Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Biblical Boldness

In the interest of full disclosure, and in the  interest of confessing my faults, let me begin this with both a confession  and an explanation, followed by another confession.
 I am terribly, painfully shy. I am  also cranky and moody. I don't like crowds , and most days I would rather not talk to  people, even people I like. In most  social situations that I am  thrust into, I  put my back to the wall and keep my eyes peeled and my mouth shut.  That's a confession.
  For 19 years now, 12 years of which has been in the same town and in the same church, I have  gone door knocking, telling people about Jesus in accordance with Acts 20:20. Thousands of doors  have been knocked, and hundreds of conversations have resulted.  Every one of them, without exception has been  difficult for me.  Every time, at every door for 19 years it has been like rolling a huge boulder up a hill  only to let it roll back down.  That's an explanation.
  I'm also not particularly  compassionate when people who have far less social awkwardness  tell me that door knocking isn't their 'thing' or it's not the ministry they are 'called to' or that they are 'too shy'. Or that it's hard. Or non-productive. Or any other  number of amazingly vapid things they say.  If they only had any idea how much this isn't my 'thing' and how I am way 'too shy' to do it. People say stupid things like 'I just couldn't do what you do', when they have no concept of how hard it is  for me.  I literally cannot do what I do. It's not easy, and  I'm assuming if it was going to suddenly become easy it would have done it by now. I actually get a little irritated from time to time with excuses that don't even qualify as pathetic, but I have learned, for the most part to keep my mouth shut about it.  Except for, you know,just now.  That's my other confession.
  It's always confused me that if a guy has a bad temper, people tell him he needs to let God help him with it so that he can fulfill the ministry. If a guy  likes to drink, or has a potty mouth  somebody ought to tell him that he needs to let God help him so that he can fulfill the ministry.  But if someone is shy, people give them a pass.  Nobody tells  a shy person that they need to let God help them not be so shy  so that they can fulfill their ministry.  My problem is that I don't think it's a viable excuse, and I refuse to indulge this weakness of mine. I press on  despite my own issues because, among other reasons, Jesus Christ deserves that.  Jesus Christ deserves people who will carry on despite their   own horrific  shortcomings.
  I am very fortunate in that, from the beginning of my  Christian life, I was taught  biblical boldness which  has nothing to do with  how your  personality is actually wired.  Not everyone has had the benefit of this training, so I thought I would cover , assuming you  are shy and awkward and maybe even stutter like I do, what the Bible says about boldness and how to get it if you  don't have it.


"For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:  But even after that we had suffered before , and were shamefully entreated , as ye know , at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.  For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:  But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak ; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.  For neither at any time used we flattering words , as ye know , nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:  Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome , as the apostles of Christ.  But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:  So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us." 1 Thess 2:1-8
  Paul proclaimed the  gospel of God with boldness, not only to the lost, but to the saved.  He did so with gentleness in the face of much contention. Paul wasn't an abusive jerk even if people were abusive jerks to him. We are commanded to do  the same, and proceed on in the same spirit.  So how do you do such a thing? I believe there are 4 things you can do. 

1) Live right. The Bible says in Proverbs 28:1 "The wicked flee when no man pursueth : but the righteous are bold as a lion."  A guilty conscience leads to a  closed mouth.  If you want to be bold for Jesus, you start by living the cleanest life you can.

2) Have confidence in God  Philippians 1:1-14 says "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:  Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,  Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,  For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:  Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.  For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.  And this I pray , that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;  That ye may approve things that are excellent ; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;  Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.  But I would ye should understand , brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;  So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;  And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear."
 Biblical boldness is not about what you can or cannot do. It's not about your winning personality or your comfort zone. It is entirely a reflection of how much you trust God. Is God going to call to your remembrance the scriptures? Is God going to give you the discernment you need?  If you doubt that he will, your mouth will stay shut.

