It is fascinating for me to read Christ's interactions with different individuals in the Gospel account. He showed a remarkable ordered pattern of 'Connecting - Showing Grace - Dispensing Truth' with most people. 

And yet, there remained a group where he skipped over the 'Connection - Grace' part and went consistently straight to the Truth part: the Pharisees.

The religious establishment of the time, the Pharisees were the ones who made the link between the people of Israel and God. But they had corrupted that calling with the filth of pride.

Jesus did not show any Grace to them. On the contrary, he responded to their haughty attitude with harsh accusations and a telling portrait of who they really were.

I have gathered all the references in the Gospels to that particular group.

I wanted to know :
- What did the Pharisees themselves consider important ?
- How did they view others ?
- How were they viewed by Christ ?

The result is the study below where I have answered the three questions with verses in the order in which they appear. And a hat tip to Zac Poonen for his inspired and inspiring work in that area.

It breaks my heart to see that things have not changed since Jesus' time. I can see the same characteristics in myself first and in many profess the name of Christ.

My desire in this study on Pharisees is not to condemn a group that is long gone and already judged by the only Judge. It is to warn me about what I need to be careful of, lest the tide of my pride and moralism sweep me away.

The only cure to the very real and current pharisaic disease is one simple thing: Humility.

Study: The biblical characteristics of Pharisees (pdf)

Update: My definition of 'legalism'
They walk among us, they greet us on Sunday mornings, they wear crosses on their necks, they have fishes on their cars.

They believe they have cornered the Truth.
The are quick to clamor the good they have done.
They have a strong opinion on people they do not know, or seek to know.
They stay away from 'bad' people.
They are quick to find what is 'wrong' with others and seek to catch them in it, adding that they would never have done the wrongs that others did.
They cowardly murmur gossip about others.
They assume the worst about others and accuse them.
They judge others for not doing something that they do, or believing something differently than they do
They are self-righteous .
They abuse God's name for their purposes and their arguments.
They skew the Word to their advantage.
They are easily offended.
They enjoy talking about their spiritual accomplishments.
They give themselves the credit for God's work and God's grace.
They 'exhort' and 'console' those in difficulty simply by telling them : 'just pray' or 'read your Bible' or 'God is in control' or 'search the sin in your life'.

They preach judgement and hate from the pulpit or in their homes.
They picket funerals and events.
They denigrate those of different faiths.

They are the embodiment of everything Christ came to destroy.
They are pride incarnate.
They are a rampant disease in the 'Christian' movement, distorting Christ's message by presenting the world a moral and legalistic gospel.
They often call themselves Christians.
They are Pharisees. 
And I was one of them.
I like control. 

I like to know what's going to happen, when and how I can influence it, tweak it, organise it or prepare for it. I could psycho-analyse myself and say it's a form of insecurity, or a lack of faith, or too much pride. Whatever it is, my natural tendency is to want to overly plan and control.

I know God has permitted certain life events to violently rip that control out of my hands a few times. And I'd like to think that I am (very slowly) learning. It's so easy for me to spew out the infamous five words of exhortation to others : 'Let go and let God'... but Oh so hard to apply in my own life.

Lyrics from a song from the David Crowder Band remind me to :

'Risk the ocean, it's only grace'. 

Somehow that line got to me. It's as if God is calling me to set sail, leave the control issues behind and go on the ultimate adventure of faith on towards it's infinite horizon of Grace. The idea of getting lost in the vastness and deepness of His Grace strongly convicts me, who likes his feet well planted on 'sure ground'. 

I like taking calculated risks in life. Always have. And yet, when I look back on how His Grace saved me, carried me, healed me, sustained me, built me and renewed me every day, this should be my easiest 'risk': 

To lift the anchor, to set sail, to get lost in the sea without a shore called Grace.
In the last years, I have gone through the crucible of self-worth. I used to enjoy raking in the accomplishments, the acknowledgements, the kudos. 'After all, I thought, I am just using the abilities God gave me. And besides, I am faithfully obeying to : From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48).' My focus turned to me, my brand, my recognitions, my successes. It was fulfilling and I was doing really well. Until I wasn't. 

I felt like a juggler who had an impressive amount of balls in the air, masterfully wowing a crowd I cared far too much for. Each ball had a different word on it: Church, Work, Family, Money, Kids, Wife, Friends, Sports. All up in the air, being handled beautifully. The applause was wonderful, the 'wows' were raining from the sky. I felt like a somebody. 

