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Tag Archives: Pharisees

Recognizing the Limits of Politics

Saul from Tarsus was a member of the Pharisees, a religious zealot, and a Roman citizen. However, even as a religious man, there are politics inside the house of God. Take for example a man named Nicodemus who approached Jesus under the cover of darkness, afraid of what his friends would think, John 3:1-5. Like a high school jock in the hallway, Nick is sarcastic with Jesus, making a joke while responding.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch upon the evil and the good, Proverbs 15:3.

When Saul changed his name to Paul following his conversion on the Road to Damascus, politics was used on a few occasions. As a Roman citizen, Paul played this card after being arrested in Philippi, Acts 16:35-39. Meanwhile, when the same Jewish leaders who crucified Jesus wanted to accuse Paul of a similar crime, he appealed to Caesar so he could share his testimony to the government in Rome.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and Yours it is to be exalted as Head over all, 1 Chronicles 29:11.

Paul’s arrest, trial and subsequent death as a martyr illustrates that politics has its limits. While modern day politicians in America are like exclusive members of a private country club, God is still in control whether they like it or not. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, and no one is exempt, even politicians from God’s judgement, Matthew 12:36. Therefore, lean on the Lord and not politics, Proverbs 3:5-6.

by Jay Mankus

Create Your Own Change

Jesus arranged a gathering at the home of a potential disciple. Based upon the words of Matthew, this turned into a large party with some Pharisees questioning Jesus’ association with the sinners in attendance. This is the context of the passage below. Jesus’ reply to his critics suggests that you can create your own change. While the sick, sinners and weak often need some kind of doctor, Jesus shares the secret of his success. The spiritually healthy rely on the Lord, following the words of Proverbs 3:5-6.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and [h][especially wicked] sinners came and sat (reclined) with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and those [preeminently] sinful? – Matthew 9:10-11

Not everyone has the ability to create their own change, especially co-dependents. Depending upon your personality type, complete change requires setting boundaries. Nonetheless, the apostle Paul compliments Jesus’ words in Romans 14:1-3. The weak or undisciplined require extra grace and patience. Despite past errors, flaws and mistakes, the weaker you become opens the door for Jesus to become strong, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

But when Jesus heard it, He replied, Those who are strong and well (healthy) have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, [i]readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin), Matthew 9:12-13.

Christians who are able to create their own change follow in the footsteps of Psalm 1:1-3. Based upon a letter written to the Church at Colosse, mature Christians create their own change through a daily Bible Study and proactive prayer life. Once believers are fully rooted in Jesus Christ, a genuine transformation is possible. As faith is established through trials, maturity and change is achievable according to James 1:2-4. While change is a byproduct of grace, the spiritually healthy continue to bear fruit.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 158: Cavewoman

Today’s featured song comes from an alternative rock group that formed in La Habra, California at the La Habra Four-Square Church. Perhaps this unusual location explains why these musicians came up with the name Breakfast with Amy. Whatever the reason, Cavewoman is related to the conversation that Jesus has with a Pharisee in the passage below.

Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God, John 3:3.

Nicodemus was trying to figure out the answers to life’s questions on his own. One chapter later, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman at a well. Despite the knowledge of Pharisees, this woman was much more teachable and open to what Jesus was trying to communicate. Before the day was over, this woman and her entire family became born again.

by Jay Mankus

Use Guidance… Not Coercion

As a former teacher, I understand why some people may opt for coercion over guidance. Whenever an adult loses control of a classroom, the practice of persuading children to do something by force or threats is used as an act of desperation. After taking a Classroom Management graduate level course, I learned that students need structure. When you clarify your expectations and demonstrate a gentle but firm spirit, coercion is not necessary.

Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits [belonging to the office], but eagerly and cheerfully; 1 Peter 5:2.

When I read and study the Bible, I see a big contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders of the first century. Jesus lived his life like a shepherd tending a large flock of sheep. Rather than oversee his disciples like a control freak, Jesus demonstrated how he wanted his followers to live their lives. Meanwhile, the Pharisees used God’s commandments, decrees and principles to coerce sinners into following religious practices.

Not domineering [as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons] over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation), 1 Peter 5:3.

