As I study the life of Jesus, one fact consistently surprises me: the group that made Jesus angriest was one that He outwardly resembled. Jesus obeyed the Mosaic Law and quoted leading Pharisees (Mark 9:11-12; 12:28-34). Yet He singled out the Pharisees for His strongest attacks. He called them serpents, a brood of vipers, fools, and hypocrites (Matt. 23:13-33).
What provoked such outbursts? The Pharisees devoted their lives to following God, gave away an exact tithe (v.23), obeyed every law in the Torah, and sent out missionaries to gain new converts (v.15). Against the relativists and secularists of the first century, they held firm to traditional values.
Yet Jesus’ fierce denunciations of the Pharisees show how seriously He viewed the toxic threat of legalism. Its dangers are elusive, slippery, hard to pin down. I believe these dangers remain a great threat today.
Jesus condemned the emphasis on externals: “You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (v.25). Expressions of love for God had become ways to impress others.
The proof of spiritual maturity is not how “pure” you are but your awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to God’s grace. — Philip Yancey
Monday, September 21, 2009
What Opens the Door to God's Grace
Philip Yancey's piece in today's edition of Our Daily Bread, based on Matthew 23:1-15, warrants quoting in its entirety: