It’s funny how our background affects the way we see things. As I grew up in ministry, one of the things that always bothered me was the “glitz” of ministry. Don’t get me wrong…I was drawn to it. And at times, even pursued it. But it always bothered me. I have never liked the idea that the church needs to “keep up with the world” (or, using a common phrase, “keep up with the Joneses). I’m not a huge Christian movie fan, and it always seemed that Christian’s attempts to do what the world does in the entertainment world have come off as cheesy or weird. And I certainly don’t like it when the church attempts to entertain her people on Sundays.
However, I must say, there will be those, because of their backgrounds and convictions, who will feel like we are trying to entertain our people. After all, we have a full worship team; I preach with passion and sometimes bad attempts at humor. And we use a screen for notetaking. Not to mention how loud things might be or that I stand up when I preach. These things have been mentioned to me in one way or another through the years about how we at CLF are trying to emulate the world in our church services.
I say all of this because I think our backgrounds play a big role in our preferences or convictions. This is one reason why I don’t wear a suit and tie on Sundays. I was raised in the South, and we always were taught to “put on our Sunday best.” And I’ve always struggled with the idea that dressing up makes people “feel” more holy than they are.
But I can say this that many agree on…even those with more liturgical viewpoints on Sunday gatherings that we do: when we enter a local church, we want it to be an “outpost of heaven,” where God is worshipped, the Bible is taught, and God’s people are equipped/encouraged/exhorted from God’s Word. We have been breathing the “air” of the world all week…we don’t want to breathe it in the church sanctuary.
Complex False Teaching:
One of the things I said on Sunday is that false teaching is hard to define because each culture is more prone to one thread of false teaching than another.
Take the Ephesian culture: they were used to appeasing the goddess and their Greek gods. From the earliest ages, they were taught that sacrifices were brought to the Temple, feasts were to be celebrated, and certain religious acts were to be done so that the gods of their culture would look upon them with favor. They were prone to legalism in those settings. Many philosophers also taught that the material world (physical body, food, drink, etc.) was “unspiritual” and unworthy to be touched. To achieve the “higher” life, one must disconnect from the material world (impossible, to say the least).
Further, the Jewish mind was heavily influenced by legalism. Their leading Rabbis taught traditions to be right with God and moved farther away from the true commandments given to them by God. They were prone to “additions” to the gospel, like “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (Colossians 2:21).
This is why you’ll notice so much concern for legalism in the New Testament. Legalism is simply an attempt to be accepted by God, forgiven by God, and made right with God through our obedience or good works. You will find the majority of the NT dealing with legalism. A good picture of legalism is found in the Prodigal Son’s older brother (Luke 15:25ff).
But what about lawlessness? There are cultures, and ours is moving swiftly towards this, where lawlessness is seen as the height of the higher life. People living without moral boundaries is the pathway to satisfaction and great joy. This is why it is a commonplace for people to make decisions based on their feelings and emotions about certain issues. It’s one reason why the battleground over sexual ethics is so intense. Living without “law,” “guilt,” or “conscience” is the high life (not drinking Miller Light or smoking a joint). A good example of lawlessness is the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-15), who thought he could achieve something great by lawlessness.
But you’ll notice: the motivation is the same. Legalism and lawlessness both think that we achieve a higher life by what we do or don’t do. Both are motivated by a desire for something greater. But both miss the point that the higher life is only found in the Creator of Life. The Prodigal Son found the end of his lawless pursuit in his father (Luke 15:17-24).
This is why false teaching is so hard to define. It’s a moving target, depending on where you are. But you’ll notice some similarities: trying to achieve status with God, satisfaction in life, or comfort in the end in something other than Christ.
When Paul gives the instructions about food and drink, he never disconnects it from control or influence. In Ephesians 5:18, he wrote: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Gluttony is a sin because food can have mastery over us.
So, because we’re freed to enjoy life, we remember that we’re under the mastery of the Holy Spirit, and we’re not to submit ourselves to anything or anyone other than Christ.
I wanted to clarify from the sermon yesterday: we can fully enjoy life without engaging in lawlessness, legalism, or idolatry. When Christ is our master, we receive food, drink, and other things, as gifts to be enjoyed, not idols to be worshipped or tools for appeasing God.
My hope is not to make lawless Christians. It’s to help Christians understand how good God has been to us, how thankful we should be for all He’s provided, and enjoy things more fully. This will help us possess our possessions, not allow our possessions to possess us!
This coming Sunday:
This week, we will overview 1 Timothy 4:6-16 as we look at good pastors.
From the Cheap Seats:
- Here’s another catch that you need to watch: https://bleacherreport.com/post/mlb/bdf1fc25-6662-4fda-afa5-56365b5f472f
- 2 out of 3 from the Braves…I like it! Let’s keep moving forward, Rangers. Speaking of the Rangers: I’m looking forward to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sy–P-wkYQg.
- NFL draft thought that I keep reminding myself about: NFL executives have more information, more money, more details, and more expertise than I do. Just because I’ve listened to three podcasts doesn’t make me an expert…
Enjoy your food this week with a glad heart!