01 Mar 2020
Jesus reserved the harshest of judgments for the scribes and Pharisees. Why? 1. They were Barriers - Instead of helping, they were hindering people from God's Kingdom. Their disciples were twice the children of Hell as they were. False leaders will be severely judged. 2. They were Blind - They were spiritually blind- darkened and foolish in their understanding. They thought that with their complicated system of oaths and their disproportionate attention to tithing, they could cover up their sins. But Jesus exposed their hearts- that they were greedy, self-indulgent & lawless hypocrites! They were just covering themselves up on the outside, but their inward parts are rotten. And they were blinded and self-deceived in all this. 3. They were Bloodguilty - They thought they were more righteous than their forefathers who persecuted the righteous prophets, but Jesus said they will only do what their forefathers had done- they will persecute and kill God's people, and thereby filling up God's wrath upon them. We must also watch out for the "Pharisee" in us and all around us. Not all religions are good- just like the Pharisaical system. Not all church leaders are good- just like the religious leaders in the Pharisaical system. Not all religious deeds are good- just like how religious deeds can merely be blankets for their sins. Find out what these all mean in the sermon here, and may God lead you to His gospel for real life change!
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We are continuing the book of Matthew. And if you have your Bibles, we're looking at Matthew 23, verses 13 to 34. It's a lot of verses - 22 verses. So hang in there.
A story is told of a young man who had just lost his job. Desperate for a job, he looked at the newspapers, and he found an opening in a zoo. He went for the interview and the interviewer said, “Oh! Tragically, a gorilla had just died in our zoo. It was the most popular exhibit and we needed to keep that going. So we need to hire someone, to play the role of a gorilla.”
The young man, desperate for a job, says, “Alright, I'll take it up.” So he was dressed like a gorilla and it was an easy job. All he needed to do was to pretend to be a gorilla. Walk around like a gorilla, sleep like a gorilla, eat bananas like a gorilla. But after a while, that job got rather boring. You could imagine just doing that every single day.
So he, being a very fit young man, he's a gymnast in the past, began to explore the enclosure and began to swing from tree to tree. And people were amazed at his athleticism. They thought, “Wow! This gorilla - very active!” And he was so excited. But one time, he lost his balance, lost his grip and he fell into the lion's den. He was obviously in panic mode and so he began to scream, “Help! Help!” To which the lion walked up to him and said, “Shut up, you fool! Or we will both lose our jobs.”
Not everything that looks like a gorilla is a gorilla. Not everything that looks like a lion is a lion. And not everyone who looks like a religious leader is a true spiritual leader. That's the point Jesus is making in Matthew chapter 23.
These scribes and Pharisees, they look the part, they dress the part. They have phylacteries, big boxes in front of their foreheads, containing scriptural verses. But inwardly, they do not obey God's Word. They have garments, with long fringes that try to tell people, they are very godly. They … they love the Word of God, but inwardly they do not obey the Word of God.
So right now, in verses 13 to 34, we're going to see Jesus turn on the screws. He's going to go even harder on these scribes and Pharisees. Besides exposing their hypocrisy, He pronounces woes upon them. The word, ‘woe’ is a word with many emotions. It conveys lament. It conveys sorrow. But it also conveys wrath and judgment.
So Jesus Christ reserves His most severe of condemnations for the scribes and Pharisees. He condemns no one else like them. He says seven times in this passage, “Woe to you.” Verse 13, verse 15, verse 16, and then four more times in 23, 25, 27 and 29. So, a perfect seven woes given to the scribes and Pharisees.
Why? What's wrong with these guys that He will be so angry and He will pronounce such strong words, indictments upon them? A few things I like you to notice.
1. They are Barriers
Number one, Jesus is saying: They are barriers. They are obstacles. They are hindrances. Instead of helping people to God, these supposed religious leaders actually hinder people from God. They become the stumbling block. They become the obstacles to people, wanting to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
He said in verse 13, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut the Kingdom of heaven in people's faces, for you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”
People look up to them. People listen to them, hoping that they will be helped into the Kingdom. But instead, they bring them further from the Kingdom. They shut the door in their faces. He goes on to say, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” [Matthew 23:15]
Now, the Pharisees and scribes are very hardworking people. They spare no expense, spare no effort in converting someone to belong to their sect, to belong to their belief system. They would be willing to cross sea and land. Many Christians don't even dare to cross the door or the … or the road to reach someone for Jesus.
