The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 2)

Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Acts 15:10, “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”

There is so much material in the Gospels (and really, in the whole Bible) about the false religion of the Jewish religious leaders and rulers, that we must conclude that the Lord is giving us a sober warning about its danger.  Jesus specifically warned His disciples, and therefore He warns us –

Matthew 16:6, “Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees….. 6:12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

What is this leaven?  What did the Pharisees and Sadducees teach and practice?  Whatever it was, and is, it’s ability to quickly spread throughout the entire church is inherent in it.  It is a highly infectious spiritual disease.  How possible is it that we ourselves as conservative, Bible-believing Christians have been “leavened”?  Watch!  Beware!  Those are pretty strong words of warning.  If you hear someone say aloud – “Watch out!  Beware!” – you would be snapped to full attention immediately, right?  This leaven, whatever it is, is something our Lord considered to be extremely dangerous.

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 2)”

The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 1)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

This subject has been on my mind now for some months.  I keep seeing it crop up in the stories that many of you tell us. In particular, the stories about your experiences with your church when you asked for help with an abusive marriage. Issues of divorce, marriage, separation, remarriage, submission and headship – all of these and more arise in these kinds of scenarios, and what is so often being applied to them as God’s Word just doesn’t seem to ring true with what Jesus says is His easy yoke.

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 1)”

The Lord Desires Mercy, not Sacrifice – Faith Without Works is Dead Faith

2 Timothy 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (15) and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (16) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

I believe in the inerrancy, authority, and infallibility of Scripture.  That is to say, I believe that the original manuscripts (often called “autographs”) of Scripture were so directed in their composition by the Holy Spirit working through the human authors that what was written was the perfect Word of God without error in word and in entirety.  Of course we do not have those manuscripts now, which is no doubt just as well or human nature being what it is, we would have 66 or more shrines set up for worshiping them!  Scripture, being the Word of God, is necessarily infallible.  You can trust it and it will never fail you. And it is authoritative because it is God’s Word.  And if you are at all familiar with the science of textual criticism, the discipline that deals with taking all of the existing ancient copies of Scripture and re-constructing the original, then you know that we can have full confidence that our Bibles are the Word of God.

But what else does Biblical inerrancy, infallibility, and authority mean?  Recently we were having a discussion in our main Sunday School class about the early creation-account chapters of Genesis.  For myself, I believe that they teach a literal 24-hour day, 7-day creation week.  I do not believe that the universe is a bajillion years old.  But we were discussing whether or not the literal 24-hour day creation should be put in the fundamental doctrinal statement of local churches and new members then required to adhere to it in order to be members.  Quite a number of conservative, perhaps we might say fundamental, churches have done this and encourage others to do it.  In my opinion, this should not be done.  But that is another story.

My point here is that these are the kinds of issues that we think of when we think about the inerrancy and infallibility and authority of the Bible.  Was Adam a real individual?  Is Paul’s take on a certain issue just his own opinion or is it God’s Word?  Those kinds of things.  And they are important issues.  But let me suggest that while we can be all caught up in energetic debates over these things, we can easily slide into the trap that the Pharisees did:

Matthew 23:23-26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (24) You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (25) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (26) You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

I know of churches and Christians and pastors and denominations that have done intense battle over attacks upon the Word of God, particularly in these areas of inerrancy and authority and so on.  And we need to stand firm for these things.  But I also know of churches and Christians and pastors and denominations who, all the while they are fighting the fight for Scripture, deny Scripture themselves by neglecting the weightier matters:  justice and mercy and faithfulness.  And in probably no greater frequency, we see this failure in respect to how the powerful wield that power and how they deal with the weak.  How they treat the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the land.  Many, many people who have fought all out warfare for the integrity of Scripture end up disregarding Scripture!!

Because, in the end, when I say that I believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word of God, I am saying that I bow my knee to the One who speaks in it and ask Him, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”  And then I go out and DO that Word.  If not, then I am no more than the son who is all talk but no action:

Matthew 21:28-31 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ (29) And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. (30) And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. (31) Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.

Putting Easter into Practice

Today is Good Friday.  Nothing “good” about it in a sense.  It was anything but good for the disciples, and for our Lord.  A dark day of death and apparent victory by the enemy, when all seemed lost.  But it was very, very good as it turns out.  Our Passover Lamb was sacrificed and this time, He was the end of all Passover lambs.  This Lamb was effective – His blood has made us as white as snow.  From our perspective, as we look at that original Good Friday through the lens of Scripture, we see that God was orchestrating the whole thing all along.  Every thorn in the crown, the very seamlessness of Jesus’ tunic, the nearby tomb of the rich man – the whole thing was a drama ordained in eternity past.  The will of the Father was done.

What did the enemy and his minions think that first Easter morning?  Stone rolled away, tomb is empty – with Jesus’ grave clothes laying there in perfect outline as if somehow the body they once enveloped had been suctioned right out from inside them.  I think that is what Peter saw when we are told that he went inside, saw, and believed.  The cross, as it turns out, was a master strategy from the Master.  The greatest surprise attack of all time.  Death was led captive and the enemy POW’s were marched on display.  He is risen.

Continue reading “Putting Easter into Practice”

Abuse and the Wilderness Family Adventure

Colossians 2:20-23 ESV If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– (21) “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? (23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

It doesn’t work. The wilderness family adventure is not an answer to our troubles. My first church was in the mountains of Montana, 70 miles from a store of any significance. I loved that place. Spectacular mountains, streams, fishing and hunting like you can’t believe. Firewood and woodstoves. The first snows in November. Saddle up your horse in the yard and ride out into the woods. I loved it and I miss it. We lived there for 8 years.

But the church there was hell. Constant infighting. Mostly unsaved people who got very low marks in “plays well with others.” Abuse? Ha! In those little picturesque cabins in the woods, you wouldn’t want to know what went on in many of them. That church persists to this day. I hope that genuine Christians rule there now. I hope.

Continue reading “Abuse and the Wilderness Family Adventure”