“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ -Matthew 7: 15-23
In the wake of the killings of 49 people in a gay nightclub by the gunman in Orlando Florida, a church pastor refused to mourn the deaths and actually lamented that more "sodomites and pedophiles" were not taken out and then called for the execution of gay people by the government.
You are witnessing the words of a modern Pharisee. A false prophet. A ferocious wolf. A bad tree that bears only bad fruit.
When I was a teenager I was reading the Bible about Jesus' ministry and noticed that in between teaching, healing and blessing people, Jesus was also confronting and arguing with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious holy rollers of the day. I remember thinking "Why is Jesus being so harsh with them?" It was later on that I realized it was because the Pharisees had hijacked the faith, twisted it and made it their own, leading the people AWAY from God and making it difficult for anyone to come to Him.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.- Matthew 23:13
Read Jesus rant to the Pharisees with His 7 Woes to the Pharisees: Matthew 23
I saw that the Pharisees took up a lot of Jesus' time and it was almost a distraction. And in the end, it was the Pharisees who orchestrated Jesus' death. It wasn't the people, but the religious leaders in power who made it all happen because Jesus was going against everything they said, did and believed in. They didn't like that someone was coming in to take the power and control away from them.
As I was reading this, I thought the Pharisees were a bad religious sect that lived only in Jesus' time and no longer existed. But I now see that the reason that Jesus had to spend so much time dealing with them was because they would never go away.
Though the Pharisees and Saducees passed, others have taken their place. Those who claimed to be of the faith, but wanted to take control by creating and enforcing rules that leave little room for faith.
Christianity alone has a whole bunch of denominations because there was always someone who disagreed with someone else's version of how to serve God so they split off and started a new denomination. But following a church and following God are two different things.
You can do everything a church tells you and still not know God. And you can also be in close fellowship with God and have never visited a church. That is because church rules do not bring anyone close to God, but it is faith in God alone and a personal relationship with Him.
Pharisees are a reality in our society and have interfered with God's work since the beginning. Those leaders in powerful positions who claim to follow God, but then use their power to control others, enrich themselves and lead people away from Him.
Unbeknownst to them, they are in league with the devil to undermine God, His church and His people and make the faith difficult and repugnant. They are not preaching the Good News. They are preaching the way to hell.
To be a Child of God is beautiful. Jesus asks us to live in love: love for God and love for our neighbor. This is the Good News. That God loves us and Jesus saves us. This alone is radical and life changing. The Holy Spirit gives us love, peace and compassion and asks us to love, heal, help and bring His salvation to all people. We are to pass His love around.
But instead we have prominent pastors, priests and leaders who have egos bigger than some celebrities, who routinely point out sinners who don't follow their rules their way and then get their members to go along with them claiming it is God who is giving the orders, not them- "I didn't say it, the Bible said it".
Well Jesus says, you will recognize them by their fruits.
All ministers of God must have the Fruit of the Spirit:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22,23
The OPPOSITE of the Fruit of the Spirit are hatred, sorrow, restlessness, intolerance, hostility, badness, faithlessness, cruelty, and uncontrollability.
So pointing out a modern Pharisee is actually quite EASY.
Here are a few pointers for you to determine if any church pastor, priest, minister or preacher is following Jesus or just promoting himself to be God's right hand man.
1. The SUPER EGO.
A true man of God is humble and thinks not of himself but serves God and others in the church and outside in the community. His needs and concerns take a backseat to the needs of others.
If you ever witness a pastor, priest or minister who insists on a high salary, drives expensive cars, loves fancy clothes and jewelry and has a luxurious home or homes...it is a red flag.
If he seems to relish power, prestige, honor, wealth, fine dining and looking sharp...he might just be into earthly things a little bit too much.
And if he is quick to talk and slow to listen, full of pride, arrogance and self righteousness, thinks he knows everything and is never wrong with a mouth that spews out prejudice, name calling, condemnation, stereotyping and sarcasm...then these are signs of a very bad tree.
Yes we can all fall into these, but a pastor, priest or minister, is someone who is supposed to lead people to God and should be living the life he is telling others to live.
God gave us each an instinct to decipher right from wrong. You will know if something doesn't seem right.
The Pharisees were champions of legalism. The rules. They loved the rules and with the rules comes an obsession to do it all 100% correctly.
The problem comes when the laws overrule the people. If anyone broke the rules, they were labeled sinners, condemned and then forbidden to participate in the faith. The Pharisees declared everything unclean including people.
But Jesus let them know what He thought of their way of serving God. "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." - Matthew 23:24
The thing about having rules is if a rule is broken, then there must be a punishment. Many ministers focus on sin, breaking God's rules and how we are inviting the wrath of God.
They don't focus on the joy and blessings of Jesus and fellowship with God but prefer fire and brimstone, sin and damnation and all things negative. Why? Because their heart dwells in fear. If they are afraid of God, then they will transfer that fear to their congregation. Maybe they haven't experienced the joy of God, because one who experiences God's joy can only be joyful and wants to tell everyone about that joy.
