Religious Pride and Deception 14

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 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught by Jesus in the first petition to pray for God’s name to be hallowed and glorified. That is a vital part of prayer and is the first order or priority of prayer, but the Pharisees were more concerned to pray (see previous post) for their own glory. This is to say that they prayed in a way to get the attention and honor of men rather than to seek God. Their prayers was a seeking of self and to hold self up in a way to get honor from men rather than pray for the honor and glory of God.

The scribes and the Pharisees basically had a religion that used God to gain things for themselves. True enough they had the Old Testament Scriptures, but they did not understand the spiritual meaning in the slightest. The same thing is true regarding fasting as well. A fast was meant to be an aid in seeking God. Over and over we are told in the Scriptures that we are to fast and pray. The Psalmist prayed “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.” The scribes and the Pharisees fasted and prayed, at least by the intent of their hearts and actions, “unto me O LORD give glory, but to Your name may it be ignored in reality while I get all the glory.”

What we see, then, is the turning of true Christianity which is to do all out of love for God and do all for His glory into a system of self-love which was to do all for the glory of self. The scribes and Pharisees, though indeed they did many outward actions that were in line with the external commands of Scripture, had turned everything backwards into a religion of self and pride. How arrogant and proud a person must be to do all for his own glory while pretending to do all for the glory of God. Fasting is a means of humbling a soul that it may pray, but the scribes and Pharisees used that as something to be proud of and to build their pride. The very heart of Christianity is the humility of man and the glory of the grace of God, but the scribes and Pharisees were caught up in using the things of God for their own pride and selfish ends.

The scribes and Pharisees would fast and look gloomy and have a disheveled appearance in order that men could tell that they were fasting. Jesus says to take care of your appearance so that men will not notice that you are fasting and the fasting in secret (before men) will be seen by God. This is very instructive for the modern day as well. There are many forms of fasts that churches do and all of these become common knowledge, but those are not what is called for in Scripture. It is true that in the Old Testament there were days of fasting when a judgment was coming upon them, but those were not common. But once again, the important issue is the heart. Even if there is a public fast called for that does not mean that a person has to go around looking like s/he is fasting. It is to be done unto the Lord and Him alone. There are times of fasting called for in our day and then there is a mean supplied for those who have fasted at the end of it. When people go to that meal, it is a public declaration that they have been fasting.

The pride of the human heart is enormous and it is consistent. Men love to distinguish themselves and they love to get the attention of others for about anything, but for some reason this appears even greater in the things of religion. Jesus tells us very clearly that fasting is to be done in secret (hidden from men) and that is the kind of fasting that pleases God. However, it is clear that if all we are doing is seeking self rather than God secret fasting is not what is called for. The proud heart will take and twist the things we are given as means to seek God and use them as means to seek honor for self or simply seek God to give things to self. Pride deceives the heart.

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