3) Spend time with Jesus "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled ; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus" Acts 4:13
  Once again, people unqualified to do the job were doing the jobIt was obvious that Peter and John weren't great theologians, but despite that, they proceeded on with boldness.  It is essential that you spend time reading the word of God. It is essential that you have not just a prayer time, but rather a prayer life.  Talking to Jesus when everybody else is talking to Jesus  isn't the same as talking to Jesus alone. Reading the Bible  for yourself isn't the same thing as following along with the preacher.  You need this, and without it, there will be no boldness.

4) Exercise your gifts  People get the order all wrong. they think they will  get courage and then be brave, but that's entirely backwards. As Gerald Sutek says "Courage is the reward for obedience.It comes after the  obedience, not before."  The Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:13 "For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." The order is clear; they  used their office well and then received boldness.
  
 I am reminding you of this out of the sincerest heart I can muster. Someday you will stand before Jesus Christ, and it will seem so silly that you were scared or shy. The people that you were worried would trip you up or stump you with some Bible question or laugh at you will be the furthest thing from your mind.  The things you worry about now will be so trivial then, because truth be told, they are trivial now.  For your own sake,  strive for biblical boldness and live and  burn out and die for Jesus Christ.  He deserves no less.

 

 

Monday, September 15, 2014

College Football and Christianity

  I was born in Louisiana, and when you are born in Louisiana, the doctor holds you up and asks you if you are a Saints fan. If you say  'no' they drop you off at the Arkansas border. So as a dutiful native of the Bayou State I sat through literally decades of bad football. Remember,  Saints fans  were the  original 'brown paper bag over the head' fans, and we were encouraged that, even if you had to hide your face, you still backed your team.  So I watched the games and cheered for the players and  was excited when they won, and discouraged when they lost. I spent a lot of time discouraged.  I know  of what I speak when I talk about  team loyalty.
   But one day, when I was  maybe 14 or so, it struck me that although the team was  headquartered in Louisiana, most of the players weren't natives.  Here I was supporting  what I perceived to be the 'local boys' when the truth is they were all carpetbaggers who  wore my  team's colors for a paycheck.  Taking this even further, it wasn't my team, it was Tom Benson's team, and above that, the National Football League's team. They managed to extract years of loyalty to me out of the simple coincidence that they established a franchise of their business in the same vague geographical designation as my birth.
  I mention this because  college football season in the South is in full swing, and people who never attended, for example, the University of Georgia will  deck themselves out in red and black, bark like dogs, and talk about what a good game 'they' played. Otherwise rational people will sit on their couch at home (after dressing up) and  talk about how 'we' beat them when 'we' wasn't even at the game.  My current residence is near the  Florida-Georgia border so we have people that have lived in Georgia 99% of their life, but because they were born 10 minutes south of the border, proclaim themselves lifelong Florida fans.  It's a little odd.  They will drape their kids, who weren't born in Florida, in Florida colors and begin the  inculcation of regionalistic tribalism.
  People are, at their  heart of hearts, tribal, in nature. Everybody wants to be part of something; they want to be part of a group. They want to be able to identify with something larger than themselves, and  they will pay through the nose for the privilege.  The great college rivalries, are , in essence , the exact same thing as warfare, but with less bloodshed (unless it's a Raiders game) and they are basically, no different than the  great  inter-tribe contests of the Incas or the Mayans. The dynamic is the same; my group can  beat your group. People  identify themselves with the group and  glory in the accomplishments of the group whether or not they contributed anything to the 'victory'.
  For the most part, this stuff is  harmless escapism and good-natured fun.  It gives people who aren't athletes somebody to cheer for, and I'm certain that's all good and well.  Where I get a little  confused is when people who claim to have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and claim to have passed from death unto life and claim to have had all their sins washed away and claim to have been placed in Jesus Christ  show very little interest in identifying themselves with that particular tribe.  People who will paint half of their face blue  so they can  sit at home and watch a millionaire play a child's game show  no interest in bearing any sort of reproach for the one who  suffered and died for them.
  Shouldn't being part of that group, the blood-washed band, trump all other groups? Shouldn't  the excitement over what  Jesus has done make all these other team accomplishments seem  silly by comparison?  People will attend these games and be  confrontational towards the opposition.  They will wave signs  and learn chants, knowing that those guys in the other colors aren't really their enemies,; it's just a game. Some of those same people will   become oddly silent when it comes time to express opposition towards the  very real enemies of  their Saviour in a contest that is not a game.
  Every year  myself and a  small group of dear friends attend the Georgia Florida game in Jacksonville. We  stand outside the stadium and  we  preach and hold signs and try to tell people  about Jesus. We get opposed by drunks, but that doesn't bother us. Drunks should be opposed to us. What does bother us (or more accurately, me) is that in a crowd of over 100,000 in and around the stadium, there will be, maybe 30 people standing up for Jesus.  Maybe.
  Even in our church, I can tell you, with a fair amount of certainly, who will be going and who will not, even this early on.  I know who will probably take off work to be able to go and I know who  wouldn't be caught dead with us.  I'm not saying everybody has to do what we do, but if you pass up a chance to root for Jesus so that you can stay home, watch TV, dress in  funny colors and root for  nobody special, I'm not mad at you, I'm just very very confused.

