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It’s hard to admit you’re a Pharisee… but it may be the first step to really changing your relationship with God and becoming who you are meant to be.

“It says,” he replied, “that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.”

Luke 10: 27 (TLB)

There is no greater pursuit in life than to develop a passionate and fulfilling relationship with God. It takes work everyday, in scripture and in prayer, to address the parts of our hearts that become corrupted with our sins. It takes even greater humility to admit our shortcomings and ask for help from God and people. God gives us a way to measure if we are loving him by how much we love people. By loving others, we are living out God’s purpose for our lives.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT)

This Bible study is meant to help us overcome three sins that the Pharisees didn’t want to admit or change.

1. Admit The Selfishness

The Pharisees believed that they could earn the right to be with God if they were more serious about following the rules than anyone else. Their obedience became their honor. The praise from others became their power. Their personal success became their purpose. For the Pharisee, it became a life of control rather than connection with God.

As I looked at how the Pharisees turned God’s church into a place for themselves, not a place for others, I had to examine my own selfishness.

  • How much does my relationship with God revolve around building my own esteem or fixing my life?
  • How much do I think about or serve other people?
  • How much do I change my schedule to study God’s word with someone else?
  • How much of my prayers are for others?
  • How comfortable do I feel about not bringing someone with me to church or to Bible talk or just to dinner to meet my family?
  • Have I ever connected the lack of fruitfulness in my life with my selfishness?

We don’t find the Pharisees ever going out of their way to serve other people unless it had something to do with their own success.

2. Admit The Idolatry

I tell you that you must do better than the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. If you are not more pleasing to God than they are, you will never enter God’s kingdom.

Matt 5: 20 (ERV)

At the same time that Jesus did those signs, many of the Jewish leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees, they would not openly admit they believed. They were afraid they would be thrown out of the synagogue.

John 12:42 (NIRV)

The Pharisees relied on the Mosaic laws and traditions that had been passed on for generations. It was the only way they knew how they could have a relationship with God. But as they valued the praise from each other, their focus was shifted from pleasing God to pleasing people. It’s easier to resort to rules and make minimal effort to seek God as long as you are fitting in.

Church can become our system that we rely on more than God. Sadly, many have been baptized with a greater awareness of church’s dogma than experiencing an inspiring relationship with God. We tend to ignore our sin and hypocrisy as long as we are getting the results we desire. But when that system is disrupted or we lose our position, we get insecure and try to fix the system versus looking at how far we have drifted in our relationship with God and his purpose.

Here are some contrasts I see when my focus has shifted from God to people:



Motivated By Faith Motivated by Fear
Easily Convicted Easily Offended
Enhanced Vision Degenerative Myopia
Think Relationship Think Rules
Aware Disconnected
Self-Denial Self-Centered
Easily Moved Stuck in Apathy
Relaxed Being Myself Tense with Pretense
Feel Accepted Constantly Proving Myself
Blessed Stressed
Rely on Holy Spirit Rely on Human Effort
Think about the Future Consumed with the Past
Inspired Dutiful

 3. Admit the Pride

“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.

John 5:3940 (MSG)

How different from this way of faith is the way of law, which says that a man is saved by obeying every law of God, without one slip. But Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon himself.

Galatians 3:12-13 (TLB)

The Pharisees hated the feeling of needing relationships. The were proud. Paul came to realize, that the life he wanted, would come from humbly admitting he needed God instead of trying to prove his worthiness. We can never get to a point where we won’t need help from God and friends.

God intends our relationship with him to be filled with purpose, friendship, and empathy for others. Admitting that you are a Pharisee is being aware of how selfishness, idolatry and the pride destroy our ability to love.

There is a great deal of freedom I feel when I am being myself and confident that God will accept me. It was never about how good I could be, but only about God wanting to be with me. So there is no fear in sharing about the sin that’s in my life. There are no more rules that I feel chained to obey. It’s with that kind of confidence we can love God with all our heart and show real love for other people.

Written by

Scott Colvin

Scott Colvin is an evangelist at the Bay Area Christian Church. Scott ran cross country for the University of North Carolina. Some say he's still running to this day.