The Spirit of the Pharisee
By William Moss
Because there are those among us who aspire, and because there is this time and season, and because there is this God who beckons to us from the heights, this book is written. In every age and in every place where men aspire, there is that which withstands them. Every time the sons of God appear before God, the Devil comes also. In every place that grace is given, there is the law to provide the counterpoint. When the times and seasons of God bring forth the Manchild, there is the Dragon waiting. It is our purpose to identify the dragon and to unmask the devil and to warn the traveler.
There is that which in every age opposes.
It is fitting that we do not war against 'flesh and blood' for we are, at the center, a spiritual people. It is not some secular heaven that we aspire to but the very heart of God. And because we do not simply set our sights on financial security or a well-rounded religious experience or a reputation among the brethren, we may well be numbered among the radicals of our generation.
But we must, simply must, keep faith with those who have gone before us, as well as those who may come after us.
And we must keep faith with ourselves.
stop short is unthinkable.
But rest assured, on the way we will meet that one who stands in the gate and seeks to deny us entrance. In this age, that one is not some will-of-the-wisp from the past but an identifiable entity with a name and a character and a history Of mischief-making. And, although his best work is done in the dark, he can be dragged into the light.
He can be called to account!
He who has 'laid waste' can be laid waste himself for He who once led 'captivity captive' is still in business.
And so we say ...
It was a strange scene. On a stage suspended somewhere between heaven and earth a young man was engaged in earnest dialogue, first with one and then with another. The subject was religion and what a man's duty was in this life and how he must finally come to acknowledge God and His claim on his life.
young man seemed quite persuasive.
Some stopped to listen. Some even to the point of agreement. These he took gently by the hand and introduced them to the religious system he represented.
there was more to the scene than that. To be sure, there
was the young man. And, yes, he was attempting to proselyte
others. But (and this was the strange part) above him, much
like a director riding a broom above a sound stage, there hovered
say hovered because that is how it seemed.
say apparition because it did not have the distinctive features
one would associate with a flesh and blood creature.
No. It was more like the genie who sprang from the lamp of Aladdin, as illustrated in a child's book of fables.
Above, floating, unreal, and yet, very real indeed. So real, in fact, that it literally dominated the scene. So much so that one finally became aware that it (the apparition) really was the director and that all of those on the stage (including our young man) were merely players. Only as you grasped that fact were you able to ascertain the real situation and the almost mechanical actions and reactions of the players on the stage began to make sense.
Yes, the young man's words were fervent. Yes, his manner was sincere. But then you began to notice that which had been hidden before, i.e. his heart wasn't in it. It was only a role he was playing. Indeed, his actions were those of a well-trained horse being put through his paces by the owner. There were invisible strings attached to him and he was being manipulated by the puppet-master who hovered above him.
As the play continued it became apparent that the young man was not satisfied with his role-playing. Indeed, on more than one occasion, he moved toward the outer limits of the stage, as if wanting somehow to escape the situation. But he was always drawn back by the invisible strings.
And then it happened.
young man not only reached the edge of the stage but suddenly
turned his back on the performance and began to walk away from
it. Just as suddenly, the Entity seemed to sense that his
power over the young man was diminished. His reaction was
immediate and terrible to behold. He screamed after the
he cried, "look up there in the sky!"
young man looked.
he saw was a wispy white cloud against the blue of the sky.
"Look", it cried again, "and know this. You will never know your God except as a wispy intangible, a vaporous substance, like that small cloud up there!"
that pronouncement, and without thinking, the young man spun on
no", he cried, and the words seem to flow from his lips.
"Oh, no! I will know Him. I will know my God. Beyond the wispy intangibles of religion, I will know Him!"
warning the words in his mouth, understandable to this point,
changed into that which was not
understandable. Different words. Strange sounding
words. Full-of-power words. They filled his tongue
and leaped the distance between him and the apparition.
As he continued his impassioned speech, a strange thing occurred.
The apparition vanished!
moment he was there, the next, poof, he was gone.
And, in his place, what appeared to be a steel girder, upon which the young man set his feet.
Then he knew.
was free. He was finally and at long last free!
Not only of the apparition but of his former limitations.
Far below him, the earth and the peoples of the earth. And he knew that he could step off the girder and, with one giant stride, onto the surface of the planet, now thousands of feet below him!
The young man woke from his dream.
And inquired of his God.
his God gave understanding to him.
"What is the name of the Entity", he asked, "who had such power over me and my actions"?
The Lord said, "his is a Jewish name".
"Yes", the young man cried, "I know his is a Jewish name, but who is he and what does he represent?"
The answer came.
"He is the Spirit of the Pharisee".
the beginning there has been that which has stood against the
purpose of God in man. It has been called by many names
and has fully earned it's reputation as the most cunning of adversaries.
For the purpose of this writing, I will refer to it as the Spirit
of the Pharisee and will liken it to an illness or disease.
Not the ordinary, garden variety disease, to be sure, but one
that is always and in every place deadly. Much like the
cancer in our modern time, it thrives in the dark, and, because
of that, it's work is the more effective.
enough, it is not a disease that afflicts just anyone. Rather,
it is reserved for those among us who would be 'rich', those who
aspire to higher thoughts and whose commitment is beyond the ordinary.
It was in the time of Jesus, who was called the Christ, that we were afforded the clearer picture, the most elaborate display of the disease in full flower.
Indeed, it is as if we are present at the initiation rites of Pharisaism and it is the Holy One himself who is instructing us and warning us against the most dread disease, spiritual pride.
It is that which takes hold of the ambitious and attaches itself to the king.
At first it does not appear to be more than an appropriate self-esteem. But the cells divide and the tumor grows and the sickness spreads. Until...
In the secular world we are often made aware of what we refer to as pride or self-confidence. As with arsenic, a small amount can be quite beneficial. In psychiatry, a bolstering of self-esteem is often the aim and a healthy regard for oneself is regarded as essential to mental and emotional health. Indeed, it is doubtful if any good has ever come to mankind through the negative emotion.
'worm of the dust' painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or
sailed his craft over uncharted waters. No shrinking violet
tacks his thesis to the church door nor inferior person takes
to the air at Kittyhawk. Britannia rules the waves, not
simply because she has many ships, but also because she believes
in herself, in her institutions, in her destiny.
feeling of self-worth!
pride that has not degenerated into arrogance!
How comely, indeed. How refreshing. How needful! Would to God that all of His people drank from that well and supped at that table. But there is another side to the coin and a down-side to the mountain. It is the perversion of the ideal. It is the overdose, the too-much of a good thing. It is that which contorts and twists and wrests the concept of self-worth into monstrous shapes, alien principle. It is the net that is spread for the feet of all who aspire.
Everyone who has ever served in a capacity that sets him 'above' his fellows knows of it. Every Private First Class, every second Lieutenant. Every Justice of the Peace, every Clergyman. Perhaps it would be fitting to add especially every Clergyman. Of course we speak of the Destroyer. A Spirit which has destroyed, continues to destroy, and will always destroy, for such is it's nature. Especially is it sent to withstand those who, in every age, would ascend that 'Holy Hill' of the Lord.
Among the things that God hates the most, this is the biggie! Right up there with the lying tongue is the proud look. Indeed, in Proverbs 8, Evil itself is defined as "pride and arrogancy" and the "forward mouth do I hate" is a declaration of God himself. Again, in Proverbs 14, "in the mouth of the foolish is the rod of pride". Isaiah pronounces "woe on the crown of pride" and Jeremiah speaks of it as a deceiver... "The pride of your heart has deceived you."
But it is not sufficient for us to quote to you the appropriate scriptures. We are all more or less aware of them. We know of the warnings issued throughout the Book. None Of us are ignorant of the fact that when and if it (pride) is fully developed in any of us, that assorted woes and calamities are surely on their way. Pride does, indeed, "go before destruction" and a "haughty spirit before a fall".
But the disease does not appear full blown. That is at once our joy and our opportunity. It was only after the 'son of the morning' became awakened to his great power and considerable beauty that 'sin' (ambition) was found in him.
Then, and only then, did he seek to ascend and was moved to challenge the sovereignty of God.
The Pharisee was a unique individual. Unique in the sense that the widow with the two mites was unique. And the fallen woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears was unique. God knows he was not the first proud man, no more than the widow was the first to offer from her meager store toward the upkeep of the house of God.
They were unique because in them the various elements of man were brought together, codified, crystallized. Now and forever after, we who follow after will be able to understand the principle. In the widow we see, as long as life endures, the spirit of true giving. In the Pharisee, the spirit of religious bigotry and spiritual pride. They have given substance to the form.
Thank you, God, for the Pharisee.
In him and through him and because of him, you have made manifest that which has been hidden from us before. In his thoughts, actions, and attitude, we are brought face to face with ourselves. As you manifested that which was Christlike in us all, he brought to light that which was (and is) Anti-Christ in us all.
Now we know and are without excuse. As your Spirit remains with us long after the events of the gospel narrative have come and gone, so his spirit remains with us, whispering to us, seducing us, delivering us into judgment, again and again and again.
you, God, for the Pharisee!
Someone has to play straight-man for You.
Someone has to set You up for the punch line!
Of course, the ancient sect is long gone from us. And even if it did continue it is doubtful if any would openly avow themselves a member. Of the Catholic tradition? Yes. Baptist, Methodist, and even Pentecostal? Yes, but not Pharisee. Why? For a very simple reason. The name is come to mean something quite different to us than it did to those alive in the time of the Son of Man. In that day, to the majority of the people, the Pharisee was a man or group of men who took their religion quite seriously, indeed, more seriously than the ordinary Jew. Their zeal was legendary, their commitment and dedication to the last 'revealed' word from their God (the law of Moses) unsurpassed by any. The Apostle himself bearing witness to them, their attention to detail, and their 'righteousness' as defined by that law. They were the 'separated' ones.
Today, of course, we have a different perspective. Today the name is taken to mean one who is intolerant, bigoted, proud and arrogant. One who is pleased to find out (and quick to point out) that he is 'different' from the ordinary folk who inhabit this planet with him.
The Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray, although only a parable that Jesus told, is a perfect example. It is recorded for us in Luke 18. Jesus, speaking to "certain that trusted in themselves that they were righteous" and "despised others", told this parable to them: "Two men went into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee and the other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all I possess."
the "Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much
as his eyes. toward heaven, but smote his breast, saying God,
be merciful to me, a sinner." When we go beyond the words,
it gets a bit sticky.
For what that certain Pharisee said in that parable that Jesus gave, is what their descendants have been saying (or thinking) and the attitude itself is familiar (painfully so) to the most of us. It is the attitude that suggests that we religious types are inherently 'better' than our neighbors. Oh, God, I'm so glad I don't puff on them cigarettes, or hanker after corn squeezin's and am content with this one wife you have given me. I'm also glad, by the way that you have seen fit to make me a bit more moral, a bit more law-abiding, and a whole lot more 'spiritual' than the Publican over there. I know he is praying at the same altar as I am, but God, we both know that there is a distinction to be made, even between those who worship at the same altar.
there was a distinction to be made, and Jesus made it. The
rascally (in the eyes of the Pharisee) Publican went down to his
house justified rather than the self-righteous Pharisee.
Now it is obvious that Jesus was not saying that our friend, the Pharisee, would be better off, spiritually speaking, if he extorted a little money, cheated on his taxes, or dragged his neighbor's wife off to the bushes.
What He was saying, however, was that this man (the Pharisee) knew nothing of the grace of God, trusted much too much in his ability to 'keep' the law of Moses, was a self-righteous prig and that a goody-two-shoes was going to have a most difficult time entering into the kingdom!
You're sick, man! A lot sicker than that Publican fellow you are looking down your nose at!
In describing the disease in detail, there is a chapter in one of the New Testament writings that lays it all out for us. The chapter is 23 and the writing is Matthew's.
Now it may be that the apostle Matthew recorded the clashes between Jesus and the Pharisees more faithfully than the others. Or perhaps it was simply that he, being a Publican himself, was more attuned to the nuances. At any rate, Matthew 23 is one woe piled on top of another.
Woe! Woe! Woe!
charge, put-down, exposure. After that particular 'sermon',
doesn't surprise me in the least that they "went about to
kill him". No Pharisee worth his salt would have been
able to sit through a tirade like that without is face gathering
just a wee bit of 'darkness'. Just give a listen:
(the Pharisees) bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne and
lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move
them with one of their fingers."
of their works they do to be seen of men."
love the upper most rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the
"and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi, i.e. teacher or master." (Shame on those terrible folks, right?)
