Seeds of Promise Message by Shenica Graham
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Close To Home
Memory Verse: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Matthew 23:23
Related Reading: Jeremiah 11 – 14
In our recent look at Jeremiah 11-14, it seemed that the children of Israel were unable to really change their ways since they kept inciting God’s wrath. When they looked for a blessing, they found a curse in response to their disobedience. What about God’s people today? Will we find what we are looking for? – or are we simply close to home: so close and so far away?
Remember that holiness is a lifestyle. It does not become so by some stroke of magic. It is not determind by our bank balances or fame. It is not controlled by who we know or how much we know. Holiness is a heart condition. A heart failure is a spiritual disconnect from the life source – God. Holiness is built much like a physical structure that must withstand the elements. There is first a foundation – God and salvation through Christ after repentance. Then, the building is constructed by connecting its several parts. If pieces are missing, the structure will be unstable.
A 2001 insurance study – in which more than 11,000 people reported having had an automible accident, showed that 77% of the reported crashes occurred within 15 miles of the driver’s home. It is thought that drivers may take fewer precautions close to home – in familiar surroundings.
A similar phenomena is present for some people who develop a religious comfort zone. You may have witnessed their behavior. They become convinced that their position in the church organization, or ability to spend days without repast, or possession of many things – or chosen vow of poverty, or ability to qoute scriptures on demand… or many other things which the Scribes and Pharisees held to their credit, guarantees their entrance to the promised land. They are mistaken. They have chosen the wrong foundation for a spiritual house.
In the 23rd chapter of Matthew, we see God’s response. He calls the Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites. They surely knew the law for they were commissioned to teach and could eye infractions with ease. But God sees the heart of man, and does not regard his title, vestments, houses and land the way crowds tend to do.
“1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:1-12 KJV
“Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Matthew 23:28 KJV
Because of the corruption of some teachers who should be spiritual but are not, there is a disturbing trend infiltrating the church today. More and more people are being cast out of the church. This quick-fix is had rather than the fasting and prayer that God ordained.
“Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Mathew 17:19-21 KJV
The church is supposed to be a refuge for the broken hearted; a source for the poor; a sanctuary. Instead, we see “religious people” avoiding sinners like the plague. – Not the purpose of resisting evil – though that is often the flag waived in defense of discrimination when they do not want to deal with the facts. Then while broken souls are suffering with nowhere else to turn, they are further condemned for truning to evil acts outside of the church to fill a void that can only be filled by the love of Christ. They are left to search forever – unless God intervenes. They have turned outreach ministry into something called self-glory. They are more concerned with credit for good works than service.
“13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” Matthew 23:13-14 KJV
These corrupt teachers are effective because they have as much zeal in bringing sinners to repentance as do those of a pure heart. But there is a difference.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” Matthew 23:15 KJV
The Scribes and Pharisees were “close” to the source that they claimed to represent. They were close in book-knowledge. But they did not understand what they were reading. Jesus said,
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39 KJV
With such boldness in drawing away the hearts of men, women and children, the scribes and Pharisees are blind to their own failing heart condition – that their hearts are far from God, though they speak the scriptures and wear the robes of Levites. When a true prophet, teacher, pastor, etc. from God is on the scene, the Scribes and Pharisees can be identified by their opposition. They are in conflict with the truth and do attempt to derail the annointing. But God has made it plain that even they shall confess and recognize the corner stone they once rejected.
“For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 23:39 KJV
We must actively build holiness, not religion. Religion is a man-made organization of faith. Holiness is a lifestyle founded upon faith. The parts we use to build our spiritual house should be from the right source – a pure heart of love toward God, fitly joined together by the mortar of understanding of what love for God actually means. The Pharisees claimed to know God, not to love Him. But God said, “…if ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). It is only through pruning our hearts to love God more, that we can move from merely appearing close to God – to serving Him.