Alpha Ministries, Inc
All of us are confronted with a multitude of choices to make daily. Many of them seem small and almost inconsequential while others seem overwhelming and life threatening. What makes life so complicated and hard is not just the choices we make but often it seems we really have no choice at all. Much of our confusion and frustration in life comes from the fact that we are not sure what choices we have, if we even have a choice, and exactly what choice we should make in any given situation. Welcome to the world of a control freak!
Seeking to control the people and circumstances in our life comes from a deep need to make ourselves secure in an insecure world. There is no guarantee that we will be unconditionally loved, accepted, and forgiven in this dog-eat-dog and often hostile world. In fact, chances are that we will be neglected, abandoned, or even abused. Likewise, unless we can control the people and circumstances in the chaos of this world it is impossible to find a real sense of importance, purpose, and competence. Wrong or bad choices seem naturally to lead to a meaningless and unsatisfying life.
Underlying all other choices we must make is the most important and basic choice. It is the choice the Bible urges us to make daily and describes it in a variety of terms. Jesus invites us to take his “yoke” upon us (Matthew 11: 28-30). Paul urges us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God” (Romans 12: 1-2). James tells us to ask for wisdom from above (James 1: 5). Peter calls on us to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5: 6). All these directives (and many more) have one thing in common…surrender. We give up trying to make it happen and let God do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
In the AA program of recovery the 3rd step describes this kind of surrender as deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. Making the choice to surrender all our decisions as well as our very lives to the control and care of God is the foundation and start of a new and satisfying lifestyle of grace in which God, through his indwelling Spirit, leads us, guides us into all truth, comforts us in our choices, reminds us who we are, and produces the very character of Christ in us. As Paul instructed the Philippians 2: 12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. “
The fundamental choice we all must make each day is whether we want to let God control our lives. It is really a no-brainer since he is the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe and loves us so much he gave his life for us. For me it boils down to one simple prayer each morning, “Lord please remind me of who you made me to be in your son and guide me in how you want me to love others around me today”. I really do not have any other choice that makes sense.
Daily Easter 2021
|Posted on 15 April, 2021 at 11:10|
Now that Easter is over we can get back to life as usual. All the special plans to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus have been completed and we are ready to move ahead with our own agendas, whatever they may be. The holiday weekend is over, and we are back to our routine.
Wait a minute! Is that all there is to Easter? Do we just celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead for a day or a weekend once a year? Isn’t there something more to the death and resurrection of Christ than that? Sure there is! Whether or not we recognize or understand it; Easter is a life changing event. It doesn’t just impact our lives once a year, but everyday all year long. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the very foundation of our lives and, if better understood, would actually change our normal agendas and routine life.
This was the point Paul was making in that section of his letter to the Romans I call “the gospel for believers” (Romans 6-8). In chapter six he tells us we are dead to sin. In chapter seven he tells us we are dead to the law. And in chapter eight he tells us we are alive in Christ. In short, the good news for believers is the very meaning of the Easter message and reason for our celebration. Let’s try to understand it.
When Jesus was crucified on the cross we were crucified with him. The person we have always thought we were joined to Jesus in his death. Paul calls this person “the old man” meaning that it was the person we were as a natural, self-centered descendant of Adam. Our “old man” is who we were born into the world as: selfish, depraved, sinful, worthless, etc. It is the person we have been trying so hard to clean up and make acceptable to others and God. That “old man” was crucified by God on the cross with Jesus, buried with him, and a “new man” was raised up to take the place of the old man. This is what Jesus referred to as being “born again” saying that which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. When the new man replaces the old man we are “born again” and are said to be a new creation even though we still live in the same physical body.
Because we still have the same body we were born with we have a tendency to believe that we are not a new person even though God says we are. This is especially true when the flesh (the left-over conditioning of the old man we used to be) takes control of our bodies and causes us to do and say things that don’t match our new identity in Christ. It is for this reason we have so much trouble doing what Paul commands in Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”. We hardly ever consider ourselves as being dead to sin (not ever sinning) because we have the flesh that keeps on flashing in our bodies. The good news of Easter is that you died and rose again just like Jesus. Just as surely as Jesus rose again from the grave, you also have become a new person. It is no longer your job to clean up your life and try hard to be good, but rather to believe that God has already done that for you.
