Larry Osborne asks the question: is it possible to be too zealous for God? The answer, found in this book, is obviously.
Osborne begins by giving a little love to the group of fellas known as the Pharisees. Many Christians view them with disdain because they were the brunt of Jesus' verbal attacks. What we may not realize is these Pharisees had a passion for God. They were people who wanted to better their lives and live as close to God's law as possible. If they were alive today, we might consider them the best leaders in the church.
Osborne continues through seven sections explaining how modern day Christians can more resemble Pharisees than Jesus - accidentally.
Part one sets the stage. We see that there is a dangerous side to religious zeal; that it can lead to an "us versus them" mindset that infected the Pharisees. Osborne gives us an example of Joseph of Arimathea. He was a Pharisee yet he's a hero is God's sight. While the Pharisees were calling for Jesus' head, Joseph was silent. Yet after Jesus' death, Joseph (not one of the twelve disciples) was there to collect the body.
Part two deals with pride. This is when our comparisons become arrogance. Pharisees were arrogant based on their comparisons with others not like them.
Part three deals with exclusivity. Not only do I have trouble pronouncing that word, but it seems that Christians look to "thin the herd" out of Church once they get in. Pharisees were all about raising the bar and "keeping the riffraff out". When you look at Jesus' ministry, he sought out the riffraff. In this section, Osborne defends "Consumer Christians" with an excellent analogy using the Green Bay Packers. (You'll get it by reading it)
I liked how Osborne focused on Jesus claiming that his burden was light and his yoke was easy. Jesus simply spoke to the crowds. He allowed them to choose.
Part four deals with Legalism and how Pharisees make litmus tests for those who are "serious about following God". We tend to add fences to commands of God and in so doing, we forget all about mercy.
Time and against Osborne focuses on how Jesus was trying to make it easy to follow God.
Part five deals with idolizing the past. I enjoyed his points about how the church of Acts really wasn't as put together as some Christians tend to make it. It was racist and poor. I really liked his critiques of people who constantly complain about churches and church leaders. (Does this make me a Pharisee?)
Part six deals with unity versus uniformity. Osborne takes issue with Red Letter Christians. He doesn't like how some only value Christ's words. He believes we should sometimes, agree to disagree for the sake of unity and not uniformity.
Part seven deals with thinking our giftings are the best. This section was a great read for pastors, evangelists and Bible teacher and how sometimes it's easy to make others feel guilty if they don't have the same passion as we do.
After each section are questions for group study. I appreciated that the spirit in which this book was written was not condescending but with grace and mercy. It felt similar to Paul's letters to the different churches. Osborne tells it like he sees it but he doesn't bruise your head with too many hard swings.
This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Zondervan Publishing.