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Grace VS. Pharisee Spirit

I assume that most people believe, that they would never have been able to achieve a right standing before God without Jesus. But I also am afraid that many Christians are falling into the trap of the Pharisee Spirit, once they have been made new!

What is the Pharisee Spirit?

If we take a look at the gospels, we can pretty fast see a difference between the people who were considered sinners and the people who considered themselves righteous. The difference is in how Jesus dealt with each group.

The Sinners were the people that Jesus had a lot of kindness and gentleness towards, leading them on the path of following him for their forgiveness. The Pharisees, however, often had to experience a different Jesus. Often he would publicly expose their wrong attitude, have long debates with them and even call them names! (Matthew 12:34)

This is not Jesus, sinning in his anger, this is Jesus being in absolute unity with the heart of the father… like always.

The problem is in the heart condition. Once we have gained knowledge of the truth and we repent towards Christ, we understand that it is by grace we have been saved. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But we make the mistake and think that now we need to finish it out of our own effort. Nothing could be further from the truth!

My dear friends, just as our justification and salvation have been a complete act of grace, meaning we have done NOTHING to receive it, in the same way our sanctification (our transformation into the image of Christ) is completely by the grace of God!

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:4-6, NIV)

Paul was not anxious for the Philippians. He was joyful in his prayers, because he knew that God would complete his work in them! No doubt! He was confident.

The same epistle tells us to “work out” our salvation with fear and trembling, because God is the one who works in us the will and acting of the good deeds he has planned for us to do. (Philippians 2:12+13) Makes no sense first. But it does when you consider this:

Rick Warren once said in an interview with John Piper, ( )  that we only work out what is already there. If we go to the gym, we work out our muscles, but God is the one who gave the muscles. Now, in the same way, our salvation is from God and we work out its completion until Christ returns. But it is God who gives us the will and the acting, so that the whole thing is completely by… grace!

The Pharisees were blind towards grace! They believed that it is out of their own will and action, that they would be considered righteous before God. This blindness is so dangerous, that Jesus always had to pull the hammer and smack the truth against their darkened minds, so that this prideful spirit would gain no ground in the minds of their listeners!

The Pharisee Spirit rejects grace. It hates grace. And even if a Christian knows that salvation is by grace, he can still be trapped by this spirit and try to produce sanctification through works!

Now, do not get me wrong! Doing good deeds is something, maybe THE thing, that the New Creation carries as its trademark. But they are the fruit of something deeper.

Living and walking in the Spirit of Christ means, that we fully trust in God’s grace. We get up in the morning and know, that it is only by grace that we even opened our eyes just a second ago. Everything happens by grace. In the same way, we can do nothing without Christ.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

Jesus is the manifestation of God’s grace! If we want to remain in him, we have to remain in grace! We need to believe that he is the FOUNDER and PERFECTER of our faith! (Hebrews 12:2)

Nothing will happen out of our own will and effort. Everything will only happen HOW and WHEN Jesus decides it. I can figure out strategies to become more holy and try to act on them, they will only fail! If something works, it is by grace… if it doesn’t it is by grace! We need to stop writing books (or blogs) about strategies that helped us to walk in the Spirit… they only worked because of grace!

I want to challenge you to get rid of everything I have written about sanctification in former blogs, if it appears to produce self-righteousness in you! I apologize for this, and I want you to know that I have been made aware of the danger of my writings! Please write me if you are confused. Or just trust that God will make the things I have taught work or not. If not, just keep trusting him! He will give you grace to grow in his own time…

We have been made righteous by grace and we act accordingly by grace!

Self-Righteousness, which is the Pharisee Spirit, thinks: “I can do this now. I will show God how much I was worth dying for! How much I love him! I will make him proud of me!”

God is not interested in us showing our gratitude by works, but in showing our gratitude by trusting him for even more grace, trusting him to finish his work! Faith is what pleases him, not works! Works are a result of faith!

If the Pharisee Spirit is at work, you will try to become more like Jesus by your own efforts. Paul told the Galatians, that this disqualifies them from the grace that actually will change them. The whole book actually deals with that topic! It is worth studying, if God put such an emphasis on it!

If we try to start or finish the whole process of our salvation, we are deceived! We need to stop and let God do his work, trusting that his grace is what teaches us to “say no to ungodliness”.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14, NIV)

Now to close it: What is the part that the grace of God does and what is ours?

WE: Wait, ask for more grace and the things we need God to do and are being taught to say NO to sin, to live self-controlled and godly lives.

GOD: Teaches us by grace and works in us what we ask for, after he redeemed us and purifies us for himself to do good deeds.

Wait for God’s grace to work things in your life! Ask him for all things which the word says you need! Take his word and wait for grace to make it real in your life! Trust HIM! He works all things for his purpose! (Romans 8:28+29)

Do not think that you could just do this work yourself! It is a blockade for grace, if we try to create strategies for our sanctification. And God will resist us in our pride, until we are humbled enough to trust in his grace, which is sufficient for us! (James 4:6, 2 Corinthians 12:9)

The New Creation lives by faith in God’s grace… it is that easy… his burden is THAT light!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (Proverbs 3:5, NIV)

Grace be with you :)

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10 comments on “Grace VS. Pharisee Spirit

  1. savedbygrace
    April 10, 2012

    awesome, awesome, awesome!

    except the part of rick warren.
    what? exercise? that’s work!

    skipping. :)

    I notice some miracles Jesus did was in total “in your face assault” to pharisees or the teachers of the Law.

    like ,
    during Sabbath Jesus healed a sick.
    - it is unlawful to work on Sabbath

    spit on the ground and put the clay in the blind mans eyes
    - the clay is a ‘work’ and was done on Sabbath

    Jesus touched a leper, totally against the Law
    Jesus entertained the woman with the issue of blood,
    the woman broke a lot of laws.

    and so on and so forth.

    and yet, Jesus words to the sinners, and the Law breakers were so kind.

    but then with the pharisees, Jesus would call them vipers! whitewash tombs

    I could not help but make a long comment…sorry.

    great post!

    - grace and peace

    • lightchazer84
      April 13, 2012

      :) I think what Rick Warren meant with working out is this: Everything is by God, he gives us the will and the fulfillment to do the right things. We simply “do” them. Like a bird who simply moves his wings in the wind, while both the wind and the wings are given to him by God. We simply act on the impulses of the Spirit in us. That’s working out what we have been given. Makes sense?

  2. Johnny
    April 10, 2012

    Very good, thanks for that encouragement!

  3. Matthew Perri
    March 30, 2014

    [sing it to the tune of "Rapture" by Blondie]

    I’m Boss Paul, the Pharisee
    My hypocrisy’s plain for the world to see
    I travel the land and travel the sea
    to make a convert who is just like ME

    “All have sinned” – we know that’s true
    but it never means ME – it only means YOU
    My sins are all theoretical
    “I’m the worst of sinners”- but don’t ask where

    To be more like Jesus is what some strive
    except for me – I’ve already arrived
    I’m the perfect model since the road to Damascus
    What were Paul’s sins? Don’t ask us!

    I justify everything I do
    If I testify about myself it MUST be true
    I’m the only man in all history
    whose testimony doesn’t need two or three

    If I did something it MUST be right
    Don’t use the Scripture to shed any light
    Don’t do as I say, do as I do
    and then you can be a Pharisee too.

    • lightchazer84
      March 31, 2014

      That’s awesome!!!

      • Matthew Perri
        April 4, 2014

        Hi lightchazer84,
        I’m glad you can relate to that.

        Jesus is our pattern – not Paul. Here is a parable in the form of a “Letter” to illustrate what happens if you follow the wrong pattern.

        Letter to the Angelenos
        Setting and context: Los Angeles California, Summer 2009. Due to lack of rain, there is a water shortage.