Now here come the woes, here come the woes!
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in."
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widow's houses, and for a pretense make long prayers . . ."
unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you compass
land and sea about to make one proselyte, and when he is made,
you make him twofold more the child of hell than you yourselves."
(So much for missionary out-reach).
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin (down to and including the very least of your crops) but you have omitted the weightier matters of the law, (such as) judgment, mercy, and faith: . . ."
blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel."
(Oh, my. That is a low blow.)
unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean
the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within are full
of extortion and excess. You blind Pharisee, cleanse first
that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of
them may be clean also."
(We do seem to have a problem with that one, don't we?)
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Oh, me. That's all. Just, oh, me!)
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets (the dead ones, that is) and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous (the departed righteous, that is). And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets."
There is something especially tragic in this assumption. I'm sure the Pharisees were sincere. I do not for a moment think that they thought themselves capable of doing such terrible things as slaying Abel or stoning Zechariah.
But what they failed to understand, even as we do, was that neither they nor we are dealing with a flesh and blood situation, but rather with a Spirit.
And they who are dominated by and subject to that Spirit WILL find themselves 'slaying Abel' and 'stoning Zechariah', i.e. the modern day equivalent. That is why Jesus could predict that when He sent to that generation (or this one) "prophets, and wise men, and scribes" that they would indeed 'kill and crucify' some of them and others "scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: . ."
In ancient Israel, there lived a young man of the tribe of Benjamin. He was a typical young Israelite, kind, considerate, and obedient to his father, Kish. He also was a very striking young man, physically tall and robust, 'head and shoulders' above his peers. He was also blessed with a becoming modesty. One day this young man, Saul by name, happened upon a circumstance that changed his life forever. While searching for donkeys that had strayed, he turned aside to inquire of a certain Seer. When he did, much to his surprise, the Seer fastened his eyes on him and declared, "Is it not because the Lord has anointed you to be the captain over his inheritance?"
Well, that was not something a young Benjamite heard everyday and the shock of the pronouncement was evident in the young man's reply. "Am I not a Benjamite, one of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And is not my family the least of all the families within that tribe? Wherefore (in the light of this) do you speak such things to me?"
Or, are you sure you've got the right party?
Of course the word of the prophet stood (as it always does) in spite of the reaction of the young man. Saul was chosen, he was anointed, he did serve as king over Israel.
But that is by no means the end of the story.
Follow the young man, if you will, from his humble beginnings to his greatest triumphs (and there were many of them) and you will begin to notice that soon after his coronation, something happened to the lad, something terrible. For he who had slain his 'thousands' met up with something that he couldn't slay, something deep within himself that he could not overcome.
His rejection by God is one of the most moving acts in the entire drama of God.
For this was not an alien king or a pagan prince. This was a man chosen of God out from the household of God. It was God himself who had made the appointment and the prophet of God who had poured the oil of anointing on his head. It was the people of God who had hailed him as King. And it was from God that the young king had received the courage and wisdom to rule over his house.
It was also God, the very same God, who deposed him.
The story of Saul the King is not a pleasant one either to read about or to reflect upon. Most of us will hurry past this particular example. After all, are we not of the 'David' company?
What then do we have to do with Saul?
But Saul is a friend and the story of Saul is not simply the story of a young man thrust into a position of authority before he was able to handle it responsibly. No. Saul is the story of Everyman and is relevant still, especially to those of us who have had the words spoken over us and the wine poured on our heads. For Saul, like us, did not initiate the contact with his God. He was singled out. He was chosen. And he did not aspire to the throne. He was elevated to it. Further, it is a story of a man who did well (for a season) and glorified his God (for a time) but who forgot, or never understood in the first place, that power is a corrupter and applause a heady wine!
Now some maintain that God's arm was twisted a bit by the demands of Israel for a king to rule over them. But nowhere does it indicate that God could not have simply said no. No. The fact is that God chose to do what He did, and He chose the lad through whom to do it.
Saul was a chosen vessel unto his God.
And he was a chosen vessel who made all the right moves, at first. Indeed, in the beginning, the proposition did not appeal to him at all. When they came around to fetch him for the installation ceremony, they couldn't even find him. The scriptures tell us that he had hidden himself "among the stuff." (Doesn't appear as if he was exactly lusting after the position, does it?)
After he was finally located and persuaded to accept the mantle of leadership, it is also recorded that he behaved himself admirably and acquitted himself with honor, both before the people of God and against the enemies of the people of God.
It was not until later, after his first real triumph, and after he had savored the 'perks' of kingship for a season, that he found himself on the wrong side of a dispute with the same fellow (Samuel) who had anointed him to be king in the first place. This time the meeting was not so cordial nor the occasion as joyful. This time the prophet had a different message for him.
It seems our young king had been exposed to and had contracted one of the most deadly diseases of all, self-importance. Not content with playing his assigned role, that of king over Israel, he purposely and deliberately insinuated himself into the priestly office. The amazing thing was that he didn't seem to consider the event noteworthy. It was only after Samuel came and spoke to him as he did that he began to grasp the fact the he, even though he was king, still must answer to his God for his actions.
"You have done foolishly," the prophet told the king, You have not kept the commandments of your God. If you should have, the Lord would have established your kingdom upon Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue..."
I do wish I could summon a bit of outrage. The man obviously did wrong. He deserved what he got. Case closed.
But the case isn't closed, is it?
You who have been apprehended in this day, you know, don't you? All of you have been thrust onto the stage of God's doing at this present time, you are aware, aren't you? Saul was not the first nor the last 'king' to abuse his Power of Office.
The Spirit of 'pride and arrogancy' is still very much with us.
First the Blade...
The young man was not really much of a preacher, as preachers go. No fruit for the inspectors, no crowds surrounding him when he spoke, no disciples hanging on every word. What he was sure of was that he had been 'called' and that from his youth. But there did not seem to be a niche for him to fill. No one calling for his services and few interested in his views.
Perhaps it was because he never had been all that comfortable with the fire-and-brimstone approach to ministry. And not having that 'mark', could not buy or sell in the religious marketplace. Or, perhaps, it was simply that he had never said or done anything noteworthy.
At any rate, he was not highly regarded in the small congregation.
But one day, by the providence of God, he was appointed as one of four youth ministers who, at the discretion of the pastor, would speak during a special meeting of the local assembly.
In the meantime, some very startling things began to happen to the young man.
He received a pamphlet in the mail, read it, and was strangely moved by the words contained in it. Indeed, it proved to be a catalyst for an awakening in his spirit. While he didn't understanding exactly what was taking place, he was aware that, whatever it was, it was both frightening and exhilarating at the same time.
Take the bible, for instance. It did not contain the same meanings 'before' as 'afterward'. New thoughts and concepts began to form in his mind; thoughts and concepts that were not comparable with the conventional and the traditional.
Indeed, some appeared quite unorthodox and he did not feel as if he dared speak of them to any. And yet he found he could not contain them and so, finally, sought out a sympathetic ear. But the strange sounds of revelation were not standard fare, and he did not share them with just anyone.
The time finally arrived for the special meeting. Of the four who had been selected, our young man was, indeed, the ugly duckling. One of the young men was the brother of a quite famous 'healing' evangelist. Another was the son of a well-regarded, old-time minister of the gospel. The third was a paragon of virtue, a beautiful young man, an accomplished speaker, complete with lovely young bride.
The contrast was considerable.
Our young friend had no such credentials.
When the time came for him to speak, however, something happened to him. Something incredible and hard to be understood. His words were not halting or lame, as one might imagine, seeing as how he was a novice. No, indeed. There was no nervousness in his manner, nor hint of fear. It was as if someone or something was producing thoughts and presenting ideas and illustrations that he personally had no knowledge of.
The flow continued.
after an hour or so, the gruff old pastor tapped him on the shoulder
and said, "You can't preach it all in one night".
After the meeting many things occurred.
Some blessed. Some cursed. And some simply wondered.
our young friend was not a non-entity any longer.
He was taken account of.
He had been noticed.
He was not hidden 'among the stuff' any longer.
Pride is a rich man's disease.
And if King Saul made the point, King Nebuchadnezzar drove it home. I'm sure you remember him. He ruled over the kingdom of Babylon for many years. What happened to him while doing so is a fascinating and revealing story.
Unlike some who have picked a fight with God's people, he came out a winner.
Or, at least, in the short run. He came up against Judah during the reign of Jehoikim, besieged the city of Jerusalem and, eventually, prevailed against it. Having done so, he took certain of the young men of Judah back to Babylon with him. Among the which were Daniel, as well as Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego. (Does sound a bit like a rock band, doesn't it?)
But it wasn't. It was a group of youngsters, chosen from among the captives to serve the great king, Nebuchadnezzar. As it turned out, they did not fit in too well in Babylonian society. Especially did they not like the part about having to bow down to an alien god. Indeed, they refused to do so, giving us that marvelous story of the fiery furnace and of the Fourth Man who appeared to them there.
the process, our friend Nebuchadnezzar learned a bit about power
and the exercise of it, and who was really in charge of fiery
furnaces, etc. Indeed, if you listened closely to what he
had to say immediately after the experience, you might even get
the idea that he had been converted into a true believer because
of it. Just give a listen to a very shook-up monarch:
"Nebuchadnezzar, the king, unto all the people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; peace be multiplied to you. I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God has wrought toward me. How great are His signs! And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is from generation to generation."
Now I would think that quite a tribute from a fellow who, only a short time before, had set up his own 'golden image' and threatened everyone with extinction who didn't bow down to it! But sometimes (you may have noticed) a scared-into conversion lasts only as long as the scare does.
And so it was with our friend.
after his little scare (and his very eloquent speech) he was lying
on his couch when he began to experience certain strange sensations
having to do with a dream. In the dream, he saw a great
tree. Not particularly frightening in and of itself but
there must have been something very scary about the dream, at
least to the king, for the scriptures tell us that he was indeed
frightened and called for Daniel to interpret the dream for him
if he could. Well, Daniel could and he did, unlike the magician
and soothsayers of the royal court. And this be the interpretation
of the dream that Daniel gave to the great king Nebuchadnezzar:
"The tree that you saw, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the air have their habitation; it is you, oh, king, you are grown and become strong: for your greatness is grown, and reaches unto heaven, and your dominion to the end of the earth."
That's you, king. That's what your dream means. You've grown up (isn't that nice?) and you have become strong. And your greatness now reaches unto heaven itself!
to mention your dominion to the ends of the earth.
(My, my. That Daniel can interpret my dreams anytime).
almost anytime. It appears that the message continued:
There is just one small thing. Like that tree in your dream,
you're in for chopping down and "they shall drive you from
men, and your dwelling will be with the beasts of the field, and
they will make you to eat grass like an ox and they will wet you
with the dew of heaven, and seven times will pass over you, till
you know (come to understand) THAT THE MOST HIGH RULES IN THE
KINGDOM OF MEN, AND GIVES IT TO WHOMSOEVER HE WILL."
(I think I have changed my mind about hiring Daniel after all).
King Nebuchadnezzar, the strong and powerful one.
All systems are go.
You have greatness and you have dominion.
Greatness that reaches unto heaven itself.
And dominion to "the ends of the earth".
small problem. Something your advisors either didn't understand
or failed to mention to you. Something you haven't grasped
as yet, even with a of your greatness.
The Most High not only rules the heavens, but also the earth!
where power and dominion are the issues, they belong, to Him (as
the Psalmist writes), and He distributes them as He will!
As You yourself have only recently declared:
\"His (God's) kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion from generation to generation."
Perhaps you should run that tape again!
But you will understand, oh great king Nebuchadnezzar. You will know the mercies of God and His infinite grace will lead you to a place of repentance. Then your "kingdom will be sure unto you, AFTER YOU SHALL HAVE KNOWN THAT THE HEAVENS DO RULE"!
After . .
Well, a year passed, as years are wont to do, and the king kind of forgot about the dream and the interpretation of it. I say that he forgot, indeed he must have, because one day he "walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon and said, is not this great Babylon that 'I' have built for the house of 'my' kingdom, by the might of 'my' power, and for the honor of 'my' majesty?"
Oh, boy. Even I know that to be a no-no.
