The Fatal Distraction–Section 6
God’s Word is important But…
In The Warning Signs – Part 1 we looked at two of the warning signs. We gained perspective on how beginning to allow knowledge to influence how we view others will result in comparisons that lead to a Pharisaical state of mind toward others. We also looked at how knowledge can cause us to become arrogant and lose our compassion for those who are lost in their sin.
Today we’ll look at two more warning signs that are indicators of our perspective toward the “Great Commission”. We will explore how pious humility is really false humility while true humility is brokenness before God almighty. In addition, we will look at how a focus on churchy activities can draw our attention away from the plight of the lost.
The Warning Signs – Part 2
In Part 1 we focused on the parable of the two men in Luke 18:9-14 who went to the temple to pray. We will continue with that parable in Part 2. Luke 18:9-14 “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself” ‘God I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner! ’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. ”
3) Brokenness versus Pious Humility
What set the tax collector’s humility apart from that of the Pharisee? One prayer was in a spirit of humility and the other was in a spirit of false humility. The tax collector was so broken he could not even raise his eyes toward heaven as he cried out to God for mercy. Note the tax collector did not ask for forgiveness, he begged God for mercy! But the Pharisee, the more educated and knowledgeable in the Law, exalted himself before God saying “God I thank You thank I’m not like…. ” The question here is this; Was the Pharisee giving credit to God for his piousness or was he reminding God of all of the righteousness he had done in his own knowledge and strength?
God’s Word tells us in I Peter 5:5 “… clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” So when we study God’s Word it should always be from a position of humility with an understanding that His Word will change our hearts and cause us to view things differently. It will expose our sinful nature and, when we allow God’s Holy Spirit to work in our hearts, will cause us to be more like Him.
When we begin to revel in our own righteousness we have entered the realm of the Pharisee. Therefore, we must always check our hearts before the Lord and insure that our motivation is following after the Holy Spirit rather than our own personal biases. God’s Word tells us clearly that there is a form of piety that requires extreme devotion, self-denial and following rules and regulations that “seem wise” but provide no real benefit in dealing with our carnal desires. Colossians 2:18-23 “Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, ‘Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!’? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”
True brokenness causes us to examine ourselves before God according to His Word under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and it never involves comparisons to others nor does it involve ascetic self-debasement. True brokenness comes when we realize how big God is and how small we are, when we understand how short we have fallen and how gracious God is in forgiving our transgressions. Like the tax collector, we realize that we are sinners and our cry is for mercy not glory as was the purpose of the Pharisee in his prayer.
When we focus on knowledge and begin to view others from the perspective of pious humility it is inevitable that we will also begin to consider others less spiritual. No matter how much we serve in church activities and exhibit self-denial, when we will begin to suffer from prospectus religious it affects our attitude toward others. How quickly we forget that our God and Savior “… wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4)”.
A sure sign of pious humility is when we find ourselves beginning to wish others were more like us!
4) Church Activities become the Focus
This is the hard one for most conservative evangelicals. In the parable both men went to the temple to pray. One was focused on the activity as a means of self-justification while the other was focused on bearing his soul before God almighty. One went away justified and the other did not!
Going to church on Sunday where there is a Bible Study and and Worship Service has become the conservative evangelical center of attention. After all it does say in Hebrews 10:25 ” …not forsaking our own assembling together… ”, right? It is disheartening that only this section of Hebrews 10 is quoted. For the most part this passage is used to place guilt on those perceived to be less righteous. l’ve heard such arcane statements as; “Those that attend Sunday morning love church. Those that attend Sunday night love the pastor. But those who attend Wednesday night love the Lord.” What? The level of spirituality is determined by the number of times that one attends churchy meetings? As Charlie Brown would say; “Argh!”