My Genesis Commentary is out!...sort of

Available now  for free for the next  few days and for 99 cents after that, is a preview edition of my verse by verse commentary on Genesis. This project has taken way longer than  I  anticipated, so I decided to release the  first 15 chapters for as cheap as Amazon would allow, just to get the ball rolling. Please check it out, and  please write  a review.  As of right now it is only available on Kindle, but depending on the response, we are very open to a print copy at a later date.  All proceeds will go towards the ministry. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Hope in the Gospel

"We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,  Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,  For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;  Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit , as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:  As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;  Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit." Col 1:3-8
  Verse 5 says that there is a hope available to us, and that hope is contained in the  gospel of Jesus Christ.  Most saved people would  say that  this hope is that  they will die and go to heaven and  spend eternity with Jesus. That's certainly true, but it's worth mentioning that, according to Hebrews 2:3 we have a "great" salvation.  Not "great " as in "really nice", but rather "great" as in  "really big".  There are elements to my salvation that are so large and so expansive that I'm like a man standing on a mountain that can't even see the whole mountain. Only by backing up  am I able to see the whole thing, and so I want to back up a bit suing the Scriptures and  show one little piece of this great  salvation and the hope contained therein.
"Wherefore , as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come" Rom 5:12-14
  The one thing all men everywhere have in common is death.  The thing that binds the  Beverly Hills debutante with the kid squatting in a hut in  South America is  that they both will die. Men spend fortunes   trying to avoid it, and trying to postpone it, but yet it catches every single one of them without fail. If you eat too much you die, if you eat too little  you die. If you get too hot or if you get too cold you die. Whether you eat good food or junk food, you die. If you jog or don't jog, you will still die. You can die in a bar fight or die in a nursing home, you will be just as dead.  Even if you do everything right, if you just hang around long enough, you will die.   Regardless of brains or beauty or riches, regardless of reputation or position, culture or caste, you and I  both have an appointment with a  hole in the ground.  When this happens we weep because we somehow understand that this thing , this horrible  breath-stealing thief, is the result  of something  in humanity's past that went horribly wrong.  When death happens we  put what's left of that person in a box and put that box out of sight so that nobody has to face what happens next. We do our best to dress up and dignify what is a horribly undignified process.  There is no reason for death to be dignified; it's the result of  sin.
  When Adam fell, we all became horribly broken. Adam stood there, after having been made in the image of God, with a  soul that would never die, and a body that was subject unto death.  The first Adam put the penalty of physical death on all his descendants.  Every broken heart and every tear and every grave is the continuing fruit of Adam's transgression.  People  weep and cry and blame God, but God didn't invent death, man did.
  Knowing all that, and knowing that death is coming for you as sure as the next sunrise, what you really need is  not more money or more pleasure or more toys or cleaner drinking water, what you really need is some way to avoid that hole in the ground. What you need is  a hope.  
  "But I would not have you to be ignorant , brethren, concerning them which are asleep , that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again , even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thess 4:13-18 
  Our hope isn't just the redemption of our souls, and the washing away of our sins. It's not just  eternal life around the throne of God. It's so much larger than that.  Our hope is that, should death claim us, and we get put in the  wooden box, that the Lord Jesus Christ himself is coming to get us out of that box!  He'll rejoin our redeemed souls with our redeemed bodies and we'll be whole again, never to  die !  But it doesn't stop there!
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away ; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying , Behold , the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away ." Rev 21:1-4
  Someday Jesus Christ, who submitted himself unto death even the death of the cross and tasted death for every man. will make death submit itself unto him.  Jesus Christ who delivered us from the power of death and took away it's sting with his own  conquering hand, will destroy death itself so that it can never hurt anyone ever again.  Someday somebody will dig the last grave ever.  Someday somebody will shed the last tear ever. Someday the last Adam will have fixed everything that the first Adam broke!  That's the hope in the gospel.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Power of God

