church

Are We in Danger of Being Like the Biblical Pharisees?

Luke 10:18-14 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Who were the Pharisees that the Bible discusses?

‘Pharisee’ came from the Greek word pharisaios, which was formed out of the Hebrew/Aramaic word perisha- which means ‘Separated one’. In the time of the New Testament there were three main Jewish sects: the Essenes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees.

Out of these three, the Pharisees were thought to be the most separated from the foreign influences that were integrating into the Jewish faith, and also from the ways of the common folk.

It is believed that the Pharisee sect began in the third century B.C. before the Maccabean wars. During this time they were being dominated by the Greeks- and it was found that the Jewish people began to allow and accept the Greek culture, as well as integrating their pagan religious beliefs into their own.

This migration sparked a protest among the Jewish religious leaders, and from this protest rose the Pharisees. Their goal was the keep the integrity of the Jewish faith and culture and ensure strict adherence to Mosaic law.

Unfortunately, as we see in the New Testament, they grew to be a self-righteous group of hypocrites. This would culminate in their eventual condemnation and murder of Jesus Christ.

Jesus himself called them out in the book of Matthew.

Matthew 23:13-14 “You Pharisees and teachers of the law are in for trouble! Your nothing but show-offs. You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won’t go in yourselves, and you keep others from going in.”

He goes on to say in verses 27-28: “You Pharisees and teachers are in for trouble! Your nothing but show-offs. You’re like tombs that have been whitewashed. On the outside they are beautiful, but inside they are full of bones and filth. That’s what you are like. Outside you look good, but inside you are evil and only pretend to be good.”

I asked this question in the title of my blog post: Are We in Danger of Being Like the Biblical Pharisees?

Let’s think about this for a few minutes. It isn’t necessarily an easy thing to contemplate, especially about ourselves. I’ve written some on this topic previously, but I feel that it is not only very important, but also a dangerous trap that we can fall into if we are not careful.

Let’s contemplate what it means to be a Christian. What are some of the things that come to mind? Faith in Christ, certainly. Worship, Attending church, tithing, and praying are all on the list. Does it stop there? Sometimes I think that it does for some Christians.

I heard a sermon once about “Sunday Christians” that really made me think. These Christians are some of the most “spiritual” people you’d ever meet. They were at church every Sunday, worshiped, prayed, and were in every appearance the model of what a Christian should be. Except that as soon as they exited the doors of the church when the service was finished they dropped their facade. They behaved like their unsaved friends on every other day of the week- only changing for appearances sake one day a week. If you saw them outside of church, you’d never know they followed Christ. 

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am in no way saying that every Christian is this way, not even close. What I  am saying is that we must be careful that we do not get caught up in the appearance of Christianity, and forget to actually live in a way that reaches people for Christ.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? The thing we lose track of sometimes in our daily bustle. The reaching people part. It isn’t  always enjoyable, and it can be uncomfortable at times. It is easier to ignore or “forget” that we have this mandate, this commission and focus on the other portions of our faith. However it is so terribly important that we do not.

This is where some of the hypocrisy can seep in. Sure, we need to bring others to Christ, but unless they fit a certain criteria it would be too uncomfortable to approach them. They certainly cannot be homeless or poor, LGBT, mentally ill, covered in tattoos, or a minority of some kind. How could you possibly relate to them? (Sarcasm, of course!)

Have we forgotten that these are the types of people that Jesus went out of His way to reach?

I saw a quote on Twitter the other day that really made me stop and think.

“Love the sinner- hate YOUR sin.”

What this means to me is that we are not called to judge them for sinning differently than we do. We are called to love them, and show them the same love that Christ has for them.

Don’t fake your walk with Christ, whether you are saved or not. It is too important not to jump in fully committed.

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We must stand apart. How else will others know we have something so important that they need? Don’t be like the Pharisees of the New Testament- rather let’s strive together to be like Jesus.

~Megan~

Where is God When We are Hurting?

Life here on Earth can be messy, painful, and stressful. We will all experience some form of struggle during our lives. Of course we know that there can be such joy in our lives, but those bad times can be so incredibly difficult.
We as Christian’s know in our minds that God is there, but in these hard situations sometimes it can feel like God is so far away in the physical here and now.

In all honesty, no matter how often we feel God’s hand in and on a situation there are those other times when He lets our situations grow into a seemingly impossible circumstance. It’s in these times of trial and hardship that we (I know I can’t be the only one) sometimes ask the Father why He would allow this thing to happen to us.

Why do we ask this? I don’t actually believe it is from a lack of faith, but rather because we know who God is, the all-powerful, all-knowing, loving Father- we want Him to intervene in our circumstances and help us.

Unfortunately this can be where the aforementioned lack of faith comes in. When God happens to decide not to answer our prayer the way we requested or expect, we can begin to doubt.

The thing we have to realize, though, is that God sees things on a much bigger (and let’s face it- a much farther) scale than we do. He is not bound by our time table, and certainly not required to conform to our expectations. If He did this He would not be Master, but servant only. Does He love us? Absolutely! Does He want what’s best for us? Always. This means though that what’s best for us isn’t always what we expect.

I have heard people call God callous or heartless because of something very difficult that has happened to them. God is never to blame for what we go through, and yet He loves us so much. He doesn’t want us to struggle or to be in pain. He cares for us.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?”

I believe that God allows us to experience some of these terrible things so that we truly believe in His power and love for us.

This brings to my mind the story of Lazarus in John 11. A short time before His crucifixion Jesus was sent a message that His dear friend Lazarus was very sick. His friends sister’s, Mary and Martha were expecting Him (Jesus) to rush to their house and heal their brother.

He said in John 11:4-6 “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”Now Jesus loves Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.”

So instead of rushing to His friends side, He waited two more days. Why did He do this?

He explains in John 11:14 “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

When Christ finally makes it to Mary and Martha’s home, He discovers that their brother had been dead for four days. Mary is understandably upset, and while crying told Jesus that if He had been there, Lazarus would be alive.

Her belief wasn’t an issue. She knew already that Jesus had the power to intervene and heal her brother. I am almost positive that she was hurt, confused, and heartbroken that Jesus didn’t seem to have cared enough about her family and arrive in time to save Lazarus.

However, Jesus identified and understood her pain, after all- Lazarus was His dear friend.

John 11:33-35 “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” He asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.”

By this time Lazarus’ sisters, and the people who had gathered had to have expected that this was the end of it. However, it was then that Jesus chose to act and miraculously brought Lazarus back to life! Through this action He not only showed them His love, but also revealed Himself as Messiah. He chose to do this in this manner so that they would not just know who He was in their minds, but also experienced a life-changing event and believed in His power and love.

It would have been easy for Jesus to heal Lazarus, in fact I’m sure He wanted to. However, by choosing to wait He was able to truly show His power, and gave them faith that no matter what they went through they could trust that He was going to be there for them.

Are you going through a difficult or seemingly impossible circumstance? I just want you to know that Jesus is always there for you, no matter how dark it may seem. He wants to comfort you in the midst of your suffering, and wants to do something amazing for you. It may not be in the way we expect, but His plan has always and will always be better than our own.

He promises to always be there for us, and that He will never leave us. We are not alone. What an absolute comfort!

~Megan~