Religious Pride and Deception 23

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 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The point of the verses above is all pretty much the same. The scribes and Pharisees were men who were focused on the external aspects of keeping the Law to the neglect of keeping the internal. That is precisely what men do who are fleshly rather than spiritual. They will tithe to a strict degree and yet neglect justice and mercy. They will clean the outer man but be blind to the robbery and self-indulgence of the inner man. They will try to do all things in order to appear beautiful (holy in appearance) to men, but their inward man is full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. This is to say that they had stringent rules for the outward man to keep the outward law but all they did was to gain the honor from men while their inward man was unchecked and they were full of lawlessness before God.

The scribes and Pharisees were called “hypocrites” by Jesus because that is precisely what they were. The “hypocrite” was an actor or one who would use a mask to portray certain things about himself on stage. The scribes and Pharisees used the outward law as a mask to hide their own hearts and inward wickedness and so they were called hypocrites by Jesus. They were indeed like tombs that were indeed full of all manner of uncleanness and yet they would whitewash those tombs on the outside to look good. Such are people in the modern day as well who try to hide their wicked hearts to themselves by being busy at church and being outwardly moral during the week. As the scribes and Pharisees were the most religious men of their day, so the most religious men in our day can do the same things they did while appearing holy in the eyes of men their hearts are at enmity toward God.

A man can stand in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday and give orthodox sermons (as such) while his heart does not love the Christ he speaks of. That man can be hiding his lawless heart with the mask of an orthodox creed. That man can be trying to hide his own heart from himself with orthodox sermons that are empty of life and love. A person can be active in the church Sunday after Sunday and week after week while his or her heart does not love Christ. A person can long for and desire offices in the church in order to hide his or her own heart from self. But it should be easy to see that in the way that the scribes and Pharisees were proud and deceived so we can be proud and deceived in our day. They had proud hearts and those proud hearts used religion and the external law and duties as ways to exalt themselves and that pride was built up and they were blind.

Each person must examine his or her own heart and beware of being like the scribes and Pharisees. It is so natural (to fallen man) for men to seek ways to exalt themselves and distinguish themselves. When the proud heart uses religion to do so, that is such a blinding method that pride uses to hide its heart from others and self. The proud heart loves to feel good about itself and it loves to appear good to others. When it uses external things and especially religious things to appear good to self and others, that is such a seductive thing for the proud heart to gain an assurance of salvation with.

The words of Jesus should strike modern people with great alarm. Modern scholars and preachers have also watered down the standards of the law of God and set out ways for men to please God in their own strength. They do that by setting out rules that appear good, but have nothing to do with the heart. They do that with a scholarly method that obfuscates the Word of God and that makes the Gospel of grace alone fuzzy. They do this by changing faith and love into outward acts rather than issues of the heart that come by grace. Modern men are full of pride too and will use the works of scholars and ministers to hide their own hearts from others and themselves. We are told with great clarity that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, yet men will try to have a humility that they can obtain themselves and as such their proud hearts think that they have come up with a way for God to show them grace. That pretense of having grace on the basis of their unhumbled heart and unhumbled faith makes them confident and assured that they are humble and have faith. It is nothing more than a system of works hiding under the mask of orthodoxy. Oh how pride will fight to hide itself from self and so it provides ways for others to hide their own pride and hypocrisy from themselves as well.

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