Sure enough, "while the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven saying, Oh, king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from you, and they shall drive you from men, etc. . until you know (come to a settled, now and forever conclusion) that the Most High rules (not only in the heavens but also) in the kingdom of men, and gives it (the dominion, the power, the authority) TO WHOMSOEVER HE WILL."
And so it was.
same hour, the judgment fell.
The great king was driven into the fields.
His body became wet with the dew of heaven.
His hair grew until it resembled the feathers of an eagle.
And his fingernails like the claws of a bird.
The days passed.
then, even as it had been spoken:
"At the end of the days, I Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored Him that lives forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His Kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He does according to His own will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, what have You done?"
the last time (don't you just love happy endings?) my reason returned
to me: and my counselors and my lords sought unto me: and I was
established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to
me. Now I, Nebuhadezzar,
praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all those works
are truth, and His ways judgment: and (I just learned this) THOSE
THAT WALK IN PRIDE HE IS ABLE TO ABASE."
"...those that walk in pride He is able to abase.."
Then the Ear...
Our young friend still did not have a following but was invited, on occasion, to speak to various groups of believers. And he still was not much of an 'ensample' to the flock, being by this time alienated from the church of his youth, as well as the wife of his youth.
But he was given favor with the pastor of a certain denominational group and did recognize that the favor was indeed 'given', seeing as how he and the pastor did not share the same doctrinal positions. Nor, of course, did the majority of the members of the group, over whose objections the pastor invited the young minister to share his pulpit with him on a certain Sunday evening.
Well, to say there was a bit of tension in the air in that certain sanctuary on that certain night, would be to understate the case. The pastor, by this time having second (and even third) thoughts as to the wisdom of inviting the young man in the first place, was under considerable strain. And, as the to young man rose to speak, the pressure on him mounted. So much so that he, seated in the front row, suddenly dropped to his knees in silent, howbeit fervent prayer.
The young minister, upon seeing this, became aware of a very fundamental problem. Which soon resolved itself into a very basic question, i.e. would he even be able to continue?
And then the strangest thing of all.
Before he could think or evaluate a proper course of action (should there be one) the young man suddenly dropped his head. But, instead of praying, began to speak loudly and clearly... "you binding spirit," he cried, "Jesus you know and Paul you know, and you know me! In the name of Jesus Christ, leave this place!"
How's that for a lead-in to a sermon?
Well, whatever it was, it worked. With a sheepish look on his face, the pastor got up off his knees and sat back down on his bench.
the young man did preach!
And the audience did react!
And strange and unusual events did accompany the preaching of the Word that night!
The effects on the fellowship were immediate. Within a month the pastor was forced to resign, with approximately one-half of the congregation leaving with him.
And, of course, the young minister who had been the catalyst for the move continued with them. They met in homes until they were able to find a more permanent place to worship. And they did prosper in their spirits, the pain of their departure mitigated by new and thrilling insights that were given them. Needless to say, they were dependent to a great extent on their new friend and advisor, who seemed to know more about what was actually happening to them than they themselves.
And so it went. Doctrines changed and new understandings were given. And, always, the young man who had been their instrument for change. After many days, and not a few difficulities, a new sanctuary was built and new alliances formed.
In the forefront, the young minister.
In counsel and convention, the young man.
Of course, the pastor was still the nominal head of the church but deferred to the young minister in matters of spiritual statecraft and revelation from the Spirit. It was a strange and exciting time for all. And especially for the young prophet who had, at last, come into his own.
was a leader!
People respected his opinion and sought his counsel!
How sweet the taste and grand the feeling!
And then . .
There was nothing unusual about that particular night. True, there was a special meeting underway and visiting ministers would be occupying the pulpit, but they had been there for some time. Besides the which, the young man himself had invited them and few would presume to question his judgement in such matters.
There were some, however, who were troubled by what one of the visiting ministers had said the night before. Coming early to church, they took their young leader aside and inquired as to his views on the matter. Of course, a leader must lead, and so the young man gave them his thoughts and offered his advices.
Seemingly satisfied, the members went on into the sanctuary to prepare themselves for the evening service.
But the young man was not satisfied. Something began to trouble him. It was the thought that he might just not have been 100% correct in his answer to the group. Did he really, deep down, 'know' that what he had told them was true?
It was all well and good to be a leader but could not one be a 'blind' leader as well? Surely a spiritual guide bore a great responsibility toward those he led. And so he thought and so he pondered and so he inquired of his God throughout the service that night. And, when the altar call was given, he knelt with the others. But they, after a season, returned to their seats. He remained. Soon it was time for dismissal, but not for the young minister. He did not stir.
Suddenly, he did. He got up from the altar but, instead of returning to his seat, proceeded out of the rear exit and into the field beyond.
When some of the members finally went to look for him, they came upon a very strange sight indeed. There in the dark, sitting on the ground, was their leader. With his hands upraised toward heaven and tears streaming down his face, he seemed to be praying. When they got closer, however, they discovered that he wasn't praying but singing softly a strange little chorus they had never heard before.
the great leader.
The Moses who had led them out of their personal Egypt.
on the ground, singing softly through his tears . .
"Oh, Lord, take me on your knee,
And teach me, Lord, of thee,
For I am but a child!"
Still Another King
I do not mean to pick on the kings, as such. It's just that they provide us with the clearest picture. They symbolize the ultimate position of power on the earth. And they are used, throughout the scriptures, to indicate and to illustrate the simple fact that the Most High is not all that keen about sharing His glory with another.
It really isn't whether a man is a king or not. It's just that a man must always keep in mind that he is 'there' (whatever position of power or authority he is privileged to occupy) by the grace of God and serves at the pleasure of the Most High, who truly does rule "in the kingdom of men, and gives it (the position of power) to whomsoever he will."
For it is only when and as a man assumes the attitude that he really is an extraordinary individual and that God is pretty fortunate to have him on his team, that the water becomes muddied and the feelings become personal.
Now you will notice that King Nebuchadnezzar did not say that the Most High ruled only in the kingdoms of Judah or Israel, but "in the kingdoms of men". He himself being the king of Babylon, certainly qualifying as one of the kingdoms of men. As was the one we read of in the New Testament.
Another time, another place, another king.
The great king who ruled in the land of Palestine immediately after the death of the Son of Man.
had a bit of trouble with him.
James had a lot of trouble with him.
But Peter was delivered out of his hands by the intervention of the angel of the Lord.
Herod did not like that very much.
But he did like the ovation he received one day when the folks from Tyre and Sidon came to pay homage to him. "And, upon a set day, Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration to them. And the people gave a shout (must have been some speech) saying, it is the voice of a god, and not of a man."
Now I do not pretend to know whether those who came to visit the great king that particular day were sincere in their tribute or not. What I do understand from the scriptures is that the effect on the king was terminal.
"Immediately, the angel of the Lord smote him, because he did not give God the glory: and he was eaten of worms and gave up the ghost."
Another time, another place, another king.
Who did not understand that the disease of 'pride-of-station' is not a 'taketwo-asprins-and-call-me-in-the-morning' kind of illness. Often, as in this case, it is fatal.
"...it is the voice of a god, and not of a man..."
Of course, it was not the first time such sentiments had been uttered, nor would it be the last. We religious types are always deifying our authority figures. We follow them into the desert. We leave our wives and/or husbands for them. We sacrifice our children to them. We bow down to them in matters of judgment. We even sell the family farm in order to purchase shares in their dream. We quite literally entrust our souls into their keeping.
For ..."it is the voice of a god, and not of a man..."
a man is a man, for all that.
Whether he be king or counselor, Sunday School teacher, prophet, pastor, or pope.
A man is a man, for all that.
Sometimes, of course, we kings and counselors, etc. tend to forget that simple fact. Sometimes we fail to appreciate the distinction between a god and a man. Sometimes the lines become blurred.
One day in Lystra, our friend Paul and his companion, Barnabas, were faced with the same temptation Herod faced, i.e. elevation to instant godhood by their admirers. The difference being, that whereas the king had only given a grand speech, they did something a bit more dramatic. They told a man who had been crippled from his mother's womb to "STAND UPRIGHT ON YOUR FEET!". . which he promptly did. . and walked . . and leaped for joy!
How's that for god-stuff?
Sure enough (as audiences sometimes will) the ones who were witness to the miracle wanted to make gods of them both. The began to cry out, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men." They even offered them god-names as Jupiter and Mercurius, and the priest brought oxen and garlands to sacrifice to them. Yep. The boys could have done quite well for themselves in that part of the country.
But Paul, thank God, wasn't having any. He and Barnabas were not comfortable with such carryings-on. Indeed, Paul, unlike Herod (and possibly most of us) became quite agitated. He and Barnabas rent their clothes, ran in among the people, and cried ..."Sirs, why do you these things? We also are men like passions with you..."
also are men..."
Not gods, but men!
Yes, Herod Agrippa, you were a king, perhaps even a great king in your own right, but you should have known better than to receive that kind of tribute:
"...it is the voice of a god, and not of a man..."
You were a man, just like the rest of us.
But we do thank you, Herod Agrippa.
You didn't die in vain.
You speak to us across the years.
And we who are always seeking 'honor of men' thank you.
Your attitude warns us.
Your example instructs us.
...After That, the Full Corn In the Ear
Our young friend had a problem. The problem was that he was a 'religious' man.
A problem he shared with thousands of his contemporaries who had been, as the scripture has it, "born under the law". As a consequence, his behavioral patterns were those established by and under that system. He had never, for instance, come to the Romans Seven experience. And, as a result, he had little or no comprehension of that 'other law' that the Apostle discovered to be at work in his members.
was familiar with the moral law, the ordinances, and the commandments
but he knew little of that which, taking occasion by that commandment,
might very well give a religious man fits. But he would learn.
And His education would continue. As he was soon to discover.
For one day, strolling peacefully down a certain street in a certain city, he heard a voice. Not an audible voice, to be sure, (or was it?) but one as clear and bringing a message to him so plain as if one standing next to him had asked for the time of day. The message was simplicity itself:
"You have come up wrong!"
Simple, straightforward, not to mention startling.
"You have come up wrong!"
Now our young friend had 'answered the call' some years before. And he had 'preached and teached' and had kept himself from the world' (or, at least, had given it his best shot). And it was not as if there was no fruit. There had been. Indeed, many called him blessed.
But, according to the voice, he still had not been properly 'brung-up' and was in for a bit of re-education.
Sure enough, within a very short time, he found himself plunged into a living nightmare. The hell that religious man fears more than any other. The one that brought our friend Paul to the very brink of despair. ."Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Yep, that one. The hell of human frailty.
The place where the hedge is removed.
And so it was. From one place to another he was driven. Moral weaknesses that he had, as the poet says, "thought were gone, served him notice that they lingered on". He felt lost. That which had served to make him 'different', i.e. his Christian character, dissolved before his very eyes.
This was being brought up right?
The years passed. The last noble (?) impulse died. He did that which he hated and was unable to accomplish that which he would.
Now, it was not as if the young man had no understanding of the grace of God.
He had. Indeed, he had not only heard of it but had received revelation concerning it. But that was then and this was now. That was when the inspired thought flowed freely and the birds sang and the sun shone. This was now, with the tongues ceasing, the prophecies failing, and the moral man being stripped of his credentials.
But, amazingly, something else was occurring. Out of death, ever so slowly, life appeared. And from the distant corridors of his soul, a faint sound. It was, as he discovered later, the first stirrings of that 'better hope' based on those 'better' promises.
Now the young man was not ignorant of the fact that he was at fault, if fault there was. Like David before him, he had made his own 'bed in hell'. Oh, he might well charge God with something, abandonment, for instance, but he knew instinctively that it would be foolish to do so. It was his lips that were doing the lying and his feet going in the 'way of the transgressor'.
He knew it would be wrong (and fruitless) to charge God.
What he didn't know, however, was that after he had done gone and done it, i.e. made his own bed in hell, that God would be with him still, even there. This he discovered, joyfully.
All in all, it was an incredible experience.
Now one might assume all sorts of things about such an experience. One assumption might very well be that the young man simply 'back-slid' due to some flaw in his character and, as a result, wound up in the pig-pen of immorality. Another, seeing as it had been, in a sense, foretold to him, might be that the experience had been designed as a form of shock therapy, an antidote to the religious nature. In that event, one would further assume that the Great Physician would know what He was about and had prescribed an appropriate remedy.
