Listen to the Law

Posted: August 6, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 16:14-18, “Listen to the Law”

Lawyer jokes are typically underappreciated.  Lawyers don’t think they are funny, and no one else thinks they’re jokes. 🙂  The reason the stereotype works so well is because deep down, there’s a bit of lawyer in all of us.  We all look for ways around the law – we look for our loopholes in which we can find a technicality – we look for ways to get ourselves off the hook, while hanging someone else upon it.  By no means is that limited to a certain profession; that’s simple human nature!

It certainly was the case for the Pharisees.  These were people who taught the law of Moses, lived in the law of Moses – they were people who dove headlong into it, studying every aspect of it alongside every commentary they could find from the rabbis who had gone before them.  Yet for as much as they knew about the law’s requirements, (broadly speaking) they knew nothing of its heart.  They sought out loopholes and technicalities – they used the law to justify themselves in the sight of God, rather than acknowledging that the law doesn’t justify anyone.  They gave themselves assurance of the kingdom (i.e. salvation), without having any real assurance at all.

Sound familiar?  It is not at all unlike what multitudes of people do today.  They label themselves as “Christians,” and engage in all kinds of “churchy” behavior, but they don’t see the word of God for what it truly is.  They use the Scripture to justify themselves, rather than allowing it to continually drive them to the grace of Jesus.  In the process, they miss the point.  They may label themselves as “Christians,” but they know little of Christ.  If they did, they would cling to Him & His word as tightly as they would a life-preserver or a parachute – for it is only in Him & His promises do we find real salvation.

Luke 16:14-18 can seem like a strange little passage, tucked neatly between two far more famous teachings of Jesus.  It would be easy to treat it as “filler”: random saying that simply round out the longer teachings – something we might rush through in order to get to the next section. (And I would be lying if I didn’t admit I almost fell into that temptation!)  But when we consider the doctrine of inspiration, that every word that is written in the Bible is a word intended to be there by God the Holy Spirit, our perspective changes.  (1) There is no such thing as “filler,” although admittedly some Scriptures are more interesting than others.  The first several chapters of 1 Chronicles surely meant much to the clans & families of the ancient Jews, but it is just a bunch of foreign-sounding names to us today.  Even so, those chapters (and this teaching) are inherently valuable because they are given by God.  (2) The Spirit is not random in His teaching.  What He gives has a point, which is usually very clear in a narrative or gospel account such as Luke.  We simply need to discern what that point is, and then we find the key to the entire text.

In this case, we have some pretty diverse topics: the love of money, self-righteousness, the permanency of the law, and divorce.  Is there a main idea?  Is there a common thread that weaves it all together?  Yes.  As is so often the case, the clue to the common thread is found within the surrounding context – both what comes before, and what comes after.  The best interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself, and usually you don’t have look far to find the information you need for the correct interpretation.  In this case, it is simply the text on either side of the teaching.

So let’s look at the context.  Chapter 16 began with the Parable of the Unjust Steward, but that itself came on the heels of three other parables told in the presence of the Pharisees & scribes regarding God’s joy in finding lost sinners, and including them in the kingdom.  In fact, the Pharisees were themselves lost (although they didn’t realize it), and the grace of God was just as available to them as it was from the father character to the older brother in the Parable of the Lost Sons.  From that, Jesus turned to His disciples (while still in the presence of the Pharisees), and gave the follow-up teaching of the Parable of the Unjust Steward.  This house-manager had sinned, and was about to be fired, so he used what little opportunity and influence left to him to fervently prepare for his future.  He was cunning, but he was creative, and even his master commended him on his shrewdness, doing what needed to be done.  Jesus told the disciples to learn the lesson, and to be diligent to make plans for the eternal future, using the items & opportunities at their disposal.  They needed to be faithful with what they had, if they were to be entrusted with more later – all the while being mindful of who they truly served.  They could serve God, or they could serve mammon (money/self/life) – but they couldn’t do both.

This was a testimony of Jesus regarding the kingdom of God, but it was rejected by the Pharisees (as we’ll see).  They consistently rejected the testimony of God, as contained in the law, and this was seen in two examples: (1) their own self-righteousness, and (2) their teaching regarding divorce.