Doesn’t that sound way too easy, almost like a cop out? Just try to believe that you are dead to sin and alive unto God and notice the opposition. Despite our track record, our circumstances, and the opinion of others we are called to count on the fact that God has crucified the old person we were and raised us up as brand-new creations. It is a daily fight to believe the truth about ourselves regardless of how we look or feel. Such an exercise of faith is far from easy. In fact, it takes the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to renew our minds in order for us to truly believe the gospel. Much more will be said about this later, but for now it is enough to count on the fact that we ourselves are dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through our resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! We need to learn to celebrate Easter every day.
|Posted on 8 April, 2021 at 9:45|
History reveals some exciting but also tragic times for the followers of Jesus after his victorious resurrection from the dead. The excitement felt by those who loved Jesus and mourned his death could not be contained when they saw him alive and in his glorified body. They were eyewitnesses to the fulfillment of his promise to rise again from the dead. Luke simply says, “They worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” Although they did not yet fully understand all that it meant, they could not help but share their ecstatic joy with others.
In strong contrast to the disciple’s joy was the fear, guilt, and pride of their rulers. They were afraid of losing their control over the people, guilty because they had violated their own laws in murdering Jesus, and so proud they refused to admit the obvious fact of his resurrection. These fleshly motivations would culminate in their hatred for and persecution of those who believed. In the historical book of Acts Luke describes in detail both the rejoicing of the followers of Jesus and the tragic persecution they suffered at the hands of their government. While the times and culture have changed the battle between good and evil remains the same today.
In anticipation of the conflict between good and evil Jesus gave his followers the key to victory. His promise to all of us who believe in his resurrection is to be with us always amid this battle. To those first disciples he said he would not leave them helpless as “orphans” in this world but would send “another of the same kind of Comforter”, the “Spirit of Truth” to not only be with them but also be in them. Luke records the great audio-visual display of the coming of the Spirit to empower the followers of Jesus in Acts chapter two as well as other historical events through out his account. Clearly, the resurrected Christ has come into the world through his Spirit to continue his work among men insuring his victory over evil through resurrection power.
That same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in us to make our sin-cursed mortal bodies come alive with the very life of Christ (Romans 8: 11). Through his resurrection power the indwelling Holy Spirit is continually leading us, teaching us, guiding us into all truth, and empowering us with the mind and character of Christ. What that looks like practically is not in religious activity, but in the very character of Christ described by Paul as the “fruit of the Spirit”. He produces in us the same love, joy, and peace that Jesus experienced while he was here in this world. He empowers us with the longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness that makes us act like Jesus did in our relationships. And finally, he gives us the faith, meekness, and self-control that allowed Jesus to fulfill his ministry on earth.
It is the fruit of the indwelling Spirit of Christ that gave his followers the name “Christian” meaning Christ-like. The disciples of Jesus not only rejoiced in his resurrection but also displayed his character through the resurrection power of his Spirit living within. It is the display of the character of the living Christ in those who follow him that tells the world today “he’s alive!” In our homes, on our jobs, and in our communities displaying the character of Christ in the power of his Spirit makes each of us witnesses of the fact that he is risen.
|Posted on 1 April, 2021 at 11:45|
The Easter story detailing the crucifixion, burial, and miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ has been told all around the world countless number of times over the last two thousand years. Those who hear the story naturally fall into two categories i.e. those who believe it’s true and celebrate and those who reject it as a legend or some kind of fairy-tale. Those who deny the story as being a true reality do so primarily because of the resurrection part. History reveals the fact that Jesus was indeed crucified and buried, but from the very beginning his resurrection from the dead was deliberately questioned and denied by the religious rulers of the day.
In Matthews account of the resurrection of Jesus he describes the religious rulers planning for their worst-case scenario by going to Pilate the Roman governor saying, “Sir, we remember that the deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal his body away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so that the last error shall be greater than the first.” Although Pilate refused to play their religious game he told them to post their own guard at the tomb which they did.
