Surely Not I!
About three years ago, my husband and I were directed by the Lord to go to the country of our birth. There, we started to attend the Trinidad Christian Center, our home church.
There’s no doubt in my mind that God is preparing this church to be used of Him in a very special way. Over the last few years,we have been seeking God for an outpouring of His Spirit. I had plunged in headfirst, wanting to commit totally to the Lord so that I might be a part of this exciting move of God. The thing about the Holy Spirit though, is that He needs pure, humble vessels through whom He can work. That’s where I tripped and that’s when the deep work of the Spirit began.
You see, in spite of my zeal for God, I have discovered within my heart a cleverly hidden atrocity . . . I have discovered a Pharisee within. I guess it would be more accurate to say that the Holy Spirit exposed it, because the truth is, it is anathema to the heart of the Pharisee to openly admit his own sin . . . it goes against every religious grain of his being! The Pharisees of Jesus’ day claimed to be experts and strict adherents to even the minutest law of God. They lived by an exacting moral code that would probably send Christians today into a tailspin. So, “what’s wrong with that?” you might ask. Are we not encouraged to obey the laws and doctrines of Jesus Christ? Absolutely!
The problem lies with our response to those who do not do as we think they should. Perhaps unconsciously, we often set ourselves up as the standard for those who we believe have not gotten on board. When we have been careful to maintain the established traditions such as attending church meetings, prayer and Bible study, we may be tempted to believe that these things, in and of themselves, are what make us righteous in the sight of God. But, even when we are doing all the “right things”, if we point a finger at those who struggle to do the same, we are not operating in the love of Christ. We may say all the right words, but in our hearts, all too often, we violate the greatest commandment . . . the commandment to love as Christ loved.
I find it scary to think that the Pharisees considered themselves loyal to God, yet they turned out to be among the fiercest and most devious opponents of Jesus Christ. It scares me because it is so easy to fall into the trap of self-righteousness, totally clueless to the fact that religion has crept into our Christianity . . . and that this could deny us entry into God’s heaven. Pretty soon, we can find ourselves preaching and practicing “another gospel,” a perversion of Christianity like those mentioned by author Austin de Bourg, in the opening chapter of his book, What Really is Christianity. 1
Listen to these words by Apostle de Bourg: “If the fruit of God’s Spirit is not evident in our lives or attitudes; if, out of the abundance of our heart, the mouth speaks negative, derogatory words; if our deeds are not honorable or are propelled by wrong motives; then our hearts are yet impure, and we must question our professed Christianity.”2
Yikes! As I read those words, I immediately had a mental picture of the last supper when Jesus told the disciples that there was one among them, one eating with Him, who would soon betray him. One by one, they each said, “Surely not I!” Not many hours later, most of them fled.
The Pharisees thought their good works qualified them to be sons of God and for entry into heaven. Jesus cleared up that misconception in no uncertain terms. I hear His words echoing down the corridors of time saying to us, that if our hearts are not pure, we too may well hear the dreaded words, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
1. De Bourg, Austin J., “Misplaced Christianity” in What Really is Christianity?, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, North Charleston, South Carolina, 2014.
2.Ibid. page 118