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Polluted from Within
The problem is not the environment—it’s you Mark 7:14-23
Internal versus External
A student at Eagle Rock Jr. High won first prize at the Idaho Falls Science Fair a few Aprils ago. He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear over everything in our environment. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “dihydrogen monoxide”–and for plenty of good reasons since:
1. it can cause excessive sweating and vomiting
2. it is a major component in acid rain
3. it can cause severe burns in its gaseous state
4. accidental inhalation can kill you
5. it contributes to erosion
6. it decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes
7. it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients
He asked fifty people if they supported a ban of the chemical. Forty-three (43) said yes, six (6) were undecided, and only one (1) knew that the chemical referred to was actually WATER. “Dihydrogen monoxide” = H2O. The title of his prize winning project was “How Gullible Are We?”
Every single one of us here is concerned with pollution–you are. On a minor scale, each of us is concerned about tainted vegetables, recalled meat, bed bugs, mold in our houses, germs in our food, flu epidemics, and viruses galore. There is unending, fear-producing pollution. On a national and global scale, we hear a lot about the air, the soil, rivers, lakes, even oceans that have become so polluted many tout it means the end of the world. What do you think?
The Bible has a lot to say about pollution—a lot. But it is a much deeper, older, and deadly pollution. It’s a pollution that cannot be seen, smelled, tasted or measured. Yet it’s a pollution that is far more lethal than any modern environmental concern. And every one of us is not merely tainted with this pollution—we’re saturated with it, to the degree each of us are terminal.
So while our world is hoping to clean up the environment externally, all of us are dying eternally from our internal defilement. All of us have an internal sin-corrupted and sin-saturated heart, and no amount of external change will fix it. Just like Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Or Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Meaning: your heart needs heaven’s help.
Hear me, every man, woman, and student–own the fact that you are your own worst enemy. Some of you are really pretty on the outside–like Jean. But all of us are ugly on the inside. And cleaning up your life, being super religious, keeping rules, being nice, showing compassion, caring for the hurting, showing generosity, attending church, studying the Bible, even regular prayer–none of it will wash you internally of the pollution there, nor transform your heart so that you’re clean and cured.
Only one single solitary cure is available–it is Jesus Christ. It is to turn from your sins and depend on Jesus Christ alone. It is to put all your hope in Christ dying for your sins on the cross, rising from the dead, and causing you to be born again, which results in you no longer living for yourself, but living for Christ–intimacy with Christ. No longer following your thoughts but following God’s Word alone–denying yourself, dying to self, and seeking to please Christ from a new heart that God alone can give you.
If you feel the stain of sin in your life, there is only one place to wash clean–to give your life to Christ. Jesus Christ alone can wash you internally, make your life clean. In John 13:10, Jesus told Peter he was clean now that he’s in Christ, but he also told us Judas was not clean as he was outside of Christ. “Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’” Peter had been spiritually bathed clean, but Judas was not.
Internal, sinful heart pollution is even a concern for the Christian. We don’t need to be re-washed, but we must continue to be those who get our feet washed as we walk in this dirty world–meaning true Christians confess sin, repent of sin, and get help with sin. James 1 warns us to have “pure and undefiled [non-dirty] religion.” Paul warns Christians against weak and defiled consciences in 1 Corinthians 8, and encourages us to walk holy, innocent and undefiled in Ephesians 4.
But the path to the salvation cleaning or sanctification cleaning is never external–it is always internal. In Matthew 23, the Pharisees were always trying to clean up their lives externally on their own–by their own standards and not turning to Christ for internal washing. So Jesus said in Matthew 23:25 and 26, “’Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisees, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.’”
And it’s an internal clean heart that actually causes genuine external change and allows for true growth in Christ. And it is not external issues that cause you to sin, but an internal heart that is already corrupted by sin. It’s not your environment that’s the problem, it’s your heart. Your heart needs heaven’s help, because you are your own worst enemy.
Parents, primarily you are not to prepare your children to battle against the world–if they’re in Christ, they’ll overcome the world. You’re actually preparing them to battle their own sinful hearts. This may not seem like radical truth, but to the Jew in the first century, this was the most mind blowing revelation ever given.
Open your Bibles to Mark 7, and follow along in your outline as Jesus describes how to get clean before God–how to become clean within, the importance of gaining a new internal heart before God, the absolute imperative of every Christian to keep their heart clean, and the total stupidity of you trying to clean up your life externally.
