WHAT IS DRIVING US SPIRITUALLY? Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on September 21st, 2014. To listen to the audio click on this link – Hypocrisy 2.
Our View of God.
God as Imposer of Conformity: Jesus responded to the Law expert by exposing his evil view of God, “… you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry…”
The experts at Law spent much of their time defining the requirements of the Law–having discussions about how they were to obey the Law. This practice exposed their basic understanding of God as an angry and threatening conformist. Consequently, what drove the spirituality of the Lawyers was this idea that God wants, above all else, conformity to certain standards. The Lawyers pored over the Old Testament Laws to make sure that they were not missing any obligation to God. This may sound good, but it is a poisonous view of God.
In this view, God’s real interest in us is about conformity. God’s goal, then, would be to get you to do/not do certain prescribed things which are in the Bible. Consequently, when we do not conform we are pitting ourselves against God. Then God gets really upset and repositions us as enemies–for a while, at least, until we have felt guilty enough and have prayed in prescribed ways to be forgiven. Our goal and God’s being, once again, that we conform.
This keeps us constantly trying to appease God. It causes us always to react to what God says with fear that we will not met, or have not met, our obligation to God. We do not love God but fear him and his retribution.
God as Creator of Life: Jesus view of God was not conformity, but a view in which God, the Creator of life, creates spiritual life in people by offering them grace, his love and forgiveness, and then by showing them what true life looks like and how to enter into the process of true living.
This produces freedom to be creative in doing good–not slavish observance. It moves us to think about who God is and what life is and what it means to be truly alive.
The Lie of Conformity: The NIV does a poor job of translation with verse 46. It says, “you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” but a better translation is “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” (NASV).
Jesus isn’t suggesting that it would be a lot better if the experts in law would just help people to do legalism better. Jesus is saying that these experts have loaded people down with laws and obligations and heavy burdens to please God that they, themselves, would never touch or try to keep. Conformity is an unbearable burden. Even those who demand conformity and teach conformity are not able to conform to the standards they create to please God.
Our View of Righteousness.
As Posturing: “Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed.” Some of the religious leaders had tombs built for their families in honor of the ancient prophets of Israel. They did this, of course, as a way to honor the prophets and in so doing to gain status before people and God by connecting themselves to the prophets. But Jesus re-interprets this as an act of approving the murder of the prophets. He flips the meaning of their actions and says–your fathers murdered them–you celebrate their murder–you will be held responsible.
That sounds somewhat harsh–after all, the lawyer wasn’t even born when the prophets were killed and could hardly be held responsible for what his predecessors had done. And yet, it is his very attitude about righteousness, shared by his predecessors, which led to the murder of the prophets.
Posturing (behaving in a way that seeks to impress) forces us to maintain and protect our appearances before God and others. What was so false about the law experts is that they were posturing–appearing to be in line with the prophets whom everyone revered. They were saying, this is who we really are–we are people who honor the prophets of old. They were appearing/pretending/perhaps even believing themselves to be, the right kind of people.
Jesus flips this understanding on its head–they aren’t honoring the prophets, they are complicit in their deaths. In the same way, the Lawyers are not respectable–they are liars and, in their hearts, against what the prophets taught… dishonorers.
The prophets were people who exposed posturing for the lie it was–the appearance of honoring and loving God without the willingness to recognize one’s need for conviction and healing and repentance. The prophets were killed for exposing the posturing of the religious rulers of their day. Jesus clearly saw that these posturing leaders were going to murder the One who was the embodiment of all that the prophets of old had represented and taught.
As Humility: If we look at Jesus words to the lawyer here as cruel, then we misunderstand. Jesus’ words are meant to break through the hard heartedness of the posturing lawyer. What Jesus does is to confront the lawyer with who he really is at heart. Jesus is seeking to humble this man–to give him a true sense of who he is so that he will turn to God for healing.
Humility is an honest and accurate assessment of who we are and what our actions and words mean. True humility which God desires does not lead to humiliation and self-hate, but to a recognition of our needs, our gifts, our strengths and weaknesses–and most importantly, an acceptance of ourselves as we really are–not as we want to pretend to be.
This view of righteousness creates a whole different kind of life–one in which we become receivers of what God alone can give. Humility and receiving from God fits into a view in which God’s desire is to give us life and watch joyfully as we live. This is what is at the heart of Paul’s statement in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is grace from God to those who will, with humble honesty receive it.
The Consequences of Conformity and Posturing.
They Blind Us to the Kingdom of God: The effect of the way the experts at law behaved and taught was to turn God into an angry, threatening enforcer, and to blind people to grace–to force them to suppress their need, by their example of posturing respectable conformity. Jesus’ response to them is to say that they have hidden the key to spirituality. 52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”
The Key to the Kingdom of God: This is the key to entering and living in the Kingdom of God… That God is not demanding conformity or death, but that he is offering life because he is love. And that we do not need to hide ourselves from God because he is gracious and loving and compassionate.
So if this understanding that God is gracious, loving and compassionate is the key to entering and living in the Kingdom of God, then we should be asking ourselves what we are trying to do to be spiritual people. We should be measuring our understandings of God and righteousness by this key.
How do we do that? Here are some questions that will help…
- Am I trying got serve conformity? When I sin, what does that mean about my relationship with God? Is it threatened so that I try to fix it quickly and try not to think about it? Do I need to fix things and get right so that I no longer feel afraid or on the outs with God? Or is sin an opportunity to look at what is in my heart and to expose and confess lies I have believed?
- To whom do I connect myself and why? Do I connect to people to look respectable. Do I claim the right kind of people?
- Can I honestly talk about sin in my heart to people or is that too embarrassing? When people start to confess sin, do I join in confessing or do I correct them, and thereby connect myself not with sinners but with what is respectable?