As I’ve mentioned in at least two of my other blogs (if not more) it is clear that Jesus reserves His harshest words for religious hypocrites. Paul does something similar in Romans 2. To make it perhaps more relevant I’ve changed a few of the words while attempting to retain the spirit of them.
But first of all have a good read of the whole chapter – there is nothing untrue about any of it. None of it is abrogated by Jesus’ death on the cross even in the context of what later chapters say. The key word is “continue”. If you continue in sin and refuse to repent of it you will suffer punishment no matter what your experience has been or what you think you have believed in the past.
Starting in v. 17:
“You who call yourselves Born-Again Christians are relying on the Bible and you boast about your special relationship with Him. You know what He wants; you know what is right because you have been taught by your pastors. You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that the Bible contains all the knowledge and truth that is required.
“Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal from the Government in tax evasion or your employer or the Church by not contributing to it’s programs or God by not bringing Him your tithes? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery every day with your eyes? You condemn idolatry, but do you watch TV programs and DVDs glorifying pop bands and models and take selfies all the time? You are so proud of knowing the law but you dishonour God by breaking it. No wonder the man in the street blasphemes the name of God because of you.
“Being baptized by full immersion in water or in the Spirit has value only if you obey God. But if you don’t obey God you are no better off than anyone else. And if the man in the street obeys God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? In fact the average joe who keeps God’s law will condemn you born again believers who have been baptized in the Spirit and possess a bible but don’t obey Him.
“For you are not a true disciple just because you were born of Christian parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of full immersion baptism. No a true Christian is one whose heart is right with God. And true baptism is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”
And if you think I’ve gone too far just read on further into the New Testament – 1 Corinthians 13, Hebrews 6 & 10, 2 Peter, Jude. There is no shortage of places where mere religion, no matter how holy sounding, is condemned as useless before God.
But if your heart condemns you, remember that God is greater than your heart and He knows all things.