Tag Archives: Faith

Danger of Hypocrisy

 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. (Mt.23:1-22)

Beware of the Pharisaical attitude because it will invite God’s wrath up on us. Jesus pronounced condemnation on the Pharisees because they were hypocrites and they displayed a false piety. The religious are often politically motivated.

Characteristics of Hypocrites
The word ‘hypocrite’ comes from the term that referred to a stage player in a drama or theater. It meant ‘pretender’ or ‘actor’. People playing the role of someone else or acting like someone they really are not. It may be an art but it is falsehood and pure lie. Jesus’ contention about the religious ones was that:
-They preach but do not practice
-They burden others but never even try to carry it themselves
-They do everything to get people’s praise (v. 5)
-They desire greatness, power, titles and position (Mt. 23:6-12)

Not to follow their example
Hypocrisy is dangerous and attracts God’s judgment because it hinders other people from entering the kingdom of heaven. Jesus warned His followers about following the Pharisees’ example.

1. They hinder others from entering the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 23:13)
By the way they live, disregarding the Word of God, they themselves may not enter the kingdom of God. More serious than that is the issue of not letting others in. They become stumbling blocks to others. Remember, Jesus warned such people saying it is better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied to their neck (Mt. 18:6). They are like the dog in the manger. The dog will not eat the hay and neither will it let the cattle eat it.

2. They convert people but make them worthy of hell (Mt. 23:15)
They introduce others into their sect and confuse them with their philosophy of life and thus make them double hell-worthy.
our ministry is not as important as our life. God is more concerned about our life in Him than our service for Him. Being is above doing in God’s economy.

3. They overturn priorities and misguide others (Mt. 23:16-22)
Religious people do their religion to suit their convenience and to their benefit. Faith is not to satisfy ourselves or to please others, but to please God. Shuffling priorities to suit our convenience in the things of God is disastrous. They will be majoring on the minors and neglecting the non-negotiables. Many churches over emphasize the negligible issues and neglect the crucial. This deviation is prompted by the enemy of God’s kingdom.

We are to shun hypocrisy for it will make us stumbling blocks to people and bring us to judgment.

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Power of Faith in Jesus

 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. (Mt. 17: 14-27)

A man brought his epileptic son to Jesus’ disciples and requested them to deliver him. The disciples could not. Then the man fell on his knees before Jesus and pleaded for mercy up on the child. He chided the faithlessness of the disciples and healed the boy by rebuking the demonic spirit that was oppressing the boy.

It moves mountains for you
When the disciples asked why they could not cast it out, Jesus told them it was due to their lack of faith or weaker faith. If their faith was as solid as a tiny mustard seed they could move any obstacle from their way and nothing would be impossible for them.

Jesus was disturbed at the fact that they behaved as if He was going to be with them for a long time, overpower the Romans and establish the kingdom God had promised. This was a bunch of slow learners, or rather, they had to unlearn a lot of things before they could understand the mission of their Master. So Jesus foretells them again about the climax of His mission-His death and resurrection.

It demonstrates the power of God to others

Peter was confronted by the authorities regarding the payment of the  Temple tax. Jesus tried to clarify to him that He is above those Laws by the fact that He is the Son of God. He is greater than the Temple and in fact He is the reason for the Temple. He is the object of worship in heaven who became the perfect Lamb of God to be the perfect sacrifice that would satisfy the justice of God for all ages. He taught them that submission to authority rather than rebellion is God’s way in the New Covenant. He demonstrated both His supremacy and His integrity through the provision of the tax money.

Knowing Christ

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him,“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Mt. 16:13-28

Today we have millions of people who claim to know Jesus Christ or who profess faith in Him. Believing in Jesus has to be qualified in Biblical terms. Simply because someone carries a Christian name, or goes to church frequently, or prays, or reads the Bible, or involves in Christian service, he or she does not necessarily know Jesus Christ. Many are deceiving themselves by their assumption that they know Him.
The disciples of Jesus did not really know their Master almost until the end of His earthly ministry though they walked with Him more than three years.  Jesus had to confront them in many ways to clarify their understanding. Here, Jesus asked them about people’s understanding of His person. They related to Him that they thought He was a prophet, the reappearance of John the Baptist, Elijah or Jeremiah. But then He asked them about their understanding and Peter confessed the He was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Personal dimension
Jesus reveals to the disciples that it is not by human wisdom that one can recognize the Savior, but by the revelation from God Himself. This is the only way to know Him. Otherwise one can only know ‘about’ Him. Peter spoke out his personal conviction, his faith in the person of Jesus as the Savior sent by God. This personal conviction and confession is the foundation of Christian faith. The Church of Jesus Christ is built up on this confession of individuals.

