PHARISEES and RELIGION


When we look back at the life of Jesus we see that He was the Pharisees worst nightmare! The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, they set the standards and rules that the people were to religiously follow; they fought tooth and nail for their agenda. They did what was needed to preserve the system that they believed God had instituted; they were literally the go-between, between man and God. They were 100% sure they were right and that God was on their side. The Pharisees assumed that if God was going to show up on earth, they would be the first to know. Surely if God were going to do something it would be within their structure, the pattern that God Himself had put into motion.  
 
The Pharisees were the experts in what people needed to do within their system and they set out expectations that must be followed. This was one reason why Jesus was so critical of them, saying; "Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces".

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen,
and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.” Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things you reproach us also.” And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute, (Luke 11:33-49).

Their attitude was something like this, “who is this Jesus that comes in and dares to tell us that our system, which we have practiced for 2000 years, is nothing but a bunch of rules that makes life burdensome for the people.”

These leaders had arrived at the conclusion that they had divine authority to protect God and His system through being watchers of doctrine and theology. Yes, the Pharisees did have theological issues with Jesus, but that was not their main quarrel with Him. At the heart of the conflict was Jesus’ attitude toward the leadership of the religious system of the day. Imagine, Jesus wanted to do away with their system of rules that had stood for thousands of years and benefited the system and the leaders within. The Pharisees were confronted with a choice, the system they created to give God context or God Himself.

Anything that contradicted their system, as far as they were concerned, could not be from God and therefore they had divine authority to destroy it. This belief allowed them to do whatever they wanted and to do it in the name of God. Jesus came on the scene and was in direct opposition to this principle and they ended up killing Him.

They chose their system; then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for
the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11: 47-50

I do not believe that it was hate that drove the Pharisees to kill Jesus, it was the practically and the desire to preserve their belief system. They believed it was their divine duty to protect their system that equated them with God. Killing Jesus was just a by-product of this mindset. All this Jesus talk about loving your enemies and not needing the temple was too much of a threat to their system. In a way it was their love for God and the temple that forced their hand. In their minds they killed Jesus out of a love for God! How could “religious” leaders become so blind to God Himself?

The religious system of today is a carry over of the Old Testament Pharisaical system into the New Testament system.




In the OT and the carryover of that system, which MAN instituted to satisfy religion, into the New Testament era, we have the way man approaches God.

Since Jesus things are completely reversed. No longer is it man trying to get to God, it is now God coming to Man embodied in Jesus!

It is not that we desire God it is that God desires us. When we would not come to God, He came to us. Man resisted Him; He instituted a plan to redeem us. It could not be done through the Old Testament way of approaching God. Nor can it be accomplished by the Man Instituted System that religion practices from the advent of the New Testament up to the modern church age we live in as shown by the center portion in the above diagram.

No, the only way is the God-Instituted-Way of the New Testament. JESUS is now the SACRIFICE, PRIEST and the TEMPLE! Jesus fulfilled the LAW! Since Jesus, it is not man trying to get to God but God coming down to rescue man. It is not man upward to God but God downward to man.

It is no longer through religious observance of rules and regulations sacrifice and penance of the religious systems. It is now through a LOVE RELATIONSHIP with the God of all ages, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! He is our Papa!

God no longer dwells in temples made with hands, the curtain was rent asunder and God, as it were, came out of the Holy of Holies of the man-made temple to us through Jesus and now we have direct contact to Him and Him to us because we now are the temple of His Holy Spirit.

Jesus came to set mankind free from sin and to bring an end to religion and the bondage it holds on mankind. Praise the Name of the living God!

How can I know as a person if I belong to the religious system that is a carry over from the Pharisaical system of the Old Testament?

  • Am I a part of a group that have taken things that help people follow God who have incorporated these things into their practice of religion and begin to command others to do these things in order to be pleasing to God.
  • Am I a part of a group that erases the line between man-made commandments and God’s desire for relationship out of which flows obedience to His commandments and now assume that their agenda is also God’s agenda.
  • Am I a part of a group that has effectively replaced depending on God and listening to God with their religious system of do’s and don’ts, They now operate on auto-pilot because they have it all figured out and agendaized .
  • Am I a part of a group that God generally has to work through them and their system in order to get the job done.
  • Am I a part of a group that views people who do not support their system as an enemy who poses a threat to their beliefs.
  • Am I a part of a group that maintains they have a divine duty to protect God and advance His agenda, even to extending it to other cultures by any means necessary?
  • Am I a part of a group who feel the need to prove they are right and seek to protect their system of beliefs rather than a group who loves to love people and seek to protect people’s value?

