21st Century Pharisees: Responding to Sin

by | Feb 21, 2017 | David Appelt

This is the second post in a series about dealing with the hypocrisy and ‘false-following’ of Jesus in our lives. In those to come, I deal with more ways that we can get back to following Jesus with our whole selves, instead of being followers in appearance only, like pharisees. Please read the intro post, and the others in the series for a full glimpse.

Death to sin is not always fun

Dealing with sin has to be the least fun part of the Christian life. Why? We have a lot of sin in us, and it clings closely (Hebrews 12:2). Sin exalts self, that’s the very essence of it: preferring created things (ourselves) to the Creator.

Removing sin is tough work. It takes God going to our very core and ripping out parts of us that are deeply ingrained (read Psalm 51, or Romans 7). To move from being a pharisee to a follower, we have to have true conviction of a need to be more like Jesus which means leaving sin behind for righteousness.

However, this righteousness needs to be more than skin deep. It is more than behavior modification. The pharisees were good at doing exterior things that looked righteous, and we are much the same. This work of sanctification (a word we use for the process of God making us more like Christ) must go beyond exterior adherence to a law and into the core of us so that we may be honoring God from the inside out.

Social Media Disciples

The social media disciple posts inspirational bible verses while never reading the verses that talk about the seriousness of sin in our lives. They love the verses that talk about God’s protection and provision, or ones that combat fear or anxiety. And those verses are true, and they are to be treasured. However, the social media disciple often fails to deal seriously to with the ones that confront us over our failures. Even if they read the passages, they skim over them quickly.

If we want to really be disciples of Jesus, we will love what he loves and hate what he hates. If the bible is clear about anything, it’s clear that Jesus loves righteousness. It’s equally as clear that he hates sin.

Start dealing with the sin in your own life. Not merely the sin that others may see, but all sin. Even the ‘secret’ sins. All of it is known to God and all of it is offensive to Him. All of it harms you, your family, and your ministry more than you know.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

 John 14:15 (ESV)

Actual freedom, not slavery

This isn’t a slavish obedience to Jesus’s commands. No, this is faith-rooted, love-fueled pursuit of Jesus. Sin is the enemy of righteousness. So, if Jesus is perfect righteousness, it makes no sense to claim to love Him while cherishing His enemy. Our journey out of phariseeism will start with a tearing down of the idols in our life. It will start with the idol of self. It will then move to the trickle-down effects of these idols (lust, pornography, stealing, anger, addictions, etc.).

When we want to follow Jesus our pride and our idol of self must be torn down with violence. When we lose this idol of self, the idol of us knowing better than God, then we are on a path to be humble servants of God.

You will find more contentment in pursuing Christ in joy-filled obedience than you ever could obtain in the desperate attempts to exalt yourself and appease your idols.

Righteousness that grows from the Spirit working deep within us is greater than righteousness that is skin deep. It gives peace to our hearts, it truly pleases God, it is more than a mere show (so it isn’t exhausting).

When we are exhausted by God’s commands, it is because we are trying to do them in our own strength; or, it is because we are still trying to use pleasing God as a means to something greater (more on this in the next post).

In short, we will lean on the words of John Piper, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Recommended Resources

Complacency and Repentance by Joe Thorn
Motivations for Obedience from Matt Chandler
Repentance and Personal Transformation by The White Horse Inn (Michael Horton)
Purity In a Digital Age by Tim Challies

David Appelt serves as the creative arts director at NewLife Community Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio. He graduated from Capital University with an emphasis on Music Ministry. He plans on pursuing pastoral ministry in the future.
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