Pharisees and False Teachers

EQUIP THE SAINT

There is a word that used to have no derogatory meaning but has found its permanent place in  the insults of “Christianese.” Its original meaning referred to a man’s position as an expert adherent of God’s law with rabbinical duties to guide others. The word is – Pharisee.  

Nowadays, this word is used and thought of in a slightly different way. If you call for accuracy in biblical preaching you could get called a Pharisee. If you lovingly confront a small group friend concerning their sin, you’re not thanked through tears – you’re called a Pharisee. If you voice concern for dangerous doctrines and the exploitation of those desperate for hope…well, you’ll see.

Recently a special conference was held in our city (Tustin, CA). The promoter promised signs, wonders, and miracles to those who would attend. A big sign was posted on the street and social media sites spread the word. Revival…

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The ‘good person’ trip-up: Why being good is not good enough…

The “good person trip-up”…
Many people think that if they are good (a good citizen; a good parent; an all-around good person), that being good is good enough. The problem is that this mentality consists of our own standard and perspective that we have invented in our own minds. For example, we are all “good” compared to a terrorist. The standard people use is the terrorist. We are all “good” compared to the bad standard we have set up in our intellect (without even realizing it). Let’s face it: most of us look around at other people and don’t think about God.  It is with love that I say there are very large problems with this. When we compare ourselves to ourselves, it is not wise: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” 2 Cor. 10:12. When humans compare themselves to other humans, it is a false standard instead of God’s true standard.  Essentially, when we do this, we are basically (even unknowingly) stating that our standard is right/true and God’s is wrong/false.  We have a choice – we can use our own standard or God’s.  The choice is ours; He allows us free will to choose.
“There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.” Proverbs 21:30.
Which standard are you using?  There comes a point in each person’s life to choose which standard to live by; they are contradictory standards.  One is true; one is false.  Both can’t be true.  It really comes down to this: Who is wiser?  God or me?  Most people won’t listen to Him, He is used to it:
“But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would have none of me.” Psalm 81:11
“Enter in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be who go in there, because narrow is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.Matthew 7:13,14
 God’s plan for our lives (as opposed to our own plan), is that we do not use our own standard to make ourselves feel “good” because this leads to destruction, but rather, to use HIS standard alone, which leads to life.  This is a narrow path, and one that most people will not choose because it feels better (temporarily) to deceive ourselves with our own standard.  It is HIS standard that we will be judged by, not our own. It’s like a class full of students – if my friend gets an F, but I get a D, I am pretty good! I am feeling really good about myself when I am looking at my friend, but I have forgotten that the teacher holds the standard and that I am getting graded by the teacher, not the student! This is how it is with God. He is the grader, and He is the judge.  Our friend is not our savior.  He is good, 100% in His awesomeness and infinite in wisdom.  If I get a C, and compare that to God’s standard, I’m really not that good at all.  It’s about our perspective; the way we have grown up, what our parents have taught us, etc.
 This presents a problem. This means that all of us are pretty much not “good” when compared to HIS standard. Unless, of course, you are perfect.  If you are perfect, than this article is not for you.  We are all in the same boat, we are all dirty dishes in the sink; we are all flawed; we have all sinned and are imperfect when compared to HIS standard.  There is not one person on this earth who has not thought a wrong thought or done a wrong deed:
 …
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
 1 John 1:8
 …
 We don’t need to teach a child to be bad, to fight, etc., but we all need to teach our children’s hearts to be good and to do the right thing. We are all born wretched in our hearts, each of us:
“But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6
“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…” Matthew 15:19
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”.  If this apostle, who we see on stain glass windows in churches, admitted his wretchedness, and his need for a savior, how do we claim to be good?
Even the best things we do, God is not impressed with; we cannot make our way into His arms and Kingdom based on our own merit and good deeds. He’s not impressed; He just isn’t. The best things we do are often still like filthy rags.  The way to God is not through being good, getting baptized or going to church.  It’s also not through self-help gurus like Joel Osteen or Wayne Dyer.  It’s not through giving money to the church, or being one with the universe.  It is not about what we do to earn our salvation, it’s about what He does in and through us. It’s HIS work (a supernatural act of His grace and mercy), not ours.
Jesus said that unless a person becomes truly born again, they “cannot” enter into HIs Kingdom:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'” John 3:3
The only way to heaven is to become born-again (according to Christ).  It’s His standard, not ours.  He must remake us from the inside out, starting at our hearts. It is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to remake a person.  This is why it is called being “born again” or “born again of the Spirit”.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
Once He re-makes us, and gives us a new heart, like a tree, it grows and produces good fruit, good deeds, etc.  Goodness is simply a bi-product to salvation, not a means of earning our way. This is also what sets Christianity apart from other religions.  Many religions teach that we must do things to earn God’s approval/salvation and that He is impressed with us.  Christianity says the only way to the Father is through the Son, and good deeds (and a holy and changed life) follow as a natural result like fruit on a tree:
“Jesus said unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.'” John 14:6
 …
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Who gave himself a ransom for all, this to be a testimony at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  Ephesians 2:8,9 nlv
It is God who cleanses us (through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross) and forgives us/wipes us clean.  We all fall short of the glory of God, and can be justified freely by His grace.  What standard are you using?  I think a lot of people think that their own standard will be acceptable to God…when it will not.  God is wiser than us.  The way to God is through His Son’s atoning death on the cross and becoming born again. Jesus is the only way; not being a good person when compared to our neighbor.

Dead in trespasses but alive in Christ: A message about new life…

Dead in trespasses but made alive in Christ (true life).