Now, God was there in the ring with me, in the corner, looking intently at me, not as amused and impressed as the crowd behind Him. While I was still juggling, He slowly picked up a ball lying on the ground. He wrote some words on it. I was too busy looking at my own performance to notice anything He was doing.

Then, at the highlight moment in my juggling act, He threw the new ball into my act. It was red. It was heavy. Very heavy. I just had a few seconds to read what He had wrote on it: Wife's Cancer.

I still tried to juggle and keep a straight face. I was still pretending that I could handle it, but the ball was getting heavier. Sweat was streaming down my brow. But I needed the applause, I needed the validation. So I kept going, and the red ball kept getting heavier.

I started dropping the balls. I quickly picked them up and started over. But they kept hitting the unforgiving ground and eventually shattered in millions of pieces. I couldn't perform anymore. I was at the end of me. The clapping stopped. The 'boos' started coming. I tried harder, but to no avail. Grumbles were becoming more audible. The crowd started to get up and leave. I begged them to stay, promised them a better performance. But there was another show opening not too far away, and I had lost them.

And so I was alone with God in the ring. I desperately searched for a crowd, but the seats were as empty as I felt. I finally turned to Him, standing in the corner, looking at me.

'Why did you throw in that big red ball?'
No answer.

'Was I not doing well? Was I not amazing? Was I not using your gifts?'
No answer.

'Didn't you see the crowd?'
No answer.

'Don't you see I have nothing now?'
No answer.

'I feel so empty, so lonely, so lost. I don't know what to do now.'
No answer, but a small smile was starting to radiate from His glorious face.

I dropped to my knees
'OK, Lord. I give up. I can't pick up any of my balls, they are all broken. I can't do anything for any applause, they all left. I'm sorry, I tried everything, and I failed. I need something to fill me. I don't know what makes me valuable anymore.'

A bright white ball appeared in front of Him, collecting all the dirty pieces of my old balls lying on the ground. It had become filthy, red, and far too heavy for anyone I knew to pick it up. 

But He picked it up, cleaned it, made it whiter than snow, and, with His finger, wrote one word on it. He walked over to me, beaming with glory. Under every one of His steps, the word Grace was left as an imprint on the ring floor.

'Get up and take this, it is everything', He said. 'The more you will let this satisfy you, the happier you will truly be. You do not need to juggle anymore. Just hold this new ball and let it become you. And do this for Me only, noone else. I am the only crowd you will ever need.'

I got up, took the bright shining ball in my hands. It filled me in ways I could not have imagined. My destiny was now linked to better understand it and become more like it. 'Thank you' I whispered.

He moved back into the corner.

I admired the word He wrote on the bright, white ball He placed in my hands. I smiled as I read the name I thought I knew well, but forgot. It was my first love. It was the name that was above all others. It was the most majestic and most personal of names. It was the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah. It was the perfect blend of Grace and Truth. It was the Word incarnate. 

It was Jesus.
He was on His way to the cross, the most brutal death a man can suffer. He knew of the excruciating pain and agony that was to come, not only from the physical torture that was the cross, but from the unimaginable spiritual sepration from His Father. He was hours from bleeding tears of blood, imploring His Father to take this cup away from Him. 

He had spent three patient years training twelve ordinary men with their eclectic backgrounds, their doubts, their fears, their qualities and their faults. He knew them intimately and His omniscience forsaw the trials eleven of them would face in a harsh world that hated them and their Gospel message. He knew that hours later, one would betray him, another would deny him and the rest would be in hiding.

That was Christ's context when He 'spoke these words and lifted up His eyes to heaven' (John 17:1). In this prayer, He prays for Himself (v1-5), His disciples (v6-19) and then the all the future elect (v20-26). 

And yet, amidst the burdened-heavy words, He explains a majestic model of Grace throughout redemptive history. Thirty-nine (39) times, He mentions or implies the word 'gave' or 'given' in just twenty-six (26) verses. When we follow the thread, He clearly shows us that the process of the gifts of Grace came from the Father, through Him, to us. 

It is mind-boggling to me that, bearing the aforementioned context, He takes the time to detail thirty-nine times the graceful 'transactions' going from the Father to Christ to the disciples and us. This, to me, is a detailed description of the Gospel: God giving us what we need through Christ by Grace. 

