warnings to religious people

woe to you

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:33-36)

Religious people close their eyes to Jesus (the Light of the world). In Luke 11, the Pharisees and lawyers had such eyes. They eyes were darkened. On the outside they appeared holy and righteous, but the opposite was true about their insides. Their insides were without light, full of pride and unbelief (vs.37-41). Therefore Jesus gives some serious warnings to religious people. In fact, he gives six warnings:

WARNINGS AGAINST STEALING PRAISE THAT GOD DESERVES.

1) Do not brag about what you give to God (v.42, i.e. tithes & services). Religious people don’t care for people or God, the care about how holy people think they are.

2) Do not love the good seats in God’s house (v.43). The Pharisees paid good money for the good seats—the seat where everyone had a good view of them.

3) Do not love titles. The Pharisees were more concerned about their name than the name of God (v.44). Their fame will die with them in the grave, but God’s fame lasts forever.

Jesus trumps the Pharisees. Jesus is title is: Son of God, King of Kings, and Savior of the world. He is seated: at the right hand of the Father, the seat of supreme authority. His fame will stand the test of time and one day all will bow at His feet.

WARNINGS AGAINST GUARDING YOUR IDOLS TOO TIGHTLY.

4) Do not burden (intimidate/bully) people with rules stacked upon rules (v.46). The lawyers made their living studying the law and enforcing them upon others. They don’t love Jesus or people, they only love being in control of rules and making sure others are keeping them.

5) Do not kill the prophet who calls you to repent (vs.47-51). In the Old Testament, Israel killed the prophets they did not like. The religious people will kill Jesus too.

6) Do not make the Scripture to fit your agenda (v.52). Instead, search the Scriptures to understand God’s plan. The only way to God is not religion, it’s Jesus. Religion gets in the way of redemption. Not only do religious people not understand they prevent others from understanding too.

Jesus trumps the lawyers. He is the author and perfecter of the law. He willingly dies a sinless servant so that the unrighteous could have His righteousness. Jesus is the key to Scripture. He is the Door (cf.11:9-10). Knock and you have eternal life.

In conclusion, each of these warnings has something in common: They show the condition of man’s heart, which is full of pride and idols. Now, it’s easy to point fingers at religious people, but if you were honest, you and I can be just like Pharisee or lawyer? Where has religious thinking distorted your heart? What sins of religious belief or action do you need to repent of? What does repentance look like in those areas of your life? Will you let Jesus’ light shine inside out?

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Jesus breaks the rules

breaking the rules

Rules. Rules. Rules. They are everywhere. There are rules for school, rules for the road, rules for table manners, rules for marriage, rules for parents and children, rules for governing, rules for meetings, rules for church, written rules, unspoken rules, and even rules for rules.

Sometimes rules can seem nettlesome when we don’t understand their purpose. Like, why can’t we use #1 or #3 pencil for tests? Now, rules aren’t all bad. Think of a world without rules. It would be chaos. Rules are good. Rules are meant to protect us and help us. This is the heart behind a parents saying to their children, “Look both ways before crossing the street.” It’s a rule that could save ones life.

God has made rules too. His rules perfectly and lovingly protect us and help us. However, some people have seen God’s rules as overbearing or unreasonable and choose to rebel. Rebellious people break the rule by ignoring them altogether. Others have seen God’s rules as insufficient and needing additions to fit their religious system. Religious people make rules for God, themselves and others.

So is it ever okay to make or break the rules? In Luke 6, Jesus will answer this question as He’s being accused of breaking their rules. What rules does Jesus break? Certain religious leaders accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath rules.

What is the Sabbath? Literally, it means “rest” and is rooted in the seventh day of creation when God rested after six-days of creating (Genesis 2:2-3). God did not rest because He was tired, but He set an example for mankind (Mark 2:27-28). God knew in His infinite wisdom that man would be weak and need to take a day off from work and enjoy the day of rest. The Sabbath is a day dedicated to God (Exodus 20:9-11). So how do the religious leaders think Jesus breaks the rules of the Sabbath?