        The Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, preached that homeowners should only water their lawns 2 days a week, not every day, in order to save water. But after that, a TV news crew camped out 24/7 at the mayor’s house, and found that the mayor’s own lawn was being watered every day. Now, it has come to the mayor’s attention that some other homeowners are also watering their lawns every day again.

        The mayor could write a letter to the homeowners of Los Angeles about the need for water rationing. If he decided to use the life of the Paul the Pharisee as his example, and he wanted to “be like Paul,” he could write the letter below, using Paul’s letter to the Galatians as his pattern.


        Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles,
        To the homeowners of Los Angeles:

        I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the 2-day-a-week plan for watering your lawns. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion. But even if we or an angel from heaven should tell you to stop the 2-day-a-week water-rationing plan, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody should tell you a different message, let him be eternally condemned! Not even my personal staff members at City Hall are watering their own lawns every day.

        You foolish Angelenos! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes I clearly explained the need for water rationing. I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. What has happened to all your joy? Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? How I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

        Mark my words! I, Antonio Villaraigosa, tell you that if you water your lawn every day, your life in Los Angeles will be of no value at all. You have fallen away from grace. For in Los Angeles, neither a green lawn nor a brown lawn has any value. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the 2-day-a-week water-rationing plan? A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty whoever he may be. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and turn their lawns into swamps!

        Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to water your lawn every day. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for having a brown lawn. In Los Angeles, neither a green lawn nor a brown lawn means anything.

        Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I’ve suffered a lot for the City of Los Angeles. Do as I say, not as I did. How dare you ask me why I was watering my own lawn every day?
        The Mayor of Los Angeles – Antonio Villaraigosa

  4. Matthew Perri
    March 31, 2014

    The Evangelical “Mexican Hat Dance”

    Sin is always specific, not general.
    The “Hat” is, “What were Paul’s sins?”

    The music starts, with a cheery blast of trumpets in a melody that is familiar to most North Americans- the “Mexican Hat Dance.” (The national dance of Mexico, taught in Mexican public schools since 1921, and officially named “El Jarabe Tapatio.”)

    A couple in rather elaborate traditional costumes begins the dance. The man throws his huge sombrero hat on the floor, and the couple dances around it, but never steps on the hat. (The “Hat” is, “what were Paul’s sins?”) Here are the basic steps- (there may be one or two other basic steps, but they are very similar to these.)

    What were Paul’s sins?

    STEP 1) Paul said; “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” [1 Timothy 1:13]
    (Response- Those were Saul’s sins, before Jesus called him. What were Paul’s sins as a Christian? )

    STEP 2) Paul said; “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst.” [1 Timothy 1:15]
    (Response- Sin is alwasy specific. What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? )

    STEP 3) Paul said; “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23]
    (Response- Again the same question; What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? )

    STEP 4) Paul said; “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” [Philippians 3:12-13]
    (Response- They say third time’s a charm. Same question; What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? )

    STEP 5) Paul said; “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing.” [Romans 7:15-19]
    (Response- One more time! This is getting boring. Same question; Specifically, what were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian based on specific verses of the Bible? )

    STEP 6) LOOP- REPEAT steps 1 through 5, until your dance partner gives up, the audience gets bored, or the music stops. The rule is- never step on the “Hat,” just keep dancing around it.

  5. Matthew Perri
    April 2, 2014

    Which is the most important?
    Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:

    “One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus],
    ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

    “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]

    …an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

    Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]

    But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
    “The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]

    And again, Paul wrote:
    “He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]

    Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
    .1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
    .2) second, love people.
    Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.

    This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)

    In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24]

    Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.”

    Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”

    The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said:
    “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.”
    Not one. TWO.

    Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.

    Here are answers to 2 common objections:
    .a) What about the so-called “Golden Rule”?
    Jesus spoke the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, including 7:12. Jesus didn’t make PART of this one verse out of context into “The Golden Rule” or “one rule.” Jesus did not use the term “Golden Rule,” it’s simply a tradition of men. The sentence begins with “So” in the NIV and Amplified Bibles, and “Therefore’ in the NASB and King James Bibles, which ties 7:12 to the previous sentences. So 7:12 cannot stand alone as One Commandment.