Which would surely, in the case of our young pharisee, lessen the grip of pride and self-importance. Again, surely, as painful and intense as the experience had been, the final result would be to crush the proud spirit and genuine humility would emerge.
Except that it didn't turn out to be quite that simple.
Our young friend, in spite of everything that had happened to him, remained a rich man. He had heard things that others hadn't. He had seen things that others hadn't seen. He 'had' things, valuable things, that other men did not have, and that the bottom line description of a rich man.
As for revelations, he still, in spite, of his present circumstance, thought of himself as being in a different (higher) place than others. My, my. That third heaven was (and is) such an interesting place.
And so the experience continued. There he was, in the midst of moral collapse, still a rich man, and a proud man. Of course he did not think of himself as either. He had retained the power to hide himself 'from his own flesh'.
But then it happened, again. . .
Because there was little call for his particular brand of ministry, the young man was reduced to secular employment. Finding himself working in the supply department of a certain insurance company, he also found himself supervising the work loads of his two assistants. One of the assistants was a young man who might very well be called a 'gentile' indeed, i.e. he was not in the least a religious man. He appeared to be one of those individuals who could care less about such matters as God, or whether or not there was one, etc. Indeed, he was forever recounting his sexual exploits, and his world was deduced, or so it seemed, from the variety of sensual pleasures he could extract from it.
The other assistant was older, and he did care less. Indeed, he was quite religious. In his briefcase, along with his lunch, he carried a large edition of the King James Version of the Bible. Although he was not a minister in any formal sense, he seemed to enjoy the prestige that accrues, in certain social settings, to a preacher-man.
This, you may be sure, our young friend noticed. But the Jew and the Samaritan still don't walk together and there is still a gulf fixed between the Pharisee and the Publican (at least in the mind of the Pharisee). Just so he does his work, he thought within himself.
What he couldn't know, of course, was that it was a set-up! . . This religious fellow with his cheaply made briefcase and his King James Version.
It was, indeed.
was a time bomb delivered by angels, set to go off in the face
of our young rich man. Sure enough, one day it happened
. . KA . . BLOO . . IE . . !
There were three in the office that day. Our young friend, his religious assistant, and a female employee of the company who had stopped by for supplies.
she was there, our young man engaged her in conversation, a religious
conversation, to be sure. For, although he was far from
what he thought a good Christian should be, he simply could not
refrain from talking about that which was still the most important
part of his life.
And so they talked, our young friend and the young lady. He had just finished interpreting a certain phrase found in the scriptures to the lady. But the religious fellow with the King James has been listening also, and, God help him, made the following remark......
"I don't think that is what that scripture means."
He kneweth not what he dideth.
For at that moment, the shock waves from that simple disagreement went out, washed over the mind and emotions of the young man, and all hell broke loose!
Suddenly, and without warning, his face contorted, he screamed at the man with the briefcase, "DO YOU DARE TO TEACH .. ME?"
A look of horror swept over the face of the young lady. Upon seeing that, our young friend realized instantly what had happened, and he knew it wasn't simply a display of ill-temper or evidence on his part of bad manners. No. It was the cock crowing. It was the prophet saying, "You are the man."
A terrible sadness came over him. Here we was, emotionally bankrupt, the moral ground slipping away from under his feet, and yet he was still, spiritually-speaking, a rich man, still subject to that special spirit of pride and arrogance that stalks the rich man. Indeed, it was more than simply a vulnerability. It was a giving over to, a subjection to, as if another spirit had gained access to his faculties and was able to manifest at will.
What other spirit? Not just any spirit, to be sure, but that special one.
then he remembered.
Another time and another place.
Jesus had just finished healing a man who had been blind "from his mothers womb". And the man, as one might expect, was overjoyed. His friends rejoiced with him, and his parents, everyone (it appears) except the Pharisees. They were a bit skeptical, to say the least, and began to question the act that he had been blind in the first place. Being assured by the healed man's parents that he had indeed been born blind and that something extraordinary had happened to him, they finally called for the man himself so as to examine him more closely.
They asked him exactly how it was that he could see.
He told them.
The Nazarene had gone through a certain ritual, the effects of which had somehow caused his eyes to be opened. His testimony did not set well with the Pharisees. They counseled him to give "God the glory", rather than the man Jesus, as it was evident to them that he (Jesus) was a sinner. The man answered them with that classic line, "Whether he be sinner or no, I know not, but this I know, whereas I was blind, now I see!
The words of his testimony were bad enough, seeing as how the man Jesus was in their eyes both a heretic and a sinner, but the next statement the once-blind man made was intolerable to them.
"If this man (Jesus) was not of God, he could do nothing."
That was simply too much. A testimony is one thing, but attempting to instruct the instructors is something else again. The theological field was theirs, and theirs alone. Scornfully, "They answered and said to him, you were altogether born in sins, and do you (dare to) teach us?"
That particular spirit.
The same insolent manner. The identical attitude. Almost the same, exact words.
"Do you (dare or presume to) teach us?"
And so our friend discovered the hard way that the Spirit of the Pharisee is still very much alive and well and still manifesting on the earth plane.
We Three Kings
Saul, the great king and chosen of God, who didn't understand that being chosen of God does not immunize one from the effects of the disease.
"...but now your kingdom shall not continue..."
Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, who did not know that pride and self-importance would not be tolerated, even in the "kingdom of men". And he who sets himself against the Great God of Heaven will be called to account, whether he be friend or foe, Israelite or Babylonian. Until all the earth comes to understand that "the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it (the kingdom) to whomsoever He will."
Nebuchadnezzar ... judged, chastened, restored.
And Herod Agrippa, who was careful to cultivate the Jews, but who failed to consider the God of the Jews. And His attitude toward earthly kings whose favorite pronouns were I and 'my'.
The decree: Lights out for Herod Agrippa.
lost his kingdom.
One lost his kingdom but was restored, after he got the message.
One lost his life.
Sometimes the treatment is radical, often requires surgery, always it is a process. But, by the grace of God and increased knowledge, the disease can be arrested and the cancer cured.
There was a time it was not so. There was a time when you got it, you'd had it.
Set your house in order, make sure you left the silver to Aunt Ida, and close the blinds. Thank God and research, it isn't that way any longer.
The one pre-requisite, catch it in time. Examine yourself. Note any suspicious lumps or unexplained weaknesses. And, for God's sake and your own, if you find that you just may have contracted the dread disease, immediately (if not sooner) place yourself in the hands of Someone who knows what they're about.
It is not mandatory that we catch up with this killer. And it isn't as if medical science has progressed to this certain point and/or the skills of the physicians have increased all that much. No. It is simply that knowledge has increased. He who controls the flow of human understanding, whether secular or spiritual, has turned the valve to the on-position.
It is that simple.
And so it is with we who follow after. It is not written in stone that we of this generation will overcome that which has, heretofore, overcome us. It is not that we have come to some golden age, wherein all of the mysteries have been opened to us and last-word revelation burst upon us. No. We take too much on ourselves if we think so. No. We are simply come to a place, by the grace of God, that understanding has been delivered to us.
It is the time. It is the season.
It is not as if we have accomplished some great thing that no one else has ever accomplished. It is not as if we are a special breed of cat, a kind of spiritual superrace.
No! No! No!
we persist in the thinking of such thoughts, we will all die like
But there is a cure.
Thank God, there is a cure.
By The Grace Of God
"...other foundation can no man lay..."
Someone has said that every revival begins in Romans. I cannot speak for everyone, but I am aware of the one which is continually going on in me. And, as far as I am concerned, the man was right. The moment I fail to remember that this great salvation has been ministered to me "by grace through faith", I take a tumble. I begin to fret and stew and to think of all of those things I 'oughta' do, and to condemn myself for all of those other things that I do that I 'oughta' not do.
I get back on the treadmill of religion!
But when Paul whispers to me or Martin Luther raises up again in my thoughts, I revive. My arms that have withered, my head that has drooped, my feeble knees receive new strength. It is all right again between me and He "with whom my soul has to do".
"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" is a question David poses in the 11th Psalm. The answer is simple:
Build them again!
Grab the shovels, create new forms, and order the concrete! For this house cannot be built, I repeat, this house cannot be built on any other foundation. Whether you live near the sea or in the deepest valley or on the highest of mountains, YOU CAN'T GET 'THERE' FROM 'HERE' EXCEPT BY THE GRACE OF GOD.
But it is the first principle to be thrown overboard when the ship encounters heavy seas.
And so, you righteous, what will you do? My advice is to remember the former days. And no matter how many times the foundations have been destroyed, lay them again and again and again. Don't let any man take your crown. Don't let any contractor sell you on the idea he has a better blueprint. Don't let any supplier sell you inferior materials. For this is a structure that reaches unto heaven itself. This thing has to be solid!
It is so simple, this amazing grace of God, or was, until we religionists got our hands on it.
A matter of the Sovereignty of God.
A matter of "it is not of him that runs, but of God who shows mercy."
And of a hope sure and an inheritance certain.
Of 'unmerited' favor.
What the Baptist folk think of as Eternal Security.
Or, they held an election one day; God voted for me, and I won"!
Or, "man never climbs, but always is lifted".
A simple matter.
Or, it was.
Now it is complicated, obfuscated, not to mention expropriated by some who insist on their right to parcel it out to a deserving few, that is, as long as they remain deserving. A plague on their house (and ours) they, (or we), anyone who would turn the grace of God into a subtle form of law or legalism. From such, as soon as it is possible for you to do so, turn away!
But the foundations, because they most assuredly have been torn down, require a bit of time to be built up again. A bit of sweat, a bit of tears, a bit of time.
Experience is still the best teacher. Revelation, by itself, will not do it.
Generations of 'tutors and governors' have instilled the "touch not, taste not, handle not" of legalistic religion into our minds and into our very souls. So much so that we invariably (and instinctively) think in terms of 'doing' something (that something varies from group to group) as if there simply must be 'something' we can do for God that will result in Him being beholden to us, rather than the other way around.
We are simply not comfortable with the free gift of God!
Our young dreamer was once caught up in such a proposition. One day, out of the blue, something very strange happened to him. He was translated, by the Spirit of God, into a different dimension. For at least three days he walked and talked as he never had before. Nothing could touch him. Absolutely nothing. He was simply elevated in his spirit to another place. Peace, joy, poise, contentment. A constant and consistent awareness!
After three days, sitting in his car waiting on a sister he was picking up for a mid-week prayer service, the glory lifted. Our young friend promptly panicked and cried out to his God as he tried desperately to retain the experience.
He had waited so long for the promised 'rest' to the soul. He had hoped against hope that this experience might just signal the end to fear and doubt and uncertainty.
And now.. ?
It was as if an astronaut had been suddenly thrust back into the earths atmosphere. He became aware, again, of all the things that pulled and tugged at a man, even a believer. He was very upset and cried out...why?
Why had this heavenly feeling left him?
was then he asked the question that (sooner or later) religious
man is bound to ask and which reveals more about his basic concept
of his relationship to his God than any other:
have I done wrong?"
have I done that has displeased you, and, as a result, has provoked
you to retaliate against me?
"What have I done wrong?"
answer, when it came, was a strange one indeed.
"You've done nothing wrong".
then a question for the young man:
did you do 'right'?, i.e. what good thing did you do which resulted
in the bringing to you of this tremendous experience in the first
Well, that was a tough one. A tough question for which he did not have a good answer. Indeed, he could think of absolutely nothing he might have done that just might have put God under obligation to him. He had done nothing 'right'!
And so it was that understanding came to our young friend. The raising and lowering of his consciousness had nothing to do with personal virtue or religious act. It had, rather, to do with the Sovereign will of God! It had been given (this incredible experience) by the grace of God, and taken away by the grace of God.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!
I know that this is not familiar territory for the most of us. And, although we may have heard of it 'by the hearing of the ear', to walk and talk and live in this land is quite another matter.
Because most Of us still prefer our salvation (as the television commercial has it) the old fashioned way, we like to 'earn' it.
Simple. Earning it puts 'us' into the picture. It gives us a measure of control over the situation. To be told we have little or none takes a bit of getting used to.
pride has to do with just that .. 'us' .. the personal. The more
we inject ourselves into the redemptive process, the more ground
we give the Destroyer to stand on. The Pharisee in the temple
was convinced that his personal actions were of paramount importance
to God. 'I' do this, he said, and 'I' do that. "I
fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all I possess."
