I once read a story about a man in a foreign country who calls up the police to report that he saw a car speeding above the speed limit.
He called and said “Right now I’ve witnessed a car speeding well over 100 mph. The license plate no. is……” The cops respond by telling this man a thank you for reporting this. At the end of the conversation, the cops ask the man for his own license plate number. He’s a little surprised.
He asks them “Why do you need my license plate number? I just called to report this speeding car”. The cops reply “You are aware that it is illegal to drive and talk on your cell phone, right?” “Click”– They hear a disconnected tone on the phone.
That’s exactly what self-righteousness does. It gives you the feeling that you’re seeing something particularly wrong in someone else but ignores your own blindness. Because self-righteousness is blinding, it disturbs our overall vision! And we’ll see in today’s passage how self-righteousness affects every aspect of our lives.
Through our study of Mark, we are now beginning to see how the Pharisees are getting uncomfortable with Jesus. He forgives people’s sins, eats with sinners and tax collectors and doesn’t observe the traditions of fasting and the Sabbath as they expect. We’ll see how things get a little more tense in today’s passage.
Let’s turn to Mark chapter 3.
 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  And they watched Jesus,[a] to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”  And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.  And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Interestingly this is a story about a wonderful healing but that moves in the background. The main story is about the blindness and hard-heartedness of the Pharisees. Because self-righteousness is blinding, it disturbs our overall vision! There are three ways in which we can see our overall vision being impaired:
1. It prevents us from seeing God
 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  And they watched Jesus,[a] to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
Here you have Jesus – the Son of God standing in front of them displaying the beauty, the heart and the power of God and yet all the Pharisees intended to do was find a reason to accuse him. As we learned last week [READ], the Sabbath was a commandment from God designed for our good.
By observing the Sabbath, the Israelites were to reflect God who rested on the seventh day after creating the universe and everything in it. God said that no one should work on the Sabbath but the Pharisees interpreted “work” in their own terms.
Plucking grains when the disciples were hungry – they called that as work. In this case, healing a person – “work” according to their interpretation. So just because Jesus didn’t follow their human traditions and expectations, they rejected him and wanted to find a reason to accuse him. They rejected and wanted to accuse the Son of God!
Sometimes that might be the way we approach a Sunday morning Gathering. We come here to assess the worship and the preacher’s performance rather than seeing God! What we fail to see is that God wants to meet with us. God wants to speak to us.
God wants to specifically deal with the issues you are facing. God wants to capture your heart. He wants to change you from the inside out. He wants to encourage your soul. He wants to use you as His handpicked instrument.
But our self-righteous desire to rate the preaching and the worship blinds us from seeing God. If all we notice on a Sunday morning is few people singing, one person giving a speech for 40mins…I would say that is pointless.
But if you came this morning to see our glorious Lord, that’s what will be tremendously satisfying and life-changing! Let’s be people who are zealously desiring to meet with God every day during our abiding time and corporately when we meet in GCs and Sunday Gathering. I have a meeting scheduled with Jesus – let that be our attitude!
2. It prevents us from loving people
 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”  And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.
This man had a hand that was dried up because it didn’t get sufficient nourishment from the body. All the power in the had was gone and there was no remedy to this until he met Jesus. Should Jesus have ignored the man so that the Pharisees would be pleased? Absolutely not.
Jesus had compassion on this man and called him forward. Jesus understood the hearts of the Pharisees and asked them “what was the right thing to do on the Sabbath”? “To do good or harm? To save life or kill”. But they remained silent.
That’s such a sad thing, don’t you agree? They were so zealous for their tradition that they didn’t care at all about the man who suffered from this disease for many years. Only he and God understood the pain that he went through all these years.
Is this attitude of the Pharisees common in our lives as well? Yes. It happens whenever we are very quick to judge our brothers and sisters on the basis of their failures in their spiritual walk. Whenever we pass judgments on their struggles rather than grieve over their sin. The question is: do we take pleasure in their struggles or is it grieving our hearts?
Is it moving us toward prayer? Is it creating a longing to help and encourage the other person? Self-righteousness means only being concerned about your own faith and how you can appear to be better than the other. As long as you are morally at a better place than the struggling brother, you are happy. Self-righteousness at its core is selfish!
