Just Say Whoa to Woe

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My Musings – It’s easy to dump on the Pharisees. After all, their name has become synonymous with self-righteous hypocrisy making them easy marks for criticism and condemnation.  But what if we substituted the word Pharisee in the above verses with the word Christian?  Is that how the world sees many of us?  Are they justified in seeing us that way?  We want to scream that they are way off base.  That we are under attack and being unjustly persecuted.  But we need to be very careful before we dismiss it outright.  For you see, “the problem with self righteousness is that it seems almost impossible to recognize in ourselves. We will own up to almost any other sin. but not the sin of self-righteousness. When we have this attitude, though, we deprive ourselves of the joy of living in the grace of God. Because you see, grace is only for sinners.” ― Jerry Bridges, evangelical Christian author, speaker and staff member of The Navigators.

We might think, why should we care what the world thinks of us?  Well, if they are wrong, and perhaps they are in most cases, we need not care.  Jesus did say, after all that in this world we will have persecution, and that if the world hated Him, we should not be surprised if they hate us too.  But if they are right, even about a minority, we should care very much.  For Jesus also said they (the world), will know we are His followers if we have love for one another.  And if they do not see His love in us and from us, then the truth that we are proclaiming will not seem very much like the truth.

Another reason we should care is because Jesus cares.  He had nothing but condemnation and anger (yes, anger) for the teachers, scribes and teachers of the law that exhibited such self-piety and hypocrisy.  His attitude was not a casual “well actually,” but a very much heated “woe to you!“…”You snakes! You brood of vipers!”  Whoa.  Let’s take a closer look at these “woes” from Matthew 23, NIV 1984, and learn from them.  We do not want to become 21st century Pharisees.

  • Hypocrites – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
  • Sons of Hell – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

  • Blind Guides – “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?”

  • Neglectful – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

  • Greedy and Self-Indulgent – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

  • Whitewashed Tombs, Dead Men’s Bones – “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. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

  • Full Measured Sinners – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

My Advice – I am sure that the vast majority of Christians are not this way, or at least not blatantly.  But are there times we “deny” God’s grace to those whose sins seem greater than our own?  On occasion, is the way we behave on the outside inconsistent with how we are on the inside?  Do we overly focus on certain evils (“strain out a gnat“), to the exclusion of others (“swallow a camel”)?  Are we so self-absorbed by the “injustices” that we must endure that show no mercy to others?  Let’s just say whoa to woe.

 

And The Verdict Is?

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My Musings – Testimony is a solemn declaration by a witness, a firsthand authentication of a fact.  It is not information received from other people that cannot be adequately substantiated.  That would be hearsay, which in a court of law, would be disallowed.  John spent three years being taught (discipled) by Jesus.  He was with Jesus 24/7 for those three years, which certainly put him in a position to see if Jesus’ talk was Jesus’ walk.  He was at the foot of the cross when Jesus died and was able to see the Roman soldiers certify that He was in fact dead.  On more than one occasion he saw and spoke to Jesus after His resurrection from the dead.  In every respect, this is firsthand authentication of the facts.  His testimony was corroborated by other witnesses.  He was imprisoned because of his adherence to his testimony.  Other witnesses were executed.  John likely lived out his days under the same threat of death.  None of these recanted.

In light of all this, John testimony proclaiming that  “he who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son does not have life,” is more than credible.  It removes any reasonable doubt.

My Advice – Testimony demands a verdict.  Deliberate carefully.  It is an eternal life and death matter.

Garage Sale Fellowship

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My Musings – Spent time these past few days with my two older brothers as we helped our 85 year old mother with a garage sale (selling many items that she and my dad had accumulated over 66 years together).  We had many visitors to the sale.  Some were neighbors, some were dear friends, some were mere acquaintances, most were strangers.  They represented different ethnicities and social “classes.”  We exchanged pleasantries with all, joked with a few (which garage sale had the best “junk”), had warm conversations with many and prayed with a few.  At one point I remarked to one of my brothers “if more people went to garage sales, the word just might be a better place.”  What a great time of fellowship with those we knew and those we did not.

As a world becomes more and more polarized, we sometimes lose sight of the fact we all have one Father and Creator – who loves us all.  We have one Savior who did not just die for certain ethnicities, social classes or the “deserving” – He died one for all.  He will save all who believe and receive.

My Advice –  Forgive as He has forgiven you.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Give to those in need.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Entertain strangers. Do not oppress or mistreat the alien among you (ouch!).  Love your enemies (say what?). For “[w]hatever you did [or did not do] for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did [or did not do] for me.”  (Matthew 25:40, NIV 1978).  Finally, have a garage sale – just for the fellowship of it all.

The Elephant In The Room

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My Musings – “People primarily respond not to what we do but how we’re being.  It’s not that we do the wrong thing necessarily, but that we do what we do – maybe even if it is the ‘right’ thing – the wrong way.” (Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute).

