Sunday, February 20, 2011

Down with the Pharisees

Poor Pharisees, what a bad wrap they have had throughout the Bible.  Jesus was kind and loving to all those horrendous sinners that deserved hell, but to the pharisees he called names and rebuked.  Why?  Because they thought they were righteous unto themselves.  And what does righteousness mean?

First, lets define what a pharisee is: "a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person." [ouch!]

Now, the dictionary says righteousness as a noun is: "the quality or state of being righteous."

as an adjective: "characterized by, proceeding from, or in accordance with accepted standards of morality, justice, or uprightness; virtuous"

However, a good biblical definition of righteousness is: Right standing with God.   

When I first heard the gospel of unconditional love and grace I couldn't believe it.  It was too good to be true!  It took a year for it to really penetrate my heart (and bad theology) and take root.  And when it did- it completely set me free.  I expected everyone I encountered to be equally excited about this revelation, especially my Christian friends.  But that was not the case.  And this is what I have learned through my experience:

There are people, for various reasons, who are naturally disciplined.  I don't just mean from the "big sins" I am talking about everyday things.  They refrain from sugar, cigarettes, junk food and other "naughty" behaviors.   They instead eat only things that are good for their body, run and train for marathons, and have incredible will power.  These behaviors are not evil or against God- of course not!!!  Physical accomplishments are to be commended and encouraged.  But let us remember they are only physical (of this world).  Spiritual "accomplishments" is another matter. 

Many times these same people are able to have incredible will power in "God's rules" as well.  They don't cuss, talk about people behind their backs, or {I will let you fill in the blank}.  This also goes along with their good deeds.  They serve endlessly at their church, always get to church on time, and read their bible on a regular basis.  Again, these are NOT bad things- just bare with me...

These Will Power People, may except God's grace to an extent.  They may not make others feel bad for their lack of good deeds, or think they are justified apart from Jesus, but they feel "close to God" when they are doing good deeds.  And when the occasion comes when they do mess up, they feel an inner need for penance before they can feel "close to God" again.  So when they hear about unconditional grace, they are offended for many reasons.  Not only does this lower the apparent value of their will power, but they feel this will lead others that are not as disciplined as themselves to fall into "greezy grace".  Although I believe we are made for good works (or deeds)

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
Ephesians 2:10

These good works are not unto righteousness.  Good works are a fruit of a relationship, not a prerequisite for a relationship.

Perhaps this is why I was so set free from the message of unconditional love and grace.  I am a mess.  I always have been.  And as much as I would try, I would still eat too much ice cream, exercise too little and cuss too much.  And when it was explained to me that it is all about Jesus and not about me.  Well, praise God!!!  Because while I got everything wrong, Jesus got it all right.  And with being free from guilt and shame, and understanding the love God has for me- I am free to be who He created me to be.  And instead of willing myself to obey God's laws, my desire (fueled by love) is not to sin.  In short, I obey God's laws on accident more than I ever did on purpose.

Paul said it wonderfully in Romans 2:14-15 "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them" NAS

 I also really like The Message version: "When outsiders who have never heard of God's law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God's law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God's yes and no, right and wrong."

The "...something deep within them that echoes God's yes and no..."  that is our spirit, perfect and one with Jesus.  When the law is seperated from us by grace (and guilt, condemnation, and shame along with it) we follow the law on accident.    The Gentiles in Romans were free from the law by ignorance.  But either way, by ignorance or faith; freedom is accessible. 

Don't be decieved; the only thing that makes you lose the desire to relationship with God through Jesus, free of guilt and free of shame. 

Thank you Jesus...for freedom.

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