So that’s why it’s always healthy to ask ourselves how we’ve been loving our brothers and sisters. Often that’s a good indicator of our level of self-righteousness.
3. It prevents us from knowing our own sin
 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
In these verses we see Jesus expressing a lot of emotions. There is anger mixed with grief when he sees the hardness of heart! They probably thought they were all in the right. They thought they had the zeal for God but no Jesus saw how cold, how stubborn and how hard their hearts had become. Jesus showing compassion toward the man and restoring his hand wasn’t wonderful and beautiful to them.
They responded by going out and meeting the Herodians –supporters of the Herodian dynasty who weren’t friends with them earlier – and plotted how to destroy Jesus. Can you believe? The most religious men of that time now are showing themselves to be killers because they didn’t know how sinful their hearts had become. Their self-righteousness blinded them to think that they were right when in reality they were totally wrong.
In my own life, I’ve had plenty of times where I’ve been convicted of self-righteousness. But I remember this one particular time a few years back when I was really blinded by my righteousness. I would go and attend church services and become really critical of the pastor. This reached its tipping point when I ended up becoming critical of the people that God gave me to minister to.
And that’s the thing about self-righteousness. It’ll make you feel like the whole world has a problem except you. A loving brother confronted me with my sin and I was really humbled that day. The correction was painful but I realized how it softened my heart and opened it up to be changed by God.
I now know that it’s all God’s grace because self-righteousness really can ruin a person’s life, make them bitter towards God and others without realizing how sour our heart has become.
I know the question that most of you are thinking right now, okay so how should we respond? What can we do to change this heart condition?
By God’s grace, these are the three things that need to be done:
1) Understand that we have sinned and admit that we are self-righteous
 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8,9)
I know this seems quite basic but the truth is that sometimes it’s not easy for us to say that we are a practicing sinner. It’s humbling to acknowledge that. It means to say no to self-pride and self-exaltation. Sometimes people say they aren’t comfortable saying that they still are sinners but the Word talks about it differently.
1 John was written to believers, not unbelievers. And the exhortation here is to admit before God that we are sinners. And if we confess…then he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
2) Renounce our dependence on ourselves and grieve over our sins
I think this is perfectly illustrated in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector. The Pharisee loudly prays. “God, I thank you that I’m not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterer, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all that I get”. Now you might think this is an impressive resume.
However, God wasn’t impressed because the Pharisee did all these superficial things to earn his righteousness before God. He didn’t come to God with his whole heart. He just wanted to brag about what he did. The tax collector, on the other hand, standing far off wouldn’t even lift his eyes toward heaven.
He beat his chest saying “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” And Jesus said that this man went home justified and not the Pharisee. (Luke 18:9-14) A question for you: which of the two renounced his dependence on himself? Which of the two had grieved over his sin? The tax collector.
God wants us to have the same attitude as that of the tax collector, not the Pharisee. When we come before God, it’s not the time to show off our knowledge of the Bible or talk about the great things accomplished in our life. When we come before God, it needs to be humble and honest like the tax collector.
3) Rely on Christ’s performance for us
 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The wonderful truth of the gospel isn’t complete only if we understand that we are sinners and renounce our dependence on ourselves. It’s completed when we trust in the Great Exchange that took place on the cross. Jesus Christ lovingly endured the death we deserved so that by believing in Him we can have His righteousness!
God doesn’t want us to remain in guilt and shame of sin but He wants to make us right through His Son. So after we have confessed our sins and renounced the dependence on ourselves, we now look at Christ’s life and righteousness to clothe us and cover us.
What about the thoughts of blame that Satan throws at us? What about the accusations that other people around us tell us? “Therefore, now there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”. (Romans 8:1) There is nobody that can condemn you if you are in Christ!
In what areas has God been speaking to us today? Where have we noticed self-righteousness in our own hearts? We know that because self-righteousness is blinding, it prevents us from seeing God. We know that because self-righteousness is blinding, it prevents us from loving people.
We know that because self-righteousness is blinding, it prevents us from knowing our own sin. There is a way out – by admitting that we are sinners, renouncing the dependence on ourselves and relying on Christ’s performance for us.