Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Pharisees Perception?

Disclaimer: Sorry if this is too long or if it doesn't flow very well. Take it with a grain of salt and receive a seasoned meal with Christ teaching you(not me) and receive whatever blessing He has for you in there somewhere.

Last night I had just finished cleaning my room, everyone else was otherwise engaged and so I was left with nothing else to do but contemplate and meditate. For some reason the thought of the pharisee popped into my head and so that is what I pondered. I began with the nature of the pharisees identity. These were men who had devoted their lives to the living out of Gods Law and the teaching of God's righteousness. I began to surmise that they had three identities, one the world perceived, one God distinguished, and one that the pharisee himself envisioned.

I'd like to just sum up the first two briefly because the last one is of more interest at this time to me.
1. Man perceived the pharisee to be proud, pompous and pious, but in the end the goodie-goodie who was without fault and righteous according to the Law (as they were taught anyway). The people who knew the law thought they needed to be like them and the people who knew them couldn't stand to be near them and their superior natures. They were revered and exalted yet feared. There are, however, as many guesses at how they were viewed as there are people to view them and so this point ends here.
2. God loved the pharisee yet hated their heart. He distinguished the actor and their act from the truth He would bring. Was it devotion to Him that made them create new rules to follow so that they wouldn't break His, and yet scorn and despised the works of their fellow man? Jesus knew the truth about them for Jesus was The Truth. God the Father knew their hearts and their deeds that they were but filthy rags. Certainly such devotion to the letter of the Law could and would never bring them righteousness for there very conscience accused them daily. Jesus gave them Truth yet they would not let go of their self-made righteousness to receive it. They were unrepentant and knew not the spirit behind the Law that they held so dear.

3. But what of the pharisee himself? Was He caught in the very lie and act in a show that he caused others to believe? I strongly believe that the pharisee thought he was a man in the know. He believed the very act and performance he daily put on in the local church and market place. For he thought himself righteous because of the works and good deeds he did in accordance with the law. I wonder how the mind of the pharisee conducted this thought. For in my own mind when I slip up I feel guilt, shame, remorse, and hatred concerning that pit in which I've fallen, and when I overcome a temptation I feel I'm one step closer to being that better man I know the Lord Jesus is transforming me into. But the pharisee... did he mess up? Did he feel such remorse and fall on his knees before his maker in repentance? Or did he make the necessary sacrifice, a declaration before man and God of his wickedness, probably for not washing his hands before he ate, and thus be now free of the ridicule of man and God? In a sense to save himself by his actions?
Now, if you didn't perceive where I'm going, I am about to compare this pharisee to the pharisee in myself and in the church today.
For the Truth came, Christ Jesus the light of the world, and the very word of creation, has come into this world to seek and to save that which was lost. That means he came for everyone, including the pharisee who was lost in their false righteousness. Jesus spoke harshly to them and yet He loved them no less than the poor man and "visible" sinner. He did say those who know the truth yet cast it aside receive the stricter judgement and alas I think the pharisees received the first fruits of that truth. For the pharisee, knowing the letter of the law, was the first to scoff at and shake his head concerning Jesus(the only true fulfilment of the law). The pharisee who would give his very life to the act of serving God, would be the first of all to reject the reward of righteousness found in Christ Jesus. Oh... you may say the pharisee is full of good intentions(as we often think ourselves to be). I wonder if the pharisee knew he was the actor in a play so detrimental. I have often seen the pharisee in myself and know that what I do is but a show. Whether I do something to be praised by others, or at least something to be seen as someone who is living the "Christian life." Yet, I know that which is false... Did the pharisee? Perhaps, but perhaps they held onto a lie so long that they throughout the generations even deceived themselves. I know there are times in my life where I had thought something to be entirely Christian, yet it was far from anything Christ said. I have been such a pharisee and were it not for God's grace I still might be so deluded. What words will Christ have for that deluded and self-seeking pharisee. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness." For they held their "law" from God in more esteem than God Himself. Their manmade "righteousness" could have no part in the truth. Nor could their law be considered to be in any true likeness to God's Law. For God's law is about faith and love and their was merely "good deeds"wrapped in whitewashed filthy rags. They held onto a form of Godliness yet denied it's power to save trough faith alone. For faith, not works, brings the righteousness of God to all those who believe. The pharisee and that nature in us have a sad story indeed.

