An AshWednesday Leftover:  Sometimes when you prepare a delicious meal, you can’t eat it all at once. Sometimes everything a passage teaches can’t fit into one sermon. I enjoy leftovers. A good meal is worth eating twice. I hope you enjoy a couple of leftovers from last night's sermon:

I have been called a Pharisee before. Sometimes it’s an indirect attack. When some public figure speaks out about a public sin which society has accepted, people like to quote Jesus, “Let him who has no sin throw the first stone” (John 8:7). And, “Judge not lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1). The message is clear, “Because you are no better than me,” (I’m not), “then you can’t tell me I’m doing anything wrong.” Christians are told how unloving and hypocritical they are. We are often unloving. We are Pharisees.

I have also been called a Pharisee by other Christians. I believe a form of the historic liturgy is a good, useful, and orderly way for Christians to focus on the gospel while worshiping. “Those are just traditions taught by men!” “You don’t care about the lost!” “Don’t trample on my Christian freedom!” Are all criticism I have heard. Sometimes, it is well deserved. When I begin to think the way I do something makes me a better Christian, I am a Pharisee.

The problem is, we are all Pharisees. Self-righteousness is engrained in our sinful nature. We all would love to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye, while ignoring the plank in our own (Matthew 7:3-5). Often when we argue about morality, or traditions, or methodology, both sides quickly turn into Pharisees. Both sides search for the reasons why they are right, why they are the real Christians, why they care more about their neighbors or the truth of God’s Word. Stop it! Stop calling others Pharisees, you Pharisee! The moment you make Jesus take “your side”, the moment you think Jesus is talking about “those people”, you are the Pharisee whom the Lord rebukes. God’s harshest judgments need to be leveled first against our own hearts. The Lord is rebuking you, you Pharisee. The Lord is rebuking me, a self-righteous sinner.

You know who never called someone else a Pharisee and didn’t speak against “those people”? The prostitutes, tax collectors, and “sinners” never accused others of being worse than them. Instead, they turned to Jesus and his mercy and love. They repented and received the full and free forgiveness of the Lord.  They were sinners and they knew it. So are we. We are the “sinners” Jesus came to save. So let’s keep our eyes focused on him, on his Word, on his rebuke, on his cross, on his forgiveness. Then we can talk to each other, even rebuke each other, in love. Kyrie Eleison.

 

To God Alone be the Glory