Complete Surrender Versus Our Pharisaical Tendencies

Look at me! I am a SuperChristian. I pray. I fast. I read my Bible daily. I give more than my ten percent because of the missions I support. I am the authority on all matters of Scripture. I believe that there is one way to follow God. If you're in doubt of what that way is, just ask me. I'm generous and will gladly share some of my time to enlighten you. Even if you're not interested, I think I will take some time out to enlighten you. For I am SuperChristian!

None of us are as extreme as the fictitious SuperChristian, but we each have a tendency to be religious for the wrong reasons. Whether it is to show off our own spiritual progress or to control others, we sometimes morph our faith into a religion. It becomes even more destructive when a group of SuperChristians assemble to do church - rather than be church - for all the wrong reasons. Lives are ruined; faith is squashed; and seekers have their seeking extinguished.

If we have not completely surrendered our hearts to Christ – if we just go through a few religious rituals or even a lot of religious rituals, then we are no better than the Pharisees. The Pharisees, individuals from one of the religious groups of Jesus’ time, thought they would have been the people who would have listened to the prophets instead of killing them, but then they led the charge to kill Jesus, the prophet of their time. Like the Pharisees, we often think they we every “I” dotted and every “t” crossed; we have no need to be open to anything else because we have it all figured out.

But without humility and a complete surrender to Jesus, we are creating a religion that we like rather than submitting ourselves to Jesus and the Spirit to live out the faith that He wants. When it is about me and how great I am, I am tempted to be like the Pharisees. My selfish side wants to appear perfect and have the crowds follow me without really humbling myself and serving them. It wants to fast, give to my local church, support missions, pray, and read the Bible while making sure that everyone knows how well I do those spiritual practices. It wants to appear that I help people without really ever making a sacrifice. I have more than a little Pharisee in me. We all do if we are honest with ourselves.

The writers of the Gospels would not have spent so much time telling us about Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees if we all didn’t harbor a pharisaical tendency, the tendency to love religion or religious practices more than God Himself. But Jesus gave the answer to the problem, and that is humility. He warned us of this tendency. Our response should be to keep examining ourselves. Am I doing this religious act for God or for man’s glory? Am I truly seeking God and His Kingdom with my whole heart or am I seeking my kingdom and my will? Am I just going through religious motions or do I love God with my whole being? God does not want empty religious rituals; he wants every ounce of us.

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream [Amos 5:18-24 (ESV)].
Jesus said the same thing to the Pharisees, only He used more words.
“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.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation [Matt 23:13-36 (ESV)]