The word Gospel from its Greek origin literally means “good news”. So often, people think their lives will end if they follow Christ (LOL), that the fun will be gone, yada yada. I have thought that too. But I have seen, not only with myself, but with others close to me, that this is exactly when true life begins and a soul becomes truly alive and full of light. There really is no way to understand this until one experiences it for themselves, so it is hard for me to explain, and of course, there will always be those who don’t get it and don’t want to get it, until God in His mercy changes their hearts because of His love for them, even if undeserved. It’s sort of like turning a light on and flipping a switch, when once you realize the life before was death and darkness (though we do not SEE it like that when we are in it because it’s impossible until something happens and God turns the light on) when compared to the new life and light. That’s why Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” and “The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have LIFE, and that they might have it MORE abundantly”. Light and the newness of life is what Jesus came to bring, that is why He is called the light of the world. Light to our souls, to our families and children, etc. When we desire to save our own lives, to do our own thing, even if it is wrong and contrary to God’s desires, we are not saving our lives at all, we are only deceiving ourselves. The truth God brings is that true life begins at conversion, it’s his gift. The wages of sin is death, not life, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The best part is that it is a free gift simply out of God’s love and mercy. Salvation is a deep, life changing event. Yes, there are hypocrites in churches – those will always be there, they are not God’s children, and they misrepresent Him, but don’t let them deter you – there are also truly converted souls who have been powerfully changed from the inside out by a loving and merciful God:

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Col.2)

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2)

A note on gratitude and loving your enemies

Following Jesus is a path of gratitude.  Don’t forget to look back at all God has done for you.  Rocky, my husband, was sharing some wisdom with me, telling me it’s important to be thankful for all that God has done already in our lives. He and I both see that God has blessed us with so many spiritual blessings (and other types). Don’t get me wrong – we’ve had our fair share of trials, okay?  Anyway, I consider myself a thankful person; my heart is full of gratitude. Despite that, I admit sometimes I easily start to lose my focus on what God has already done and my focus shifts to the future on what is yet to be done. I am sure I have many friends like this; those who are progress and future-oriented. As soon as I complete a goal, I start another project or goal and only think about that because I view time as a gift not to be wasted. I know productivity is a good trait, but sometimes I need to stop and look back and see all that God has done for us. When I do, I am blown away and humbled mostly at the deep spiritual blessings. It is true that God is good to all people, even those who don’t love Him:

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

What can you be thankful for today that has already happened? How can you show kindness to others today, even those who hate you or will be unthankful for your kindness? There is truly nothing special or noteworthy about loving those who love you. Every human being on the planet is capable of that; even the most evil person. That’s easy. What’s a challenge is loving those who don’t love you and who are not thankful for you. If you do, your character will be like God’s because that’s exactly what He does to every human being on the planet. Even when I didn’t love God or give thanks to Him, when I ignored and rebelled against Him when He was trying to get my attention in many ways (because of His great mercy), He gave to me and was good and gracious to me. Why? Because He is kind and good even to the unthankful. He gives us our breath and even our intellect; the ability to work and make a living, etc. Really, what do we have that wasn’t given to us? There is really no room to boast about anything. Rocky and I are at the point where we both see His hand in our lives and His blessings.  “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).

Tyndale Life Application Daily Devotion:

“But be sure to fear the LORD and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you.”
— 1 Samuel 12:24 NLT

Insight:
Samuel reminded the people to take time to consider what great things God had done for them. Taking time for reflection allows us to focus our attention upon God’s goodness and strengthens our faith. Sometimes we are so progress- and future-oriented that we fail to take time to recall all that God has already done.

Challenge:
Remember what God has done for you so that you may continue your life accompanied with gratitude.

© 2010 by Tyndale House Publishers

Could your weakness be your strength?

Have weaknesses? Like an illness, maybe? Or a mindset? God is strong in the weakness. God uses the weak and flawed, like Gideon, not the high and mighty. That way, His strength shines through and He gets the applause. He alone is worthy of praise. He does not use the “elite”. He does not need the high and mighty of this world to do His work; an elite troop. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The Gnostic sects have always claimed elitism and certain privileged, secret knowledge just like the Pharisees. His strength is made perfect in weakness. He uses the weak to lead the strong, not the strong to lead the weak. Also, He blesses the poor in spirit; the broken. The Apostle Paul admitted his weakness. God’s power rested on Him (2 Cor. 12:9). I have personally seen God turn my biggest weakness and sorrow into His strength, and it has become my joy and a witness to His power and goodness.  The following is written by the Bible League International:

When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Gideon had a low opinion of himself and his clan. His assumption was that if someone was to save Israel out of Midian’s hand, then it must be someone of greater status than him and from a stronger clan than his. It never occurred to him that God may have selected him for the task precisely because of his low status and weak clan.

God, however, seems to specialize in selecting what is low and of no account for the accomplishment of His purposes. He selected the Israelites as His chosen people not because they were numerous, but because they were few (Deuteronomy 7:7). He chose David to be King of Israel even though he was the youngest son in his family (I Samuel 16:1-13). The Apostles Peter and John were “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13). Many more examples could be added to the list.

The reason why God so often chooses what is low and of no account is so that the chosen will be more reliant on Him and through that reliance His glory will be magnified. God often chooses the foolish, weak, lowly, the despised, and the things that are not so that no one may boast before Him (I Corinthians 1:26-29). If God were to exclusively choose those who are high and mighty, then they might be tempted to boast of their own abilities and take credit for any successes.

If you are confronted today with a calling that seems beyond your status and abilities, then consider Gideon. It is God who makes us able, not we ourselves. Indeed, God declared Gideon to be a “mighty warrior” before he ever accomplished anything.