Matt 23:25-26, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
The Jews were obsessed with “keeping up appearances”. Their religion was one which consisted in external rituals without any spiritual reality. This particularly expressed itself in physical washing. Before they could enter the temple they had to wash their hands in ceremonial water and then submerge in a pool known as a mik-vah. Of course some external things are not without importance – such as behaviour and appearance. But clearly God is concerned with the heart; the real you not just what others see. As Christ pointed out, for all the washing the Jews undertook, they remained full of extortion and self-indulgence. One can disseminate the fragrance of respectability yet inwardly reek of corruption.
True religion begins in the inner man; it addresses our desires, attitudes and motives. Jesus illustrated this at the wedding in Canna. He took six stone pots which were customarily used for ceremonial washing and had them filled with water. He then miraculously transformed the water into wine. He was effectively saying, “It is not the outward and ceremonial which matters but what I alone can do for you through My blood. I can transform you; I can make you new creatures.” Apart from that inner work of cleansing the outside may look impressive, but only to those with physical eyes, not to Him who sees into the deep recesses of the heart.
If our morality and good works do not spring from faith in Christ and the cleansing of His blood, we are no different to the ancient Jews. Those who have been changed by Christ can be characterised like this: they serve God not to make themselves right with Him, but because they are right with Him. They serve God not out of selfish-ambition, but thankfulness and love. They are prepared to put others before themselves; they are repentant when they fail; their great desire in all they do is to see the name of Christ glorified.
Get the heart right with God; keep the heart right with God, the rest will follow.