This rejection is illustrated in the story Jesus tells next.  What happens to people who reject the testimony of God?  They are doomed to eternal torment outside the kingdom.  The purpose of the Lazarus story is not only to emphasize how the kingdom will be filled with unexpected people, but also as a warning to the Pharisees, who shared the same self-righteous attitude of the rich man.

So put it all together.  In the Parable of the Unjust Steward, Jesus testifies of the need not to waste time & opportunity.  In the story of Lazarus & the rich man, Jesus describes what happens to those who ignore the testimony of God.  With that in mind, what’s the main idea of the verses in-between?  This is the warning.  The testimony of God had been given; it shouldn’t be ignored, although they had a habit of doing so.

Thus, it isn’t about money, nor about divorce – those are symptoms of a larger problem.  The problem was that they ignored God’s word.  They didn’t listen to the law.  Listen to the law of God & let it point you to Christ!  That’s the whole reason God gave it in the first place.

Luke 16:14–18

  • The Pharisees scoff (14)

14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.

  • Even though Jesus spoke the Parable of the Unjust Steward to His disciples (16:1), the Pharisees were present & listening the whole time.  It’s amazing how often they could listen to His words, and still miss the message.  It goes to demonstrate that people can be around the things of Christ, and still never know Him as Lord.
  • Their response was one of ridicule & scorn.  They “derided” Jesus, sneering at Him, scoffing at Him.  They looked down their noses at this Rabbi, who had the nerve in His poverty, to talk to others about how to handle money.  What did He mean, by saying “No servant can serve two masters” – what exactly was He implying?  Of course, no subtle implication was needed – what Jesus said was absolutely true!  People cannot serve both two masters.  We will always be torn between one and the other.  We will either serve the God of heaven or the god of our belly (i.e. our lusts, represented by mammon/money/things of life).  If we love one, we certainly won’t love the other.
  • And that was the core issue in regards to the Pharisees.  Luke describes them as “lovers of money” – literally, “lovers of silver,” as in silver coins.  Although they were not all considered as the wealthy elite aristocracy class (as were the Sadducees), there were still very wealthy members among them.  Of course, a lot of money is not required in order to have a love of money.  Someone who is poor can still be ruled by money, with every action being based out of covetousness.
    • Beware of the love of money!  Paul warned his protégé Timothy of the dangers of greed, exhorting him to be content with what he had.  1 Timothy 6:9-10, "(9) But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. (10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Note: it’s not money itself that is a root of evil (as it is so often misquoted); it’s the love of money.  (Interestingly, it’s the exact same root of the word Luke quoted Jesus as using right here.)  The love of money is greed & covetousness.  The love of money causes us to desire things (1) we don’t have, and (2) we don’t need.  We want what we do not yet possess, and we lust after things we should not have.  When we love money, then our trust is in our bank account; not our God.  When we love money, our priorities get shifted from where they ought to be, as we depend upon what we can get for ourselves, rather in the grace we can only receive from God.
    • The whole contrast between the Pharisees’ love of money, and Jesus’ warning against being ruled by it brings up a point relevant to modern Christianity.  Again, why was Jesus ridiculed?  Seemingly because He was a poor man talking to others about wealth.  Although Jesus wasn’t technically homeless (He obviously had a home-base in Capernaum, and apparently stayed with Peter on occasion), He certainly didn’t have a consistent roof over His head during His three years of travelling ministry.  Apparently the disciples received donations along the way (with Judas carrying the moneybox), but it wasn’t as if Jesus & the 12 were flush with cash. The lifestyle of Jesus, the disciples, Paul, and most other early Christians ought to do away with the heresy of the so-called “prosperity gospel.”  Those who teach that all Christians ought to be rich, living as “King’s Kids,” surely haven’t read the Bible.  That sort of teaching is exactly what both Jesus and Paul warn against.  It encourages a love of money, and teaches that it’s somehow possible to serve two masters.  It puts a focus on stuff, rather than the Savior…and it ought to be abandoned & condemned.
  • The Pharisees mocked Jesus, but they weren’t the only ones.  People still mock Jesus today.  It might not be over the subject of money, but they still deride Him, scorning His teachings.  Ultimately, it is for the same reason as the Pharisees.  Jesus spoke to an issue that cut the Pharisees to the quick, and their insulting attitude was their defense mechanism.  Likewise with people today.  Something about Jesus brings conviction to their hearts, and that’s something they’ve got to deflect.
    • Don’t deflect it; receive it!  The conviction that comes is a good thing, because that is exactly what is going to bring you to the point of repentance & faith.  A sinner under the weight of conviction is mere moments away from salvation.  All that is needed is surrender to Jesus. 
  • Jesus responded to the Pharisees in vs. 15…

