Tuesday, 16 January 2018
One of the greatest problems and tragedies we could ever do is hinder another's salvation in Christ. Yet, this is what Jesus challenges those Pharisees, the hypocrites with in the first of seven woes here.
"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves."
This provides the question: Are you hindering people's salvation? This is what Jesus is condeming them for. They were single handledly keeping people out of heaven. Yet, before you throw stones at them and forget yourself, notice how sincere they were in doing it. They were willing to travel many miles and great distances, giving their time and lives to spread the message, but in the process were only glorifying themselves and hindering other's from true salvation. Surely we do not do this still today!? Do we? Two ways are possible:
One, we hinder salvation through deceiving potential disciples of Jesus. Since the Pharisees didn't believe Jesus was the Messiah, they certainly were not going to allow others to either. False teachers are all over the New Testament and for all of church history. Every false teacher deceives. All prosperity gospel preaching, all health and well preaching falsely teaches the true salvation in Christ. Jesus does not give you salvation in order to make you healthy and rich. Instead, true salvation could cost you your life, literally. To trust in the the eternal salvation of Jesus is to forsake all of this world for the all that Jesus has. This is real salvation. If you hold to some belief in Jesus for personal gain, for some easy-believism, just to prop up your own evangelism merit, then you are deceiving disciples of Jesus and hindering true salvation.
Two, we hinder salvation through creating virtual disciples of ourselves. Yes, if the scribes and Pharisees were leading others down a road of legalistic self-exaltation, then we could do that too. We are not called to make disciples that duplicate us. We are called to make disciples that duplicate Christ. We do not need everyone to follow our same rules, live their life like we do in all things, make them feel they are not saved or Christian if they don't do as you do. Unless you are perfect and named Jesus Christ, you are not to be their prime example. That being said, it is important that you do provide a good example. The example is on how you walk in fellowship with God, how you obey his commands, how you show the spiritual fruit in your life. You don't do this to have a following that will think and do like everything you do. You do this to let others see Jesus and His power in you. Each one must choose their path. The right path is only to Jesus and for Jesus. We all have different skills, gifts, talents, character traits, and struggles. We don't need carbon copies, we need Godly examples. We need more of Jesus in our hearts and lives. If we are after pleasing Jesus alone and not ourselves or our own self-righteousness then we will not hinder other's from knowing and coming to Him.
May we do nothing, I repeat nothing, to hinder or halt, or harm someone's understanding of Jesus, coming to Jesus, or calling on Jesus in salvation! Just be Jesus and He will do the rest!
Tuesday, 09 January 2018
"But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted."
I have to tell you that Jesus just keep piercing straight through the Pharisees into my heart these days. He just gets deeper and deeper and exposes so much that we often overlook. Some of the toughest questions to ask are the ones about ourselves. Some of the hardest realities to face are the ones that involve who we are and what we think and our motives on the inside.
The question, the fourth in this chapter to ponder, of hypocrisy is here: Are we hypocritically centered on ourselves? In other words, how much do we think about doing for ourselves in comparison to doing for others? Jesus clearly goes against the grain of worldy thinking and public leadership. Jesus offers a backwards idea of exaltation through humility not personal exaltation to get to the top. The depth of this question lies in our viewpoint. If we are only looking to advance ourselves, be noticed, play the "you owe me a favor" game then we are thinking and living according to the world's way. It is selfishness and pride.
On the other hand, if we care more about God's view, what God is pleased with, how God wants us to live, then we will take to heart these words of Jesus here. In God's kingdom the last shall be first. In God's kingdom the low shall be exalted. God exalts the humble and disgraces the proud.
Therefore, one of the indicators of our humility is our willingness and looking for ways to serve others. Are you seeking ways to serve others? Are you looking for opportunities to help others in anything? This is not ways to help others so that later they will help me. This is not let me do for you so you will do for me later. This is not barter or bargain service. This is genuine service that does not seek any recognition or glory or notice. This is humble service to do for others because Christ has done so much for you.
Hypocrisy thinks about what will benefit me and my plans. Hypocrisy thinks of ways to look good as I do for others while I am waiting on a time to have the favor returned. That is corrupt. That is self motivated. Humility seeks to serve out of the goodness of a heart. It does not expect a return. It does not expect a later remembrance. It simply serves and in this manner God is pleased and in His kingdom these are the ones who are exalted. So contrary to the world's recognition of the powerful, God exalts the missionaries no one has heard about, the faithful pastors who barely fed their families, the fireman/ policeman who did their service with no thank yous, the "Samaritans" of the world who behind the scenes do for others and are as humble as they come.
Let each of us seek to serve another today out of love and goodness, not personal agenda and motive. Humbly serve someone else for Jesus' sake.
Monday, 08 January 2018
Question to ask in evaluating our hypocrisy: Do we assert our superiority over others?
Jesus continues, "and respectful greetings in the marketplaces, and being called by men, Rabbi. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for One is your leader, that is Christ."
