Today's scripture focus passage: Luke 11:37-44 ~ Woes upon the Pharisees
Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.Convincing a highly religious person they need salvation is the toughest sell out there. And I think for many Christians, we haven't spent a whole lot of time thinking about what to say to people who are very devout, so we tend to just steer clear of those kinds of conversations.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.”
MacArthur points out an interesting thing in his message ~ the more rules, regulations, rituals, etc. there are involved in a certain religious system, the less truth there actually is to believe in. More and more rules need to be thought up and followed to give the appearance of devotion. These people love symbols, sin, the simplistic, secondary things, status... and Jesus exposes them because there’s no other way to get to their hearts.
The Pharisees and religious leaders of the time had TONS of rules that had been added to the Mosaic Law, completely missing the point of the Law, and to make it easer to separate those who were really dedicated to keeping it from the masses. They were passionate about literally following the letter of the Law instead of understanding God's heart behind it.
And so Jesus once again tries to point out where they're going wrong. He curses them for their unreachability, their blindness. He makes it so clear they're completely missing the whole point of the Law. No wonder He wasn't very popular with them!
But this is why it's hard to reach very religious people. They're blinded by traditions and ceremonies and have been deceived into believing if they can just follow all the rules, complete all the rituals, achieve all the requirements, they EARN salvation. We know, of course, this isn't true, but convincing someone who is passionate about religion that it's all completely worthless is, well, almost impossible. Jesus Himself had virtually no success.
And given that reality, it would be easy to just write off these kinds of people when we meet them. I mean, if Jesus couldn't do it, why bother trying, right?? It's very simple to just leave people from distinct religious orders alone because they are so convinced they are doing all the right things. And we don't really want to directly get to the heart of the matter like Jesus did because well, firstly, we probably don't know enough about their religious order or about what the Scriptures say in opposition to it, and secondly, we fear conflict, unpopularity, "crucifixion."
The important thing to remember however, that though Jesus had VERY limited success with highly religious people of His day, He did reach some. He didn't write them off even though He knew that by and large they wouldn't receive His message. He knew they'd vehemently and violently oppose it. He knew they'd have Him crucified for it. But He still tried anyway.
MacArthur asks, "What should characterize those who truly know God? Not the outside, but the inside--love for righteousness, love for God, love for Christ, love for Scripture, love for the truth, love for others, love for sound theology, love for lowliness and humility. And when you bump up against those people, you're exposed to eternal life, not defilement."
May we be willing to do the hard work, the studying, so we KNOW how to expose the hypocrisy and get to the hearts of the religious people we meet, how to answer their questions and refute their arguments. May we be willing to be unpopular and disliked. And may we expose them to eternal life, not merely a different form of empty religion.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: Ephesians 4; Proverbs 1; Job 37-38
Tomorrow's scripture focus passage: Luke 11:45-54