But these guys were, they will be happy to do that, they cross sea and land to make someone a Pharisee. But when they become a proselyte, a disciple, a Pharisee, a protege, “you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” [Matthew 23:15]
You actually managed to get them to out Pharisee, the Pharisee. “Wow! Your teaching is so good! But it's not good because when you out Pharisee, a Pharisee, you don't get closer to God. You get worse. You get further from God.
We say in Chinese, “青出于蓝” [qīng chū yú lán]. I always like to test the Chinese standard of Gospel Light Christian Church. You say， “Why test?” You should go Chinese service, alright. So, 青出于蓝, 胜于蓝 [qīng chū yú lán , shèng yú lán], it means the blue that comes from a particular plant, that looks blue, is bluer than the plant that looks blue. Hah? You go and find out lah! Hah!
So basically, the what comes out is even more ‘takong’ (Hokkien for ‘impressive’) ah! Even more powerful, more prominent than the original master. So, Jesus is saying, “You teach people, you teach them well. But you teach them so well, that they become twice the child of hell as yourself. You deserve the greater judgment because instead of helping people to the Kingdom, you become barriers. You're a hindrance. You are a stumbling block.”
2. They are Blind
Second thing, I observed in this text, is Jesus not only says that they are barriers, Jesus says that they are blind. They can't see! They're in spiritual darkness! They are lost! He says 4 times in this text that, “They are blind.” Verse 16, they are blind guides. Blind leading the blind, both of you fall into the ditch.
Number two, they're blind fools, in verse 17. Strong words. Verse 19, you are “blind men”. And then again, in verse 24, you are “blind guides”. So Jesus is saying, scribes and Pharisees, you're blind! You're blind! You're blind! You're blind. How do you know they're blind? Why would you say that, they are blind?
Alright, let me give you some examples, He says. “Woe to you, blind guides who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing. But if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he's bound by his oath.’” [Matthew 23:15] Now this may be a bit complicated for you because you have no background but for the Jews then, it's so obvious.
There is this system of swearing, this system of oath making that they have, that gives them a kind of excuse to sometimes not fulfill their oaths. So they say, “if I swear by the temple, no need to fulfill. If I swear by the gold, need to fulfill.” [Matthew 23:16]
In other words, in Singapore's colloquial language, “If I swear by the temple, ‘bo pa kei’, [invalid in Hokkien dialect]. “If I swear by the gold, I have to fulfill.” You know what it is? Now for those of you who are not west or not so, ‘hokkien pai’ [Hokkien style] like me, you might be familiar with this saying, “I swear but I cross my …?” Cross what? “… cross your fingers.”
So there are people who do this. “I swear ah, I swear. I promise, I promise.” But his hand is behind him, the finger is crossed. What he's saying is, “When I swear, I swear. I'm trying to tell you, I will do it, but actually in my heart, I will not do it. And you can't blame me because I? Cross my fingers.” I do not know why people think like that. But that's exactly what the Jews or the scribes and Pharisees are teaching, that if you swear by the temple, you really don't have to fulfill. [Matthew 23:16]
See, this is so ridiculous! They are so ignorant! They are so foolish! They're so blinded, as to imagine that with this man-made additional regulation, they can get themselves out of a situation which they have promised.
So far from practicing integrity and honesty and faithfulness, the scribes and Pharisees teach people how to lie. They teach people how to get out of their word. They create for themselves excuses and loopholes. So this is all a complicated web of deception.
Now, one example is - temple, bo pa kei, gold, pa kei. Okay, another example is, not yet but Jesus goes on to say, “For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?” [Matthew 23:17] This is a rhetorical question, meaning the answer is obvious.
Of course, the temple is greater! The gold is rendered holy or sacred when you bring it to the temple for worship; the temple is the greater one. So if you swear by the temple, of course you have to fulfill it, if you think swearing by the gold is already binding.
