A congruent life

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How much does your inner life match your outer life?

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Bible passage: Matthew 23:25–36

 25"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

 27"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

 29"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

 33"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Life of congruence
At the end of one of his books on spiritual formation, Eugene Peterson focused on an individual who lived ‘a life of congruence’: someone who ‘wrote what he lived (and) lived what he wrote’. (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology) In a world where we regularly wake up to news of famous individuals whose double lives have just been exposed, there’s something incredibly refreshing about Peterson’s description.

Outer play-acting
Here Jesus uses shocking language to condemn the Pharisees and scribes for their lack of congruence, their hypocrisy and outer play-acting that hide inner lives of ‘greed and self-indulgence’, and ‘wickedness’ (vs 25b,28b). Religious hypocrites use religion for their own advantage, and such behaviour is condemned in the harshest terms in the Bible (v 33).

Coming persecution
Jesus now moves to another major theme of his final teaching – the coming persecution of his followers (v 36). Jesus puts the Pharisees and scribes amongst those who have wantonly turned their backs on God’s true messengers (v 31), as he faces his own inevitable persecution and death. 


In following Jesus we are offered the chance for deep change and genuine inner transformation: ‘the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:5b). Ask Jesus to transform you and to help you to live a life of congruence.

Deeper Bible study

Jesus continues his blistering verbal assault on the scribes and Pharisees with three more woes, all targeting their hypocrisy. Their duplicity is evident in their obsession with external ritual purity, yet, like us all, their hearts are filled with wrong desires. Avoiding contamination was vital in first-century Judaism. However, for Jesus, purity of heart is what matters. These leaders are so bad that he describes them as the walking dead: outwardly righteous, but, really, they are spiritually dead zombies.

The final woe is longer, climaxing Jesus’ critique. He ridicules their public veneration of murdered prophets and their claims that they would never have done this themselves. Yet, in their rejection of Jesus and his message, they emulate Israel’s former leaders. Their sin is great. They are snakes, emissaries of Satan masquerading as faithful leaders. They face destruction, present and future, Jesus prophesies. He will send messengers, but Israel’s leaders will persecute them. Consequently, this generation will experience destruction, present (Rome) and future (eternal destruction).

It is easy for us to become like these Pharisees and scribes, to appear to do all the right things while being a cesspool inside. Or we can live a double life – all Christian on a Sunday, our outward righteousness hiding our real state. Such hypocrisy is especially dangerous as we get older in the faith: we know how to appear to be godly. Real Christianity comes from hearts given over to the living out of love and mercy. We need to dwell on God’s Word, regularly, and ask him to expose our hypocrisy (James 1:22–25). We need then to ask God to refresh our hearts by his Spirit, so that we live the in-Christ life 24/7.

Mark Keown

Vox pops on hypocrisy

The theme of hypocrisy is found in today’s Bible passage. What does the term ‘hypocrisy’ mean to you? While you’re thinking, take a look at what some other people thought in the video.

Tags: Hypocrisy

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Jeremiah 42,43

John 16

Speak Lord

Clean a cup
Do you have tea cup or coffee mug that you tend not to give to guests? You know the one I mean. It looks OK from a distance, or when it's actually got a drink in it. But when it's empty and you look in, you see the stains that are the result of a hundred cups of tea followed by a brief swill under the tap! Why not give that mug a treat?

Go and find it. Spend 10 minutes with hot water, washing-up liquid and a scourer and give it a good clean. How hard is it to get rid of the ingrained effects of a repeated action? What does this say to you about your life? Ask God to speak to you as you scrub.

St John’s College students


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Forever faithful, forever true (Forever faithful)
Rex Allchurch
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God of mercy (Prayer song)
Lou Fellingham
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  • Oakley Bookworm | Tuesday, 23 October 2018

    Purge me from every evil blot; my idols all be cast aside: cleanse me from every sinful thought, from all the stain of self and pride. - Charles Wesley WORDS: https://hymnary.org/text/god_of_all_power_and_truth_and_grace MUSIC: (OMBERSLEY) https://hymnary.org/media/fetch/179695

  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 23 October 2018

    Good one, St John’s students! Thirty times makes a habit, we are told. (Caroline Leaf in her books describes and illustrates how thoughts and habits formed, in the brain - and how to change them.) When we are born again our spiritual selves are completely transformed, made new, washed clean, unable ever to be soiled by sin because we are one with Christ; we dwell in Him and He dwells in us. But getting the rest of us - our mind, emotions and will - to agree with that change and live it out calls for deliberate decisions, determined work, and sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit. Blessings all.

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