Lord — He already knows every “secret” of your heart. There’s no off-limit closet He can’t see into, no secret hidden chamber He cannot enter. To think differently is to deceive yourself.

The Sincere Solution
The solution to hypocrisy is repentance and sincerity. The Lord detests hypocrisy. He wants us to live one life — not play many parts! He wants us to confess hypocrisy as a sin, ask Him to forgive us, and then embrace sincerity. Being sincere means we are real, genuine, and authentic before man and God. It means we act the same, regardless of whom we are with because that is who we really are.

All of us are called to serve the Lord with a sincere heart.
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness” (Joshua 24:14). The reason so few believers walk in sincerity is because it isn’t easy. Sincerity is hard because it means we can’t pretend to be more than we are. Instead, we are forced to face our weaknesses and shortfalls. But sincerity is the only way to keep our relationship with God real and genuine, while knowing how far we have been changed into Christ’s likeness … and how much further we’ve yet to go!

Blind Pharisees
The other prime characteristic of the Pharisees was their lack of spiritual vision. Five different times in the 23rd chapter of Matthew Jesus laments the Pharisees blindness: “Woe to you, blind guides! … You blind fools! … You blind men! … You blind guides … Blind Pharisee!” According to our Lord and Savior, the Pharisees spiritual vision could be summed up by the phrase, “blind as a bat.” After all, the Pharisees couldn’t see Jesus was the fulfillment of the messianic promises that they studied, memorized, and taught to others. Right in front of their eyes Jesus was teaching like no other, performing miracles, and fulfilling the prophecies about the Messiah, yet they were blind to the truth that He was the Messiah they so desperately wanted to see.

Before we get too critical, I wonder how we are doing in our day. Is the American Church visually impaired? Do we see Jesus as the great, powerful, majestic Lord that He is? Or, are we becoming spiritually blind like the Pharisees?

The Pure Solution
Jesus gave us this promise, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). Our only hope of seeing God is by being pure! The person who is “pure in heart” doesn’t go around wondering, “Where is God in the trials, tragedy, heartache, and grief?” They will see that He is right in the middle of every situation teaching them, molding them, strengthening them, upholding them, and moving them along into His likeness.

How do we become “pure in heart?” Only through
repentance and relationship. We need to renounce the “secret” idols we have been treasuring in our hearts and repent of looking to them for pleasure instead of finding joy in God. If you need to be washed clean, you’re not alone. Let Jesus and His love purify your heart so that you may begin to see Him more clearly.

It is impossible to live a “pure life” without relationship with God. We need to meet with the Lord in His Word. The Scriptures will both show us what needs to be removed and help nurture what needs to grow in our hearts. We must open the Bible and “use it” every day if we want the strength to become and remain pure.

We also need to commune with the Lord in prayer. We will not remain pure without prayer. Prayer enthrones the Lord on the thrones of our hearts. Our hearts will only be pure if Jesus not only lives there but reigns!

Let us pray:
Lord, we repent of playing various parts instead of living the one life You died to give us. Forgive us of our hypocrisy and help us to be able to serve You in sincerity. Lord, we want to be the pure in heart who see You. Examine our hearts and show us every wicked way. We repent of treasuring the trash of this world instead of pursuing You whole-heartedly. Forgive us and help us to walk in purity for Your names sake. Strengthen our relationship with You that we might not only remain pure, but also have clear spiritual vision in the days ahead. Amen.


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