Let's be clear. Jesus is not denying teachers and spiritual leaders in the church. He is not saying we should not have them or even refer to them in positions of authority. What he is denouncing is those who use their authority in a sense of superiority over others. In this way, Jesus is saying, you are usurping the sole and true Authority, Jesus Christ. There is only one True Teacher, One True Father, one True Leader, Christ.
No spiritual leader should draw any person, any follower, anyone away from Christ. They should never do anything that will bring them closer to their loyalty than to Jesus Christ.
A few probing questions to ask the pride in your heart: Does your heart delight in receiving honor over other people? Do you find comfort whenever you realize that you are in a better or a higher position than someone else? Are you prone to, even in your mind, exalt yourself above others? Do you compare yourself with other people, subconsciously measuring yourself against them to discern your own level of spirituality?
C. S. Lewis said, "If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed." The problem of comparison and competition drives us too often to one up another, to be better than another person, smarter, richer, popular, liked, better looking. This only drives the pride up in us to exert our authority, our superiority of goodness of being better over others. This is hypocrisy.
Instead, remember we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all equal before the throne. We are all deemed sinners who fall short of God's glory. We are saved by the same method, faith in Christ alone. There is only one is above all, who is superior, He is Jesus.
Let us live equally, lead humbly, and treat one another fairly in all things. Humility begins with recognizing one's pride and then seeing everyone on the same plane and place as you are. No one is to be above another in treatment. Humbly lead. Humbly teach. Humbly use your places of authority and position in order to glorify Christ and not yourself.
Thursday, 04 January 2018
We continue forward in our Matthew 23 passage to the next question concerning hypocrisy: Do we desire the applause of men?
In verses 5-7, we find, "But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen their tassels of their garments. And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the marketplaces and being called by men, Rabbi."
The charge is that these men liked being called Rabbi, liked the applause of men, liked being seen and noticed and recognized by their peers and subjects. These phylacteries were small boxes inscribed with text from God's law that were worn on the arms or fastened on the foreheads. They would fill them up, showing off their scripture memory for all to see how religious and holy they were. The tassels referred to here were prescribed by scripture and were worn on the outer corners of their clothes. They made them longer and longer to show their authority and importance. So Jesus is exposing them for drawing attention to themselves instead of to God.
The challenge to us today is to consider, don't answer too quickly, are we content with the approval of God? This is the main thought. For if we are not content and satisfied with God's approval then we are naturally going to seek the approval of man. There are only two options. The deadly and catastrophic thing about the applause of men is once you receive it your flesh enjoys it and you want it more and more. This results in less contentment with God's approval. The scriptures tell us to be content with God's gracious smile toward us and his favor on our hearts in Christ that we are dead to what men say to or about us.
Let us pray today, that we really have an attitude that only, mostly, above all others is concerned with what God is approved of in my life. The appeal and praise of man is fleeting and self-gratifying. The approval of God is everlasting and influential. Hypocrisy takes the good things and makes them desires to be noticed and seen. Humility takes the approval of God the Father and lets our light shine and our good works glorify the Father.
Wednesday, 03 January 2018
Welcome to 2018! Thoughts of a new year and new goals, new resolutions, new opportunities and growth are upon us. We return to Jesus challenging the Pharisees with their hypocrisy as a current surgery to remove all hypocrisy and false obedience out of our own lives. The opening 4 verses read like this,
"Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, 'The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do no do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger."
Hypocrisy is the challenge for every person, every saint, every thought to be good person. It rears its head in us so easily, with so many selfish and personal desires. No wonder Jesus not only wanted to challenge the religious leaders apparent perfect living but also give us a daily challenge to consider. Really then we have to approach this discourse of Jesus in this chapter with certain questions to help us evaluate our own hypocrisy problem.
So we begin in these verses with this question to consider: Do I fail to practice what I preach? Jesus tells the discples and the crowd that you were to respect and listen to the authority of the scribes, they sat on the place of Moses. They were teachers of the Word of God. This is clearly a reference to obeying the word of God, regardless of who is teaching it. The messenger is often faulty, but the message from God is not. If the teacher, preacher, speaker, is giving God's word is valid exposition, you are required to listen and obey. Jesus problem was not with the Word of God, but with the messengers. These scribes were teaching the Law, but not doing it. They were telling everyone else what to do, but not lifting or moving their own finger. Pure and obvious hypocrisy. They did not practice what they preach.
This is not just a problem and charge to pastors, and leaders in the church. Jesus is not only addressing this challenge to leaders of people, though they are in the limelight and should take their role and leadership seriously. This is for everyone of us. Everyone is a leader in some capacity. All of us tell others what to do or are given a platform that has authority. Whether a parent, a pastor, a teacher, a friend, a sibling, a boss or supervisor, we are all called to avoid hypocrisy. This I leave for myself and to you as well today: Don't tell and expect others to do what you are unwilling to do yourself! If we have or are willing to do what we preach so hard about then we are not hypocrites. Sadly, most of us fall short of meeting that requirement. God help us to be doers as well as tellers of the word in all things in all ways, and before all peoples.