Pharisees…..the bad guys of the Bible. No one likes Pharisees – the legalistic, narrow minded, religious rulers of Jesus’ day. Shaking their heads and wagging their fingers at Jesus – He healed on the Sabbath, hung out with sinners and His disciples ate without washing their hands.
Matthew 15:7-9 (NIV) You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”
Matthew 23:25-28 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Matthew 23:33 “You snakes!” You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
Strong words – Jesus didn’t mince words with the Pharisees.
They looked good on the outside but didn’t fool Jesus.
He saw first-hand the oppression, poverty and way Pharisees kept people in bondage with their man made rules and regulations.
Luke 11:46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load the people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”
Hypocrites, barriers to God, religious snobs – no one wants to be a Pharisee.
Unfortunately, I relate more to Pharisees than the heroes of the Bible.
I want to identify with:
• Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his only, long awaited son
• Noah who endured years of ridicule as he built an enormous boat
• Mary, a young teenage girl, who responded in faith when faced with stoning, disgrace and possible death.
Here’s another outtake from the Bible, this time featuring a Pharisee:
“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” Luke 18:11-12
There we go – that’s more like it. “Thank goodness, I’m not like them. I pray, I’m in a small group, I read my Bible, I tithe, I don’t watch R rated movies – thank goodness”
Don’t get me wrong, these are all good things – when motivated by love for God, they grow my relationship and faith.
However, when it becomes a go-through-the-motion checklist, I’m in danger of becoming a Pharisee – all show and no go.
Faith activity can be purely external – God cares about my heart, my motivation.
I hate to say it, sometimes it’s not good – I’m selfish, I have my own ideas, my plan – I want God to not only allow it but make it happen and bless it.
Character? I want comfort. I want ease. I want a good life as defined by me. Needy? Poor? Yeah, I’m really sorry about all that – wish there was something I could do.
In the meantime, I’ll be taking my new car to the gym for some cardio followed by Starbucks with friends – yup, God is good!
Instead, God wants my heart, my life – everything. He won’t be insulted by the meager piece I give Him – following Jesus requires everything.
Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
He said to them all.
Deny myself? That doesn’t sound like fun – yet it is what Jesus requires – there isn’t a choice. His life for mine.
He gave His life for me and if I take that seriously – if I love Jesus and am serious about following Him, I must give up what I want and trade it for what He commands.
Following Jesus isn’t for sissies.
In the book, not a fan. Kyle Idleman says, “In teaching people what it means to be a Christian, we spend much of our time and effort bringing them to a point of belief without clearly calling them to follow. We have taken “believe” and we have written that in capital letters with bold print: BELIEVE. But everything that has to do with following has been put in small print: follow.”
He goes on to say:
“And I wonder if some well-intentioned preachers may have missed their calling as late-night infomercial salesmen. Because many people heard a gospel presentation that went something like this: How would you like to live forever? Would you like to have your sins forgiven and have a fresh start? Do you want to spend eternity in paradise instead of burning in hell?
And while some people rolled their eyes and changed the channel, a lot of fans signed up. They ordered a gospel that cost them nothing and offered them everything.
So in case someone left it out or forgot to mention it when they explained what it meant to be a Christian, let me be clear: There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no salvation without surrender. There is no life without death. There is no believing without committing.”
What does it all mean? How do I live and follow Jesus?
I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s that complicated.
It isn’t easy but I believe it is simple – Jesus Himself tells us how in Mark 12:30 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
When I make the main thing the main thing – seek God with all my heart – He leads me. He aligns my heart and mind with His.
To follow, I must keep my eyes, my focus on Him.
Imagine trying to follow someone in traffic looking out the passenger window – it doesn’t work and most likely, at some point I will crash.
I don’t want faith that’s merely a Christian resume I circulate to feel righteous – self righteous.
God doesn’t care about that stuff – He cares about my heart and whether or not it belongs to Him.
“Come, Follow Me.”
To answer the invitation, I must leave everything behind – even my checklist.
Sometimes it’s hard to trade my hopes and dreams for God’s plan. Wanting to control my path, my story is something I must continually surrender. What things hold you back from fully following Jesus?