But the line that set it all up was the very first one he uttered:
"God", he said, "I thank you that I am not as other men are".
I'm so glad that I'm not as other men are, i.e. I'm different!
And it is the myth of differentness that makes us so vulnerable. For if we are indeed 'different' (make that better) it is only the next step to assume that we have somehow and in some way contributed to that 'differentness'. We simply must have done something that commended us to God.
the bush burned, we turned aside, right?
When the Master called, we answered, right?
And now that we have turned aside and answered the call, we are 'different' (make that better) than other men.
And so say all of the Pharisees, past or present.
"I thank you, God, that I am not as other men are".
But when the grace of God appears, IT IS ANOTHER MATTER! I would to God that all men could understand that simple fact. God, who had suffered through millenniums of half-hearted attempts by man to do His holy will and accomplish His good purposes in the earth finally concluded that if He wanted it done right, He was going to have to do it Himself. In the writings of the prophet Isaiah, He speaks of that day: "And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation to me..."
Now it wasn't that He didn't look for someone to help. He did. Someone to stand beside Him. Surely there were prophets, and to spare. And wise men and seers . .
Perhaps you will not be able to recognize and to appreciate the sadness inherent in that simple phrase, "and I wondered that there was none to uphold".
Until you make the trip yourself. Until you, too, look around and about, and then, finally, inside yourself. Into the highways and byways of your own mind. Until you are given the power to probe and to push and to prod, and to examine your own secret desires and hidden motives. Perhaps you will then discover what God has already discovered, that there really is none to uphold, "none that does good".
And you and I are not the exception to the rule.
None that (truly) seek after God. No hero without his weakness. No idol without his feet of clay.
It is a discovery that will make you very sad. And it is a sadness that will remain with you throughout your entire journey. Especially will it be with you as YOU are forced, again and again, to return to that 'fountain' that was once opened in the "house of David" for sin (yours) and uncleanness (yours). It is a profound sadness, one that is always saying, "Oh, God, I am so sorry that I was not there when You looked for someone to stand with you. My heart breaks that there was not found in me virtue and strength and courage sufficient."
But there wasn't, and there isn't! For God's sake, hear it! No need to revise the old text. No use instituting a new search. There wasn't and there isn't a man to fit God's bill. Indeed, He has discontinued the search long ago. He no longer even wonders. For His Own Arm has, indeed, brought salvation to Him. And to you and to me, and to every man who dwells on the face of the earth!
But, you say, there must be something I can do. Some duty I can perform Some re-payment schedule I can adhere to. No, my friends, the grace of God says no.
is nothing. This is not the old covenant, but the new one.
This is not one that demands, but one that gives. As it
is written . .
"The gift of God is Eternal Life."
Oh, we may speak of faith (and we do) but faith is not something that a man has (as of himself) and then gives to God in exchange for salvation. No. Faith is, rather, a gift that God gives to man and then receives back from him. "What do you have that you have not received?"
Where, exactly, did we get the idea that we have something valuable (of our own) that we may use in barter with God? No. Such thoughts are vain. "Blessing, I will bless you" is not a conditional covenant, however much we may treat it as such.
No. It is absurd to boast, obscene to brag, folly to trust in one's self. But he who is dominated by the Spirit of the Pharisee does all three. Unless and until the grace of God really 'appears' to us, we will never be able to abandon ourselves and release ourselves into the hands of that One who works all (al-l) things after the counsel "of His own will".
Unless and until that occurs, we will never be able to enter into that 'rest of faith', but will continue to wish and to want, to fuss and to fret, pray and/or demand indeed . . everything but trust.
But the grace of God that has 'appeared to all men' has been comprehended by some and will be by many. Only then will we be able to escape the curse of thinking 'more highly' of ourselves than we ought. Only then will we really know that 'ourselves' had little or nothing to do with the obtaining of a salvation so high and so holy that it could never come to us except as the result of a sovereign act of the Most High God.
And what shall we "render unto the Lord" for such an unspeakable benefit as this?
Oh, I know how we are always pestering God to set up some sort of payback, but it is foolish and useless to do so. So great a salvation can not be purchased by gold or silver, nor by sweat, blood, and tears!
can be accepted, enjoyed, rejoiced in, but never purchased!
But "What shall I render unto the Lord?" as our friend David puts it. Well, you might simply (as David was finally forced to do) "take the cup of salvation" from the hands of your God. But that kind of acceptance is alien to the religious man. It is simply. . . too simple.
As for recompense, forget it, Jack! There is nothing going on in you that is not God-planted, God-watered, God-harvested. Then why in the name of heaven do we pretend otherwise?
"For by grace are you saved through faith; and (even) that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
And so it is that understanding does save us. It does mitigate, it does antibody the poison of self-conceit. Oh, I know it is a bitter pill but we can swallow it. The old covenant can be disannulled and the new one ratified, and when it is, God will have infiltrated the soul, undercut the human ego, and undermined the confidence that one is always tempted to have in oneself.
A Thorn In The Flesh
There was never a man in the history of the planet as gifted as this one. He was the hand-picked successor to the Son himself. It was if the Ascended One understood that all of the pretty words and extraordinary events of his short ministry would never be more than a blip on the radar screen of life, except that someone come after him and establish his credentials. Oh, people knew him as a great teacher and gifted orator. And, yes, He was a miracleworker, there was no doubt of that. Just ask the once-blind man or the lady who used to have an issue of blood.
But all of those things had to do with the temporary, the expedient, with time itself. When and as the effects faded, what then? Other people would be born blind. Other women would be afflicted as the one who touched his garment that wondrous day had been.
Who would stop their issue of blood?
What's it all about, Alfie?
Are we dealing with time only or more than that?
When His last follower has died and His name is only a footnote in the pages of history, what then?
What's it all about, Paul?
And so it was that the amazing grace of God covered a man named Saul of Tarsus, who became known to us as the apostle, Paul. He was chosen to go forth and to bring forth. And so he did, and we are all the better for it. He, more than any other, gave us 'the rest of the story' as our friend Mr. Harvey put it.
explained. He placed in context. He interpreted, he
wrote concerning. He explored the whys and the wherefores.
He also, in the process, got a
bit carried away with his own importance!
One day something latched onto him. And, unlike the viper that had fastened itself to his hand on the island of Melita, this something wouldn't let go.
The harder he shook, the tighter the grip. Finally, he recognized the fact that he simply couldn't handle the situation by himself. And so he went directly to the One who had never failed him, God himself. He knelt down, he humbled himself, he made petition.
When he got up off of his knees, however, the problem remained with him. And so down he went again. This time he got serious. God, he said, this is really bugging me, and I just know that you wouldn't want your main man bothered like this. Please, God, take this thing away!
Once more he hit the deck. With increased urgency, he sought relief. With the same results. Nothing.
It was only later that he revealed (to the Corinthians) exactly what had transpired between himself and his God during that very critical period of his life.
No. God didn't give me the relief that I sought from him but He did give me understanding. And that, after all, was what I really needed. He made me to know that the personal 'I' was fickle, unreliable, and, above all else, desirous of vainglory.
"For though I would desire to glory..."
And, on the surface, at least, much to glory in. He really could have laid his contemporaries in the shade. After all, it was he (and not they) who had taken that tour of the spiritual dimension he called the Third Heaven. And it was he who had been entrusted with the message of the incredible grace of God and the efficacy of the cross of Christ.
Trot out your wisdom, Paul! Display for us your deep understanding of things spiritual. Surely such an exercise would stop the mouth of those who oppose you and those so-called apostles who insist on troubling those precious little ones you have birthed in the Lord. Indeed, why don't you do that, friend Paul?
answer? "For though I would desire to glory, I will
not be a fool"!
"...I will not be a fool..."
Because I have learned not to be. And that was what the entire episode I have recounted to you was all about. I had a problem. Oh, I didn't know that I had a problem. But I did.
Self-exaltation! Pride! Vainglory!
'And lest I be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure."
He (God) didn't give me relief but he did give me understanding.
And what about all of that pain
and suffering caused by that 'messenger Satan'
and the weakness it brought to you? Well, He (God) had an answer
for that. And it was...
"My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in weakness".
"My strength is made perfect in (your) weakness".
Now it was not all that evident that the Apostle was vulnerable in the area of spiritual pride. Indeed, even the most careful examiner might have missed the signs. He had downgraded his own accomplishments at times (or certainly appeared to). And made the distinction on more than one occasion between what he might have to say on a subject and what God might say on the same subject.
Little to indicate that Paul just might be a bit full of 'himself' and think a bit of 'himself' than he ought.
And he did.
so the Great Physician made a house call. He diagnosed the illness
and prescribed the treatment:
Haughtiness. Pride in yourself and your accomplishments.
what wrong with you, Paul. And you need help immediately.
And so, by the grace of God, help was given and something was done about his spiritual condition. Something that was absolutely necessary. Something that provided the antidote to that proud Spirit which was attempting to invade him and to destroy him and his effectiveness as a servant of the Most High.
The old 'thorn in the flesh' treatment. In some cases, as in our friend Paul's, was very effective.
Of course, this Physician, unlike some, took the patient into His confidence.
You see this little blue pill, Paul? Well, when it mixes with the acid in your stomach, a chemical reaction occurs, certain metabolic changes result, etc.
And the patient, in this case our friend Paul, saw and understood, and although it was a bitter pill for him to swallow, he did swallow it. Indeed, the more he came to understand the process, the more eager he was to continue the treatment. the basic understanding, of course, being that "My strength is made perfect in (your) weakness". For in the spiritual dimension, the polarities are reversed. Unlike Mr. Darwin's theory concerning the life forms on earth, in the spiritual place, it is the 'weak' who survive, and not the 'strong'!
When you bound up up on that platform, and exude all of that charisma, power and might coming out of every pore, you really do have something going for you...on the earth, that is. But, in the heavens, well, let us just say that your performance leaves a lot to be desired.
Oh, not that many will know the difference, but I will, and I still hate the 'proud look', and the woe pronounced on the 'crown of pride' is still in effect.
Our friend accepted the diagnosis and undertook the cure. Once he grasped the principle involved, willingly, and even joyfully. His basic attitude was simply that if that's what it takes, Lord, pour it on. Now that I understand that this 'messenger of Satan' is really doing Your work, I freely acknowledge my vulnerabilities and accept the fact that I do need help...badly. If Your strength is made perfect in my weakness, then make me weak. Send those things and circumstances to me that will insure that I remain weak.
"Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake; for (as I am now made to know) when I (in the flesh) am weak, then I (in the Spirit) am strong"!
is not a small thing to recognize the principle and glory in the
The 'thorn in the flesh' is the perfect treatment for many.
I Am A
".....if we confess our sins....."
A very effective treatment, when properly administered.
Some time ago our young friend (not so young anymore) became aware that the Spirit of the Pharisee, in spite of everything that he had done, and everything that had been done to him, was still very much with him. And, although we speak of cures, surely the first step is to bind that very, strong man. Surely that is the first step that must be taken. Only then, after the initial steps, and after treatment is agreed upon and entered into, and positive results are obtained, there is another stage that is essential. And it is that of the follow-up.
The young lady who has had her breast removed as a radical but necessary first step, is still required to report back to her physician at regular intervals. He then does the appropriate testings, after which he makes a contemporary evaluation. Sometimes the decision is made to re-introduce the patient to radium treatment, chemotherapy, or, in the severest of cases, additional surgery is called for.
the spiritual place, it is much the same. When the tests
are run, further treatment may be indicated. Again, take
our not-so-young friend. When the results of the follow-up
tests were all in, it was discovered that the marks of the Pharisee
were still very much on him, both in his attitude and in his actions.
And so the following further treatment was prescribed:
"Confess your obvious sin. Say to the congregation, I am a Pharisee."
I AM A PHARISEE!
Of course, they're only words but, for all that, words that I would suppose most of us would just as soon not utter before the groups we minister to. But he did, reluctantly at first, and then, when the realization came to him that it wasn't simply a gimmick the Doctor had come up with, more freely and without shame. After all, he was just telling it like it was.
He really was a Pharisee.
The power of confession lies not in the words themselves but in that simple realization. It is the gut-level reaction to that which the Holy Spirit has made obvious to you. So obvious, indeed, so plain, beyond any thought of denial or hope of refutation. Then, and only then, are we able to move on, not only to forgiveness of ourselves (which is a given to the grace child) but to cleansing, as well "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
It is the cleansing we seek and confession is not only a powerful therapy but an effective cleansing agent, as well.
