Friday, January 25, 2019

The "Woes" Continue

Jesus is powerfully listing the qualities found on a false teacher's resume. While false teachers and leaders do not advertise their intentions, we must be discerning as followers of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 23, Jesus denounces the Pharisees with a list of seven "woes." It is interesting that He uses the number seven, for I am sure their egregious failure to lead God's people exceeded that number. One article commented, "Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God's creation of all things." (https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/the-number-7-in-the-bible/)

I surmise that Jesus deliberately choose the number because it rang of the seven days of creation, and how His Father's design was "good."  Yet, the Pharisees have, with their teachings, defiled the beauty of the Creator.  How?  By leading people into a world of works, duty, obligation, hypocrisy and lies.  In essence, they have re-created the world in their image.  

The word "woe" is aimed at the Pharisees, because it is in the dative case, according to Strong's. Jesus is not, as I understand it, saying "woe" to everyone listening.  It means "alas" and carries with it a denunciation along with grief.  

It is clear why Jesus said, "woe" and then showed them to error of their ways:  in the future, the very Temple they claim to represent will be destroyed.  In the near future, the very Torah they uphold will be twisted to kill the Messiah.  In the near future, they very Gentiles they despise with all their ungodly ways will become partners in crime, and the King of Glory will be killed in a very Roman way.  

Let's listen in, and apply His words to our study of false teachers:  

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." (Matt. 23: 13-14)

You, church leaders, are actors, who wear a mask and claim to be someone you are not. The very meaning of the Greek word "hypocrite" (hupokrit├ęs--"stage player") is played out in what you teach and do. Your followers see you from a distance, as they sit in your “theater” and you seem real to them. But behind the scenes, where your followers will never be allowed to go, you are fake. When you leave the stage, and your mask comes down, you are committed to deception for personal gain. You prepare your followers for hell and despise anyone who tries to remind you of the Truth.  You will be held accountable for leading people into the abyss of false teaching. 

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. (Matt. 23:15)

You want to have people follow YOU, to reinforce your belief that you teach the truth. If you have followers that means you can’t be wrong. But Satan has more followers than you can imagine. Does that make him right?
“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.” (Matt. 23:16-22)

You hand out pledge cards, donation buckets, request credit card numbers and promise people that if they donate to you, and do so abundantly, they will be blessed. It’s as if you teach I am compelled by your followers’ faith to enrich your ministry. But I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I have deep riches in My Son. I do not need anyone’s faith to release My goodness; My unfailing love and mercies are new every morning, long before you utter a word. My Son is the greatest gift I offer mankind. But you want money placed on your altar, into your temple, into your life. But I give a far greater gift, My Son and His salvation, Who calls forth dead souls and brings them to life. 

Gold disappears.

Altars decay.

Temples fall.

But My Word is eternal.

You forget that in your frenetic grab for temporal things. 

Jesus is not just denouncing the false leaders of His day; He grieves for them as well: "Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’" (Ezek. 33:11)

God wants His children to see the error of their ways and return to Him: “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!" (Ezek. 18:30-32) 

This is the beauty of what Jesus is offering. In Ezekiel, God promises a heart of flesh for a heart of stone: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezek. 36:26)

The New Covenant, one of grace and sacrifice of God's own So, stands before the false teachers of every generation and says, "Repent and live."  

The Pharisees desperately needed to hear it.

Our false teachers desperately need to hear it.  The days are darkening and time is running short. 

We will continue with the next verses soon.  Bless you!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Woe Unto False Teachers

False teachers do not wear a t-shirt that says,

"Hey!  Like my sheep suit?"

"Lyin' With Wolves is my Indian name"

"Love sheep.  Especially with mint sauce"

You get it.  So, the burden of identifying a wolf is on us.  We seek the the Holy Spirit's wisdom as we  dig deeper in the Word.

Jesus left us with clear markers of someone who is not following Him.  We have focused a lot on Paul in these blogs, but Jesus is very specific as well.

Jesus excoriates the Pharisees, thereby providing us with solid markers of false teachers with their attitudes and methods. You might argue that the Pharisees are of the old covenant, so of course they missed the mark.  Yes, but human nature does not change.  Leaders throughout the centuries have misled others for their own gain, fostered by prideful hearts. 

Pride and its destructive effects are chronic.  Give me a decade or a century and I will show you the aftermath of pride's ride.

