Posted in hypocrisy, hypocrite, pharisees, sardis, warning

Are you becoming a hypocrite? Do you have an alive reputation but dead works?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23)

They were busy, but had neglected faithfulness.

neglect the more important matters of the law: In this fourth woe, Jesus criticizes the religious leaders’ meticulous attention to detail. Their close attention to particulars often went beyond the law, resulting in a disregard for the law’s true heart (see Isa 1:17; Jer 22:3; Zech 7:9–10; Mic 6:8; Hab 2:4). Barry, J. D.,  Faithlife Study Bible (Mt 23:23).

Source, credit: (Jonathan Woodcock/Getty Images)

The love of the Lord was not in the Pharisees, as evidenced by their neglect of the weightier matters. They tried to buy reputation cheap by being busy tithing exact amounts which in the end, cost them nothing. A few verses later, Jesus charged them with being whitewashed tombs- pretty on the outside but dead inside. (Matthew 23:27)

This is similar to the charge to the Church at Sardis where they had a reputation for being alive, but were dead. Jesus said,

I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Revelation 3:1a-2)

As with the Pharisees, a group of people were being charged with incomplete works. It’s hypocrisy again.

Christ quickly stripped away their reputation of being alive by declaring, you are dead. Like the Pharisees, their outer appearance was a facade hiding their lack of life (cf. Matt. 23:27–28). Christ added, I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. They were falling far short of fulfilling their obligations as believers. [The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures].

More from Matthew Henry:

With a reproof, and a very severe one: I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Hypocrisy, and a lamentable decay in religion, are the sins charged upon this church, by one who knew her well, and all her works. (1.) This church had gained a great reputation; it had a name, and a very honourable one, for a flourishing church, a name for vital lively religion, for purity of doctrine, unity among themselves, uniformity in worship, decency, and order. We read not of any unhappy divisions among themselves. Every thing appeared well, as to what falls under the observation of men. (2.) This church was not really what it was reputed to be. They had a name to live, but they were dead; there was a form of godliness, but not the power, a name to live, but not a principle of life. 

Dictionary of Bible Themes explains hypocrisy

An outward pretence masking an inner reality. Scripture condemns hypocrisy, especially in matters of faith. Believers should express their commitment to God in their words and their deeds, as well as in their inner motivation.

The origin of hypocrisy
Jer 17:9 See also Hos 10:2 Israel; Mk 7:21-22 pp Mt 15:19

The expression of hypocrisy
Insincere motives Mt 6:2 See also Mt 6:5,16; 15:7-9; 22:18; 23:5-7

When deeds do not match words Isa 29:13 See also Mt 15:7-8 pp Mk 7:6; Pr 26:24-26; Jer 9:8; 12:2; Eze 33:31; Mt 23:28; Ro 2:17-24; Jas 2:14-26

A tendency to judge others Mt 7:5 pp Lk 6:41 See also Ro 2:1

The alternative to hypocrisy
Heb 10:22 See also Ps 24:3-4; 26:4; 32:2; Jas 3:17; 4:8; 1Pe 2:1-3

I post all this to make a warning I personally take to heart for myself and I hope you do too. People tell me that in the past they have fallen under the spell of “doing church”. They mean that they realize they’ve been coasting along doing ministry or attending as a congregant but without heart, without thought. Suddenly they understand that they are coasting along on a former reputation but have lost the warmth or the motivation for being there in the first place. They say they realize now that they had been “playing church.” Sometimes the Lord uses a tragic circumstance to awaken and warm the sleepy Christian. Though it is difficult to go through a tragedy or a trial, this is one way God uses all to the good of those who love Him. Other times, the Spirit gracefully convicts us. Don’t ignore those warnings.

It is easy to become a hypocrite and hard to detect it one’s self. Unfortunately the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes never did come out from their hypocritical religion, which was the point of the woes Jesus leveled against them in Matthew 23. They were doomed. The church at Sardis was never complimented for one thing but grace was given to them with a personal rebuke to awaken them from their empty machinations. Did they ever awaken? One does not know since it isn’t declared in scripture. One this is for sure, there is no longer a church at Sardis.

