Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show.” Matthew 23:1-5 (HCSB)
Listen up, people! Jesus didn’t speak these words to just a few. He spoke out to His disciples, the church leadership, and whosoever would listen to His voice. Am I listening today?
I have many friends who love the LORD; believe that Jesus is the Messiah who came to save them through His death on the cross and rose from the dead. But they do not attend church. For many and varied reasons they are disillusioned by “the hypocrites” who are in the church and/or leading the church so they have moved from congregation to congregation and, finally, have stopped going. I feel that frustration and fight a battle within myself not to accept that option in my own life. I believe Jesus is speaking to me today about my struggle.
Listen to those who are “the official interpreters” of God’s teachings. Most of us join a church because we were invited there by a friend and we came and were “hooked” by the teaching or the music or the friendliness of the people. I believe that one of the reasons we stay is because we are challenged or encouraged by the teaching. Jesus said we are to obey and do what is taught by these “officials” or leaders. If they are teaching me what is in God’s Word, I am to listen and obey. However…
Do NOT follow their examples. What? Here is where I believe that we err. We set our teachers and preachers up on pedestals and set them as our examples – not Jesus. Jesus is my example, my standard, for my life. Just as I am not to compare myself to another person, I am also not to make another person something they are not – perfect. No, I am not giving church leadership “excuses” for their less than stellar behavior. I am acknowledging that they are human just like me and they are going to make mistakes. Jesus came to be my example. He lived here on earth for all those years in order to give me His example. Jesus lived His life to show me.
Listen and correct my conduct; my thinking. God is concerned about my relationship with Him. He is not looking at how my relationship compares to ________, whoever. Jesus wants to work with me on my holiness. Do I listen to a sermon or a teaching and think only about how it applies to everyone else? Or do I ask first: What are you saying to me, LORD? Do I see all the sawdust in the eyes of others and totally miss the 2 x 4 in my own eye? I am “preaching” every day to more people and in more profound ways than any preacher in a pulpit or teacher behind a desk. My children, the people with whom I work, and even those I pass by and do not even notice. My smile, my random acts of kindness speak louder than any sermon.
If you aren’t connected to any fellowship it is something to take to the LORD in prayer. Throughout Scripture we are shown the benefits of accountability (Proverbs 27:17) and being a part of a group of disciples of Jesus (Hebrews 10:25). It is not perfection in them that I should seek but that I am joining them in seeking Jesus’ perfection, His example to follow through this world until He calls me home.