Now one might suppose that the confession (I am a Pharisee) is a bit much and that a more moderate phrasing might be more appropriate. How about, "I used to be a Pharisee, but God has miraculously delivered me out from the hands of pride?" Makes sense, when you think about it. You didn't see any of the blind men that Jesus healed while He was on the earth running around confessing that they were still blind. Right? To the contrary, they made a very strong and effective declaration, namely that they 'once were blind, but now I see, thanks to the man from Galilee'!
Yes, I would tend to agree with you. Except that was not what the Doctor ordered in this particular case. He told the patient to say to the people, "I am a Pharisee". Period. Exclamation mark. Present tense. At this time, I am a Pharisee.
It was only later that he understood why. Later when a correlation was given him between what he was experiencing and what the man or woman who joins Alcoholics Anonymous experiences. It was then that he remembered that a recovering alcoholic was never allowed (at the meetings) to speak of his recovery as being in the past tense, i.e. he or she was never allowed to say that they 'used' to be an alcoholic but ...
That was not the drill. What they were required to say was,
"Hi, I'm Bill, and I AM an alcoholic."
He now understood why the group leadership insisted on that simple statement.
Instead of one that might appear to more accurate, namely, "Hi, I'm Bill, and I used to be an alcoholic but I'm not any longer, and haven't had a drink in two years."
It was, quite simply, a reminder.
A way of saying that there really wasn't any 'cure' for alcoholism, Bill, especially yours. Because you, Bill, are not like other men. They can drink in moderation. You can't. They can do the social number. You can't. There is something about you that is different. You are vulnerable in a way that they aren't. And you will never be free, completely free of that vulnerability of yours. That is why you are still an alcoholic, even if you never touch a drop the rest of your life.
I'm Bill, and I'm an alcoholic."
"Hi, I'm Bill, and I am a Pharisee."
Yes, I am vulnerable. if someone pats me on the back or laughs at my jokes, or (God help me) cries out, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" something happens inside of me. I begin to feel as if I, at long last, have received the recognition that I so richly deserve.
Or when I speak by the Spirit, and the room is hushed, and they begin to say, "Never a man spoke like this man", oh, my, that really is a wipe-out.
I am vulnerable.
It isn't nearly enough for me to demur with words.
"Aw, shucks! Gee wiz, folks, that really isn't me adoin' all that good stuff. It's really the Spirit of God in operation, etc., etc., Most of the time, it is simply an attempt to garner even more respect, admiration, adulation, ala Johnny Carson, whose right hand is raised in an overt attempt to quell the applause while his left hand, out of camera range, is coaxing even more.
I am vulnerable.
I am a Pharisee.
I love to be 'seen of men'.
I enjoy, indeed, revel in recognition.
I receive all of the honor I can get ... from men.
I am a Pharisee.
An Auxiliary Effect
Confession has an auxiliary
It deprives the Accuser of the power to blackmail the entity.
Most of us are 'good' (appear righteous before men) because if we are not, painful exposure might very well result. Even we who have rubbed shoulders with the grace of God, would rather our neighbor didn't happen over at certain times. We say we don't feel that our God condemns us but we are afraid our neighbor might. And, as a result, we have learned to disseminate, and to hide, and to speak the lie that is not quite a lie, all in the name of discretion.
"Let not your good be evil spoken of" is not such a big thing with us. We don't even want our 'evil' spoken evil of.
And there is a good reason for this.
It is the same one our friend in the seventh chapter of Joshua had. Achan, old buddy, why is it that you don't openly display that goodly Babylonish garment you've glommed onto? And that silver, and how about that beautiful (and quite valuable) wedge of gold? Why, any man would be proud of such possessions, Achan. So how come you've hidden them away, in the earth, in the midst of your tent?
What was that, Achan?
Oh. Oh, I see.
In order to obtain them, you did that which was against the law! Well, that is different. That surely is different. Under the circumstances, I reckon I can't blame you for being so secretive.
Indeed, if one reads the entire account of Achan and his wedge of gold, etc., one finds that Achan had an excellent reason for hiding his treasures in the earth in the midst of his tent. What he had done was verbotten, against the ordinance, absolutely contrary to explicit instructions he had received.
And that does, indeed, make a difference.
But what about a fellow who is not under such prohibitions, but still ducks and dodges, twists and turns. Still scurries about in the dark, still obsessed with hiding things from other's view?
What about a believer who lives this side of the cross of Christ, but who deports himself as if the event never took place?
Now that is a sad, sad thing. But it is a sad, sad thing that is occurring everyday and in practically everyone's life. Almost two thousand years after the event, Christ is still "dead in vain" to the vast majority of the church world.
It may be well for us to consider such a fellow. Such a fellow as still hides his Babylonish garment, his two hundred shekels of silver, and his wedge of gold, long after the prohibition against owning such things has been repealed.
Unless you are of the opinion that there is something inherently evil in the wearing apparel of the Babylonians (immodest, perhaps?) or that gold and silver are base metals, your reaction would be illogical, to say the least.
I think dumb is the word I'm reaching for.
Not that any of us are very smart, when you come right down to it.
We all do it.
And, because we do, there is still the grounds for mental and emotional blackmail. We still fear that someone is going to sneak into our tent some dark night and discover our terrible secret. Such fears keep us in bondage to hypocrisy.
So, why don't we dig it up ourselves?
Why not confront our accuser?
Why not simply say, "Yes, I have this fine garment. I also have some silver, and this wedge of gold. Now, you may not think I have any business with Babylonish garments, etc. and that I should be punished in some way for possessing them. But (and this you may not be aware of) the particular 'carnal commandment' that once prohibited such possessions, has been repealed long ago. That being the case, I find I must refuse to be intimidated any longer by what you may think about it."
Prohibition being repealed, I will no longer visit the speakeasy or do my tippling behind closed doors.
happen to enjoy a snort every once in a while.
I don't mind at all that you don't.
Indeed, I rejoice with you.
But please understand and bear with me in my folly (an occasional drink) and I will bear with you in yours (an occasional lapse into self-righteousness).
My wife tells the story of a lady who gave one of the best retorts ever to the guilt trip her husband was trying to send her on. "You are simply not trying," he said to her. "You won't cooperate with me. You drag your feet always and make it twice as hard on me as it should be. You're simply not trying."
the charge had been leveled, and duly noted by his wife, she slowly
turned, looked up at her husband, and sweetly replied,
"So . . oo . . oo?"
There is a place reserved for each of us wherein accusations may be handled as effectively as that, whether they come from outside (friends, husbands, wives, brethren) or from inside (where, in most of us, the Accuser has set up shop). So - - oo - - oo?
Now there never was an ordinance against love, against sweetness and light, and all that good stuff.
But what about that deep, dark secret? That unrevealed sin? Ah, yes. It is that we seek to hide. But from whom?
From the One who knows all there ever will be to know about each of us? That One who never slumbers nor sleeps? And can see around corners, and into tents?
The Omnipresent One?
Maybe you should read that story about our friend Achan again. Out of millions of people, out of thousands of families, and then out of the many men of the same household, guess what?
You got it!
"Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken."
He was not only taken, he was over-taken, by the same Fellow you and I have to do with.
You don't really suppose that we have anything going on that He doesn't know about, do you? That being the case, why do that hide-it-in-the-earth-inthe-midst-of-our-tent number in the first place? Why not admit that we are what we are by the grace of God, are indeed human, and have certain weaknesses and assorted frailties?
Now I know it is such a drag, being human, and I know how much time and effort we have put into trying not to be, but, like it or lump it, we are! Even the treasure we do have, we have in an 'earthern vessel'. If you happen to know anything at all about pottery, you will also know how fragile an earthen vessel can be.
Or, perhaps we seek to hide from our neighbor?
Do we not yet understand that everyone who comes must come through the gate?
Where the bells go off, and the sirens wail, and the gendarmes come running?
There is absolutely nothing that will not be uncovered, nothing hidden that will not be revealed.
Honestly, sometimes we act as if this great salvation is in the hands of men, rather than God. It isn't, you know.
And then there is the piece de resistance (or something). What one might call the quintessential hiding place, the deepest hole in the center of the most isolated tent in the darkest night, i.e. hiding it inside ourselves. Still attempting to hide ourselves from 'our own flesh'.
does, indeed, present a problem.
A problem we will continually face as we struggle to come up 'some other way'.
And seek a reconciliation between that most holy law of God and this most unholy flesh of ours.
Unable to admit even that which is obvious to everyone else. Not willing (or able) to drop the fig leaf.
Please. Come to the seventh chapter of Romans with me. It seems that so few of us are able (or even willing) to settle for that one-foot-in-heaven, onefoot-in-hell experience that our friend speaks of there.
But we, like Paul, must do so. We are forced into it. We simply cannot long abide the torment generated by the religious exercise. We must, simply must, escape the "body of this death".
Paul did. Finally and at long last, Paul did. Through understanding and by revelation, the grace of God which came "by Jesus Christ" came to him. The tug-of-war was over, the mental anguish gone. And he entered the ranks of the 'blessed', as in "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom THE LORD WILL NOT IMPUTE SIN"!
understanding! Some revelation! Little wonder the
chapter ends with . .
"I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord who may have failed to make me perfect 'after the flesh' but who HAS made me perfect 'in the mind'.
Or, man, that's what the grace of God is all about anyway!
The 'outward appearance' jazz is our number, not His.
He's into freedom.
"For the son of Man came not into the world to condemn the world" . . but to give to those in it the intestinal fortitude to say to all, defiantly, if necessary, "if I have a wart, paint me wart and all!
I have a withered arm, (God helping me) I will not hide it any
longer in the folds of my robe, but will stretch it forth for
all to see.
I will go 'naked' in the world.
I will, with open face, behold my God, my neighbor, and myself.
I will dig up my own wedge of gold, wear my own Babylonish garment, and spend those shekels of silver myself.
I will reveal my own secrets and uncover my own sins.
welcome to my tent!
Dig up what you will!
you discover something that I haven't, God bless you, and thank
I DO NOT INTEND TO LEAVE ANY PLACE FOR THE ACCUSER TO STAND."
Confession has an auxiliary effect and full disclosure is a virtue.
"For there is no respect of persons with God."
The disease is deadly. There is no simple, work-every-time pill that one can take. No miracle drug. And because the disease is deadly, and the recovery from it so difficult, drastic measures are sometimes called for. Sometimes the breast cannot be saved, but the woman can, etc. And so we are forced, on occasion, to look at that which we would not ordinarily look at, were it not for the desperate seriousness of the situation. The following revelation may well fall into that category, the category of 'hard sayings' and difficult choices.
One of the most puzzling aspects of the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth and the Pharisees was the extraordinary amount of animosity that was generated between them. Of course, the Jews were a volatile people, especially when it came to their religion, but shouting and shoving, and consigning each other to the pit, simply because they didn't see eye to eye on the scriptures? Not to mention a bit of scourging and stone throwing added for emphasis?
Oh, yeah, the Pharisees said, we know he is a smooth talker, and that he is reputed to have cast out a few devils, etc. But you don't see any of us folks 'in the know' following after him, do you? That's because we know enough about the law and the ordinances of our God not to be swept off our feet by the first religious 'rabble-rouser' to walk down the streets of Jerusalem. Indeed, if you folks knew a little more about the history of our beloved city, you might not be so easily swayed either. Does the name Theudas mean anything to you? And how about Judas of Galilee? They also rose up, and boasted great things, just like this Jesus character is doing. But they didn't last very long, and neither will he. As for his magic show, of course he can do such things, seeing as how the devils are cooperating with him.
It's simple. He is one of them.
Jesus, on the other hand, reckoned as how he knew why they (the Pharisees) did not recognize Him and receive Him as coming forth from God. You don't even know the Gentleman in question, He told them, and never did. Indeed, you are not the children of God at all, but the "children of the devil."
Even the Baptist folk don't talk that way about the Catholic folk anymore, and vice versa.
No. There must have been more to it than a simple disagreement over the interpretation of certain scriptures. And there was more to it. Much more.
That 'much more' having to do with 'person', as in "there is no respect of persons with God."
But person isn't a simple matter to deal with. It goes far beyond the traditional understanding or meaning, i.e. that God was simply saying that He didn't deal with a man according to whether he was rich or poor or held some high position in life or dug ditches for his living.