If you’ve been with us, you know what’s been going on in Mark 7. Some religious leaders have come from religion-central Jerusalem to spy on Jesus. They observe His disciples not washing their hands in the traditional, ceremonial manner before they eat. The disciples were not breaking any commands in God’s Word, nor violating health laws, but the leaders accuse Jesus in verse 5, asking why “His” men don’t keep the traditions of the elders?
Christ exposes their legalistic hypocrisy, informing them they’ve elevated the traditions of men over the Word of God. Then Jesus shows them an example of how the religious leaders disobey God’s Word in the fifth commandment to honor parents by esteeming their manmade rules over God’s commands. This confrontation has drawn a crowd who are listening just outside the circle of religious leaders, the disciples and Jesus. Now point blank, Jesus tells the religious leaders, the crowd and His own disciples by themselves that real defilement does not arise from the outside, but from inside of every man’s heart.
Read verses 14 to 23 with me, “After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, ‘Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16 [If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.]’ 17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, ‘Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?’ (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’”
Let’s pick up where we left off last week now in verse 14–Jesus first gives a general statement that rocks their world!
#1 The problem isn’t outside of you–you are the problem
As the Pharisaic system developed, they concluded that sin and wickedness were outside of them, not inside of them. So if they could just “separate themselves” far enough externally, if they could “just stay far enough away” from any and all external defiling agents, they’d be good before God.
So at this time, as far as the Jews were concerned, defiling happened from the outside in. But Jesus now informs them that defiling happens from the inside out. The defiling center of every man, woman, and student here is their own heart. The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart. And the danger in not seeing your heart as the problem is pride. If sin is viewed as merely external, I can alter my external behavior–then I can think I have overcome sin and as a result become proud.
And prideful people find it difficult to see themselves as the problem. But Jesus wants them to know and you to know—you are the problem. All religion tempts people toward pride. Jesus wants His disciples to understand something crucial—“Sin and its defiling influence comes from within us.”
Jesus says, you have it exactly wrong–the problem is in the inside. Defilement is moral and spiritual, not physical. Eating food or not washing your hands in a particular manner doesn’t defile you inside–you’re defiled from your own sinful heart. You are not morally dirty from what you eat or how you wash–you are morally dirty, defiled, from your own heart.
First Believers must embrace this universal truth
Read verse 14, “After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, ‘Listen to Me, all of you, and understand.’” The multitude had been standing on the sidelines. See the word “again” in verse 14. The crowd was around Christ–then out of respect withdrew a short distance away when the religious leaders approached Christ. And now Jesus Himself calls the crowd close again. Can you picture that?
He Himself calls the people near in order to explain what He just said about unscriptural traditions, God’s Word and defilement. This is important enough that Jesus actually uses the only two commands in this passage: “listen to Me” and “understand”. That’s a common idiom meaning listen carefully and pay attention to what I am about to say. That phrase always precedes a message of great importance and divine authority.
And Jesus says listen and understand not because what He is about to say is complicated or difficult to understand, but because this truth will be hard to accept. And did you see who this message is directed at? All of you–listen to Me, all of you, and understand. Everyone there, and all of you here–this is a universal truth. You all need to understand, then live by this loving truth. This is one of the great sweeping truths Christ delighted to share from a heart of compassion for people who were being misled. This is one of the most revolutionary truths of the New Testament. What is the message?
Second The problem is not outside of you, but inside you
Verse 15, “There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” The Pharisees believed improperly rinsed hands defiled the food, and therefore defiled the eater. The defilement, as they saw it, worked its way from the outside to the inside. Jesus now says the very opposite–it is not what goes into, but what comes out of the man which is able to defile him.
In fact nothing that goes into a man can possibly defile him, for it is received only into his body, which rids itself of it in a normal, physical way. Now understand, FBC–no Jew ever believed that, and no orthodox Jew believes it yet. Examine verse 15 with me phrase by phrase.
When Jesus says there is nothing outside “the man”, He’s not using the 1960’s reference to governing authorities—“We’ve got to stop “the man”. No, the Lord is giving a generic and comprehensive reference to all of us as human beings. This is true for every one of us. There is nothing outside of each of us which dirties us spiritually–particularly food.
