Am I a Pharisee?

Howdy, friends..

Presently I’m nestled in a blanket trying to shake off the chill from having just come in from outside.. but tempted to break out of my cocoon to fetch a mug of fresh coffee, the enticing scent of which is drifting in from the kitchen. Choices, choices! I think I may stay here for a while and grab some Joe later.

This morning I read something powerful in God’s Word. I usually don’t share my personal devos, but it stirred so strongly in my spirit that I figured maybe we could all benefit.

In Luke 7 John the Baptist sent his followers to ask Jesus directly if He was the promised Messiah. (Which, by the way, the fact that this even happened is almost shocking to me. Chronologically, just a while earlier, John declared of his Cousin, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And how quickly he forgot and second-guessed his confession. The same may be true of us..) Anyhow, Jesus being typical Jesus did not give a straight-forward answer, and said, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (verses 22 and 23). I love this response. To me, Jesus is saying, “Let what I have done, let what I am doing, speak for itself. Make up your own mind who I am.”

– And, my friends, I really must break to grab that coffee.

– Alright, I’m back.

After John’s disciples left, Jesus preached to the crowd around Him and outright claimed that He was “more than just a prophet” (Luke 7:26-27). Clearly the men and women who heard remembered John’s own teachings about the Messiah and understood that He was making the claim of divinity, because verse 29 states that there was a dramatic response: “All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right.”

Beautiful.

What’s less beautiful is verse 30:

“But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves.”

Anyone familiar with the New Testament is well aware that the Pharisees were Jesus’ main earthly antagonists. They exalted religion without exalting the God of the religion.. they practiced the “what” and forgot the “why.” Jesus inferred that He was God – a profound truth essential to faith and salvation – and those who were seeking the truth received it; those who were hard-hearted and overthought religious details hotly resisted it. Frightful.

Are we this way? Am I? Are you?

We are all susceptible to this dangerous pattern of living and thinking, especially those of us who have been “in church” for a while. It can be all too easy (and I’m not sure why) to get completely caught up in the clothes that someone else wears, or the physical layout and decor of the church building, or the style of worship music, or someone’s qualifications or lack thereof, or length of the church service, or Bible translations, or age, or gender, or…! And long before we realize what we have become – if we ever realize – we have allowed our hearts to harden to Jesus and His message, and to be impossibly sensitive to details that have no eternal ramifications. Like the Pharisees, we would miss God’s Truth if He was speaking it directly to us, and in so doing, we would “reject God’s purpose for ourselves.”

Oh, help me, Jesus!

(I am speaking directly to myself, as well as to each of you, I’ll have you know. I constantly need Jesus to save me.)

So, how do we know if we have become calloused to Christ? We must look at our fruit.

Is reaching the lost a genuine passion of yours?

Are “religious” things that really, honestly don’t matter, of great importance to you?

Do you make it difficult for someone to serve in your church? Do you make it difficult for someone to be excited about serving in your church?

Are you a fountain or a drain?

Can you replace the word “love” with your name in 1 Corinthians 13 (“Josh is patient, Josh is kind, Josh does not envy…”), and it be true?

Are my preferences – and the preferences of the people I run with – more important than anyone else’s?

Do you genuinely forgive?

Ah, my friends, I realize this is a heavy topic. I am asking, very humbly as I also ask of myself, that we prayerfully look inward for some soul-searching. We can probably all identify a little bit with Pharisees.

But, the forgiveness and gentle touch of our Savior is for everyone, even Pharisees, even liars, even the sexually loose, even criminals, even the worst of the worst. His grace abounds to us.

To paraphrase Pastor John Lindell of James River Church, “For every look we take at self, we must take five looks at Christ.” This is beautiful! While I do hope this post inspires us all to carefully examine our hearts and motivations, I want to remind us – emphatically, thankfully, and earnestly – there is hope in Jesus! In Him is forgiveness, joy, and a second birth! In His Name, none of us is the same person we were ten years ago, or even yesterday!

Jesus loves us so, so much. Jesus loves you, flaws, fears, failures, and all.

I love you, too, hey.

Josh

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