Friday, December 25, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 27, 2015

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JESUS WARNS CHRISTIAN LEADERS ABOUT PRIDE AND HYPOCRISY
(GOD loves a humble spirit)
(Matthew 23:2-13 & Mark 12:38-44)

  The, relatively small group of religious leaders, who were known as the “Pharisees”, were the authoritative interpreters of Scriptures, before JESUS came to earth in the first century A.D. In fact, they were a group dedicated and committed to the strictest of interpretation of the Mosaic Law, and, to the made-up “Oral Laws” that they themselves personally, apart from GOD, also imposed upon the people of Israel.
    In reality, these counterfeit religious leaders had no GOD-given right to give authoritative teaching to anyone, however, they had long ago created for themselves a theological position in the Church at Judea, and were now respected by all as the highest men of GOD that could be found anywhere in all of Israel.
    In Matthew 23, taking up at verse 1, we see clearly that JESUS is not at all supportive of the Pharisee’s claim of being of the highest order of teaching authority, as HE uses a bit of “irony” to make HIS point. Here HE tells a crowd of people in Jerusalem, including HIS OWN disciples, to listen to these religious leaders and be careful not to do what they do, nor follow their examples. Even when they teach correctly, they don’t tend to do what they teach themselves. In fact, JESUS says, they crush people with their impossible religious demands, and then, never lift a finger to help ease the burden. In other words JESUS is saying here, that, the Pharisees teachings serve to shackle their congregation, rather than to set them free (Vs.1-4).
    In the modern Church we see, perhaps, the majority of pastors doing almost everything for show. They drive the finest cars, wear the most expensive clothes, wine and dine the prettiest secretaries and aids (male and female), hobnob with their peers in the finest hotels and vacation spots, under the guise of having church related conferences, and all the while, they lavish in all the attention they get as being “celebrity” preachers, and being referred to as great men of GOD. In reality, most of them don’t even have an elementary understanding of the true meaning of CHRIST and the Scriptures HE represents.
    They also love to be called “Spiritual Father” and here in this passage JESUS warns that we address no one here on earth as Spiritual Father, for only GOD in Heaven can be a true Christian’s Spiritual Father (v.9). HE also warns us not to let anyone call us “Master”, for only HE, the MESSIAH, is our master (v.10). Even the greatest among us is only a servant of the FATHER in Heaven and CHRIST JESUS. And all those who try to exalt themselves, instead of the GOD they serve, will be humbled. However, those who humble themselves under GOD will ultimately be exalted by GOD (Vs.11-12).
    In addition, in John Mark’s Gospel (Mark 12:38-44) JESUS makes us aware of an even more sinful behavior by Church leaders who exalt themselves. In verses 40-44, JESUS tells us that these leaders shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then use “human ingenuity”, usually hiding behind Scriptures, to cover up, or keep people from realizing the kind of wolves they really are.    
    Counterfeit Church leaders can easily be spotted because they will generally fear and respect powerful men more than they do GOD, WHOM they can’t see. In fact, more often than not, these leaders don’t really even believe there is a GOD WHO can punish them for their evil deeds in the first place. They would much rather emulate their peers and other church leaders who, by hook or crook, have a large church following and financial success, than to learn about the ways of the only wise GOD, and seek to emulate the life of CHRIST JESUS, even in front the people they claim to shepherd.
    These leaders do not seek to save the souls, even of the members of their own congregation, who have been, for too long, separated from GOD by their sinful lifestyles. Instead, they are only seeking to separate the congregation from their wallets and purses, and could care less about their salvation, or the salvation of their children, who come after them.
    In the Greek, the word used for “hypocrite” (v.13) is “hupocrates” (hoop-ok-ra-tace), and it is used in the Gospel of Matthew 16 of the 26 times that it is used in the New Testament. It describes “one who acts with calculation to impress those around him”. In the religious sense, it is one who focuses his attention on the external aspects of religion, and totally neglects the more, deeper, internal, and eternal aspects of love, and having a heart for GOD and their fellow man.
    Hypocrites tend to use a lot of shallow “church talk”, often reciting well-known verses of Scriptures in order to appear knowledgeable about the Word of GOD, but in reality, they only use this spiritual vernacular to conceal their evil and corrupt intentions and motives. Here JESUS warns the Church, then and now, to be aware of such hypocrites, and HE warns those hypocrites to beware of HIS strong judgment that will be pending on those who attempt to make a mockery of the “Body of CHRIST” before the world, that it is commanded and commissioned, to seek out, and, to save.
   

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander   
   
           



                                 
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