Jesus encountered the effects of pride's ride in His own generation.  The Romans were problematic, but He didn't spend time railing against their sin and godless empire.  He commended the Roman centurion for his faith, and spoke mightily about what is God's and what is Caesar's.  That's about it. Why?  Because they did not know better.  They did not have His Father's Word.  

There were Romans who loved the Jewish people, but Roman society overall was in another spiritual universe.  Of course, Jesus knew about a man named Paul who would go forth someday and bring the Jesus' light to the Gentiles.  But until then, Jesus focused on His own. The Jewish leader knew better.  They had the Word.  But, and this is key, they did not know His Father.  They served another master, and Jesus wasted no words on pointing out to them where their inspiration came from: Satan. 

Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”

“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come. (John 8:19-20)

Later Jesus minces no words:

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!" (John 8:42-45)

Happily for the Kingdom of God, there were, even in the midst of such deception, men whose hearts were tender: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. 

So, let's look at deep deception of the Pharisees and notice how today's false teachers are no different.  Our scripture comes from Matthew 23.  Then I will comment and draw a comparison with the leaders of today. 

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” (Matt. 23:1-4)
The pastors of today love their position of authority. They have sermons that have something new, something fresh about them. You listen and believe that these pastors must be doing something right, because look how many people attend their churches! Look how big their churches are! These pastors rarely read out the Bible—why should they? They quote Scripture occasionally, but their stories are inspiring! Hilarious! Memorable!

You follow Pastor So & So because he seems to have it all together.  Don’t.

He wants you to live a life that he does not live. He wants you to not abuse drugs or alcohol, but secretly will not address his own addictions. He rails on and on how bad porn is, but won’t stop viewing it himself. He talks about God’s riches, which he displays gleefully: jets, cars, expensive houses, lavish lifestyles, but you struggle each time you tithe to his church, thinking about the financial hardships you are enduring. He appears free from sickness due to his amazing faith; you have medical issues that will not go away, and the bills to show for it. Faith? You try and try and try to believe. This pastor seems to have no trouble with faith and his material abundance shows it. You cheer yourself up thinking you can be like him some day. 

 He doesn’t know you and he doesn’t care to know you. He wants your money, which you are happy give, showing how much you believe in his ministry.  Don’t.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.” (Matt. 23:5-7)
It’s all show: the lavish lifestyle, the deference they demand from staff, the mega-everything: houses, cars, churches. They love to be invited on talk shows to peddle their non-offensive gospel that seems sincere, but doesn’t honor Jesus or His death on the cross for the sins of mankind. They emphasize the love and grace Jesus offers, but not the sins that drove Him to the cross. They want to been known as "pastors," "church leaders," "evangelists" and "preachers," but their hearts are far from Jesus. Their motivation?  Pride and selfishness. 

Pride is packaged as piety.

Greed is repackaged as grace.

Love for self is repackaged as love for Jesus. 

They want you to follow, admire and support them.  Don’t. 

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:8-12)

Who is the true Head of the church? The Holy One, I AM, the one true God, the Messiah, the King of kings. He sent His Holy Spirit to teach you and lead you into all righteousness. He sent His Spirit to help you discern truth from error as you open His Word, testing what you are being taught.

Where is the servant heart of the one who claims to follow Jesus?   Jesus modeled it every day of His life.  He washed the feet of His followers, acting like the lowliest of slaves. He humbled Himself to the point of being beaten, tortured and killed. He taught what the life of a servant looks like.  He lived it, to the point of death. 

He showed love and humility, the true hallmarks of one who truly loves God.     

But, these leaders, because of their authority imparted to them by power, money and control, can afford to array themselves in the finest of wolves’ clothing.  They delight in fleecing the sheep.

They come not to serve, but be served.

They come to gain, not love.

They come to create revelations that are not in Jesus' Word, and thus can make any desire they have seem respectable to those who follow them.

Servants? No. 

Salesmen?  Yes.  They sell Jesus as the quick (but oh so respectable and pious!) road to fulfilling the lusts of the flesh.

Servants? No. 

Serpents?  Ones, who like their father, look at their followers and asked, “Did God really say that?” They preach another, accursed gospel. 

Avoid them.


We will continue unpacking Matthew 23 next time.

May God bless you in this New Year!









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