On Sunday morning God dealt with the guards at the tomb as Matthew goes on to say, “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake and became as dead men.” When the guards recovered from their fear and paralysis they reported what had happened to their superiors who immediately bribed the guards who were there with a huge amount of money to say, “His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.” Matthew elaborates on this first religious coverup saying, “So they took the money, and did as they were taught, and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day”.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection of Jesus there are those who yet doubt the truth. It has been said that there is actually more evidence of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead than that George Washington was our first president. Yet the natural, religious mind of humanity continues to coverup the truth by choosing to trust in and depend on their own understanding and power rather than the wisdom and power of God for their lives. The only way to know beyond all doubt that Jesus rose again from the dead is to experience his life personally by his grace through our faith.
When you admit to God that you need Him to do for you what you can’t do for yourself and believe that he has done it all through Jesus, the Spirit of the resurrected Christ will make the living Jesus alive to you and in you. As you personally experience the love, acceptance, and forgiveness of Jesus you will know that he has indeed risen from the dead!
Have a blessed Easter.
A Blessed Easter
|Posted on 24 March, 2021 at 14:15|
The yearly Easter celebration is centered on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. While there have always been those scoffers who deny this fact and see the celebration as nothing more than a religious tradition, for believers the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact full of personal meaning worthy of daily celebration. The fact that Jesus rose again from the dead is especially relevant to our lives when we understand our own personal connection both to his death and resurrection.
In his letters the apostle Paul explains at length this personal connection every believer has in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Romans he writes, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” The word “baptism” literally means “joined together with” so that Paul clearly states we were joined to Christ in both his death and resurrection. As he goes on to explain, the old person you have always thought yourself to be was put to death with Jesus and a new person was raised up in his resurrection so that you could live a new life.
In Ephesians Paul emphasizes our resurrection with Jesus writing, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” For those who are worried about whether you are going to heaven you are already there! When God raised Jesus from the dead the new person he has made you to be in Christ went with him. As far as God is concerned you are seated in heaven with Christ right now.
In Colossians Paul calls on believers to open their eyes and truly celebrate our resurrection with Jesus writing, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set you affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” There is nothing on earth that can give you the personal security and significance you need more than your death and resurrection with Jesus. Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus includes our own resurrection with him and all the benefits of his eternal victory over death.
Finally, Paul records his own testimony in Galatians saying, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” The center of our Easter celebration is the “faith of the Son of God” meaning we have the same faith Jesus has in the Father raising both him and us from the dead. Have a blessed Easter.
|Posted on 18 March, 2021 at 10:45|
God’s love is amazing! I’m not just amazed by the fact that God loves this dysfunctional world, but by the very nature of divine love itself. It’s no wonder that loving others the way God loves us is the highest calling we can ever know. To love another like that is the most amazing thing we will ever do, both for ourselves and those we love. Just think about the characteristics of this kind of love compared to our natural, human love.
God’s love is unconditional rather than conditional. God loves us when we don’t deserve it and haven’t met his standards. Human love is naturally conditional so that we love those who meet our conditions. Human love says, “I’ll love you if” while God’s love says, “I love you period”. Paul described it this way in Romans 5: 8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
God’s love is sacrificial rather than convenient. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son” (John 3:16). Human love is given only when it is convenient and cheap to do so. Divine love involves a total sacrifice of our own needs, feelings, rights, and expectations.
God’s love is initiating rather than passive. John explains that we love him because he first loved us. God’s love takes the first step, whereas human love is always guarded and will not run the risk of rejection. God’s love reaches out first, human love waits for proof of success.
God’s love is eternal not temporary. Divine love is consistent and never varies. Human love is temporary and changes according to circumstances or response. God loves us the same day after day no matter what is going on. He loves us as much today as he ever has or ever will.
Finally, God’s love is intelligent rather than romantic. God loves us enough to do what is best for us, not simply what will make us feel better. Human love is based on emotions and can often be “blind” to reality and confused about what is really needed. Divine love knows what is best and exactly how to supply the need.
These characteristics of divine love are truly amazing in themselves, but what really amazes me is to realize that God intends to use us to love others just like he does. Jesus’ “new command” to love others like he does is really a calling to be like God! Since God is love, and the greatest expression of that love is the person and work of Christ, when we love others with divine love, we are really just being Christ to them. Not only does God’s love benefit us personally, but it also transforms us to be Christ to others as well.
