I got busy last week talking on other subjects God had laid on my heart, I didn’t get a chance to do a Not A Fan post. For all of you I left waiting in limbo, I apologize.
In Chapter 5 of Kyle Idleman’s book Not a Fan, he asks a very important question: are your following Jesus or are you following the rules? For many, there may not seem to be much difference, but there is a big difference.
Kyle starts off with reminding us of the story of Matt Emmons, Yah, I didn’t know him either. Anyway, Matt Emmons was competitor in the 2004 Olympics. He was one shot away of claiming victory in the 50-meter three position rifle event. He didn’t need a bull’s-eye; he just had to hit the target. No pressure right? Well, he hit a target. The problem being, he hit the wrong target. Instead of hitting the target in lane 2, he aimed and hit the target in lane 3, causing him to score a 0 and taking him out of medal contention.
Kyle goes on to explain that while this sort of thing is extremely rare in elite competition, it happens frequently in the Christian community.
“It is not a question of their effort or desire. They are following hard. Here is the problem; it’s not Jesus they are following. Without realizing it, they are aiming at the wrong target. Instead of following Jesus they are following religious rules and rituals. They have confused the targets (Not a Fan, p. 69).”
If you were to glance through the New Testament and were to read on the Pharisees and Sadducees, at first, it may appear that the Pharisees and Sadducees were indeed the true “followers.” After all, they studied and memorized the books of the Old Testament, they held strict observance of all the laws, they were regarded as bible scholars, and they were the respected members of society. However, a closer examination of the Bible would reveal that these religious leaders were the ones that Jesus chastised the most; they were the ones that were too proud to accept Jesus; their outsides did not match their insides.
As Mr. Idleman points out, if you always pictured Jesus as a Mr. Rogers kind of guy, Matthew 23 will make you think twice about that kind of comparison as Jesus is singing anything but “Won’t You Be My Neighbor!”
Matthew 23: 1-30 (NLT):
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,[a] that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ 8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ,[b] and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.[c]
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies[d] the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells[e] in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.[f] 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
“Woe” is an expression both of grief and a curse. Seven times Jesus says “Woe to you” and seven times it is followed by a scathing rebuke. Why so harsh? Jesus does not want the rest of us confusing following rules, rituals, and traditions with following Him. Jesus takes this matter very seriously and we should too.
Okay, okay, I am just going to address the elephant in the room. Yes, I am a strong advocate for obedience. I absolutely believe obedience changed my life and I am not changing my stance on it. It is my contention that obedience and ruling following are not exactly the same thing. You see, Jesus wasn’t angry because the religious leaders were following Moses’ laws. No, he was angry because they added to the laws. He was angry because they were making things more complicated and keeping other from following Him. Furthermore, the religious leaders were too proud and threatened to accept Jesus. Jesus was threatening their very way of life. Their whole lives have been devoted to studying the laws, rules, and traditions, and here comes Jesus saying it was no longer necessary. I can understand (to a degree) that this would not have been an easy pill to swallow. In addition, the religious leaders knew not what to do with the whole “grace” thing. They had never heard of such a thing and they didn’t want to.
I have said it many times and I will say it again. I do not walk in obedience to be saved but because I am saved. My obedience is a product of my salvation. I also walk in obedience because I trust that God’s ways are the best ways. The religious leaders thought that they would get to heaven by following the rules. I know that I can not earn my salvation. No amount of good works will get me into heaven, only the blood of Christ. That my friends is the difference between their ruling following and obedience.
Once again, Jesus’ anger wasn’t about obedience to the law, it was about the additions to the law. It was also about the hypocrisy and the nature of the religious leaders’ hearts.
If asked what word comes to mind when one thinks about the Pharisees, the number one answer would probably be “hypocrite.” Why? Well, because they said one thing and did another. Their insides did not match their outsides. They made rules for others that they themselves had no intentions of following (at least when no one was watching). It was all about the show.
When we read in the Bible about the Pharisees and other religious leaders it is relatively easy to see their hypocrisy. But the question I have for you is: Can you see your own?
“These religious types were the fans that Jesus seems to have the most trouble with. Fans who will walk into a restaurant and bow their heads to pray before a meal just in case someone is watching. Fans who won’t go to R-rated movies at the theater, but have a number of them saved on their DVR at home. Fans who may feed the hungry and help the needy, and then make sure they work it into every conversation for the next two weeks. Fans who make sure people see them put in their offering at church, but they haven’t considered reaching out to their neighbor who lost a job and can’t pay the bills. Fans who like seeing other people fail because in their minds it makes them look better. Fans whose primary concern in raising their children is what other people think. Fans who are reading this and assuming I’m describing someone one else. Fans who have the mask so long they have fooled even themselves (p.73).
I have to admit that I have been guilty of all those things listed above at one time in my life or another. Maybe even one or two of them just last week. It doesn’t make me happy or proud to admit it, but it does make me real. Hence the name “Getting Real and Drawing Near”.
Have you ever been in a church where it was obvious who the new or baby Christians were? Have you ever wondered why it is so easy to tell the difference? It is my experience that people who are new to Christ don’t know the language and the rules, so they are very open and honest about their feelings. I have even felt myself cringe on a few occasions when a new believer says something shocking or something I know someone is going to pounce on. Once they’ve been around awhile though, you will see that they begin to speak and act differently. In some respects I find this disheartening as I believe Jesus much prefers the former.
Kyle reminds us of the hepatitis C commercial a few years back. Like many other diseases, hepatitis C is very dangerous because a lot of the damage is done on the inside way before you can see any sign of it on the outside. The commercial depicted what happens on the inside of the body on a woman’s face. Now, being a woman, I can tell you, it wouldn’t take me long to notice if a disease was eating away at my face, which I guess, is the whole point of the commercial as the tag line is “If Hep C attacked your face instead of your liver, you’d do something about it.” It doesn’t take a genius to see how that applies to our Christian walk.
“If you could see what’s on the inside instead of what you’re showing everybody else on the outside, I wonder if you’d do something about it. This is what Jesus is trying to do. He trying to get people to see what’s on the inside (p. 76).”
So let me ask you, does your insides match your outsides? If not, in what areas do you need to change? How can you go about making those necessary changes?
Have a blessed day!