This morning I managed to drag myself out of bed early and make it in to church for our Thursday morning men's Bible Study. Noting the next youngest person in the room was a good 10 years older, I'm going to consider that an accomplishment for today. However, that's not what's significant about the time I shared from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. this morning.
Our Pastor was talking our of the gospels, using the stories of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and then the 4,000. Then, shortly after he is done with the second miracle, Christ and the disciples get into their boat, which as an aside may very well have been from Peter's former fishing fleet. As they're traveling, Jesus says in Matthew 16:6:
Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
They'd just finished a short time before feeding multitudes of people, and at these words they missed the point. The Disciples thought Jesus was talking about the fact that they'd not brought any food with them. But that wasn't the point at all. Jesus was warning them against the doctrines and comfortable religion of the so called leaders of the day.
Pharisees and Sadducees, while differing on certain theological points, enjoyed very comfortable lives. Most of them were strictly outwardly religious and didn't understand the concept of actually relating to God at all. This fact is evident by the encounter Jesus has in John 3 with Nicodemus. These guys understood the preservation aspect of God's work in our lives...sort of. They thought by 'being religious', following the rules, occasionally ordering people about and correcting others behavior, and following the law that they were set for life with God.
After all, God did give the law to Moses for people to follow in order to deal with the sin problem mankind has. The majority (not all) of them however, where much more interested in appearances that realities, though. But for the sake of example, we'll say they're all well intentioned and well meaning, and doing their best to live as they should. In that case, they would experience the preservation aspect of the Jewish, and today Christian, faith. That's real enough, for sure. Just as today, if we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart on the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved. There are no hitches, glitches, hangup or exceptions to this rule.
But is that all God intends? Is salvation the end-game for our Father?
Of course, the answer is no. God doesn't want the church to be a country club, as I've said before. Its not, as so many have termed it, 'us four and no more.' He wants us to "Go and make disciples", to be the "salt of the earth" and to let our light shine as an example for others. In fact, Jesus goes so far as to say this in Mathew 11:12:
And, from the days of John the Baptist till now, the reign of the heavens doth suffer violence, and violent men do take it by force (Young's Literal translation)
Having just completed these incredible works, with His followers observing and participating, Jesus then gives us the second element of what God intends for us...invasion. He wants us to enter into a relationship with Him, and He wants us to further that relationship on a personal level. Then He wants us to carry it a step further and do something to impact our society, our community, our world as a whole. Sitting in a pew or a chair and hearing a message and never doing anything to overtly advance the Kingdom is worthless.
Consider the Dead Sea, which has a continuous inflow of fresh, living water (as much as water can be alive, you understand) but has no outflow. The water comes in, sits in the over sized pool known as the Dead Sea, and, to use the term metaphorically, dies. Perfectly usable water becomes unusable and repulsive. Nothing lives in it, not even algae, due to the stagnation that for centuries has keep it from putting out anything its taken in.
We shouldn't be like that! Now, that doesn't mean we become fanatical and block entrances to abortion clinics and tell people who enter that they're going to hell. And we don't stick the proverbial or literal gun to someones head and make them profess faith. God doesn't deal with relationships like that, He makes is our choice and then does everything He can to convince us to chose Him! We SHOULD, however be active and involved, looking to reach into lives and situations with tangible expressions of His love and mercy.
Today, in our small Bible Study group ideas flowed for how we could do that. Everything from prayer walks around the community to changing oil in cars for single mothers was put out on the table. We asked ourselves the question 'If Jesus could look at a crowd and meet their felt need (for food) while still conveying spiritual truth, what can we do in our community along the same line?'
That encapsulates the very purpose of God. There is spiritual truth that must be conveyed. People are lost, hopeless, hurting, confused, emotionally scarred, scared, and unsure. They are purposeless and live as if their life is pointless. As a Christian, a child of God, I know that God steps into pointless lives and gives direction. I know that He provides purpose where there wasn't one before. But if we just stand around and wait for Him to do it, nothing will happen. He gave our lives a point. He extended to us a purpose...invade the darkness around you, and shine your light.
Do you have purpose? Of Course. Instead, ask yourself the question: Where am I supposed to step into the darkness and be a light?
Don't Be a Dead Sea!