Am I a Pharisee? The Pharisees were not unlearned men. They knew the scriptures inside out yet, Jesus, gave a stern warning to “ beware of the leaven of the Pharisees…”, Matthew 16:11-12. Jesus expounded to His disciples the meaning of His warning. Sound doctrine can teach us godly foundation but the Pharisees were full of pride in their religious practices and outward appearance. They added their own religious doctrine/teaching to the word of God which was not what God required. Their teaching inflated their pride and brought bondage to people who tried to embrace their doctrine. They took pride in their knowledge of the scriptures thinking this elevated them above others, but Jesus looked into their hearts and discerned their motives for their actions. God is not interested in the outward appearance to men, but the motive of our hearts, that is – why we do what we do. What is my motive for doing something? Is it to please God or to please men? Is it to make me appear good in the eyes of men?…..or is it simply to please the Lord? Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or WHATSOEVER YOU DO, do ALL to the glory of God”, not for self glory, that is what the Pharisees did. They loved the praise of men and reveled in looking good to others.

The whole of Matthew 23 records Jesus’ scathing rebuke of the Pharisees and their practices. He exposes their hypocrisy, iniquity and pride in their religious practices. Jesus likens them to “…whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleaness. Even so you outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity,” Matthew 23:27-28. God sees our heart.

Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13 to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8-9, “These people….honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Jesus went on to teach us, verses 10-11, “Hear and understand: It is not that which goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but that which comes out of the mouth.” The mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart. If my heart is ruled and reigned by Jesus Christ, then my words will edify, not criticise and tear down. If my heart is unruly and out of God’s order, I have risen up in pride and am no different to the Pharisee.

My heart is the same fertile ground for God or the devil. “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Every day we make choices in our circumstances. Our lives are made up of the consequences of our previous choices, whether right or wrong. Once we are born again, our Heavenly Father takes us on a journey. He begins the process of getting rid of the defilement of our wrong choices, teaching us His ways. God will not over rule my choice, but He will guide me and give me opportunity to make right choices which are life changing. The more Jesus reigns in my heart, the more changes He will make in my life. Right choices bring good consequences and trigger the life of the Son of God in me to create, and to create further right choices for me to make as I let Him rule my heart.

We are made in the image of God who has given us power to create as we make right choices. The devil cannot create, only deceive and imitate, but when I knowingly make wrong choices through selfishness and rebellion, I invite him back into my life in a foothold, and I have created negative consequences through my wrong choice. None of us are perfect and in some measure, we all still make wrong choices, but the Lord is working with us to bring us to a quick repentance and deliverance if we humble ourselves and listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We can learn from our mistakes if we listen with our spiritual ears. We do not have to continue to walk the treadmill of making the same mistakes all our lives. Our Heavenly Father bestows pardoning grace but also, changing grace, as we humble ourselves, embrace our need of Him, allow Him to work in our hearts for the change He wants to bring at His appointed time. The all-seeing eye of God has appointed times in our lives. When He sees a heart that allows the life of His Son to rule there, it pleases the Father’s heart and we receive a divine appointment with Him. If you want to please our Heavenly Father, then make much of His Son, Jesus Christ! God wants to see the likeness and image of His Son in me. As I surrender my will to His, the life of the Son of God comes forth in me and I am changed….or shall we say gloriously replaced. The divine exchange: His beauty for the ashes of my “wood, hay and stubble”! Glory to God!