"These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules."
What do you think of when you hear these words: "Pharisees?" "Teachers of the law?" You probably think the same things that I think. I think of things like "show offs," "hypocrites," "legalistic," or "lost." But, I have to be careful of what I think about when I read passages about the Pharisees or the teachers of the law. I also have to remember that "Pharisees" and "teachers of the law" aren't just old, biblical characters who have come and gone; "Pharisees" and "teachers of the law" are still alive and well today. As a matter of fact, at different times of my life you could have labeled me a "Pharisee" or a "teacher of the law." In Mark 7, Jesus has an encounter with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. These men saw Jesus and His disciples eating food with unwashed hands, and they couldn't understand why Jesus and His disciples weren't obeying the "law." The Pharisees and the teachers of the law had twisted God's commands and laws and applied them to things that were not meant to be. They believed that by doing this they could better worship God and be right before Him...by keeping the laws. This is "legalism." However, Jesus called them out! As a matter of fact, He used the Scripture to call them out. Jesus said, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you HYPOCRITES." Do you think He got the Pharisees' and the teachers' of the law attention with that statement? Jesus went on to quote Isaiah: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules." Jesus saw these men from the inside out. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law could hide their hearts from other men and women, but they could not hide their hearts from God. They could fool other men and women with the words off their lips and the clothes that they wore, but they could not fool God. Worship is not about keeping laws. Worship is not about being dressed this way or that way. Worship is not about dropping words from lips. Worship is not about the person in front of you or behind you or beside you or across from you. Worship is about the heart! Jesus called the Pharisees and teachers of the law out in their worship; He said that their lips tried to honor Him, but their hearts were far from Him. And Jesus said their worship was in vain. In other words, Jesus did not accept their worship. He rejected their worship...their words, their feeble attempts at keeping the law, their pretty clothing, and their clean hands.
Our hearts are so important in worship! The same heart that we accept Jesus Christ as Lord with is the heart that we continue to pour out in worship to Him with. Paul said in Romans 10:9-10, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." Jesus again confronted the Pharisees in Matthew 12:34 by saying, "You brook of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." If you and I have truly embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then our hearts were changed! It was our hearts that were changed by God. We no longer have hard hearts that are full of evil and wickedness; instead, we have soft hearts that are filled with the Holy Spirit. We now have hearts that are capable of worshiping God in Spirit and in truth. Worship will no longer be about raising our hands so that everyone else can see us. Worship will no longer be about keeping this law or that law so that we can earn a place in God's presence. Worship will be about our hearts. Worship will be from our hearts. Worship will be about a broken people destined to die and spend eternity in hell, separated from the love of God forever. Worship will be about a broken people rescued and redeemed to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Worship won't be for or about other people around us. Worship will be about God...for God...to God. Worship is about the heart! How's your heart today???