“blessed be the name of Jehovah.” His blessing of God’s name was unconditional, irrespective of context, and without reason.
Beware Of Being a Modern Day Pharisee
I’m a believer in the Lord. In our church, every year at Christmas, our choir will rehearse programs and hold a solemn concert to remember the birth of the Lord Jesus. I remembered that when I watched the programs for Christmas for the first time, hundreds of people were dressed in their Sunday best and singing soul-stirring hymns one after another in orderly arrangement, and I immediately was attracted by this huge line-up, feeling excited and emotional, and could not help but burst into tears. Afterward, regardless of how busy I was, I would attend Christmas celebrations at Christmas Day every year. Sometimes I had attended celebrations in town, and still hurriedly rode my bicycle to a village in the outer suburbs to attend another one.
I recalled that one Christmas Day, I went to other church to watch programs. Unluckily, the church had already performed on Christmas Eve, and specially allowed this day for brothers and sisters to have opportunities of praising the Lord. Then, brothers and sisters, either three or two, went up onto the stage and sang hymns in succession with high passion, and the others sitting in the audience also sang along. I stood off the stage, and was eager to sing a hymn on stage too. I waited until no one sang, but time was up. I didn’t gain the opportunity of sacrificing on the stage, so I felt I didn’t satisfy the Lord, and that I was disloyal and indebted to Him.
After going home, I was depressed in my heart all along. When I was watching TV after dinner, my elder sister came visit me. We talked about the things which had happened in the daytime. She saw I was in a gloomy mood and said: “You think you don’t try your best to celebrate, so you feel that you are indebted to and dissatisfy the Lord, and feel dejected. This makes me recall that the Bible said: ‘Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not your disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands? He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do’ (Mark 7:5-8). At that time, the Pharisees only kept these traditions and all kinds of manners. They thought not holding these was resisting God, and even they accused the Lord Jesus according to these. However, they were rebuked by the Lord Jesus, and He exposed they were hypocritical and praised on the outside, but had no place for God in their hearts, and that they held man’s traditions but abandoned God’s commandments. Looking at ourselves, we haven’t kept the holiday, so we feel indebted to God. Have you ever thought that we don’t abide by His way or act according to His teachings when faced with things, but instead pursue the evil trends of the world and covet physical enjoyment? Have we ever felt indebted to Him for these things? Aren’t we the same as the Pharisees?” After hearing my sister’s words, I felt pricked in the heart. Thinking about it, I was indeed like what my elder sister said. I celebrated these holidays outwardly, but in real life, I didn’t keep the Lord’s teachings. I always did things according to the interests of my flesh and committed sins, but I didn’t feel remorseful; on the contrary, I was depressed because I didn’t have a good time on holiday. What I did was not different from when the Pharisees only held on to the man’s traditions but abandoned God’s commandments. Those she fellowshiped was the fact!
Then, she continued saying: “When God was incarnated as the Lord Jesus and started to work, He performed many wonders and miracles: making the blind see, and the lame walk, feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and bringing Lazarus back form the dead. Finally He was nailed to the cross by the sinners, became the sin offering forever, and then redeemed all of us mankind…. What is the purpose of God incarnate coming into the earth and doing these work? His purpose is not to meet or live together with man, but to save us from sins. He hopes that we can follow His way, practice His word and know His intention.”
Having heard so much from my sister, I felt ashamed of myself. At the time, when I preached the gospel to her and told her many things of the Lord Jesus, she listened with great interest and praised me for knowing much about the Bible. Unexpectedly, she could speak of such fresh and clear knowledge now. To tell the truth, her fellowship was reasonable. What God wants is not our outward worship but the true worship with our heart and honesty. … These years I read the Bible every day, and continued attending meetings, but why didn’t I understand these? Hearing her fellowship today, I felt God’s work is really practical. Meanwhile I felt the intention of the Lord Jesus that He wants us to walk in His way to know Him. These years I kept to some outward practices and celebrations and actively attended all kinds of festivals, such as Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day … I was quite zealous outwardly, but in the end I didn’t understand God’s intention at all.
Think about John, Peter and the other apostles and disciples, they didn’t celebrate any festivals for the Lord Jesus during the time when they followed Him. But they paid attention to hearing His word, following His way, preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus redeeming mankind, then bringing man before God …
Recollecting these facts, I truly realize that it is too important for us to know God and understand His intention. Only when we know God can we act on His intention, and can we truly be loyal to and worship Him. Moreover, I realize that if I am just satisfied with working enthusiastically and holding man’s traditions but don’t follow the Lord’s way or pay more attention to know His being, I am certain I will make mistakes as the Pharisees did and resist the Lord.
Thank the Lord for His grace! I have gained so much at this Christmas.
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You may be interested in this article: Watch Out! The Pharisees’ Hypocritical Teachings