In the posts “How to Know When GOD is Calling You” and “What it Means to be Jesus’ Disciple,” I discussed discipleship and obeying when GOD calls us, first to Himself for salvation, and subsequently, to do specific things for His glory.
Today, we continue that train of thought and consider a few basic, but important truths.
Everyone is following someone or something.
Everybody has a god/God—a lord over their life.
For some it is their own desires, for others it is an idol, and for some it is the true and living GOD.
Often, we may think we’re following GOD when, in reality, it may not be Him at all.
Many “believers” are more committed to (and passionate about) a particular system—a way of doing things—than to GOD Himself.
- A specific leader (other than Jesus), such as the Pope, an elder or pastor, author, friend or well-known “rock star” of Christianity.
- A certain denomination. (“I’m a Baptist/Catholic/Church of Christ-er/Presbyterian.”)
- A set of doctrines, such as Calvinism, Command Example Necessary Inference (CENI), or catechisms.
- The specific wording of the sign in front of our church building.
- The times and places that the congregation assembles.
- Properly observing certain traditions.
- How to spend (or not spend) the money that is collected.
If you don’t believe me, or if you wish to test yourself or someone else, suggest that one of these non-Scripture-specified things be tweaked, even slightly, and see how people (including yourself) react. Were it not so incredibly sad, it would be quite humorous.
Look no further than Jesus’ run-ins with the Jewish religious leaders.
Despite my familiarity with these events, I find myself consistently amazed at:
- The religious leaders’ blindness and hard-heartedness.
- Jesus’ refusal to bow to their attitude or “walk on eggshells” to keep from upsetting them.
- How strikingly similar many religious leaders are today to these people.
- How today’s religious leaders study these evil Jews and seemingly completely miss their own likeness to them.
- How easy it can be to develop the same mentality of these people.
Consider with me one occasion from Scripture.
In John 9, we read of a man born blind who was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath day, which was “against the rules” of the Pharisees’ traditions. (No healing on the Sabbath day, period.)
Upon seeing the man was healed, the Jewish leaders:
- Showed absolutely no compassion or joy over this great miracle.
- Refused to believe that the blind man had actually been healed, thinking it a trick.
- Questioned the man’s parents.
- Refused to believe Jesus was a good man, accusing Him of having a demon.
- Insulted the man for believing in the One who healed him.
- Threw the formerly-blind man out of the synagogue.
But notice how the blind man came into contact with the Pharisees in the first place.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.
(John 9:8-13 NIV)
Now, why would these Jews—this man’s neighbors and those who’d seen him beg—take him to the Pharisees?
I can think of three possible reasons. Either:
- They were on the Pharisees’ side in wanting to catch Jesus. I find this unlikely as the Scriptures show that many Jews were undecided about Jesus. The majority seemed “on the fence” regarding Him.
- They were amazed at this miracle and wanted to show their religious leaders or perhaps receive an explanation as to how it could happen.
- They were committed to “the system” that they knew, recognizing these men as their religious leaders and experts, and wanted to be “good little Jews” and report this supernatural occurrence to remain in or receive their leaders’ good favor. In other words, they wanted the Pharisees’ approval and praise.
I think a lot of people want the praise of men, if even subconsciously.
Let’s face it, it can be difficult to know where you stand with GOD on specific actions, especially when they aren’t clearly “black or white,” “sin vs. righteous”-type choices.
And this is further confused by the fact that GOD setup certain men to lead the church, so it would logically make sense to follow them, right?
The key question is this: Are these leaders making decisions or behaving in a way that is clearly consistent with Scripture?
In the case of the Jewish religious leaders, they were murderers at heart (and ultimately in action as well) and Jesus plainly exposed their intentions to the unknowing Jews around them.
Today, our leaders may be fully trying to follow Jesus, serving as shepherds of the flock among them, as GOD intends.
Or, they may be what I call Defenders of the Status Quo™️, meaning they protect the system—the traditions of the group—above all else, including souls, at all costs.
Without knowing the Scriptures, you can’t determine between the two.
Pray for discernment.
Question everything, everything you’ve heard, everything you’ve ever been told.
Ask GOD to open your eyes to tradition that is inconsistent with Scripture or being taught as Law.
Ask Him to show you where people are drawing lines (i.e., making rules) where He hasn’t, where unity can be promoted and error exposed.
When GOD calls or leads you in a different direction, follow.
That is faith in action.
That is true discipleship.
It will be hard.
You will lose friends.
But then again, this is what you signed up for, right.
Oh, and above all, remember to love people.
Keep your motives pure.
Never set out to “win the argument” because that isn’t what discipleship is about. If our motives or actions aren’t from love, we become a divisive spirit and an infection to the body of Christ.