Jump Start # 2166
Matthew 15:12 “Then the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?”
We live in a time when everyone wants to be happy and the spirit of service is to please. I go to a pizza place, and at the door there are three buttons to rate the service. You go to a store, and as you are handed your receipt, the cashier circles the bottom where you go on line, take a survey and rate how the service was. At another store, a message appears on the check out screen asking if you were satisfied. I go to get the oil change at a dealership, and immediately there is an email, wanting me to rate the service. How did we do? Were you satisfied? It seems all around us is this atmosphere of wanting to make the customer pleased. Businesses know that a satisfied customer will not only return, but he is likely to tell others and get them to come as well. Word of mouth is the best advertising method.
Somehow Jesus didn’t think that way. Our passage tells of some unhappy listeners, the Pharisees. Worse, they were offended. That word is often the death blow to visitors in a church setting. An offended visitor won’t come back. They heard something that upset them and they are finished with that place. However, Jesus didn’t seem to be bothered by unhappy Pharisees.
Jesus had just declared that some were hypocrites. They honor God with lips but their heart was far away. They were worshipping in vain. What defiles a person is what proceeds out of the mouth. After being told that some were offended, Jesus didn’t go and try to make things right. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t take a leave of absence. He wasn’t replaced. He didn’t send a team to go smooth things over with those offended. Rather, Jesus said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.” Jesus wasn’t changing.
The culture of pleasing everyone spills over into the church, and especially the message of the sermon. Modern preachers tip toe around sensitive subjects, often staying away from words like HELL, OBEDIENCE, and SERVING. Famous preacher Osteen admits that he never uses the word “Sin.” Never. His arena packed audience laughs, feels great and enjoys the smiling preacher who makes them feel good. Paul’s words to Timothy on preaching, reprove, rebuke and exhort, just doesn’t seem to fit in the spirit that some feel ought to exist. Church ought to make one feel better, is the thought. Sermons ought to inspire, is the attitude.
I expect had Jesus’ audience being given the opportunity to take a survey and rate His preaching, many would have been negative. Now, some enjoyed listening to Him. Herod like listening to John the baptist. Felix like talking to Paul. But most would have been offended. We know this because many walked away from Him in John 6 when Jesus stopped providing free food. Others wanted to see Jesus do signs and miracles, as if He was a side show carnival act.
And, all of this brings us to the culture of worship services. In a time in which everyone is trying to please us, wanting to know our reaction to how we were served, we don’t find that among God’s people. The spirit is not trying to please the audience, but to bring praise and honor to God. As the word is preached, toes will be stepped on. Some will get the shine knocked off their shoes. Some will be uncomfortable. Some will feel guilt. Some will realize that if what is being said is true, then they are wrong. The message of sermons is not information but transformation. It leads us to changing. Just as I am, is a song about our condition when we come to Christ, but Just as I am, is not how I stay. I change. I become. And, through the process of the preached word, I am challenged, I am taught and I am persuaded to be what God wants me to be. Making me happy and satisfied is not the goal of worship services and especially not of the sermon. When God’s word is preached, it ought to bother those who are not right. It ought to stir a feeling within us that God is expecting me to change.
Some will leave church services, not with a smile on their face, but a serious look in their eyes. They have come to realize that some changes need to be made. It may be that they learned that they need to forgive and get rid of the bitterness in their heart towards others. That’s a tough road for some to travel down. They’d rather harbor ill feelings than to forgive. It may be that they learned that they need to pray for their enemies. That’s not the message they want to hear. They want to punch the lights out of their enemy. It may be something in their marriage. It may be in parenting. It may be in stepping up and using talents in the kingdom. The message makes them uncomfortable. Discipleship is hard. There is a cost to pay. Rather than getting a pat on the back and a gold star on top of their paper, the sermon scorched them. It shot right through the excuses that they were hiding behind. It stung and it hurt.
Like the Pharisees in our passage today, some are even offended. It’s not the message that they expected, wanted, nor did they like it. Some, will leave upset and they may not return. Some will go home and chew on what was said. They may, if their hearts are right, return a better person.
In parenting, we’d rather hear the truth from our child, than for them to tell us what they think will please us. Asking your college student how are the grades and he knows you want to hear that he’s doing well, so his answer is “fine.” And, at the end of the semester you learn that he’s flunked most of the classes, and his response is, “I didn’t want to bother you with the truth.” Now, there is a real problem.
We want our doctors to tell us the truth. Sure, it’d be great for him to say, keep doing what you are doing and all is fine, when in reality our heart is clogged and cancer is filling our body. Holding the truth may make us feel better, but we are not better. We are sick.
So, when it comes to the message preached, tell us nice things that makes us feel good, or tell us the truth? The culture says, “tell us nice things.” The Gospel demands that we tell the truth.
We recall Jesus saying, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Free from the prison of sin. Free from Satan’s grip. Free from guilt. Free from a coming punishment. Freedom in Christ is a wonderful thing, but it follows knowing the truth.
How did we do today is not the question to ask after a worship service. The real question is, was God pleased and did we honor Him by presenting His word in a truthful and kind fashion. We must be careful about being so concerned about making folks happy and satisfied that we forget about God in all of this.
It’s not about us, but it is about Him.