Jesus: Pure and Simple – Internal Corrections (Matt. 2:1-10)
Jesus Pure & Simple: Internal Corrections
A man wanted to learn how to play golf so he found a professional golf instructor and he told him he wanted to learn everything the golf instructor knew. The instructor told him that he could not do that in a short length of time but he could teach him what a correct golf swing looks like. “After that,” the golf instructor said, “the key to greatness in golf is to keep practicing the same basic swing, over and over again.”
“Why is the basic swing so important?” the man asked.
“Because right now you have no correct picture of what you should do,” the golf pro said. “And without that correct picture, nothing else will fall into place. If you hit a ball well once, you won’t know why you did it, and you won’t be able to repeat it. Similarly, if you hit a bad shot, you won’t know why it went bad. And you won’t know how to correct it.”
Every day for two weeks, that’s all the man and the golf instructor practiced - the basic swing. Hour after hour after hour, the man learned the mechanics of the fundamentals. He did not work on anything else, not driving for distance, not putting, not getting out of the rough, or even how to drive a golf cart!
By learning that basic swing, the man learned the foundation of being a great golfer. He learned what it looks like - and feels like - to have a correct basic swing.
Work on the foundation first. Develop a correct image of how things should be.
Jesus. Pure and simple.
WHAT WAS HEROD’S PROBLEM? Matthew 2:1-10:
Herod was troubled when he heard there was another “king” of the Jews who had been born. Herod was suspicious. He was distrustful. He was cynical. He was envious. When he heard the news from the wisemen, Herod went to the Jewish religious leaders and asked them about the “king of the Jews.”
And those men, appropriately, quoted Scripture - Micah 5:2. King Herod heard God speaking in that text. God said that He would raise up a governor who would rule over His people, who would shepherd His people, Israel.
Instead of listening to the word of God and submitting his heart to the word of God, what did Herod do? He listened to Satan and Herod killed all the baby boys 2 years old and under to try to stop God from working His plans.
Herod’s problem was a problem of the heart.
When we first decide to become a Christian, we have to get a clear picture of what a righteous heart looks like. Our hearts are where our motives are found.
To follow Christ as we should, our heart has to be aligned with the Word of God, with the words of the Holy Spirit of God. If we don’t get our hearts lined up correctly to the word of God at the very beginning, when we get off track, we will correct back to a faulty standard. If we have a false standard, we will be convinced that we are right when we are absolutely wrong.
It would be like giving someone a jigsaw puzzle in the wrong box. Your friend will struggle to get everything put together correctly because their goal is wrong.
When we try to put our lives together without looking at the proper standard, Satan just laughs at us because he knows we’re trying to fit the wrong puzzle pieces together.
Notice what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:3: "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” Here, Solomon says that the foundations of a righteous life is “kindness and truth.” Our hearts need to be saturated and motivated by kindness and the truth of God’s word. If we get the “basic swing” with our hearts in the right place, following the proper form, everything else will fall into place. Then, when we get off track, we’ll know where to go to get the right form back.
When we follow Jesus Christ, He gives us a new heart. “Repent and let everyone of you be baptized into Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Peter told those who were lost in their sins (Acts 2:38). Here is what Ezekiel (36:26-27) the prophet promised to God’s children when God would make the Holy Spirit available for them: “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
When we receive the word of God into our hearts, and we obey it, the Holy Spirit is able to make us into new creatures, old things are passed away, behold all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17).
When we get our hearts lined up with the kindness and truth of God’s word, then we will have the correct standard for our lives.
THE LIFE REFLECTS THE HEART:
So how do we develop this image of a righteous heart? Paul tells the Galatian Christians in 4:19 that he labors with them until Christ is formed in them.
Think about that verb “to form.” Christ is “formed” in us, when we become Christians. That means that we start thinking like Jesus, we act like Jesus, we talk like Jesus. Jesus lives in each one of us. But this “formation” does not happen overnight. It is a process.
“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).
Let’s say you are wanting to learn how to play pickle ball. You have an image in your mind about how the perfect serve across the net should look like. When you actually hit the ball, it might look different than the image you have in your head. But, with practice, and the image in your head of the “perfect serve,” you can eventually get the “outer” serve to match the “inner” image.
We have to continually bring our lives, our thoughts, our words, into conformity with the image of Jesus that we have given us in His word. If you hit a golf ball 1,000 times or a pickle ball 1,000 times, and you practice with that perfect image in your head, then the reality will start to match that image. Eventually, with practice, you start hitting the ball correctly, not 1 out of 10 times but 8 or 9 out of 10 times.
It all starts with that perfect image in your mind and then aligning the outside to match that image. Athletes talk about “muscle memory.” You develop muscle memory, as you hit a golf ball correctly or shoot a basketball correctly, or hit a tennis ball correctly - the more you do it, the more your muscles actually remember the correct form and it becomes easier and easier to follow that correct form.
Paul and the Hebrew writer are telling us that we need to work until we get that pictured image of Christ moulded into our hearts and we practice and practice until we get our senses trained correctly. With time and practice, we develop - not “muscle memory” - but “spirit memory.” Our inner self, our spirit, knows exactly what Christ expects out of us and our behavior then matches what we know our spirits know is the proper standard - the life of Jesus Christ.
If we get the inside right, then the outside will be right.
