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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Do Pharisees Know They Are Pharisees?

We live in a very divisive world. People are divided into categories so that others can manipulate them. The poor are told to despise the rich. The blacks are supposed to hate the whites. The young are to be suspicious of the old. The northerners must question the purity of the southerners. Each of these can be turned vice-versa.

Groups are subdivided within their distinction. Thus, a conservative may not be conservative enough. Or, a liberal may not be liberal enough. The effort to find purity within your own personal ilk results in Pharisees being born. Don't think that theological circles are devoid of these divisions which seek to create an elite group.

Discernment of the measure of elitism becomes the self appointed responsibility of some. They tell who is of worth and who has no worth. They determine safe and dangerous associations. They tell who can be trusted and who can't.

Demonization is the accusation of the Pharisee. The Pharisee declares that all that do not act exactly as they act are agents of the devil. They often speak of a "slippery slope" or make statements like, "A little leaven leavens the whole loaf." They see these as warnings against others who have deviated fromt he pure path.

Thus, their interpretations of the Bible are as always right as those of those of others are always wrong. Those who do not believe as they teach heresy. They warn their followers to stay clear of those who are not as "pure." They tell them that they will never be able to advance to bigger churches (and make bigger money) if they don't keep themselves on the approved path. They will never be famous and never get on the big conference speaker circuit.

So, they continue to tow the party line. They continue to use division to manipulate the followers and they continue to demonize those who are not pure.

Jesus said to the Pharisees of His day: But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Matthew 23: 13-15) (ESV)

Jesus said that we would be identified as His disciples by the love we have for each other. How can those who despise, gossip and slander others think they are the better followers of Jesus because of their self determined better doctrine?

Do Pharisees know they are Pharisees?


Anonymous said...

This musing is well and fine, but a kind of too general or revealing too little of who are being targeted; perhaps that is the intention, of non-revealing, so as NOT to catergorise, but it is an inevitable fact that categorisation is inevitable in life. For a start, there are the believers and the non-believers categorisation. It is NOT until we get to Heaven, and disregard those at Hell, do we get a more homogenous group; but even then, I reckon we still do NOT get absolutely no categorisation within Men as a grouping. Are all angels the same? NO, I should think. Similarly, I don't think it will be so, for men, ultimately. Unless we are all robots, which we are NOT; and even if we are robots, I would doubt God would make all the same.

So, it is really what we are referring to, specifically, that really determines if there is a categorisation, and specifically how; and NOT that, categorisation is of itself NOT an appropriate thing, all the time. Americans is one category; Singaporeans is another; and there are culturally different processes at work; by themselves, they are NOT necessarily NOT good; it is just all is to be subjected to the same sets of truths. An American falls to the ground, an Asian, like a Singaporean, falls to the ground, too - due to the "truth" of gravity. But an American may choose to plunge down in elegance, whereas an Asian may just jump down, even if he only has his shorts on!

It does NOT clarify or give any meaning in general article like this to say that "Demonization is the accusation of the Pharisee. The Pharisee declares that all that do not act exactly as they act are agents of the devil. They often speak of a "slippery slope" or make statements like, "A little leaven leavens the whole loaf." They see these as warnings against others who have deviated from the pure path.

I have some understanding of demonization, and I do speak about demonization, but I am no Pharisee; or maybe, that is the problem, I don't see myself as a Pharisee, like Ps Prentis concluded.

The point is that, and that is always the problem, we believe we have the truth, and those in the other camps, do NOT. But who is really having the truth; that is the real issue? Really, of course, as I have hinted, NOT much of a meaningful engagement can be had if we are NOT talking about truths; matters of discretions, likes and dislikes, preferences, etc, are too diverse, and may NOT directly be a thing to be absolute about.

Who is having the truth? The discussion will be too wide, if we include the non-believers, because necessarily, a yardstick of truths need to found and applied. There is no agreement of that yardstick when we include the non-believers; and we, Christians, must adopt the like-attitude of the Apostle Paul - who am I to judge those outside (the church)! But for all believers or Christians, as we call ourselves to be, if we are followers of the Lord, Jesus Christ, there can only be one yardstick, and that is the Word. I don't care if you will call yourself, a Christian or mainline Christian, if you create your own set of "Word", you are no follower of Jesus Christ, and you are actually NOT a Christian.