 

  • The judgment of Jesus (15)

15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

  • The Pharisees scoffed at Jesus because they thought themselves better than Him.  They mocked Him because they thought they could serve both God and their money.  Most likely (if they were like others in the culture), they believed their money (what they had of it) was proof that God loved them & blessed them.  They made up excuses in their own minds – they justified themselves.  They were self-righteous.
    • If there’s one thing humans are good at, it’s self-justification!  After all, we’ve had a long history of practice.  Adam and Eve were not yet ejected from the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed his wife for his own sin in eating of the forbidden fruit.  “It’s not my fault!  It’s that woman You gave me!”  What Adam began, we’ve been doing ever since.  “It’s not my fault; my parents made me this way! … It’s not my fault; I’m stressed out from my job! … It’s the people I’m surrounded with! … It’s simply what everyone else is doing!”  We find all kinds of excuses for ourselves, and we convince ourselves that we’re okay, being justified in our actions & even deserving of blessing & eternal life.
    • Just the fact that we have to “excuse” ourselves is telling.  The word “justification” directly implies that something that is out of balance needs to be justified – it needs to be made right.  That means that something else is wrong.  The very existence of our excuses witness against us that we’ve sinned, and that we’re in need of forgiveness. 
  • No matter what the Pharisees convinced themselves of, or what they convinced others to think about them, God wasn’t fooled.  He knew the true state of their hearts.  What did God think about their self-justification?  It was an abomination!  The Pharisees had their wealth as supposed proof of God’s blessing; it wasn’t.  They had their societal status as religious scholars that was proof that God approved of them; it didn’t.  They had their internal pride in how they observed every religious tradition passed down by their forefathers as their justification; it wasn’t.  All of what the Pharisees held too may have been “highly esteemed among men,” but God held a totally different viewpoint.  The things that impress men are defiled/defiling in the sight of God. To Him, they were abominations.
    • That’s a harsh word!  Yes, and it means exactly what we think it means.  It is a detestable, loathsome thing.  It is something that defiles.  It is the same word used to describe the horrific work of Antichrist during the Great Tribulation, as well as the word used to translate the Hebrew (תּוֹעֵבָה ) that referred to the various abominations & detestable acts listed in the Mosaic Law.  The very thing that the Pharisees believed themselves justified away from, was exactly what they were.
    • Not that this ought to have been a surprise!  Self-righteousness & justification always falls infinitely short of God’s standard.  This picture of defilement was exactly what Isaiah called upon when describing Israel’s need for grace.  Isaiah 64:6, "But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away."  How defiled are our attempts at self-righteousness?  Not to put too fine a point on it, but Isaiah literally labels them as menstrual cloths.  This is where mere religious tradition leads – this is what self-justification & excuses does.  Our rituals and excuses don’t clean us up in the sight of God; they only make us more dirty.
    • What’s the solution?  Grace!  We cannot clean ourselves; we must be cleansed by God, through the work of Jesus Christ.  Stop making excuses for yourself, listen to the Holy Spirit speak to you through your conscience, and fall upon the grace of God.
  • Question: How could the Pharisees have been so wrong?  They did not know what God esteemed because they did not value His word.  They may have been experts in the law of God, but they habitually ignored it, which Jesus goes on to point out & illustrate…
  • The fullness of the law (16-17)

16 “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.

