“The fatal mistake is to think of sin always in terms of acts and of actions rather than in terms of nature, and of disposition. The mistake is to think of it in terms of particular things instead of thinking of it, as we should, in terms of our relationship to God. Do you want to know what sin is? I will tell you. Sin is the exact opposite of the attitude and the life which conform to, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ If you are not doing that you are a sinner. It does not matter how respectable you are; if you are not living entirely to the glory of God you are a sinner. And the more you imagine that you are perfect in and of yourself and apart from your relationship to God, the greater is your sin. That is why anyone who reads the New Testament objectively can see clearly that the Pharisees of our Lord’s time were greater sinners (if you can use such terms) than were the publicans and open sinners. Why? Because they were self-satisfied, because they were self-sufficient. The height of sin is not to feel any need of the grace of God. There is no greater sin than that. Infinitely worse than committing some sin of the flesh is to feel that you are independent of God, or that Christ need never have died on the cross of Calvary. There is no greater sin than that. That final self-sufficiency, and self-satisfaction, and self righteousness is the sin of sins; it is sin at its height, because it is a spiritual sin.” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation, (Baker Book House, 1987) p. 11
Pharisees prioritize outards over innards. They fret more over an external behavioral scab than an internal existential cancer. They have ornate solid silver water bottles without a speck of tarnish on them that they have polished to a mirror shine, yet the inside is a cesspool. They only care to be seen drinking from such a bottle. They are a book wishing to be judged only by the cover.
The point isn’t about their cups and plates, if it were they would only redouble their efforts and scour all the more. The point is that they are the bottle.
The heart is the fount. All of our behavior flows out of it. You can’t purify a fountain by going down stream and laboring endlessly at gathering buckets of water, purifying them, and then dumping them back in the stream. This is what all attempts at moralism, behavioralism, and self-salvation are. If you try to cap off the flow of wickedness in one area of your life be assured pressure will build and the pipe will burst elsewhere, or more likely, in the same already compromised spot, causing greater damage. The hearts gotta flow. If it is pumping life is coming out. If you try to pump good into it, you only increase the pressure and that inflow is still filtered through your poisonous heart and thus contaminated. All self-righteousness is like trying to clean an already dirty house with a vacuum filled to the brim with refuse that has a gaping hole in the bag. All our work only adds to the mess.
And yet, our only hope for our innards is on the outside, but further out that the surface of your skin. Our hope is all the way up in the highest heaven, and yet is in flesh; Heaven enfleshed. Our salvation is achieved by someone behaving perfectly—for us—from a pure heart. There is a purifying Fount. There is a stream, that when it flows into your heart, purifies. The Outside comes in, and purifies from the inside out.