MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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10 SIGNS YOU MAY BE MORPHING INTO A PHARISEE
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Are you turning into a person you never thought you’d become? It’s possible to start off on the right foot, and gravitate toward an approach to spiritual “growth” that will leave you dry, empty and wondering how you got there in the first place.
There were 6,000 Pharisees in Jesus’ day, and most of them were His arch enemies. Today, there are millions of “pharisees.” Beware the ten warning signs that you may be morphing into one. The first five are great, and are provided to simply show how much the average Christian already has in common with a Pharisee. The second five are not good at all – and are traits that each of us can, if we are not careful, adapt with the passage of time. You may have more in common with a Pharisee than you realize . . .
THE GOOD STUFF YOU MAY HAVE IN COMMON WITH A PHARISEE:
1. You may believe people are immortal, and will spend eternity either in or apart from the presence of God. The Pharisees believed this.
2. You may prioritize the Scriptures, memorize them and meditate on them. The Pharisees had the equivalent of a PhD in the Old Testament – yet the hearts of most of them were far from God.
3. You may be a firm believer in the sovereignty of God. So were the Pharisees.
4. You may believe in angels and the spirit world. So did the Pharisees.
5. You may be politically neutral, supporting candidates who embrace and champion values based on God’s word. The Pharisees were the same, and did exactly this.
THE PHARISEES OF JESUS’ DAY BELIEVED AND/OR PRACTICED ALL OF THE ABOVE. These are good things – but they do not guarantee a growing love for God and people. Resting in them alone, therefore, merely puts you on the same page as a Pharisee. Many Christians are comfortable simply believing the above, as if these things alone are reflections of love for God. They aren’t.
THE BAD STUFF YOU MAY HAVE IN COMMON WITH A PHARISEE:
6. You may love the Word of God, the Bible, but you have fallen out of love with the God of the Bible. The chief end of all Bible reading, Bible meditation, and Bible memorization, is to know, love, enjoy and follow God. The Pharisees had all 613 Old Testament laws memorized, along with so much more. They had the equivalent of a PhD in the Old Testament – yet they missed Jesus when he was right in front of them. They did not understand that the purpose of the Scriptures was, and is, to create spiritual practicality in loving God and people. This is the chief aim of man and the purpose of God’s word.
The Pharisees loved the Scriptures, but they didn’t love God and they didn’t love people. If you don’t have, as a burning passion of your life, a growing love for God and people (both), you are on your way to becoming a Pharisee.
7. You may have forgotten that the most important aspect of your spiritual journey and growth is inner purity. Spiritually “good” behavior comes from the inside-out. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day thought a person was “good” because of what they did and did not do. Jesus, and the Bible, teach us that good behavior is the byproduct of inner purity, which God alone can create in a person when they repent and keep repenting.
Neglect inner purity as the starting and ending place of true spiritual maturity, and you are on your way to becoming a modern Pharisee.
8. You may be impressed with, and even seek, the praise of people. This is spiritual pride. The Pharisees loved the praise of people, the best seats in the marketplace. They loved to be noticed. It’s easy in our social-media crazed society to start slipping down the slope of liking, even pursuing, human attention. The only attention you need – and will want – if you are growing in your relationship with God, is to know God’s opinion of you.
Watch out for spiritual pride. It’s deceptive and it wants to master your life. It will, if you are not careful. You must continually renounce it, or you will be on your way to becoming a Pharisee.
9. You may think righteousness can come from anything apart from personal faith in Jesus as Savior, Master and God. It can’t. If it could, Christ died for nothing. In Luke 11:37 and following, a Pharisee invited Jesus to His home for dinner. Jesus went and reclined at the table with him and other Pharisees and Scribes (Old Testament “lawyers”). Jesus was right in front of them. Salvation was right at their table. And they missed Him! Why? Because the Pharisees thought they could be saved by observing the Law. But Romans 3:20 teaches that is impossible: “For by no works of the law no human being will be justified in his (God’s) sight.”
So, what was the purpose of the Law? Romans 3:20 teaches that “through the law comes knowledge of sin.” The Pharisees thought observing the do’s an don’ts of the Old Testament would save them. Actually, the purpose of those do’s and don’ts was to teach that God’s standard is perfection, and can’t be attained without divine help. In other words, God wanted us to see that we fall short, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Then, and only then, can we realize that we need God to rescue us. Hence, the Savior, Jesus.