Have you been playing at church? Has your church been coasting on a reputation, looks busy, but is empty inside? I don’t suppose hypocrisy comes on a person or a church like Sardis all at once like a flood, but incrementally. See this from John MacArthur. There were no drastic warnings to alert the church at Sardis that they were dead:

Like the city, the church declined. There was no mention of persecution about Sardis, though there must have been some. There was no mention of corrupt theology on the inside. There’s no mention of false teachers. But the church died. It had a good reputation. It had a name that it was alive. The light was still shining even though the star had died. There was no spiritual life. It claimed to be alive. The claim was a lie.

A slow decline is the hardest to detect. We don’t have the advantage of the Lord personally telling us like He did the church at Sardis that we have slidden from the warmth of a heart rightly motivated in worship, but we do have the Holy Spirit to convict us when we are beginning to hollow out our worship. We have the many warnings in the Bible about hypocrisy. Listen to Him if you feel that church or ministry reputation is all that you have, and have made your works incomplete. Attend to the mint and cumin, but do not neglect mercy and justice.

Posted in beth moore, blind, guide, pharisees, truth

Blind leading the blind, having eyesight problems and finding the Good Guide

The bible says we will be guided. We all need a guide. When we go to places where we have never been, we need a guide to help us get there. Do they know the trail? Will they take the correct fork in the river? Do they have experience with the terrain?

In the bible there are blind guides. They lead their followers into a pit.

Janet Fong. Share alike

Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. (Matthew 15:14)

Both teachers and taught are alike ignorant of the truth. The people had no spiritual light, and, applying to their appointed pastors, they learned nothing profitable from them; for these were as much in the dark as themselves. (Pulpit Commentary)

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says

“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch—Striking expression of the ruinous effects of erroneous teaching!”

Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray. And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion. (Isaiah 9:16)

But God sends His Spirit to guide us into all truth.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)

Gills Exposition again,

He is as a guide, he goes before, leads the way, removes obstructions, opens the understanding, makes things plain and clear, teaches to profit, and leads in the way men should go, without turning to the right hand or left, which, without such a guide, they would be apt to do.

Yes, we do go astray, don’t we. It is grace abounding that we have a guide. Though we are no longer blind, we do have eyesight problems. Though we are saved by grace we still dwell in our flesh. The flesh obscures the full vision of truth. Our desires, our sins, our temptations all cloud our vision. The Spirit is there to guide us into all truth. He sees perfectly and He knows the way. He illuminates the bible for us, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:5)

Praise the Lord we have a guide who will draw us along the path, until finally, FINALLY, at the glorification, we can fully see. Our guide will be Jesus in the flesh, with us and never leaving us.

Until then, follow the bright, holy, pure Guide: The Spirit of Truth. His path leads upward. The paths of the blind guides only lead downward, into a pit.

The blind leading the blind. The pit awaits them and their followers

Posted in false, pharisees

Children of hell and sons of heaven, part 1

I was reading Matthew the other day and I read Matthew 23 with a new eye. A verse jumped out at me. Don’t you love when that happens? Then the verse that jumps out stays in my mind and heart for a long time, rolling around like a holy marble.

Here is the verse:

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:13-15).

Then the next day I received something in the mail that was really good. I was humbled by it and touched by it, and I began thinking about the global church body.

Since then, I’ve been pondering three things- pastors, elders, and leaders of the faith that shut the door of heaven in people’s faces (Matthew 23:13); second, children of hell that emerge from a false system Matthew 23:15), and third, what it means to be a child of God in the global body. (1 Corinthians 12:12). Children of hell vs. sons of God.

So the contrast of the children of hell and the sons of God will be the main point in two blog essays, one today and one tomorrow. Today, leaders who shut the door of heaven in peoples’ faces and the children of hell they make after themselves.

When the scribes and Pharisees arrested Jesus, Jesus endured six trials. Usually, as today, a person endures one. There were procedures for the trial, and as we saw with Paul, opportunity for appeal. Depending on the charge, a person could be arrested and tried in front of the High Priest and Sanhedrin, or arrested and tried in front of the Romans. Jesus was charged with blasphemy, so He went before the High Priest & Sanhedrin. He was also charged with sedition, so He went before the Romans (Pilate).

