Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Message over Messenger

We all hear messages we do not want to listen to, and many times we hear it from teachers we do not want to hear it from. There are many responses to challenging messages.  One is to search the Scriptures and make sure what is being said is true, and if it is, we need to pray for that change in our lives.  That is the correct response.  Unfortunately, many times we attack the messenger.  The messenger is easy to attack because no teacher is perfect and no teacher has experience in every area he teaches in.  We may also see the teacher as someone we do not like or someone who is "less" of a Christian then we are.  We may also look for sin in the teacher's life and use that to question their credibility.  I want to talk today about separating the message from the messenger and how those approaches are merely an act of rebellion and not one of submission to God. 

First let us talk about those who harden their hearts.  God has told us this would happen in these latter days. 
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  2 Timothy 4:3 NKJV
People would rather hear a message that tickles their ears and not one that convicts their hearts.  People want to hear how "good" they are, instead of what they could be doing that is better.  People have even accused me of being too negative in my posts, and while it is true I do teach an uncompromising message, it is not meant to discourage you.  I do not write to bring anyone down but to share with everyone how much better your life can be when truly abiding in Christ and in His Word.  It is not about the bad, but about the contrast.  When we live in ways that are in rebellion to God, we are cheating ourselves of that awesome abundant life in Christ.  I also hope that if anyone disagrees with me, that they will get into the Word (as some have and we have had some great discussions), and challenge me.  But with me, or any other teacher, check what you hear in God's Word before deciding whether or not to reject it.  Hardening our hearts to a true message from God's Word only hardens our hearts against our relationship with God. 

Many people (and I am guilty of this myself to some extent) nitpick and look for something imperfect with a message thinking that if the teacher is imperfect, the message is imperfect, and if the message is imperfect, we do not have to listen to it.  First of all, Jesus was the only perfect teacher.  This may shock many of you, but not even am I a perfect teacher.  Not even the apostle Paul was a perfect teacher. While the epistles contained in God's Word are perfect, they are not a testament to his perfection.  God spoke through Paul as he wrote those epistles.  Paul also wrote many other epistles that are not part of God's Word.  Those, while I am sure were solid in their theology, did not meet the level of perfection required for God's word.  The only perfect "teacher" we have now is God's Word and the Holy Spirit who ministers that Word to our hearts.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  1 Corinthians 2:12-13 NKJV
knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  2 Peter 1:20-21 NKJV
If a teacher is teaching from the Word of God then the evaluation must be on the Word, not the teacher.  If a perfect teacher is what you are waiting for, then you will never hear a message worth your while.  You have created for yourself a situation where all teaching is bad teaching.  That may help you feel less convicted, but it also prevents you from growing.  Again, what needs to be evaluated is the message in light of God's Word.  While the teacher is imperfect, God's Word is perfect. 

We also like to ignore messages because we feel that the teacher is somehow unqualified to teach because of a lack of life experience or specific experience in what is being taught.  This is a silly argument as just about every parent trusts their children to be taught by people who have no education or experience in what they teach.  Professional teachers generally have teaching degrees and teaching degrees is only in teaching theory.  Some have specific degrees in particular subjects, but rarely do they have life experience.  And those parents who home school their children do not even have a degree yet they still adequately teach their children.  Paul was never married and had no children, yet his epistles contain the central teaching on the relationships of husbands and wives and parents and children.  As Christians, our knowledge comes from the Word of God more than it does life experience.  And even the life experience that is part of our teaching must be evaluated in how it relates to the Word of God. 
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.  1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV
Timothy was about 30 years old at this time (probably a few years older), but in those times you were not considered an elder until you were 50 years old.  The elders generally looked down upon the younger as not having the life experience that they have.  Paul shares with us here that age is not important when it comes to teaching. Timothy was called to be a leader in that church and to live as an example.  Such as we should evaluate teachers so that we are not evaluating their life experience, but on the message they preach.  Again, one needs to evaluate their message in light of Scripture, not life experience.

And finally we ignore messages because either the teacher is sinful or seen as "less" of a Christian than we are.  That is completely a matter of pride and arrogance.  We are not to be prideful of our own standing before the Lord as compared to others, but we are to compare our standing to the example of Jesus. That is a comparison we all fall short in. We do not know the heart of the teacher and so to call that person less of a Christian is ignorant.  If we look at much of the life of King David, we see a man who committed adultery, sent the offended husband off to die, had innocent blood on his hands, counted the Israelites despite the warning of God causing the death of thousands of his brethren, failed to discipline his son who raped his sister, and more.  If we look at his life and try to compare ourselves to him, we think we can feel pretty good about ourselves.  However, God declared him to be a man after God's own heart.  Can God declare that about you?  You also can not ignore the message because the teacher had some sin in his life as we all have and had sin in our lives.  I am not excusing the sin of the teacher, but that sin is between him and God and not between him and you. Should we ignore Peter because he denied Jesus?  Should we ignore Paul because he persecuted Christians?  Should we delete most of the Psalms because of David's sins?  Of course not!  If you judge a teacher's message based on his sin past or present, then I say to you Jesus said to those who would stone a woman for adultery:
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."  John 8:7 NKJV
If you judge a message because of the teacher's past or present sin, you area denying the cleansing work of the blood of Jesus.  You are not sinless, so hurling stones at a teacher screams of hypocrisy.  If God can speak through a donkey, if God can cleanse Paul who persecuted Christians, if God can redeem the Son of  Sam serial killer, and if God can reach you and me then who are we to judge someone's past over the message. Again, the message needs to be evaluated in light of Scripture. 

In Acts chapter 2, we hear of the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Shortly thereafter a crowd gathered around where they were and they all heard what they were saying each in their own language.  Many proclaimed the wonder of hearing the message of the good works of God.  Others scoffed and proclaimed the messengers to be drunk.  Those who heard were saved, those who scoffed were not.  If you have not accepted the  message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how tragic will it be when you stand before God and you see how instead of hearing the message, you scoffed the messenger.  As for those of us who are saved, when we stand to have our works judged, will we see how we heard God's message for our lives to enjoy that relationship with Him or will we see how we missed out because we scoffed the messenger?  Don't be guilty like the Pharisees who scoffed Jesus looking for any imperfection instead of taking the time to hear His message.  Don't be like the Roman soldiers who mocked Jesus instead of hearing His message.  Don't be like the Israelites who saw the broken and bloodied Jesus and cried out "Crucify him!" instead of remembering the message he preached to them. 

It really comes down to a heart issue.  People who use ad hominem attacks to reject a message they do not want to hear are doing so to give themselves an excuse to reject what they know to be true.  Yes, everything should be evaluated as to whether or not it is in compliance with God's Word, but a message should not be evaluated in light of who delivers it.  The messenger is the surface, the message is the substance and like God we need to judge not how something appears but substance of what it is.  The appearance of a message is the teacher who delivers the message, the substance is the message.  You will not be able to stand before God and say that you rejected His message because you did not like who delivered it.  Embrace the challenge of hard messages and you will be blessed with a deeper relationship with the God who loves you.  Reject the hard message and go on living as you area now.  Don't cheat yourself of the blessing God has for you! 
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. " John 15:10-11 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. How true!! I, too, am guilty of discrediting a message because of who is giving it instead of weighing it in the Word!

    Love your line.."That may help you feel less convicted, but it also prevents you from growing"