One of the early Baptist churches in America, still in existence today, is the Pennepack Church near Philadelphia. Elias Keach, who founded the church in 1688, was the son of a prominent English Baptist minister, Benjamin Keach. When Elias came to America in 1687, he was not a Christian and had a reputation for being wild. For whatever reason, he decided to fake being a preacher like his father. Dressing up as a minister, he accepted an invitation to preach at a Baptist meeting. But playing church backfired, or more correctly, the power of the gospel changed the game plan. Keach was converted hearing his own sermon! Overwhelmed by the seriousness of sin in faking the sermon, he stopped preaching and began to tremble. The congregation thought he had become sick, but he admitted his hypocrisy and asked for the church's forgiveness.[i]

Kudos to Mister Keach! It takes brave honesty to admit to hidden lies and come clean. This is what Jesus was gunning for in his crowd of listeners. Who among the synagogue-goers would admit to their bare minimum observance of God’s Law? Most people thought they were doing reasonably well if they conformed to the religious norms. You never so look good as when you measure yourself by the accepted standard of your peers.

Apparently Jesus had a problem with people who thought they could do no wrong. Have you met them? They always do and say the right things that are expected of good people. They appear genuinely concerned about pleasing God. They compare themselves to the people they believe are ‘truly bad’ and point out the error of the less, morally astute. They often have pet peeves with other groups, cultures or religions that will certainly destroy the world and all that is godly. They can tell you why public education, homosexuals, humanists and Muslims are rushing us to the brink of destruction.

The gospel writers tell us that Jesus challenged God-fearing people with the threat that they would not see God’s Kingdom without having a righteousness that exceeds their strictest teachers. Then as now, religious people like us look for comfort in being good citizens who obey God’s Law. Jesus tells us differently. Your self-esteem about being a good person is a cheap mask covering your true face.

Rage and discrediting others in our private thoughts are symptoms of a murderous heart finding its way into hell. Sexual fantasies about people other than your spouse reveal the true polluted state of an adulterous heart. Jesus has much more to say about our moral posturing; and it’s not pretty.