Both from personal experience, and in my ministry I have experienced first, and second hand the frustration, and fruitlessness of attempting to apply goodness, and righteousness from the outside and expecting it to ever migrate all the way through.
I chuckle at the similarity. . . this morning I am preparing to make pulled pork on the smoker. Last night I created a strong brine solution of a cup of salt per gallon of water, and I soaked the pork loins in this for about 12 hours or so. the purpose of the brining is not to flavor the meat, but to create a layer of denatured protein on the outside of the pork loin to prevent the meat from drying out during the 10 hours it will be on the smoker. That salt only very very slowly permeates the meat from the outside to the middle. Even after 12 hours of soaking only a very thin layer on the outside is effected by the brine.
The application of goodness from the outside in, is similarly superficial. It can create a thin layer, that appears right and good and holy, but it is only a cosmetic change. Useful for deceiving others, and maybe even fooling yourself when you look in the mirror, but only good for hiding ugliness, and not creating true beauty.
Does anyone doubt that the Pharisees thought themselves righteous? Were they not full of good intentions? They thought themselves the true experts of the Law, able to discern even its finest points, but as Jesus pointed out to them, they concerned themselves with the outside of the cup and plate, and completely forgot about what was contained within.
I remember my own actions, and my own self-opinion before I came to Jesus, and I was filled with good intentions, and I saw myself, and my actions in a very favorable light. How easy it was to make excuses, and give logical reasons and justifications for the bad things I did.
Do you think that Hitler looked in the mirror and saw an evil person? or wasn’t he more likely able to justify and rationalize the things he did as somehow reasonable and good overall. . . Hitler killed millions of people by his good intentions. Jesus was crucified by good intentions. . . Good intentions are everywhere. Good intentions account for nothing. They probably are out there somewhere, but I think the person who revels in their admitted evilness is rare. Far more common I believe are those who are self-deceived into thinking their evil is good.
Is this so far fetched? I thought myself a good person. . . I lied. I stole. I cheated. . . . but I had what I convinced myself were good reasons, in my mind I was justified. In my spiritual myopia and astigmatism, my good far outweighed my bad. There is no end to which we cannot see ourselves in a good light, if we are allowed to ignore the darkness. Immediately upon coming to God, I was filled with His light, and my former darkness was revealed for what it actually was.
Now my conviction. . . my desire to do good, and to be good was coming from within. . . from His Spirit which was living within me. His Spirit, combined with my utter love for Him gave me now the power to overcome the darkness, which is the natural way of all flesh.
We all begin as people who think themselves good, and who truly desire to be and to do good. Our arguments, and logic mean nothing. If the mirror is skewed enough, straight lines may be made to look crooked, and curved lines straight. . .
Results are all that matter:
The fruit. . . the end result, is the only thing by which our decisions and our actions are measured. What is the fruit?
For all your arguments. . . for all your logic, and your certainty what is the fruit of your life? What result do you have? Is your life one of contentment, and peace, and joy, and happiness, and love? Or is it one of contention, and strife, and anger, and bitterness, and jealousy, and unforgiveness?
Stop with your efforts at everything else. . . stop immediately with your own programs of resolutions, and self-improvement and devote all your energies into seeking God. . .
Seek God with all your heart. . . find Him, and fall head over heels in love with Him:
. . . and. . .
He will give you rest. . .
He will give you peace. . .
He will give you joy. . .
He will give you victory. . .
I once was blind, but now I see. . .
I love you God. . .
I thank you for saving me. . .