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.  Now this I say , that every one of you saith , I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.  Is Christ divided ? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;  Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.  And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.  For Christ sent me not to baptize , but to preach the gospel : not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1 Cor 1:11-18


  Modern Christianity has a lot in common with the characters from "The Wizard of Oz".  The Tin Man and  Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the Lion all traipsed off to the Emerald City on a quest for things that, as it turned out, they already possessed.  Modern Christians spend a great deal of time and effort seeking  things that, according the Bible ( Eph 1:3) , they already have.  
  One of the most commonly  sought after things along these veins  is 'the power of God'.  I have been to  tent meetings and revival meetings where  'the power of God' was sought through  prayer on a wooden bench, or fastings.  'The power of God' is sought after over the preaching, or the testimonies, or the singing.  People  ask for 'the power of God' over their  marriages or their ministries. I have also seen very lively  services with lots of excitement where , in retrospect, people would say that 'the power of God' had fallen or that 'the power of God' had been present.   By usage, one would  have to conclude that the power of God is some sort of  cloud or fog that descends on a person or a group of people with various effects to follow.  These  effects include excitement,  persuasive preaching,  lively singing and people 'getting help'.
  Here's the problem with all that; the power of God has a very precise biblical definition, and we redefine it at our peril. It is one thing, and is not a whole slew of other things.   According to  1 Cor 11 as well as Romans 1, the power of God IS the preaching of the cross. Singing isn't defined as the power of God, and neither for that matter is  expositional doctrinal studies.  The power of God isn't contained in preaching your opinions or your standards or telling heart-warming stories from the pulpit . In fact, it looks like the only preaching subject that defines itself thusly is  cross-preaching.  Furthermore, according to Acts 1:8, the power from the Holy Ghost isn't given so that  we can build a great congregation or so that you can  belt out a  tear-jerking rendition of 'Just As I Am'.  The power of God is doled out for the express purpose of being a witness to lost people.
  Notice that the Bible doesn't say that the cross is foolishness to the lost, but rather the preaching of the cross is foolishness.   That in itself is interesting, and I'll tell you why.
  When I was in the military, I knew this guy who had  married a Budweiser girl.. This young  woman made her living  showing up at promotional  events for Budweiser and wearing a bathing suit with the corporate logo on it.  As far as I can tell, that was the extent of her responsibilities.  When not 'on the clock', both her and her husband were devout Catholics and some of the  most genuinely nice people  I have ever known.  I had only been saved a short time, and for some reason this couple liked me, and would listen to me while I tried to  witness to them.  I asked him once why it was that he  put so such  confidence in his priest.  His answer was stunningly simple. He said "He went to school for that stuff."  In his mindset,  you don't let just anybody work on your car, and you don't let just anybody perform brain surgery.   It was completely logical to him that a small cadre of specially trained specialists would be the authority in spiritual matters.  The religious  crowd understands a hierarchy.    
  The lost world understands a hierarchy too. If it was announced  that  the United States government was going to detonate a warhead on the moon, that announcement would not come from the Assistant Deputy Director of Widget Inspections. It would  come from at the very least from the White House Press Secretary, but probably from the  President himself.  The reason is simple; important  messages  must come from important people.  This makes sense to lost people.
  That's what makes the  context of 1 Cor 11 so  compelling.  The context  is that, since God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways, God decided to do it completely backwards from the way  men would do it if men were in charge.  He would take the most important message ever proclaimed and he would give it  to absolute unlearned, ignorant nobodies to deliver.  He would call that act "the power of God".
  When I got saved, I didn't change colors or  sprout big muscles.  When I witness to a lost person, I cant  rip telephone books in half or levitate 3 feet off the ground to prove my point.  My salvation is invisible and  sort of unprovable. I have absolutely nothing I can show them that would impress them.  My only weapons are words, and they aren't even my words.  That is exactly contrary to how the world would do it, and that's how God chooses to show his power.  That's why a big mean looking biker guy will back up away from an  8 year old kid with a gospel tract.  That is the power of God on display. 
  It  means that anybody regardless of talent or skill or training or 'calling' can claim the power of God if they are willing to do one thing; preach the cross.  Little kids, old people  and village idiots are all perfect vessels to carry forth this God-approved foolishness. In fact, the less you have to offer, the more you have to offer. The power of God isn't found by laying all night on an altar; it is found in opening your mouth and proclaiming the  death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to lost people.  It is  not a job given to  little club of  'called to preach' guys, but rather to everybody who has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.
  It also means that, unless you are making it a regular part of your life to look men and women  in the face and deal with them about their souls, you are forfeiting the power of God.  I don't care if  your church is running 1000 every service, and  you're the most beloved ministry figure in your town.  I don't care if your crowd shouts and runs the aisles and throws song books. Without  cross-preaching to lost people, your ministry will be a powerless shell of what it could be, and you will spend an inordinate amount of time running around looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

