Saturday, March 18, 2017

We Can't Seem to Win

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:16-19)

These comments are directed at the scribes and pharisees at the time Jesus walked among us, but they also apply to many today, believers and unbelievers.

First unbelievers: how unreasonable!  We've seen this everywhere.  Anything that smacks of religion is rejected, no matter how clear and reasonable it is.  At Christ's time, the Jews found fault with practically everyone.  Here comes John the Baptist, preaching repentance.  He prepared the way with repentance and lived an ascetic life.  How did the Jews react?  He has a devil.  Now here comes Jesus Christ, God himself in the flesh, living like the men and women he was to save, preaching the gospel constantly, and he's not practicing any of the austerity that John the Baptist practiced.  What was the reaction? He's a glutton and a drunkard!  He hangs out with sinners!  Jesus was right to describe them as wayward children.

Second believers, or should I rather say, "professing Christians:" just as unreasonable!  Reactions to teaching and preaching alone is shocking.  The fault-finding is incredible!  Nothing pleases them.  We preach about grace alone and justification by faith, and we get hostility.  We are accused of being false teachers because we haven't given our congregation a steady diet of works-based-righteousness.  We preach holiness and are then accused of being legalists.  Congregants feel condemned--and rightly so--but they miss the fresh and loving gospel that follows the heaviness of the law.  They were so busy thinking of how the preacher made them feel bad that they missed the good news entirely.  Preachers are accused of being self-righteous with one breath and worldly with the next, puritanical at one time and then lost at another.  This is what Jesus experienced in his day, and he spoke to that very thing in these verses.

Here is the truth: unconverted people will never be satisfied, because the issue is not with the preaching.  It's not with even religion in general.  The unconverted hate God.  Christ said not to be surprised when they hate you.  They actually hate me, and they are merely taking it out on you.  True conversion comes from a change in the heart, and that change only happens by the will of God. The Holy Spirit convicts a man of his sin and the same Holy Spirit rescues that same man from his fate of everlasting death by opening his eyes to the joy of the gospel.  All else follows: obedience to the law, loving your neighbor, loving God.  All of these things come from a heart transformed by the glorious gospel.

How do Christians need to react?  The world is always going to be this way, so we must not be concerned with it.  We pray for their eyes to be opened, and in the meantime we focus on the gospel message, the glory of Christ, and the beauty and love of the God who made us and saved us.