Now another example is the altar and the gift, same idea. The altar is like the temple. The gift is like the gold, same thing. They are saying, “If anyone's swears by the altar, he is nothing. But if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.” [Matthew 23:18]
The emphasis, clearly again is in that first phrase. They love the fact that, “If I swear by anything other than the gold, I swear by the altar, I can get out of this situation.” “You blind men, which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” [Matthew 23:19] A rhetorical question again.
“So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and everything on it.” [Matthew 23:20-21] “If you swear by the altar, you swear also by the gift on the altar. And if you swear by the temple, you swear by the temple and Him who dwells in the temple.” “And whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.” [Matthew 23:22]
What Jesus is saying is, “No matter what you swear by, it is all binding.” In fact, Jesus makes it clear in Matthew, chapter 5, “let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay.” That's old English. In other words, “Let your yes be yes, and let your no be no.” You do not need to say, “I swear by the temple or swear by the altar or swear by the gifts or swear by the gold.” Whatever you swear by, God is witness, and you are to be truthful.
But the scribes and Pharisees created this whole web of deceit, to give themselves excuses. That's the problem! So example number one, that they are so blind, is in the way they think, they can deceive God, deceive man, by this web of lies.
A second example is in the way they give, the way they tithe. So Jesus goes on, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” [Matthew 23:23]
Now they are to give tithes, that's the Jewish economy. The tithe is a system by which the nation of Israel can support the Levitical priesthood. The priests, the sacrifices, they need to be supported financially and so there's this necessary tithe.
But the scribes and Pharisees actually take advantage of that to say, “Oh! We must be very faithful in our tithes, to the degree that we must be very meticulous, very careful, very nitpicky, even about small things like the herbs, mint, cumin and dill.”
You don't really need a lot in cooking, right? I sometimes do some steak and I know one little sprig of rosemary will do the trick. You don't need one whole pail. So just a little bit herbs, you just need very little. And they are small stuff, and in those days, in that area, cheap stuff.
The scribes and Pharisees say, “Oh! We must be very meticulous in tithing.” Why? Because they feel, they believe that if they're so meticulous here, it somehow gives them an excuse to neglect the weightier matters of the law.
So the scribes and Pharisees have this double standard. Wow! Very particular about little, little things. And they believe that, that somehow gives them an excuse to neglect justice, mercy, and faithfulness, which are the really important things. “These things like justice, mercy and faithfulness, you ought to have done without neglecting the others.” [Matthew 23:23]
Could it be that in our lives, we are very particular about some little things but we have blind spots to huge areas of our spiritual life? Perhaps in the way we look at finances. Perhaps in the way we treat our parents. Perhaps in the way we treat our colleagues. We feel that because we come to church, we must be okay. Well, that's the mindset they have.
Jesus went on to say, “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” [Matthew 23:24] This is a funny picture! What's a gnat? A gnat is a small insect. What's a camel? Stupid question. A camel is a camel, lah! Ok, we are all familiar with camels and we’re not so familiar with gnats, right?
But I want you to know that two things. Number one, a gnat is a small insect and the camel is the biggest animal that is commonly seen in those days. They don't see whales, usually they don't see elephants, the camel is the biggest animal.
Number two, these two are interesting because they are both unclean things, according to the Jews. They're unclean animals. So what the idea here is that, these scribes and Pharisees, are so particular to make sure they are not contaminated. They don't drink in or eat any small gnats, but they have no qualms swallowing a big camel. Humorous? I think so, if you understand the context there.
So it is speaking about how ridiculously out of proportion they are. So finicky about the small things, but they don't do justice. They don't do mercy. They are not faithful to God. And they somehow think, because they're finicky about small little things, they are holy men. How blind you really are, scribes and Pharisees. You are so ignorant.
The third thing we see, Jesus say is, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” [Matthew 23:25] “You … you think that if you just pretend, look the part and, and make people believe that you are godly, you can get away with it. When you don't really see that inside your heart, you're full of greed and self-indulgence.”
“You blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate that the outside also may be clean.” [Matthew 23:26] They have serious problem. They don't see that their traditions actually encourage people to sin and themselves to sin. They don't see the problem that they are so expert in some small areas but totally blinded about huge aspects of their life. They don't see that whilst they can be impressive on the outside, what God is interested is in the inside.
