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The Fatal Distraction-Section 4

God’s Word is Important, But…

In Section 3 we covered “The Distraction” and looked at how easily we are entangled in things that seem important but do not further the gospel. Today, in “The Fatal Distaction-Section 4”, we’ll look at “The Fatality”  and try to understand who suffers the consequences when we become distracted with things that take our attention away from the “Great Commission”.

In Matthew 9:36-38 Jesus said; 36Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Jesus saw the people for what they were, spiritually broken. He told His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to “send out workers”. Notice, Jesus did not say build church buildings and programs. He did not say, study until you know everything in and about the Bible. He did not say share the gospel with your friends and relatives. He said; “..beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Why, because the world is full of people who are spiritually broken and don’t know what is wrong. Today we’ll discover how our religious pursuits, can become “Fatal Distractions”?

The Fatality.

So how does the distraction of religious activity including expository preaching and teaching result in fatalities? When I go out to weed my garden there is just no way to keep from getting dirty. The key is focusing on the plants that benefit from not having the weeds draw the nutrients from the soil as opposed the dirt that gets on one during the process. The ministry of the gospel is the same way. The contrast is sharp between how Jesus dealt with sinners and the Pharisees dealt with sinners.

God Desires Compassion not Sacrifice!

In one such instance Jesus, who had just call Matthew (Levi the tax collector), sat down and ate with tax collectors. Tax collectors were thought to be traitors to the Jewish religion by the Pharisees because they collected taxes for the Romans. Basically, tax collectors were considered to have even less stature than other sinners. Note, in the following passage, how tax collectors were listed before sinners. So when Jesus ate with the tax collectors this was considered a grievous act by the Pharisees. Let’s see how Jesus responded to the Pharisees in Matthew 9:10-13 “Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners? ’ But when Jesus heard this, He said, It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice, ’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The act of eating with sinners was considered degrading so the Pharisees would have nothing to do with sinners much less tax collectors. They did not want to be seen with people who were not “perfect” like them. Perception drove their demeanor and the praise of men drove their ego. The interesting thing is that while the Pharisees recognized Jesus as a teacher, their intent was to impose their traditions on Jesus. The inference was that if you( Jesus) are a teacher of the Law why do you associate with sinners, especially tax collectors?

Predatory Pious Predilection.

Predatory pious predilection! What on earth is that? It is a state reached in churches where religious preferences begin to cause church members to act with arrogance toward one another and those who are perceived as sinful. What does that have to do with expository preaching and teaching or any other churchy activity for that matter? In short, everything. When preaching and teaching becomes knowledge focused with no accountability, it also begins to become a point of pride rather than allowing the concern for those who are perishing to drive believers out of their comfort zone. What one knows, how one looks and who one hangs out with become the basis for perceived spirituality. Just like the Pharisees we begin to associate religious positions, traditions, activities, viewpoints and those with whom we associate as that which is pleasing God. This could not be further from the truth. In short, God’s Word becomes relegated to to series of rules, regulations and traditions that must be followed in order to be considered spiritual. Even more importantly, those who do not subscribe to the same tenets are considered sinners, heretics or reprobates and are to be avoided.

As the religious processes begin to take control the concern for those who will spend eternity separated from God begins to dwindle and the arrogant notion that the beauty of religion will cause people to abandon their way of life and come to church is assumed. Consequently church’s become guilty of the very thing that Jesus charged against the Pharisees. Rather than focusing on spreading the good news of the gospel, churches become distracted with preaching and teaching and all sorts of other activities that, while they are not bad, do not further the Kingdom of God in the earth.

Spreading the gospel is messy, it’s hard, it requires sacrifice, it requires that one set aside their religious preferences, face rejection and persecution, set aside squeaky clean religious veneer and get our hands dirty. Please note the distinction between hands and heart. Jesus never embraced the sin but always embraced the sinner. The criticism levied by the Pharisees was evidence of the fact that Jesus was willing to get His hands dirty, at least from the perspective of His contemporary religious ultra-conservatives. But the salvation of those very souls, whom the ultra-conservative religious folks of the day considered unworthy, was proof that Jesus’ heart remained true to God’s Word and His compassion drove Him to reach out to tax collectors and sinners with a message of forgiveness, hope and redemption. In Matthew 9:12 Jesus told the Pharisees; “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” Jesus clearly knew that the people with whom He was eating were “sick” with sin. His goal was to call them out of sin with love, compassion and forgiveness as opposed to coercing them into compliance with religious enigma as was the goal of the Pharisees.

 The Question We Must Ask Ourselves!

When we see people doing sinful, evil things is the response in our heart toward them arrogant and holier than thou? Do we perceive our righteousness and their sin as the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” Or do we see those souls as Jesus saw them in Matthew 9:36 ”Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Do we see the harvest as the responsibility of preachers and missionaries? Or do we see the harvest in attitude of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8 “Here am I. Send me!”?

We’ll look at this in more depth in “The Fatal Distraction-Section 5”, “The Warning Signs (Part 1)”.

Scripture of the Day

Matthew 9:36-38 36Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Isaiah 6:8 “Here am I. Send me!”

Today’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you that you called workers into the harvest so that I would hear the good news of Jesus. I am so thankful that you did not leave me distressed and dispirited like a sheep without a shepherd but You called me into the flock of the Great Shepherd and have granted me salvation and eternal life. I pray dear Lord that you would call workers into the harvest because there are so many who are sheep without a shepherd. May I be ever aware that I am called to be a worker in the harvest and that Your word would be ready in my mouth to speak the good news of the gospel to all who will listen. May Your Kingdom come and Your Will be done on earth and in my heart as it is in heaven.

Amen!


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