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As I was reflecting on the phrase “April showers bring May flowers,” it reminded me of how God’s Word is like the showers within our lives causing us to grow and flourish.  God desires for our hearts to reflect that of His Son, Jesus.  He wants us to grow in our faith in Him.  He wants us to develop the fruit of His Spirit within our hearts.

As I meditated on developing the fruit of the Spirit deep within me, God took me to the passage in Matthew 23 known as the “Seven Woes” as Jesus addressed the hearts of the Pharisees.  As I studied the different points Jesus made to them, it made me think about my own heart.  In order for the fruit of God’s Spirit to develop and grow within me, my heart needs to be healthy and not impacted by disease.

I asked the Lord, “Is there a Pharisee deep within me?  Do I have any tendencies of a Pharisee heart?”  As I meditated more upon His Word, He brought these few points to my heart.  One thing about God I know is true is that when He speaks of areas that need to be addressed within our lives, He’s not doing so to shame us nor condemn us.  He is doing it because His desire is for each of us to reflect more of His Beloved Son.

“Overcoming the Pharisee within Me” not only pertains to us as individuals, but as the Church, the Bride of Christ as a whole.

God desires for each of us to be cultivating the fruit of His Spirit within our lives, but He also desires for His Church to be displaying His fruit to the lost, forsaken and hurting lives that are around us.  So how do we display His fruit to the lost, forsaken and hurting lives around us?  I believe we will find our first clue in the following verses.

Matthew 23:2-3 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.  But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” 

Jesus states. “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.”  These people were called to lead just as Moses was directed to lead the people of Israel.  Today, as a Christ follower, and as the Church as a whole, we are called to be leaders and lead the way so others can draw closer to God, yet how many times do we not practice what we preach to others?  God has set the pattern before us.  We are to be imitators of Christ.  Ephesians 5:1-2 “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” 

Our leadership should always be grounded in God’s love.  Our hearts and motives should be the same as Christ’s – “your will be done Father, not my own” towards God and for His people.  As a Christ follower, we get all caught up in performance and legalism that we miss the heart of God.   We think people should act a certain way or we place unrealistic expectations upon those around us that we set them up for defeat before they are given an opportunity.

If God’s heart is for ours not to be bound captive by legalism and rituals, then why do we think we have the right to place those bondages upon those around us?  As imitators of Christ, our hearts’ desire should be the same as Jesus’ – obtaining a heart operating out of freedom and deliverance.

Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” 

If a heart is enslaved, the harder it tries to maintain the rules; it will always lead to a road of deception, failure and ultimately, defeat.  Jesus came so we could have life, life in the fullest with Him.  He came so we could experience His mercy, grace and love.  He came so we could live in freedom.

The second point comes from Verse 5. “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels of their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them Rabbi.”

Jesus addresses the Pharisees’ need for recognition.  The Pharisees wanted to be recognized for their works and for the state of position they obtained.  Their motives for their acts of service for God were impure.   We too can be like the Pharisee, and our motives for service can be impure.  Whether we are serving Him as an individual or functioning as the Church body, it should never be for our own recognition.  Our acts of service should always lead people to the throne room of God, giving Him all the glory and honor.

However, instead of operating out of servant-hood and love, we sometimes function out of deep insecurities.  The Pharisees wanted to be recognized because they wanted to feel or be known as important.  The need to feel important resides in the roots of pride and insecurity.  When we want others to build us up, our hearts are self-centered on “me.”  When we want others to approve of us, we are operating out of the fear of insecurity and not operating out of a sure foundation of love.   God desires for us to check our hearts when we are serving Him.  What are our motives?  Are we operating out of our insecurities for the need to feel accepted and important?  Are we trying to win the approval of others through our acts of service?  Or are we rooted in Him knowing our service is done for Him and our motive is based out of love?

Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

The works we do for God should be just that – done for Him and not to win the approval of others.  Reality is if we set our standards on trying to please men, we will always set ourselves up for failure and defeat, yet if we set our sights on pleasing and honoring God, we will always proceed and succeed.

So in closing, allow Colossians 3:23-24 to be your prayer towards God.  Ask Him if there is a Pharisee within your heart and if so, ask Him to help you to become more like Christ – a true imitator in all His ways expressing His love to those around us and bring glory and honor to His name.

Father God, I ask that whatever I do, let me work at it with all my heart, as working for You, not for men, since I know that I will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ I am serving.  Help me to become the servant leader you called me to be and to lead out of love, mercy and grace just as you did.  Let me not only be rooted and grounded in your love, but help me to express the fruit of your love to the hurting, lost and forsaken around me.  Amen.

Many blessings to you,
Melissa

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