Sunday Services at 10:00am
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“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1)
As I’ve been reading and preaching through the Gospel of John, I have been struck again by how severe Jesus’ words are for the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day. We don’t know much about individual Pharisees just by reading the Gospels, but I would have to imagine that many of them had a genuine desire to know God and to see Israel, God’s people, become great again. The Pharisees were so devoted to the law of God that they added even more laws on top of God’s law, just to make sure they were doing all they could to honor God with their lives.
And yet, somehow, they completely missed the point of what it means to know God. In their desire for righteousness, they lost sight of God’s love, His mercy, and His grace. And as a result, as Jesus puts it, they “shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces” (Matthew 23:13). Through their misunderstanding of God’s heart, they pushed people away from God instead of drawing them to His love.
As a result, Jesus levels the Pharisees again and again with his harshest words. In John 8, which we looked at this past Sunday, he even goes as far as to call them “children of the devil” (John 8:44). These men, so devoted to God, and so devoted to His law, have so completely missed the heart of God that the Son of God tells them that they do not belong to God, but are children of the devil, with hearts full of lying and murder just like their father.
We who call ourselves Christians, especially those who call ourselves Christian leaders, would be wise to pay close attention to this reality, and to ask ourselves whether we have unintentionally followed in the footsteps of the Pharisees in any way, devoted to God and His law but still missing the very heart of God. As Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan puts it:
“Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of His day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted do not bother coming to our churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”
Consider these words carefully, and pray that you, and our church, would not miss the heart of God and end up acting as children of the devil ourselves.
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