How do you view then this verse? "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."The pharisee in us will say "Now wait just a minute, how can that be? They've done it all. They have even kept laws that aren't in the Bible just so they wouldn't break laws that were! How could I ever live a more righteous life than they did? Hmmm... perhaps if I could do my best... yes even a bit more, yes... I know, I'll do what they could not. I'll do that stuff Jesus talked about, like not hating because is the same as murder. Oh!... and I won't lust because that is just like adultery. Hmmmm... what else? Perhaps if I don't drink, swear, gamble, smoke, do drugs, eat meat...yes, that just might do the trick(the trick indeed)! I'll just die to my pleasures and find life in that sacrifice( sigh...Big Smile...relief)" But Christ has revealed the truth. That these very thoughts are those of the pharisee and no more righteousness is attained this way than by hunting witches or cutting off your tongue. I was in the mind set of the pharisee and didn't know it. So what does Christ Jesus (The Truth) reveal to me, and the church... to us all? He revealed the good news! That to have a righteousness that surpasses that of the pharisee is to have a righteousness of FAITH and NOT WORKS! For works that don't come from faith and love are both proud and meaningless, they lead strait to death. An example of works without faith and those done because of faith can be seen in the story of the sheep and goats.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

I pray that we won't miss the truth in Churches today, and that we won't just try to be "Christians" by name alone, being no more righteous than that pharisee of old. Just doing works and trying to save ourselves by being merely "good" people with seemingly "right" intentions. May our eyes be open to the light of the truth. That faith alone in Jesus saves, and faith alone bears fruit and true works of love and not false works and fake intentions. Then beware the leaven(works) of the pharisee which are praised by the world. For their works are of the law of sin and death and they will never see the kingdom that way. There is only one who has the keys of life eternal. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is God's son Jesus Christ.

Have Faith and know that your worth is not found in things perishable(like good intentions or works done by your own perishing hands) but your worth is found in the imperishable love that came with Jesus' death and resurrection. So cast the pharisee in your heart aside with the act and the seemingly good intentions. Rely on God alone! Hold firm to His gifts of faith, hope and love, and die to yourself daily, not merely to pleasures but to the thoughts of saving yourself by your own means. It's not self-righteous and sanctimoniousness to declare the truth, but it is if you act for merely your own glory. I shall endeavour to trust in Him alone, for all other self-made truth is false.

One more thing... never feel ashamed to declare your love of Christ if it is true. For we all too often fear the judgement of man, but it is right to express our faith in God by expressing our love for God, and by loving not just with word and tongue but by actions and truth. For I love Jesus! Because He loves me. So I shall also love others as He, in me, desires me to. How? Well, We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us(Philippians 4:13) and He can do the rest!


John said...

It should also be noted that the pharisee twisted the Law to their own will and sense of truth, perverting what God had put in place. And it should be noted that some pharisees did repent and come to Jesus, they were not completely beyound repentance and neither are we.

shinbone #4 said...

wow.. that was a long one... I think it will take me a while to read through it, so I will go at it in stages. But first, I will join you for a movie.

TheDrake said...

I am as well going to be reading this one is stages... Crazy long...

Yogger said...

It is scary to know how much we are like the Pharisees... one of the real wake-up calls to me was in Ted Dekker's book "Red". If you read it you will experience the Pharisee in you in the middle of the book.

It's crazy how much we are like them. Great blog John.

Bassmaster Fehr said...

I for one read through it in one sitting! It effectively exposed some of the pharisee in myself, that I had previously been unaware of. Good blog.

Susan said...

Once I tried to eat a burger. It was really good. It reminded me of turkey because it was pharisee-like. I also went to alberta once for a fun time after a hockey game. I don't know too many people named Bob.

Christina said...

I found this and thought it was still very current to today's "enlightened Christians" who believe you will get all you want/desire if you "pray hard enough" or "tithe more than necessary" or "are a member of a church". In another section he describes how so many believers have made their own god (idol) in the image of the true God, yet fitting their reason and belief rather than relying on the truth. Their long standing beliefs take the place of Biblical truth, prefering to accept the fiction of the world for the truth of the Word. Your Pharisees blog just made me think of this.

See what you think (yes I can be wordy too)

Martin Luther's Definition of Faith: An excerpt from "An intoduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans,"
Luther's German Bible of 1522
by Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith

Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. "Faith is not enough," they say, "You must do good works, you must be religious/pious to be saved."
They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working,creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, "I believe." That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn't come from this 'faith,' either.

Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an
unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are.
Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many

Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.
Such confidence and knowledge of God's grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve
everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who
has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from
fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard
against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they're smart enough
to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools.
Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without
faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.

my 5 cents said...

great post john! you express many of the same themes that i have been thinking and studying. how far have we stayed from the truth because of the pharisee within us all? how hard have we tried to work our way into heaven by the righteousness of pharisees and scribes? too much, i am ashamed to say.