If you think you can be saved by being a “good” person, you miss the whole point. No one is good, nor can anyone be “good.” If you’re trying to be “good” and attain God’s forgiveness and personal purity by obeying the Bible without doing so out of love for God, you miss the whole point, and are on your way to becoming a Pharisee.
10. You may think that increasing personal purity, sanctification, can come from anything apart from ongoing surrender to Jesus Christ. It’s not that we are doing things for God, changing ourselves. It’s that God changes us when we get out of the way – when we surrender to Him. Partial surrender is not surrender. Partial obedience is disobedience. Good deeds – deeds that God calls good – are those things that come from an overflow of having been cleansed of all your sins by personal faith in Jesus Christ. When God makes you clean, you begin, by default, to do clean things. This is what Ephesians 2:10 means: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Good works are the overflow of being made good by God Himself.
If you trust on anything to help you grow in your walk with God apart from surrender to God, and inviting Him to finish what He started, you are on your way to becoming a Pharisee.
The great news is that you can place all your faith in Jesus Christ, God will remove all your sins, make you good in His sight, and your journey of doing good things, and being spared of becoming a Pharisee, will begin. But once that journey begins, be careful you don’t allow yourself to go back to your old way of stinking thinking.
Beware the warning signs of becoming a Pharisee. The danger never goes away. Real repentance, a lifestyle of humble submission to Jesus Christ, is the repellent for the cold, empty, pharisaic way of life.
HOW ABOUT YOU? HOW HAS THIS BLOG HELPED YOU THINK – AND HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE GOD IN A LIFESTYLE OF REPENTANCE? I’D LOVE TO KNOW, AND MOST LIKELY, SO WOULD OTHERS WHO WILL BE BLESSED BY YOUR HONESTY.
ROOT OR FRUIT?
GOING NUCLEAR AGAINST SIN
There are two ways we can go through life. The first is to fixate on the secondary issues. This takes a great deal of time, energy and motivation because when we only address secondary issues they will always keep returning. At the end of the day, this is a waste of time. Once time is wasted, it can’t be purchased, recycled, replenished or renewed. No one in their right mind intentionally wastes their life. But if we’re not careful, a focus merely on the secondary issues will lead us exactly to this end. The second way to deal with problems – the way that is wise and exceedingly more efficient – is to address them at a root level. If we want to change the fruit, we must address the root.
In speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus said, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8, ESV). Just before this, He called them a “brood of vipers.” No matter what universe you live in, there’s simply no way those words can be taken as a compliment. Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders. Is He, in His words to them, rebuking us, today?
The problem with the Pharisees and Sadducees was deep, at a root level. The same can be true for each of us. One of the reasons we don’t move forward with God as quickly and consistently as we would, is because we often refuse to deal with the root issues behind our struggles. At the end of the day, our refusal to deal with the root is the heart of the matter. Literally.
THE NUCLEAR OPTION
Repentance is the “nuclear option” when it comes to progress with God and achieving eternally significant success. Of all the things we could embrace, nothing will move us forward more decisively – and consistently – than a life that learns to walk in repentance from sin and devotion to God. When repentance becomes our way of life, we deal with sin at a root level. This, in turn, takes care of all the fruit.
“What lesson is there in this for us, today? A revolutionary one, if we’re willing to listen.”
One of the things that I find nearly paralyzing is that there were 6,000 Pharisees when Jesus walked the earth – and he didn’t choose a single one to be among the twelve Apostles. This, from a business model, would be a strategic blunder. Think about it: you’re going to start a spiritual movement. It’s going to build upon the teachings of Judaism and transform Jews and non-Jews alike, shaping entire cultures. The natural starting point would be to reach out and recruit the scholars and experts in the Law. After all, the Old Testament is the schoolmaster to the New Testament. Jesus, however, knew something about the Pharisees and Sadducees that only God could know: the condition of their hearts. It was their hearts that defiled them – even though they knew their Old Testament inside and out.
What lesson is there in this for us, today? A revolutionary one, if we’re willing to listen. Listening, however, is a lost art for the typical American Christian. Our much-needed revolution, therefore, has been greatly delayed. Until now.
