Have you ever cut open the most delectable looking peach, melon, or apple only to find it black, soft, and spoiled inside? The outward appearance of fruit can disguise its internal rottenness.

What’s physically true of fruit can be spiritually true for people who profess faith in Christ. Jesus condemned the religious leaders of His day for the presence of outward piety and the absence of internal purity when he compared them to “white-washed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)

Jesus’ conclusion calls for personal examination even today. “Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:28)

We can attend church regularly, remember Bible history, serve visibly in vital church ministry, give generously, embrace sound theology, and even recite scripture from memory—yet our appearance of righteousness can actually mask our spiritual wretchedness.

Scripture teaches that right living doesn’t always mean right standing before God, but right standing (righteousness) always results in right living among men. We can be religious without being righteous, but not righteous without doing what is right.

Paul declared that some would be “holding a form of godliness although they have denied its power…” (2 Timothy 3:5). Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 7:21) “but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.” (1John 1:5)

Sadly, we are all unrighteous before God—unable to measure up to His perfect standard in our conduct—full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. We lie, steal, deceive, are greedy, jealous, lustful, selfish, and proud. Our corrupt hearts deserve the wrath of a holy God (Eph. 2:1-3). But we aren’t without hope.

The “righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.” (Romans 3:22) Believing that Jesus Christ took the punishment our sins deserve when He died on the cross and that he rose from the dead is the only route to right standing with God, eternal life, and escape from final judgment (John 5:24). You can express your faith in Christ through prayer to God.

Giving God our hands in acts of outward religion without giving our hearts in humble submission means we’ll be looking good but losing big. We’ll suffer the same condemnation as those who give Him neither.

Giving God our heart through faith in Christ means our righteousness will be evident in our actions.

Let’s make sure our appearance manifests righteousness and doesn’t mask wickedness.

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