Although we don’t typically associate sexual sin with the leading sect of Judaism during Jesus’ time, I can assure you it thrived within their ranks. And despite the fact that the tassels and phylacteries have long since gone by the wayside, the spirit of Phariseeism remains alive and well within the postmodern Christian Church. Yes, we have our Pharisees……..and many of them are terribly addicted to sexual sin.
What most complicates any efforts to help them find freedom is their skewed concept of Christianity. For instance, if I tell this man to turn to Christ as the answer to his problems, he will only interpret such advice as an invitation to more zealously throw himself into his modern formalism. What he does not realize is that the very religious system he has embraced is keeping him from the vibrant life in God that will set him free. He is locked into a prison of SELF; Phariseeism is, above all else, a religion of SELF. Until he gets free from that prison, he will never find what a former Pharisee named Paul wrote about: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (II Corinthians 3:17)
The modern sex addict has much in common with the original Pharisees.
1. They Both Put Up a Front
They excel in fastidiously presenting themselves as godly, when in reality they are full of “uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27) They live a double life—maintaining an appearance of godliness while giving over in their minds to all manner of perversion. They have learned that it is much easier to exaggerate one’s godliness to family and friends than to fight for the real thing.
Jesus warned His disciples about the contamination of false spirituality: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1) The best present-day analogy to this admonition would be the warning signs one might encounter along a highway: “CAUTION!” “WARNING!” “STOP!” “DANGER!” “WATCH OUT!” Jesus’ use of such a strong term as “beware” shows how extremely hazardous He considered hypocrisy to be. The following are some of the reasons it is so dangerous:
- It reinforces a person’s self-love;
- It happens naturally when one is high-minded;
- It is hard to detect;
- It substitutes a false spirituality for the real thing;
- It breeds further deception and delusion;
- It hinders a person from seeing his need to change and repent;
- It fosters fear of man rather than fear of God;
- It magnifies the immediate dividends while blinding one to the eternal consequences.
Fully persuaded that true religion is a matter of the heart, the N.T. writers repeatedly exhorted those first-century believers to strive for the reality of God in their lives rather than settling for a vain religion characterized by legalism and outward acts of devotion.
2. They Both Love to “Major in the Minors”
Jesus summarized the true foundation of religion when He told His followers that loving God and loving others were the “great and foremost commandment[s].” (Matthew 22:37-40) But Pharisees are experts at stressing minor points of the law and de-emphasizing the heart-reality of the Lord’s words. Jesus told the hypocrites of His day, “You tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness… You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)
Admittedly, no one is weighing out spices today, but there are many who side-step the sacrificial life of true Christianity by giving undo importance to pet doctrinal systems. Of course, it is proper to contend earnestly for the tenets of the faith (i.e. the virgin birth of Christ, the Trinity, etc.). However, Pharisees are marked as those who lack the humility and maturity to allow other Christians to hold differing viewpoints on secondary doctrinal issues like eternal security, the timing of the rapture, divorce and remarriage, and so on. It is nothing more than the ugly pride that stems from a self-centered life.
3. They Both Prefer the Trappings of Religion to the Reality of a Vibrant Relationship to God
Is it possible for a person to regularly attend a Bible-believing evangelical church and not know God? Absolutely. “Wheat and tares” grow together but have completely different eternal destinations. I am convinced that there are many who know the Lord intellectually and academically but not personally and intimately.
Can you imagine a man being married to a woman on paper only? What kind of marriage would it be if all they had was a cold and formal relationship? Even our judicial system allows for the annulment of a marriage that hasn’t been consummated. And yet, for many, a relationship to God means no more than what they consider to be a ticket to heaven. A true believer has regular, vibrant interaction with the Lord. His love for God is proven in his daily life. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love,” John wrote. (I John 4:8)
4. They Both Live a Powerless Religion
Paul said that they hold “to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” (II Timothy 3:5) There is one and only one definition for the word gospel in Scripture: Paul said “it is the power of God…” (Romans 1:16) It is not dogma. It is not a social movement called Evangelicalism. It is not found in the academic dissertations of some lifeless seminary. The gospel—whether or not we want to acknowledge it—is simply the power of God activated in people’s hearts. Powerless religion masquerades as either an anemic facsimile or an outright fraud!
No one who is presently caught in the trap of modern-day Phariseeism need remain there. Freedom from that prison is found in the same place one finds liberty from sexual sin: in the abundant life offered every true believer in Christ. Jesus reached out repeatedly to the Pharisees of His day, imploring them to turn from their hypocrisy—and He’s doing the same in these last days. Brother or sister, if you are locked into the stale emptiness of dead religion, repent of it and start praying for a fresh touch from the Holy Spirit. He will gladly answer your prayer!
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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