Proud, Devoted and Dead

During Jesus’ incarnation, the religious elite of His day, the scribes and Pharisees, would follow Him around and seek to trap Him, discredit Him and have Him arrested and killed.

The Pharisees honestly get a bad rap sometimes. During the 400 year silence prior to John the Baptist’s arrival on the scene, these men saw the godlessness of their countrymen and wanted to do something about it. They wanted Israel to live according to the Law.

So the strove to obey the Law as closely as possible. To obey God as His people.

The problem is they started adding to the Law.

The most common place was with the Sabbath. They had a lot of extra rules, particularly that there was to be no healing on the Sabbath.

So one day, Jesus is at Bethesda and sees a man who has been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. (John 5:6-9a)

Jesus performs an amazing miracle in the life of this man. People should be celebrating, right?

Here’s the problem: “Now that day was the Sabbath” (v. 9b).

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (v. 10-17)

The Pharisees sought to persecute Jesus because “he was doing these things on the Sabbath” (v. 16).

They did it because He broke their rules.

And they became so blind with pride that they could not see who Jesus was or what He was doing.

In Revelation chapter 2, Jesus sends a strong warning to the Ephesian church. He tells them that although He knows that they do not bear with those who are evil, do not put up with false teachers and endure patiently, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4).

Jesus warns them that He will shut down the church because they are devoted… but dead.

They did not pursue orthodoxy and sound doctrine with a passion for knowing and proclaiming Jesus, but only to refute error.

And that’s a real shame, because we need both.

Over the last few days, there’s been a bit of a hubbub in certain corners of the interweb. For those who might not have been paying attention, John Piper has invited Rick Warren to the 2010 Desiring God National Conference. And the reaction has been… interesting.

Here’s what Piper had to say about inviting Warren to the conference (note, the video’s about 9 minutes long):

For many it’s a bit of a head scratcher. Rick Warren is perhaps best characterized as the most pragmatic pastor in the known universe in terms of methodology. Seems like an odd fit, doesn’t it?

This has caused some to question the wisdom of the decision with what seems to be a genuine spirit of  humility.

Some have supported it as an opportunity to have Warren speak at the conference, bring some clarity to where he stands theologically.

Others, well… the response has been less than pleasant.

The word “heretic” has been used liberally.

I wonder though if for some of us might be in a similar danger as the Pharisees and the Ephesians.

Seeking to obey God fully is good and necessary, but we must be wary of adding rules that aren’t found in Scripture.

Refuting error is essential, but best served by proclaiming what is right and good and true.

My concern for many, myself included, is that we would find ourselves to have right doctrine, but fail to be transformed by it.

That we, like the Ephesians and Pharisees, would be proud, devoted and dead.

Questions to consider:

  1. Do you speak more about what is wrong that what is right?
  2. Are your words characterized by joy or anger?
  3. How would your spouse, friends and coworkers answer?

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  • http://www.hillsbiblechurch.org/ Don

    It’s your third question that got me, Aaron. I’m retired, so it’s not my co-workers that are on the receiving end of my hot-headed anger.

    You are correct in laying down this challenge. It is so easy to be pointing the finger at others whilst neglecting the obvious sins in our own lives.

    I must confess that the John Piper / Rick Warren thing disturbs me. From my perspective, it seems like poor judgement on Piper’s part. Never-the-less, John Piper is an outstanding man of God and obviously a very humble man. I think he has earned our “let’s wait and see” response. And if it turns out he has made an error in judgement, shouldn’t we allow him that?

    Talk to my wife – she’ll tell you I’m far from perfect.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Great thoughts, Don – I’m definitely in the “this is just confusing” camp re: Piper and Warren, but he’s definitely earned a “wait & see” response, as you’ve pointed out.

      It’s funny, from what I’ve learned, people had similar kinds of reactions to Driscoll being asked to speak in 2006, since he was a bit crasser than he is now.

      I greatly struggle with keeping my foot away from my mouth because of my hot-temperedness, as my wife, friends and coworkers can attest. In light of recent events, I’ve been asking God to help me put this to death with greater fervor.

      Hope your day is well, Don. God bless!

  • http://www.remissioned.com Reformed Theologian

    The problem with a heretic is that he usually believes what the Bible says, but not what it means.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      This definition immediately brought to mind a question: where does this put those who profess to believe what the Bible says & means, but don’t apply it?

