December 4 I Friday
1 John 3
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!…on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” —Matthew 23:27-28
Back in England, we had a couple of cats that we house trained. We never let them eat in the house. We fed them outside every morning and every night, just enough to keep them alive, and not enough to get fat because their job is to catch mice. Our house was in the middle of a field.
We had to teach our cats how to behave. We taught them never to jump onto the table and if they did, they would get punished. We taught them not to hang around when we were eating because they do not get fed in the house, so there is nothing for them. We taught them not to go on the counter in our kitchen, which is out of bounds. If we invited you to our house and you observed our cats, you would be impressed. Our cats would have behaved perfectly...as long as we were there.
One time, before we left the house, Hilary took some meat out of the freezer to thaw on the kitchen counter. The moment we left the house, these two cats probably eyed each other, then looked across the room and said something along the lines, “They’re gone. Let’s check it out.” Because when we came back, there were teeth marks on the meat and bits missing. If there was butter on the table, tongue prints would be on it.
These cats behaved perfectly as long as we were there for this reason: they are only worried about the consequences, where if they did the wrong thing, they would get in trouble. Similarly, this is what the law does to us; it can threaten us or it can reward us. The law will house train us, it will let us know what is good, what is right, what is proper and we do our best to adhere. Not only that, out of a sense of satisfaction, we would impose on everybody else the same kind of regiment. This was exactly what the Pharisees in the New Testament did. If we find the way we behave when nobody is watching is different from the way we behave when people are around, that means we have been “evangelically house trained.”
Although the law reveals the character of God and can house train us, it cannot change us. The law is purely an external force. What we need is something internal; we need life and we need Spirit. May all our actions in our devotion to God stem not from our “training” but from His Spirit living in us.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for when I appear to follow Your rules in front of others but behave differently in secret. Help me, by Your Spirit, to live a life glorifying to You.