Religious Pride and Deception 8

Jeremiah 8:8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes Has made it into a lie. 11 “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

The coming of the Messiah had been proclaimed, foretold, and pictured by the Law for thousands of years. However, those who were supposed to know the Law and follow the Law missed it and denied it when the Messiah (Christ) actually came. They loved their positions of power and the honor they received from men. It should amaze us that the most religious men of Israel and the most scholarly men regarding the Word of God were the ones that Christ Himself said would be the human cause for Him to suffer and be killed. The pride of these men was enormous, but we must take into account that their religion was in the causal chain that gave them such enormous pride where they would take the Lord Himself and falsely accuse Him so that He would suffer and die.

It is possible, and perhaps the normal thing for almost all, to get calloused by reading the Bible and hearing and reading the same stories. We read it or hear it like we know what it is saying. If we had tender and sensitive hearts, we would be shocked and amazed to read Matthew 16:21. It was the orthodox theologians and scholars who were opposed to Jesus. It was men who pursued a stringent holiness (in some way) that lied and had Jesus executed on the cross. It was those who gave alms to the poor and spent a lot of time in prayer that opposed Jesus the most. It was the very religious elite who were at the forefront of the execution of Jesus. It was the men who were famed in the land for their religious knowledge and practices that were at the head of the line in wanting Jesus killed.

The pride of these men used the religion that they had without a new heart to build even more pride and seek more honor and glory from men. It is also true that some of them were so deceived by their pride that they thought they were serving God in the killing of Jesus. Self-righteousness is simply a form of pride using a false standard of righteousness to puff itself up with more pride and these men had plenty of self-righteousness to puff themselves up with. But along came Jesus who was the Master at putting the pin to the balloon of the puffed up pride of the Pharisees and in doing so He exposed their self-righteousness. When self-righteousness is exposed, one will either repent or rush into the anger of self-justification and striking out in anger at the person (Person in the case of Jesus) who did the exposing.

Who would strike out in self-justification if Jesus came in the flesh in our day and spoke as He spoke to the scribes and Pharisees in our day? What would He think of the self-imposed standards of some to many of our religious leaders of our day? What would He think of the flood of books on the market that deny so many truths about Him? What would He think of the many books on methods of evangelism and methods of church growth today? What would He think of the money being spent on buildings and programs in our day? What would He think and what would He say about the way the “gospel” is preached in our day (rather, ignored)? What would He say about the way denominations are being run and the enormous salaries of some of those in the hierarchies and even the “pastors” of the big churches? What would he think of the methods of scholarship in conservative seminaries that are approved by men but say little of the glory of God? What would He think of dry theology built upon the traditions of men and yet is apart from living water and the glory of God?

The heart of man has not changed and the state of true Christianity has been going downhill for a few centuries. In the middle 1600’s John Owen lamented that the state of Christianity was far weaker than it used to be when men spoke in power. In the very early 1900’s a man wrote that in his opinion Christianity had been going downhill since around 1680. Could it be that scholarship and forms of morality have replaced true knowledge of God and of godliness? Could it be that in our day we have returned to a state where pride runs what is known as Christianity in our day much like the pride of the scribes and Pharisees ran things in the days of Jesus? We must remember that pride blinds and deceives in all areas as well. God opposes the proud, especially the religious proud, but gives grace to the humble. Could it be that proud hearts have led us astray and God has turned us over to our pride? Could it be that our pride has changed such truths as grace and love into false ideas of what they are and that the true nature of Christianity has been changed from truth into falsehood?

What if it is true (as was taught until the early 1800’s) that the proud and wicked hearts of men must be humbled into the dust before they can have true faith? What if it is true that men should seek God for a new heart and for Him to humble their hearts by His great mercy before they can have true faith? What if it is true that calling on men to believe while they are depraved is to make them think that they can believe with an unchanged heart? The proud hearts of the scribes and Pharisees rejected Christ as He was in their day. Could it be that the proud hearts of men in our day reject the true Christ and settle for a savior who will save men in a way that they can retain their pride? I would argue that it is so and that we live in a day where true Christianity is rare. If that is true, then many religious denominations, professing churches, and organizations are in the hands of proud men and so many are deceived. They would fight the true Christ and the true Gospel to keep their positions just as the scribes and the Pharisees fought to keep theirs. Religious pride is an awful thing, a wicked thing, yet one that seems to have permeated the modern professing Church.

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