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These days we hear the Pope speak often and warn about acting like Sadducees and Pharisees.

What are Sadducees? What are Pharisees?

It is the exercise of religion without exercise of the Spirit.

We'll let author Maria Vadia of Florida explain.

"The Lord Himself tells us to watch out for the spirit of the Pharisees," she wrote in Break Open Your Wells! "It is a counterfeit spirit and it blocks the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives, resulting in no transformation in the person's life. Jesus says 'beware.' One of the dangers is that it can look good and smell good, but it is not the Holy Spirit.

"Jesus compares this spirit to leaven, or yeast, because it causes people to become very puffed up; it also spreads easily! Some manifestations of this spirit would be a critical spirit, hypocrisy, accusation, competition, judgmentalism, control, condemnation, manipulation, legalism, pride, spiritual blindness, and deafness. It's important that we recognize and identify when this spirit is at work so that it can be confronted; just as the Pharisees and other religious authorities came against Jesus, today it wants to crush the move of the Holy Spirit."

The Pharisees, Vadia points out, were the most religious and zealous group in Jesus' time. "However," she notes, "when the King of Glory showed up, they crucified Him. Jesus did not meet their 'criteria' of Messiah, so they rejected Him, even though Jesus was fulfilling His role of Messiah by healing the lepers, the deaf mute, and those born blind. They rejected him '...because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath' (Acts 13:27)."

When Jesus was born, they didn't even bother to go and check Him out. They put their own routines above God's inspiration.

This is why today we see so many gifts of the Spirit rejected.

"You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition!" warned Christ (Mark 7:6-8).

The Pharisees had hundreds of pages of man-made laws -- while ignoring God's simple ones. Do we recall 2 Timothy?

Before looking at externals, we need to look at our own hearts. "O foolish Galatians," says Galatians 3:3. "Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed and crucified? Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?"

If you don't feel free, this could be a reason.

When we see Christians spewing dislike, or acting with pseudo-intellectuality, we see pseudo-Christianity. We can not obey one tenet of God's while ignoring His others.

Do we read the Bible as much as we listen to commentators?

We all recall the stoning of the woman; we all recall the condemnation of Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. For healing!

We recall the wounded man in Luke 10:30-37: unaided by the priest and Levite (who put their traditions above God's commandments) and walked away while the Samaritan had compassion. "For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice" (Mathew 9:13).

At the same time, we must remember that rituals, devotion, and traditions have a critical spiritual role.

We just have to make sure we use them to extend our inner spiritual life and journey.

[resources: Break Open the Wells!]

[Note also: Michael Brown retreats: Florida and Texas]

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