Who’s A Pharisee?

James Tissot's John and the Pharisees

James Tissot’s John and the Pharisees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m amazed about how often I hear this word misapplied. This is an especially favorite taunt for people who make extra-biblical or heretical statements  directed against people who have asked for a biblical explanation for what they claim.  Since they’re making claims and statements that don’t line up with what the bible say’s, they can’t tolerate someone exposing them as false prophets. Unable to actually present sound arguments, biblical or otherwise, they resort to ad-hominem attacks against the character of the person they disagree with.

In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus had nothing good to say about Pharisees, often referring to them as vipers, serpents, & hypocrites (see Matt 23:31-33) . It is for this reason that it is used as a taunt, what Christian wants to be identified with these people?

People who teach unbiblical beliefs want to shut sown any hint of criticism.  Since their teachings can’t survive even a brief examination they  become immediately become offensive, often accusing people who question their statements of being a Pharisee. This is a blatant attempt to manipulate and intimidate questioners into silence since there is simply no biblical justification for what they say or do. They try to make it seem that a person using the bible as a basis for judging whether something is of God or not is being ‘legalistic’ and is thus a ‘Pharisee’. They want their hearers to believe that they are only accountable to God and have no need to give an accounting to ‘lesser’ (in their view) people.

That in itself proves their total lack of biblical understanding. This is demonstrated in two ways: 1) Totally corrupting and misstating the definition of a Pharisee to suit themselves. 2) Totally disregarding the commands in scripture for the hearers to verify their claims against scripture.

1) The Pharisees were one of the main Jewish sects during Christ’s earthly ministry. They were noted for their zeal for the Torah – the Law of Moses. The Apostle Paul was himself a Pharisee (see Philippians 3:1-6) before his conversion . They were also known for maintaining an oral tradition – which eventually became written – called the Talmud – A.K.A. The Teachings of Man –  which they regarded as equal in authority to  and sometimes exceeding the Torah’s – A.K.A.: God’s Inspired Infallible Word. 

Look at Matthew 15:1-3 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Jesus didn’t criticize the Pharisees because they obeyed and followed scripture, but because they didn’t. Pharisees disregard the word of God to promote their own ideas and teachings instead of God’s.

 2)  False prophets however don’t want people comparing what they say to what God says.  But what does the scripture say? When Paul & Silas proclaimed the Gospel in Berea, Acts 17:11 says:  “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The Bereans were praised for seeking and finding scriptural verification of what was being proclaimed.  1 John 4:1 Tells us to ‘test the spirits’.  1 Thessalonians 5:20 & 21 tells us not to disregard but to test prophecies and hold on to the good. The only way to do that is to verify what is being taught with what God Himself has already said in the bible because God can’t lie or contradict Himself  (see Numbers 23:19).

You wont go wrong in your Christian walk believing that the Bible has all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. A person who thinks that their personal dreams, words, and revelations surpass or override biblical revelation is being foolish and will lead you to hell with them.  Don’t be manipulated and controlled by someone claiming spiritual authority who has become offended with you because you asked them “Where does it say that in the bible?” .

I’ll finish by asking you to consider one thing: If a Pharisee is actually someone who disregards the bible to promote their own teachings; who then is actually the Pharisee, the person who asked for biblical proof, or the guy offended because you did?


Steve Jobs: Epic & Legendary Failure?

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

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The whole world is talking about, if not actually mourning the tragic passing of legendary tech and business leader, innovator, entrepreneur,  Steve Jobs. His story is fascinating and many people are inspired by his life. And yet what did Steve really achieve? In the greater scheme of things was  he really successful? Where is he now?

Oh I know his financial net worth was far greater than mine will ever be. And he was far more famous than I’ll ever be. You could without exaggeration describe his life as having been ‘significant’, or ‘epic’, or even ‘legendary’. By every measure the world uses his life was tremendously successful.

The Lord Jesus talks about such a man in Luke 12: 15Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”16And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17“And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18“Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21“So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (NASB)

In the end, it doesn’t matter how rich or famous you or the world thought you were. If you make being ‘significant’, or ‘epic’, or even ‘legendary’ a priority in your life you are in danger of spending eternity in Hell. This isn’t what God wants for you. God wants you to seek Him out. God wants you to be rich toward Him.  When Steve Jobs appeared before God the question of how much money he had, or how famous he was, never came up. The only question that mattered was “Is his name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?” (Revelation 12:15) .  The only way to heaven is through the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. It’s sad to say that Steve Jobs was a life long Buddhist. In God’s eyes that doesn’t make him anything but a bankrupt,  epic, legendary, failure.

