To be spiritually healthy is to be thriving in your desire to pursue Jesus and walking in the strength of the Holy Spirit. But spiritual health is tricky. We might be so obsessed with looking good outwardly that we fail to pay attention to what’s going on inside us. No wonder Jesus addressed the outwardly religious of His day with a scathing indictment. “Hypocrites,” He said. It’s not enough to just play the part outwardly. Spiritual health works from the inside out.

Discussion Questions

Have you known people who seemed to present “a good, Christian” exterior but were later exposed as creepy or evil? How would you describe your struggle with matching your inside attitudes with your outside behaviors?

Notice Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Mark 7:5-7. What words from Isaiah did Jesus apply to this group of outwardly religious men? How can we today be guilty of the same sins?

Jesus reserved harsh words for the outwardly religious of His day—the scribes and the Pharisees. Read Matthew 23:1-13. Take a moment to highlight the specific behaviors Jesus criticized.

Read Matthew 23:23-28. Again, notice more characteristics of the scribes and Pharisees. Why does Jesus tell them to focus on the inside of the cup and dish first? What does that mean?

In spite of their impure motives, the scribes and Pharisees looked like upstanding, God-fearing people in their behavior. Read Matthew 5:20. How much better would you have to live to possess a righteousness that “exceeds” that of the scribes and Pharisees. Is it possible that the righteousness Jesus is describing is not connected with your outward behavior at all (compare Romans 3:21-26)?

Paul encourages young Timothy to exercise physically and spiritually. Read 1 Timothy 4:8. How are you exercising toward godliness, beginning first with your insides? How would you assess the health of your current spiritual condition?

Further Reading

Stages of Growth

While salvation is instantaneous, spiritual maturity involves a process. It’s one filled with twists and turns and failures and successes. And each stage of our growth requires an awareness of whether we’re a spiritual baby, a young person in the faith or a mature...

Time to Grow Up

Change is part of life. And we can change for good or change for the not-so-good. In the language of the Bible, changing for good is called growth. It’s normal for living things to grow—under one condition—if they’re nourished. In other words, growth doesn’t happen...

Proverbs: The Quest for Character

We might define success by using external qualities like the amount of money someone accumulates or the amount of fame they achieve. However, in the Bible, we find a successful life is defined by our character - our disposition towards qualities like love and...

God Gave

We’ve just come through a time of gift-giving and joy. Of course, the most significant gift of all was God’s gift of Jesus to the world. We find this profound truth simply stated in what might be the most famous of all Bible verses: John 3:16. Maybe this verse is so...

Jesus, The Hope of the World

Hope. It’s so easy to lose but so generously available. We need hope. In a world where uncertainty and disillusionment are mixed into the air we breathe, we need a fresh perspective. For centuries people hoped for the coming Messiah—Jesus, the Savior of the world. He...