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.
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.
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