Then He ends off with this statement, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.” [Matthew 23:27]
Now we can understand that, you can scrub, you can spray Dettol, you can do whatever you want to the tombstone. But inside, wah! There is death. There is decay. There is rot. There's decomposition. And this is particular interesting, commentators say that what happens, during that time is that this is the period of Passover, correct? Jesus, we are entering the last few days of Jesus' life. He's going to be like that Passover lamb, sacrificed on the cross.
So this is a period of about the Passover and during the Passover, it's like, all the Jews from all over the world come back to Jerusalem. It's the annual pilgrimage. They will come back, and so Jerusalem is crowded, unless there's a covid-19 there lah! But apart from that, it should be very, very crowded.
The streets will be packed with people and when they walk along the paths, it is not unusual, that often times beside the paths, people will bury their dead. So there'll be tombs there, and if you're not careful, you're pushed out, you may just touch one of the tombstones.
Now to a Jew, you cannot touch anything dead. You can't touch the dead body. You cannot touch the tombstone. If you do that, you're rendered ceremonially unclean and therefore you cannot worship. So the Jewish people in Jerusalem will do the rest of the world a favor.
They would clean their sepulchers. They would clean their tombs. They will make it so clean and bright and white that people would see a tomb and avoid it. So Jesus is saying, “Look at all these whitewashed tombs! You do all that. It looks good. It looks clean. But the inside, is ugly and smelly and filthy. It is just like you. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.” [Matthew 23:28]
“So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you're full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” [Matthew 23:28] Jesus really holds no punches back, flat out condemnation and warning about these hypocrites. So He condemns them, He pronounces woes upon them because they are barriers. They do not help people to God. They hinder people from God.
They are blind. They teach people actually to sin more! They teach people to make excuses, they teach people to focus on small little things and ignore the big things. They teach people to know how to pretend on the outside, but ignore the need for the inside. They are blind and they should be judged.
3. They are Blood Guilty
The last thing is that they are blood guilty. It gets worse because they are not just committing sin and terrible practices and ignoring to do deeds of mercy and justice and faithfulness. But they actually are murderous. They are a murderous people. And they do not murder bad people, they murder the good people. They murder the servants of God. They murder the prophets of God.
We see this in verse 29 to 34, “Woes to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’”
So they are saying to people, “Oh! Our ancestors did wrong! They should not have killed Isaiah and Jeremiah and all the righteous prophets. They were wrong! If we were then there, we wouldn't have done it.” That's what they are saying, right?
But, “Thus, you witness against yourself that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets.” [Matthew 23:31] “When you say this you are just condemning yourself because you are agreeing that it is wrong to kill those guys. But let me tell you something, you will absolutely also kill those guys.”
“Fill up then the measure of your fathers, you serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town.” [Matthew 23:32-34]
So Jesus here gives a prophetic statement. It's not happened yet, but He's saying, “It will happen.” And when you say, “We will not be like our ancestors who killed the prophets, you are merely condemning yourself, because you are admitting it is wrong to do so.” And let me tell you, “You will do so. You will kill my prophets. You will scourge them. You will persecute them. You are a murderous blood, guilty people.”
So Jesus here, exposes their wickedness. It's a very sad chapter! When I looked at this passage, I actually had a hard time thinking of preaching through this. It's … it's difficult! It is just so … if I may say, negative. It's so difficult. It's all about pronouncements on judgments upon them because they are hypocrites. They are fake Os. They are blind men. They are barriers. And they are such a bloodthirsty, blood guilty people.
But hey, what has this got to do with you and me? I like to ask you three questions. Maybe that will be helpful.
Question 1: All Religions Are Good?
Number one, are all religions good? I've heard this many times in my life. I talk about faith, about religion, about Christianity to people and they will ask me, what I believe. I say, “I'm a Christian. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ.” They say, “Yah! Yah! Yah! Religion is good. All religion is good.” Heard that before? Many times, right? “Oh yah! Yah! Yah! Good! Good that you have a faith! Good that you have a religion. All religion is good.” Is that true?
