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The longer we are around church, the easier it is to become a Pharisee.  Pharisees were the religious group that Jesus often challenged because their hearts were not with God, although they followed many religious rules.  The following study includes the confessions of a modern-day Pharisee. My goal is to talk about the kind of courage Jesus called for, in order to  overcome being a Pharisee.

The Drift Begins

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:10

The focus of Jesus’ life very simple:

  • Seek – Jesus devoted himself to initiating and building friendships
  • Save – Jesus devoted himself to having the faith & conviction to save his friends

Whenever we lose sight on this focus, we begin to drift into the world of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees followed all the rules – in modern terms, they went to midweek, bible talk, Sunday service, discipleship times and all other functions – but they forgot about their purpose.

When we lose our purpose, but stay in church we make church all about ‘self’.

Here are my confessions of a Pharisee:

“I don’t believe I can be fruitful”

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

Matthew 23:13-15

Stopped Saving – The spiritual weakness of the Pharisees made them incapable of saving people.  Even when they meet someone open, they ‘shut the door’ on them with their compromise and lack of faith.

Stopped Seeking – Pharisees make evangelism a really big event that cannot be sustained and makes little or no impact.

“Even the good things I do are not motivated by God”

Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

Matthew 23:5-7

I confuse people because when I’m in the fellowship, I seem inspired and appear to have conviction, but when I am alone and have no accountability, there is no faithfulness to God.

“I am desperate to have a good church reputation”

But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Matthew 23:8-12

Because I get so little security from God and my home, I am desperately dependent on the church for feelings of importance and relevance.

“I’m Terrified of Building Real Friendships”

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Matthew 23:23-24

What no one understands is that I depend and rely on rules as a substitute for relationships, because I don’t have the internal motivation to do the things God wants me to do.

Pharisees Can Change

No matter how deep into being religious you have become, you can change. Nicodemus is a ‘Recovered Pharisee’, who can teach us how to overcome being religious.

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.  At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.  Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

John 19:38-42

Tell the Truth

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?  Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.  Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned,but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:1-21

What we often times forget is that verses 19-21 were directed towards Nicodemus, a Pharisee who was interested in change.

The first step to shed your Pharisee ways, is to embrace a lifestyle of honesty in 3 areas:

  • Fruitful – Why don’t I believe God can use me to save others?
  • Motives – What is my primary motivation for being in the church?
  • Friendships – What am I most afraid to reveal in friendships?
  • Home – Why don’t I get more confidence from my relationships at home?


  • Ask for Help – Select 2-3 people you will devote yourself to learn from to build friendships
  • Start Seeking – Start your journey to fruitfulness by building great friendships with people who do not go to church.
  • Tell the Truth – Set-up a time today to walk in the light with friends

Written by

Bay Area Christian Church

This was created by a member of the Bay Area Christian Church team.