    .b) What about the so-called “Great Commission”?
    Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, including “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus never used the term “Great Commission,” it’s simply a tradition of men. Yes I agree it’s a commandment given by Jesus, it’s not optional, and it applies to us today. We need to carry this out, with our own God-given abilities and talents, using the skills, and circumstances we have. But we don’t need to put words in the mouth of Jesus, we can let Jesus speak for himself, and we can listen to Him – and obey Him.

    Evangelism is part of the Second Commandment given by Jesus, to Love people. Evangelism is not the most important commandment, and it isn’t the entire Second Commandment. So if our priorities are “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” we have our priorities upside down and confused, and we are not listening to the voice of Jesus. Never mind what Paul said. Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus first, and get our priorities straight.

    The people who will protest most loudly against this truth are the modern “Pauls:” traveling evangelists, speakers, writers, abusive absentee mega-church pastors, Crusaders, and self-appointed “apostles” like Paul, who find it “profitable” to “be like Paul” rather than follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

  6. Matthew Perri
    April 4, 2014

    Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

    What is a common analogy for a permanent decision?
    “Written in stone.”
    What could be more permanent than that?
    How about written in stone in heaven (in other words, for eternity.)
    And what kind of a stone is the most solid, permanent, and unchangeable?
    Perhaps a foundation stone?

    The Book of Revelation written by the Apostle John, chapter 21 verse 14 says… “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostle of the Lamb.”
    Nothing about a “13th Apostle” or an “Apostle of the Gentiles”…. Hmmmm…..

    Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

    Imagine “Wackyjesus” in “Wackyheaven”, built on the foundations of 12 chalkboards:

    “Matthias, you should have developed your skills in writing and public speaking. Your name never appears in the Bible after your appointment as the 12th Apostle in Acts 1. [erase erase erase]

    Actually, the same is true for you Thaddaeus, after you were appointed. You should have hired a PR firm to promote your name and make if famous. [erase erase erase]

    Of course, you both are specifically mentioned in Acts 6:2. “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together.” And this is before Saul/Paul is even mentioned. But let us not confuse the issue with facts. Paul did a much better job of marketing himself, and he wrote about himself hundreds of times. Share of voice equals share of mind. And most Evangelical pastors who read the Bible spend most of their time listening to the voice of Paul, so they become “like Paul.” But I digress…

    James, we had a good run. I didn’t think King Herod would knock you off so quickly. [erase erase erase]

    Oh well. Wow, they’re dropping like flies. Now I’ve got 3 slots open. I’d better buy a case of chalk and some more erasers. I’ll have to change the names on these 12 chalkboards hundreds of times in the next couple of millennia.

    I guess I had better plan ahead, and save a slot for the last Pope, Francis. And the head Mormon Apostle. And I need to save a throne for my mom, or she’ll be mad. And one for Muhammad too. Who needs truth in relationship, when I can quickly get market share, and totally dominate the market, through mergers and acquisitions?

    And one throne for that other guy named Peter. When he was younger, he used to have the great theological insight about territorial spirits and wrestling with dark angels. What was his last name? Begins with a consonant. Sounds almost like he was in the personal transportation industry back in “sword and sandal epic” days… “Peter Charioteer?” Maybe not. This isn’t the “fullest” description of him, but it’s full enough. Anyway, I should save a throne for him too.”

    So what is the application of this parable?
    Beware of the NAR whale – it’s really a killer whale with a man-made horn strapped on top. The only place in the New Testament that mentions anything like “Seven Mountains” is Revelation 17, “seven hills on which the woman sits.” (The Great Prostitute, that is.) Rome is the city that sits on seven hills, the perfect place for Peter the Roman, the New World Pope for the New World Order, to replace the original Apostle Peter in the apostate church of the Antichrist.

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