But because the charges against Him were illegitimate, Jesus went before the Jews three times and the Romans three times and then had one final appeal before both groups simultaneously.

The first time, they dragged Jesus away to stand in front of Annas. However, Annas wasn’t the High Priest at the time. Annas had been pressured to step aside due to becoming too powerful. Annas was sort of like the Godfather, taking a cut of all the Temple money exchange action and the sales of the beasts for worship. (more here). He didn’t have the position, but he had the power. So Jesus was dragged to Annas first.

“Not only were the moneychangers robbing the people, but history records that excessive prices were being charged by those who were selling animals used in Temple sacrifice. For example, according to Leviticus 12:6-8, after an Israelite woman had given birth, she was to bring a sacrifice to the temple, preferably a sheep. But if she was poor, she could take two doves or two pigeons for the sacrifice, since birds were much less expensive, one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering. The Jewish Mishna states that because of greed, the market for birds rose so much that not even the poorer woman of the community could afford them.”

The price for two birds had risen to one gold zuz. (I don’t know the exchange rate, but that sounds like a lot…). The Mishna gives this account in Kritut 1:7:

“If a woman had given birth five times during her life . . . after she brings a single sacrifice, she will be able to eat sanctified foods once again. But she is still under oath to bring four more. It eventually came to pass that the cost of two birds rose dramatically to one gold zuz. Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel declared: “I pledge that before I go to bed this very night, the price of birds will fall!” He headed straight to the courtyard and instructed the people to obey the following regulation: “After giving birth five times, a woman . . . needs to bring just one sacrificial offering to cover all five births . . . That very day, the price of birds plummeted to one quarter of a silver zuz.” (source)

It was a struggle to keep the prices low. The greedy priests would take advantage of the travelers who brought an animal for sacrifice by fallaciously declaring it unfit, or with blemish, and order them to buy another animal at the temple grounds for an exorbitant price. If the Jews who brought money had Gentile coins, it meant the coin had a pagan image on it and were told they had to exchange the money for clean Jewish money. Of course, the exchange rates were sky-high.

“Even many of the high priests during the first century seemed to have given up their love of God for the love of money. Most notably the High Priest whom Jesus was brought before, Annas, along with his five sons who succeeded him to that position. The Temple sacrifice during their reigns can best be summed up by the words “The Marketplace of the family of Annas.” (Or in other translations, “The Bazaars of Annas”).

“The historian Josephus sheds some light on the actions of one member of this family, Annas the younger, the man who had James (the writer of he book of James in the Bible) stoned to death. Josephus states:
“The high priest, Annas, (after he had been relieved from his office) to some degree, was respected and feared by the citizens, but in a bad way; for he loved to hoard money. He became good friends with Albinus, and of the newly installed high priest. He did so by offering them bribes; he also had wicked servants, who associated with the most vilest sort of characters, and went to the thrashing-floors, and took the tithes that belonged to the priests by force, and beat anyone who would not give these tithes to them. So the other high priests that followed him as well as his servants acted likewise, without anyone being able to stop them; so that some of the priests, those who were old and were being supported with those tithes, died for lack of food.” A matter of fact, Jewish history records that these High priests who walked the temple courts during the first century, were despised by the majority of the people for their brutality and hunger for money.” (source)

Remember, Jesus cleansed the temple twice, once at the start of His ministry and once at the end. He called His holy ground a den of thieves, and this struck directly at the power and money structure Annas had so carefully accumulated. The hatred Annas had for Jesus was vicious. And we see the reaction of the Savior to the thievery and greed of Annas in Matthew 23 because He pronounced woes upon them all.

The actual High Priest at the time of Jesus’s trial was son-in-law Caiaphas. But the first trial was in the wee hours of the morning, at Annas’s house. Since Annas wasn’t even High Priest he had no authority to bring charges. The house was an illegitimate place for a trial. There were no witnesses nor was the time of day remotely legitimate. The whole thing was a sham. These people were a sham, and the Jews knew it.