Receiving the unconditional, sacrificial, initiating, eternal, and intelligent love of God transforms us from the inside out to be able to love others in the same way. Transforming us from the self-centered ego maniacs we are naturally into being able to care about and love others is miraculous to say the least. This miracle of change occurs when we receive by faith the love of God and have our own personal needs satisfied in our relationship to him. When we know we are secure in his love and important in his plan for our lives we experience real hope. That joyful and confident expectation concerning our own future allows us the freedom to care about the welfare of others. We no longer have to worry about ourselves and our own needs, we are free to think about and care about the needs of those around us. We are free to love others with the amazing love of God.
Loving others like Christ is not only beneficial to them, but to us as well. Expressing God’s love is its own reward regardless of the response. When we are led by the Spirit to be Christ to others, we are living out our true identity. Being who God has made us to be by loving others reinforces our own sense of security and significance as persons. We are no longer dependent on a positive response from others to feel good about ourselves. We can be at peace knowing that we have done what God led us to do even in the face of a negative response. A favorable response is nice, but no longer necessary. We can genuinely love others without any strings attached.
The Good Shepherd
|Posted on 11 March, 2021 at 13:15|
John records Jesus’ parable of the good shepherd in the 10th chapter of his gospel. The context of this passage makes it clear that Jesus was explaining to the religious leaders of his day why people were following him rather than them. By this time in his short ministry on earth Jesus had great multitudes following him around and ignoring the religious leaders and all their commandments. In short, they were losing their power over the people and trying to understand why.
In his parable Jesus contrasted the shepherd with a thief or robber by stating that the shepherd has an intimate relationship with his sheep, calling them by name, and they were able to recognize his voice. When the shepherd leads his sheep they follow him because they know his voice. But they will not follow a stranger whose voice they don’t recognize. In essence he told these leaders politely that the people were following him because they recognized his voice as their rightful shepherd.
John goes on to tell us that no one, especially the leaders, understood what he meant, and Jesus explained the difference more intensely. He stated that he was the “door” meaning the shepherd who protected the sheep and that all others before him were “thieves and robbers” that the sheep did not hear. Further, he told them that he alone provided the salvation, freedom, and life for the sheep and that the thief sought only to steal, kill, and destroy the sheep. Finally, he said he had come to give the sheep life and that they might have it more abundantly since as the good shepherd he would lay down his life for the sheep. Finally, he contrasted his care for the sheep with the “hireling” who was only in it for himself.
After that explanation John tells us there was a division among the Jews. Many, no doubt the leaders who were jealous of his following, said he was demon possessed and had gone crazy. Soon after they asked him again in the Temple to tell them plainly whether he was the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus said he had already told them, and they didn’t believe him. Then he explained they believed not because they were not his sheep and once again told them, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. The argument ended when the leaders were so enraged by his answer they picked up rocks to stone him to death right on the spot.
In the Spirit realm things haven’t change for the better over the last two millennia. Religious leaders become insanely jealous when people say they recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow him rather than whatever religious system is in place. In our secular culture today the “religion” of progressive liberal politics seeks to care for the needs of the people in much the same way as the “hirelings” cared for the sheep in Jesus’ parable. Rather than recognizing the voice of the Good Shepherd and willingly serve the sheep they care for they seek to “fleece” the flock for their own gain.
Now more than ever it is time for the sheep to listen for and recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd. Although the hirelings are making a lot of noise seeking attention for their own agenda, the still, small voice of the Good Shepherd cannot be overcome in his sheep. The hireling’s voice will always incite fear, guilt, and pride whereas the Good Shepherd’s voice will generate faith, hope, and love. The hireling is a thief who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy while the Good Shepherd comes to give abundant life.
|Posted on 2 March, 2021 at 10:35|
All my life I have consistently underestimated the love of God for myself and others. Although I have grown spiritually to the point where I can recognize his love at work in my life and those around me, I still have a difficult time comprehending the full dimensions of his love. About the time I think I have some understanding of his love I realize I am just scratching the surface. His love is a lot more inclusive than I thought, a lot deeper than I thought, a lot longer than I thought, and a lot higher than I thought.