Divine intervention
The apostles had the first hand experience of knowing Jesus. They conveyed it to the church through their inspired writings, the Gospels, letters, etc. As we read it we are confronted with this same truth and the Spirit of God would open our eyes to see Jesus as He really is. No one can know the Savior Jesus Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:44). Then, as we know Him as He is, we must confess Him as our own Savior and Master.

Unfailing Communication
Peter was congratulated for the confession of his personal conviction. But in no time he received rebuke too. It shows how vulnerable we are and how cautious we must be in discerning the intuitions we get before we speak it out. Peter had the revelation from God about the Savior but he the next moment his impulsive reaction was motivated by the devil himself. So we need to set our minds constantly on God and the things of God and intently listen to His prompting and recognize it. Jesus asserted that His sheep would hear His voice (even in the midst of the noisy herd) and follow Him (Jn. 10:26-28).

Losing to gain
The Kingdom principle is opposed to the worldly principles. Jesus calls His followers to set their minds on the things of God, to lose their grip on the earthly to gain what is heavenly, to forgo the temporal to gain the eternal. All the wealth, the fame, the power, the luxury, the pleasures this world can give is momentary. Thus, they must willfully carry their voluntary cross of denying these momentary gains and follow Him daily to get the eternal reward.

 

God who cares

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way. (Mt. 15:29-39)

Jesus often retreated to the mountains but the crowds wouldn’t leave Him. They primarily seek Him for the benefits they receive, but that is natural. Jesus was compassionate and kind to the people. He demonstrated the power of God among them so that they would recognize Him as the promised Messiah. However, they imagined the Messiah to be a political leader who would usher in the kingdom promised to their fathers.
Jesus healed every sick person who came to Him without exception.

Jesus was concerned about people and their well-being  He wanted to feed the hungry. He was also teaching His disciples to trust Him for the necessary resources in their ministry. This and the previous miracle of multiplying five loaves for five thousand men were to strengthen their faith in His ability to provide. He can multiply the little we have, provided we willfully place it into His mighty hands for His use.

Prayer of faith

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Mt. 15:21-28)

Jesus was approached by a Canaanite woman with a request to heal her daughter. She was weeping and pleading. She addressed Jesus as “Lord” and “Son of David” signifying that she believed that He was the Messiah who came in the line of king David. She also recognized His power over the demonic world.

Persisting through the Lord’s silence
However, Jesus did not respond to her, probably not even with a look. As she kept on weeping and requesting the disciples insisted that the Lord should do something. Jesus makes it clear that He was sent to the lost sheep in the house of Israel. He was the promised Messiah and King of the Jewish people.

Persisting through humiliation
She would have heard Jesus’ response, so she came and knelt in worship before Jesus, pleading for help. Then Jesus makes a statement that would have hurt her ego. He was looking down up on her in comparison to the people of Israel. It was humiliating.

Of course, the Canaanites were wicked in the sight of God. They had inherited a curse from their forefather Noah (Gen. 9:25). God told the children of Israel to drive them out of the land as they occupied it. We read in the Bible that they did not drive out the Canaanites from many places.

The Canaanite woman could have been conscious of her dignity in front of the people and quietly left. In stead, she was willing to accept the humiliation and even the status of a dog. She knew that God had promised salvation and blessings to His beloved people the children of Israel and others can have only what may fall off their table. She knew what Jesus was trying to remind her in regard to the promise of God and she responded appropriately in confidence that even dogs feed on what falls from the children’s table.
God honors such confidence in His character. The woman had such strong faith that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a merciful God and the blessings of Abraham would spill over to the gentiles too. Her faith was rewarded.