Annas, Caiaphas and their ilk for generations had shut the door of heaven in people’s faces by behaving in these and other grossly selfish and carnal ways. They sought the best seats at the banquet table (Matthew 23:6). They hogged the most prominent seats in the synagogue. They colluded in murder plots against Jesus. (Mark 3:6). Not even life was sacred to them, and least of all the Sinless One’s life who came to bring them life!

In that way, they shut the door of heaven against the people.

Can you imagine the people, laboring under the onerous Laws, struggling to come up with a gold zuz to pay for two pigeons? Knowing they were going to get ripped off as they crossed the temple grounds to go and try to find some peaceful place to worship? Imagine what you feel like after only suspecting once like you got ripped off. You get angry and if you’re not careful you get bitter. These people knew it and they knew there was nothing they could do about it. It would happen again and again, year after year. So some just gave up, like the widow and her two cents.

“Jesus has cleansed the temple. He has said it is a cave of robbers. It is a false religious system and these people are devouring widows’ houses. Then in the sequence, He’s done with that speech, He’s exhausted, it’s been a long wearying day of interactions and teaching. He sits down in the Court of the Women, opposite the Treasury and it says, “He looked up,” which meant that He was looking down, that’s an exegetical key there, you can’t look up unless you were looking down…” So He looks up and He sees people coming by and putting their money in the system, just dumping their money in the receptacles that they had set up in that corrupt thing and He sees a widow come by and she puts two coins in, the only two she had, to go home and die. And He turns to His disciples and says, ‘This temple is coming down, not one stone upon another.’” And the point is this, any system that devours widows and takes their last two cents is corrupt, is coming down…. The desolation is still going on today, folks. And I think that last little moment when He saw that system eating the very last two pennies of that widow, He said, “That’s it.” So I say to you, “Woe to you prosperity preachers who take the widow’s money to buy your ten-thousand-dollar a night hotel room and your hundred-thousand dollar a month jet. Jesus feels about your system just like He felt about that. (source)

Others didn’t give up like the widow did, but instead joined the corrupt system. They became sons of hell, figuring, “they’re doing it, why not me? I want some action, too…” For example, we know the tax collectors took more than their share. Zacchaeus by grace of God was saved after an encounter with Jesus, and declared he would give back to all his ill-gotten gain four-fold. (Luke 19:1-10).

However, we see the ultimate example of the legacy of the greedy Pharisees making sons of hell twice as bad as they are, in the crowd that called for Jesus’s death. (Luke 23:18-21).

This bunch of people who had received grace, food, healing, and teaching, who followed Jesus and clamored for Him every day, crowds pressing close, now called for His death at the first opportunity. Children of hell indeed.

I began with the verse and I’ll end with it:

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:13-15).”

What are our Pharisees making? Hell for themselves and children of hell to follow them. They fly on private jets and quit their church to go on book tours and drink champagne and rip off the wounded and sick. They boast that they’ll throw brethren under the bus if they don’t conform to the pastor’s vision. They make promises that won’t come true and ascribe to the Holy Spirit the things the devil is doing.

These emergent, prosperity preaching, seeker hispter pastors are making people into children of hell. The children of hell are despondent, in despair, looking for hope in an open door to heaven, but all they are getting is ripped off as the Pharisees make merchandise of them and exploit them with false words and then they shut the door of heaven in their face.

No wonder Jesus condemned them with woes!

Tomorrow, the beauty of the global body, unbesmirched and glowing by the glory of Jesus!

Posted in apparel, hypocrisy, pharisees

Getting dressed for Easter

Happy Easter! He is risen! He is risen indeed!!

I’ve been thinking today about apparel. I have been putting off doing laundry because, well, I hate doing laundry. But on the other hand I know that I have to because the things I want to wear to the Easter Service tomorrow at church are included in the overflowing laundry bag on my bedroom floor. I have long planned what would be nice to wear: something different from the usual skirts or dresses I wear every Sunday, to mark the distinction that this Sunday is a special day of services. Something that would also be seasonally appropriate, and not the least of all, something that fits. Or fits long enough to wear for a couple of hours, lol.

I decided on a spring skirt I haven’t worn to church yet, with a green shirt, and a yellow cardigan. Aren’t you glad to know this? Stay with me, I have a point…

All that got me thinking about dressing for church.