And I must confess that few have fully explored the subject with us or explained it thoroughly to us, up to and including the son of Man himself. The dictionary does what it can, and the philosopher is always in there pitching, but it does not appear to be that simple. Indeed, even our own experience of selfhood or 'personhood' is confusing to the most of us.
Not that there haven't been a long line of distinguished (and otherwise) explainers. There have been. Dr. Freud says that we are pretty complicated, us homo sapiens, but did what he could to discover our component parts. Val, de vay I see it, das ist de id, de ego, und de super ego. Which means something, I'm sure, to someone. And our good friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, labored and brought forth a concept that some of us find more palatable. He imagined us all as individual expressions of what he called the Oversoul (a philosophers term for what we religious types call God). Further, he tells us that we are connected to that Entity whether we are aware of it or not.
The Bible doesn't do much better. It rambles on about this and that aspect of our personality, separating that which is 'good' from that which is 'bad', all the time forgetting or remembering . . whichever seems appropriate at the time . . one of it's own concepts, i.e. that we are all made in the 'image of God'.
All of us?
If not totally, then which part of us? If the body is, in most cases, destined to be returned to the earth, and the spirit (whatever that may be) is going back to 'God who gave it', than what about that other part of us we keep hearing so much about, the soul? Did it get lost somewhere in the shuffle? Are we or are we not triune beings, even as our God is purported to be?
You're right. There is, generally speaking, more heat than light in such discussions. But there is something. You might call it a basic. A basic which has very much to do with our subject matter.
When we say that pride has to do with 'person', it isn't a dark saying. It is simply a recognition of the fact that none of us would ever be bothered with feelings of pride or self-importance were it not that we have all become conscious of ourselves as person. Just as there would be no cancer for us to concern ourselves with except for the fact of the physical body.
But now we say, "I am an individual. I am a person."
In the dictionary, the definition of 'person' is very revealing. Along with the standard and traditional meaning, "a human being, a particular individual, a human being as distinguished from things or animals", there is another one that comes much closer to explaining just what was going on between the man, Jesus, and the Pharisees. And it is that 'person' is the mask that an entity hides behind.
. . mask (used by actors).
Persona . . person, the characters of a novel or play.
When we understand that Jesus refused to deal with the mask of person and insisted on dealing with that entity which was behind the mask of person, then (and only then) will we be able to understand what the conflict was all about.
Not only with the Pharisees, but with others as well.
Beneath the surface 'person', behind the mask, there was an entity that was always and in every place set against the will and purpose of God in the earth. Jesus was given to see that 'entity' and dealt with the Pharisees accordingly. They (the Pharisees) would and could not see, did not make the distinction that He made, and dealt with Him (Jesus) on the basis of that which appeared on the surface, that which emerged as person or personality. Not given to see the other, that 'on the surface' person was all that was important to them.
In a play, or course, we are all familiar with the premise.
We know, for instance, that the players (actors) must subordinate themselves (their own personalities) to the characterizations that are assigned them. A highly moral woman may seek to convince you that she is the shadiest of ladies; a trollop (in real life) may make an excellent Joan of Arc on the stage.
is the art of the player to produce the illusion.
But the part is not them! It is role-playing, it is acting-as-if.
George C. Scott, acting-as-if he was a famous general in World War II. What a performance! How creative, how believable! But George C. Scott was not a military man. He did not even sympathize with many of the views expressed by him in the movie. But he hid himself, as every good actor must, behind the mask (or person) of General Patton.
Jesus was simply saying that although you Pharisees 'appear' to have it all together, and act-as-if you are a very dedicated and sincere group of people, whose sole aim and purpose is to glorify your God and promote His interests in the earth, you're really not! What you are is a group of very good actors, engaged in role-playing!
But behind the mask of person, you are quite different than you appear to be, and I am come to deal with people as they 'are' and not as they appear to be. That is why neither I nor my Father have any respect for any man's 'person', including yours. I (and He) see them (and you) sans make-up, sans costume, sans props. Viewing you from that perspective, it is apparent to me that you are all hypocrites! That is why the gifts you bring are tainted and your works do not appear before God.
When Jesus waxed eloquent against the Pharisees, as He was wont to do, it is apparent that He did so from that unique vantage point. That is, He was able to see that which was not visible to others. In that sense, it was not the individual Pharisee, no more than it was His friend Peter, ("Get thee behind me, Satan") that He was angry with. No, it was not the individual but the 'spirit' that had captured them and now operated out from their bodies.
It was as if an enemy soldier had obtained the proper uniform and, using forged papers, had infiltrated the allied lines. He would, of course, still be an enemy solider. And his intent and purpose would certainly be to do harm to the allied cause. And, also of course, he would be effective only as long as he remained undetected.
That was essentially what Jesus found in the Pharisee, i.e. an enemy of the will and purpose of his Father, but an enemy well concealed behind an elaborate facade of appropriate actings-as-if. The facade or mask behind which that enemy soldier hid himself was the 'person' of the Pharisee.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because there is a discrepancy between that which you 'appear' to be and that which you 'are'. You are an outward oriented people. That was the charge, the basic charge, repeated over and over again. In first this context and then in the other. You pass your judgments, you bless and you curse, you give out your honors and assess your blame according to the "seeing of the eye and the hearing of the ear".
What I am come to explain to you is this, that way of doing God's business is no longer acceptable!
From now on (because I am come) he that enters into judgment must do so properly, i.e. according to the new and better way that has now been opened. Simply put, that new and better way is God's way. He that judges must be able to render a true verdict and a righteous (as God sees it) judgment. The only way he can do that, obviously, is to possess the ability to see as God sees, i.e. beneath the surface of things as they appear to be.
In imposing this new and terrifying method of evaluating both people and circumstances, Jesus exposed the Pharisee. In lifting the mask of 'person', He brought to light that which was before times hidden, which was the world of thought and idea and purpose and motivation. For the very first time, man was confronted with a God who demanded more, much more, than he could deliver.
just bring your tithes, come with the proper attitude!
Don't just speak the words with your mouth, but mean them from your heart!
Don't just abstain from committing adultery, but be you also cleansed from the spirit of lust!
Little wonder that some closed their ears and beseeched Him not to speak to them any longer. It's still too much for the most of us. We who keep insisting that the scriptures 'mean what they say and say what they mean' continue to close our ears to He who speaks 'from the heavens'.
But we must come to understanding!
There really is a world of spirit. There really is a place where the judgments rendered are God's, and not man's. It is a different place than most of us live in.
And we who are still insisting on a normal, traditional presentation of the God of Jacob continue to miss the mark. A normal, reasoned judgment concerning the Pharisee of Jesus's time would not have been nearly as harsh as His was.
There was simply no way you could have come up with the characterization, "children of the devil". That Jesus did so was the result of Him being able to see further than others could. He simply refused to be taken in by the 'person' of the Pharisee, i.e. the religious mask they wore.
When He told the rich man that he didn't give as much in the offering that day as the widow with her two mites did, that was simply not a judgment one would make on the earth plane, with the possible exception of one who had flunked third grade arithmetic. No. Jesus was looking at a 'higher' law than the people on the earth were able to see.
Although it is said that grace "came by Jesus Christ", it is apparent that it was not something that He brought with Him, but rather something that came to the people of the earth as a result of His having been here. Indeed, in more ways than one, He was the greatest Law-giver of them all. He brought a law so high and so holy that it superseded and invalidated any and all of the laws that had been before Him. And, although the prophets who had come before Him were forerunners of the new system, inasmuch as they made their predications and based their declarations on what had been delivered into their hand by the Spirit, Jesus was the first to bluntly state, "My kingdom is not of this world"!
His Kingdom not being of this world, His judgments also were not 'of this world'. They did not conform to the wisdom of the world and they were not those one might find written down in the world. No Jewish 'book of the common law' could set precedent for Him.
Looking at that which was invisible, He made His pronouncements in correlation with that invisible, or spiritual law. Little wonder that no one understood Him, including His disciples, unless and until they were able to 'see' the same things that He 'saw'. When He accused Peter of allowing his body to be used by the arch enemy, Satan, He was simply rendering a judgment on, the basis of what it was given Him to see.
I see you, He was saying, behind the honeyed words of my disciple, I see you!
What seems, on the surface, to be an understandable and commendable concern for my personal safety is, in reality, (the reality that I live I in) an attempt on your part to thwart the purpose of my Father in me and in my life. BUT I SEE YOU!
one can walk with God who is a spirit, unless he walks 'in the
And that is not the world of appearance.
That is not the world of the outer.
It is not the world of reason or common sense, as valuable as they may be on the earth plane. We of the logical bent have a lot to unlearn. Wisdom is not a product of much study or an ability to organize one's thoughts properly. It is, rather, an attribute of God. And, despite our repeated efforts to muscle our way into the 'inner' counsel, no one can really 'know' God except it be given him.
The ability to see past the outer layer, the person, and to judge from that perspective, is not a man function but a God function. The physician may be ever so skillful, but without the X-ray and the Cat-scan, etc. (the ability to know, rather than guess) he will never really be able to accurately assess the damage to the inward parts. In like manner, he who is not able to see that which is hidden beneath the surface of life, will not be able to judge righteous (as-God-sees-it) judgment.
We must wait for it!
For there are simply times when 'sheep are not sheep', nor 'goats goats'. They are not "Jews" that are Jews in appearance (outwardly) but they are truly Jews who are Jews (inwardly). How foolish of us to assume a position on any matter of this nature without the proper data in hand. There are those we curse who may not be worthy of such cursings, and those we bless . . . ?
In matters of judgment, then, the person or personality (that part of us that is both seen and heard) is, in a sense, irrelevant. Not to us, of course, but to God. His attitude being, as one of His spokesmen put it, that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God". That may not keep it (flesh and blood) from trying to, but it does speak as to the end result, without reference to the amount of energy expended in the effort. The person-persona is nothing, i.e. is not taken account of before God. With Him there is none of the 'respect of persons' that we on the earth have toward one another. Whether we be engaged in planting, or watering, or whatever ... the power to bring forth that which has been planted and watered is in the innermost center of the seed itself. Therefore, the planter, or the waterer, whether Apollos, Paul, or you and I, is not to be considered, but God, who gives the increase, is. This was the concept that Jesus was always promoting, and after Him, Paul.
In that savaging of the Pharisee in Matthew 23, Jesus exposed their attitude as one diametrically opposed to that holy principle. They DID think themselves important. They DID consider their 'person' to be of considerable value and worthy of respect. They sought the "upper room at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues" because they really felt that such was their due. They loved to be greeted in the marketplace and called Rabbi (or Master) because they really thought of themselves as such. And the reason they were always scouring the "outside of the cup and platter" was because they considered that outside 'person' as very important, indeed, before both God and man.
Of course, you and I know that the ancient Pharisees were, as Jesus called them, "blind Pharisees". And we know that they should have begun with the 'inside' of the cup and platter in their attempts to please God, seeing as how that was the part He was (and is) primarily concerned with. But they, being blind, were not able to see that which, by the grace of God, we are given to see. And that is, that the 'outward appearance' is nothing, and that the person or mask that we wear is not considered worthy of respect before God.
That is simply not His perspective on the human condition!
And, whereas man is always looking on and considering that outward appearance, He (God) is always looking 'on the heart'.
I realize that we have not seriously considered the subject of 'person'. It is simply too much for a once-over-lightly, one chapter-in-a-small- booklet treatment. But the treatment, as inadequate as it is, is necessary. There is a sense in which the understanding of 'person' from God's perspective is the key to our eventual recovery. For if we continue to think in the same way as the Pharisees of Jesus's day did, we will still provide sanctuary for and give aid and comfort to the enemy of the entire purpose and plan of God in the earth.
While we persist in the 'me und Gott' of Kaiser Wilhelm, we will continue to view our 'selves' as worthy of respect. We will insist on our 'rights' and demand the 'honor' that men give to one another. We will be hurt if we are not recognized' and will exult when we are. We will still be ever so grateful that we are not "as other men are". We will insist on celebrity status when our book is published and/or our picture hung.
is, until we come to truly understand that all we really did was
to type the manuscript and/or hold the brush. The creative
spark was God, as were the eyes to see with, the ears to hear
with, the heart to understand with, etc. ...all God. As
it is written:
"It is He who has made us (the book, the picture, the speech) and not we ourselves. "To such a One be the honor and the glory and the power forever, world without end.
