Don't Mar Your Faith by Elitism, Legalism and Phariseeism

     “We are the true Church!” a pastor of a prominent denomination declared to me. My response was this, “In the book of Revelation, there are seven churches which represent the totality of Jesus’ church. Even though some of them were horribly wrong, they are still His church.”
     The church is not a denomination, or an institution, it is people. And throughout the ages God has always had a remnant that loved, served and followed Him. He alone knows who they are and they know Him. And for this cause we are admonished not to judge before the time.
     When we find ourselves slipping into a holier than thou attitude we must begin to reevaluate our spiritual walk, for those who possess this attitude we are told, are a “smoke in His nose.”
Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day (Isaiah 65:5).
     There is an elect that God calls forth out of the pollutions of a worldly self-centered church, but this remnant possesses the godly characteristic of the Lord’s humility. It is loving and not judgmental; it is holy and uncompromised, and endued with zeal to deliver the lost and rescue the afflicted. God’s remnant is possessed by love and love does not vaunt itself and is always kind. - Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, - I Corinthains 13:4.
     A self-righteous attitude is the stance that the Pharisees assumed before Jesus and he rebuked them vehemently. We need to take heed that we do not fall into this camp in our efforts to lead holy lives.
     The Apostle Paul said that in his flesh there dwelt no good thing, -For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.- Romans 7:18 - and that he was chief among sinners-This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Notice that he is speaking in the present tense. Here is a man who is wholeheartedly dedicated to following Christ, and yet he still views himself as a sinner. Why?
     He is humble, he recognizes that he can claim no righteousness as his own, for all righteousness is of Christ - For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ - Romans 5:17.
     He also recognizes that all human beings are born with a sin nature inherited from Adam, and it is against the tide of this fallen nature we struggle. Paul recognizes that it is only through Christ we can overcome by His Holy Spirit in us. This is the work of grace; to present us faultless with exceeding joy because we have obediently yielded to Him working through us in our daily lives.
     Paul was not self-righteous, for he was firmly grounded in the grace of our Lord. The humble dependence upon God working in him, guarded this loyal soldier from the disease of Phariseeism. The Apostle Paul had abandoned himself to Christ and was not trusting in his own righteousness, and was willing to say, “be merciful to me a sinner.” -The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner - Luke 18:11,13..
    Self-righteous attitudes are produced from a dependence upon self-effort and a lack of a child-like dependence upon the workings of the Holy Spirit within. “ For God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.” I Peter 5:5.
     Paul was willing to look within himself and allow his Lord to cleanse his "inner cup" -Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess - Matthew 23:25. He did not rely on the outward show of legalistic lawkeeping to maintain a holiness that can only be produced by “abiding in the vine.” Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me - John 15:4. And he warned of those who would place legalistic burdens upon others, bringing men into “bondage.” - And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage -Galatians 2:4. While there are those things that the Holy Spirit will lead us to do- what I call “commands for personal obedience”- the minute we make these instructions from God to us personally a law for someone else, we immediately bring them into the bondage of legalism that Paul warns us not to do.
     Paul’s goal was holiness and he knew his goal could never be realized or attained by his own efforts. He fought his flesh the only way he knew how; by humbling himself in prayer, side by side with Christ, in the Gethsemene of his heart.

“Their righteousness is of Me” - Isaiah 54:17

copyright 2007 by H.D. Shively

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