Tradition often leads to hypocrisy

Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat. He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?

 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. (Mt. 15:1-20)

Tradition often leads to hypocrisy and legalism. This was the problem the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had. This can happen to anyone. Traditions become meaningless without an awareness of their origin and purpose. This was the reason the Old Testament instructed the Israelites to explain the reasons behind their practices, like festivals, sacrifices and so on, to their children.  

Tradition is outwardly
It focuses on the external appearance and performance. Obeying God is always above observing traditions. Pharisees tried to escape from obeying the Law by observing traditions, so they created traditions of convenience. They gave an impression that their external performances were the signs of faithfully keeping the Law. Jesus confronted the Pharisees who questioned him on this.

Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. (Mt.15: 3-6 NLT)

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 29:13) who foretold about the hypocritical attitude of people.

Obedience is inwardly
It springs from the submissive attitude within. It demands commitment, and being faithful to it. It is always above traditions and rituals. It is to please God than men. In 1 Samuel 15:22 we read prophet Samuel’s reminder to king Saul. Obedience originates from trust. Without faith or trust it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

Doing or Believing?

 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Mt.9:14-17 ESV)

Religious people will continue to focus on their ‘doing’ in order to get into the kingdom of God. This is the old and unsuccessful way. Jesus changed the old and opened a new way. Now if you try to combine the two, it will be like patching up and old fabric with a piece of new fabric, or like storing new wine in an old wineskin. Result is disastrous.

Fasting was a sign of sorrow and grief which accompanied the wearing of sack cloth and sitting in ashes etc. Fasting as a ritual is practiced by the religious. It is characteristic of the dispensation of Law. As per the words of Jesus it will be characteristic of the Church age because the bridegroom Jesus Christ will be gone for awhile. While He was with the disciples on the earth they had no need to be grieved or sorrowful. The world will hate them as it hated the Lord Jesus Christ. But He has promised to return for His bride the Church, to take her with Him.  Once again, from that point, the need for fasting will be absolutely gone.

Going to God in Need or Greed

Then he said to the crowd, “Don’t be greedy! Owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe.”

Your Father knows what you need. But put God’s work first, and these things will be yours as well.

Make sure your treasure is safe in heaven, where thieves cannot steal it and moths cannot destroy it. Your heart will always be where your treasure is.(Lk.12: 15, 30,31, 33,34 CEV)

Religiosity is often with selfish motives. People go to God in their greed, to get all they want. But, the Bible emphasizes the need to be free from greed. People came to Jesus with various motives. Here is a man asking Jesus to be the arbiter between him and his siblings in settling their property dispute

Seeking God for material benefits

Jesus questions the integrity of this man’s prayer. He sounds to him that He is not here as anyone’s arbitrator to justly distribute material wealth or earthly benefits. Rather, He is here with a different mission. His goal is eternal and other-worldly. He admonishes people to give away worldly possessions or to trade it for eternal riches. This world is temporal and what this world gives also is fragile. What is stored in heaven is eternal and indestructible.

The rich man’s story reveals the unreliable nature of wealth and the sorry state of those who labor day and night to amass worldly treasures. All these can vanish in a moment. We will have to leave this world we don’t know when. It would look foolish to have struggled for things that are of no value to you anymore. Even God will consider him a fool.

Seeking God for eternal benefits

God has promised those who seek Him sincerely that He will take care of them. After all, it is He who knows our future. To those who acknowledge His Lordship He has given assurance about their eternal destiny (1John 5:13). Jesus reiterates that God would care for His children much better than He cares for the rest of creation. He has put the priorities clearly in order. Put God and His kingdom first, then God will keep His promise to take care of your needs. He may not fulfill your greed but provide your every need (Phil.4:19).

By focusing on God’s kingdom we will be gathering riches and rewards in heaven. When our concern is about earthly things we worry about it in vain because worry is unproductive and often destructive. Our heart will always be where our possessions are. Our focus will be on things that we value the most. We will be disappointed if our eyes are set on the things of this world because they cannot accompany us in death. But all that we did for God’s kingdom will follow us into eternity and result in eternal rewards.