1) Jesus breaks the rules by helping His hungry friends (Luke 6:1-5)

no_food_or_drinkJesus and His disciples were hungry and there was no McDonald’s drive-thru available to get a quite bite to eat. In accordance with the law (Deuteronomy 23:25), they go into a field, pick grain, crush it with their hands, and eat it. The Pharisees catch wind of this and cry foul. They ask, “Why are you sinning on the Sabbath?” (v.2) Why do they assume Jesus and His followers are sinning? The Pharisee’s saw this as harvesting and threshing, and accuse Jesus of doing work on the Sabbath. Sounds like a stretch, eh?

The Pharisees were sticklers for law keeping. The took God’s law and added to it a man-made framework to give them the appearance of righteousness. So with such laws like, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” (Exodus 20:8ff) they made-up a list of rules to look really holy, but the Sabbath became just another religious activity.

Isn’t that easy to do? Have you ever made the Sabbath a religious activity to boast in yourself? It is easier to keep your own rules of righteousness than measure yourself by God’s rules. According to their rules, Pharisees were on the Varsity Team and everyone else was on warming bench.

How does Jesus respond to the Pharisees accusation? First, He compares the situation to the example of David and his soldiers eating the bread of Presence from the temple, which was only to be eaten by the priests (1 Sam.21:1-6). Jesus points to the fact that God is more concerned about the person and the motivation of their heart than the particulars of the law. Jesus could see through to the hearts of the Pharisees and they were evil.

Second, Jesus doesn’t appeal to the religious leaders authority or accept their theology, instead He claims, “I am Lord over the Sabbath” (v.5). In other words, Jesus says, “I wrote the law and the Sabbath was my idea. Stop arguing with Me and start listening. Don’t fight Me, follow Me. Since I made the Sabbath, He define it.” Not only does He define it, He lives and fulfills it before their very eyes.

Sabbath is a wonderful gift from God to be enjoyed. Religious people suck the joy, passion, and purpose out of it (and everything they add rules to). They make the Sabbath as fun as going to the dentist on a free day. This particular Sabbath should have been the most unique, memorable, and joyful ones of their lives because they were in the presence of the Son of God.

2) Jesus breaks the rules by healing a man’s hand (Luke 6:6-11)

no peopleOn the Sabbath, Jesus goes to the synagogue for worship. He’s teaches. And Luke, the doctor, tells us there is a man present who has a withered hand. The Pharisees and scribes are listening critically to Jesus words and waiting with baited breath to see if He will heal the man. Like wolves ready to pounce on their prey, they were salivating at the opportunity to catch Jesus doing something they thought offended the law. Religious people are quick to tear apart and devour others.

This time Jesus asks the question, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?.” (v.9) No response is given because the answer is obvious. Jesus then has the man to stretch out His hand, in faith, he does what Jesus says, and Jesus heals him. In that moment, Jesus showed the religious people that helping someone in need trumps holding tightly to your rules. Jesus transforms this man life. Forever will he remember this Sabbath as the day Jesus healed His hand and healed his heart.

Religious people are not ruled by loving God or loving people, they ruled by a love for rules. Loving rules is legalism. Legalism is when people take the Bible and add to it. They make rules outside of the Bible that are equal to the Bible. Legalism is unbiblical, unloving, moralistic, man-pleasing, compromising, critical, judgmental, arrogant, self-righteous, and godless.

Legalism is an enemy of Jesus and His Word

Legalism is a dangerous enemy; it adds to the Bible and rejects Jesus as the only sufficient means to righteousness. Legalism denies something called sola scriptura, where Scripture alone are our highest authority. Sola Scriptura was first coined by the Protestant Reformers. All other authorities, like other books, teachers, rules, and leaders, are under, not equal to, Scripture. Religious people tend to elevate teachers and also other lists, and rules, and books equal to Scripture.