Well, at least, at least, in this one case, that religion is not good. Isn't it? The religion of the Pharisees is not good. The Pharisees and their system of teaching, do not lead people to the Kingdom of heaven, but make people twice the child of hell. You know what that means? That you can be so sincere in a religion, and you can be further from the real God, than you have, than if you have not any religion.
Are all religions good? No! Because there are many, many religions in the world today, who do not lead you to God. Now, Jesus said something very absolute, isn't it? He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me.” [John 14:6] You know what He's saying? He's saying, “There's only one way. Only one truth.” Wow! In a pluralistic society like Singapore and in this world, this does not sit well with a lot of people. But that's what the Bible says.
See, religion can be deadly. If religion is teaching you do this, do that, give tithes, come to this, go to that, offer this sacrifice, pray this. And by doing all these things, they say, “Perhaps the deity will be pleased with you and let you into the better life.” What this religion is teaching is to be self-righteous. What this religion is teaching is - earn your way to God!
But you see, it totally ignores the fact that the Bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one”. [Rom 3:10] It totally ignores the fact, that we are so diseased and corrupted in sin, that there will be no one who will ever want to do right. And no one, even if he wants to, who is capable of doing right. Zero! And you will never be able to meet up to God's absolute, perfect, holy standard.
So if religion teaches you, self-righteousness, earn your way to God, you are under a curse. You are doomed! It leads you further from God. The Kingdom of heaven is not entered into by people who say, “I can do it!” The Kingdom of heaven is given to those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn over their sin. In other words, those who understand that they are spiritual bankrupts. They have absolutely nothing to offer God. But these are the people who are now ready to look to God's amazing provision in Jesus Christ, His Son.
You make your choice. Not all religions are good. In fact, I'll say, there is only one way to God. The way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He came to give His life on the cross. No one else did this. No one else rose from the dead after giving his life for the sins of the world. Jesus did and He's absolutely the only one who can save you from your sins.
I think this is what I learned from this text. Not all religions are good, but Christ is the only way.
Question 2: All Church Leaders Are Good?
Number two, can I ask if this is true? All church leaders are good.
I wish this is true lah! But I don't think this is true. At least in this story, I read that the religious leaders are not good. They're terrible. No, they look good! They certainly look impressive. They memorize the Torah. They wear phylacteries, long fringes. They have respectable names - Rabbi so and so. The world in Jerusalem adores them. But they are far from good, they are like wolves in sheep's clothing.
Jesus warns about that! Apostle Paul says that, “Satan himself will transform into angels of light.” So there is that possibility about church leaders being corrupt and false. Now, I am not saying that, “You should be paranoid.” “Wow! Pastor Jason, he fake one! Look at him!” I … I'm not saying that, you should be paranoid and you should be like so suspicious in life.
But it also means that you must not be gullible, and you must not take things for granted. And you must be aware that just as Satan is active in this world, leading people astray, he’s also very active in the church and he's seeking opportunities to lead people away from God via false teachings.
Now, false teachers, false church leaders are not obvious. They don't come to you, saying, “Ha … aah, I'm going to cheat you!” That's stupid! That's a lousy false teacher! Be out in no time. So the Bible tells us, “They are smart. They are wolves in sheep's clothing.” They make effort to disguise themselves, at least they put on the right costumes. They put on the sheep's clothing. They put on Christian name – Hezekiah, whatever … wah! So ‘chim chim’ one ah! Those kind of impressive sounding names.
They … they … they put on Christian lingo. They learn what it means to say, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” They can spew verses in front of you. They might have gone to some seminary, gotten a seminary degree. They … they will look the part. But how do you tell a false teacher apart? You know, even red riding hood was a bit smart, right?
“Grandma, how come your mouth is so long, or your nose is …” I can't remember what … mouth is so long, right? Whatever lah! “Grandma, why your ears, so pointed?” Whatever lah! At least she can tell, “Eh … this one, not like grandma leh! Grandma, where got like that one?”
Okay, so how do you tell a false teacher apart? How do you tell a wolf apart? Can't tell lah! Wah! You guys ‘kena gasak’. [being hit hard in Malay] How do you tell a wolf apart? Well, what I said earlier, please don't look at that, don't look at qualifications. Don't look at names. Bible words that may spew out of his mouth, just the pure words itself. Don't look at his background. These are not entirely reliable.