What do you boast about?

Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look good to others. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. (Gal.6:12-16)

Do you feel proud about being religious? Do you boast about your achievements? Do you take credit for what you possess that which you can never earn?

Religions tell us to work our way to god. Those who tirelessly follow the “to do” lists of religions often boast about their achievements. They feel they are eventually making god obligated to them. There are also those who think they are equal to god, thus making it possible for the humans to achieve practically anything or everything.

Promoting Rituals

Most people swear by rituals. Every culture is full of them. Rituals are part of religion. Christian Religion is no exception. It is our attempt to find God. Since it is human effort people will take credit for it. But the Bible says that no one can become acceptable to God by being religious or by observing rituals, however faithful they might be.

As long as you encourage others to follow some rituals you are in vogue. You earn name and fame, position and influence, money and perks. Promoting rituals is boasting in self and it will last only till we last.

Preaching the Cross

The Bible tells us that a Christian has nothing to boast about himself. The only thing he can boast about is the Cross of his Savior because he is saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, in what Jesus has accomplished on the cross.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Eph.2:8-9)

Every Christian is commanded to preach the message of the Cross, because it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom.1:16). The message of the cross excludes all rituals and human efforts and is highlighted as the only way to reach God. When you preach this way you will invite opposition, threats and persecution. That is one of the reasons why several people are content with promoting rituals.

However, the ultimate yardstick of effectiveness is the resultant transformation. The real thing is the new life that we receive from God through faith in Jesus Christ, just because of what Jesus has done on the cross. Neither religion nor rituals can do this. And all of it is a free gift from God. Aren’t you glad for the cross of Christ?

So, if at all I boast, let me boast of the cross of Christ, by which I have been transformed in my relationship with all that is temporal.

Living Faith

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,  being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (Jam.1:2-8 NIV)

People these days are so outspoken about their faith. They explain all the crazy things they do as the outcome of their faith. Faith means different things to different people, nevertheless every human being who breathes operates on faith. The object of their faith may vary.

As the Bible defines it in Hebrews 11:1,

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

The object of a Christian’s faith is Jesus Christ.

Faith is more than mere intellectual assent, it results in corresponding action or behavior. Faith that is alive moves one to action. If there is no visible transformation in the life of the one who professes to have faith, his/her faith is a dead one. Faith is like a seed planted in the ground, which, if not sprouting, growing, flowering and producing fruit over a period of time, is dead.

Living Faith Rejoices in Trials

James is writing to encourage the Christians of Jewish origin who were scattered all over the world. Since their faith in Christ has effected a change of behavior in them they were being subject to opposition and persecution from their own community. This situation is not uncommon even today in many countries around the world. James suggests that Christian faith is practical and behavior oriented. He raises a few issues in his letter. According to him, Christian faith is a living faith. It is intellectual assent plus action. You do certain things because of your belief and intellectual assent. It is a faith that works.

Attitude in Trials

It may seem crazy, for those who do not have faith, to rejoice when you are in trouble. First of all, it is humanly impossible to do so unless there is some mighty reason behind. Here, there is a purpose with which God is permitting trials in the life of a Christian, the result of which is profitable.  You don’t fake the real joy, it comes from the source of joy – Jesus the Savior who suffered for your sake. The joy of the Lord is our strength in trials (Neh.8:10).

Apostle Paul had more trials than any other Christian, perhaps (2Cor. 11: 22-29). Yet, he confidently said nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom.8:35-39).

Advantage in Trials

The Bible says that trials in a Christian’s life are a test of his/her faith. It is profitable because it helps to develop endurance. Trained in endurance we become perfect and mature in our character.

God allows His children to grow through testing with the purpose of perfecting us in godliness. One has to successfully pass every test before he/she can graduate from the school of suffering. God did the same thing with the man Jesus (Phil.2:6-9Heb.5:7-10).

Assistance in Trials

It is humanly impossible to have the right attitude in suffering and grow to maturity by our own strength. We need God’s grace and wisdom to go through it. God knows it and He is promising His assistance in our times of trials. James 1:5 instructs us to ask God for His wisdom. He will see us through as we depend on Him (Heb.4:14-16).