Not One Without the Other

August 18, 2019

David Sorn

In this week’s passage, Jesus offends his host by confronting his legalism. If we are not to be legalistic, what should we look like then?

Not One Without the Other

August 18, 2019

David Sorn

In this week’s passage, Jesus offends his host by confronting his legalism. If we are not to be legalistic, what should we look like then?



We’ve now spent the better part of the last year and a half working verse-by-verse through the Book of Luke in the Bible…and we’re ALMOST about halfway through. J

And I just want to pause for a moment and point out something that I’m noticing, and I’m wondering if you’re noticing it too?

I feel like, week after week, I’m standing up here…bringing another yet tough word from Jesus.

And each week this summer, I keep waiting to study the next passage in Luke and see a story where Jesus teaches on love, or grace, or hugs a kid, or snuggles with a lamb or something.

And yet, that’s not happening.

In this middle section of the book of Luke…we see a Jesus who speaks often of repentance, who intensely challenges the Pharisees, and speaks of a radical obedience for his followers.

It’s certainly not the characterized version of Jesus most Americans are accustomed to

But again, this is one of the reasons we spend a good part of our year teaching through a book of the Bible verse-by-verse.

Because otherwise we COULD just cherry-pick those stories about Jesus that are wonderful, and loving, and accepted by everyone.

But if we want a FULL, and ACCURATE picture of who the Son of God fully is…we have to read the whole thing.

And so let’s continue in the Book of Luke

(Page 844)

(Renovation App)

As we open this up, no surprise, you’re going to get another intense look at Jesus.

He gets invited over to someone’s house for a meal, but quickly offends the host, and proceeds to give his host (and the others) 6 warnings.

And again, no cuddling of lambs is involved in this passage.

(Luke 11:37-44) – NIV

37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.

39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.

44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”

Let’s pause there for a minute.

This guy is totally regretting inviting Jesus over dinner at this point.


Jesus starts the dinner party off with a bang when he, purposefully, doesn’t wash his hands.

And the Pharisees freak out.

Why, because they’re germaphobes?

Nope, for them, the washing was religious.

See, by the time of Jesus, many of the Jews, particularly those who followed the Pharisees, had developed all sorts of rules and traditions that went way beyond what the Old Testament taught.

In the Old Testament, when you went to the temple to pray to God, you ceremonially washed yourself.

It was a visual aid that helped people understand that you need to approach God with a clean heart.

But the Pharisees had taken this to a whole new level.

They were constantly worried about having become unclean by having touched a Gentile, or a sinner, or something impure…

And they felt that they were “always” approaching God…and so they were constantly washing their hands, their cups, their plates…

There were even rules for HOW Godly people were to wash their hands… (start with pouring the water on your fingers towards your wrists)

Others even stopped in between their courses to wash again.

And Jesus comes in, sits down, and purposefully doesn’t wash ANYTHING.

And they’re gasping

He’s making a statement.

Look at verses 39-40 again for that exact statement.

(Luke 11:39-40) – NIV

39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?

They’re forgetting about the inside…the heart.

They were satisfied with just the appearance of righteousness and holiness…but on the inside…they are like (he says in verse 44) “unmarked graves”

There may be some pretty flowers on the grass where everyone sees…but on the inside, death. Spiritual death.

Jesus has already delivered 3 “woes” to the Pharisees…and now he’s going to give 3 “woes” to the “experts in the law”

That is, those who were supposed experts in the teachings of Moses…but honestly, it would be more accurate to say that they were experts in all of the “Traditions” that the Pharisees had made up at this point.

By the way, “woe” isn’t a word that we use a lot, so it can be hard to understand the underlying feeling Jesus has when he says “woe”

When Jesus says, “Woe,” he’s speaking in anguish, not in anger.

The New Living Translation translates “woe” as “What sorrow awaits you…”

That gives you a better idea of his heart behind this.

(Luke 11:45) – NIV

45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”

I love this verse because it feels…so 2019.

He’s basically saying, “Jesus, when you say that…you’re offending us. I’m offended.”

And here’s the tension that Jesus lives in, and we must as well.

We are to speak the truth…and sometimes the truth will offend…and that shouldn’t cause us to stop.

Notice, Jesus is going to just keep dropping the “woes” on this guy after he says, “But that offends me.”

But Jesus does so with a heart that bleeds for them.

A heart that forgives them even as they crucify Him.

Not a heart that says, “You’re wrong…and someday I’m coming back to prove it to you”

And we must live in this similar tension of truth and love.