Jesus warned the Jewish leaders, saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39, ESV). Wow. Their problem wasn’t that they weren’t reading their Bibles. The problem was in their application of what they read. Their problem was that they failed to see that the purpose of their Bibles was to help them now the nature and character of God – so they could, in turn, reflect it in everything they touched.
I’m fairly certain that no Pharisee awoke each morning looking for ways to live a life devoid of God’s power, purpose and purity. Their failure to put their education into practice was their undoing. The same could be said of what’s happened to many within the Body of Christ in America.
We are living in the golden age of phenomenal Bible teachers, huge churches, super seminaries and beautiful Bible colleges. There are more Bible translations and Christian resources available to Americans than at any other time – to any civilization – in the history of humanity. But look at what has happened to America. We are in a moral free-fall. Racial tension is brewing like a bubbling kettle on a glowing stove top. Politicians have become theologians, legislating morality with unprecedented boldness at the expense of biblical truth.
It’s time for the sleeping Giant, the Church, to arise. But in order for this to happen, each and every one of us needs to go nuclear and deal with the root that’s been producing our fruit. The fruit of America is a reflection of what’s really happening in the lives, families and houses of worship throughout our nation at a root level.
If each of us (re)discovered the power of repentance, turning from sin and turning to God, the fruit would take care of itself. It’s time to go deep with God – not in some distant time in the future, but now. Focus on the root and you’ll bear the right fruit. Yes, indeed, repentance is the spiritual nuclear option when it comes to progress with God and the kind of success that matters not only in this life, but also the life to come.
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE BIBLE YOU KNOW? COULD IT BE THAT YOU’VE BEEN FOCUSING ON THE FRUIT, WHEN ALL ALONG GOD HAS BEEN CALLING YOU TO LET HIM DEAL WITH THE ROOT?
“True revival is the heightened presence of God among His people, resulting in changed hearts, renewed motives, confession and forgiveness of sin, restored relationships and an even deeper outpouring of the presence and blessing of God.”
This understanding of “revival” came to me in the early morning hours nearly seventeen years ago, as I slept, as if it were a gift to be used for a special occasion. I believe that occasion is here. True revival is the greatest need in the United States of America. It’s the greatest need in the life of a Christian living at this particular time in history. American Christians are in dire need of a second reformation, a real great awakening that doesn’t take us back to where we were, but to where we’ve never before been with God.
“Humility and repentance are the spiritual “nuclear” options when it comes to moving forward with God.”
When God moves, people cannot help but be drawn to Him. Those who are drawn end up being the hands and feet of Jesus, doing what would otherwise be inconceivable. No, I am not talking about supernatural works – I’m talking about walking in a new level of power and peace that overflows in the ministry of reconciliation. There has never been a real revival where forgiveness and reconciliation – the fruits of humility and repentance – were not abundant.
When God moves, people move with Him. Why has the National Week of Repentance surpassed our wildest expectations? Simply put, because humility and repentance are the spiritual “nuclear” options when it comes to moving forward with God. We can dabble in all other activities in the Name of Christ, but it is only when we become serious about humility and repentance that the Spirit of God begins to move in unstoppable ways. The National Week of Repentance seems to have the fingerprint of God upon it. If this is true, what has begun could be unstoppable.
“It is absolutely astounding to see what God is doing . . .”
Not only are people participating in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico (making this the first-ever event of its kind in American history), but other countries have jumped aboard as well. We have confirmed participants in China, Canada, Trinidad, Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, the Solomon Islands, Pakistan, Panama, Grenada and the United Kingdom. And these are only the places where we have confirmed participants. It is absolutely astounding to see what God is doing. Though the movement began on Sunday, registrations continue to be amazingly strong, with as many as 50 people signing up to join the movement – every hour.
Humility and repentance are indeed the spiritual nuclear options when we really want to make progress with God. No one who has resisted God has ever come out a winner. We are never more like Jesus in character than when we walk before God and people in true humility. American Christians are long overdue for an outpouring of true humility on a massive, unprecedented scale. The time for true revival in America may be overdue – but that must not deter us from asking God to move. In the end, He is never late, always on time, and exceptionally uncanny in every aspect of his timing.
“I believe that the main reason America has been without a sweeping, true revival for so very long is most likely because (we) are content to live life without walking . . . in full surrender.”