Verse 15 adds, “if it goes into him.” The gospel of Matthew, in the parallel passage, says “food” specifically. And Mark’s phrase, “if it goes into him”, is singular, referencing one thing—food traveling into a person. He’s mainly talking about eating. The preposition eis (into) is used twice for emphasis. Food you eat does not defile you–food does not make you dirty before God. The stuff outside of you does not condemn you before God.
Jesus makes sure you get it by saying in verse 15, “There is nothing outside the man which can defile him.” Nothing outside can defile a person–no food can dirty you. The verb “can” is to be able. The passive voice says nothing done to you, forced upon you, which is outside of you, can defile you. The present tense lets us know this truth is ongoing–there is continually nothing outside of you which is able to defile you. And the indicative mood tells us this is a fact–a standing truth.
No food–nothing outside of you, verse 15, can defile you. Defile originally described that which was of little value. In the New Testament, “to be defiled” is to be unclean, polluted or made profane. It literally refers to something made common. This item or this person was set apart for God alone, but now is made common, just like everything else opposed to God. External issues don’t determine eternal status–defilement is moral and spiritual, not physical. Food cannot do this to you.
Then what does defile you? Verse 15, “but the things which proceed out of the man”–the word “but” is the strongest single contrast word in the New Testament. In total contrast to the outside not dirtying you spiritually, the inside does defile you spiritually and morally. The problem is in the inside–the internal you, what’s in you. Jesus doesn’t define exactly what’s inside of you here, but the Lord is very clear–you are the problem. Your internal person, your inner man needs some serious help.
See the word “things”—it’s plural. That means this is serious. Whereas the one external thing, food, does not defile you–here are many internal things coming from within you that do defile you. It’s not just one issue, but many. The criminals causing the crimes is you–it’s your fault. You’re responsible for your condemned status before God, not the foods you eat, the way you wash, or people you know.
Jesus says these things, verse 15, “which proceed out of the man”. The verb “proceed out” is the same verb used earlier in verse 15, translated goes in, the very same verb–it’s the Greek verb traveling. Except goes in uses the preposition eis (traveling into), and proceed out uses the preposition ek (traveling out of). And just like the Greek text emphasizes going into by using an additional eis (into), the Greek text also emphasizes proceed out by using an additional ek (out of). The Lord is making this really clear–the things that corrupt you are not an import but an export. Things that come out of you, verse 15, are what defile the man.
The religious leaders had turned sinful corruption into an external issue, but Jesus reminds them it’s an internal reality. Friends, this truth should not have surprised them. The leaders and the Jews themselves already knew of God’s priority for the heart. They all knew about the choosing of King David. Samuel the prophet was impressed with David’s stately older bro, Eliab, but God told Samuel, don’t be focused on external matters–don’t look on the outside, Samuel. First Samuel 16:7, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
And even though circumcision was highly revered as the mark of the promise God made with Abraham, even before they entered the Promised Land, God said to the nation in Deuteronomy 10:12,13,16, “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? 16 So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.”
Even Joshua challenged the nation later as they entered the land, Joshua 24:23, “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” The Jews knew God desired their internal hearts, but they turned their faith into external rituals. And their commitment to those external rituals became fanatical.
They became a people who would die for those traditions, since keeping those legalistic rules defined their salvation. Following the external traditions became their idea of internal salvation. Like applying Armor All to a dumpy car–they’re trying to merely fix up the appearance.
Even 175 years before Christ, the Greco-Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, in his efforts to root out the Jewish faith tried to force the Jews to eat pork, and hundreds died refusing. One gripping case was recorded in the book of Maccabees, where a widow and her seven sons were forced to eat pork. They refused, so the oldest son had his tongue cut out, hands and feet cut off, then was roasted alive. The next son had his skin and hair torn off his skull. Then each son in succession was tortured and killed with their aged mother looking on, and cheering them on. They died rather than eat meat, which to them was unclean.
It’s in the face of that, Jesus makes this revolutionary statement–that nothing going into a man can make him unclean. This is shocking. Things cannot be either unclean or clean spiritually. Only persons can be defiled, and what defiles a person is his own actions, which are the product of his own heart.
Uncleanness has nothing to do with what a man takes into his body, but everything to do with what comes out of his heart. And to get right with God, you must have a right heart. And to get a right heart, only Christ has the right help. This is so important to understand, Jesus may have added . . .