God’s love is so wide that includes the whole world. There is no one that ever has lived or ever will live that God has not loved. Perhaps the most amazing thing about his love in this respect is that it is totally unconditional. Paul wrote, “But God proved his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: God didn’t wait for us to clean up our lives and behave ourselves before he loved us. He loved us just as we were. Such unconditional love is beyond our natural ability to understand or practice.
In addition, God’s love is so deep that that it can only be described as sacrificial. As John writes, “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son…” (John 3: 16) There are a lot of things I may be willing to sacrifice to love others, but if it came down to me sacrificing my only child I could not do it. In describing God’s sacrificial love for the world the closest we can come to understanding the full depth is to think of sacrificing our only child. While this idea doesn’t do it justice it gives us a glimpse of the cost God paid to love us.
The length of God’s love embodies the idea of how consistent it is. Because God is love and he is eternal there is no variance or inconsistency in his love. God loves us this very minute as much as he ever has, and he will love us in the future as much as he does today. His love never varies since it is not conditioned upon our behavior. There is nothing you can do to get God to love you more than he does right now. And there is nothing you can do to cause him to love you less. As Paul writes in Romans 8, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Finally, the height of God’s love is only glimpsed when we understand the position he has given us in Christ. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2: 4-7, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved;) and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in 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, through Christ Jesus.” Although I do not fully comprehend the love of God, what I know about it is enough for me to trust him with my life and all that I have.
Prayer of Encouragement
|Posted on 23 February, 2021 at 11:25|
I am praying for you all. I asked God to give me words to encourage you in these difficult days and he said to tell you that I am praying the prayer Paul recorded in Ephesians 3: 14-21. In case you are not familiar with that prayer here it is in its entirety.
“For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.”
I am praying that God would strengthen the new person he has made you to be in Christ. That is the real you, not the old you’ve always thought you were. Paul calls it the “inner man” that is created in righteousness and true holiness and I am praying God would supernaturally strengthen that new you with his power through his indwelling Spirit. Such empowerment allows you to face the opposition of this world, endure its suffering, and overcome the obstacles that keep you from realizing who you are and living like it.
I am praying that Christ may be at home living in your hearts by faith. By this I mean that Jesus is not simply a guest in your home, but a permanent resident who has access to all areas and activities of your life. That your union with Christ is not just an academic concept but a reality so that you experience his life in you. That you understand he is your life and enjoy being rooted and grounded in his love for you so that you are truly secure and significant as a person having nothing to fear or prove.
I am praying that you and all the other saints will begin to comprehend the full dimensions of God’s love. That you would know and experience how inclusive and enduring his love is for humanity. That you would realize the depths he went to on the cross and the heights he raised us to in his resurrection. That you would begin to know by personal experience the love of Christ that is beyond words to describe.
Finally, I am praying that you be filled with the fullness of God just like Jesus. That you would realize just as you are in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father so both Jesus and the Father are in you as well. It is what Jesus prayed in John 17: 20-23 saying, “Neither pray for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me , and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory thou gave me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
I pray these things in Jesus name, Amen.
The Corruption of the Pharisees
|Posted on 18 February, 2021 at 11:10|
I find it remarkable that the warnings Jesus gave the religious and political leaders of his day are so applicable to our leaders today. In his scathing rebuke recorded in Matthew 23 he refers to them as “hypocrites”, “blind guides”, “serpents”, and “generation of vipers”. He says they make promises they do not keep, oppressive rules for others to obey, and are preoccupied with their own approval ratings. Rather than serve the people they represent they use their power to advance their own agenda for more personal wealth and power. The corruption of the Pharisees reached its peak when Jesus was slandered, ridiculed, falsely accused, arrested, and crucified. Sadly, the same kind of corruption is found in our nation today as it was in Israel over two thousand years ago.
Since the fall of Adam in the garden human nature (what the Bible refers to as the “flesh”) has consistently proven itself to be totally selfish and self-centered. Add to that the wholesale rejection of God as the ultimate source of protection and provision and trusting humanity to save itself and the world we live in, human nature has become proud. Such selfish pride results in a humanistic philosophy that continues to exclude any need for God while boasting of great accomplishments. Ironically, the same humanistic philosophy that boasts of being able to take care of the world’s problems produces the corruption that Jesus exposed in the “hypocrites” and “blind guides” of his day.