I have made a model of the 'graceful giving transactions' in John 17. This inspires me to appreciate the vastness of Grace, to be thankful for the depth of His sacrifice, to live out a life worthy of the gifts. It brings me to glorify Him through which all was (and still is) given to me.

May it be the same for you.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation." Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid, with the largest and most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization at the top. Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs.

This theory has become pervasive in our culture and society, being the basis of thought-processes and projects worldwide.

This begged the questions : where is Grace in all of this ? is Grace applicable in the hierarchy of needs ? If so, where ? Can Grace really fill every need I have ?

Turns out, it can. And it doesn't just fill every need, it overly  satisfies it. My needs are completely filled by God's provision of Grace for me, focusing on His glory before my own.

I hope you enjoy seeing how Grace can fulfill everything you need.

1. Physiological needs
For the most part, physiological needs are obvious – they are the literal requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met, the human body simply cannot continue to function. 

Air, water, and food are metabolic requirements for survival in all animals, including humans. Clothing and shelter provide necessary protection from the elements.

Grace is characterized as being:
Worth more than silver and gold Pr 22:1

Grace is linked with:
Life Jb 10:12, Pr 3:22
Healing Ps 6:3

I am:
Tasting (G) 1Pt 2:2-3
Clothed in (G) Col 3:12

Because of Grace, I can pray for:
For God's healing Ps 6:2
For God to take away my affliction Ps 25:16
For God to heal my soul Ps 41:4
For God's strength Ps 86:16

Because of His Grace, I receive:
Strength Ps 86:16, Is 33:2, Zc 10:6, He 13:9, 2Ti 2:1, 2Co 12:8-9, 1Pt 5:10
Riches 1Co 1:4-5, Ep 3:8

2. Safety needs
Safety needs have to do with establishing stability and consistency in a chaotic world. These needs are mostly psychological in nature.

With their physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual's safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. Safety and Security needs include: Personal security, financial security, health and well-being, safety net against accidents / illness and their adverse impacts.

Grace is characterized as being:
A shield Ps 5:12
Trustworthy Ps 52:8

Grace is linked with:
Truth Dt 10:12, 2Sa 15:20, Ps 61:7, 85:10, 89:14, 138:2, Pr 3:3, 14:22, 16:6, 20:28, Jer 22:3, Ho 4:1, 6:6, Mic 7:20, Zc 7:9, Jn 1:14,17, Col 1:6
Righteousness Ps 33:5, 112:4, 116:5, Pr 21:21, Jr 9:24, Ho 2:19, 10:12, Ro 5:17, 21
Justice Ps 33:5, 101:1, Jr 9:24, Ho 2:19, 12:6, Mic 6:8, Zc 7:9

I am:
Surrounded by (G) Ps 5:12
Standing in (G) Ro 5:2, 1Pt 5:12
Under (G) Ro 6:14

Because of Grace, I can pray for:
For rescue from my trouble Ps 31:9

Because of His Grace, I receive:
Protection Jb 10:12, Ps 5:12, La 3:22
Stability Ps 21:7, 30:7
Preservation Ps 61:7, Pr 20:28

3. Love and belonging
After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs are interpersonal and involve feelings of belongingness like friendship, intimacy and family.

Humans have a desire to belong to groups: clubs, work groups, religious groups, family, gangs, etc. We need to feel loved by others, to be accepted by others. Performers appreciate applause. We need to be needed. 

Grace is linked with:
Forgiveness Ps 86:5
Compassion Ps 86:15, 111:4, 112:4, 145:8, Zc 7:9
Love Ho 2:19, 1Ti 1:14
Fellowship 2Co 8:4

I am:
A vessel of (G) Ro 9:23
Showing (G) Zc 7:9

Because of Grace, I can pray for:
For God to take away my loneliness Ps 25:16

I interact with Grace in my:
Giving Jb 6:14, Zc 7:9, Lk 6:32-24, 10:36-37
Dealing, lending Ps 37:26, 112:5
Rebuking Ps 141:5
Speaking Pr 15:18, 22:11, Ec 10:12, Ep 4:29, Col 4:6
Forgiving Mt 18:33, Ep 4:32, 2Co 2:7. 10, Col 3:13
Meetings Ac 11:23
Rejoicing Ac 11:23, 2Co 8:1-2
Encouraging Ac 13:43, Rom 12:3, 2Co 8:1, 6, 2Ti 2:1
Partaking Ep 1:7
Bonding Php 1:7, 1Pt 3:8
Being 2Co 1:12
Praying, longing 2Co 9:14