The wheels are coming off the American bus. The United States is incredibly divided, perhaps more so than at any other time in her history. Without a real move of God, the removal of the wheels will likewise be unprecedented. This will not end beautifully – unless we see a real move of God. But we must be careful we don’t become enamored with merely seeing God move. We must become passionate about being part of His movement.
Whenever God moves, He uses regular, ordinary people. With such ordinary vessels, He does extraordinary things. True revival is the heightened presence of God among His people, resulting in changed hearts, renewed motives, confession and forgiveness of sin, restored relationships, and an even deeper outpouring of the presence and blessing of God.
I believe that the main reason America has been without a sweeping, true revival for so very long is most likely because most of us who claim to be Christians are content to live life without walking, moment by moment, in the awareness of His presence, in full surrender. The day for such living must quickly come to an end if we are to be part of a new beginning with God.
It’s time for a real move of God across our land, and that move begins with you and me as we (re)discover the simplicity of living lives entirely surrendered to Jesus Christ. This is what it means to walk in humility and repentance. There is no higher calling in all of life, and no greater need in all of history.
HAS ANYTHING I’VE WRITTEN CONNECTED WITH YOU? HOW? IT WOULD MEAN A GREAT DEAL TO ME, AND PERHAPS TO MANY OTHERS, IF YOU’D BE KIND ENOUGH TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS.
America needs a bath. The National Week of Repentance began October 30 and will culminate on Sunday, November 6. It’s not too late to participate and spread the word! Visit RevivalMatters.com, sign up now, and you’ll be on your way.
IT IS TIME
“It’s time for a massive movement of humility in America, and it needs to begin with you and me.”
For the longest time, many of us sat on the sidelines waiting for someone to do something about America’s decline. The National Week of Repentance signals an end to that approach. The answer to America’s problems is found in the Bible. It’s time to do what it says when God’s people find themselves in a conundrum: repent. America needs a massive movement of humility like she’s never before seen. It’s time to ask God to do what He alone can do. Or, should I say, what He and we – together – can do.
With confirmed participants in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, we can humbly and confidently say that this has become the first-ever event of its kind in American history. Never before have people united across the nation – regardless of where they live – in a week-long event that has us all simultaneously calling out to God in repentance, asking Him to do a deep work in each of us, not merely in everyone else. What is happening is truly unprecedented.
The bedrock Bible verses for the National Week of Repentance are 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, which read as follows:
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, IF my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Yes, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 historically applies to the nation of Israel, and we are right to understand that America is not Israel. But there are some unchanging truths about God and His people that do indeed apply to all of God’s people. There are certain times when God’s people become the problem, triggering Him to become the Ultimate Problem. This requires God’s people to become the solution, so that God can become the Ultimate Solution. (I expanded on this in the opening message for the National Week of Repentance, yesterday. Check this week’s audio message for the podcast to catch it).
“What I’m suggesting is that we need to be careful we don’t think the solution lies in who is elected President. The solution lies in God’s elect and in our great God.”
When God wants to get our attention, He has a multiplicity of means to succeed. Especially when we’ve strayed from Him. I think God has been trying to get our attention – the attention of Christians in America who have allowed ourselves to be distracted, apathetic and disengaged with our God. It’s time we start to listen and change our ways. This is what it means to “repent.”
It’s very easy during a national election time to make the mistake of thinking that we will be stronger together, that we can make America great again if only we had the right person in office. Israel made the same mistake when they asked for a king, while all along they had the King of kings as their LORD. By saying this, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t vote. You should, indeed. What I’m suggesting is that we need to be careful we don’t think the solution lies in who is elected President. The solution lies in God’s elect and in our great God. If real hope and change is going to arise in the U.S.A., it’s going to happen when we, God’s people, humble ourselves and repent. Only then will we see God move with the healing power He wields so well.
My citation of 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, may tempt you to cry, “That’s Old Testament!” But what would such a cry mean? Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” While God may not be operating today in the same ways He did in days of old, His character and desires have never changed. He still finds humility to be an irresistible attractant that gets His attention and moves mountains.
Consider James 4:5-10, a New Testament passage:
“Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (Bold is mine, for emphasis).
James sounds strikingly similar to 2 Chronicles 7:14, don’t you think? Why should we be surprised? Jesus Christ hasn’t changed – but America certainly has.
