Friday, September 20, 2013

Wisdom is Vindicated by Her Children

Grow up, people! It's time to stop acting like children and start living like adults … spiritually speaking. Why is the way in which I live my life such an insult to you? If I'm doing the job the Lord gave me to do, then frankly I don't really care what you think of my personality, my preferences or my job performance.

In Luke 7:24-27, Jesus said of John the Baptist, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? [25] But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces! [26] But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. [27] This is the one about whom it is written, ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’”

Notice the emphasis Jesus places upon spiritual recognition. For those who went out into the wilderness expecting to see a great charismatic speaker in a fancy suit, it was a wasted trip. But for those expecting to hear a prophet speaking the word of God … well, that's exactly what they heard!

Which begs the question: Why exactly are people attending church? What have they gone expecting to see and hear? If you go looking for entertainment, then it won't be hard to find. There are plenty of praise bands ready to get you on your feet, and drama teams working to extract a tear. If you travel out expecting social connections, you will find that in spades, too. Someone will be close at hand to offer you a handshake or a hug, along with a donut and some coffee.

But what if you are expecting to hear a word from the Lord? I'm afraid you may be disappointed. Chances are you'll have to sift through the jokes and the stories, the illustrations and the quotations to actually get to the Scriptures. Oh, I'm sure you will be able to say that the preacher was a swell guy, and perhaps that he was a dandy speaker … but will you be able to say without a doubt that he was a man sent by God to speak His word?

Where is the spiritual recognition today? Crowds of people traveled far out into the wilderness to hear John the Baptist … not because he was popular or trendy … not because he was culturally relevant … but because they believed that he spoke a message from God. Here was a man who was actually and truly in spiritual relationship to the Lord. Jesus says of him in Luke 7:28, “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

So, in other words, the social relationships aren't nearly as important as the servant relationship. John did his work. He didn't care what people thought of him. He didn't dress for success … he simply did what the Lord sent him to do. He preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). He taught people to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).

And the real measure of his ministry wasn't in rising attendance or offering figures … it wasn't in community support or in an increase of property holdings … but in the spiritual response of those to whom he spoke God's word. Luke 7:29-30 says, “When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God's justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. [30] But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.” Those who believed repented, while those who disbelieved rejected his message. Despite his unique appearance and seemingly anti-social behavior, some people loved John for telling them the truth. The rest hated him. They spoke ill of him. They mocked him. And eventually – in rejection of the truth – such people killed him.

“Oh, but such a thing would NEVER happen today! We are much more civilized. We believe in tolerance and acceptance!”

Really? Then where exactly are the men of God today? I see those dressed in fine clothes and pleasing the masses. I hear those who are saying what people want to hear. But where are those who are speaking the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Where are the men who may not be doing the job the elders want them to do … or the job the congregation wants them to do … but are doing exactly what the Lord wants them to do? I'll tell you where they are … alienated from society and unemployed by “the church.”

Jesus spoke of the religious climate in which He and John lived in Luke 7:31-35, “To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? [32] They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ [33] For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ [34] The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ [35] Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

Some believed that John the Baptist was demon possessed because he would not socialize like “normal people.” But who was really possessed of Satan? Wasn't it those who “rejected God's purpose for themselves” (v. 30)? So is the Lord with the elders who are “lording it over those allotted to [their] charge” (1 Peter 5:3), or with the congregations that blindly follow (Matthew 15:14), or with those men who have “suffered” and “been mistreated,” yet “had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition” (1 Thessalonians 2:2)?

Jesus' assessment of the religious world is still accurate. The modern church is full of those “like children who sit in the market place and call to one another.” They are upset when their “paid servants” don't dance when they play and cry when thy sing. Is it any wonder they “accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3)?

John didn't socialize … and they couldn't tolerate his message … so they called him names and killed him. Jesus did socialize … but they still couldn't tolerate His message … so they called Him names and killed Him. So it really doesn't matter whether you play the social games or not. If the message being preached is of God, it will offend the worldly enough to want you dead or gone. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:19).

Which seriously begs the question: Why are there so many popular preachers? Answer: Because they preach a social gospel that is compatible with this world. As soon as they drop the social conventions and start speaking the truth of God, the false smiles will be replaced with the “gnashing” of teeth (Acts 7:54). The facade of Christianity will be replaced by the truth of persecution. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. [13] But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12-13).

So why does my life annoy you so much? Oh, yeah! Because I'm saying things you don't want to hear. But according to Jesus, “wisdom is vindicated by all her children” (Luke 7:35). In other words, results are what count. So what if John the Baptist was anti-social? Did he preach the word of the Lord faithfully? So what if he ate locusts and wild honey? So what if he dressed funny? What's that to you?

So what if Jesus ate and drank with sinners? So what if He chose not to have a home? So what if He chose to spend most of His time with certain disciples? What business is it of yours?

In John 21:21-22, Peter – who had been told to go and shepherd the spiritual sheep – saw the apostle John sitting comfortably with Jesus, and asked, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus answer is forthright and direct, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” In other words, “Peter, what business is it of yours what John does? Go do what I told you to do!”

Does my lifestyle bother you? Deal with it. I'm not responsible for your contrived notions of how I should live, or what I should do. My job isn't to mold myself to your will, but to carry out the Lord's. And if the things I say offend you, then perhaps you might take a moment out of your busy life to determine exactly why it is so offensive.

If you believe me a liar, then ignore me and move on. Take Gamaliel's advice: “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; [39] but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39).

But what if I'm not a liar? What if I'm doing exactly what the Lord sent me to do? “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

What that means is that multiple firings and the loss of property cannot stop the word of the Lord. Slander and gossip won't stop it. Even the death of the servant can't stop it. “Wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” That doesn't mean Satan won't try. According to the Revelation, “the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17).

The apostle John was banished to the isle of Patmos “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9). He saw underneath a heavenly altar “the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Revelation 6:9). Such people overcame Satan – not because of their cultural relevance or societal impact – but because they acknowledged the authority of Christ as more important than acceptance by the world. “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11).

Therefore, if my preaching and teaching of the word of God offends you … if it makes you angry enough to fire me or spread lies about me … then I rejoice that I have “been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). But I will not stop doing what the Lord sent me to do. “Every day” … in the churches or in homes … in Wal-Mart or in the woods … I will keep “right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).