Activity Does not Imply Righteousness
Attending meetings, Bible studies, home groups, youth groups, and doing churchy activities is not what Jesus challenged us to do in the “Great Commission”, is it? Church in todays evangelical terms has become a focus on the “Great Institution” rather than the “Great Commission” as commanded by Jesus. When all of the believers time is spent engaged in church activities the believer has no time or energy to share the good news of the gospel with anyone. The interesting thing is that the institutional church has become viewed as the place where people come to be saved. But that is the very opposite of what God’s Word commands that we do. The “Great Commission” in Matthew 28 calls for a “Go Ye” gospel not a “Come Ye” gospel. The “Go” in Matthew 28:19 is the Greek word goreuthentes from poreuomai (por-yoo‘-om-ahee) which both literally and ﬁguratively means to travel, go, traverse, depart. The tense and context actually implies “As you are going”. So as we go about our daily activity we are to make disciples? Yep! That’s what the Savior commanded! There is no reference to inviting or bringing someone to church. l’ve already stated this but I’ll clearly state it again; “Inviting someone to church is simply not Biblical. Period!” If our intent is that someone hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then let’s put on our Nike’s and “Just Do It”!
Whenever I hear someone encourage people to invite someone to church I immediately challenge them to show me where it tells us in God’s Word to “invite someone to church”. What a cowardly, selfish, complete deception of the devil! If we want someone to know about Jesus then just tell them about Jesus! It’s fine to invite them to church afterward but it would be much more effective if you invite them to lunch or dinner.
When Activities become Traditions
When we begin to associate righteousness with church activities we are on the slippery slope to pharisaism. Bible study on Sunday morning is not outreach. The Worship Service on Sunday morning is not outreach. Prayer meeting on Wednesday night is not outreach. Giving to foreign missions, not outreach. As institutional activities take the place of personal evangelism the emphasis shifts from reaching people for Christ to institutional maintenance. As the institution becomes the focus, activities that support the institution become more important. As activities that support the institution become more important they begin to be associated with righteousness. As these activities become associated with righteousness they become traditions of men. As the traditions of men emerge our hearts are likely already far from God (Mark 7).
Churchy activities can never take the place of a Spirit ﬁlled personal witness. Personal witness is an indication that God’s Spirit reigns in our lives. When we are so grateful that God saved us and so humble that we cannot contain all that God has done for us, the power of the Holy Spirit will inundate all that we do and effect everyone with whom we have contact.
For the evangelical Christian the question is; “Are we caught up in and focused on churchy activities. Or, are we focused on sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who are perishing as Jesus Himself commanded in Matthew 28?”
But Activities Help Others Minister the Gospel
In evangelical institutions there is a huge focus on service. We are told that when we serve we facilitate the ministry of the gospel. We help others to be able to share so people can hear the Word of God and when they are saved we are partly responsible. Again, what a lie from Satan himself! What part of the “Great Commission” does not involve the word “me”. When Jesus said “You go” He was talking to me. He did not say “you go babysit”, “you go run the sound system”, “you go be and usher”, “you go be a building trustee”, did He? I have not been able to find any of those things in the Bible! Ever! These kinds of things are all wrapped around an institutional maintenance and make for a tainted view of the gospel which is absolutely NOT Biblical in any way whatsoever. What He commanded every believer to do is “…go and make disciples of all nations”. That is what Jesus commanded! That is what we must do!
A sure sign of an activity focus is when we begin to feel obligated to performing institutional service. Over time what we will find is that these “acts of service” are not fulfilling at all and our reward is disillusionment and burnout. On the other hand, as soon as we share the gospel we feel the power of the Holy Spirit rewarding our obedience and that will never result in disillusionment or burnout. As we become more bold to share the good news of Jesus Christ people will respond and that is an eternal reward!
In the final section of “The Fatal Distraction” we will look at a “Recipe for Success in the Study of God’s Word” and “How to Share the Hope of Salvation with Others”.
Scripture of the Day
Colossians 2:18-23 “Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, ‘Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!’? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”
Prayer of the Day
Heavenly Father, I come before You with humbleness and praise. I know that I have died with Christ and that I have been set free from the spiritual powers of this world. Always remind me that it is not following rules and regulations that pleases You but obedience. Make me aware of all of the churchy activities in my life that I thought were contributing to the ministry of the gospel. Help me to always be aware that I am personally responsible for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others. Forgive me for being cowardly and inviting people to church rather than sharing Jesus with them. Forgive me for believing that self-denial implies righteousness. I acknowledge that I have been deceived by the traditions of men and I ask your forgiveness. May I always be aware that You are near and that You “desire compassion not sacrifice”. Help me to be pleasing to You in all that I do. In Jesus Holy and wonderful name;
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