Despite being a vocal leader, Peter understood the importance of emulating the life and patterns of Jesus. When a leader is domineering or overbearing, fear and peer pressure is used to manipulate other people. This is all exercised and laid out to achieve a desired outcome. Yet, rarely do these leaders consider if this is what Lord wants. While the addressing the Church at Galatia, the apostle Paul compares this style of leadership with witchcraft, Galatians 3:1-2. In view of this, may the Holy Spirit convince you to focus on guidance and not coercion.

by Jay Mankus

Finding Jesus in a Skeptical World

When the world was worried about Y2K in 1999, an obscure Christian group named Send the Beggar released an album to inspire believers to find Jesus in a skeptical world. Entitled Closer to Complete, this collection of ballads and rock n roll encourages believers to leave Jesus wherever you go. Leave in the sense of a legacy of faith, not abandoning or turning on and off your faith like many do today.

And Jesus said to him, Today is [[b]Messianic and spiritual] salvation come to [all the members of] this household, since Zacchaeus too is a [real spiritual] son of Abraham; 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:9-10.

When you read the Bible, first impressions of the Gospels tend to be like a sales pitch that sounds too good to be true. When Jesus stops to have a meal at the house of corrupt tax collector, this doesn’t seem fair or just. Yet, as Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, an overwhelming sense of conviction struck his heart. Instead of trying to find a way to write this off, Zacchaeus confessed and vowed to give back more than what he had stolen from hard working citizens.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him. 18 He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation—he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ’s name,] John 3:16-18.

In the passage above, this time a Jewish leader seeks Jesus out at night. Likely afraid of what the other Pharisees would think if seen associating with Jesus, Nicodemus chooses the cover of darkness to ask Him about eternal life. Unfortunately, Nick couldn’t comprehend the concept of being born again. After a sarcastic comment, Nick shuts up and listens to one of the most famous verses in the Bible. The key to finding Jesus is a skeptical world is letting go of control and let Jesus to the wheel, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

When Religion and Politics Mix

Los Angeles became the first city in the United States to be designated as a sanctuary city.  This 1979 decision was designed to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees.  Today, there are 36 other United State cities that have adopted this policy.  In recent years, churches in border states have been recruited to hide and protect illegal immigrants.  From time to time, I see cable news exclusives of local pastors defending their position.  This is where religion and politics mix.

But the Jews incited the devout, prominent women and the leading men of the city, and instigated persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them forcibly out of their district, Acts 13:50.

During the first century, Jewish leaders were fearful of the Jesus movement.  As more Jews converted to Christianity, influence and political power was being lost.  Thus, high priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and zealots sought whatever means necessary to stop any other Jews from turning their back on their Jewish heritage.  According to Luke, Jewish leaders used prominent, powerful and wealthy individuals to drive Christian leaders from their district.  This is where religious obsessions cloud minds and judgment.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless, James 1:26.

An earthly brother of Jesus makes an interesting observation in the passage above.  Religion and politics can and will mix from time to time, but if your tongue leads you astray, religion is worthless.  Jesus uses an analogy of a city on a hill in his Sermon on the Mount.  Christians are suppose to stand out, like a city with bright lights in the dark.  Actions, behavior and words reflect what is inside of your heart.  Unfortunately, the pressure of religion and politics may result in compromise, temptation or unexpected words.  When religion and politics and a fall from grace ensues, may conviction bring you back to the place where God desires.

by Jay Mankus

A Heart Check-Up

While the heart is invisible to the average person, emotions can be felt by everyone.  Unless you are undergoing surgery, it’s hard to get a read on someone else’ heart.  Body language can provide some insight into how individuals are doing.  Meanwhile, behavior may indicate good or bad moods.  Just to be safe it’s important to get an annual heart check-up so you know for sure that you are okay.

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of, Matthew 12:34.

During a heated debate with Pharisees, Jesus replies to a rumor started by religious leaders.  Possibly afraid that Jesus was winning over devoted Jews to a new religious movement, gossip began to flow naturally out of their mouths.  Thus, Jesus confronts this inappropriate behavior.  Using biblical principles, Jesus exposes the spiritual condition of these jealous hearts.  Like a scene from A Few Good Men, it appears these religious leaders couldn’t handle the truth.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him, Matthew 12:35.