By revealing his law to Moses and the nation Israel God was seeking to expose humanity to their desperate need for his grace to do for them what they could never do for themselves. Although the nation promised they would obey God’s righteous demands, the Old Testament history of Israel proved their repeated failure to do so. Their best effort to keep the law by the rule of the Pharisees resulted in their crucifying God’s only begotten son. The law was never meant by God to be a means by which humanity could save itself, but to prove instead that the world needed a Savior…one who could do for them what they could not do for themselves. Those who fail to recognize that need progressively become more and more corrupt.
The corruption of the Pharisees is also described by Paul as he warns us not to live in the “vanity of their mind”. In Ephesians 4: 17 he describes that corruption as, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” The hypocrisy and blindness of the Pharisees as well as modern political and religious leaders is a result of their natural confusion, willful ignorance of God, and the hardness of their blind heart. The end result he states as, “Who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” In short, the vanity or emptiness of their minds leaves them desperately searching for and trying anything that will ease their personal pain and give them temporary satisfaction they need. Peterson puts it this way in the Message, “They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself.”
At its root, the corruption of the flesh with all of its hypocrisy and blindness is a spiritual problem that can only be delt with by the Spirit of God. Only the sword of the Spirit can cut through the deep layers of corruption and open the eyes of the blind and hardened heart. While some Pharisees like Nicodemas, Joseph, and even the apostle Paul were miraculously delivered from their hypocrisy and blindness, most continued in their corrupt system until it was destroyed along with the temple seventy years after Christ rose from the dead. Only God can put an end to the corruption of this world system. And the good news is that he is right now unfolding his plan to do so.
Mask of the Pharisee
|Posted on 11 February, 2021 at 13:40|
The harshest words Jesus spoke here on earth were recorded by Matthew in the 23rd chapter of his gospel. They were an indictment against the religious politicians who ruled Israel with their own interpretation of the Law of Moses and claimed to be serving God for the welfare of the nation under Roman rule. The leading party was known as the “scribes and Pharisees” which had a long history of seeking to protect the nation Israel from God’s wrath by practicing and teaching rule keeping. They were convinced that keeping the 10 commandments and all of their related 613 rules and telling others how to act would garner God’s blessings and hopefully avoid his cursing’s.
Jesus begins his indictment by describing the heart motivations of the scribes and Pharisees as: 1) “they say, and do not” 2) “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne and lay them on men’s shoulders” and 3) “all their works they do for to be seen of men”. Sounds like he is talking about our modern Congress today especially as he goes on to describe their self-absorbed efforts to make themselves look great in outward appearance, public events, powerful positions, titles, and reputations. But as he gets into the specifics of his indictment he calls these religious politicians hypocrites no less than six times.
The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word “hupokrites” which referred to the masks worn by actors in the Greek plays to denote various characters. In the Greek theater a hypocrite was one who wore a huge and ornate mask to play the part of the assigned character by imitating the speech, mannerisms, and conduct of someone he was not. Jesus used the word to reveal the true character of the Pharisees who pretended to be charitable and godly but were blind to the truth of God and self-serving. He further exposed them as “blind guides” and “serpents, generation of vipers” hiding behind their masks of concern for God and their nation.
The institutional church today has often been accused of being full of hypocrites. And to some extent that is true. All of us are prone to putting on “masks” of one sort or another to cover our own perceived shortcomings or failures. We naturally want to “look good” in the eyes of our peers and sometimes go to great lengths to build elaborate facades to hide the things we do not want others to see in our lives. Rather than let God deal with the darkness of our own flesh we prefer to cover it over and pretend it is not there. The real problem with such efforts is not the nastiness and filth of our own flesh nor the masks we hide it with, but the lack of faith in the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross our old person was put to death forever. The leftover conditioning and habits of that person (our natural identity in the flesh) is no longer who we truly are. The way to deal with such ugliness is not to cover it with a mask, but trust God to remove it from us. Instead of trusting Jesus to save them from their natural self-centered flesh the scribes and Pharisees trusted in their masks and crucified the Lord of glory. Faith in Jesus requires laying aside our masks and trusting what God has done for us to make us secure in his love and significant in his plan.
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