  • Keystone

    “Lord! Lord! Let us in. We cast out demons in your name; we healed the sick”

    “GET AWAY from Me! I NEVER knew you”, declares the Lord as He slams shut the gates of heaven on those who “call” him Lord, but fail to make him Lord of their life.

    Apostle Paul saw them coming too.
    They are disguised so closely to Truth, they are called “angels of light”.

    The full report comes from Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 tonight on Channel BT – Blogging Theologically.

    *************************************************
    But first this commercial message:
    “Helllooo Christians! Are YOU sure of your message carrier?
    Are you mystified by messages of 3G and 4G and maps that fall in red beads?
    Do not be deceived.
    The quality of the message you receive depends effectively on the source used to send it”
    Choose Jesus-Direct.
    “I AM THE WAY and THE TRUTH” says HE who is.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    And now, we switch you back to Channel BT and St. Paul:

    2 Corinthians 11
    Paul and the False Apostles

    I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that.

    I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.

    But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

    For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

    But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”

    I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.

    Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?

    I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you.

    And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.

    As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine.

    Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

    And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about.

    For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.

    And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

    It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Tune in to Channel BT for your next latest report.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      This made me smile Keystone and not just because I love 2 Corinthians 11.

  • Keystone

    Then your answer to question #1 is “what is right” and #2 is JOY, Aaron.
    Never met your lovely bride, so I cannot answer #3 for her.
    Perhaps one day; you are not that far away.
    If not, all the fun people are gathering just inside the middle Eastern Gate of Heaven. We can meet there if not here! I have invited many to meet at that spot.

    I spent more time with my children on Corinthians (I and II) and Philippians, the Book of Joy….than any other parts of the Bible. Both are steeped in the wonderful messages within.

    Yet, at a funeral home, the Diocese Bishop of the Catholic Church came in, along with his best friend…an old teacher of mine long ago. That man, deferred the casket greet, and spoke with my then, 6 or 7 year old daughter.

    “Who is your favorite character in the whole Bible?”, he queried my already tongue speaking, charismatic daughter. He fully expected Jesus, Mary, or Joseph as he is used to hearing, non-Bible reading kids. His mistake with my child!

    “Folding her arms over ala “I Dream Of Jeanne” gal, she pondered a second and replied: “Jehosophat”.

    The priest nearly fell over at that answer. He was perplexed and full of doubt.
    He queried further at his own peril: “Tell me WHY Jehosophat is your favorite character in the Bible, young lady” (Her name is Karli).

    In a moment, she began to staccato her reply that Jehosophat KNEW he was in trouble and called all the people together and said “WE are in TROUBLE”.
    “Everyone is to pray NOW and fast too until God says anything to anyone”
    So they did.
    “Then”, said Karli to an astonished priest and a dad wondering where this would go,…..”one of the people said “God just talked to me and told me what we have to do”

    “What’s God say to you?…. Jehosaphat asked the guy”.
    God said “This is MY battle not yours”

    “Jehosophat said to all the people: “We don’t know what to do, so we put our eyes on you”, Karli continued. “All of you people go out to get the bad guys tomorrow morning and I will mix them up and you will win…..just believe ME”

    “So they did and they won!”

    “And that’s why I like Jehosaphat. He didn’t know what to do, so he looked for God”

    Later, alone in the car, I asked Karli who told her that, as I knew I had not.

    “It’s in 2nd Chronicles, Dad. Chapter 20 if you wanna look it up. Verse 12″.
    I learned humilty early, eh?
    This gal has been scaring me ever since.

    As a teen, on a mission trip to Mexico City dumps (for 26 million folks) she spoke to me of all the dogs (more like wolves in pictures I saw later).
    “We all prayed over a girl sitting in the dump for 12 years dad. She has never been able to talk in her life.”

    Moment of silence, then simply:
    “Um, she talks now”, Karli added as casually as I would say my bowling score last night.

    Expect miracles Aaron. Last I heard,…they are STILL His specialty. :)

  • http://www.hillsbiblechurch.org/ Don

    “What’s God say to you?…. Jehosaphat asked the guy”.
    God said “This is MY battle not yours”

    I think Karli’s word are very appropriate to the subject of this post. :)

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Agreed. Karli is a very wise young lady.