Classic Christianity – Our Attitude Towards Legalism Part 2 (03-26-19)
Bob George, of the original People to People radio program for over 30 years, shares about what our attitude should be towards legalism. Follow along in Matthew 23 to see the example of Jesus attitude toward the religious Pharisees, the legalists in his day. Bob George continues to share the seven woes Jesus spoke to the Pharisees. As you think of how Jesus spoke to the Pharisees there is a tendency to not think of yourself as a legalist or as someone who does not have a tendency towards legalism in our natural flesh. We are so often blind to our sin. Yet Jesus, perfectly righteous and holy, tells the truth in love. Truth may not be pleasant to hear but it the truth you need to hear. Jesus is full of love so he will tell you the truth. The truth shall set you free and truth deals in reality. He will always call sin what it is. We should never get to the point in our lives when we call sin something other than what it really is. When we are found to be in sin, then we can go to God’s grace in Jesus to be set free. But if you ignore sin in your lives, and call it an alternative lifestyle, anything but what God calls it, how then can you walk in the new life God has given?
23 “Yes, woe upon you, Pharisees, and you other religious leaders—hypocrites! For you tithe down to the last mint leaf in your garden, but ignore the important things—justice and mercy and faith. Yes, you should tithe, but you shouldn’t leave the more important things undone. 24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.
Bob shares about a time he visited Israel and there were these Jewish rabbis so caught up in legalism that they came up with an idea of a Sabbath elevator. There was built a Shabbat elevator on Saturday because you cannot work on the Sabbath. If you are in a hotel, what are you going to do about that because it is work to push a button on an elevator. So when you get on the Shabbat elevator, the weight of it will allow you to get up and down the elevator. The Shabbat elevator has no button. Now, how are you going to get into the room? I do not know how they are going to do that. “You can be mean as a hornet on the way up but that makes no difference. It is more important to not work by pushing a button!” That is straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.
14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
In Jesus day, the Pharisees were so caught up in legalistic righteousness that they were more concerned about Jesus not healing someone on the Sabbath so that the law of not working on the Sabbath was not broken. You can spit on a rock but not on the ground is what the Pharisees insisted. For if you spit on the ground that makes mud and that is work. When Jesus healed the blind man, what did he do? Jesus spit on the ground and made mud out it and applied mud on the blind man’s eyes. Jesus did not need to do that to heal a blind man. No, he did it to make a point to the Pharisees, of how foolish they are and expose the condition of their heart. Evidently, to a Pharisee, it is okay to kill someone, which is murder, but just don’t spit on the ground. That also is straining a gnat and swallowing a camel.
17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’[Isaiah 56:7]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’[Jeremiah 7:11]” 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
Is there anything different today? What kinds of questions are asked today? Did you not go to the prayer meeting? Did you have your quiet time this morning? And the one who asks the other if he had his quiet time did not have hi either. So he says, “Me neither.” A person in a 5000 member church asks another person, “How big is your church? A person responds, “Oh, only a hundred in mine” “Oh, keep trying, brother.” Then another person replies, “Oh, five too”. “So you have 5000 too.” “No, five people.” What is this? Is there any sincerity in that. There is no sincerity in that. Spiritual upmanship to be seen by men like kicking field goals in a baptistry. The only reason they ask “how big your church is” is because they want to boast of how well they were doing. How much truth is taught in such a church?
And another prevalent legalistic teaching is this, “You must give God your 10 percent. If you do not, you are robbing God.” Truth does not matter to these people. It does not matter that we are living under a New Covenant of grace and the tithe was only for Jews under an Old Covenant law in order to support the Levites under a required system of animal sacrifices as a temporary covering for sin until the time of Christ. None of that truth means anything to a legalist. Oh, you tithe, which is not even under the New Covenant, but do you practice justice and mercy? I heard a church leader once insisted that a single parent must pay back 10 years of back tithe for all those years she had not tithed!
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Clean the inside then the outside will also be clean. You have all this outward stuff that looks good, but inside you are a mess, an open grave or full of dead man’s bones. These were the religious leaders of the day. Those were the ones the whole Israeli people followed, looked up to, listened intently to and tried to live in obedient to it. Jesus went right in the midst of that group and said they were hypocrites. When we look at it, it sure does not seem like love does it, as in a culture today of political correctness? Is it love to let people function in their stupidity? He did not say because you are a hypocrite that I am going to beat you up or kill you. I am letting you know who you are. Jesus is being a truth teller to you. Is that unloving? No. He called them blind guides. Why? They could not see. How many ways do we not see and need the truth to be shone in our hearts? How blind are we to our own weaknesses.
Bob relates how a man was driving around 80 to 90 miles an hour in a 65 mph speed limit. He turned to his wife Amy and said, “Man, I sure hope he gets arrested.” Amy replied, “Yes, I hope he gets a ticket.” How many times have I driven 70 miles an hour in the same area? A little breaking of the law is okay but if someone really breaks it then you want them to really get it. We are that way, aren’t we? When someone else breaks the law, I want vengeance. When I break it, I want mercy. We are blind to ourselves and our own weaknesses.
The teaching of the grace of God gets under the surface of things and shows us the way we are. It is good to know that is the way we are. It is the only way we are going to look at it and say, “This is a sham.” What is truth and what is reality? This is the most loving thing to do is to speak the truth. It is not pleasant to listen to, but it is love.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
When we walk around holier than though saying to yourself, “you are so righteous and good”, we are hypocrites. When they said to Jesus, “Good teacher”; He said “Don’t call me good unless you call me God.”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
When we walk around with the attitude of “I do not know how they could do such a thing.” Just give it time and God will show you. It is amazing how conditional we are when it comes to our own sins. A pastor used to pound the bible on the evils of divorce. He taught that so violently until his daughter got a divorce. Oh, a man speaks on the evils of homosexuality until his son is found to be caught up in that. So he changes his teaching to, “Oh, maybe he is born that way.” How conditional we are, and the tendency to call sin something else when the reality of sin hits home. God calls sin “sin”. He does not call it an emotional imbalance.
22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;
Do not deny sin for you have company, the whole world. Do not call it an alternative lifestyle when God calls it sin. If you ever want to go free and turn to Him then you have to call it what He calls it in order to be free.
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They [religious Pharisees, teachers of the law] answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.
You cannot lie to yourself and say something is not sin when it is. Underneath the skin is where your heart is.
29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
So Jesus revealed the spiritual condition of the hearts of men. He told the Pharisees the truth concerning the condition of their heart. By their own words, Jesus said to them that they testify against themselves, that their father is the devil, who is a murderer from the beginning. To the Jews who believed in Him, he encouraged them to hold on to his teaching, that if they hold onto truth, that they can learn to walk in new freedom.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.