So, matter of whether or NOT, one is a Pharisee, is to be determined through measurement against the Christian yardstick, the Word. This is simple yet NOT! If it is a like a weighing machine; 5kg and above, you are in, below 5, you are out, it would be really simple, but it is NOT like that. Interpretation comes in. Whose interpretation is correct? Is that NOT itself, an issue of categorization, even if there is only one of me, on my side of the camp, and 10 of you, on the other side!


Anonymous said...

COnt. from above

It is a deadlock situation which can only, according to the Word of God, be resolved through revelation and understanding, the Holy Spirit moves us to have. But this too, is NOT simple. Why? It is NOT simple, simply because it is NOT common, and NOT common for everyone (every Christian) to be able to do along what Elijah did at Mount Carmel, "bing, bing, bang, bang!", and there we have it, the truth is revealed; Mr A is right, and Mr B is wrong - we simply are unable to, as a matter of norm, have the Holy Spirit manifest Himself before us, and then tell us, the contending parties, "Hello, you are wrong, and he is right!".

This links us back to the common question of "Why doesn't God simply show by sign and wonder to convince us?" It is simply because we are all called to FAITH. We are NOT called to FACTS, but to FAITH. If EVERYTHING is to be shown for what it is NOW, so to speak, we are NOT called to FAITH; how can it be, "call to faith", if there isn't anything to express faith in! And so, for a Christian life, there will always be SOME matter where there is no "factual kind of answer". We can argue until the cows come home, so to speak, if “once saved is always saved”, is the "correct truth". It is I believe if I die now, I will go to Heaven, NOT because I believe it is “once saved always saved”, but it is ...." You may NOT agree with me, and you can argue from Scripture, and I can counter that; much of that would be issue of interpretation of the Word, as a whole counsel. To me, it is the Holy Spirit working in me, leading me to interpret the way I interpret; to you, you too, would be quick to jump on the same bandwagon – “I am led by the Spirit of God to interpet in such and such a manner”.

We can only conclude with the attitude that fellow Christians must take:

1. Our yardstick of truth is the Word, and so we must feed on it.
2. We are to listen to the Holy Spirit, and that means we let God to reign in our life.
3. We teach others only when we are reasonably sure of our understanding of the core theology of the Christian faith. Why? The Matt 23:13-15 said it all – we don’t want to make another, doubly the child of Hell that we may be!

For item 2, people need to be given help; I will just give a few "do" and "don't":

(a) Don't numb your conscience. This is key. The Holy Spirit is the Helper God gives you on your entry into salvation, to help you to remain in the FAITH calling. Call it your conscience or your heart, the Holy Spirit works there; if you numb that (heart or conscience), you lost the effectiveness of that which God gives you, to stay in the faith; and if you are NOT careful, you will crash out; you can become a Pharisee. It is very serious when the Lord labels or categorises someone as a Pharisee, for if you read the text quoted by Ps Prentis, to God, a Pharisee is a child of Hell!

(b) Do purify your heart. What is that? It is the sanctification of the heart. What is that? It is the setting apart of your heart for God or the Holy Spirit to work there. Is it NOT the same as item (a)? Yes, and No, Item (a) refers to the wrong action, item (b) refers to need to, on a continual basis, get back to the right condition of the heart or conscience so that God would work there. Primary to this, is the repentance, confession and the seeking of forgiveness from God, for desecration of His throne-place - our heart is His throne-place. Practise of 1 John 1:9 is a MUST for all believers.

(c) Do humble before God. We can only exact one person, and he is God. If we are NOT doing that, and instead exacting ourselves, Scripture said we create enmity with God – God opposes the proud. Your humility directly reflects your understanding of God, and your attitude towards Him.


Anonymous said...

COnt. from above

Do I know if I am a Pharisee? I know and I am applying, the things I said above; it is up to God NOT to classify me as a Pharisee. I have to, and I do watch my life, in accordance to this (from the Apostle Paul):
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Cor 13:5)

In the final analysis, Christianity is a state of being in the FAITH, not FACTS, and faith has to do with the truths of God; and it is the Holy Spirit who holds the truths, and He contradicts NOT the written truths, the Word.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions