The Modern Day Pharisee

Someone I once respected as a Christian leader told me that he didn’t read his Bible every day. I was amazed. He said that for him it had become something to do, just checking off another box. I heard him speak and ridicule people who just “check the box” on reading their Bibles

I guess it made sense at the time. I was impressionable. So I too started to NOT read my Bible when I didn’t feel like it and I checked another boxthe box of being so spiritual that I would not allow myself to fall into the kind of legalism. I thought I had reached a whole new plain of Christianity, one that had all the buzzwords like “authentic.” I started to revel in my failures so people would know that I wasn’t perfect. I was… authentic. I wore my flaws with pride and flaunted the fact that I didn’t read the Bible every day, or really much at all anymore. I didn’t need to. I was… spiritual.

I became so jaded that I soon could sense the hypocrisy in everyone around me. People would say that they were praying for someone, but I knew in my heart that they were not sincere. I had developed the gift of sensing the hypocrisy of others. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite so I stopped praying for people or I would pray with them once on the spot and completely forget about them later. I was becoming so spiritual.

Then it happened. I read the Bible again one day and then the next. I realized that I wasn’t spiritual at all. My frustration with church and the hypocrisy around me was a projection of my own dry and barren soul on those around me. I had never really seen my brothers and sisters in Christ for who they were because I was so busy judging myself in them.

When I began reading the Bible again it was like a deep and refreshing drink of cold water on parched lips. It hurt, but it felt so good. It was what I needed. I had been without for so long. I had almost forgotten how life transformational the gospel really is. I had been living in a self-imposed dessert for too long.

And so now I check the box on reading the Bible every day, not because I am a legalist or a Pharisee. No, I did that quite well without reading the scripture. I go to the well of God’s word everyday now because I know how thirsty I really am and how much I need to hear from Him (even if I don’t feel like it). I’m convinced once again that “holiness” though it isn’t a buzz word is what God has called me to and I’m not as proud as I used to be of being “authentic” with my flaws.

Oh, I’m still flawed. But now I would rather boast in Christ through my failure than boast in my failure. It’s different now that I’m a recovering from being a Pharisee. I wish I never believed the lie that it was somehow spiritual to not use one of the very tools God has given us to grow. Sometimes the most dangerous lies to believe are the ones that Satan puts in the mouths of Christian leaders.

An Open Letter to All My Legalist Friends

Recently I have been bombarded by all sorts of people with legalistic agendas.  To be fair most of what I have seen or heard in recent days hasn’t been aimed at me directly.  However, some of you are making it difficult for me to share Jesus with my other friends because they think that you represent Him.  They don’t know that your legalism is a vice and a sickness that actually keeps you from Him.   I’m intentionally avoiding the particulars and get to the heart of the issue which is demanding more of others than God does.

1. Its not about YOU (or ME), its about US.

Sometimes you ask me to do things or put away things that aren’t prohibited in Scripture.  Some of these things are great ways to connect with others and are really morally neutral.  Many of these things Jesus did himself.  But you get this idea in your head that if I do things differently than you that I must not know Jesus (or at least that I am not right with Him).  However, on many of these issues, your the one who is changing His Word to make it say what it doesn’t say.

2. I’ll Gladly sacrifice ME for the sake of US, but please don’t ask me to do it for YOU.

What I mean is this.  I don’t want to be a stumbling block to you.  I don’t want to cause you to do anything against your conscience.  I will gladly not do some things that might offend you so that we can hang out.  But when you go around saying that everyone must think the same way that you do on an issue (and your thoughts don’t exactly line up with scripture), then you are asking me to be conformed to your image, not Christ’s.  Again I love you and will lay down my freedom for you, but I will not subscribe to your extra biblical ideas.

3. Don’t forget that HE loves THEM

Somehow I think that in the process you have forgotten that God loves people.  Don’t get me wrong on this.  Doctrine is important.  But perhaps the biggest truth we can know about God is that He loves people.  Some of you are good at communicating your cultural rules as a standard of holiness but you have forgotten to mention that God loves people.  Please let me remind you.  He says it plainly in His Word.  Just read it.

John 3:16-17, Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:4-9, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1st John 4:10-16

I really am hoping the best for you.  Truth be told, I fight legalism too.  Its easy for us to come up with extra rules (especially if we don’t struggle with the new rules).  We can feel confident that we haven’t broken the rules we’ve added.  The problem is that our rules aren’t always God’s rules and we need to know the difference.

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