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Dear Partner,

One of the most deceptive of all of Satan's tactics is a religiously trained mind. Jesus exposed it completely when He spoke the following parable.

Luke 18:9-14   And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The Pharisees were considered by the common people to be the very "standard" of righteous living before God. They were the strictest sect of the Jewish people. Outwardly, they did everything right. Just like the man in this parable, the Pharisees worked hard at doing everything the Law of Moses required. Yet Jesus said the man only "thought" he was righteous. He was not. In the New Testament we have Saul of Tarsus as the most extreme example of a Pharisee. He gives a list of his religious "pedigree" in Philippians:

Phil 3:4-6   Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Before he met Christ on the road to Damascus, he spent his whole life in religious zeal trying to please God like the man in the parable. But after his encounter with the Lord, he saw the awful truth of how his religiously trained mind had actually turned him into an enemy of God how his zeal was in fact doing damage to the kingdom of God on earth. It had to be a horrifying realization for a man who had spent his life trying to please God!

Here is the real problem that religion alone can never solve. Man by nature is a sinner. That nature has been passed down through every generation from the first man Adam. No amount of good works can change what man is. For a sinner to do his best to keep the Law in order to be righteous is much like putting lipstick on a pig. You can try to pretty the pig up, but it is still a pig. Religion can make a person "do better" through threat of punishment or promise of reward, but it cannot change the nature of that person. Paul (formerly Saul) eventually understood that all of his hard work to keep the Law was of no avail at all. That's why he wrote these words:

Rom 3:20   Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Let me give you a graphic illustration of why both men in the parable above needed God's mercy. Let each X in the diagram below represent a person who is descended from Adam (of course I am greatly simplifying or this letter would have to be hundreds of pages long).

X (Adam)
(Pharisee) XXXXXXXXX (Publican)

As we look down through the generations of man we eventually come to the Publican and the Pharisee in the parable. The Pharisee considered himself righteous based on his performance. The Publican knew he was a sinner and needed mercy. If each of them could somehow turn around and look back through their generations they would see that no matter how they lived their lives, the problem was, both of them were descended from Adam. Both of them had received a sin nature from Adam and no amount of good works could separate either of them from the sin nature they received from him. Both needed mercy! The root problem was they were both still "in Adam." Paul found the only solution:

Phil 3:7-9   But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, AND BE FOUND IN HIM, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.

Jesus is called the Second Man, the Last Adam [1 Cor 15:45]. Jesus is spawning a new species of man that is not descended from the first man Adam. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. When a person believes the gospel, his old nature dies with Christ and his spirit is regenerated by the Holy Spirit in righteousness and true holiness [Eph 4:24]. It has been said, "God has no grandchildren" and that is true. More on this next month but let me share with you now a graphic illustration of the generations of those who are "in Christ:"

X (Jesus)

Sue and I love you and appreciate you.   We thank God for your generous and giving heart.   God bless you!

Your friend and co-laborer,

Gary Carpenter


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