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Evicting the Pharisee

woman in hat smiling
Sheryl Aeschliman

Today, I'm welcoming Sheryl Aeschliman, founded of Simply Scripture, to share her testimony with us. Sheryl is a fellow Midwestern farmer's wife, mother, grandmother, women's minister, and the author of numerous Bible studies. Please read her testimony of evicting the pharisee.

My childhood was great with no major life traumas that I can remember. I was a middle class, semi-popular, normal Ohio farm kid that just did my thing. I excelled in public speaking and swing choir and loved being in the lime light. Believe me, I put on a really good show on and off stage. I was going somewhere in life, and I was going to be big stuff, you know? I was empowered, independent, and nothing could stop me. I guess I survived the typical teenage stuff without any epic scars, or so I thought. So, what’s the problem? 

I was.

Lurking underneath the polished exterior was my fallen, sinful heart, and I chose not to let God deal with it. Instead, I chose to seek out what my heart so desperately longed for. Acceptance.

Acceptance from others and God - based on my own feeble merit instead of His lavish grace. I became friends with the Pharisee in me and her cruel friendship waited to crush me.

How did it happen? Well, I was a good teenage girl on the outside. I went to church, sang in the choir, faithfully attended youth group, and had just enough of God to obtain fire insurance. My faith was shallow at best. I checked off every religious box required of me. As long as I didn’t get caught or do anything permanently stupid, God and I were just fine.

My Saturday nights never matched my Sunday mornings, and frankly, I didn’t really care. In the midst of all of the growing pains, my belief system morphed into thinking God’s love for me was based on my stellar religious behavior. I justified my wild side because my good side was going to outweigh my bad, right? Sin was what the really bad kids did; not me.

Hypocrisy was my middle name, and as you can imagine, that made for some poor choices. Well, that was me with my big, 80’s-permed hair, making big, permanent, heart scars. My confusing and toxic friendship with the Pharisee in me became my identity. I loved and hated her all at the same time.

My poor choices started bothering me, and I knew I needed to change. I longed to drop the mask and be authentic, but the fear of losing friends and my social status kept me hiding.

Jesus met me in the midst of my perfectionism anyway, which should be a hooray kind of moment, right?

It was, except my heart still ached for acceptance based on something other than free grace, and my evil friend didn’t want me to leave her side. I was performance-driven, and I felt like I had to make up for all the wrongs I had done. I needed to manage my Pharisee. In my quest to prove I was worthy of God’s love, I worked even harder - trying to be a good girl. A better girl. A girl that finally got this religious thing right. I loved Jesus with all my heart, but I didn’t understand the gospel at all. I wanted to end my friendship with the Pharisee in me, but instead I renegotiated terms and I learned how to juggle duplicity.

That decision would lead me to the end of myself.

Fast forward to marriage, kids and whitewashing the outside of my cup. I loved God so much and I wanted to show Him how dedicated I was to Him, but the fleshy Pharisee in me became unmanageable. She became stronger, more hideous, and she messed with my heart and mind. She swayed me into thinking I needed to be a perfect Proverbs 31 kind of gal. “Be more humble, more modest, quieter in spirit! Be more spiritual, Sheryl!”

I needed perfect, homeschooled kids,          

a perfect marriage,                    

a perfect garden,

                       and (for crying out loud) perfect homemade bread                                                                                          because I wanted to be the perfect homemaker.

I choose a man-made interpretation of the Bible rather than the Bible itself.

My thirsty soul was shriveling and my heart was beyond miserable, but my Pharisee was shining in all of her own glory. I was trapped in the clutches of her cunning schemes, and she was crushing every relationship. My life had no grace for others and no grace for myself. I became a frustrated, defensive, self-righteous slave to the idol of my own making. I loved Jesus, read my Bible every day, and I still didn’t understand the Gospel. 

I wanted to bring my own goodness to the table, and it wasn’t working. I knew my Pharisee needed to be dealt a death blow, but I did not know where to turn because I was already a Christian.

What do you do with that dilemma?

I was cried out, prayed out, and worn out from my spiritual masquerade party. God finally pulled back the curtains of legalism and there, waiting for me, was the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I don’t need to be perfect; Jesus is my perfect substitute!

I don’t need to control others because He is in control!

He calls me Daughter of the Most High King and He calls me worthy!

I am completely forgiven, not because I am good, but because He is!

Jesus is enough and I am not!

I am in Christ and He has made me whole!

Praise God!!!

I not only heard the Gospel, but I truly understood the Gospel in my heart of hearts. I gladly let my Pharisee die so the real me could live.

In His infinite mercy and love for me, God came after the Pharisee in me with a vengeance because I was not able to defend myself from her attacks. The Pharisee in me was a fighter. She came out kicking and screaming as He threw her into the abyss where she belonged!

It was a brutal and bloody spiritual battle.

Family tragedies, medical trauma, broken relationships, and rivers of tears were the very tools my Great Physician used to set me free. God knocked me off of my spiritual perch and began rebuilding me from the ground up. Humbling hurts. It took several agonizing years, but God peeled away the layers of self-worship, carnal religious trappings, and fleshly pride that wreaked havoc all of my life.

He showed me my salvation is secure, in Christ alone, at the foot of His cross!

When I saw Jesus for who He was and all that He had done for me, I saw the depth of my depravity. I can breathe! I can love freely! I can stumble and fall into my Father’s arms with no regrets because I found Truth. I found full acceptance.

I found Jesus, and He is all I need.

woman holding bible and microphone
Invite Sheryl to speak

Check out the numerous Bible studies and resources at today. Sheryl and her team have beautiful, thought-provoking, and powerful messages to share. You can also book Sheryl to come speak to your women's group on her website.


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