Today, the amoral, moral and immoral can’t afford to take things for granted.  If the words of the Old Testament prophets are true, no one is perfect.  Thus, everyone has a little bit of darkness within their hearts, Matthew 6:19-24.  Therefore, before you allow your heart to become consumed by evil, taking time for a daily spiritual heart check-up is essential.  May this practice help you shun evil so that goodness will flow naturally out of your heart.

by Jay Mankus

Something Greater Than the Temple

Traditions play an important role in life.  Religious traditions passed on by parents influence what you believe, especially early on in life.  During the first century, Pharisees displayed a holy reverence for Solomon’s Temple.  This passion for a physical place to worship the Lord soon became a stumbling block, limiting God’s power in their lives.  Subsequently, during one encounter with religious leaders Jesus refers to something greater than the temple.

 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here, Matthew 12:6.

Today’s Roman Catholic Church shares some of the practices of Judaism.  Modern priests play a similar role as great high priests in the Old Testament.  However, instead of sacrificing animals to forgive sins, confessionals are used to hear and forgive the sins of their congregation.  While there is a movement to encourage members to read and study the Bible on their own, traditions of the past have stunted spiritual growth.  Thus, the concept of a place greater than the temple is still foreign to many.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

The apostle Paul understood what Jesus meant by something greater than the temple.  Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, an earthquake destroyed the temple that the Jews held in high esteem.  This event opened the door for a transformation to occur, from the temple into your own heart, Romans 10:9-10.  Thus, using a priest as a mediator between God and man was no longer necessary.  Instead, followers of God need to view their bodies as a living temple of the Holy Spirit.  When modern believers make this connection, the human heart becomes greater than the temple.

by Jay Mankus

Beware of the New Age of Pharisees

At the beginning of the first century, two types of religious leaders emerged.  The lesser known Sadducees were members of the ruling class of Jewish priests.  Meanwhile, the Pharisees were a strict sect of law abiding individuals who stringently observed rites and ceremonies of the Torah.  This group’s legalistic mentality added rules and regulations not mentioned in the Bible.  Thus, it wasn’t uncommon for these elite members to play a gotcha style religion.

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation,” Luke 20:46-47.

Two thousand years later, a new type of Pharisee have arrived on to the scene.  Fueled by the gospel of political correctness, new talking points are introduced daily.  Controlling the airways, anyone who attempts to challenge, deviate or question progressive views are reprimanded.  Anyone who does not apologize by retracting previous statements are attacked, defamed and smeared by the media.  Those who cave to these threats become enslaved by this manmade religion.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction, 2 Peter 2:1.

One of Jesus’ disciples receives a vision about the end of days.  According to Peter, false prophets will introduce various heresies.  A heresy is defined as any belief or opinion which is contrary to biblical doctrine.  Unfortunately. if the media controls and defines the narrative, absolute truth is suppressed.  This is the danger of these times as the influence of this new age of Pharisee intensifies.  In view of this cultural climate, follow the advice of 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 by testing everything you hear with the Word of God; then cling to that which is good.  May you endure these trying times as a New Age of Pharisees emerges.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Words Written in the Sand

The Sunday Morning Television talk shows are notorious for setting up conservative minded individuals.  Prior to an invite, politicians are hopeful for a good showing, looking to get their name out on a national stage.  Yet, when the questions begin, many feel like they are on trial, attacked and bombarded for possessing Bible based beliefs.

They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger, John 8:6.

This atmosphere was normal for Jesus during the first century.  Whenever He interacted with Pharisees, religious leaders and teachers of the Torah, Jesus often endured a game of gotcha, waiting for Him to stumble and fall.  On one occasion Jewish officials attempted to use a woman caught in adultery as a trap.  Unlike most debates, Jesus uses a different strategy, ignoring their questions by choosing to write words in the sand.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” John 8:7.

The word chosen to describe writing by John, a disciple of Jesus, is not your typical verb.  The context in this passage refers to “writing down the record.”  Thus, scholars assume that Jesus begins to write down the secret sins of these religious leaders in the sand.  Upon hearing Jesus’ request in verse 7, one by one the crowd of accusers quietly goes back to their homes.  When Jesus finished writing, he appears surprised by the honesty of these Jews.  However, his last words to this woman are poignant, “go now and leave your life of sin.”  These words are just as relative today, a call to heed and obey.  Go and do likewise.

by Jay Mankus

 

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