Understanding will save us and will assist us in depersonalizing the issue.
Complete union may indeed be the Ultimate, the light in the window of that house on the top of the highest mountain. But no one approaches that Most Holy Place without first going through that "valley of the shadow of death" we call depersonalization. Oh, we may make foolish gestures, say dumb things, indulge ourselves in religious fantasies, reckoning ourselves to be either dead or alive (as the mood strikes) but we do not ascend until we first descend. That descension is into depersonalization.
The psychiatrist doesn't care much for the term. He equates it with mental illness and emotional instability. Which it may very well be, from his viewpoint.
But Jesus practiced it, as did Paul, and so must we.
It is a simple (?) matter of losing your life and denying yourself. It is what is basic in that quaint little concept, you won't be able to 'find' your life until you first 'lose' it.
Of course, most of us assume ourselves way past such considerations. Some have even taken to speaking in the First Person, and I AM is become a catch-phrase.
The swelled head does not easily entertain the sober thought.
And depersonalization is a sobering thought. It divides and disconnects and disassociates. It drives home the ultimate: sobering thought, i.e. that this is not a 'personal' thing we're dealing with! No matter what 'I' might imagine or what 'I' assume that 'I' may have accomplished, the terrible truth is that 'I' had little to do with it. When 'I' lay my hands on the sick, and they recover, or when 'I' speak and the house is shaken, that recovery and that shaking had little or nothing to do with me, i.e. the personal 'I'.
There is simply no personal virtue involved!
I know it is a hard saying, but it is a true one. Jesus was the first to use the concept in it's purest form. When the crowds began to gather, as it had been determined that they should . . and when the miracles began to occur, as it had been prophesied that they would . . Jesus recognized the extremely dangerous position that placed him in.
And so He began to practice the art of depersonalization.
He began the exercise by informing the people that they really didn't understand what was going on with Him and the miracles, etc. I realize you cannot see what I'm seeing or hear what I'm hearing, and, as far as you are concerned, these marvelous acts originate with me. You think that I am doing them!
But I'm not!
Please hear me and let these words sink deep into your ears, IT IS NOT ME!
Jesus, as all of us, was given a face and a form and a personality. And if anyone ever had a hook-up with the Most High, it was He. But He still insisted on making the distinction that all of us give lip service to, but few have gotten around to doing. In most cases, the very best we can come up with is the aforementioned Kaiser Wilhelm number (Me und Gott) or, as a friend of mine is fond of putting it, "Boy, when God gets through with me, I'M gonna shine!"
Always with the personal. Always with the thought, sometimes secretly harbored, sometimes openly expressed, that we, as individual 'persons', are going to get some great reward for our service to God.
Oh, I know the scriptures seem to encourage the preception. And every hireling looks forward to the time when he gets 'what's coming to him'. I know.
But there is something going on deep in the heavens that is not of that order. And it is not connected up to a person or persons, or whatever it is that they may have seemed to have accomplished.
The wise will understand. Jesus did. And that is why He depersonalized the issue. That is why He denied 'himself'. He knew that there was no one doing anything on the earth but God Himself.
Not me. . but He.
words that I speak . . they are not 'mine'.
The works that I do . . they are not 'mine'.
Jesus simply refused to accept the credit for what another was doing. In this case, his Father-God. And, because He did honor his Father, as the Son always does, He was free to say and to do those things which had never been said or done before. Why was He so successful, while the rest of us (including the so-called greats of all the ages) are always coming up short of the "glory of God"? One reason was that He clearly understood, as most of us don't, that "I can, of my own self, do nothing"!
Most assume that being "endued with power" is simply a matter of a little extra starch in our backbone, or a little help in the delivery of what is already a powerful sermon. We look on it as an adjunct to our personal will, a complement to our natural abilities.
But it isn't.
And Jesus knew that. He knew that Jesus of Nazareth (as Jesus of Nazareth) ... no matter how clever or articulate he was ... or how determined ... or how bright, didn't have a prayer of accomplishing anything of a spiritual nature on the earth.
"I can, of my own self, do nothing."
We do confuse the religious man with the spiritual. Religion is man at his best, but spiritual man is Something Else Again. That 'self' that Jesus referred to, that one that could do 'nothing', was the self or person of Jesus of Nazareth. It was His face, His form, His personality. It was His intellect, His will, all of those things that men get hung-up on, men who are always worshiping the thing created (the creature) "more than the Creator." And this was some creature! My, my. Charismatic, bold, decisive, a born leader of men.
Oh, yes. But it was precisely that 'self' that He had in mind when he said "I can, of my own self, do nothing".
It is something we think about, on occasion, and talk about, on other occasions. But it is a very difficult concept for us to get a handle on. It certainly takes more than the telling of it. Indeed, there is something very deceptive about 'ministry', especially our own. Difficult for us to come to understanding, very difficult for us to grasp the essential fact that we (of this face and this form and this personality . . this self) can literally 'do nothing' of a spiritual nature.
Oh, I do not mean that we cannot preach, and teach, and we all can certainly convince and convert. But that may very well not be a spiritual matter at all! Indeed, it may fit into the same general classification as that smooth-tongued rascal who seeks to sell you that real estate in the swamplands of Florida. Or the man with the toothpaste smile who attempts to convince you that your life simply won't be complete without that new toilet water that just hit the market.
Et tu, Brut?
Or perhaps you do not think that we of the religious persuasion have our share of hucksters? Or that 99% of the bible-thumping and the verily-i-sayunto-you-ing is either ill-advised or wrong-headed?
How many words does it take? How many precepts, thoughts, and ideas, to equal the power of one small whisper from the Spirit? How many years will we spend in the ministration of the "tongues of men and of angels" before we realize that we have become as "sounding brass and tinkling cymbals"? How much faith exercise and how many mountains move before we come face to face with the terrible truth that it has profited us (not to mention God and His purpose) nothing? What was it (do you suppose) that moved the son of Man to say such a shocking thing as "all who came before me were thieves and robbers"?
How hung up we are on this 'personal' salvation. Our 'personal' commitment, our 'personal' place in the sun! We are become as those who refused to give the fruits of the vineyard to the owner of the vineyard.
The personal is the province of the Pharisee, whether past or present. I (the personal I) do things, I (the personal I) say things, and I (the personal I) render certain services, ergo ... I (the personal I) should be commended and honored, before both God and man.
The only problem being that the personal I does not even appear before God!
That personal I, the person (that which God is no respecter of) is only a mask that an entity hides behind. That form, that personality, that 'person', is only here for a moment, and then disappears. It comes up as the grass does, or so the preacher tells us, but is soon cut down, and is no more.
Oh, there may, indeed, be something within that blade of grass that does not die, and something in man that lives forever. And there is, indeed, behind the mask of the 'person' of Jesus of Nazareth, the very Christ of God!
And behind the mask or 'person' of the Pharisees and their great and terrible need to be recognized and applauded and reimbursed for their religious service, another entity. An entity who would steal from God. Behind the mask of 'person', the Evil One himself. You are not the children of God, at all, Jesus told the Pharisees, but the "children of the devil"!
I am sorry.
I know how much time and effort we have put into it.
I know how many dreary miles some of us have walked and how many things we have suffered.
And I know how fervently we have wished that "Ishmael" might live before God.
But he won't. That place is reserved for the "Righteous Seed', and that, my friend, is not you . . nor is it me.
While the religious world seems headed in the other direction, it is not a simple matter to make the distinction that must be made. Since "I and my Father are one" has become so popular, it is even more difficult. As if a man may assume himself to be a mountain climber simply because he has read after or parrots the words of one who is.
But the life experience of Jesus of Nazareth is His, and does not lend itself to mimicry. My name is William Moss. I also am possessed of face and form and personality. I am not a clone of anyone, or a carbon copy. Oh, I do preach (as He did) and testify (as He did) and there have even been those times when I have stood in the Holy Place (as He did) and hearings were manifest, and miracles did occur. But I do not confuse myself with He who, as Jesus taught us, really does the work.
If there be virtue, and if the woman with the issue of blood is healed, and if angels come and attend those who are the called of God, and if the pillars move and the smoke ascends, let there be absolutely no confusion as to Who is present with us. And let it be equally clear that, Whoever it is, IT IS NOT YOU AND IT ISN'T ME!
Depersonalization may not be required of all but it is essential for most. We need to know, not just say. We need to have it written on our foreheads and branded into our very souls. We need to keep the truth ever before us . . . it is not me!
will call it dualism.
Call it what you will.
There is the Usurper
And there is the Son.
is only One who stands firm in the face of adversity, unmoved
in the very shadow of the cross.
is only One who is impervious to the whims of time and circumstance,
who rejects the subtle counsel of pride in the day of exaltation.
There is only One who is unalterably opposed to sin, and whose only reason for existing is to do the will of He who sent him.
HE IS ABLE!
There is one who is easily awakened, but who soon slumbers again.
There is one who, at this time, hurls the challenge (triumphing gloriously) and, at that time, flees the wrath of the alien king (behaving cowardly).
There is one who, anointed king by the prophet, rules wisely and well, for a season. His end, however, is filled with the torment of rejection and futile warring against the will of God.
There is one who chases the mechanical rabbit of 'perfection' round and round, hoping that someday, someone, or something will happen that will enable him to catch it.
There is one who dreams he eats, but awakens hungry.
There is one who sees, but cannot comprehend.
One who hears, but cannot interpret.
One who professes loudly, but produces little.
There is the messenger who runs, but is not sent.
The seer whose vision cannot penetrate the religious overcast.
The priest who cannot continue his ministrations 'by reason of death'.
HE IS UNABLE!
hear the Boss-man say, "Away with him.
Get me someone in here that can do the job"!
And, as if awaiting the cue, I see One stride from the wings and accept the challenge.
Surely you don't think that One to be you? Or me?
A word to the wise.
are other treatments, of course.
These are only the standards.
But it is essential that some steps be taken.
is this sickness, there is this addiction to power.
And there is this spirit who seeks entrance.
Some would prefer to ignore the problem and seek to explain away the aberrations of thought and action. But there are no magic words which will keep it from our door.
If we ascend, or aspire to, we will surely meet up with it.
Whether we identify with Saul or David, we are still vulnerable. This is not one of those 'diseases of Egypt' that we may escape from simply by removing ourselves from 'Egypt'. No. This one can be, and often is, contracted in the wilderness, in Canaan, wherever.
I have spoken of kings and monarchs, but kings and monarchs are only symbols.
As was the case with our young dreamer, pride is a state of mind, and Pharisaism a spirit. A 'rich' man does not always live in a mansion nor a 'poor' man in a hovel. Literally anything and everything that sets you 'apart' from your fellow man can be the catalyst.
"....... God, I thank you that I am not as other men are......"
While it is true that some are at greater risk than others, Pharisaism, like alcoholism, is a threat to us all. And our individual life circumstance is by no means the determining factor.
peasant and the king,
The private and the general,
The altar boy and the priest.
Moral folks, immoral folks, good and bad, saintly and sinnerly.
Unusually shy or unnaturally extroverted.
As meek as Saul was (at first) or as bold as David was (always) the predilection is there.
I know we have used the example of Saul but David was by no means granted an exemption. In the Psalms he speaks often of any man who sets himself against God, those with the 'haughty' heart and the 'lofty' eyes.
Yes. We are all made, without exception, and continue to be made, "subject to vanity", and especially in this area.
And there is, indeed, "death in the pot", and the young prophets are sick from it. There is this most dread disease, this most formidable adversary.
is this Spirit of the Pharisee.
But there is also this recovery and this cure!
As for the dream, it was given to one individual but it is a corporate dream. Like salvation itself, we pass this point or the other as individuals, but we all do pass.
Some are still playing the religious game and do not seem to have any choice in the matter.
Others are becoming aware of the game for the very first time, and there is awakening in them a desire to escape the world of make-believe, of bondage, and of play-acting.
Still others are leaving the stage and walking away from the controlled environment.
And there are those, by the grace of God, who are returning in the power of the Holy Spirit to face the issue head-on.
Grant them Your strength and Your courage, oh God!
And so we say. . .
To He who is able
to save us from failing, or, should we fall, is able to raise
us up again.
And to He who can keep us in perfect health, or, should we be stricken, can restore us.
To He who has caused death to be 'swallowed up' so that we might 'live' before Him.
To such a One be honor and power and all of the glory, both now and forever.