Friday, January 18, 2008

Eyes to See (Matthew 18)

As we read through scripture our minds break the passages into bite-sized chunks and remember them by particularly poignant or colorful content. However, God has arranged his Word with incredible wisdom to teach us through over-arching themes and lessons. Matthew 16 contains one such lesson.

This chapter contains four sections that all point toward the same idea: we need eyes to see what God is doing in his kingdom. The Pharisees and Sadducees have aligned themselves to eliminate Jesus and approach him with a request for a miraculous sign. Jesus responds, "You don't have eyes to see who I am!" Jesus asks his disciples how others identify him, following with a pointed question; "Do you have eyes to see who I am?" When Jesus outlines the events of his death, Peter rebukes him and the Lord responds, "You don't have eyes to see what the Father is doing in his kingdom!" And finally, Jesus challenges his disciples, saying "If you want to follow me, you cannot see things with an earthly perspective. You need eyes to see what it takes to make it in the Kingdom of Heaven!"

My heart is drawn to Jesus' warning to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. These two Jewish sects held vehemently to opposed views on particulars of their faith. Each group had become so sternly focused on non-essential tenants of Judaism that they were completely unaware that Yahweh was standing in flesh before them. I'm sure their obsession with their favorite religious details started innocently enough. However, the leaven of the non-essentials grew in each sect to the point that their members' identities were built on these distinctives.

In the same way, the Church and we as individual Christians need to be very careful to avoid the leaven of the non-essentials. Sadly, it seems that we may have already become victim to it on a corporate level. By nature, denominations are what they are because of non-essential differences. Why do I describe them as non-essentials? Because the only true essentials in Christianity do not allow for any variance. If you don't hold to the essentials, you're not practicing true Christianity! The essentials are a precious few beliefs (i.e. salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone), whereas there exists a myriad of non-essentials from which Christians choose their favorites to align by (i.e. "once saved, always saved" or speaking in tongues). As a Church, we have divided ourselves and become so focused on non-essentials that we often completely miss what God is doing in his kingdom. This is an ailment that the Body of Christ desperately needs to see healed by the Holy Spirit in order to regain her health, intimacy with God and "saltiness" in the earth.

Jesus, give us wisdom to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials. Help us have eyes to see what you are doing in your kingdom, unobstructed by things that don't matter!

"Unity in essentials. Liberty in non-essentials. In all things charity."

Matthew 16

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