Summary: This sermon encourages listeners to move beyond shallow religious ritualism and to allow God to touch the inner man and deal with the sin in the heart.
Introduction: (To introduce this sermon I played a short video clip showing a man washing his truck. The truck is parked in front of a house in the driveway. As you watch the video the man is meticulous in his washing. He covers every inch of the truck. He polishes the chrome. He washes every wheel with the utmost detail. He is obviously proud of the truck. As the video concludes the man opens the door of his truck. He plans to get in and drive away. As he opens the door you see trash (paper, cans, etc) piled deep on the floor of the truck. Obviously, the trash did not get there overnight. It has been a steady accumulation. As the man gets into the truck he does nothing with the trash. Some of the trash falls onto the ground. The man drives away with some trash laying on the ground and the rest in the place where he found it. He had painstakingly cleaned the outside of the truck without giving attention to the inside. The obvious point of the video is that the man cleaned the outside but failed to give attention to the inside. I asked the question: would you agree that this man did not finish the job?)
I have a proposal. It is possible to come to church and not finish the job. We can address the outside without giving attention to the inside. What do you mean preacher? It is a wonderful thing to attend church. God is glad you and I come. However, if our church attendance is merely going through the motions we have failed to complete the job at hand. God wants to clean up the inside. God wants to touch our hearts.
Illustration: There was once a young boy who went to spend the week with his grandfather on the farm. While walking around he noticed the chickens. They were scratching and playing around. The little lad said, “They ain’t got it”. Next he saw a colt in the field playing and kicking up its heel’s to which he replied, “He ain’t got it”. After examining all of the animals on his grandfather’s farm the boy saw that none of them had “it.” The boy finally found the old donkey in the barn. When he saw the donkey’s long, frowning face and the way the donkey just stood there he screamed for his grandfather to come quick. “I found it, I found it” the boy kept yelling. When his grandfather asked what he had found he said, “Pawpaw, I found an animal that has the same kind of religion that you have.”
(Contributed to Sermon Central by Chris Layton)
It is possible to go through the motions without encountering God. That happened during the days of Jeremiah. Look at Jeremiah 7 and examine the picture of a people who did not finish the job. They tried to clean the outside but failed to clean the inside. The picture you see in Jeremiah 7 is a disturbing picture. Look at verses 8-10. "Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. "Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, `We are delivered to do all these abominations’? (NKJV)
Let’s examine the text together.
1. First, notice the behavior of these people. Could this be you?
A. Their religion emphasized a name rather than a nature. Notice verse 9 "Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, "and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name” (NKJV) They had the name. They were Israelites. But, they did not have the nature of a child of God.
The Israelite people were filled with arrogance. I am reminded of a conversation Jesus once had with a group of religious leaders. He said to them "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’… They were disturbed that he implied that they were not free. Their answer to Jesus was “""We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.’ Jesus said to them "I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.” They had a name but no relationship. They had a religious name but did not have the nature of God. (See John 8:32ff)
I once read a story about Napoleon, the great conqueror. A criminal was brought before Napoleon to give account for his crimes. Napoleon asked the man his name. The man said he was named Napoleon. Napoleon, the conqueror, instructed the man to change his name or change his nature. Napoleon felt the criminal had a nature that was unworthy of the name Napoleon.