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This quarter, we focus on Jesus as our Soon-Coming King in our weekly devotional series. This week’s devotional comes from Matt. 19 – 25

Expectancy for our Soon-Coming King challenges me to live in a manner consistent with His coming. Therefore, there is nothing more alarming to me than a spirituality that is self-deceptive.

Consider how the scribes and Pharisees could conspire to kill Jesus and still possess a framework for daily worship. It’s frightening, and yet I fear I may do this more than I recognize.

Jesus’ seven woes and warnings from Matt. 23 present a summary of self-deceptive spirituality, and we would do well to take note of these warnings:

  1. You do not have the relationship with God you think you do; therefore, the God you present is attractive to no one.
  2. Your legacy is not what you think it is. Your ministry is making people worse, not better.
  3. Your oaths and posturing do not accomplish what you think they do. Your oaths trivialize God’s sovereignty, rob God of authentic worship and compromise a total surrender of faith.
  4. Your stewardship is not the sacrifice you think it is. Your callous disregard for justice, mercy and faithfulness is evidenced by your misplaced preoccupation with garden vegetables (a lesser offering to begin with).
  5. Your understanding of sin is shallow and fundamentally flawed. Sin moves from the inside out.
  6. Your lifestyle is not the moral beacon you think it is. Your approach to sin is ultimately self-destructive. 
  7. Your spiritual compass is not accurate. You would have been the first to kill the prophets—you are truly your father’s descendants. 

Rather than maintaining an awareness of personal righteousness balanced by the “far-sighted” perception of God’s grace, love, truth and justice, the leaders’ eyesight somehow had become spiritually myopic. How is it that hearts so diligent and dedicated can slide unknowingly off the path they have dedicated their lives to live by?

It would be easy to write off the scribes and Pharisees if they were mean, evil and godless—but just the opposite appears to be true. They were sincere, dedicated and preoccupied with purity, obedience and worship. They were precariously close to God’s wrath, and they never knew it. For those scribes and Pharisees who lived to see Jesus’ judgments begin to occur, I wonder what these leaders may have thought about their behavior and attitudes, and Jesus’ warnings and woes.

If you agree, please join me in this prayer:

Father, Jeremiah lamented, “the heart is deceitful above all things … who can understand it?” The scariest thing in all of this for me is that I can be deluded, and how will I ever know it? Will your Holy Spirit convict me of my sin? Will I hear the voice? More than reflection, I simply ask for the will to be open before You and to have a heart to follow, love and serve, that I might increasingly possess a spirituality of simplicity before You that prohibits delusion and deception.

By: Mark Slomka, senior pastor of Faith Community (San Diego Foursquare Church) in San Diego, Calif.

Share your journey through the Gospels » Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you personally as the Foursquare family reads through the Gospels! Download the reading plan bookmarks for 2012, and you can also subscribe to the weekly Foursquare Leader Prayer email to receive insights and inspiration from Foursquare leaders around the world.

is a freelance writer living in Long Beach, Calif.

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