Friday, November 6, 2009

Damage!


A friend of mine once said,

"I had to recover from the damage
that church did to me -
Before I could be useful to God!"

Wow! I never did delve into what she really meant by that. She was raised in an Evangelical church in the USA.

But today Jesus is pretty forthright...

Matthew 23
1 -3 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them.
"The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law.
You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses."

So far, so good. They have their theology straight. They understand Scripture. They teach it accurately. So where is the rub?

"But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer."

THERE is the rub! Following God is more than knowledge.

A drill where you compete to see who can get to a verse in the Bible the fastest? - Useless!
A competition to see who can quote all the books of the Old and New Testaments flawlessly and in order? - Useless!
A pin to reward perfect attendance at Sunday School? - Useless!
It's all spit-and-polish veneer!

4 -7 "Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.'"

If you think this behavior is foreign to the modern Evangelical Church, just attend denominational conferences, or go to any of the modern Christian institutions - Universities, Bible Schools, Hospitals, Mission organizations - even camps. You will see plenty behavior just like Jesus mentioned...

8 -10 "Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
11 -12"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty."

The religious leaders must have reacted a certain way, because Jesus continues...

13 "I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either.
15"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.
16 -22"You're hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, 'If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that's nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that's serious.' What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: 'If you shake hands on a promise, that's nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that's serious'? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.
23 -24"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

Over the centuries, those purporting to speak for God have often been the very ones that pushed people away from God.

So, what is the application?

God looks for vibrant inner life. Worship. Humility. Obedience. Holy Spirit joy. He is not so impressed with outer life - piety. Following rules. Appearances of religiosity.

My pastor's blog is called - Killing Churchianity! I think he gets it!!!

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