Sometimes, I’ve thought of compiling a book of common sayings that people attribute to God, Jesus, or the Bible, called Stuff God and the Bible Never Said.
Like, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite of that. Psalm 54:4 says: “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”
Years later, when life expectancies were shortened by the working of sin in the human race, Moses lived to the ripe age of 120 years old. And, Deuteronomy 34:7 says “[Moses] died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.” According to the Bible, people die when they die and it has nothing to do with how good they are in the eyes of the world. All human beings are sinners who deserve death. That's the bad news. But as Paul says in Romans 6:23: “...the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That's the good news. Whether we’re young or old, repentance and faith in Christ give us life, here and, in perfect unmediated fellowship with God, in eternity.
This isn’t to say that Christians are supposed to act as moral vigilantes, enforcing God’s moral law. We’re not Muslim Jihadists.
But loving a spouse or a friend or a child or a fellow disciple doesn’t mean that you let bad behavior go unchallenged.
A Christian congregation shouldn’t tolerate false teaching from a preacher, for example. And the reason is very simple: You love the people who will be guided the wrong way by false teaching and you love the one who gives the false teaching.
We shouldn’t even be tolerant of sin within ourselves. Love of God should compel us each day to come to Christ, seeking awareness of our sins, forgiveness for those sins, and the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome the temptation to repeat them. [See here.]
The Pharisees put human tradition on the same level as the revealed Word of God. In fact, they really don’t claim to do anything other than that when they ask Jesus: “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders…?”
And this is true whether it’s done by the legalistic Christian who says you can’t dance, play cards, or drink beer (which would kill Lutherans), or it’s done by what we call antinomians, the loosey goosey Christians who say that God’s moral law is outmoded, so people don’t have to repent for shacking up, telling white lies, or approving of same sex marriage in the Church.
All of this adding to and taking away from the Word of God is something people do in order to take control of their lives, others' lives, and this world. But it’s a foolish effort.
As God reminds us in Isaiah 45:5: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.”
And just in case we’re inclined to replace our wisdom for that of God, God tells us: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” [Proverbs 16:25]
As I’ve often told my Catechism students through the years, “If God and I disagree, guess who needs to change his mind?”
That must have been a jarring thing for people who were in the temple all the time and thought of themselves as super-believers.
They have their contemporary counterparts. In his book, Evangelism That Works, George Barna, a Christian who is a sociologist and student of church and societal trends, claims that half of those who attend worship at Protestant churches on Sunday mornings have never intentionally accepted Christ as their God and King.
I’m not talking altar calls here; I’m talking intentional surrender to Christ. Beyond the ritual. Beyond the recitation of the Creed or the Lord’s Prayer or verses from Scripture, as wonderful and foundational as that all is.
Surrender entails following the God we know in Jesus Christ, in tough times and easy, through life and through death. Barna says that half of all churchgoing Christians are committed to that, meaning that the glass is half full. But shockingly, it's also half empty.
Someone has said that the gospel ”is not just a gift to be received, but a new leader to follow.” The Pharisees weren’t following the God you and I are privileged to know through Jesus. They were following human rules which they were attributing to God. That left them far from God.
We don’t need to be in ignorance about the will of God for our lives. And we don’t, as much of the lies attributed to God would have us believe, have to follow a weak God Who surrenders to us or our adherence to rules or our traditions or wisdom.
We can know God through His Word, the sacraments, and the fellowship of believers.
We can know that we follow the living God Who made the universe Who has entered our world and told us in John 6:29: ““The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (If you had your Bibles with you today, I would urge you to underline that passage.)
You don’t have to follow a human rule book. You have to follow the Jesus testified to on the pages of the Bible.
I am. I’m certain that God will take care of us, first of all, because God sent His Son Jesus to die and rise in order to save those who dare to believe in Him. And I’m certain too, because of my experiences and your experiences with God’s faithfulness. We know, as God taught Abraham centuries ago, that God will provide for His people.
No matter how many ways people try to distort the Word and the will of God, irrespective of how many things people claim that God and the Bible say, we know and we follow the God revealed for all as the way, the truth, and the life in Jesus Christ. He alone is true. We can say, with Psalm 62:6, “Truly [God] is my rock and salvation [not my performance, not my reasoning, not my supposed goodness, not my adherence to humanly-created religious rules or expectations, but God]; He is my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” Amen