I remember that Easter outfit: I must have been three or four. I loved Mary Janes, the black patent leather cutie pie shoe that were popular for girls in the 1960s. I wore Mary Janes well into elementary school, second or third grade, I think. Then it was Keds. I loved the dress and I really loved the coat. When we went to Easter Dinner (I don’t think we were headed to church services) my mother gave me white gloves to wear that had three pearl buttons on the wrist. I loved the gloves too.

I think it is a good thing to present one’s self for worship in clothing that shows a distinction from what we wear from say, cutting grass or cleaning the toilet. I think it is good to take thought and care when preparing our bodies as a living sacrifice at the service. The Old Testament priests had specially constructed priestly garments they must wear. You can read a description of them here.

The Pharisees were obsessed with clothing. They not only wore the required garments to show their ordained position, but they deliberately altered their clothes to show how holy they were and then by definition get stuff, like adulation and honors. They were accused by Jesus of enlarging the borders of their garments (Matthew 23:5-6) – This refers to the loose threads which were attached to the borders of the outer garment as a fringe. This fringe was commanded in order to distinguish them from other nations, specifically as God’s people, and that they might remember to keep the commandments of God, (Numbers 15:38-40; Deuteronomy 22:12). The Pharisees made them broader than other people wore them, so people would see them, and notice them when they stopped on the corners to pray aloud.

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23:5-7) They loved the trappings, and their apparel became a trapping to them and later when Jesus came, a trap.

Though I thought about what I would wear tomorrow, I do not think it is too good to overly dwell on our apparel, church wear, work wear, or casual wear. The bible is replete with admonitions about outer wear, believe it or not. It’s also replete with metaphorical warnings instructing us on the comparison of the outer garment and the inner man.

In Zephaniah 1:8 God warns that He will strike down those wearing ‘foreign garments’, or ‘strange apparel’ (depending on your translation). The pagans wore strange apparel, often an indicator of degeneracy, especially in the old days when it signified allegiance to pagan gods. When times get prosperous, people have time to lift their heads from grinding toil and look around to what other people have, and then import with intent to copy their extravagances, including apparel and then mores, customs, and religion.

Paul said with a sigh of relief that he never coveted other apparel: “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.” (Acts 20:33). It may seem strange to us today that the list of things that were often coveted in Paul’s day were not only the expected items like gold and silver, but also apparel. But clothing bespoke wealth. Remember Lazarus and the rich man. (Luke 16:19-31). In Luke 16:19 the rich man’s name is forever forgotten but his wealth is what is listed, among the riches mentioned are clothing. “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.”

Yet on the Day of the Lord, their wealth and clothing will not save them. “Neither their silver nor their gold Will be able to deliver them On the day of the LORD’S wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end,Indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zeph 1:18) Their silver and gold will not save them, a reminder AGAIN of how prosperity promotes self-sufficiency, as then and so now. And in self-sufficiency, we forget God. It is easy to do, and it happens in every generation.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)

As we dress tomorrow for the sacred services celebrating His resurrection, pray starting today that His Spirit would work in us to remind us that it is what is inside that counts. Are our motivations good? Do we love Him purely? Are we in right standing with Jesus having confessed our sins?

I’m not saying that dressing up is a bad thing. I’m not saying nice clothes are bad, either. But if dressing up is the only thing we worry about for tomorrow’s service, then it is a bad thing. He knew the Pharisees and scribes were hypocrites, even though they were splendidly attired, because He could see their hearts were far from God. He knew the Rich Man was far from God too, despite the fine linens He wore to all his banquets.

Let’s think about tomorrow as a time prior to which we can prepare ourselves inside and come to Him clean tomorrow. Are we willing to examine ourselves? Or are we just a whitewashed tomb that looks good?

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have”. (2 Cor 8:12)

“Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6:13)

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15).

He doesn’t care if we have a new dress or are wearing a tie, but sees the effort we make to ready ourselves to celebrate the universe’s greatest achievement, resurrecting Jesus from the dead as the slain lamb, for our sins.

If our heart is in right standing to Jesus (repentant and humble, a servant desiring change from the inside out) He will clothe us. He will give us garments of righteousness —

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)