Our Bible verses this week look into the lives of two groups of people who have become too focused on specific aspects of God and in so doing have limited God's ability to affect their lives. The Sadducees had drawn lines around the Bible indicating that if an issue were not found in the first five books then it was not an issue for God. In this narrow viewpoint they could not accept God's wonderful gift of eternal life. Their closed minds created boundaries that David indicates in Psalm 145 do not exist.
The Thessalonians, in the same way, had narrowed their focus to the Second Coming of Christ. Because they were so certain that He would return at any moment, they ceased doing anything else. They had become immobilized and fearful. These thoughts, combined with the Roman persecution of their faith, had caused them to forget that they were direct recipients of the salvation Christ gave through His death on the cross. Not unlike Haggai's call to the Israelites to get up from their gloomy inward focus, Paul tells the Thessalonians to stay steadfast in their faith in God, stay focused on His truth, and work courageously and unceasingly towards the building of God's kingdom.
Today, at times, one wonders if we as Christians have learned anything from these lessons of the past. The more we know about God, it seems, the more we focus narrowly on one aspect of His kingdom. Over the past couple of decades there has been an upwelling of evangelical fervor sweeping across our nation. Thousands of people have come to Christ through non-traditional means and non-denominational churches. Strip malls, gymnasiums, and parking lots have been filled with glorious sounds of praise and music. The evangelical spirit is sweeping the nation and it makes us all want to jump on board and sing along with the wonderful music. Traditional denominational churches across the country have begun having contemporary or praise worship services to tap into this spirit.
The evangelistic spirit is a wonderful thing to behold and it is opening hearts to the love of Christ. Hallelujah!
But there is danger afoot. The danger and evil of self-righteousness has begun to run rampant. Narrow viewpoints and interpretations of the Bible are creating a very limited perspective of what God is capable of doing. The world has become black and white. A mindset has developed that states: "either you believe exactly the way I believe or you will be damned." The Bible has changed from being a resource used to develop a larger image of God to a tool used to justify our thoughts and actions. There is an increasing tendency to omit or ignore the teachings of Christ. The Great Commandment to love your neighbor as your self can be set aside if that neighbor is homosexual or to condone a war against a hated and non-Christian group of people. He tells us to not to judge one another and provides an example of a proud yet very wrong Pharisee in prayer self-righteously judging the character of a lowly tax collector. However, this teaching is ignored when it becomes okay to judge the actions of others under the label of moral or family values, especially for topics like unwed mothers, abortion, stem-cell research, and gay marriage.
The wonderfully amazing evangelistic spirit is being destroyed by the increasing tendency of its leaders to behave and act just like the Thessalonians, Pharisees, and Sadducees that Jesus and Paul warned us from being. As we focus too narrowly on what we think is right and then take that self-righteousness and apply it universally with dollops of condescension, we are limiting God in our lives and in the lives around us.
Faith in God means we can trust that He will lead us as individuals and as a country to where He wants us to be led. He will work amazing miracles in all circumstances, even in those circumstances that appear ungodly. He will change lives and pour out grace on all who call His name, even the worse sinner among us. He will love equally and abundantly the murderer, the rapist, the abortionist, the homosexual, yes, and even the liberal.
David in this week's psalm said: "My mouth is filled with GOD's praise." When we focus strictly on God and the only thing we say or do is to praise Him for His glory then we are fully engaged in the true and glorious evangelistic spirit. If we utter anything other than praise, if we point a single finger of judgment or scorn, we have then left the building of God's kingdom just as the Israelites in Haggai had stopped building the temple. By doing, so we begin building our own kingdoms filled with hate and self-righteousness, effectively limiting the glory of God in our lives.
Evangelicals of the world unite - unite in the praise of your Lord. It is what you do best and it is how God's kingdom becomes available to everyone who seeks His love.
Our GOD, O our King! We lift you high in praise. Let our mouths be filled with your praise. You have sent the promise of salvation and eternal life into our lives with the sacrifice of your Son on the cross. No one is deserving of this great act of love. We fail miserably at holiness. And yet, you continue to pursue our hearts with unceasing love. You abundantly bless us so that we, in turn, can be a blessing to the world. Expand our view of your glory so that we will learn to realize that there are no boundaries to your love or to the possibilities of what you are able to do in our lives. Fill us with your Spirit and make us holy in your sight. Take our overwhelming tendency to be right and filled with pride and destroy it with an understanding that there is no room for self-righteousness when we love with an agape love. Erase our fears and fill us, instead, with the love, peace, joy, and hope that emanates only from you. We pray, Lord, that our faith in you be strengthened to the point that we can trust you with every aspect of our lives. Put us to work at building your kingdom in ways that the world can come to know your glory. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior we pray, Amen.
This is a wonderful Bible study. Does it belong in APOLOGETICS? And, do you really seek to side track this study with the Liberal vs Conservative argument? that's in Apologetics?
You are 100% right in intimating that we MUST read the whole Bible, apply all of it and not smorgasbord it. But, then, the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth and knowledge--no? Keep writing!