"The Pharisee Syndrome"

I had an interesting experience this week that emphasized something that I have been reflecting on for some time, namely, that there is far too much "Religion" in the Christian Church !! It occurred during my visit to a WEB forum hosted by a VERY fundamentalist church, The First Xxxxxxxxx Church of Jesus Christ (THE Church). I X'ed out part of the name to avoid embarrassment (theirs, not mine). Also, the (THE Church) is their emphasis, not mine. Note also that the posts that I will be mentioning were posted by the moderator and the founder of the site, NOT just some visitor !!

I had posted a discussion on "Universal Salvation". If you are interested, you may read the entire forum discussion by clicking HERE.

The first reply was from the moderator:

"My friend you are way off on this one. To say that my Savior died for no good sinners that hate Him and will never believe in Him rends my very soul in twain. The verses you refer to (if you would use the real Bible - KJV) are much easier to understand than you have made them. Romans 5.15 states plainly that "But not as the offense, so also is the free gift". This plainly means that the free gift DOES NOT atone for all men as the offense condemns all men to death."

The next four replies were from the founder:

"First, there is no such thing as universal reconciliation. Therefore, Paul did not believe in it as he believed in the Christ that God provided for our salvation."
"So even those that are enemies of God will be reconciled?"
"OK, so Satan will be reconciled?????"

"Has nothing to do with supporting Universal Reconciliation"

Before I start, I want to emphasize as LOUDLY as possible that I am NOT discussing these posts to ridicule them. I am discussing them to point out an issue that has troubled me for some time, both in "The Church" AND in myself. More about this as we continue. There were two primary things that struck me about these posts:

The first point I want to consider is that both these individuals seemed to be plagued by what I would call, "The Pharisee Syndrome". You remember the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican that Jesus told (Luke 18:9-14):

Jesus also told this parable to some who were confident that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else. �Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: �God, I thank you that I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers � or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.� The tax collector, however, stood far off and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, �God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!� I tell you that this man went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.�

Note the comments: ["To say that my Savior died for no good sinners that hate Him" and "So even those that are enemies of God will be reconciled?"]

One was offended by the fact that, "No-good sinners might be saved", the other that God's "enemies might be saved". Now I had a fairly lengthy exchange with the moderator, and he seemed a simple, sincere, Jesus-loving individual (also thus stated by he himself). He was, however, TOTALLY brainwashed and indoctrinated by the ULTRA-fundamentalism of his church assembly -- items in point: his is THE Church, the KJV is the REAL bible, etc., with NO possibility of thinking beyond these boundaries. The exchange with the founder was not very in-depth, but I believe that the same mindset existed.

This mentality is indicative of what happens too often to Christians as we grow older (NOT necessarily more mature in Jesus). We come to think that we were somehow "exceptional cases" -- that there was something unique or special, or BETTER about us -- and that is why God choose us. We delude ourselves into thinking that He NEEDED OUR gifts and talents to do His work or that WE were particularly insightful in seeing our need for Jesus !! We were His special friends, His "ELECT" as the Calvinists take pride in asserting.

We forget that, according to the scriptures, at one time we were ALL "haters of God, His enemies, without hope, 'no-good sinners', totally lost unless God Himself were to 'seek and find' us". No matter how we might delude ourselves, according to the Scripture, there was not ONE who was seeking and searching for God on his own. As Saul, "the chief-most of sinners" tells us -- It is in a blinding flash of overcoming power that our stubborn wills are turned from fleeing and persecuting Him to following Him. Paul tells us that God holds him up as the example of the worst, that if He can do it for Saul, He can do it for EVERYONE. So then, I ask you again, what makes YOU or I so special that if God can and will save US, that He cannot save EVERYONE ??

