Beautiful Way | Lesson 5, Part 1


Greetings MOL Family!

Today, we want to study a very important ingredient in God’s program – the beautiful way!



A Parable For All

Our text is found in Isaiah, the 65th chapter. Here we have pointed out something that is far from beautiful. But if we can get all the ugly things out of the way, we will be able to carry on God’s beautiful work by His beautiful methods. Now, this is a text that you often hear quoted. I mean, you hear a few words from it quoted, and you will recognize those words as we read the text:

Which say …

(That is, certain people say)

Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day. – Isaiah 65:5

How many of you have ever heard words from that text? Oh, yes. That is the expression that is thrown about, many times, in the endeavor to discourage people from doing what the Lord says. “Now, don’t be a holier than thou.” Or “I think you had better be careful, or you will be getting into a ‘holier than thou’ experience.” But this text is in the Bible. What does it mean? Well, it means just what it says, and we want to study it.

For I tell you, dear friends, God says that this attitude, and the people who cherish it, are a smoke in His nose. Did you ever have to breathe smoke? It is irritating to the mucus membrane. And there is nothing more irritating to God, more displeasing to God, than the spirit of self-righteousness that is represented in these words:

“Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.” – Isaiah 65:5

I doubt very much if very many people ever say these exact words, as they are written here, but there is an old saying that something speaks louder than words. What is it? Actions. Oh, yes.

Let us go over to Luke 18, and notice what the Saviour said on this subject when He was here on earth:

He [Jesus] spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. – Luke 18:9

Now, they are the same ones whom Isaiah is describing. They trusted in what, in whom? In themselves, that they were what? Righteous. What kind of righteousness did they have? Self-righteousness. And as the result, what was their attitude toward others? They despised others, the Bible says. So here is the story that Jesus told those people. And if there is anything in my heart like that, I need to listen to this parable. And I will tell you, friends, I need to listen to it. And I have learned by the study of God’s Word, that I will need this lesson until Jesus comes:

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. – Luke 18:10-12

Was he in good and regular standing? Yes. In fact, he thought he was all of that, plus.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man…

(That is, the publican)

…went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. – Luke 18:14

It is fairly easy to present the Bible teaching on this subject of self-righteousness on the one hand, and the true righteousness of Jesus on the other. The great problem that God has, dear friends, is getting us to give up our own righteousness and accept His righteousness. Who got the transfer made, in this experience? The publican.

Now, as men looked at it, who was the better man? The Pharisee. Would the Pharisee have voted that way, too? Oh, yes. He was sure of that, and doubtless, his colleagues agreed with him. They despised the publicans. But the publican went home what? Justified. In whose sight? In God’s sight.

Ah, dear friends, I wonder if there are any publicans reading this study right now, that from the heart cry, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Could there be any Pharisees, could there be any spirit of the Pharisee in our hearts: “Oh, I am so glad that I don’t do this and I don’t do that and I don’t do the other thing”? As we see people following the program of this world, whether it be in diet, in dress, in Sabbath breaking, or in the vain amusements of this world, does there ever come into our hearts the spirit of the Pharisee: “Well, I wouldn’t do that”?

Somebody says, “Well, we shouldn’t do that, should we?” No, we shouldn’t. What the Pharisee said he didn’t do, he shouldn’t do. Isn’t that right? And let me tell you, my dear friends, right now: the cure for feeling “holier than thou” is not to accept the idea of being “unholier than thou”.

There was a story, in a religious journal (not one from our church), about a writer who was advocating that those who wanted to make Christians of their friends and neighbors, should join them now and then in a glass of beer or a bit of smoking – “That is the way to win souls, be friendly with people, and don’t think that you are better than they are.” Do you accept that idea? Well, not that application of it, at least, would we? No. But the very principle on which that instruction is based, is wrong my friends.

I repeat, the cure for this holier than thou attitude is not to plunge into the gutter, to prove that we are “unholier than thou”. No, no. The cure is to look to Jesus. And as we look to Him, no matter how good we appear in the eyes of other men, and no matter how good we might have appeared in our own eyes, when we look to Jesus, we discern how sinful, how selfish, how inherently evil this human nature of ours is. So, we see nothing to be proud of; we see nothing to boast of; we see nothing to exalt ourselves over; self appears nothing but shame.

The difficulty with the Pharisee was simply this: instead of looking to Heaven he was looking to himself. He measured others by himself, and he measured himself by others. The two things go together. And as he measured himself by others and others by himself, using the measuring line of his own mind, how did he look? He looked superior to everybody. If you want to feel superior and feel satisfied with yourself, this is the program that will do it.

I think the Pharisee was sincere. I don’t think he was making that up to the Lord. I think he meant just what he said. I think he really felt that he was keeping the law much better than most people, and definitely better than that Publican. But I repeat, if you want to feel that sense of satisfaction, that sense of security, which comes in that program, the thing that you must do is to measure yourself, not with Jesus, but with others. That will produce it, for human nature tends to excuse itself and to accuse others.

See, I can give myself a number of credits, gold stars or blue seals or something. Do I drink? No, I don’t drink. I wouldn’t do that. Do I smoke? No, I don’t smoke. Well, now, come to think about it, friends, is that any particular mark of goodness for me? Why, I wouldn’t like to drink or smoke, would I? I happened to have been born – for which I thank the Lord – in a home where, as I grew up, I was taught not to drink and smoke. So I have never tasted liquor, I have never smoked, and the taste and smell are repulsive to me. Well, is that righteousness on my part? Oh, no, friends.

But if I sit down and overeat, am I not indulging appetite and yielding to temptation, the same as the poor fellow who has been trained to indulge his appetite for liquor or tobacco? I might go on with many illustrations. The Pharisee was measuring himself by outward acts which he did or did not do, and the measuring line he was using was his own. He measured himself by others and others by himself. And I repeat, that is the way to be a good Pharisee.

But now, how does that affect other people? God says, “There is smoke in My nose, a fire that burneth all the day.” How do they affect other people? Not so much by their words as by their actions and attitude, they hold themselves aloof and say, “Come not near, for I am” what? Holier than thou. And they do more to hold back the cause of true reform, than Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the angels can neutralize, in many cases. They cause the loss of hundreds and thousands of precious souls. And the more right they are, the more wrong they are. Because in standing stiffly for the letter of the law, and failing to reveal the spirit of love, they are bearing false witness to Jesus. They are giving people the attitude, “If Heaven is like that, count me out.” Isn’t that too bad, friends? I don’t want to do that. Do you? God keep us from it.


“The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.” {MH 470.1}

Next week, we will continue our study on self-righteousness, to better understand the attributes of God’s loving and beautiful way! Invite a friend, and we’ll see you then…

-Continue on to the next study-



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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.

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