“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” Matthew 23:25-26
Several years ago I was on an extended fast with the purpose of obtaining more of the power of God and the gifts of the Spirit. One day near the middle of the fast I was crying out to God for these things, and He spoke a clear word to my mind. I believe it was God because it was so different from what I was praying, and clearly not the result of my natural thought processes. Here was the thought: “I never want your public anointing to be greater than your private devotion.”
With that thought came an immediate realization that my current public anointing was already greater than my private devotion which meant that I was in a dangerous place as a minister. Here I was praying for more public anointing, which would have made the imbalance even greater, while God was wanting to do something more foundational inside of me. Needless to say, the focus of my fast changed from that moment on. It’s not that I still didn’t want the power, I just knew the road to it must include a greater devotion that could sustain the greater ministry.
The Pharisees were concerned about the outward. They measured God’s favor by their outward blessings and continually sought to put forward the best possible image of themselves. They were more concerned about how they appeared before others than about how they actually were before God. Jesus told them to stop focusing on the outward and to start cleaning up the private, inward parts. He assured them that if they would do this, the outward would take care of itself.
Don’t worry about being a Christian example to others. Concern yourself with actually being a Christian before God. Having to appear to be anything other than you are in public is a massive burden and almost impossible to keep up. No wonder Jesus’ burden was so light; He never worked on appearing. He made sure things were right before the Father, He kept a strong private devotion, and then just lived it out all day.