Third Believers must accept this universal truth
Verse 16, “[‘If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’]” The manuscripts give evidence that verse 16 might not be in the original text by Mark, but it does reflect the heart of the context, and fits with the Lord’s commands to listen and understand. You need to accept this truth–this is crucial for you to hear. But everyone doesn’t get this truth yet, so look what happens next.
#2 Eating is not the source of defilement, your heart is
The gospel of Matthew tells us the Pharisees were extremely offended by what Jesus had just taught. The Pharisees were acting like the worst germ-a-phobes known to mankind. The Pharisees put new meaning to the phrase, “Can’t touch this.” They had external rules for everything. But as much as they were offended, the disciples were confused. They struggled to understand the Lord’s point here, so Jesus had a . . .
First Question and answer with His slow disciples
Verses 17 and 18, “When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, ‘Are you so lacking in understanding also?’” House doesn’t have a definite article, a “the” in the Greek, so it may simply mean indoors where Jesus could be away from the crowd. Or house in verse 17 is once again describing Jesus at his temporary residence and main meeting place in Capernaum.
And once free of the crowd, the disciples are in shock, and Matthew tells us it was mainly Peter who asked on behalf of the other disciples. They wanted Jesus to explain what He meant by “external food doesn’t defile you–what?” We’ve thought that, and have been taught that all our lives. What do you mean only internal heart issues can defile a person? Peter and the eleven are questioning, asking Christ for answers. The disciples viewed verse 15 as a parable, a puzzle, a dark saying–what’s the real meaning Jesus? It can’t mean what we think you meant.
Jesus responds with either surprise—“Really, you’re that thick?” Or merely a question—“You still don’t get it?” Either way, it was a mild rebuke after all the instruction they’ve received. “You men have been with me for over two years–are you so lacking in understanding also? The crowd didn’t get it, but you men don’t either? You too?” That His own chosen pupils still were under the spell of external pharisaic theology must have been discouraging to Jesus. The Lord is charging His men with intellectual dullness and spiritual stupidity. They failed to understand what was obvious—what was so clear.
Second You cannot be defiled by outside influences
Verse 18 continues with, “Do you not understand?” Do you not perceive? Meaning, they should be able to get this. Understand is the word in Greek for mind–to give thought to. Jesus says this isn’t a mystery which requires a revelation–this is an obvious truth you can understand if you’d just use your minds. What should be obvious to them and to us?
1 Food is not the issue
Look at the end of verse 18, “that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, [verse 19] because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” Verse 18, food can’t defile you–food will not defile you. Eat that crab–for two reasons found in verse 19.
1=Food doesn’t go into the heart
2=Food does go into the stomach and then is eliminated
In other words, food goes in the stomach then exits. Food goes in one end and out the other. Food enters the mouth, and ends up literally in the latrine. Yes, Junior Highers, Jesus is making reference to the bathroom. Food passes through physically, but does not affect you spiritually. Food goes to the stomach, then out externally, but never does it affect your inner man–it doesn’t touch your heart.
Food never enters your heart, the very core and center of your entire being. Food doesn’t change your moral nature—therefore how can it render someone unclean, polluted or defiled? It can’t. Verse 18 and 19 describe a physiological process which does not require any moral reactions of the inner spiritual man–therefore it cannot morally defile. Now Mark adds a shocking footnote.
2 All food is declared clean
Look at the end of verse 19, “(Thus He declared all foods clean.)” When Mark was writing his gospel under the influence of Peter, the issue of eating and not eating certain foods was still hot. It was deeply ingrained into the thinking of all faithful Jews, and it was painfully difficult to embrace the Lord’s teaching on this, even in the hearts of those who genuinely turned to Christ.
Leviticus 11 described many of the Jewish dietary laws, including foods considered “clean” and “unclean”. The Jews had a restricted diet to protect their health, and distinguish them from other nations. But the main reason was as an external symbol of an inward need. These laws were to be a picture of their desperate need for internal cleansing. But sadly, they slowly turned these laws into external rules to keep in order to make them supposedly and errantly right with God.
Over the years, the laws themselves had become more binding than the meaning behind them. As the Jews interpreted the dietary laws, they believed they were clean before God because of what they refused to eat. As a result, the matter of food was so ingrained in Jewish thinking that even years after Pentecost, Peter himself still could not accept the idea that all foods were now clean.
