by Mike Ratliff
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:3 ESV)
Part of being discerning is having to listen to or read certain preachers and teachers in order to compare what they are saying to what God’s Word clearly says. Some of my friends and fellow team members at CRN are exceptional at this. I, on the other hand, become weary of it very quickly. I know that we must do it, but it just wears me out especially since much of what I am hearing from these people is exactly what I was immersed in from the time I was a new Christian until God shoved me out of our old church when it went Purpose Driven back in 2006. Since then, it is as if shields have been removed from my eyes. I listened to Chris Rosebrough break down a sermon titled “How to hear the voice of God” over the last couple of days (it was a long show) of Jamey Stuart of Believers Church in Chesapeake, Va. Chris did a fine job, but Jamey wore me out. His sermon amounted to “make yourself uncomfortable, get busy, and then you can hear from God” as he misapplied his teaching from the book of Jonah. This is exactly the message I used to hear continually from a couple of the churches we used to belong to. It brought back a lot of bad memories. I even remembered the guilt trips the pastors used to try to get us “busy.” Chris is right when he called this pure Law, not Gospel. Our Lord has some good news for refuges from this sort of bondage.
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; (Matthew 11:25 ESV)
Yes, our Lord Jesus used sarcasm. Here, he refers to the Jewish leaders as wise and understanding while His followers as little children in comparison. On the other hand, carefully read the following passage.
and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 18:3-10 ESV)
God has revealed His truths to those the world would not deem worthy, while those the world would otherwise elevate, like the Jewish religious leaders, are left blinded to them. These “unworthy ones” in the world’s eyes are given the truth of the Messiah and His Gospel even in the face of those who hate these very truths. God’s ways are not man’s ways.
yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:26-27 ESV)Here we see the Sovereignty of God over all the affairs of men and that Christ claims that the task of executing the divine will has been committed to Him. This claim would utterly blasphemous if Jesus were anything less than Sovereign God Himself.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (Matthew 5:3) then reread Matthew 11:28-30 (above). To whom are these messages addressed? They openly invite all who hear, but they both are phrased such that the only ones who will respond are those burdened by their own spiritual bankruptcy and weight of trying to save themselves by keeping the law. The unregenerate heart is so stubborn that without a sovereign-bestowed spiritual awakening, none will acknowledge the depth of their spiritual poverty. Jesus says in v27 that salvation is the sovereign work of God. Then in vv28-30 this coheres with the free offer of the gospel. What is the result? In v29 those to whom the Son chooses to reveal the Father (the regenerate) hear the gospel, believe the gospel, turn in repentance to the Son for salvation and, in return, find rest for their souls.
This is why it is so tragic for these so-cool pastors with their “mega-cool” works-righteousness churches putting so many of their “Jesus-followers” in their congregations into such bondage of trying to keep the works of the law. This is the opposite of the rest promised by our Lord. This rest speaks of a permanent respite in the grace of God completely apart from works (v30).
I am not upset with Chris. He did a fine job, but listening to these fella’s lay these guilt trips on their people and talk doing such and such so God will do this and that, which is simply works of the law, well, it just takes me back to those days before God drew me into the light by removing me from the deception. It makes me both sad and angry when I think of all those believers out there in this sort of bondage to a works righteousness and they don’t even know it. They believe this is how God works because they don’t know the Word of God well enough to check out what they are being taught. Therefore, these discernment ministries are vital. We may not be able to get everyone to listen, but God may get some to hear the truth and move into the light and out of the bondage. God’s will be done.
Soli Deo Gloria!