“You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” – Matthew 23:24
I groan when I read this verse; it drudges up memories of my gnat-straining moments. One of sexual sin’s insidious effects is that it makes a man empty, miserable, critical, and bitter. Such a man is prone to lashing out at others to avoid feeling and facing his inner condition, especially those closest to him.
Thus, the sexual addict becomes a Pharisee.
When I was in bondage to lust, I often criticized my wife for the gnats in her life as I gorged on the camels of my adultery and porn addiction. I wish that someone would have sat me down and said “Listen! Your sins of pride and sexual immorality have corrupted you, and you’re taking it out on your wife, the woman God has given you for a life partner. You’re killing her with your critical, ugly, judging demeanor!”
Jesus’ stinging words in Matthew 23:25 provide a picture of the heart of a Pharisee:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self–indulgence.”
To cover up my tracks, I focused on looking good on the outside; especially to those in the church. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, I had plenty of Bible knowledge, and could dispense my wisdom at the right moment. My wife told me “she had me up on a pedestal,” so my act worked… until my hypocrisy was exposed.
I was all about me; I indulged in what I wanted, when I wanted it. If my wife wouldn’t have sex with me, I took matters into my own hands. The downside is that self-indulgence breeds bondage to the thing we give ourselves to; I was neck deep in lust and pride.
Isn’t pride often lurking behind the corner of every sin? The Pharisees were incensed when Jesus confronted them for being “whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside are full of dead man’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). But such words were a measure of God’s grace to turn them away from their sin before it was too late, if only they would face “the casket within.”
Jesus may have summed up the best way to measure whether a man is in Pharisee-mode when he said “but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.” It’s hard to get off on judging and tearing others apart when our chief motive is to love and build them up.
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. –1 Thessalonians 5:11
Fortunately, God is in the radical transformation business. His Word provides abundant hope to all who have had enough of their misery and pride. The man the Lord used to pen much of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul, was on the A-Team of the Pharisees; his hatred for those who loved the Lord was intense. All it took to turn his life around was one encounter with Jesus to strip Paul of his self-righteousness—and set him on fire for God.
The two questions Paul asked the Lord in his initial encounter, “Who are you, Lord, and what do you want me to do?” are a confession that Paul didn’t know God like he thought he did… and reveal a new-found humility.
Freedom from self-righteousness begins with awareness that our life is a train wreck. This is a great place to be, as it serves as a catalyst to launch us on an all-out search for God. Such a journey is not about obtaining knowledge about God (which the Pharisees had) but of Him. It is in His presence where we discover true joy, peace, love, and contentment, all of which outweigh the temporary pleasures of sexual sin and self-indugence.
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13
Mike Genung struggled with sexual addiction for 20 years before God set him free in 1999. He is the founder of Blazing Grace, and the author of The Road to Grace; Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction, available at www.roadtograce.net.