  • Interestingly, there is no verb in the 1st sentence of vs. 16.  Technically, it says: “The law and the prophets, until John.”  Any verbs in our English Bibles were put there by the various translators to help the sentence make sense.  ESV, HCSB agree with the NKJV; NASB, NIV both say “were proclaimed until John,” with “proclaimed” probably being assumed due to the idea of preaching from the remainder of the verse.  Obviously “the law and the prophets” were indeed preached up till the point of John – but it’s difficult to argue that the Hebrew law was not preached beyond John the Baptist as well.  In fact, Jesus was doing it at that very moment.  It’s probably better to think of the law and the prophets being given up till John the Baptist.  John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, with a new era beginning with the ministry of Jesus.
  • With all of this time and opportunity to hear & know the law, how much of it did the Pharisees receive?  Little to none.  They picked the parts they liked, and did away with the rest.  They flat-out ignored John the Baptist, all the while acknowledging him as a prophet. Prior to Jesus’ arrival on the scene, the religious rulers (including the Pharisees) sent messengers to John, inquiring whether or not he himself might be the Messiah. (Jn 1:19-28)  The Pharisees clearly understood that John had some sort of heavenly authority, but they were unwilling to listen to him. (Lk 20:5-6)  What they did with John the Baptist, they did to the rest of Scripture.  Technically, the Babylonian Talmud is a compilation of rabbinical commentaries on the Biblical Law – practically, it’s a whole bunch of man’s opinion about what applies where, what loopholes exist, and what traditions are added onto it.  This was the lifestyle of the Pharisees & scribes.  They had the word of God given to them, but they spent their time picking around it; not going to the simple heart of it.
    • The word of God is not a buffet line where we can pick the parts we like, and do away with the rest.  People do this all the time. So-called “red-letter Christians” pay special attention to the words of Jesus, disregarding the rest of the New Testament.  Others read only the New Testament, ignoring the Old.  Others value the five books of Moses & the Psalms, but see the rest as irrelevant.  Still others pick & choose which of the Mosaic Laws are valid for today, and which are not (sometimes being side-by-side!).  The Bible cannot be picked apart in such a fashion!  Why?  It’s not ours; it’s God’s.  Those who pick & choose from the Bible set themselves up as the final authority over it; God gave it as the final rule of authority over us.  It’s not up to us to pick it apart; we simply need to receive what it says.
    • That’s not to say that we have no role in discerning the proper interpretation.  Obviously laws given to the nation-state of Israel need to be interpreted within their proper contexts, rather than simplistically imposing them on Gentile-born believers in Christ.  This is what a literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic (Bible interpretation method) is so important…it keeps the focus on the correct context, rather than changing opinions. That being said, the law is bigger than our attempts at general categorization.  It encompasses the heart of God.  (Thus, it cannot be ignored!)
  • What happened with the conclusion of the law being given?  At that point, the “kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”  The word for “pressing” is interesting, in that it speaks of force/violence.  Scholars disagree as to the meaning, with some thinking that this could speak of people being strongly urged into the kingdom – others thinking that Jesus encourages people to press into the kingdom – still others thinking it is part of Jesus’ judgment against the Pharisees, how they were trying to force their way into the kingdom.  It’s this last interpretation that seems to take the overall context in mind.  The good news was proclaimed, but ignored.  The law had been given, and the kingdom had been preached.  But what was the response of the Pharisees?  They ignored the teachings of God, justifying themselves saying that they were deserving of the kingdom.  They were trying to force their way in, violently, if need be.  As Jesus said earlier, when John the Baptist was still suffering in prison: Matthew 11:12, "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."  It’s the same idea/word in Luke’s gospel.  People do violence against God’s kingdom (by rejecting His word), and try to force their way in.
    • It can’t be done!  There is but one way to enter the kingdom of God: you’ve got to be born into it.  Jesus made this point with a different Pharisee, under far better circumstances.  John 3:3–5, "(3) Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (4) Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (5) Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."  There’s no manipulation – there is no self-justification – there is only a spiritual birth.  There is only surrender & grace!  (Have you been born again?)
  • No one enters the kingdom by keeping the law because none can keep it but Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that the law has gone away.  It’s still in effect today, as Jesus went on to say in vs. 17…

17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.