ARE YOU LIVING A LIE?
M. Scott Peck, the author of the book The Road Less Traveled, also wrote a book called People of the Lie. In that book, Peck writes about the My Lai massacre that happened during the Vietnam war. It was a controversial book. There was a company of American soldiers who were suffering various attacks. The company received orders to go into a tiny Vietnamese village, assuming that all innocent civilians would have already left by a certain time. Whoever was still in the village was to be presumed an enemy. Unfortunately, that assumption turned out to be horribly wrong and many civilians, including women and children, were killed while their village was burned.
When Peck interviewed the American soldiers who did this, he asked them how, or why they did that? The most common answer was that they could not take any chances. They were commanded to kill everyone in the village and, when it came to women and children, they could not take chances that those individuals did not have bombs strapped to their bodies.
Yet, ultimately what seems to have happened is that the commander surveyed the situation, made a decision, and then ordered his men according to that decision that he made. The commander actually had an inaccurate picture in his mind about reality and he and his men did things that they normally would not have done.
To many of us as humans, perception is reality. It doesn’t matter what the facts are, what we perceive is what we assume to be reality. And when a picture of reality is distorted, people can become deceived and act according to that deception.
If our image of God is wrong, we can become deceived and behave in ways that dishonor God and Jesus Christ.
We can deceive ourselves into believing that God is a lenient God and we can live in immorality if we want to.
We can deceive ourselves into believing that God is legalistic and loves to punish us. This misconception believes that God is always angry with us.
We can deceive ourselves into believing that God is the giver of gifts, so He wants us to live in luxury, opulence, and excess.
If we distort the image of God in the Bible, then we are also People of the Lie and our behavior will reflect this faulty image we have in our hearts.
But when we correct back to the image of Jesu we have in Scripture: Jesus - Pure and Simple - we can see these images are faulty and we can change our hearts and adjust our lives accordingly.
The Bible is what gives us a true picture of God, a true picture of Jesus Christ. Do we have the true picture of God in our hearts? We need to feed on God’s word in order to have a true picture of Christ in our hearts. When we do that, then we need to change our behavior to match that inner image.
Jesus is kind, but He does not tolerate every behavior.
Jesus is forbearing, but He is not soft.
Jesus is all-powerful, but He does not force us against our will.
Jesus is fatherly, but He is not patronizing.
Jesus is patient, but He is not lenient.
If we are living a lie, it is time to correct back to Jesus: Pure and Simple.
To go back to Solomon and the Proverbs, he says in 4:23: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”
Our hearts are the “control room” for the rest of our lives, our behavior, our thoughts, our words, our attitudes. IF we let in wrong thoughts, or false beliefs, or we give control of our hearts to destructive personalities, we will be in serious trouble!
In order to honor God, we absolutely must allow Jesus to have complete access to our control room: Colossians 3:1-2 - “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
So, is my heart right with Christ? Is He in control of my heart? Is my inner being grounded and centered where it needs to be, in the teachings from Jesus Christ? It would do us good to periodically ask ourselves:
Is my marriage what it ought to be?
Is my devotional life what it ought to be?
Am I thankful as I should be?
Am I patient with others the way I need to be?
We should do this frequently because Satan is bombarding us with his teachings and his influence on a daily basis and he intends to knock us off track and get us distracted. The fact is, we often need to sanitize our hearts by running our hearts through the Word of God: “Sanctify them through the truth,” Jesus prayed in John 17:17, “your word is truth.” I need to get Paul off the throne of my heart, where he really likes to sit, and make sure Christ has His rightful place. In short, I need to get back to Jesus.
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).
David said it this way: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psa. 139:23-24).
As you all know, probably, Rachel loves horses. She owned two when she was a girl in GA. So, from time to time when we go on vacations, she wants us to rent horses and go horseback riding. But these horses we ride are trail horses and they have been on these trails dozens of times. They know exactly where the trail is and how to get back to home, how to get back to the feeding trough. You can get them off the trail a little ways, but eventually they’ll find their way back to the trail and back home. They don’t hardly even have to be reined in. They are just that well trained.
God acts the same way with us. He does not put us on a tight rein. He gives us complete freedom of the will. But the Bible is the trail that we are supposed to follow to get home, to get to heaven. He wants us to know there are boundaries, boundaries for living, boundaries for relationships. God does not want us to live on a tight rein. He wants us to live with sensitive hearts.
I have read of an African tribe that learned how to catch ducks this way… The ducks would not easily let the Africans catch them so the tribe started floating pumpkins downstream. At first, the ducks would startle and fly away. But, with time and persistence, the ducks began accepting the pumpkins floating into their flock sitting on the water.
Then, the tribesmen hollowed out pumpkins and put them over their heads. Then they walked into the river, into the middle of those unsuspecting ducks, grab them by the feet and pull them down. Roast duck for dinner!
If we don’t continually correct our hearts back to Jesus, it is not long before we are tolerating pumpkins in our lives. These pumpkins are sent by Satan, in our marriages, our church, our thinking, our relationships, our language, our theology. Satan floats them into our lives, just waiting for us to get use to them. Then he snatches us before we know what hit us!
Take home message: Self-correct your hearts back to the kindness and truth of Jesus Christ. If we draw near to Him, He’ll draw near to us.