A couple of weeks ago my family and I were eating at our favorite pizza joint. When our server took our drink order I asked for water with lemon. A few minutes later she returned with a glass of water and several little packages of lemon powder. I didn't receive a real lemon, but an artificial one!
When Kristin and I first married we would keep two jugs of tea in our refrigerator. Because she grew up on unsweet tea and I grew up on sweet tea, we would keep a jug of each. After several months I decided to wean myself off of sweet tea, so I would add artificial sweetener to unsweet tea. I'll admit while the sweetener added a "sweetness" to the tea, it wasn't like drinking sweet tea made with sugar. There was a bitter aftertaste that I couldn't get used to. Finally I gave up and relented to drinking unsweet tea. If I couldn't have the real thing, I didn't want a cheap imitation.
Righteousness can be like the lemon powder or the artificial sweetener: it looks like the real thing but it's not. Artificial righteousness can fool some, but after awhile it becomes apparent that it's simply a cheap imitation of the real thing.
In Matthew 7:15-27 Jesus spoke of those who had artificial righteousness. They appeared to be holy, but it was just that: an appearance. In addition to Jesus calling these fakes ferocious wolves, he said their artificial righteousness would be obvious by simply looking at the "fruit" of their life. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit. A righteous life bears good fruit. Jesus said there are many who have artificial righteousness and base their goodness on their deeds, but in the end they will die and slip into a Christless eternity.
5 takeaways from this passage:
- There ARE people who have an artificial righteousness, so be on guard. We must avoid being impressed by someone's words and instead observe their actions.
- What's on the inside will eventually come out. Jesus said what is bound up in one's heart will eventually proceed from their mouth. How true, how true. Anyone can put on an act, but over time the true person begins to emerge.
- Artificial righteousness is ME-focused. In verse 22 "many people" were showing off to Jesus: look what we've done! they exclaimed. Look how good we are! Hey Jesus, you should be impressed!
- Authentic righteousness is Christ-focused. Any righteous deeds done are for the glory of Christ and not for self-gloating.
- Authentic righteousness is reading, hearing and doing God's Word. Jesus said anyone who hears His words and obeys them are true believers. Authentic righteousness is accompanied by humility that points others to Jesus.
So, do you have an authentic relationship with Jesus or are you settling for artificial sweeteners and lemon powder?
For more on this, watch the full message!