  • What would happen before the law would fail?  Creation would be dismantled.  “Heaven and earth [would] pass away” before even the smallest aspects of the law of God would be undone.  “One tittle” refers to the smallest stroke of a pen.  In English, a tittle refers to small markings over letters, such as the dot of an “i.”  In Hebrew, the term refers to something even tinier: the simple decorative stroke of a calligrapher’s pen.  Jesus basically says that the universe would be undone before even that small stroke from the written word of God would fail.
  • Has the law passed?  By no means!  Because we are New Testament Christians, we have a tendency of thinking that the law of God has gone away.  It hasn’t.  Jesus is perfectly clear that as long as this world exists, the law is permanent.  And how could it be otherwise?  The Old Testament is just as inspired by the Holy Spirit as the New Testament.  It is still given by God, and He is still righteous.  He has not changed – God is the same today, yesterday, and forever.  The law of God has not fallen to the ground or fallen into pieces.  It remains.
  • How so?  After all, we do not wear tassels on our garments, nor are we concerned about wearing two different types of fabrics, or trimming the edges of our beards.  Is every Christian in blatant disobedience against the law of God?  Should we all become good Jews in order to be good Christians?  By no means!  This was the very issue faced by Paul when he was repeatedly confronted by the Judaizers.  Those were people (just like many today) who believed that Christians needed to follow all 613 commandments of the Torah, keep all the feast days, follow all of the Hebrew traditions, etc.  Paul condemned this false doctrine in the strongest of terms: Galatians 3:1–3, "(1) O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? (2) This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—(3) Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?"  Later, he wrote of these false teachers that he wished that they would “cut themselves off” (Gal 5:12)…that they’d go even further with their circumcision!  Works of the flesh cannot complete the work of Christ within us, for the work of Christ is already complete.  We cannot justify ourselves any more than what Jesus has already done on our behalf.  We are saved by grace through faith, with nothing of ourselves helping it along.  It is truly foolish to think otherwise.
  • The confusion arises with a misunderstanding of the use of the law.  The law is never used to justify; it is only used to condemn.  As Paul wrote to Timothy, the law is good, when it is used lawfully. (1 Tim 1:8)  It is good, when it is used to teach people of sin, to convict us of our rebellion against God, and to bring us to our knees.  The law is good because it is holy, as God is holy, and it shows us what true holiness is.  The law puts the lie to our self-righteousness, truly informing us that our best attempts at proving ourselves perfect are nothing but filthy defiled rags.  The law shows us the perfect heart of God, and shows us how short we fall of it.  The law is gift of God to show us our need for Jesus, and when it is used rightly, it takes us directly to the feet of Jesus that our faith might be in Him.  Galatians 3:24–25, "(24) Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."  The picture is that of a special servant whose role is to walk his master’s child to class, that the child might receive instruction from the true rabbi or scholar.  The law isn’t the scholar; it’s the servant.  The law is simply what walks us to Jesus.  So yes, the law endures.  The law is in effect for the non-believer; it is fulfilled for the believer.  The law shows us our need for Christ, but once our faith is in Christ, He has already fulfilled the requirements of it on our behalf.
  • Of course the problem for the Pharisees was that they hadn’t experienced this.  They had not used the law lawfully.  That was Jesus’ point to them in stating the permanency of the law.  They thought they could use it to justify themselves, when all it truly brought to them was conviction of their own abominable sin.

So that is the importance of the law, and that was what the Pharisees had routinely ignored.  Through their self-justification, they saw no problem with their greed – even seeing their wealth as proof of their righteousness.  Through their self-proclaimed expertise in the law, they invented all kinds of loopholes to justify themselves (and others), by twisting what was written away from God’s intent to their own selfish desires.  Jesus goes on to point out an example of this in regards to divorce.

  • Case-example: divorce (18)

