Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Pharisees’

For Christ’s Sake

In Church, Commitment on August 13, 2013 at 6:00 am

churchproblems

I found this in a record of our church’s history the other day.  “The good of the church and her members dedication, conduct, and loyalty were expected.”  Many ask what is happening to the church today as we face lower baptisms, higher ratio of member:convert, trouble meeting the bills, lower, and leaving, attendance, and a general disregard for the things of church both physical and spiritual.  The answers we come to are sometimes the following:

  • We need new music.
  • We need a light show.
  • We need redecoration.
  • We need to go casual.
  • We need new leadership.

Sometimes we just blame the generation we are not for the problems we face.

  • If the old people would just get on board with technology.
  • If the young people would just appreciate the tradition.
  • If these children would stop moving around and drawing on the walls.
  • If the youth would just respect something.

Many, if not all, of these reasons and finger-pointings mask the real issue.  If you review much of what I just listed you will find that it is cosmetic.  You can put makeup on a naked mole rat but at the end of the day you still have a naked mole rat.

Jesus phrased it this way when he called down the Pharisees, ” You white-washed tombs!”

He knew that although they appeared righteous they were still dead inside.  No amount of cosmetic changes we make in our churches matter because we have a heart problem.  We come off to the general public like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz: stiff, rusty, and robotic.  Is there hope?  Yes.  However, like a friend of mine who just had a heart attack, we will need to change our diet, start exercising, and other internal changes.  His prescription dealt with lifestyle issues, not cosmetic ones.

Or churches need to return to where our church started.  We need godly leadership ( not staff ) to model and demand the following of membership.

Dedication to God – we have often been taught that we are to put God as #1.  I will not argue this point other than how this is usually explained.  We have been taught to line up our life in order with God and family at the top.  I think it should be expressed differently.  Instead of linear we should look at it like a wheel.  Wheels only have one hub.  Our life only has room for one hub around which everything rotates.  Jesus said we cannot serve both God and Man.  We must choose.  If God is not at the center, we have problems.

Conduct becoming a believer – I admit this can be a sticky issue.  Who are we to judge, right?  “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 ESV) There is judging and then there is accountability.  Every Bible-believing church has the Bible as the standard by which we live.  Titus is very clear that the older are to train the younger.  This verse also means that the younger are to submit to the teaching of the older.  In this way, we manage our conduct and presentation to the community.  Why have we moved away from this biblical perspective?  We must “spur one another on to love and good works.”  The horse doesn’t like getting spurred but has been trained to obey.

Loyalty to the local church – We give too many outs to people.  In the early days of our church I read that the deacons and Sunday School director communicated about the attendance of people.  If people quit attending they were visited.  This visit had to do with support.  It was believed that if you were not attending you were not supporting the church.  Your loyalty was in question.  There was an easy way to quantify this loyalty: attendance.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24, 25 ESV). We excuse people too often for foolish things because we are either envious they are going or ashamed to demand that which Scripture demands.  If a person continued to not attend, the conclusion was they did not support the church and were removed from the roll.  This was last resort option, but made the point that loyalty to the local church was important.

We are facing many issues in today’s culture.  Many of us are striving to embrace some new option when the old might work just fine if given the chance.  Jesus said He would build the church, let’s stop second-guessing.

The Accused

In Accusations, Betrayal, Church, Evangelism, Jesus on October 5, 2012 at 7:53 am

History tells us that the accused in the ancient world would wear a placard stating their name, residence, and the charge against them.  The story of one is fascinating!  The judge had attempted to reduce the charges, but the jury would have nothing to do with it.  They were out for blood that day and received what they wanted.  The one on trial seemed to stand in opposition to the variety of accusations.  He was being called a traitor, a heretic, a separatist, and general degenerate for leading people away from the culture of the day.  He had been a public figure for about three years.  The public officials had been looking for a way to get rid of this leader of the rebellion for over two of those years.  They tried to reason with him.  They tried to trap him in rhetoric.  They tried to catch him.  Each time they failed for one reason or another.  Finally they were able to turn an insider.  Meeting in secret they paid for certain information.  The sting was on!  Late one evening while he was out for a walk with a few of his leadership, the follower-turned-spy brought the police and gave him away.  After a mockery of a trial, they were able to push the charges through with the death penalty.

The early morning hours brought the throng down the road following those to be executed.  The air was thick with humidity and the stench of death.  Hanging around the neck was a placard:

Jesus Christ had been accused and convicted on the charge of being the King of the Jews.