Consider some of the following scriptures:

  • He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NIV)
  • For what hope has the godless when he is cut off, when God takes away his life? Job 27:8 (NIV)
  • We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. Psalm 39:6 (NLT)
  • Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1Timothy 6:17 (NIV)
  •  10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11“He is theSTONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERSbut WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. 12“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” ACTS 4:10 – 12 (NASB)

How about you? Where is your treasure? Don’t waste your life pursuing fame, money, or power. Pursue God. You can only find Him through His Son Jesus.

Proper Dress Required

Proper Dress is Required

The man found himself in the lobby just outside of the banquet hall. He had gladly accepted the invitation to the King’s wedding banquet and had planned on being here for this event. Nevertheless he was surprised to find himself here so early.

The fellows who had picked him up had been insistent that he come with them right away. One of them had even been almost rude when he told him “No! There is no more time! You must come now!” He wasn’t used to being spoken to like that. After all he was an important man in the Kingdom.

He reflected on his many accomplishments and thought to himself that he had done quite well so far. After all he had been working for the King for most of his life and felt for sure that his years of dedicated service, his leadership abilities, and the size of the organization that he had built for the King, were the reasons why he stood here now. Of course the financial rewards for his service had been immensely lucrative. He reflected with pride on all that he had acquired while in His Majesty’s Service. He had a half-dozen truly awesome automobiles, several mansions, a bank account that would ensure that his family would continue to live very well even after he was long gone.

His meditations managed to cheer him up considerably. His mood improved so much that he decided he would overlook the rudeness of the King’s Men who had not treated him with the respect he deserved. “Respect, Hell! They should have shown me real deference and awe! After all I’m not some bum off the street.”

He realized to his surprise that he must have actually spoken that out loud. Then he realized that he had actually used the ‘H’ word. Here, of all places! So he somewhat irritatedly said “Sorry, my bad” to those who had heard his little slip. “Who are these losers to judge me?” went through his mind. He felt his face redden as he realized that once again he had spoken aloud. He decided his verbal slip ups were just caused by his apparent discomfiture at being treated so differently than he’d expected.

He looked at those around him and began to become irritated again. He was surrounded by many apparent commoners. Some of them were dressed so poorly it was shocking to believe that they actually thought they’d get into the banquet hall of the Great King! “Thank God I was wearing one of my Armani’s when those two toadies picked me up this morning, at least I’m dressed for the occasion.” He began to wonder if he’d spoken that aloud also. Judging by the lack of the reaction of the ‘low-life’s’ who waited with him, he decided he hadn’t.

He then wondered at the colossal screw up by the Kings servants that were overseeing the event that caused him to end up in the same entrance all of these common people were using. There had to be a different entrance for the Kings ‘key’ people, and that was obviously where he should be. He started looking about for someone to correct this gross insult to his dignity. He scanned the lobby looking for anyone who looked to be capable of taking action. Other than the soldiers of the Palace Guard at the doorway he could see no other officials. He considered shouldering his way through the crowd, but as he studied those rather grim-looking warriors he realized that he wouldn’t get very far with them. They didn’t look like the sort he could cajole or manipulate into getting what he wanted.

Just when he felt he could stand no more and was about to pitch a tantrum, (it was surprising how often that had worked in the past), one of the King’s Men appeared in the doorway.

“May I have your attention please? Thank you all so much for your patience and forbearance while waiting. We are ready to begin seating you now. We realize that you are all in need of the proper apparel for such a once in a lifetime event. As a special gift His Majesty has purchased for you all at his own cost, truly splendid and grand garments for you to wear to the meal. As you approach the door you will see several rows of crates containing wedding clothes, on either side of the door. Dont worry about sizes. You will find that whichever garment you select will fit perfectly, as the King has planned. When you reach the crates, please disrobe and toss your old filthy rags on the floor behind the crates, and then don your new garments. These clothes are the King’s gift for you to keep from now on. We will dispose of your old garments for you. So please form two lines and let’s begin entering the hall.  Thank you all again.”

“Well” the man thought, “at least things are starting to move.” “I wonder where the changing rooms are?” He asked himself. “I didn’t notice any when I came in, but then I wasn’t really looking.” As he drew nearer, he realized to his disgust and alarm that there were no changing rooms! People were stripping down stark bare naked right at the entrance to the hall!  Totally without shame or self-consciousness! Then  they dressed in the new clothes from the crates and happily went in.