Don't look at his following. “Aiyah! That one, so many people believe him, so many people in his Church, must be good one nah!” Is it true? Is it true? 2nd Peter tells us that, “There will be many who would follow him.” You know that? False teachers are very attractive, many would follow them. So, size of a church is not reliable. Doesn't mean that if it's big, if it's popular, it must be good. Nope!
How do you tell them apart? Two things. What did Jesus say about the Pharisees, earlier, last week? “They preach, but they do not practice.” So it's very important, you tell a false teacher apart by their lives, by their deeds. So Jesus also said in Matthew 7, you shall know them by their … by their face? No! You can't. “You shall know them by their fruit.”
So you look at their life. Is this man living a high life? Is this what he aims for? Is he living a self-indulgent, greedy life? That's what you have to check.
Number two, what else do you have to check? You look at his deeds and then you look at his …? Wah! You guys are really in trouble eh, I tell you. Huh, okay after today, I hope you can diagnose and spot a wolf. Not easy! I mean these are easy principles but applying it does take some discernment, but generally you look at deeds, and number two, you look at the doctrine.
Why do I say that? In this story, in this passage, the scribes and Pharisees they lead the people to godliness or ungodliness? What do you think? Ungodliness! The net result of the Pharisees and their teachings is that people would simply sin more and more. In what? In lying. Sin more and more in what? In neglecting mercy, faithfulness and justice. Watch them, watch their lives, watch the … watch the kind of teaching they give.
And I've noticed that this is actually a very good gauge. “Oh! This church pastor is very charismatic, very eloquent. Wow! People feel good.” My question is not whether people feel good, but do people live good? I think good preaching is not based on how people feel after the service. “Ah! What an emotional experience!” “Ah! He's so funny! Every sermon, I laugh until I want to die, you know!” “Well, that's a good, good sermon, good pastor.”
Is that good preaching? No! Good preaching - how do you know? When you walked out the door, “Pastor, good sermon, good sermon, good sermon.” Is that how you judge? No! What's a good sermon? What's a good body of truth? When people live in Gospel-centered, joyful obedience to God. That's how I know that is good. Not legalistic obedience ah, but Gospel-centered, joyful obedience to God.
So the Pharisees, they do not have the deeds. They preach, but they do not practice. And then their doctrine is horrible. It leads people to more sin, not godliness. And therefore you need time to tell a wolf apart. Not always easy. Watch his life, takes time. And then watch his teaching, the impact on people's life, it also takes time.
But eventually, I almost say the, “狐狸会漏出尾巴” [hú lí huì lòu chū wěi bā] But this is not 狐狸 [[hú lí], this is a wolf. The wolf’s tail will eventually come out one, lah! You just have to be patient about it. But for those of you, who are thinking about being a false teacher ah! By the way, false teachers come from where? Which factory? Which … which seminary produces false teacher? I tell you where they come from, they come from within the church. 1st John 2, “They come from amongst us.”
So if any one of you, right now thinking of being a false teacher, let me remind you, Jesus gives you 7 woes, alright? You'll be in deep trouble! Why do people want to be false teachers? What's the motivation? From the Pharisees, we learned that they want to be popular, honored. They want the praise of men.
Number two, they want … they want to be famous, they want to be popular. Number two, they want? Money. Private jet, okay, yes. There are people in the States, who have private jets. Yes. Well, I know that it's about money because 2nd Peter 2 tells us so, “They make merchandise of men out of their covetousness.”
So, there's a poem since or little phrase here, “Since savage wolves, consumed with greed, seek simple sheep on which to feed. Wise are those wary lambs who [sic:gaze or] graze close by their shepherd's watchful gaze.”
So we need discernment. Now, I think I'm not a false teacher. But it's not for you to believe, it's for you to judge. And perhaps one day, I'll be gone and someone else comes in, and again, the same advice given to you, don't trust the pastor or the leader, simply because he is appointed by the church. Watch his life. Watch his deeds. Listen to his doctrine. It's your personal responsibility to discern, alright? So sad to say, but not all church leaders are good.