Now I believe that the Root Cause of this malady is in our carnal pride, anger, personal disgust, and desire for revenge. I say this because it is a problem that I wrestle with daily, and if you are honest, most of you will have to admit that you do too. A man that I mentored under during my early years as a Christian once confessed that as a young minister, he could not see how to comply with the biblical mandate to, "esteem others more highly than yourself". He reasoned that he was an educated minister of the gospel and a respected business man. Many of the "others" were brain-dead drug addicts. Finally, God revealed to him that it was NOT because of what was outward, but because they were created in His image, with His divine spark within them. God had chosen this minister for the job of being used to fan that smoldering ember into a blazing fire.

I find it EXTREMELY difficult to look upon the ranks of addicts who have so corrupted their spirits, souls, and bodies by their intake of various drug substances (including alcohol), that they are now barely recognizable as human beings, with the love and compassion exhibited by Jesus. Or the criminals -- mass murders, abusers of woman and children, minds so twisted with hate and violence as to make a hardened solider shudder -- who have totally given themselves over to Evil. Or the Ultraliberals, so intoxicated by the idols of pride and self that ALL else is but a subject for scorn and ridicule. I can see why many, so deeply offended and violated in their spirits, would with RELISH want to reserve a "burning hell" for such as these, deeming it an offense to themselves if their "wounded self-righteous" were not  vindicated. Of course, THEY would not so phrase it - it sounds so-o-o much "holier" to say that it is Jesus' precious name and righteous that need to be upheld and vindicated !! Is it not too bad that Jesus is not nearly as concerned about His "dignity" as it seems are so many of His followers ??

Philippians 2:6 "who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 2:7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 2:8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death � even death on a cross!"

Then there is the problem of the "The Prodigal Son or Laborer Complex" (Matt 19:20-Matt 20:15). "We have followed Jesus for ALL of these years. We have 'given up so much and made so many sacrifices' to please our Lord. We have 'labored so hard in the vineyard', often neglecting our friends, our health, and even our families for HIM. Surely we deserve our 'just reward'. Certainly He is not going to let those 'dirty sinners', those 'enemies' come into His house and sit at His table next to ME, and they didn't even do anything to DESERVE it !!"

The second point which was underscored by my experience at the forum is as follows:

These same four sins are, I believe, responsible for the DEEP entrenchment that the "eternal burning torments of Hell" have within the Orthodox ranks of Christianity.

We are resentful that so many of the "wretched sinners" and "enemies" so often reject all of our sincere and heartfelt efforts to, "save them from their wicked ways". Often they scorn and reject us, treat us like fools, call us "mentally deficient", and laugh at and mock our beliefs. We labor and sacrifice, and often it seems that, "the wicked grow rich and prosper while the righteous are in want." In our hidden hearts (often even hidden from ourselves), we rejoice in the "knowledge that we will get the last laugh". WE will be in "Abraham's bosom" enjoying all of the good things, and THEY will be in the PIT, seared by the "eternal flames of Hell" !! Of course, no Christian that WE know would ever think such a thing -- would they ??

Click [ HERE ] to read what various "christian" leaders and/or writers have had to say about the "damned" down through the centuries.

No, it IS as so many unbelievers (and how the "church" has helped vindicate their unbelief) have mocked and scorned, claiming that the Christian "hell" was born in and is but a figment and imagination of their OWN unhealthy minds -- Something they have created from within their own evil and twisted hearts. In THIS particular case, sad to say, their taunts ring true. How have WE, the "Church", slandered the name and being of our God and His Redeemer by insisting that He either CHOOSES men and women with the express intent of sending them to "hell", or that He is too weak and impotent to rescue them from the clutches of Satan (the TRUE "god" in this scenario).

Truthfully though, isn't much of our witnessing to the lost really JUST a job, a labor that we would REALLY rather forget about -- just hard work. We do it because our church says that we must, or "The Great Commission" says that we must, or we think God says that we must, or we just plain feel guilty if we don't. An even worse reason is, "because it is MY Ministry" !! Often, the net results are disastrous - as Jesus observed, "Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You cross land and sea to make one convert, and when you get one, you make him twice as much a child of Gehenna as yourselves!" If many unbelievers hate and despise the Church of Jesus Christ, much of it may be attributed to "christians" who have portrayed a "Jesus" and a "church" worthy to be hated and despised !! When Jesus walked in the flesh, it was NOT the unbelievers who hated Him -- it was the "Religious Hypocrites".