I bless others:
Because of God's (G) Ge 33:11
(G) is the blessing Ge 43:29, Nb 6:25, 2Sa 15:20, Ac 13:43, Ac 20:32, 
By commending them to (G) Ac 14:26, 15:40, 20:32, Ga 2:9
In the 'hellos' Ro 1:7, 1Co 1:3, 2Co 1:2, Ga 1:3, Ep 1:2, Php 1:2, Col 1:2, 1Th 1:1, 2Th 1:2, 1Ti 1:2, 2Ti 1:2; Tit 1:4, Phm 1:3, 1 Pt 1:2, 2Pt 1:2, 2Jo 1:3, Re 1:4
In the 'good-byes' Ro 16:20, 1Co 16:23, 2Co 13:14, Gal 6:18, Ep 6:24, Col 4:18, 1Th 5:28, 2Th 3:18, 1Ti 6:21, 2Ti 4:22; Tit 3:15, Phm 1:25, He 13:25, Re 22:21

Because of His Grace, I receive:
Fellowship Ga 2:9
Unity with others Ep 4:7-16

4. Esteem
All humans have a need to be respected and to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the normal human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People need to engage themselves to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution, to feel self-valued, be it in a profession or hobby.

There are two types of esteem needs. First is self-esteem which results from competence or mastery of a task. Second, there's the attention and recognition that comes from others.

Grace is characterized as being:
Praiseworthy Ep 1:6

Grace is linked with:
Glory Ps 84:11
Humility Mic 6:8

I am:
Crowned with (G) Ps 103:4

Because of Grace, I can pray for:
For God to raise me up Ps 41:10

I serve others:
Because of (G) Ro 12:6, Ep 3:2, 7-8, 2Co 4:15, 9:8,14, 1Ti 1:12, 1Pt 3:7

Because of His Grace, I receive:
Honor Pr 11:16, 21:21

5. Self-actualization
“What a man can be, he must be.” This forms the basis of the perceived need for self-actualization. This level of need pertains to what a person's full potential is and realizing that potential. Maslow describes this desire as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

The need for self-actualization is "the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming." People who have everything can maximize their potential.

Grace is characterized as being:
Free Ro 3:24, 8:32, 1Co 2:12
Sufficient 2Co 9:8, 12:9
Manifold 1Pt 4:10

Grace is linked with:
Wisdom Pr 31:26, Lk 2:40
Purpose 2Ti 1:9

I am:
Defined by (G) 1Co 15:10

Because of His Grace, I receive:
Joy Ps 9:13-14, Ac 11:23, 2Co 8:1-2
Glory Ps 89:17, 2Co 1:12, 2Th 1:12
Hope Ps 130:7, 2Th 2:16, Tit 2:13, 3:7, 1Pt 1:13
Enlightenment Ezr 9:8
Personal value Jr 9:23-24, Ac 20:24, 1Co 15:10, 2Co 1:12, 12:9
Knowledge 1Co 1:4-5
Satisfaction and sufficiency 2Co 9:8, 12:8-9
Perfection 1Pt 5:10Glorification Ps 23:6, Ep 2:5, 1Pt 1:13
Ever since I started the journey of studying the infinitely profound concept of Grace, I was burdened with the desire to understand Christ's relationship model. How did Christ show Grace in his contact with others?

I knew Love was the primary motivation (John 3:16), but how did he do it in the everyday situations? How did He demonstrate that Love with the people around Him? Was there a pattern in His interactions that I could learn from? Were there constant character traits that were shown? Was there someting that attracted them to Him and, conversly, was there something that prevented Him to show His love to them?

My first question was: Did Christ have overarching attributes that qualified who He was? Yes. I used John 1:14,17 as my foundation: Christ, full of Grace and Truth. My first thesis was that His contact with people was imbued with both amazing Grace and godly Truth.

My second question pertained to the initial contact He made with others. I had already studied why His interactions with the Pharisees were so different than the others. But what was the common thread between those who were attracted to Him? or those He sought out? Did they commonly demonstrate something I could learn? My thesis here was that both faith and humility were present at the scene.

My third question was one of process. Is there a particular recurring order Christ prefers when He interacts? Does He demonstrate Grace before Truth? or vice versa? My analysis showed that Grace (more often then not) preceded Truth.