Let’s keep reading.

(Luke 11:46-54) – NIV

46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.

These religious leaders say that they honor the prophets of the Old Testament, but clearly, they are no different than the people who killed the prophets of the Old Testament.

They’re rejecting Jesus Christ…the one who sent the Old Testament prophets in the first place!

And thus, because they’re going to crucify the Son of God, the blood of all of the prophets (from Abel to Zechariah) is on them.

By the way, cool fact, in the Hebrew Bible (that’s the OT Jesus was have had) the Jews had their OT books in a different order.

The last book was 2nd Chronicles (not Malachi), and the last prophet to die in 2 Chronicles is…Zechariah as Jesus referred to)


And so the message here, in its basic form, is clear.

Don’t be like the Pharisees and the experts in the law.

You’re not truly following God if all you do is try and clean up the outside of your life.

It’s somewhat a question of motivation.

If your motivation to do good is to impress others…or even to earn God’s favor…you’re missing it.

If you’re here at church to show that you’re a good person…you’re missing it.

If you serve the poor, serve at church, share a picture on social media of you, your Bible, and your coffee…and it’s all just to show you are a good Christian…

You’re missing it.

In the parallel passage to this story in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says:

(Matthew 23:26) – NIV

Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

It’s the inside that really counts.

Here’s one way I’ve heard it explained before that’s been helpful for me

Imagine something goes wrong with your dishwasher

You pull out your favorite coffee cup, and while it looks fine on the outside, the inside is full of all sorts of food and crud from last night’s dinner.

Are you going to drink out of that cup?

No, you’re not.

If anything, the outside of the cup is less important.

If you were desperately thirsty, you might even drink from it even if the outside was a little bit dirty, but the inside was clean.

It’s this type of imagery we have to keep in mind when we think about Jesus’ teaching for our lives.

If you are keeping up a good façade on the outside…

And you seem like a nice, suburban resident…

You have a nice job, you keep your house clean, and your lawn nicely manicured.

You have a few kids, they do well at school…maybe even excel in a sport.

And hey, you even show up at church once in a while.

Most people (who just see the outside of your cup) will say that your life looks great.

But God sees the inside.

He sees the inside…your thoughts, your actions when no one’s looking, your feelings…

And He knows them even better than you do.

And we cannot somehow please God by just putting up the appearance of a good and spiritual life on the outside.

It’s a mockery to God’s knowledge

Of course He knows what you’re really like.

You’re not going to trick Him with outward obedience.

And so what God really wants from you…is your heart

And IF he gets your heart…he’ll get your obedience and trust.

If you follow God in secret, you’ll follow Him in public.


There is, however, a dangerous overreaction to legalism that we need to talk about

If you grew up in church, you might be familiar with the word “legalism”

But I know many of you are just checking God out and are new around here, so let me explain.

Legalism is basically what you see in the Pharisees.

Legalism is the idea that one can simply earn their way to God by just doing good things on the outside.

Legalism has been an enormous thorn in the church’s side for centuries.

But, if I’m totally honest with you, it’s not our biggest problem in 2019.

In 1819, enormous problem, in 2019, not as much.

Most people today actually struggle with a different problem.

A sort of “overreaction” to legalism…

What many today have fallen into is what the old-timers used to call “license”

License is the idea that because Jesus loves me and accepts me, I basically have the “license” (the permission) to do what I want.

He still loves me anyway.

And so someone with this thinking (and this is many, many Americans in churches today), would put little emphasis on many external things and behaviors.

Like, what you do with your money, sexual purity, or any one of those things your grandma used to care about…the one you might label a legalist.

A person who is living, not in legalism, but in license, would say:

What matters is that our heart is in the right place.

And that we love people.

And that we’re kind

It’s sort of the prevailing attitude of the day.

It doesn’t matter so much what you do…but that you do life out of love.

“And what’s happening is…these two sides of society are sort of pitting the internal vs the external, right?

Legalism says, “You better do all of those external things right!!”

And license, our main problem of today, says, “No, the external behaviors don’t matter that much…what matters is the internal! The heart!”


But what does Jesus say?

Look back to verse 42

(Luke 11:42) – NIV

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Let’s think about this: Jesus is telling the Pharisee’s that they have taken the externals to the nth degree.

The Bible tells us to tithe…that is give 10% of your money back to God.

And apparently, the Pharisees were so meticulous in their tithing, that they would even go into their herb gardens…and if they had 10 leaves, they’d give 1 to God.

By the way, if Jesus is ever going to outlaw the tithe for Christians…this is the place to do it by the way!

