How To Be A Recovering Pharisee

Are you fussy, small-thinking, so engrossed in following the rules that your heart is brittle?

Of course not! Nobody wants to admit to that.

The truth is you and I are like that. It’s called Pharisaism and it’s a real problem. In some people it’s obvious, in others not so much, but all of us are affected by it.

6 Symptoms Of A Pharisee

1. Pharisaism is subtle. You don’t notice it so you don’t do anything to kill it.

2. It’s self-righteousness. Thinking better than other people.

3. It’s contempt for others who don’t live up to your standards. Looking down on others who aren’t as good as you.

4. It’s wrong priorities. Majoring on the minor details while missing the big picture of God’s grace and love in the gospel.

5. It’s not having a tender conscience. Being religious is more important than loving God.

6. It’s loving to tell others how to live. Then jumping all over them when they fail.

If you see yourself in these descriptions, you’re not alone! And you’ll want to know what to do about it.

3 Things That Won’t Help A Bit

1. You can’t learn your way out of it.

2. A good scolding won’t do it.

3. Being threatened until you quake won’t help either.

These three are aspects of the law and the law does not change the heart.

The solution lies elsewhere – in the gospel.

4 Ways To Fight Pharisaism With The Gospel

1. The Gospel tells us how bad we were. How much did Jesus suffer on the cross? His sufferings were infinite. Why did He suffer so much? Because He died in our place. What does this mean? It means our sin is infinite. ‘Sins’ can be counted—I lied once, stole twice, committed adultery three times. But ‘sin’, that native rejection of God, defies all calculation. The Gospel means we are thoroughly bad—not decent people in need of a hand, but sinners in need of a Savior!

2. The gospel tells us how needy we are still are. Where did Jesus go after dying on the cross and rising from the dead? He went to heaven. What’s he doing there? Hebrews 7:25 says he’s gone there to—

Make intercession for us.

He’s there praying for us. Why do you pray for someone? You pray for him because he needs something. This is why Jesus never stops praying for us, because we’re always in need. Now, it’s hard to square being in constant need with being proud of yourself or looking down on others, whose needs are no more than your own. The gospel means we are deeply and always dependent on God’s grace, and believing that will keep you from being a Pharisee.

3. The gospel reminds you that Jesus laid down His life as a ransom for many. That means you’ve got to love and respect your brothers and sisters in Christ, and let Jesus be the Lord of their consciences! Counsel them? Of course, but nitpick and micromanage them? No, not if the gospel has gotten into your heart.

4. The gospel saves you from being a Pharisee by telling you:

God loves you as you are, and thus you don’t have to pretend to be better than you are, and you don’t have to hunger for the praise of men.

That’s freedom!


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3 thoughts on “How To Be A Recovering Pharisee

  1. I have found this blog and this post in particular caught my attention… for several years I have followed a another blog run by someone who is ( I finally and sadly accepted) a pharisee extraordinaire. Carrying within me the scars of a childhood where praise and validation were constantly, deliberately withheld when they were due, I am always aware of my vulnerability to becoming a pharisee as well. So I especially loved the way you ended this post: “God loves you as you are, and thus you don’t have to pretend to be better than you are, and you don’t have to hunger for the praise of men.” Thank you for this post. I am eager to read the rest of your blog.

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