“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, but not enough to get them 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 behave 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 of, “They’re gone. Let’s check it out!” When we came back, there were teeth marks on the meat and bits missing. If there was butter on the table, tongue prints would have been on it.
These cats behaved perfectly as long as we were there for this reason: they were only worried about the consequences. They were house trained—they knew that if they did the wrong thing, they would get in trouble—and this is exactly what the law does to us! The law can threaten us and reward us—it will let us know what is good, what is right and what is proper—and we do our best to adhere to it. But if we find the way we behave when nobody is watching is different from the way we behave when people are around, this means we have been nothing more than “evangelically house trained.” If we are not careful, out of a sense of satisfaction, we might even impose on everybody else the same kind of regiment, like the Pharisees in the New Testament.
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, which stems not from “training” or our efforts to do right actions but solely 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.