Now, this type of questioning should not be use to brand or accuse others, these questions are personal to ask yourself. Realize that the only person that God cannot reach is someone who is not willing to be honest with themselves. So be honest with yourself, it will be worth it.

I know that when I admitted that I was a Pharisee back in the early nineties, It was not an easy admission because I was going to be looked at as an oddball, a "who do he think he is kind of guy". But, I had to admit that I was living life with a lot of assumptions regarding God, Jesus and the gospel, I also had many expectations to live up to and expected expectations of others. I was a Pharisee! What I shudder at is; if I had been alive at the time of Jesus, would I have sided with the Pharisees? Would I have recognized Jesus as God? Would, if Jesus came on the scene today dressed in human form would I know Him, or would seeing him through religious eyes blur my vision preventing me from knowing who He is?

I remember when I thought that the work God is doing in my neck of the woods is only going on through people within my denomination. How arrogant!

Western Christianity identify and crucify people they deem to be dangerous, maybe not with the sword of metal, but they sure try to kill them with their interpretation of the sword of the spirit by the use of the tongue.

Upon observing religion I believe there are a lot of similarities with the Pharisees: the pressure to advance God’s agenda on others. The tension of preserving the system, the expectation of spiritual eliteness within the group. The expectation that the expectations set by the elite in the group are expected to be met by the “lay people” of the group. The belief that our group is the most right of all the other groups and God is more pleased with us than the others.

The leaders within religion are for the most part not bad leaders, they are men focused on fear and react out of fear rather than being focused on love and living by loving without an agenda. Your ability to love is what will set you free.

You may ask, does God even speak in the religious world? Yes, He can and has; God has spoken through some strange things in the past, but because he speaks does not mean He has given His approval of the system. God can and does speak to a heart that is open to Him any time and any where, even if it is in the belly of a fish!
We need to share with people instead of telling people. By sharing we allow people of opposite views to find some common ground that can be shared together. Jesus would often find common ground to share with people by asking questions and listening to their answers.

The Bible, from which most religions interpret to form their particular religion, was never meant to be a holy book of rules and regulations to form a set of beliefs on and come up with a religion. The Bible is far more than a religion holy book for Christianity. It is a collection of documents that point toward a nonreligious spirituality that reveals the message and mission of Jesus. Although it is the catalyst used my many religious institutions as their founding scripture, its pages reveal an nonreligious agenda, one that is designed to work from the inside out and not from the outside in as does religion. Actually the Bible explodes religion from the inside out! It holds the revelation to a way out of out slavish addiction to religions systems, while inviting us into a direct connection with God Himself.

That is not to say that the Bible does not present rules, regulations and rituals…the very makings of religion, especially in the Old Testament. But theses religious ideas are not its starting point or its ending point. The Bible begins by giving us a picture of the ideal world, a world without religion, a garden where God and people lived in naked intimacy. This was God’s original intention for mankind. It is only after people turned away from the ideal of mutual trust and intimacy that God gives them rules and routines, traditions and teachings, but that is not the end of the story. The rules and regulations of the bible lead to a great treasure but, they are not the treasure itself as someone said “religion for religion’s sake is idolatry” and I am in agreement with that.

People have confused the treasure map, the way to get to the treasure, for the treasure itself. That is why the O. T. system was carried over into the N. T. era.

In the beginning of creation there was no religion, The final chapters of the bible is a time where God is leading the world…back to His garden reality, and what is noticeably absent…religion! Between the opening and ending chapters we have man’s poor response to the rules and regulations of religion even to where the advent of Jesus and his plan of relationship and headship has been misconstrued by the religion of our day to where God has to work through religious denominational boxes to win the world to Him. 
 
Does that mean the God is against gatherings, not at all, but the gatherings are not to be segregated because of different doctrinal beliefs? Gatherings are to be centered on Jesus and His love. His prayer was, “that they maybe one, as you and I are one.” Church is what should happen on a daily basis with the people that cross our path by us showing the LOVE of God to them. Be the Church daily instead of religiously on weekends.



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