In May, we started watching the Bible Series again. This time with our church family at Grace. I wanted to share a few reflections on each episode.
In this episode, we see the appearance of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a religious group who were devoted to the Law. They treasured the Scriptures and they believed that one ought to remain true to only the Scriptures. So, they studied the Scriptures, memorized the Scriptures, and knew deeply the content of the Scriptures. We would recognize all of these traits to be of good quality. In fact, these are things that we strive for. Yet, we also recognize that Jesus condemned many of the Pharisees (Matthew 23). What I want to do is observe the Pharisees and observe the example that Jesus set and compare those things with our own lives. Here, I can only ask that you be honest with yourself. Take this opportunity to evaluate your own walk with Christ.
Most people who refer to themselves as Christians in our day are more in line with the Pharisees than they are with Christ. This should make our ears perk up. Christ implores us to seek understanding, to strive to genuinely know God. The Pharisees, by example, teach us to defend our dogmas and to practice outward ritualistic religion. Dare I say that this is precisely the reason an entire generation, my generation, left the church? We wanted Jesus, and the “church” tried to give us religiosity as a cheap substitute. This means that the organized church is at least partially responsible for moving society to where society is today. We contributed to this mess. There is a danger, here, and I want to be very clear about how Scripture warns us.
The Pharisees had great knowledge. They knew the content of Scripture, yet they did not seek understanding regarding the Scriptures. They used the Scriptures to try and defend what they already believed. They were not what we might refer to as teachable. They felt it necessary to argue others into submission. Because they had knowledge of content, they won most arguments even though they were dead wrong. There is a reason Scripture encourages us on this:
“The poor in spirit are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Those who mourn are blessed,
for they will be comforted.
The gentle are blessed,
for they will inherit the earth.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed,
for they will be filled.
The merciful are blessed,
for they will be shown mercy.
The pure in heart are blessed,
for they will see God.
The peacemakers are blessed,
for they will be called sons of God.
Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.
You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:3-16).
We are encouraged to be meek (gentle, humble), to be peacemakers, and to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Yet, this is the opposite of what most versions of Christianity are. Argumentativism is dangerous, not actually helping anyone. Seeking first understanding is healthy and godly. If we choose not to seek first understanding, it is a sign of immaturity in the faith (or a sign that we may not really know Jesus). Our religion is like the religion of the Pharisees; God does not build His church on the dogmas of people but on His revelation and His humbling us and bringing understanding of who He is to His people (Matthew 16:17-18).
The world is quarrelsome and defensive and stale and stagnant. Christians are to be salt (preserving flavor) and light (those who practice and bring understanding).
God did this humbling work with Peter in Matthew 14:22-33. He pointed out to Peter how little Peter’s faith actually was. Jesus does this humbling work with us if we are in Him and if we are to be used in His kingdom. Be honest. This is a time of introspection. Does your walk look more like the Pharisee’s? Those who are in my generation who left the church, is the hypocrisy of people really worth abandoning the God they failed to represent? Or, should we follow Christ rightly at all costs and see healthy reformation and revival in our day?
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