My great fear for the Church today is that a lot of us spend a lot of time and energy “doing” Christianity, while failing to “be” Christ-like.  We pride ourselves with saying, supporting and doing the right things (the modern-day equivalent of a tenth of our mint, dill and cumin), but neglect to be those things (the all-time equivalent of, “justice, mercy and sacrifice“).  In the process, we are well on our way to alienating an entire generation from “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”  Given the appropriate “salt and light” there are many who would love to “be” like Christ, but are afraid of “doing” like “Christians.”  But unfortunately, the “salt” in many of us leaves a bad taste, and the “light” shining from us artificial and not a true reflection of its Source.

My Advice – There is nothing wrong with saying, supporting and doing the right things.  But we must practice these without neglecting “justice, mercy and sacrifice.”  Otherwise, we are merely a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”  Distracting noise and “fake news” in a world searching for the truth.  Woe to us, the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge.

Don’t just do, be.  People still might not acknowledge the truth, but what they are rejecting will be plain.

Before God and Man

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My Musing – At first blush, this is a somewhat curious statement, at least to me.  If we strive to keep our conscience clear before God (a high standard indeed), why would we need to concern ourselves about man.  Wouldn’t satisfying the former, automatically satisfy the other?  It is clear that keeping our conscience clear before God is our top priority and that keeping our conscience clear before man should not take precedence.  But the former does not exclude the latter.

Paul states elsewhere to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of all people, and if possible, as far as it depends upon us, we should be a peace with all men. (Romans 12:17-18).  Man is fickle, while God is not.  So a clear conscience before God will not always satisfy man.  Especially if they do not have a relationship with Christ and their only picture of him comes from us.  But we must still strive to have a strive to have a clear conscience, “as far as it depends on us.

The first (and greatest) commandment is to love God (with heart, soul, mind and strength).  We need a clear conscience about that.  But is second is like it.  Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39). We need to keep our conscience clear about that as well.

My Advice – Sleep well with a clear conscience.

Except Through Me

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My Musings – A few days ago, (July 26, 2019) the title of my musing was “On the Side of Truth.”  In the blog, I wrote that the truth is verifiable, not fabricated.  There are two primary means of verification:  reliable evidence (something that furnishes proof) and reliable testimony (firsthand authentication).

In the verses above, Jesus makes the bold truth claim that He is not just a way to the Father (God) and to eternal life in Heaven, but that He is in truth (fact) the only way.  To know Him is to know the way.  Apart from His own word, what evidence and what testimony do we have that corroborates His claim?

Evidence – The Old Testament records 356 prophecies concerning the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled (see https://accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html for a complete list).  All recorded at least 400 years before Christ was born. Here are just three:

His Birth – These prophecies included specific details surrounding the circumstances and location of HIs birth, something He could not have possibly orchestrated.  One of the details even required the proclamation to a disinterest pagan emperor (Augustus Caesar – see Luke 2:1), to ensure that Jesus was born in the town of His ancestor King David (Bethlehem -see Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1-6) and not the town where His mother and step-father resided (Nazareth – see Luke 2:4).

His Triumphal Entry – Another prophecy (see Daniel 9:23-27), involving yet another proclamtion of a pagan emperor (Artaxerxes, King of Persia), predicted Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the original Palm Sunday.  A span of 483 separated the proclamation and its actual fulfilment to the exact date (Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1363). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.).

His Death – The predicted mode of Jesus’ execution described crucifixion in very specific detail (see Psalm 22), despite being recorded an estimated 600 – 700 years before the first recorded executions by crucifixion by King Darius I of Persia ca. 519 B.C (see https://www.gotquestions.org/crucifixion.html.).

Evidence  – The Bible records over 500 eyewitness to post-resurrection appearances of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).  There is no evidence that the Jewish or Roman authorities responsible for Jesus death were ever able to discredit any of the witnesses testimony.  Many of eyewitnesses died horrible deaths as a result of their belief in a risen Savior. Yet if the face of martyrdom and persecution, there is no evidence that any of these witnesses ever recanted.

The New Testament is not the only source of testimony concerning the historicity of Jesus.  These include Jewish historian Josephus, Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, Samaritan historian Thallus, governor of Bithynia Plinus Secundus, secular author Phlegon and Syrian philosopher Mara Bar-Serapion.  The Jewish Talmud also acknowledges the historicity of Jesus.  (see https://evidencetobelieve.net/history-of-jesus/).

My Advice – In “On the Side of Truth” I wrote that no matter what is being debated, there can only be one truth.  To me, there is more than a “preponderance (more likely than not)” of evidence and testimony that Jesus is the only way.  To me, it is beyond a reasonable doubt.  What about you?  What is the one truth to you?

 

Walk This Way

1 John 2:6Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Those who claim to know Jesus as Savior, but who continue to live a rebellious life are likely not saved at all.

My Advice – Continue to follow in His steps, giving evidence that your life is in Him.