So dangerous is legalism that it kills Jesus. The Pharisees were so angry that they connived a plan to get rid of Him, “But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (v.11) Religious legalist don’t lose because they make their enemies pay. When they are angry they attack. Luke 6:11 will lead to Luke 23:46, which is the murder of Jesus.

Jesus summarizes the rules with two rules

Jesus doesn’t break any of the Bible’s rules, but He breaks certain religious rules. He does so because He values helping people more than following others expectations, traditions or religious rules. He knows that religious legalism is the default setting of every human being. So in Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus shares the two most important rules, often known as the greatest rules,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

These rules show God’s heart for giving the law: love. God intends the law to protect and help you love Him and others around you. It’s not about loving the rules or loving to rebel against them. It’s about loving the God and others. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

Some of you need to repent of your religion. Enough with the legalism. Enough with the rule making. Enough adding to the Bible. Enough with the self-righteousness. Enough with the boasting and bragging. Enough with the criticizing and judging. Repent of your religion and come to Jesus. You can’t have Jesus and religion. It’s just Jesus.

Some of you also need to repent of your rebellion against Jesus’ rules. Enough with rebellion. Enough with rule breaking. Enough ignoring the Bible and subtracting from it. Enough with bashing the religious. Enough with reverse legalism. Enough with lawlessness and licentiousness. Repent and follow Jesus.

Come to Jesus. Receive His death for your sin, His righteousness for your unrighteousness, let Him do the work of grace and transformation in you. The truth is Jesus lived the perfect life. He died a substitutionary death, and He rises to give you the gift of righteousness. Stop trying to be righteous on your own and receive the righteousness of Jesus, and share that message of grace with those around you who need it too.

hypocrisy

 

 

 

In the early days of acting a hypocrite was considered a good term. It described an actor who could put on many different faces or masks. Actors in the Greek theatre wore masks depicting an emotion. The masks were large, often twice the size of an actor’s face, so they could be easily seen. The Jews used the word hypocrite to describe a liar, deceiver, two-faced, or one who hid his true nature behind a mask.

How would you define the word hypocrite? To be a hypocrite is to believe one thing and behave contrary to your beliefs. If someone called you a hypocrite, how would that make you feel? Christians often get labeled as hypocrites. Christians are hypocrites, but so are non-Christians. Non-Christians believe people should behave a certain way based on various values, and Christians believe you should behave in a way that mimics Christ.

In the Gospels, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of hypocrisy because they used brassy actions that attracted attention, but covered their true heart intentions. They would pretend to do what was really important to God, but Jesus since He was God had x-ray vision into they hearts.

The religious are often the most hypocritical. The Pharisees were outwardly very religious people. The Pharisees controlled the synagogues, its teachings, and were regarded as the chief interpreters of Jewish legalism. They not only believed the Law, they expanded it to include 400-plus rules, and insisted everyone else follow too. Jesus used hypocrite to describe the Pharisees and pronounced seven woes on them for their hypocrisy.

What are the various faces of a hypocrite? And do you wear masks that fit?

First, hypocrites add to the message of the gospel [Matthew 23:13]. The message of the gospel is a simple message: you are rebellious sinner separated from God, but Jesus came to redeem sinful man through the cross, and only those who respond through faith and repentance will be redeemed forever. Though it is a simple message it is not easy. To make the application of the gospel message more than “repent and believe” by adding church attendance, tithing, baptism or any other work as prerequisites for salvation is duplicitous to the work of Christ.

Second, hypocrites use God to manipulate other people [14-15]. Hypocrites commonly devour people for selfish reasons. Hypocrites will injure people with their words and cover with a pious action. Some in the name of God have used and abused their listeners. That is blasphemous. Hypocrites are good at winning debates and proselytizing people to their own opinions. Jesus says the missionary efforts of hypocrites pave the way to hell. Instead of converting people to Christ, hypocrite’s covert people to their system that do not leave room for a Messiah.

Third, hypocrites seek to squeeze out of commitments [16-22]. Hypocrites are skilled liars. They know the loopholes or lingo to get out of commitments. They will make religious oaths with religious loopholes. Jesus says that all oaths are related to God and therefore binding [cf. Matthew 5:33-37]. Evasive oaths are not oath, but lies.