Remember Acts 10:10 to 16, “Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’ Again a voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ This happened three times” until Peter began to understand it.
Years later Peter slipped back into his old way of thinking and had to be confronted by Paul in Galatians 2:11 to 13, “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.”
Paul warned in 1 Timothy 4:1 to 3, “Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, [what will they do?] advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.” External food is not defiling–food is not the issue, Christ fulfilled the law. It is not what you put in your mouth, but what vomits out of your heart. Mark tells us this at this moment–thus He declared all foods clean.
The disciples struggled to understand Jesus’ point, just like many church attenders struggle. Many of us blame the problem as outside of us—it’s the liberals, guns, lack of education, the entertainment industry, sports idolatry. All of that is to blame. Let’s fix society. Let’s reinstall prayer in schools and plaster the Ten Commandments around where everybody can see them. My point is, we tend to look to the outside as the problem. Jesus is teaching us the problem is within–you are the problem.
Third You are defiled by what is already inside of you
I’m sure you’ve seen the Allstate Insurance “Mayhem” commercials. Friends, in a spiritual sense, that’s you. You are Mayhem.
1 You are your own worst enemy
Read verses 20 and 21, “And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed . . .” Stop! Is that clear enough? Defilement comes out of your heart. It is what is within you which causes you to be estranged from God.
Verse 21, “from within” is in contrast to that which is without. And “out of the heart” emphasizes the nature of that which proceeds out of the man–defiling things proceed out of the heart, out of the inner, moral nature of all human beings. Middle voice, proceed/travel out on their own. Out of who we really, genuinely are. You are your own worst enemy.
I’m not sure you have an inner-child, but I have it on good authority you have an inner-mayhem. Take a reality check. You know Christ’s teaching here is true from your own experience. Who has lied to you more than you have? Who has hurt you more than you’ve hurt yourself? Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Consider where you’ve taken yourself, what you’ve done to yourself. Jesus’ words fit perfectly with our own experience. Again, though some of you are pretty on the outside, but all of us are ugly on the inside. The heart is man’s most real self–and from that heart come ugly attitudes, ugly talk, ugly thoughts and ugly behavior. Nobody makes you do ugly but you. It is so ugly Jesus continues in verse 21 with evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness–one overall ugly sin. Then the Lord names twelve examples of ugly sins that come from the heart–a baker’s dozen of hellacious influences that reside in you. One sin is the umbrella term for all the vices, so one then twelve, thirteen total.
The first six are plural referring to wicked actions, and the second six are singular describing evil drives and words. It’s like Christ opens up your chest like a surgeon and points these poisons out. Jesus begins with an overall sin of the heart. Every outward act of sin is preceded by an inward act of choice–therefore Jesus begins with the evil thoughts which are the source of each sinful action.
The Lord is now showing you the source of your bad behavior–your heart contains evil thoughts, which are bad reasonings, wicked ponderings, perverted imaginings, a sick inner dialog you have with yourself over that which is sinful. That is why managing what you think about and what you say to yourself is crucial–why? Sin must be stopped first in the mind—how? Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”
Then Jesus adds fornications, which is a wide word covering everything from sex prior to marriage to pornography, prostitution, homosexuality, sex jokes and every kind of sexual sin–all start in the heart. Next thefts–there are two kinds of Greek words for robber. One is a lestes–a brigand, who may be a very brave man, although he is an outlaw. But the other is kleptas (where we get kleptomaniac), and this person is a mean, deceitful, dishonorable pilferer. Jesus says we are the second, the kleptas in our hearts–shoplifting, loafing on the job, squandering what God has given us, cheating on taxes and withholding generous giving to God is thefts.
Next is murders, whether imagining it in our hearts or the present day murder of infants in the womb, murder begins within. Adulteries are the violation of the marriage vow–a married man or woman having sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse all starts in the mind, and is desired in the heart.
Deeds of coveting comes from two Greek words which mean to have more. It’s been called the accursed love of having–the ravenous appetite for that which is not right to take, to long for that which belongs to another, the passion to gain things, because this is a person who sees happiness in things not in God. And all of it starts within you.
Deeds of wickedness/evil–in Greek there’re two words for evil. Kakos, describing a thing which is itself evil—and poneros, which describes a person or thing which is actively evil. Jesus says we are the second, poneros, the man or woman who in their heart there is a desire to do harm to others, to delight in hurtful mischief and create tragedies for others. It is so evil, it’s also a name for Satan–and this comes from in you.
