Friday, March 26, 2010

Refocus! What is the Point?

Jesus blasted the Pharisees for their hypocrisy several times in Scripture. On one of those occasions, he introduced the idea that there are some parts of God's law that are "weightier" than others. He was talking about getting bogged down in the details of religion and missing the point.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!"  Matthew 23:23-24, ESV

The Pharisees were tithing off of their herb gardens, seeking holiness through strict effort and observance of the law.  Jesus didn't have a problem with their giving (he told them they should not neglect that). But he had a BIG problem with their focus. They had missed justice, mercy and faithfulness!  And Jesus said these things were the 'weightier matters of the law.'  In Luke's account, Jesus said they had forgotten "justice and the love of God" (Luke 11:42). Jesus said it was like they were straining out gnats, but letting camel-sized problems slip through.  Wrong focus. They missed the point.

Paul gives Timothy some similar instructions concerning the purpose of doctrine and theology:

"If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."  1 Timothy 4:6-8, ESV

Paul is not against doctrine and teaching.  He tells Timothy that it is good for him to teach the doctrine and theology of the faith. In fact, he says that we are "trained in" the words of the faith and of the good doctrine.  We are trained in/by theology!!  But what is the point of our doctrine?  We are trained IN the teaching, but Paul says we are trained FOR godliness!  In other words, we are not studying God's word just to get smart, or (worse) to become proud.  That would be like the Pharisees straining out gnats and getting lost in the details of the teachings of the faith, but letting the camels of pride and arrogance and self-righteousness slip right through. Theology should lead to godliness.

Which leads us to this question: what is godliness? 

The Spirit of God works in us from the moment of conversion and produces his fruit - his godly characteristics - in our lives. Paul lists nine of the Spirit's fruit in Galatians 5: 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."  Galatians 5:22-26

Take a moment to look closely (and slowly) at those nine fruit of the Spirit (maybe you can quote them in order...but do you have them?!).  These are the weightier matters, and should be our focus.  These things should be growing in us as we are trained by truth and abide in Christ.  These nine qualities do not come to us by our effort (they are fruit, not works); they come from intimacy with God.

The fruit of the Spirit should be increasing in our lives. This is the point - the weightier matters of the law that Jesus was telling the Pharisees they had missed.  It's ok to give tithes or offerings from our herb gardens, but it is essential to have love and joy and peace!  It's great to study God's word and speak, teach, sing, and obey the doctrines of the faith.  We are trained by theology.  But let us not forget the purpose for which we are being trained: godliness.  Let us not forget the weightier matters!  Our theology should lead us to humility, not pride; love for God and our neighbor, not conceit (verse 26, above).

Are you seeing a correct focus in your life on the weightier matters of the law, rather than getting bogged down in the rules and attempts at self-righteousness?  Are using doctrine correctly?  Are you seeing more of the Spirit's fruit in your life? 

Keep training...with the right focus.

1 comment:

Caleb Baker said...

Great post bro. Keep the big things the big things.