It’s time for a massive movement of humility in America, and it needs to begin with you and me. It’s time we invite humility and repentance to lead us back to the feet of Jesus – not only for a single week across our nation, but for a lifetime, for such a time as this. The National Week of Repentance is our chance for a national reset among Christians – a second “reformation” we so desperately need, where humility and repentance take center stage once again, pointing us – and everyone – to our Solution, Jesus Christ. It begins with you and me, not with someone else. Let’s do this . . . now.
 See Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 3:33
WHAT DO YOU THINK? I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU.
We’re grateful to our friends at Charisma magazine for publishing this piece Mike wrote, calling on both Trump and Clinton to repent. We’d love your comments, below. You can catch the original publication in Charisma by clicking here.
I think it’s time to stop using Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as scapegoats. If we’re brutally honest with ourselves (and, sister, it’s high time for a dose of honesty in America), both of these candidates look strikingly similar to a great majority of Americans. Both profess to be Christian. Hillary is a long-standing Methodist; Trump, a Presbyterian. Yet both candidates have done, and keep doing, things that are entirely out of character for someone who is really following Christ. I think our major party candidates are the symptom of America’s real, major problem: Christianity needs a reset.
“What is God trying to say to America at this vital time?”
I think God has given us leaders just like ourselves. Stop for a moment and let that theory sink in. This election is not happening in a vacuum. It’s happening in the environment that is America. And just as we can’t get ourselves out of the mess we’re in, neither can our presidential candidates—because they are symptoms, not solutions, of America’s deep and deepening problem. I don’t think either major-party candidate for president has the character, temperament or humility to do what is required of leading our great nation forward through what I’m convinced will be her greatest challenges. If you do, I respectfully want to suggest that I don’t think you’re really paying attention. Herein lies our problem. I don’t think the majority of self-identifying Christians is familiar with the ways in which God speaks. If we are unfamiliar with His voice, we most certainly won’t recognize His message while He speaks.
What is God trying to say to America at this vital time? The very last verse of the book of Judges is we find words so subtly compelling, riveting and disturbing that they beg for resolution. I think they can be applied to life in 21st-century America:
“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25).
That is not the way to end a book—unless you want to incite the reader to change. People doing what is right in their own eyes, rather than in the eyes of God, is not a good thing at all. If we read our Bibles, we learn that God has a multiplicity of means to get the attention of His people—to get their eyes and hearts back on Him once they’ve strayed. One such way is to give His people leaders exactly—and I mean in the spitting image of—themselves.
Enter Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The majority of us Christians seem strangely “committed” to getting other people to follow a Jesus we don’t seem to be following ourselves. The majority of us don’t seem to be resolutely in love with Jesus, do we? This is a sin Jesus spoke against most severely. In Twitter terms, we would call it #doublestandard. Were it not for social media, we’d simply call it “hypocrisy.”
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a recovering hypocrite and sinner. You are too if you’ve truly given your life to Christ. In fact, we are the only clay God has in His pottery barn. But there is a world of difference between being committed to recovery and being a walking contradiction rather than a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2).
I believe God, more than either major political party, is trying desperately to get our attention — by doing nothing more than giving us leaders who look and act just like the majority of us. Could it be that our distaste for them is really a distaste for what each of us who claims to know Christ has become? When will we realize the brilliance of God? And what more manner of self-inflicted foolishness must we endure until we come to our senses and repent?
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both need to repent, big time—as do the majority of us Christians in America. God has, in the past, spoken to his people through a jackass (Num. 22). I think He is again speaking—very loudly and clearly—through an elephant and donkey, not about which one we ought to vote for, or against, but about a far more pressing and eternal need: the condition of our souls and our witness. Are we listening?
America needs a bath. You can jump in during The National Week of Repentance, coming Oct. 30-Nov. 6, the week before the election. You don’t have to travel anywhere to get your personal overhaul underway. It will happen simultaneously across the nation. Visit revivalmatters.com, sign up now, and you’ll be on your way.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do both candidates need to repent? What about the rest of us? We’d love your thoughts . . .
The National Week of Repentance starts this Sunday! Don’t miss this historic, simultaneous event happening across America. People in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and even the United Kingdom are participating! The beauty is that you don’t have to drive or fly anywhere to join in. Wherever you are, you can be part of this move of God and people. Visit RevivalMatters.com to sign up and participate!