The Pharisee in your head

Now the Pharisee said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner.’ Luke 7:39

I had a dream the other night. In it a handsome, rich, charming young man was flirting with me. I was quite flattered but I wouldn’t let myself trust his intentions. Something within me felt like I was not worthy of his attention. An accusing inner voice said, “You’re too old, you’re not pretty enough, he can’t really like you, don’t believe him, it’s too good to be true.” I wanted to trust him, but a deep-seated fear wouldn’t let me.

It’s like I carry around a Pharisee in my head, one that knows who and what I am – an unloveable, unattractive, valueless sinner, not worthy touching or being touched; and this accusing voice attempts to keep me from giving and receiving love. I have a core belief that good cannot be for me, I am not worthy of good; it’s based on a primal fear that if you really knew me, you wouldn’t love me.

This sinful woman anointing Jesus’ feet doesn’t let the Pharisee keep her away from love. He’s not telling her anything she doesn’t already know, she knows she’s a sinner, she knows just how unworthy she is to be in his good and holy home; in fact it is her awareness of her great sinfulness that fuels her love of Jesus. She knows how much she owes him.

Maybe you have a Pharisee in your head, accusing you of great sinfulness, declaring you not worthy of God’s love. It’s counter intuitive but what you need to do is agree with the voice, let yourself become aware of just how great a sinner you are; how profoundly you need God’s mercy. But don’t let the Pharisee shame you into hiding yourself from Jesus. Like the woman, let your heart fill with gratitude for all God’s done for you and offer yourself and your gifts.

Jesus said,”Her sins, which were many have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” Luke 7:47

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when your faith waivers ( a lesson from John the Baptist)

Have you ever had this experience? The faith you confidently held and expressed throughout your life suddenly seems thin and wobbly. What you previously believed without a doubt you now find yourself questioning. If so, you are in good company.

So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another? Luke 7:18,19

John, the one who while still in his mother’s womb recognized Jesus as the Messiah; the one who didn’t want to baptize Jesus because he felt unworthy to even untie his sandals; the one who pointed to Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world;” this John, the one who was convinced Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, now has doubts. John, in prison and anticipating death because of his faith, now needs reassurance that Jesus is indeed the Christ.

What did John do when he was experiencing a crises of faith?

He asked his friends to go to Jesus on his behalf. He had a trusted community with whom he could share his doubts, ones who would approach Jesus when he could not. Do you have such relationships? Your doubts might cause you to withdraw or isolate yourself. Do the opposite. Confide in your friends, admit your doubts, ask them to pray, borrow their faith until yours returns.

. .demons love darkness and hiddenness. Inner fears and struggles which remain isolated develop great power over us. But when we talk about them in a spirit of trust, they they can be looked at and dealt with. Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quickly leave us.  – Henri Nouwen The Road to Daybreak

How did Jesus respond to John’s dilemma?

He says, “look at the fruit of my ministry.” It’s so like Jesus to not answer a direct question with a direct answer. He’s committed to building our faith, not coddling our doubts. His answers cause us to examine our lives, pointing us to the ways we are no longer blind, lame, sick, deaf, dead or poor. His answers to our questions drive us to trust his character. Our faith, even as we doubt, is solid and true. Doubts will pass, our faith abides; and remember, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

Jesus’ (re)formation activity

Jesus is committed to (re)forming you. It will take a life-time, but the sooner you cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this work, the greater the opportunity for healthy and joyous life. We need to learn how to live from our God-given identity. Jesus models this perfectly. He knew who he was and why he existed. His baptism identity held him through his life. He knew he was the beloved son of God, that God was pleased with him and that he had the authority of God in his life.

As we watch him interact with people, we see him interrupt the pattern of their life and give an opportunity to live from their true self rather than their pretended, assumed self.

I suggest you complete an assignment. It involves looking at specific encounters Jesus had with people and observing how his intervention gave them a new identity. Here’s an example from my prayer journal.

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” Luke 7:11-16

Jesus observes a funeral procession. He sees a woman weeping. He realizes that she was a widow, torn by sorrow, bereft of intimate relationships and left without means of support. Perhaps she felt her life was over, or maybe she wished it was. Her tears and the testimony of the whole town confirm her loss. She is ever after without hope.

When Jesus saw her he had compassion on her; he desired her tears to stop and her sorrow to end. He used his power to resuscitate the man and returned him to her, alive and well. He restored her hope.

I relate to the woman’s sense of hopelessness. I often feel that my identity, or means of being acknowledged in the world is connected to another’s ability to provide it for me. Without this connection to power, I am lost and forgotten.

Jesus sees me; he knows I am afraid. He doesn’t condemn my lack of trust and he doesn’t want my fear to swallow and paralyze me. He comes along side of me and touches the place of my hopelessness; the progression into self-pity is stopped. He resurrects my hope and gives a voice to my dreams. I receive the life he gives.

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Listed below is a list of  encounters Jesus had that illustrate this type of intervention. Here’s the assignment: Prayerfully, read the following stories and answer the questions. You’ve just read one of mine. Please let me know what you discover.

Scripture:

  • Woman with alabaster jar Matthew 26:6-13
  • Gerasene demoniac Mark 5:1-20
  • Rich young man Mark 10:17-22
  • Annunciation of Mary Luke 1:26-38
  • Widow at Nain Luke 7:11-16
  • Woman at the well John 4:4-26
  • Woman caught in adultery John 8:1-11
  1. Observe the person’s sense of self, how he/she felt about him/herself, from where did he/she draw her identity?
  2. What evidence of struggle with pain/sorrow/pride caused by his/her sense of identity do you see in the passage?
  3. As Jesus interacts with this person, what do you learn about Jesus’ desire for him/her through his actions, words, commands toward the person?
  4. In what ways do you relate to his/her struggle, pain or strength?
  5. If this passage were the only text you had to inform you about being God’s person, and God’s desire for your sense of self, what does it tell you?