You Might Be a Pharisee If...


In our church of late there has been a lot of talk  of Pharisee-ism and what has evolved , mostly from the  pulpit, is a running list of traits exhibited by this Biblical group.  This list is usually amended by the statement 'you might be a Pharisee if..'.  The ongoing spotlight given to this made me think, and so here, for your perusal, is my own small list, culled from the scriptures, of Pharisee traits and my exposition of their modern counterparts.
 "Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,  Saying , The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe , that observe and do ; but do not ye after their works: for they say , and do not." Matt 23:1-3   The  primary characteristic of a Pharisee is that of hypocrisy.  In fact, in this very chapter, Jesus Christ calls the Pharisees 'hypocrites' 6 times, in addition to calling them "fools", and "serpents" and "blind", and a "child of hell."  It's quite a chapter, I assure you.  He never once  accuses them of having bad doctrine or being slack in their Bible studies.  Quite to the contrary, he instructs people to  do what they say, just not what they do.  A Pharisee can be absolutely the most doctrinally accurate person out there, but their secret life is one where they "make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess".  A Pharisee's hypocrisy reveals itself in an obsession with the outward appearance with a neglect to the inward condition, which causes Jesus to compare them to "whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." Everything looks fine on the outside,  but "within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity".  The issue here isn't whether or not  your hair is short enough if you're a man, or long enough if you're a woman.  The issue isn't whether or not you do or do not wear a  suit.  The issue is an inward one.  You might be a Pharisee if you live a life of secret sin while appearing righteous.
   "But all their works they do for to be seen of men : they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,  And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,  And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.  But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" Matt 23:5-7.  The Pharisees  were noted by Jesus to  be virtually obsessed with position and recognition.  Their pride  had risen to the point where they gloried in their titles and considered themselves above the common rabble that they were to be ministering to.  Modern day Pharisees continue this and glory in titles such as  'Pastor' or 'Deacon' and will insist on special treatment for the 'man of God'.  Modern day Pharisees  forget that, although not everybody in a church   has the same position, there is no such thing as  big Christians and little Christians. The New Testament church is made up of equals who are all serving in different capacities as the need arises, and the day we begin to erect a hierarchical structure , we cross over into  Pharisee territory.  We might even  find ourselves like the fellow in Luke 18:9-10.  You might be a Pharisee if you consider yourself above other believers, and glory in  titles and recognition.
  "And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat And, behold , a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,  And stood at his feet behind him weeping , and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying , This man, if he were a prophet , would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. (Luke 7:36-39)" Having inflated themselves through pride, and elevated themselves among the brethren, the Pharisees then became intensely interested in what other people were doing for God.  But their interest wasn't  to rejoice with their fellow servant, but to  cut down, and criticize "the competition". That's because the easiest way to lift yourself up is to knock somebody else down. Jesus sets them straight on this when he says   "Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.  Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.  My head with oil thou didst not anoint : but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven ; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven , the same loveth little." According to Jesus, a critical spirit towards other believers is a manifestation of a lack of love towards God. They even tried this with Jesus in Luke 11 where scripture records " And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things:  Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him. "  You might be  a Pharisee if you approach other  people's service to God with a critical spirit.