Do we share the Gospel (the GOOD news) because, like that of Jesus when He beheld the lost multitudes, our heart is "rent with compassion" ?? As I have said, most often I have a VERY difficult time feeling that way. It ONLY occurs when the Spirit of God gives me a glimpse through His Eyes. It doesn't happen very often. I confess this to Jesus. He DOES help me !! The unsaved are "lost sinners", they are NOT deaf, dumb, and blind fools. They can sense when a person is sincerely interested in them versus when they are just one more "scalp on your witnessing belt". When my wife was just a "baby Christian", she once asked, "Why do so many Christians say, 'the Jesus in me loves you?'. Don't THEY love me ??"

Maybe that is why so many "sinners" followed Jesus around and welcomed Him with open arms as opposed to why the Scribes and Pharisees plotted to murder Him. He saw the "REAL" them, the person beneath the mask, beneath the social facade, beneath the scars of sin. That can be good for you or bad, depending upon whether you are a "sinner" or a Pharisee.

The Jews felt like that toward the Gentiles -- that they were superior to them, that THEY were "The Choosen" and the Gentiles were "unclean" -- even though the Jews had been chosen to be a "Light to those who were in Darkness". Yet, in Deut. 9:4-7, God tells them in VERY clear terms that it was NOT because they were so righteous that they were chosen, but because their neighbors were SO wicked. Think that over !! Ultimately Jesus told them, "You shall not see my face again until that Day when you can finally know and proclaim to the world WHO I REALLY AM" !!

This concept of "Hell" IS NOT based upon biblical proof. The vast majority of said supporters rarely have an in-depth understanding of scripture. They rely on "favorite proof-texts" that they have been indoctrinated with. Even the pastors and ministers are not much better off. THEY have been brainwashed by the schools or seminaries they attended. In addition, they DARE NOT think otherwise (or think at all) on pain of being excommunicated from their little "religious societies" !! No matter HOW many scriptural proofs or arguments are presented to them, they continue to mouth the same platitudes. Most will not even seriously CONSIDER researching the subject with an open mind. That would be a "damnable heresy" that might land them into their fabled "hell". As though God actually favored ignorance and superstition !! He tells us to, "be renewed by the transforming of our MINDS". I must admit that it took me about 15 years of extensive research, study, prayer, and contemplation before I fully embraced this truth of Universal Reconcilliation.

The two individuals from the forum are prime examples. No matter what I said, or what scriptural support that I offered, they ultimately would fall back upon their repetitious, mindless dogma. The reference to and comment made by the moderator on Romans is COMPLETELY out of context, and shows NO understanding of the parallel that Paul was making. ["Romans 5.15 states plainly that 'But not as the offense, so also is the free gift'. This plainly means that the free gift DOES NOT atone for all men as the offense condemns all men to death.".]   Paul's point is that, "the free gift of Jesus Christ FAR surpasses or outstrips the results of Adam's offense". The moderator is claiming that it say exactly the opposite !!

The founders first defense was:  ["First, there is no such thing as universal reconciliation. Therefore, Paul did not believe in it as he believed in the Christ that God provided for our salvation".] Since Universal Reconciliation doesn't exist, how could Paul or the scriptures POSSIBLY support it ??  His second was: ["Has nothing to do with supporting Universal Reconciliation."] Perhaps HIS bible is divided into sections such as:  "Universal Reconciliation", etc. ?? What he REALLY meant was:  "This doctrine does not agree with MY theology or biblical point of view. Therefore, I unconditionally reject it " !! What more can you say to a mentality like that -- "Seeing, they would not see, and hearing, they would not hear" !!

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