Jesus had much to say about the Pharisees. He went so far at one time as to call them a tomb of whitewashed bones (Mathew 23:27). Many may wonder why was Jesus so hard on these guys. I mean they were good, upstanding citizens. They did the right things, they went to church, tithed, followed the law to a T. So why was Jesus so put off by these so called good people? I believe the reason the Lord was so hard on them was because though they did the right things, said the right things and were overall good people, they did it for the wrong reasons.
I grew up in church, if the doors were open I was there. Early on I learned the lingo, don’t smoke, don’t cuss, don’t drink and don’t dance (I’m a Baptist you know). I learned that good “Christians” went to church all dressed up on Sunday, then lived for the most part like the world the rest of the week. Of course there were exceptions and some were very genuine, but I’m talking majority. Before long I had the part down. I knew when to smile and when to say amen. I was a good person doing all the right things, very similar to the above description. Then one day I realized I was doing nothing more than going through the motions. Like the Pharisees, I did the right things for the wrong reason. While in college I did the Bible Study by Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God. As I plunged through this study, I realized like never before who the God of the Universe was and was shocked to find that He desired a personal, intimate relationship with me. Now as a child I had walked the aisle, been baptized the whole nine yards. Yet, I had never understood what it meant to make Jesus Lord. I can remember vividly a night alone by my bed crying out to Jesus to not only be my Savior but my Lord. Committing my life to Him. Wow, how things changed. No longer did I go to church, ready my Bible, do the right things because it was expected, I did all the above out of love for Jesus and because I truly wanted to.
Fast forward 5 years. Now I have been to Seminary and am a pastor’s wife. Suddenly the trap of the outward behavior and desire to perform for others returned. Before long I found myself going through the motions, doing what was expected of me, not always out of love for Jesus, but often to please everyone watching. Grant it there were times when the Lord would rebuke me of this and drive me to my knees but the tendency to perform was always there. Years back the Lord took our family through a heartache with the church we were serving and we walked away broken and hurt. It was a painful time I’d not wish on anyone, but looking back how thankful I am for such a time. For through such time the Lord took me and mended my heart and drew me closer and closer. It wasn’t long before our family was called to serve the Lord in Korea, where we lived for two years. Even now looking back over that time, I can see times when I fell into this rut. Times when the Lord would have to refocus my attentions and devotions upon Himself.
I’m convinced this is a trap the enemy sets before us each and every day. A trap I have even found myself falling into with my kids. Wanting them to act a certain way and do the right thing. Punishing them when they don’t but changing only outward behavior without an understanding on the inside. The Lord has convicted me of this and though my natural want is to try to shape their behavior, He has given me a desire to change their hearts through His Word. Sure punishment is involved but I want them to understand why based on Scripture.
I’ve been on a journey of sorts lately, a journey to know Him more. The problem is the deeper I go, the more uglys I see. How easy it is to be a Pharisee, to judge others, to criticize, to just go through the motions of doing the right thing. Yet, I’m finding the answer to this problem is of course Jesus. Yet, more than that it is an every growing love of Him. For the more you love Him, the more you want to serve Him. And not just to look good, but out of a heart to please Him.
I’m sure I will fail and that my desire to please others will interfere because I am by no means perfect, but I desire to be changed not from the outside in, but truly from the inside out. How about you, why do you serve, why do you do the right things? I believe we should constantly checking our motions to see why and who we are serving. For we can only serve one Master, who then are you serving?