It didn’t seem like the Pharisees could ever understand the basis of the law they professed to uphold. When the Lord Jesus lived out what the law’s intention was, they chose to reject, not only what He did and taught, but who He was. The man-made commands they had added to the law made it possible for them to keep “the letter of the law” while missing the point of the law all together. When one is hungry and eats what can be found at hand to eat, is much different than going out to harvest a crop that they might profit thereby. But to the Pharisees, they would consider a handful of food from a field a harvest. When one has a physical need and you are in a position to help that person, that is very different from one going about the daily tasks of life. When an animal is in danger of dying, the present need is what we are obligated to meet. The law and its demands do not rise above human need. It was given that we might act in love to God without reservation and accomplish the purpose of meeting needs of people around us. The conviction a broken law leads to is because our tendency is to excuse ourselves from the spirit of the law, and by the law become aware of our sin.
Legalism isn’t because the law of God is in any way wrong, but because we try to qualify it with opinions and traditions of our own making. There will be those who want to impose their traditions on others. That leads to the sin of sectarianism. When people of faith live by faith, they will find their guidance in the Word of God rather than opinions of men. That is not legalism. If for some reason we develop convictions that are not based on the Word of God – that is legalism. When that happens, those convictions have to be abandoned and we must get back to what God intended the law to do in the first place.
As I followed the path of the Lord, I saw Him leave that place rather than continue the confrontation He had been engaging the Pharisees in. There are times when we will have to do the same. The Lord had other work to do and other people to teach beside the Pharisees. It was not time for Him to die yet. We too may have to walk away from something rather than go on in confrontation because the whole work we are involved in could be adversely affected by continuing to try to change the minds or opinions or traditions others may hold.
When the work of God we are engaged in does not seem too effective and there are no great results to be seen, this does not mean we are wrong in what we are doing. As was the case when the Lord was here, some things are best to be done quietly and without fanfare because God has His own plans and purposes to be fulfilled. It is not unusual for us to find out at a later date that God has been working in ways and with people we know nothing about. When the Spirit of God leads and guides us, we may not know at the time how it is being done. “Wait on the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thy heart.”
There is no question about the fact that Satan will seek to hinder and destroy any work of God. He attempted to take the life of the Lord Jesus at His birth. He tried to get the Lord to yield to his temptations in the wilderness. Again, in the Lord’s hometown of Nazareth, he tried to have Him killed by being pushed over a cliff. Even before He was crucified, He tried to get the Lord to avoid going to the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. There never is an iota of truth in any statement that would say Satan is the source of a work of God. Doubts, deception and defeat are from the world, the flesh or the devil – not from God. We cannot remain in a neutral position when it comes to following Christ. Either we follow God and His ways and His Word, or we follow the god of this world, Satan. To attribute the work of the Lord Jesus when the Holy Spirit convicts and brings one to repentance and they reject the Savior, leaves a person without hope of salvation.
Often, we do not realize what is within us until a situation arises where we must speak without any subterfuge or false modesty. The words that come from one’s mouth reveals what is in one’s heart. Cleaning up speech can be done but that doesn’t solve the problem as to what is in a person’s heart. When the Holy Spirit changes one from within by giving us a new nature, then the new motives and new attitudes toward God and others, changes us not only inside but also what we say and do outwardly.
There are those today who want to see signs as to the Person and power of Christ before they will believe on Him and trust His Word. Miracles may give a proof of the power of Christ but as to who He is in His Person – that must be accepted by faith. That faith comes through God’s Word. There is plenty of evidence in the Bible as to the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. The work of God in believers is proof that faith in Christ is a living vital faith by which we are born into the family of God; by which we live and die in faith knowing that we are with the Lord. The sign of Jonah in the day in which our Lord lived, is the same sign we have today – the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Gospel message. The evidence of His truth is already in place. When people try to clean up their lives on their own strength without a work of God in their soul, that does not last. In fact, it leaves people more open to satanic activity because we are empty of all spiritual opinions, let alone spiritual life.
The Lord Jesus always honored His Father and mother. He always accepted responsibility for His family even seeing to the welfare of His mother when He was on the cross. But it was then, and still is today, a fact that our spiritual relationships are as binding as our physical relationships. We cannot ignore the needs of our family and we cannot ignore the needs of God’s family. For us to honor our parents is still an intact responsibility. The same is true in relation to our brothers and sisters in Christ.