When he reached the crates he balked. “There’s no way I’m taking all of my clothes off in public. There’s just no way. How humiliating!” he thought to himself. “Besides, this silk suit cost me better than three grand! It’s custom tailored for me! And I can’t even tell what those rags in the crates are made of. Besides the only color is white, and they’re just gowns. How is anyone going to be impressed by me in one of those? At least in my suit people recognize me as a man of substance, someone to be respected, admired, and obeyed.”

Looking down at himself he realized his trousers has an ugly brown stain on the thigh, and that both knees were torn. Then he glanced at his sleeves and saw that the ends were frayed, and the once blindingly white  cuffs of his Dolce & Gabbana dress shirt was a dingy gray. He began to panic. He couldn’t decide what to do.

“Sir? are you having difficulty?” One of the King’s Servants asked. “We really need to keep the line moving, the meal is about to start. Just disrobe and put on the wedding garment provided and move on in. Once you’re inside someone will show you to your seat.” And then she moved aside to assist someone else.

He was in a horrible quandary. He just couldn’t disrobe here and put on that. No way. Furtively he glanced at the Palace guards at the door and saw that their eyes seemed to be fixed above the crowd, not at them. “Hmm, I think I might slip by them, as long as she’s not paying any attention to me” A quick glance told him he was unobserved and as quick as possible, he stealthily stole inside.

Once inside he saw that he stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone else were dressed in brilliantly white robes, which oddly enough did seem to fit amazingly well. “Still”, he told himself. “There has to be something else for me than those things. I’ll just scope things out and figure out where the quality merchandise is being kept, get one of those, and I’ll be set.

He also realized  as he stood there that all of the other guests were either seated or were being seated. “Oh no! I’m attracting the attention of one of the Guards”, he said to himself. He began to sweat profusely as the Guard strode toward him with long, purposeful strides. So seeing an empty table to the side he sat down, thinking that he could duck out of site. However even seated, somehow he could see the Guard head and shoulders above everyone else.

He was immensely relieved that once he sat down the Guard stopped marching toward him. The Guard seemed to be content to to keep an eye on him. The man began to relax somewhat. He noticed that the flow of newly dressed people coming into the hall was slowing down and soon stopped.

Then he heard a loud blast from many trumpets that seemed to shake the walls and even the floors. The blast of sound was so massive it tore at every cell of his body and caused his once magnificent clothing to become totally shredded. Before he could even realize that he was more naked than clothed, a voice, (was it many voices or one? he couldn’t tell) cried with just as much volume as the trumpet:

“People of God!, Beloved and Betrothed! Blood Bought and Sanctified! Bride of Christ! Your Groom is hear to claim you as his Bride! Welcome to your wedding and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! Behold the Only Wise God and King, He who was dead, but arose, and is alive forever more, Who sits at the Right Hand of the Father, He who Reigns for ever and ever, Your Savior, Your Lover, Your Brother, Your Lord and King:  Jesus the Christ!”

Through the door behind the man strode Jesus to the thundering shouts of joyful acclamation of the Bride! The shouts of praise that erupted in Jesus’ honor cannot be described using any words that you or I can use in any language this side of heaven.

The man was not, like the others, the Bride, filled with a glorious, unspeakable joy. He was terrified. Suddenly aware of how vile and impure he was. Then when Jesus walked directly to him with anger in His eyes, the mans muscles turned to jelly, his voice failed him as he quailed in total abject fear. He had time for one thought, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

Then Jesus spoke to him: “Friend, how did you get in the hall without wedding clothes?” But the man couldn’t answer. Jesus turned to his attendants and said: “Tie his hands and feet and throw him into the Outer Darkness, the place of weeping and anguish. Because many are called, but few are chosen.” As the Guards subdued him and dragged him away, the man saw the King walk forward to embrace His Bride.

This short story is based on Mathew 22:1 – 14. The point being that unless we humble ourselves and ‘put on Christ’ Romans 13:14, we will not enjoy the banquet. Anyone expecting admittance based on their own righteous works will be denied entry.  For ‘all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment’ Isaiah 64:6 (ESV). You see, in the end, it’s really not about how good you are, nor is it about how vile you are. It’s all about being clothed  in Jesus, only when God sees you clothed in Christ will you find yourself among the Chosen.

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