[subversive underground] PHARISEE ME by Keith Giles
A few weeks ago, my oldest son Dylan was sent to his room for talking back to his Mom. His reaction to being corrected for mistreating his younger brother David was to claim innocence and to act indignantly. He was sent to his room and told not to come back out until he could tell us what he had done that was wrong and was willing to ask for forgiveness.
After nearly twenty minutes alone in his room, he had not come back out to apologize and was still convinced that he had done nothing wrong.
If you are a parent you know this situation all too well, especially if you have more than one child in the home. Our household is no exception, however this particular situation had me thinking about what was really going on with my oldest son.
Dylan is almost eleven years old, but he's already started to act like a moody, misunderstood, dramatic teen-ager. Maybe I saw something of myself in him that particular Sunday morning?
My usual response to such obstinacy is immediate retaliation and swift punishment. I have little patience for this sort of behavior, especially since pridefulness is one of the qualities within myself that I hate most of all. However, this particular morning I decided to have mercy on my son, and to show him a little about how painful pride can be, even to yourself.
I went into my bedroom and pulled out a journal I had been keeping about a year ago. I try to keep a habit of writing down the things that God speaks to me, and the various ways that God leads our family through the challenges of life, in a regular journal. My specific hope is that, one day, my sons will read about my struggles and meandering walk of faith and take some courage for their own spiritual journey in life.
I pulled journal number two from off the shelf and began searching for an entry made about a year and a half ago. It was a detailed confession to God of my own prideful heart and it conveyed a lot of the pain that this realization created in my soul once I was aware of just how deep and sick my pride could go.
When I found it I marked the page and went in to see my son. Dylan was laying on his top bunk and facing the wall.
"Do you know what you did wrong, son?" I asked. "No," he said, "I don't know what was so wrong about what I said."
I stepped on the bottom bunk and leaned over the top rail to look at him in the eye. His face was a scowl. I realized just how much he looked like me in that moment and I felt sympathy for him.
"Dylan, do you know what you're real problem is?" He looked at me for a second and cocked his head, "No. What?"
"I think your problem is that I'm your Dad."
His eyebrows relaxed a little and he said, "What does that mean?"
"It means that your Dad has a big problem with pride and I think you've inherited that from me."
I held up the journal and asked, "Do you know what this is?"
"Is that my journal that you and Mom keep for me?"
"No, it's my journal from about a year ago. I've marked a page that I want you to read and then I want you to think about it. I want you to pray and ask God to show you if you have any pride in your own heart. If you want to come out after that and apologize to your Mom and to your brother let us know."
"Ok," he said, taking the journal out of my hand.
I left him alone to read my journal entry and went into the living room. After about ten minutes Dylan came in carrying my journal in one hand. He walked into the kitchen and gave his Mom a hug. "I'm sorry Mom," he said humbly. Wendy took him in her arms and let him know that all was forgiven. Then Dylan went over to his little brother and apologized for mistreating him. Then, at last, he turned to me and handed me my journal. "Thanks Dad," he said.
I held him for a little and told him that if he would pray and ask God to take away his prideful heart that God would do that for him. Together we said a short prayer together and then he ran off to play outside with his brother David.
Before I put the journal back on the shelf again, I flipped back to the entry and read it over again. It was a time when, totally out of the blue, God revealed to me what a Pharisee I was. I was reading "Renovation of the Heart" by Dallas Willard one evening and came across a quote from one of the Gospels where Jesus was rebuking the religious leaders of his day for being more concerned about what the people thought of them, about how they looked in the eyes of the congregation, than they were about the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Suddenly, in a split second, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the fact that, just a few days previous, I had been offended when a big-name evangelist had visited our church and how his message had been so widely celebrated by the people.
What bothered me, even angered me, about this was that I had preached this exact same message to this same church nearly a year before that. No one had applauded my great wisdom at the time. No one even seemed to notice that I had preached almost the exact same sermon an entire year before this famous evangelist did. It really burned me up inside, to be honest. I wrestled with how to handle my anger. I started thinking poorly of this evangelist, and of the congregation too.
Sitting there in my bed, leaning against my pillow, as I read the words of Jesus criticizing the Pharisees for their attention-craving attitudes about God's Word I felt the hot sting of conviction in my heart. Suddenly I could picture myself in the black robe of a Pharisee and I didn't like that image.
In that split-second of conviction, God showed me that instead of being thrilled that the people had finally heard His voice and responded to His message for them, I was more upset that I wasn't the one who got the credit for the message. If I were really concerned about the people, I would be happy for them. If I were really passionate about the message, I would be pleased that it had been received as God intended. Instead, I was angry and bitter and my feelings were hurt. Why? Because I cared more about who got the glory for the insight than I was about whether or not the people received the insight.
I remember the pain of that evening even now. Reading it again in the journal that day brought it all back to me and I had to cry out to God to help me to find the Pharisee in me so that together we might kill him.
What I realize more and more is that there really is a Pharisee in me. I catch glimpses of him now and again, and each time I do it causes me great pain because I can see how hideous my own sin really is to God. I know He loves me no matter what, and for that I am grateful. Still, the periodic reminders that I have yet to fully slay the Pharisee in me have proven painful. The Truth really does hurt.
I have to admit, the Pharisee in me still isn't quite dead yet. I have seen him lurking around a few times since that journal entry, and I suspect I will see him a few more times before I come to the end of my last journal entry. But the good thing is, God still loves me. He is still working on my heart. He will not leave me as I am, but He will one day, (Miracle of Miracles), mold me of all people into the image of His Son, Jesus.
The important thing for my family is that I come to terms with the fact that I haven't got it all figured out yet. My sons need a Father who will remember that he is also in process and be willing to humble himself so that they can see that they are not alone in the struggle to overcome the flesh and to walk in the Spirit.
God help me to be more like Jesus so that my sons can do the same.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! Yes, on Thursday, November 9th I will become a man. I will be forty years old and I will enter middle-age. Ugh!
NEW JOB? Maybe two new jobs? We'll see...I've got to turn in both applications this week (to the same place) and if I get either job I can promise you there will be some raise eyebrows when I announce the job and who I am working for. Trust me though, if this works out it will be totally God's hand on me and nothing more.
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