The Transformation of the Inner Man
One of the pastors I met has a Christian friend who is close friends with the Iman of a local mosque. (For those who may not know, an Iman is the equivalent of a pastor). Christians do have a lot in common with Muslims upon which they can base a friendship.
The Iman invited his Christian friend to attend services at his mosque, and the Christian went, curious to see what a Muslim service was like.
Before he could enter their area of worship, he was required to participate in a ceremonial washing of his hands and feet. I assume this practice is adapted from the washing that the priests did in the Old Testament tabernacle services, and the foot washing we see in the New Testament. Much that is found in the Koran is taken from the Bible.
After washing, the Iman told his friend, “That’s as clean as Islam can get you.”
The Christian replied, “But what about my heart? How do I cleanse the unclean things that come out of my heart?"”
The Iman replied, "That's a good question." He left it at that, offering no other comment or explanation.
When Moses was given the law, the tenth commandment dealt specifically with the sins of the heart, or the inner man. – Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s wife, neither shall you covet your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is your neighbor’s (Deuteronomy 5:21).
It is here we realize that this is where all sin originates as Jesus has said, - But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matthew 15:18, 19).
According to God’s perfect standard, even when a married man looks with lust after another woman he is committing adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28).
We can do much to try and obey God’s laws and make ourselves look righteous on the outside, but we serve a God who can see the heart and He weighs our motives in the light of His Divine perfection. -
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8, 9).
This leaves all of us withering in the intensity of His radiant holiness.
Jesus admonished the religious leadership of His day who were preoccupied with maintaining their outward religiosity, to “cleanse the inner cup.” -
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. You blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also (Matthew 23:25, 26).
They were being commanded to examine or judge themselves and repent of the hidden sins lurking in their inner chambers no one else could see but God. Those leaders thought they were righteous, but any righteousness they assumed they had was negated by the sins of the inner man.
Jesus gave His life to remove all our sin, inner and outer, and to make us acceptable to a holy God. Through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, our sins are removed when we repent and receive Him. Then we are enabled to receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit brings to light for us the things in us that God wants to change. It is impossible to live a holy life apart from God’s Spirit to help us.
God wants to make us new creatures and this transformation can only be achieved through the relationship with God that the Messiah Jesus provides. No matter what religion you belong to, you can participate in as many rituals as you can, but none can remove sins, or provide you with the supernatural power to make you acceptable to a holy, perfect God.
When Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the tablets containing God’s minimum requirements in his hands, he ended up smashing them to the ground in disgust in response to the idolatrous behavior of the people. The peoples’ pagan worship of a golden calf in the place of the marvelous and living God, had already broken the first commandment, “Thou shall have no other Gods before Me” (Deuteronomy 5: 6-10). Thus the smashed stones at Moses’ feet symbolized man’s inability to keep just one commandment, let alone ten of them.
Moses returned to his mountain of intimacy with God, and was given the commandments again along with the plan for the tabernacle. Contained within this plan was the provision for the people to receive the forgiveness of sins through animal sacrifice. All of this was designed by God to be a foreshadow of the last sacrifice by the Messiah.
In the tabernacle services, once a year the high priest would enter a partitioned area called, the “holy of holies.” It was there he offered sacrifice for his sins and the sins of the people. Today, Jesus is our high priest who offered Himself once for the sins of the people for all time, and who continually makes intercession for us to God (Romans 8:34).
Muhammad said that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about Him and some of them are found in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah where the purpose of the coming Messiah is explained. –
Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (verse 4-6).
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief: when Thou shall make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He (God) shall prolong His days, (a prophecy of the resurrection) and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand (Isaiah 53:10).
Jesus does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He makes us acceptable before God. And for those who receive Him, and willingly desire this change, the Holy Spirit He gives us continues to work throughout our lifetimes to change us into the people God desires us to be; a reflection of His love, mercy, gentleness and kindness. We become cleansed from the inside out. -
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (11 Corinthians 5:17).
When this transformation is taking place, we will naturally choose those things that are pleasing to God, because we love Him. Therefore we will love one another.
I talked to a Muslim on a forum board about the concept of bearing fruit for God. I explained that God desires to see formed within us the fruit of a holy character and those fruits of the Holy Spirit are – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22, 23).
The Muslim was delighted with this teaching and began to minister it back to the Christians on the forum.
Those who desire a true intimacy with God, readily submit to the workings of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Others choose to hide behind the veneer of their religiosity and sadly, like the Pharisees Jesus confronted, never change.
God is calling those who He knows will submit to His plan of salvation and will allow Him to change them into the people He desires them to be.
Copyright 2016 by H.D. Shively