18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

  • To understand what Jesus is saying, we have to understand what the Pharisees taught about this. At one point the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus in a bit of a no-win situation (a Catch-22) when questioning Him in public regarding divorce.  They asked Him if it was “lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason.” (Mt 19:3)  The issue was based out of a bit of rabbinical controversy in the Talmud.  One scholar (Beth Shammai) insisted that a man not divorce his wife except for unseemly conduct, whereas another (Beth Hillel) said he could divorce her even if she spoiled his food. (Tractate Gittin, Folio 90a)  The whole of the Talmudic teaching left divorce solely in the power of the man, with the woman having very little to say about the matter.  The Talmud went into considerable detail regarding what grounds constituted divorce, what signatures were valid on a divorce paper, how divorces could be rescinded, etc.  The whole mess goes to demonstrate how much the Pharisees (and the rest of the culture) twisted the law to suit themselves.  They used it to justify their own actions, while condemning others.  Jesus calls them out on it, cutting to the very heart of the matter.  All that their various legal technicalities accomplished was to create more than one way to commit adultery.  Although their traditions tried to do an end-run around the law of God, it only convicted them all the more.
  • By muddying the waters surrounding God’s word & law regarding divorce, they ended up missing God’s heart concerning marriage.  In their attempt to justify themselves, they missed the main point.  Marriage isn’t given as a vehicle for man’s pleasure, to be done away with at any time for any reason in divorce; it’s given as a covenant from God.  Ultimately, marriage is a picture of the relationship between God & His people.  Paul explicitly says this regarding the relationship between Jesus & the Church (Eph 5), and the Hebrew prophets often used the analogy between God & Israel. (Isa 54, Jer 3, Hosea 2).  Divorce between God and Israel was due to the harshest of adulteries committed by the nation against Him (their repeated idolatries) – but even then, God still gave the promise of future reconciliation.  In regards to the New Testament, it is unthinkable that Jesus would ever divorce the Church – we are inseparable from Him, Jesus being the head & us, His body.  Just as God did with Adam & Eve in the Garden, He took two & made one – so is the Church one with Jesus.  That being the case with marriage, what does this say about divorce?  It is abhorrent – it is tragic – it is the worst of all circumstances between a husband and wife, and should be avoided at all costs.  For the Talmudic rabbis & Pharisees to make divorce into something relatively easy for the Jews was spiritual malpractice of the first order!  All they did was cause more Jews to commit more adultery.
  • Question: Is this all the Bible has to say about marriage & divorce?  No.  Matthew provides additional teaching from Jesus.  Whereas Luke records only that marriage of a divorced person is adultery, Matthew records that sexual immorality is a justification for divorce. (Mt 19:9)  Paul goes even further (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), stating that abandonment by unbelievers, or unwillingness by an unbeliever to live with a believer, is also a justification for divorce. (1 Cor 7:12-15)  Solid biblical arguments can be made for divorce under extreme circumstances, but the bottom line is that divorce is never desirable.  It might be unavoidable & even Biblically allowed – but it is never the best option.  (The best option is repentance & reconciliation!)
    • Please note: It also needs to be stated that divorce is not the unforgiveable sin.  Even for those who were divorced for the wrong reasons, or perhaps were at fault for their divorce – these things are covered by the blood of Christ.  We receive His grace, do what we can to be reconciled to others, and keep moving forward.  The law brings condemnation, but Jesus gives grace.
  • All in all, Jesus’ teaching on adultery & divorce isn’t the main issue.  This was simply an example of a larger problem.  The Pharisees ignored the word of God in order to justify themselves, and their self-justification led to a whole slew of problems for others.  After all, what they practiced, they taught.  This doctrine was promoted among all the Jews of the day, and still reverberates even in our own culture.
    • Sin is like a splash in a pond…there’s always going to be ripples.  There will always be other people affected.
    • Thankfully, grace works much the same way!

Conclusion:
The Pharisees heard the teaching of Jesus, and it rubbed them the wrong way.  What He said was the truth, but because of their self-justifying ways, it cut them to the quick & they bristled at the idea that they could be wrong.  What they did with Jesus, they did with all the word of God (which makes sense that they did it with Jesus, considering He is the Word of God!).  They brushed it aside, trying to make themselves righteous in their own eyes…and in the process, they were not righteous at all.

Don’t justify your way around the word of God; listen to it!  Be it the Old Testament or the New Testament, God’s word contains God’s heart.  Used properly, the word of God brings us to the feet of Jesus, where we find grace & forgiveness.  Used rightly, the written word exalts the Word incarnate; it glorifies God rather than man.  That is its purpose, and that is our aim in hearing it.

Listen to the word of God!  Does it bring conviction & rebuke?  Praise God!  It means that you have a heart still softened to the discipline of the Father.  That’s not something to run from; that’s something to run towards.  Don’t forget: as much as it brings conviction, it also brings comfort.  It brings edification – it equips us for every good work.  The only way to receive this from the Lord is to listen to His voice, and He speaks through His Scriptures.  We have to get ourselves out of the way, and submit ourselves to the hand of God.

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