4. All Religious Deeds are Good?
Last thing, I want to end off with is this question - all religious deeds are good. Meaning, if this man comes to church, gives offering, prays, make sure he's on time, sings very loudly, he must be a good man. “Oh! Look at John! He's so godly. He sings with gusto and every time he sings, I see tears flow.” Lau mak chup [shed tears in Hokkien dialect] “Wah! He's so godly!” True? Maybe true, but not always true, right?
So, we have to be clear. Because some of us, we are like the Pharisees. We think that if we tithe to God, our mint and cumin and dill, somehow it covers up for the monstrosity I am at home. There are people like that! They, they play two … two roles. In church, in Care Group, they look like an angel, but at home, they are the devil. They … they somehow believe that God will take that positive part from their church and CG life and sort of cover up their problems at home, at work and in society.
No! It's not all good. Don't let your religious deeds be a blanket for your sins, please. God is not a fool. Even a father won't accept that from the son, why do you think God would accept that? What you need today, is not to try to cover up before God. There is nothing you can do to cover up, all things are known by the omniscient God.
But what you need to do today is - if you see that in your life, you are like a Pharisee, you have a pharisaical spirit. You have this belief that somehow your outer works would cover up for your inner covetousness and self-indulgence and greed. You somehow believe you can make up for your sins, I want to let you know - you can't!
There's no way you can make up for your sins. There's no way you can have a pure heart by yourself. But that's why God gives us a new heart. That's why the Bible tells us of this Good News, whereby man can be saved and God can bring about a new creation in you. God can give you a new heart. A heart that is cleansed, a heart that truly loves Him, from the inside out.
And I pray that will be true for us, that we will not be a people who are so concerned about cleaning our tombs, so concerned about cleaning the outside of our plates and cups. But we will be a people saying, “God, only you can clean the inside of my heart. Only you can bring life to someone dead in the tombstone.” That's the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
May we not fake our Christianity. One day, you have to stand before the all-seeing, Holy God. But let this humble us, there is still salvation available to you today. And I pray Gospeliters, we would serve God out of a genuine, sincere and pure heart. That's only possible, if you know the love of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May that marinate your heart. May that … may that be where your heart is in all the time, that filled with love, you flow in love towards Him.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
Not all religion is good. In fact, according to the Bible, there is only one way to God, Jesus Christ. All other ways are my ways, our own self-righteous ways. I pray today you will see your sin, your sinfulness and your helplessness. I pray today God by His Holy Spirit, would humble your heart in such a way that you would say, “I can't and I would never be able to save myself by obeying so many laws.”
But that you would see that Jesus paid it all. You would see that God is so amazingly gracious and generous, that He wants nothing from you, but that you will humble yourself and look to His Son who gave His life for you. May God today grant to you repentance and faith. May you today humble yourself at the foot of the cross, looking and depending on no one else but Jesus Christ, for He is the way, the truth and the life.
I pray Gospeliters, search our hearts today, won't you? By the grace of God, ask Him to see if there be any wicked way. Maybe it's idolatry. Maybe it's bitterness. Maybe it's pornography. Maybe it's the love for comfort and pleasures of this life. And you have ignored that for a long while, you did not, you do not want to deal with it.
But you somehow think that because you're coming to church, you're going for care group. You're teaching Sunday school, you are giving your offerings. You thought that by doing these things, somehow God will not be so upset with my pornography. Not so upset with my bitterness, not so upset with my idolatry.
My friends, come to God in humility and ask Him for cleansing. Ask Him to fill your heart with love, His love for you, that you might really worship Him with your life. Not just with your external deeds, not just with your things, but with your heart, your mind, your soul, your strength. Why? Because God never gave you parts of His Son, He gave you His Son, who gave His life on the cross. He gave everything for you, so let us worship God with our everything.
Father, we thank You for this morning that we could hear Your Word. We pray that these will not just be some lessons, we learned about Pharisees. But we might see the Pharisee, perhaps in some of us, in our lives. And that we will humble ourselves and say, “Lord, take out the Pharisee in us, fill that instead with the love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” So today, please save souls. Please call Your people to red-hot passion for You. Bless each one. We thank You and pray all this Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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