What’s on the inside?

Published 5:25 pm Friday, February 19, 2016

Gale and I have both agreed that we need to eat less candy, but putting our intentions into practice is often a challenging task. I found that out not long ago as I sat in my easy chair with no one else present. As chance would have it, there happened to be one of my favorite candy bars within hand’s reach. Temptation was heavy and it got the better of me, but I came up with a scheme to hide my weakness. I slipped the contents out without destroying the wrapper, enjoyed the sweet snack, and reshaped the empty wrapper so it looked just like it did to start with. As you might guess, my attempt at innocence was short-lived as the sharp eye of my lovely wife discovered that the “candy bar” was only an empty shell. It might have appeared like it did before, but it was empty; it was a fake, robbed of its contents.

A program that I watch occasionally on television takes place at a pawn shop where all kinds of items are brought in. The shop owner appears to have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things—cars, books, weapons, and odd things that I have never heard of–, but it is not unusual for him to express great interest in something, yet with doubts about its authenticity; it might appear on the surface to be exactly what it is claimed to be, but in his uncertainty he calls in an expert to establish whether it is real or fake. When the expert arrives, she looks closely for markings and other things that reveal the true identity of the item. Obviously, if the item is deemed to be authentic the owner expresses great joy, but if it is proven to be a fake or a replica—which usually means it is nearly worthless—tremendous disappointment and disbelief is expressed.

It is a letdown when tangible things are found to be inauthentic, but it can be devastating when the perceived character of a person is proven to be false. In Matthew 23:27 Christ exposed the deceptive hearts of the hypocritical religious leaders of His day with this blistering statement: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (New International Version). As hypocrites, they were pretenders; they claimed to be one thing, but the true contents of their hearts proved them to be otherwise. Just as He could see through their duplicity then, the Lord knows the true nature of our lives. No matter how convincing the outward appearance is, He knows the kind of person we really are.

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In the writings of the apostle Paul, he includes this bit of guidance to for us to strive toward to help insure that we are genuine in Christian character: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:9-10). In the verses that follow he gives a variety of directives about authentic Christian living against which we should evaluate our lives consistently to make sure that what is seen on the outside by others is what is really on the inside of our hearts. The good news is that if God exposes areas of our lives to us that are not sincere and pleasing to Him, He will help us to get it right. Only He can transform us from the inside out, and He will if we will allow Him to.