Scripture reading for March 19th: Luke 12
“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:1-3) Jesus was concerned for His disciples. The example of the religious leaders of Jesus’ time was one of proclaiming to be righteous but in reality still being bound by sin and uncleanness. The Pharisees were always judging others, but failed to see their own sin.
Hypocrisy is like putting on a show or play-acting to fit each situation you are in. Jesus wanted disciples who would be true to Him and God all the time. He warned them that living a lie would be exposed and would bring ultimate humiliation and condemnation by God. “I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.” (Luke 12:4-5) Hypocrites lack a true fear of God and instead fear men and act to please those they are around.
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns Me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8-9) Followers of Jesus must stay true to Jesus! There is great reward for the faithful and loss for the hypocrite!
Scripture reading for September 15th: Galatians 2:1-16
After fourteen years, Paul the apostle went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus to share his revelation of the gospel with those who had walked with Jesus. He did this privately so that he could receive correction, if necessary. This was done in response to a revelation and false teachers who were trying to add some of the Jewish laws to the gospel.
After sharing his gospel with Peter, James, and John, they gave him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. (Galatians 2:6-10) These pillars of the church recognized that God’s grace flowing through Paul towards the Gentiles was the same as Peter’s for the Jews and added nothing to his message, only encouraging Paul to remember the poor. This encouraged Paul and his traveling companions. There was wisdom in the elders through the Spirit that kept the Gospel message pure.
However, sometime later, Peter visited Antioch where Paul was a teacher. “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. but when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray.” (Galatians 2:11-13) Paul was watchful about division and favoritism and noticed Peter drawing back from his usual openness to the Gentiles. He was living in fear of those Jews who held onto the law and was trying to appease them.
This was causing division so Paul confronted Peter to his face. “I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:15-16) Paul knew that trying to add law to faith would pollute the power of the Gospel and cause division in the church. The law could not save anyone, only bring condemnation! Only faith in Jesus Christ would set men free! Thank God today for justification by faith alone!
Scripture reading for April 6th: Luke 11:37-12:7
“”Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.” One of the experts in the Law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” ” (Luke 11:43-45)
“Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46)
You would think that a great teacher would seek not to insult his students! Jesus was charged with insulting those He sought to help! What would motivate Jesus to take this approach? Was this something sinful in the sinless Son of God? Shouldn’t someone who is said to walk in the love of God be more tactful and tender? Isn’t it wrong to insult our religious leaders? As we read this account of Jesus confronting the religious authorities, we have lots of questions that come to our minds as we ponder Jesus’ approach to these people.
First of all, Jesus was and is the greatest teacher who ever lived or will live! He has never sinned and did not sin in His approach to reaching and correcting these religious leaders. He was simply speaking the truth to help expose their hypocrisy. Jesus had been invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner. They were judging Him as unclean because He failed to wash His hands before the meal. Jesus, knowing their hypocrisy of breaking God’s laws yet trying to keep their own, spoke these woes to help wake them up. They should have taken care of what was inside their hearts first.
God disciplines and corrects those He loves. Without it we are illegitimate children. (Hebrews 12:5-6, Proverbs 3:11-12) God gives a life-giving rebuke to those who will be corrected. (Proverbs 15:31-32) Those whose hearts are proud and hard will refuse correction and suffer for it. These Pharisees and teachers of the Law hardened their hearts and plotted how they might kill Jesus. In doing so, they fulfilled the plan of God for their own redemption, but also possibly brought about their own destruction. Are you offended by the Word of Jesus? Do you consider correction from His Word an insult?
Scripture reading for August 6th: Jeremiah 7-10
Jeremiah is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. His call and ministry are unique. He is told to go and preach to his people and told up front that they will not listen! (Jeremiah 7:27) He is told on several occasions not to pray for his people because their sins have removed them from God’s grace, but he weeps rivers of tears for them anyway! (Jeremiah 7:16) (Jeremiah 9:22-23) He ministers for just over 40 years and is mistreated and threatened by his own people and their leaders. His preaching is straight and he uses some interesting object lessons to try to get the people’s attention! In today’s reading, he is told by God to go right to the gate of the temple of the Lord and preach to the people as they arrive for worship and sacrifice.
“Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, The God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, and in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.” Jeremiah 7:2-7
These people were going through the motions of religion and were deceived! Jeremiah’s words struck to the heart of the matter without beating around the bush. We can use our religious activities to justify our own selfish lifestyles. God is not interested in religious activities unless they come from a heart that is humble, repentant and willing to listen to Him. Their trust was in their attendance at the temple. God called for a change in ways and actions that affected their daily relationships and walk with God. He cares about orphans and widows. He cares about the alien and the poor. His heart is broken when innocent blood is shed and people deal unjustly with one another. He hates adultery and lying because it is not loving and He is love. God wants His people to reflect His heart of love.
God is watching over His word and His people’s response to His word! He sees hypocrisy and desires repentance and faith. Jesus Christ went into the temple of the Lord and saw the same things with the money changers and traders. He quoted from Jeremiah: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a ‘den of robbers’.” (Mark 11:17) (Jeremiah 7:11) He then cleansed the temple! We need more preaching at the church door!