And so many ministers gloss over love, joy and peace because they don't know what it means...they've never experienced the Fruits of the Spirit. They are too far away from God because their fear keeps them from being close to God. So they advocate following rules to avoid punishment. They use FEAR to try to scare people to come to God, but the results are church members who are afraid of God and so will never get close to Him. Instead of the GOOD NEWS it becomes the SCARY NEWS. God is to be feared. But you can't love what you are afraid of.
Being a Christian is about being in love with God and spreading His love not because you have to, but because you want to. Jesus taught us to love and forgive, help the poor, visit the sick, befriend the lonely and welcome the stranger. All ways to bless others and love people to Christ so we can all become a part of God's beautiful family.
Today we have so many modern Pharisees who cause division by pointing out everyone's sins, making enemies and making their members afraid. So much for forgiveness, redemption, peace and joy.
When the minister becomes critical, so does the congregation and so you have a church full of people sizing each other up and afraid to share with each other for fear they might be discovered, and fear begets more fear...a favorite tool of the devil.
Pharisees routinely insist that the rules, the laws and traditions are the most important thing and cannot be broken. They are more important than people. This is how you will know they are wrong. When the rules are above compassion, mercy, understanding and love. When the Pharisees wanted to stone the Adulteress Woman, they were correct. She had broken Moses laws and were legally and Biblically within their right to stone her. But Jesus said very simply “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And when all her accusers walked away, Jesus said to her "Neither do I condemn you; go now and leave your life of sin."
Modern Pharisees attempt to follow the Bible, yet they keep going back to the Old Testament laws, BEFORE Jesus came. But the Bible says, The Old Covenant...the way of serving God by following rules...is obsolete, the New Covenant is here.
"By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." - Hebrews 8:13
There was a purpose for the Law of the Old Testament: "Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." - Galatians 3: 23-25
Jesus has freed us from the condemnation of the Law and our only requirement is FAITH. We are saved in Christ because we BELIEVE.
And the only commandments Jesus gave us:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." -Matthew 22: 37-40
When a preacher steps up to the pulpit, what comes out of his mouth? Accusing others of sin? The wrath of God? The sins of the country? Sending people to hell? Judgment?
If you witness words or actions which include hate, insult, prejudice, fear, false accusation, fault finding to incite you to act against another group of people...then you are witnessing the work of the devil.
Whether racism, anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-immigration...it is all the same. Words to get you to push away others.
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. -Matthew 12:33-35
After a couple sermons, any visitor should be able to understand what is on the mind and heart of a minister. Does he like to point out the sins of everyone? Does he keep asking for money? How much does he talk about going outside the church to help, volunteer or get involved in the community? Does he advocate helping the homeless, hungry and the poor? Listen to his words carefully and you will find the true person behind them.
Do you feel more blessed after hearing his sermons? Strengthened? Inspired? Loved by God? Or does your pastor make you feel more afraid of God? More critical of others or yourself? More angry at the world and outsiders? Do his words rile you up in a good way or bad way? Does he use big words to try to sound intelligent? Or is your preacher just...boring and slowly killing your joy and faith?
Listen up and you will know what he's trying to do.
4. Their ACTIONS
What happens when your minister step down from the pulpit? If you want to know who he really is, talk to the secretary. Is he all sweet and lovey dovey in the pulpit but then nasty, bossy, crass and sarcastic in the church office? Is everything about me, me and me? What does he do when he thinks no one is watching? Do you feel the Love of God from him? Does he exude care, concern and compassion? Does he visit the sick? Does he take the time to talk to you and others or is he too busy to exchange pleasantries? When the collar is off, does he get into a road rage rant when he is stuck in traffic or when things don't go his way? Does he make demeaning nasty jokes mocking others? Does he apologize if he does something wrong or just says nothing? Does he seem to be tight fisted and controlling with money? What does he do in his spare time? Does he spend more time watching television, surfing the internet and entertaining himself, than visiting the sick or helping the poor?
No one is perfect including ministers, but ministers of God are held up to a higher standard, which means following the teachings he is teaching to others.
"Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." -James 3:1.
The true sign of someone who is following God is if there is love in their heart. Love for God and Love for others. The Love of God should be the driving force that motivates each of our words, our actions and our heart.
Because it is only through God's love, the source, that all beautiful things come out. All our words, actions, prayers and service should come out of LOVE. There can be no hate, sarcasm, nastiness, malice, anger, deceit from anyone who has God's love in their heart.
Because if you don't have love. You don't have God.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." - 1 John 4:7-8
As for the anti-gay California pastor who relished the slaughter of people in Orlando, it seems the fruit of his hateful words has come back to haunt him. The landlord has decided not to renew the contract for his church building because of his hate filled words. He sowed hate and so has received the just reward.
"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Galatians 6:7
© 2016 Edrick
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