 "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,  And saying , Repent ye : for the kingdom of heaven is at hand For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying , The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.  Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,  And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:  And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matt 3:1-8).  Pharisees aren't the type to shy away from religious services, in fact, occasions like this are their specialty. John is preaching, and here they come, but rather than be commended for their attendance, John attacks their motives.  Their inward defense even in the midst of their contrition is to fall back on the deeds of great men who had gone before them.  Abraham was the friend of God, and Abraham had  done great things, but these people were not Abraham, and it made no sense for them to even try to ride Abraham's coattails as a means of their own righteousness.   They try this stunt again in Matthew 15, and Jesus   describes their behavior with "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."
 Modern day Pharisees will point to the past or church tradition as a way to explain their behavior.  Modern day Pharisees will cite the works of past evangelists or missionaries or pastors as the authority for  what they do now, as opposed to the scriptures. They will, perhaps, with noble intentions,  use the 'old-timey way' as a plumb line, sometimes at scriptures expense. It's one thing to use that as an example, it's  another thing entirely to use that as a justification or as a source of authority.  You might be a Pharisee if you point to tradition or lineage as an authority.
   "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment , mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done , and not to leave the other undone .Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." ( Matt 23:23-24)  If I had  a nickel for everything I had been discussing a scripture with someone , and they went off on some weird tangent, I'd have a lot of nickels.  It's fairly common.  Part of that is that there is so much packed into every word in the Bible that  it is legitimate for two people to read the same thing and see two different but legitimate things.  Part of this is that people don't read carefully, or thoughtfully, or prayerfully; we are all too busy planning our cleverly scathing response to  even truly hear what  is being said. You might be a Pharisee if you completely miss the point. 
 "The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came , and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.  He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say , It will be fair weather: for the sky is red .  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring . O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?  A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed ." Matt 16:1-4  Despite his  fulfillment of the  prophetical scriptures, and  despite his  miracles, The Pharisees  harped on Jesus to  do one more thing  in order to prove himself. That is one of the  biblical definitions of railing, by the way.   This goes on in my circles when  people claim that unless you exhibit what they perceive as an appropriate amount of excitement or zeal  or devotion, there must be something wrong with you. You might be  a Pharisee if other people are expected to jump through hoops in order to prove their spirituality to you.
  We could probably keep this  up all day, but we'll do one more. In Matthew 12, the Bible says "And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear , and understand :  Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.  Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended , after they heard this saying?"  Sins of the mouth are sins of the heart in scripture.  Your heart will eventually come out of your mouth, and when it does, it will reveal to everybody what you really are.  Rather than diagnose that, a modern day Pharisee, just like his first century counterpart will not take a rebuke, he will instead become angry and lash out at the  rebuker.  Truth hurts.  You might be a Pharisee if the truth makes you mad.