Morning friends. Friday is here and we are nearly at the weekend. I will share a little secret with you today. My husband (the romantic soul he is) is taking me out for the day on Saturday. A whole day. Just himself and I. No dog, no daughters – just the two of us.
He has planned a trip to Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare. Stratford is a beautiful place on the river and I love it. The historic buildings, the theatre, the winding streets, museums, shops, pubs, cafes, tourists, street performers. Its a great place.
As a special treat for me he has booked tickets see the play – Much Ado About Nothing. You see I love a bit of a Shakespeare. I studied Shakespeare and have read and watched lots of the plays. This is one of the comedies, but a modern interpretation so I’m really looking forward to it.
Anyway, I digress. My trip has reminded me of the inspiration for one of my previous posts called the Truth will always out which was inspired by Lady Macbeth. I hope you enjoy it again.
Matthew 5 v 8. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
There is a very dramatic scene in Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” when Lady Macbeth is observed at night sleep walking and “washing” her hands over and over in an attempt to clean them from the “blood” which only she can see on her hands. She keeps repeating over and over “out damned spot out” but no matter how often she cleans her hands it has no effect. The “blood” is still there and she knows it.
Those watching her sleep walking think she has gone mad because they cannot see any blood on her hands. As far as they know she hasn’t murdered anyone or spilled blood– her hands are to all intents and purposes clean.
Her unconscious actions though whilst asleep however betray the truth.
Lady Macbeth was to all intents and purposes a murderer. She had persuaded her husband to murder the King and now she was suffering from guilt and revealing through her actions what had previously been hidden in her heart. Her heart was certainly not pure as it was full of murderous thoughts, jealousy and scheming ambition. Consequently, her apparently clean hands were not really clean at all.
She was the ultimate hypocrite whose heart betrayed her.
The story of Lady Macbeth is rather an extreme example but I hope it might makes us stop and think and consider our own hearts and what motivates us. We can all put on a good show (myself included) but impurity in our thoughts and character will eventually come out no matter how much we might try to hide or pretend it’s not there.
Jesus taught his disciples that it wasn’t enough to just observe the religious rituals of the day because it was the evil thoughts which came out of their hearts which actually defiled them and shaped their actions.
Jesus had a lot to say about hypocrisy and wasn’t shy to challenge the religious people of the day.
I believe Jesus issues the same challenges to us, His followers, today.
Jesus didn’t mince His words. He called the Pharisees “whitewashed” tombs and accused them of being too concerned with appearing holy to others but actually inside they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The religious leaders of the day were so meticulous in enforcing, and on the face of it obeying all the laws and traditions, but in practice they were not living out a pure life but were full of “extortion and self-indulgence”. The outside of the cup may have been clean but not the inside.
Matthew 5 v 8. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
These words of Jesus show us that it must be possible to become pure in heart otherwise Jesus would be lying. I believe that Jesus is truth so this statement would on that principle be true.
The bible teaches us that we cannot be pure through our own efforts – it is impossible.
The Old Testament points us to the need for a Saviour. I believe that Jesus is that Saviour who makes this possible. Jesus is the only one who can make us clean from sin by His sacrifice on the Cross and His blood shed for us to cleanse us from sin.
The apostle Paul teaches us that “Jesus loved the church and gave himself for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the Word in order to present her as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that she should be holy and without blemish” i.e. pure.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross ensures that we can daily come and take hold of His blood to cleanse and purify us. However, we must not treat his sacrifice with contempt and pay lip service when we are convicted of sin. True repentance means turning away from sin. Changing our behavior. Replacing the old wrong behaviors and thoughts with the right and Godly ones.
I believe in the biblical promise that one day when we die in faith we will then be with and see God. To be absent from the body as Paul put it and present with the Lord. However, I think that Jesus’ promise that we will see God can be evidenced in our behavior in our everyday lives.
When we are hypocritical and our actions do not mirror what we say we believe or what God requires of us in his Word then we do not “see” God at work in our lives or in the lives of others around us.
However, when we submit ourselves to God and allow Him to work in us and to change us by the power of the Holy Spirit, then I believe we “see” God at work in the changes we experience in our character and motives. We become more Christ like in our attitudes and so we see God’s character reflected in us and our actions to others.
I know for myself and I am sure that others can testify to the changes that have taken place in them since becoming Christians. Some of the immediate changes in my behavior were more obvious and noticeable (my lifestyle changed dramatically when I came back to the Lord) and I think it can be the same for a lot of people. The lifestyle changes are usually the first to be seen.
However, some changes in character and behavior are a deeper work of the Holy Spirit especially if we are “blind” or don’t want to acknowledge those character flaws within us. This is when the Word of God and applying the Word is so important as we can use the Word to hold ourselves to account.
1 Peter 2 says “Lay aside all hypocrisy –desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby” and Romans 12: “Let love be without hypocrisy”.
True Christian love in our hearts will show itself through our actions.
These are certainly the days for action.
We are in a new day of opportunity in how we live out our Christian faith daily- the old pattern & structure of church attendance is not the same any more. We are not pew fillers and were never just meant to be “Sunday believers”. I believe we are now less “building focused” and more “body of Christ” focused.
It is difficult to acknowledge that our hearts might not be right before God and to humble ourselves.
I am not perfect by any means and some days the thoughts and motives of my heart are anything but pure. I would be lying if I said otherwise, but I love the fact that God’s grace is at work in my life. I take confidence from the fact that “He who has begun a good work in me will complete it” Phil 1:6.
There is an encouraging prayer in the Psalms – Psalm 51 –A prayer of repentance which can help us.
David acknowledged that he needed to be cleansed from his sins and that God “desires truth in the inward parts”. David certainly knew what he was talking about – the sinful desires of his heart had also led him to contrive a murder (rather like our fictional Lady Macbeth) which he then tried to cover up but God revealed the truth through his prophet, Nathan. David was truly repentant and experienced God’s redeeming love.
Can I encourage us all that our prayer to God this week is “Create in me a clean heart O’ God”.