First, I took the 'Harmony of the Gospels'. The episode structure within the table is based on Edward Robinson's A Harmony of the Gospels in Greek as well as Steven L. Cox and Kendell H Easley's Harmony of the Gospels. I wanted to establish a chronology for the events of the life of Jesus depicted in the four canonical gospels.

Second, I excluded 2 particular relationships: 
- His dealings with the Pharisees because their pride prevented any graceful contact with Him
- His teachings and parables to the followers and disciples because it was an on-going three year (often one way) relationship

Jesus' relationship model (Click image to enlarge)

I was amazed to discover that Jesus had a model He used very often with the people around Him. He started by establishing contact by going to see someone, accepting someone's request for Him or sitting down with strangers who unknowingly needed Him. He was very gracious with His time with sinners, lepers, tax collectors, Samaritans and other of society's refuse. He gave a lot of Himself.

Once He established the contact, once He developed the relationship, He gave some form of grace. It could be a healing, an encouragement, a protection from others, a glimpse of the Kingdom, a forgiveness, a touch, a listening, a relief of whatever suffering they had.

Then, after dispensing grace, He would finish with a certain truth about God or command future actions to take. Whether it was 'go and sin no more' or 'Do not tell anyone what has happened here', Christ would finish the interaction with a teaching for the crowd or an exhortation for the graced one.

The document below takes each interaction, regrouping them where they appeared in the Gospel account. I then separated the interaction in 3 parts, with the references of the verses that pertain to:
1. The relationship established with Humility and / or Faith
2. The acts of or explanations on Grace
3. The acts of or explanations on Truth

May it become my personal relationship model.

File Size: 94 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

  1. Thou shalt believe that your truth is THE only valid truth.
  2. Thou shalt interpret and judge a man's heart through those actions you see. Nothing else is to be considered.
  3. Thou shalt use your vast knowledge of God to be right in any and all arguments, especially if others think you should apologize. Use favorite Scripture pieces at will.
  4. Thou shalt debate this vast knowledge vigorously with others. They must understand your truth at all costs. All costs.
  5. Thou shalt seek the approval and admiration of others above all else. They must see you as you think God sees you.
  6. Thou shalt not develop unholy relationships. They cannot love you if they do not agree with your truth.
  7. Thou shalt seek to make others holy through your truth at every occasion. It is your duty as the protector of your truth.
  8. Thou shalt use grace to show the largesse of your heart. Make sure everyone sees it.
  9. Thou shalt exhort others by telling them what you know God wants to tell them. He speaks through you. Make sure they listen and understand. This is especially important during their times of intense suffering.
  10. Thou shalt never question any intent, thought or action you have. Fight mightily or flee swiftly those who do.
  11. Thou shalt never doubt the First Commandment. It is your only rock in a very shifting world.

-- GraceGuy
I am more...
than what I look like
than what I say
than what I'm good at
than what I like
than what roles and titles I have

I am more...
than what I think about
than what I dream about
than what I know
than what I believe

I am more...
than what I have done
than what I can do
than what I want to do
than what I will do

I am more...
than how fast I run
than how strong I am
than how high I jump
than how smart I am

I am more...
than the successes I had
than the people I love
than the money I have
than the smile I wear

I am more...
than the mistakes I made
than the people I have wronged
than the money I lost
than the scars I wear 

I am more...
than where I've been
than where I am
than where I'm going

I am more...
than when I was born
than when I will die

I am more than who others think I am.

I am more.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10

- GraceGuy
It's taken me some time to realize that some concepts are not related to others. I would find it easy to love those who loved me back, to believe in what I can touch, to hope when all evidences point to a certainty, to be happy when everything goes my way and to feel graced when I worked hard at doing good around me.

All lies. All illusions. All smoke and mirrors.

When I put my ego aside a moment, I discover that:

'Love has nothing to do with what I feel or others' love towards me
Faith has nothing to do with what I see
Knowledge has nothing to do with my reasoning
Hope has nothing to do with hard data
Joy has nothing to do with my circumstances
Grace has nothing to do with my deeds'

This reminds me of what I wrote earlier:

'Riches have nothing to do with what I own
Wisdom has nothing to do with what I know
Salvation has nothing to do with what I do
Freedom has nothing to do with what I choose
Glory has nothing to do with how others see me
Food has nothing to do with what I eat or drink
Value has nothing to do with my accomplishments
Beauty has nothing to do with what I see
Strength has nothing to do with what I can bear
Pleasure has nothing to do with me
Power has nothing to do with what I control'


The Baptist Top 1000