Some Christians say that they are committed to God because they read their Bibles everyday, pray before their meals, go to church faithfully, and give to good causes, but one glance at their life and you would see a huge disconnect. You can commit to all good things making yourself look godly [i.e. reading the Word, prayer, and serving the church], but if your commitments are not rooted in Christ they are self-centered facades.

Fourth, hypocrites are masters at making little things big and big things little [23-24]. Jesus condemns the Pharisees for not understanding God’s Law. The Law required that everything produced should be tithed to the Temple. The silly act that Jesus describes of counting every kernel of spice to make sure that it amounted to exactly 10 percent, no more and no less. Jesus was not criticizing tithing, but was pointing out that true righteousness results in godly behavior—not just an appearance of godliness.

How is it easier to focus on doing the little things—those less personal—than the big ones? Doing small duties are easy, but delving your heart, soul and mind into following Christ takes discipline, time and sacrifice. What did Jesus emphasize in His example of straining at gnats but swallowing a camel? There is great danger in focusing on the things that don’t matter, while ignoring the things that do. For example, some come to church on Sundays to worship God, but Monday through Saturday you are living separate from God. Sunday for them is a show, rather than serious occasion to worship God with His people that transform the rest of their workweek.

Fifth, hypocrites are concerned more about the outside than the inside [23:25-32]. Jesus casts two disturbing pictures of the Pharisees emphasize the outer man over the inner man. The first example is of keeping the outside of a vessel clean without taking the time to clean the inside [25-26]. Would you eat off a plate that was not fully clean, but caked with yesterday’s casserole? Or would you drink from a cup with three-day old milk marks inside? Of course not, that is just gross. That is exactly Jesus’ point. You are clean on the outside, but inside you are unclean.

The second example is decorating the outside of tombs. You can spend all your time on beautifying things that really don’t matter. People spend big bucks on making our faces look better, teeth whiter, clothes brighter, hair shinier, and body thinner. This might make you look good for a time, but in light of eternity it does not matter A beautiful tombstone does not change the condition of the decaying body within. Neither does a mask of Christian righteousness make a person who is dead to Christ inside into a true Christian [cf. Matthew 6:1-3; 15:1-11; 22:18-22]. What you do if you knew no one would see reveals who you really are and whom you really live for!

How do hypocrites stop playing with masks and start being authentic in Christ?

First, realize hell has hypocrites [33]. Hypocrisy reveals your hearts intents. The difficult truth is, the more hypocrisy you have in your heart the harder it is to change. Followers of Christ hate hypocrisy in their hearts and are committed to change in Christ. If a hypocrite continues in hypocrisy there is a good chance he is not a follower of Christ. If there is no change hell is on your horizon.

Second, repent and open yourself to God [34-36]. The response of the Pharisee should have been, “You are the Messiah, forgive us our sins.” However, they would not respond and repent, rather they recoiled to their hardheartedness. Jesus, the Messenger of the gospel, prophesies about other messengers He will send [i.e. apostles, disciples and followers] who will confront the religious system with their wholehearted commitment to their Lord Christ Jesus. Yet just as they rejected and killed Jesus, they will reject and kill His messengers. 1 Peter 2:22-25 says,

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Third, restore intimacy with your Savior [37-39]. God is a restorer of His people. This is a great promise. When repentance is authentic, restoration of intimacy with God follows. As 1 Peter 2:1-3 says,

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Fourth, remember servanthood is your calling [23:11-12]. Not serving yourself, but serving your Master, Christ. To preface Jesus’ woeful concerns towards hypocrisy He says, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

In conclusion, do not criticize the Pharisee for his hypocrisy for Jesus shares this message not only to them, but also to you. You could be a Pharisee too. Remove your masks. Repent; allow God to restore, and remember your position under God is a humble servant. Pharisees have infected the Christian community. Subtly. But Jesus thinks the heart condition of hypocrites is a serious matter to consider.