Then a half-dozen singular motives–sinful inner drives. Deceit, dolos–a word for mousetrap, and it was also used to describe the false gift of a Wooden Horse for Troy. Deceit is a heart motive of crafty, cunning, deceitful, clever treachery. Sensuality is poorly translated–maybe debauchery or lewdness. It’s a heart that resents all discipline and restraints. This is a person who gives free play to their sinful impulses–just do it.
Envy–it is to look with ill-will at another person because of what he is or he has. It is literally the evil eye that views another person with grudging displeasure. You are not happy for, nor thankful for, this person from the heart. Slander is abusive speech. It is used to describe the act of defaming the character of another in your heart, then with your words, either directly to the person or behind their back–hurtful speech. Matthew 12:34, “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”
Pride–the Greek word literally means showing oneself above. It’s a person who has a certain contempt for everyone except himself. It is the evil tendency to fancy oneself as better, more able, and greater than someone else. It is to think only of self first. You see it in your heart when you secretly compare yourself to others.
And finally foolishness–this does not mean lack of brains, but a man who chooses to play the fool because he’s playing with sin. They’ve become morally and spiritually desensitized–they’re a fool. Is this descriptive of your heart? Are these sins inside you? Like a hornet’s nest painted like a piñata, one hit and it all comes pouring out. Matthew listed only six of these sins, but unique to Mark the author gave us the fuller list from Christ on the sins that actually find their root in your heart. They come from inside you.
2 It is your own sinful heart which defiles you before God
Verse 23, “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Proceed out is present tense–evil is constantly proceeding out and defiling us. Jesus is proving to His men and to us that we’re not made filthy because of foods or washings or ceremonies not done by tradition. Jesus is proving we have a major heart problem–all this sinful defilement comes directly from our inner man, meaning we desperately need inner cleansing.
No religion, prayers, Bible reading, walking aisles, making decisions, talking Jesus, coming to church, speaking Christianese will clean your black heart of sin–only Christ can wash you and make you white as snow.
ONE Your heart needs heaven’s help to be forgiven of sin
After committing murder and adultery, David prayed to God Psalm 51:7, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Only Christ can wash you internally. You need to pray for a new transformed, born again heart internally. You must believe Christ became a man, lived a perfect life as the God-man, took your place of punishment for sin on the cross, died for your sin, rose from the dead. And when you depend on Him in faith and turn from your sin in repentance, He washes you clean, gives you a new heart, indwells you by His Holy Spirit, and begins to help you turn from sin and follow Him even more.
But only Christ can help you. What’s bad is exported. If we want truly good, it must be imported. Some of you are wracked with guilt–that’s not for you to bear. You are to give that to Christ. Our heart is foolish, His heart is joy.
TWO Your heart needs heaven’s help to battle with sin
Even though forgiven, cleansed and delivered from the penalty and power of sin, we still struggle with the presence of sin. True Christians are no longer slaves to sin. And today, if you feel the stain of sin in your life, there is only one place to wash clean. Man is the fountain of his own uncleanness, but Christ is the fountain of purification. Confess your sin, repent of your sin and get help with your sin.
Depend on Christ. Saturate your life in His Word, give yourself to prayer, to the supportive fellowship of brothers and sisters, reckon yourself dead to sin and live filled with God’s Spirit. Go after one sin at a time, and see what God will do.
THREE Your heart needs heaven’s truth to live for God’s glory
Proverbs 28:26, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” Don’t trust your own heart, trust God’s Word. You just heard God’s Word, not some self-image pastoral pep talk. This is God’s Word as Jesus taught it, and Mark wrote it. And God’s Word teaches us that you are internally rotten, that your heart is the source of sin, that you are really bad, that your heart is filled with vile sin, that you are not forced to be bad by your environment but you are bad by being a member of the rebellious human race. Things and people do not corrupt you from the outside, but sinfulness actually vomits out of you from the inside. But that truth is a light–which leads you to only two paths . . .
#1 to cause you to come to Christ, or
#2 to move you to become more like Christ from a new heart
If your purpose is to truly glorify God, then you’ll leave here passionate to come to Christ or become more like Christ. Let’s pray.