My family and I went to Mineral Springs Baptist this past Sunday night as my wife’s grandparents go there. On a quick side note I would like to say to all pastors and teachers, it is important that you take time to be fed God’s Word as well. I realize you spend most of your week preparing to feed other people, but your effectiveness as a preacher or teacher is directly tied to your own spiritual condition. How can you or I stand before our people and tell them they need to be faithful to be fed the Word of God, when we only spend our time on feeding them and neglect ourselves? Ok, that was the side trip.
Pastor Jason was preaching on James 1. In the middle of his message he made an interesting observation. Many times all the unbelievers only hear Christians talk about what we are against (and let’s be honest the list is long). I am not saying that as Christians we should not talk about sin and call it what it is. In fact if you attend Westlake Baptist you will freely hear the word sin mentioned and preached on not only from the pulpit but also in Sunday school classes. We believe that sin separates us from God and unless we come to faith in Jesus Christ sin will eternally condemn us to hell. But the point Pastor Jason was making is a valid point. Many times we as Christians when pointing out what we are against only deal with the symptom and not the root cause. We do this because the outward symptom makes us uncomfortable. My question is this, is this not legalistic Christianity the same as it was with the Pharisees in Jesus’ day? If all we do is focus on the outward behavior then what we are telling people is that they need to conform to certain acceptable standards and they will be fine. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that is not the message of the Gospel, that is legalism and I want us to remember that Jesus called the Pharisees “white washed tombs who looked great on the outside, but inside were full of dead men’s bones” in Matthew 23. Jesus also called them a dirty cup in Matthew 23. Have you ever had a coffee cup at your office? Many times we fill it up with coffee and when we are done drinking it what do we do? Many times we just leave it on our desk. The outside is nice and clean, but the inside is anything but clean. That is a physical description of the spiritual condition of the Pharisees and sadly enough many Christians today. I can hear some of you disagreeing with me so permit me to give you some examples.
Example number one: Why is it that we preach against homosexuality, but seldom preach against heterosexual co-habitation? It is because homosexuality makes us uncomfortable, but we don’t think twice about a man and a woman living together who are not married because at least they are not homosexuals. With all due respect that is legalism, that is us as Christians desiring to change a symptom rather than addressing the root cause.
Example number two: Why is it that we preach against alcohol and drug abuse, but seldom preach on gluttony (over-eating)? I read a book called “Lose it for Life” and in it the author makes this point, “If a preacher were to step into the pulpit drunk or take a pornographic magazine up with him he would be fired immediately. But we don’t think twice about him carrying an extra 50+ pounds up there with him.” Now that is getting very personal for me. I am not picking on my portly proclaimers of the truth (because I am one), but simply making a point. I hope my point has become a little more clear.
Please understand my heart on this, I agree that the outward behaviors are problems, but we need to remember that sin is sin, and sin is only the outward manifestation of an inward condition. Do we want people to change their sinful behaviors? Absolutely we do. But we must come to realize that their eternal salvation is more important than anything else. I don’t just want their outward actions to be changed for the sake of change, I want to see their heart changed which will inevitably lead to changes in their and my actions. The root problem is a depraved heart that leads to depraved actions. If God changes their heart (through their faith in His sacrifice on the cross) then I guarantee their actions will change because they are not the same person they use to be.
By His grace and through His strength may we live for Him