What will the accusation be the world brings against you?  Is there any evidence to bring a conviction?

Here Kitty Kitty

In Control, Decisions, Faithfulness, Jesus, love, Uncategorized on October 3, 2012 at 8:42 am

Our cats are silly!  They loved to hide out in the taller grass that I haven’t trimmed down and wait.  They love to wait for some unsuspecting kitten or person to pass by and they pounce.  It is a great game for them!  Unfortunately, it is also an instinct.  Hiding, crouching, and pouncing, are all hunting types of activities.  These cats hunt for prey to eat.  It might seem to be a harmless game they play with the kids or others but it comes from something deeper.

In Matthew 26 we find Jesus on trial before the Pharisees.  They had been lying in wait for many months and had finally found a way to pounce on Jesus.  Through Judas, they sucker punched Him!  He knew it was coming.  He planned for this time.  He brought witnesses with Him but they all ran away and denied knowing Him.  Standing before the religious leadership, Jesus was being asked about, and accused of, several things.  Finally, this happened…

63 But Jesus kept silent. Then the high priest said to Him, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” 64 “You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Look, now you’ve heard the blasphemy! 66 What is your decision?” They answered, “He deserves death!”

Because of their religious rules, the leadership had the opportunity to rid themselves of this nuisance.  They could bring the guilty verdict and demand execution.  They were giddy with excitement over their newly trapped prey.

Have you ever known somebody you was always looking to trap you?  Have you ever found yourself waiting to see someone stumble?  Outside the simplicity of our depravity and proclivity to sin, why do people behave this way?  More critical is why do church people behave this way?  It is easy to see why the murderer, rapist, or thief might behave this way.  However, those attending church ought to act different.  Everyone believes that point.  Everyone.  So why do some act that way who attend church and claim the love God, the Bible, America, and apple pie?  Here are a few thoughts….

1.  They are church people but not Christian people.  While this might come as a shock to some who read this, just take a breath.  There are people who are church members but not actual Christians.  Some define Christianity as being a member of a church and working at church.  Scripture defines Christianity as people having put faith in Jesus and follow Him explicitly.

2.  They haven’t let go of the “old ways”.  The Bible speaks of our sinful nature before Christ as the “old person”.  When, by faith, we receive forgiveness, the old is put away and the new has come into play.  All will struggle with this putting away the old.  In the moment of salvation, we were cleansed of all unrighteousness, but often fall short of living in that state of forgiveness and righteousness.  Our involvement in the world system creates a space for the old person to rise up and have influence.

3.  Rules are more important than relationships.  High-strung, type-A  personalities have a tendency to see rules more than relationships and programs more than people.  Because of this, people can be harmed.  Obsolete rules or dying programs will be held without reason.  Jesus was changing the game and they did not want to play.  Often this happens in our churches too.  Times change.  People change.  Methods change.  Truth stays the same.  For some, nothing should ever change.  Here lies the friction.

4.  Lowering you makes them feel bigger.  Honestly, some people have such low esteem that anything that helps them feel better is justified in their mind.  You were the target for the day.  In those moments, the rush of emotion that comes from power overcomes them and they have a taste for more.

How do we respond?  Well, like Jesus.

1.  With love.  Jesus knew the larger context of God’s plan.  If you are aware of God’s larger plan it is easier to accept these moments and move forward.
2.  With truth.  Jesus answered honestly, even though He knew the consequences.
3.  With gentleness.  Jesus did not get into arguments or shouting matches.  Arguing with such is like wrestling a pig.  Both get dirty but the pig likes it.

We all face people out for blood at times in our lives.  I pray we respond like Jesus.

Backfired!

In Church, Decisions, Direction, Faithfulness, Jesus, Leadership, Uncategorized on October 1, 2012 at 7:33 am

The men met in a back room one evening after everyone had left.  They were discussing the future of the head coach.  The years since he had arrived had been difficult.  Everyone expected growth and development of the program.  Instead, they struggled to even maintain what they had.  Some were frustrated, others disappointed, and felt it was time for a change.  When the coach arrived the excitement was hard to contain.  After the first couple of years, the dreams began to fade.  Instead of pulling together, the people and support were pulling apart.  When there was no winning season, the demand for leadership change grew.  On this night decisions were being forged that would change the state of the program and the coach.  Those involved in the meeting were determined to see a change in leadership, but they didn’t know God was preparing to do something wonderful. (Facing the Giants)

This plan backfired.