Jesus is constantly pointing out the legalism of the Pharisees, and thus, we kind of expect that he’s going to say, “You tithe even the mint you’re growing…that’s wrong.”

But He doesn’t say that.

What does He say?

He says: “You tithe, good. Don’t leave that undone. Keep doing that.”

But you shouldn’t do one and not the other.

Jesus doesn’t want his followers to have to choose between outer righteousness and inner righteousness….or between the external and internal.

We should be concerned about both.

With the inside being our starting point (as we saw earlier)

But remember, we can’t say (with any sort of integrity), “Jesus, you have my heart…and then externally live with no regard for Jesus’ teachings”

There’s a schizophrenia to that…and yet…it’s how many Christians live.

If you’re TRULY devoting your heart to Jesus (putting him on the throne of your heart), it will lead to an outer life that’s devoted to Jesus.

As I was studying this passage this week, I created a chart that I hope helps you understand this external/internal battle that Jesus is teaching about:

Feel free to copy this into your notes…or take a picture even.

I want you to think about where you might be on this chart.

Take a look at the LEGALISM column…this is the life of a Pharisee.

It’s those of us that are caught up in the outward appearance (the external behaviors).

We work hard to make sure that people know that we are spiritual, or good people.

But what happens to our minds (that’s the 2nd row), is, in pride, we begin to think we’re better than others because of what we do

And our hearts (the 3rd column)…turn cold towards God eventually.

We’re not receiving his love, his grace, his mercy, his forgiveness.

Why? Cuz you don’t need to!

You’ve earned his favor yourself with your good deeds.

And thus, the spiritual heart of a legalist always turns cold.

Now, jump over to the far right column.

Again, this is the overreaction to legalism that many Americans live in today. It’s LICENSE.

Here, people believe that because God accepts them and loves them,that the key to life is to be loving, kind, and have a good heart (it’s internally focused)

But there’s not much focus at all on the external demands of obedience that Jesus calls his disciples to.

We brush those under the rug, because, well, he accepts us anyway. Why care?

But what is the long-term result of that kind of thinking…that kind of theology?

What will happen, in your mind, is you will begin to think that you make, and determine, your own truth.

If God accepts you as you are…well, then you get to decide how you need to live.

You make your own way…your own truth

And, as you can see, eventually, your spiritual heart will die.

Because when you’re the king or queen of your life…you don’t need God.

And without God deeply enmeshed in your life…your spiritual heart will die.

And I’ve watched this over and over again as a pastor.

People say God loves them, they don’t follow Him, they sit themselves on the throne…and thus don’t need God, nor to talk to Him…

And people in this column…almost always…walk away from God eventually.

But that highlighted column is the way of Jesus.

It’s an inner devotion that LEADS to external devotion.

It’s not one without the other.

In this column, you’re always firstly thinking about giving your heart to Him in prayer, studying His word on your own, devoting more of your life to Him (when no one’s watching).

And as a result of that, it’s leading to outward obedience.

Because He’s so good to you, and you know it because you’re working the inner life…you trust Him in the outward things.

He calls you to 10% giving, to live a pure and holy life, or to forgive those who’ve wronged you, or to _____

And instead of making your own truth, you trust the one who loved you and died for you.

And He moves through you even more…and what’s happening is your heart is becoming passionately ALIVE for Jesus.

One of the other things that jumps out to me about this chart is that both the legalism and license columns are about keeping up a false image.

One that says, “I’m good because externally I do x, y, and z”

Or, on the right, “I’m good because internally I have a kind heart and love people”

And yet the highlighted column, the Biblical column says, “I’m not good. I’m kind of a mess. I can’t stop being anxious, or depressed. I can’t stop screwing up. I hurt this person’s feelings yesterday and that person today….

“BUT, the Son of God, who came from heaven, the King of Kings, the one who knows what I’m truly like when no one’s looking…

“This Jesus…says he loves me anyway…”

“And not just that He loves me anyway, so I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing.

“No, it’s not one without the other.”

He loves me so much that if I would trust Him in obedience…He has even more for me.

His path is narrow, but his road is good.

He loves me so much that if I would trust Him in obedience…his ways are better than my ways.

He can make my heart come even more alive!

And so I’m giving my life to Him….ALL OF IT…internal, external… (NOT ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER)

I’m surrendering, all of it, to him.

It’s only when you humble yourself and admit that you’re not good, but that you need a Savior, a LORD to direct your life, that your heart will really come alive.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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