The Fatal Distraction–Section 1
God’s Word is Important, But…
Recently, I read a article about the church today. The article went into great detail about churches that are caught up in today’s feel-good mentality to the exclusion of God’s Word. The article went on to criticize up-beat music, topical preaching and a number of other things in a way that typifies a legalistic religious perspective. What do I mean by that statement?
The article focused on expository preaching and teaching as the only way that God’s Word should be taught with little emphasis on the “Great Commission”. I have observed the results of this mentality in a number of situations and from past experience I can say for sure that expository teaching can, and often does, lead to a legalistic view of others, deafness to God’s Word and an arrogant, elitist, isolationist lifestyle. Today’s ultra-conservative “evangelical” churches are, for the most part, not evangelical at all but monoliths of pharisaical activity that does not display the love of God to those who are perishing. Jesus was a master at calling those in darkness out of that darkness without condemning them but also without embracing the sin in which they were entangled. To do this Jesus relied on God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit exclusively. How many times in the gospels do we hear Jesus speak the phrases “Your sins are forgiven” or “Go and sin no more.”?
This series of articles will focus on the importance of heart knowledge that results in action as opposed to head knowledge that results in arrogance. We live in a culture that literally worships education without realizing that education focuses on things that are learned (head knowledge) but not necessarily those things that are experienced (heart knowledge). Even more importantly, there is absolutely no consideration for the gifting’s of the Holy Spirit. Education, whether formal or through expository teaching, neither indicate a gifting of the Holy Spirit nor does it imply that what is learned in the classroom setting has worked it’s way into the inner most being of the believer. In this series we’ll also touch on how churchy activities grow to consume all of our time in support of the church institution rather than focusing on those who are perishing in their sins. Let’s begin “The Fatal Distraction”!
Information without Formation Leads to Spiritual Devastation
In Mark chapter 7, Jesus spoke to this mentality very succinctly and without pity. Mark 7:6-8 “And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ ‘Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.’” The danger of becoming enamored with knowledge to the degree that hearts drift from God to focus on tradition is very real in today’s church. In most evangelical churches (the ultra-conservative religious institutions of today) there is strong emphasis on expository preaching and teaching while there is also a strong condemnation of perceived to be sin such as drinking alcohol, dancing, smoking, homosexuality, adultery and many other things. While condemning these things on the one hand, on the other hand, gossip, lying, anger and all other sorts of seditious and subversive behavior is not only tolerated but actively practiced. In every case these kinds of behavior lead to pastoral resignations, church splits, dissention, discontent and ultimately sinful behavior that is not the kind of witness Jesus intended His followers display. So in preaching and teaching God’s Word with such detailed emphasis there is, more often than not, no evidence of hearts that are changed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit through His Word. The result is believers whose actions are more in line with Gal 5:19-21 (“19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”) than with Gal 5:22-23 (“22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”). The important thing to remember about this passage in Galatians is that the apostle Paul was talking to church people. These people were believers and the behavior being addressed by the apostle then is prevalent in churches today.
Selfish motives generate unrighteous tension that leads to further sinfulness on the part of others, resulting in a degenerative spiral into the abyss of sin. In most cases everyone involved are well versed in scriptures but, because of their selfish motivations, they demonstrate the fact that while God’s Word is firmly planted in the grey matter between their ears, His Word is not allowed to work it’s way into their hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, as charged in Mark 7, these believers become a group that “honors God with their lips, But their heart is far away from God.”
In Psalm 119:11 it says “Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” In Deut 11:18 it clearly states that God’s intent is for His laws to be written in the heart: “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.”
So why is it that this kind of expository preaching and teaching often leads to a legalistic, arrogant, self centered paradigm of piousness? The answer is simple, expository preaching does not change lives because it is taught, with no accountability and no action, over and over to the point where the listeners become dull of hearing. How is it that God’s Word can be shared in a clear and challenging way but the hearers remain unaffected?
Tomorrow we’ll look at “Knowledge without Action is like Fireworks with No One to Watch” in the next section.
Today’s Focus Passage
105Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
106I have sworn and I will confirm it,
That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.
107I am exceedingly afflicted;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.
108O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord,
And teach me Your ordinances.
109My life is continually in my hand,
Yet I do not forget Your law.
110The wicked have laid a snare for me,
Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.
111I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.
112I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end.
The Prayer for today
Heavenly Father, I ask that you would cause Your Word to be a lamp unto my feet and unto my path. I acknowledge that I have fallen short of your will on so many occasions but You have forgiven me of them all. I pray Father that you would cause Your Word to change my heart so that I become obedient to You and sensitive to the calling of Your Holy Spirit. Give me the opportunity to share the good news of the gospel of your blessed Son Jesus and the strength to follow through.
In Jesus Holy and precious name,