In Matthew 26, Jesus was not performing in the way some expected the Messiah to perform.  The expectations had been fantastic.  The Messiah had arrived.  He would make the Romans exit the country and reestablish Israel as a world power.  He would dominate the political and military arenas.  The excitement was contagious.  However, Jesus came with a different plan.  He came to establish a spiritual dominance more than a political or militaristic one.  Judas was fed up.  He had a secret meeting with the Pharisees and became their puppet.  He would betray Jesus.  The Pharisees thought this would be a fool-proof plan.  Judas, many think, believed he was forcing the hand of Jesus causing Him to rise up.

This plan backfired.

Have you ever thought were doing the right thing only to find the plan backfired?  Here are a few thoughts to help you.

1.  Is your plan based on circumstances?  Sometimes we desire to see change but it has nothing to do with the person.  The circumstances are not what we expected.  Instead of examining the root issue, it is easier to pin the problem on the current leadership.

2.  Is your plan based on comfort? Judas received 30 pieces of silver.  The men thought they would receive honor and glory.  What is it that you believe to receive with the plan you are considering or enacting?

3.  Is your plan a complaint or a cause?  If you have a complaint or particular issue then the biblical response is to approach the problem not circumvent it.  According to Scripture, you are to go and attempt to resolve the problem.  If that doesn’t work then take 2-3 with you.  After that doesn’t work then take up a cause.  However, if it is a complaint right now, go and talk to the person first.

4.  Is your plan Christlike?  Finally, we must make sure that what we are planning and praying mimics the ideals of Jesus.  Are the attitudes reflecting Jesus?  Are we being above board or behind the scenes. Is the way we are treating those involved reflecting the values of Jesus?

May we desire the best for all involved in the pleasure, pain and progress of following Jesus.  He desires to bless us, not have life backfire on us.

No More Altar Calls

In Church, Commitment, Decisions, Direction, Evangelism, Jesus, Leadership on July 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm

I grow tired of altar calls every Sunday. It seems that those times where the Word of God is taught and then the people are commissioned to go and live out the Word is much more striking.

Altar Calls were not to be found the first 1800 years of Christianity. When camp meetings rose in popularity the preachers would call those who were interested to come and receive counsel and answers to questions. As usual, the next generation of preachers took it a step further. Soon it became a regular component in the weekly service. Charles Finny, a Presbyterian minister, came along and continued to institute “new measures”. He was convinced there was a right formula for producing camp meeting results each and every week. He felt that Christ’s death made salvation available to all. I totally agree with this thought. However, he also believed that we were not born with our depravity and sinful nature. Therefore the altar call was a very persuasive tool to move the human will. The emotional variable is too risky. Whipping people up in a frenzy and calling them to decision is good for business, as they would say. People run down the aisle and the excitement grows.

Where are they next week?

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’
29 “He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went.

30 Then the man went to the other and said the same thing.
“‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go.

31 “Which of the two did his father’s will?”
“The first,” they said.
Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!

Jesus was being accosted by the Pharisees, as usual, when he poses a question built from this passage. In reference to this topic I believe Jesus’ story expresses a similar sentiment. Preachers beg, plead, beseech, and encourage from the Word of God. Then they call for responses and they had better be public! Thus, the preacher has asked them do something [work in a vineyard] and some will say “Yes!” and come to the altar. When they walk away through the week, nothing really changes and they do not follow through. Others will say “I don’t want to do that!” Because they do not walk the aisle it is believed that either the preacher is bad or the people are bad and possibly lost. In reality, those who struggle with the Word on Sunday might go out and do it through the week.

Which pleases the Father more?

I would suggest that those who actually go and do what the Word demands are the more pleasing, more mature, and more spiritual. Those who walk the aisle weeping and moaning but do not follow through are simply having emotional cathartic moments without lasting change. They might have confessed but they have not repented.

Will I continue to do altar calls? When the Holy Spirit directs me to call for response I will. To ask people to follow the Word is critical, but there does not have to be a public showing every time. A life lived in obedience is the point. Here are a few tips in calling people to obedience:

  1. Discover the one idea of the text as the Holy Spirit inspires.
  2. Share the one idea clearly.
  3. Call the people to follow the one idea.
  4. Provide opportunities for those in need to be able to receive counsel, prayer, and further instruction as needed.

Get in the Word.  Speak the truth in love.  Help others along in their journey.  Leave the conviction and guilt to the Holy Spirit.  He’s much better at it anyway!!

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