October 9th, 1991                                                                                                                               Bro. Whitson Paul

"Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven"

The Lord Jesus was preparing His disciples for the ministry. He had to give them very clear advice and strong warnings. Matt.5:20, "For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven." There were certain prominent characteristics of the Pharisees and the scribes. The first one was that they were hypocrites, verse 19. Secondly, they were ready to preach to others while they were not ready to obey the Word. We need to see whether we have the spirit of obedience which was found in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus said, "I did not come to be served but to serve." During the students’ retreat, we will have many students gather here. We have to be exemplary in our obedience and we need to show the spirit of a servant which was found in our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what St. Paul told the Philippian Church that we should have the mind of Christ to serve others. In the hypocrisy of the Pharisees there was an empty show of prayers, Matt.6:5. These Pharisees wanted to pray in the public. But there was no real individual prayer. There was not the secret communion with God. Unless we have a strong individual prayer life we cannot really win souls or build the Kingdom of God. St. Francis of Assisi was very particular to see that all the members of his monastery had this individual prayer. That made them to be great soul-winners. Then the Pharisees had a show of fasting, Matt.6:16. They showed a sad and disfigured countenance, but there was no prevailing prayer in their fasting prayer. The Lord wants each one of us in this Fellowship to have this prevailing prayer. Another mark of Pharisees was that they were sheep’s clothing, whereas inwardly they were ravening wolves. They had no victory over their sins. Envy in the heart will come out one day. They shut up the very Kingdom of God! They would neither go in themselves nor allow others to go inside, Matt.23:15. How they wanted to make proselytes and make them to be worse than themselves, Matt.23:23. They would speak of giving tithes. But they omitted the weightier things of God like judgment, mercy and faith.

We see the cry of the Psalmist, "Lord, the righteous are perishing." It is not that righteousness was dying. The righteous were goaded step by step with unrighteousness.

I Corinthians 15:33, "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." Sometimes I see a praying person is in the company of a man who speaks evil; then they lose the fear of God to despise God’s Word and His servants. It is very sad to see how such people lose their communion with God. The Lord Jesus saw that the Pharisees were those who were incapable of communicating any blessing to others. There should not be people among us who hide many things and speak only some things to please certain servants of God. Such hypocrites will only produce more such hypocrites. The Lord said the Pharisees were hindering the blessings of revival. The Pharisee was out to establish his own righteousness (Rom.10:3). There was not the spirit of repentance in him. At this retreat we expect young people to repent at the Cross of Jesus. Wherever we go, we want to infuse this spirit of repentance. The Lord was so sad to see that there was not the spirit of repentance in the Pharisees and the scribes who were supposed to be the leaders. Because of hypocrisy, disobedience to the Word of God, and lack of repentance, these Pharisees were not ashamed that they were sons of the murderers of the prophets, Matt.23:30,31. People today want to make a stab on the character of the servants of God. Also they were only garnishing the sepulchers of the righteous.

We shall see how a man who was in such a condition turned to the Lord in Acts 9th Chapter. Note the conversion of St. Paul. He had a very violent spirit to destroy God’s people because of prejudice and lack of revelation. He was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the children of God. These are days when the devil is manifesting himself through fanatics and terrorists. But we see that the Spirit of God is able to touch even such people. We read how the Lord Jesus touched Saul. And we see the change that came into Saul. Firstly, there was conviction in his heart. He prayed, "Who art thou, Lord?" The spirit of brokenness and of seeking the Lord came on him. He was a man who had studied the Scripture for many years. But here he acknowledged that he did not know the Lord Jesus. We need to acknowledge our ignorance of the Lord and failure to see God’s great purposes.

Every Students’ Retreat is a great challenge to us. We should weep for young people who have such terrible problems. The spirits of violence, uncleanness and suicide hover over them. How much we need to cry like St. Paul that we might know Him and the power of His resurrection(Phil.3:10). Saul acknowledged his inability to do anything. In the Fellowship also, we do not read books and prepare our sermons. But we cry to the Lord, "Lord, what is your message, what will you have us to give these young people?" We humble ourselves before the Lord. Unless each one of us does like that, we cannot be useful in the Kingdom of the Lord.

Secondly we find in Saul, self-surrender. He was prepared to humble himself before the Lord and before God’s servants. He knew the great danger of hypocrisy. He was truly broken before the Lord. There came the spirit of revival into Paul. He was able to win souls and establish the Kingdom of God. Once a herd of goats had to go through a narrow passage cut in a rock. On either side there were deep ravings. Goats usually like to go in groups and not in single files. They like to jostle and overtake each other. One person was watching how they were going to cross the little bridge. They walked one behind the other and one goat tried to overtake another. The goat in front knelt down and let the other goat go over it. The Lord wants us to humble ourselves at the foot of the Cross, so that souls can reach greater blessing. To lead a soul we have to be truly broken before the Lord with no hypocrisy and disobedience. How many of us are prepared to win souls like this, humbly prepared to sacrifice with the spirit of obedience and service? During the retreat the Lord will be watching everyone of us, how we are really helping in the Lord’s work. Are we like the Pharisees or do we exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, taking on the righteousness of the Lord Jesus?