FIGHT THE BAD FIGHT
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 23, 2018
1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
— Luke 17:1-10, ESV
Christianity is more militant that most of its modern models. It is supposed to resemble an army unit more than a social club or sales force. It is entered into by free grace through God-given faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ to be sure. Once baptized into the faith, however, we are given boots to wear, boots that come with marching orders.
Among our orders is the commandment to fight the bad fight against sin. All sin is bad, bad things happen when it is left unchecked, and the bad news that travels fast from it can deafen people to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We who are forgiven of sin must be the most militant against it, lest its bad effects stain our witness, corrupt our churches and families, and keep lost people away from the cross.
Fight the bad fight.
A more positive approach to the Christian life is to “fight the good fight of faith” (ref. 1 Timothy 6:12), or “contend for the faith” (ref. Jude 1:3). The ideal of fighting for the Christian faith is encouraging, hopeful, powerful. We wage the good fight with the good weapons of prayer, preaching, and personal witnessing.
But what is the opposite of faith? It is unbelief in the unbeliever. What is the opposite of faith for the Christian? “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (ref. Romans 14:23). So while Christians fight the good fight of faith, we must also fight the bad fight against sin.
The text before us in Luke refers to “sin” four times in the first four verses, and the context is clear that Christ is speaking to believers. What is sin? Sin is anything contrary to the word of God, which teaches us the will of God. Sin, even and especially secret sin, is anything that damages or puts distance in your relationship with God. Sin, when committed publicly, damages your witness for Christ and potentially turns family, friends, or strangers away from the gospel. Sin is terrible, sin is toxic, and sin is obviously not to he taken lightly by those who have had theirs nailed to the cross.
So, this text tells us we are to fight the bad fight against sin in our own lives and in other Christians’ lives. It is basic duty for those who are followers of Jesus Christ.
Fight against sin in your own life.
It is hard to fight an enemy you cannot see, so Jesus admonishes us, “Pay attention to yourselves!” We must learn to identify those awful “temptations to sin” so that we do not fall into them; or, even worse, perpetrate them upon other people. For this, God has given us at least three things.
All men and women have a conscience. This is what Paul meant when speaking of all mankind in Romans 2:15, “The law is written on their hearts.” Men made in God’s image are free moral agents, and unlike instinctive animals we can choose right from wrong. The problem with most people is that when their consciences prick them, they ignore the right and proceed into the wrong. This causes a defiled conscience, a hardness of heart, reprobation is the theological term, and eventually God gives up on those who have given up the fight against sin (ref. Romans 1:24-26). How horrible it must be to get to a point where you do not even care that you are living in sin.
Christians are different, however, for we not only have a moral conscience, we have the Holy Spirit. He lives within us and convicts us “concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (ref. John 16:8). The world cannot hear Him, but to believers He speaks louder than words. God teaches us through His Spirit what sin is, what the right or righteous thing to do is, and the judgment that befall those who disobey and disbelieve Him. The Holy Spirit is the perfect Teacher, and He has a perfect textbook.
To fight the bad fight against sin we must hear, read, study, and learn to obey the written word of God, the Bible. It is an offensive and defensive weapon, “The sword of the Spirit” (ref. Ephesians 6:17). Know it and you will know what sin is, and how to fight against it and win.
It is a sinful temptation to treat sin lightly. Christians are forgiven, right? Real Christians are, indeed. But the reason we who are forgiven fight against sin is for the sake of those who are not. Perhaps the biggest reason unbelievers stay unbelieving is the sin and hypocrisy evident in the lives of professing believers. Our careless sin can “cause one of these little ones to sin,” to quote Jesus. “Little ones” include anyone who needs to be loved and taught to follow Jesus. The sure way to cut them off is to carelessly sin. Rather, fight the bad fight against it, beginning by examining your own life.
Fight against sin in your brother’s and sister’s life.
Jesus’ teachings, especially His “Sermon on the Mount,” contain beautiful and wonderful warnings against a self-righteous, judgmental attitude. A key passage is this:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye” (ref. Matthew 7:1-5).
Yet Luke records Him saying, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” There is no inconsistency here. Once you are fully fighting the bad fight against sin in your own life, you must help your brother and sister fight the same fight.
This brings an additional weapon into the bad fight. We have conscience, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Bible, and we also have one another. Sometimes believers often ignore their conscience, turn a deaf ear to the Holy Spirit, and neglect the word of God. Sins ensue, which is where a militant Christian must step in.
Warning! Do not be a Pharisee. Don’t rebuke a brother or sister for not keeping your marginal or unreasonable interpretation of Scripture. Don’t rebuke them over philosophical issues that are not rooted theologically. Don’t rebuke them for disagreeing with you, but don’t be afraid to rebuke them if they are clearly disobedient to the plain moral and spiritual claims of Scripture.
To not do so is to not love God. To not do so is to not love a fellow believer. To not do so is to not love the family, friends, and strangers who may also be tempted to turn away from the soul saving and life giving truths of God’s word. We fight the bad fight of sin in our fellow Christians’ lives out of the best and highest motive, love. And, hopefully, when they repent, which real Christians almost always do, we forgive, and forgive, and forgive.
Notice it is here that the disciples make a stark request, “Lord, increase our faith!” This is because the two hardest things to do in the Christian life are to rightly confront another Christian over sin and forgive someone when that sin is against you. So, much faith, which comes from much grace, needs to be given.
People bathed with grace and clothed with faith can fight the bad fight against sin, and win. We can keep our own lives reasonably clean and right with God. We can help fellow church members keep in step with the Spirit, too. This is part and parcel of our Christian duty, and much is at stake.
Remember what, or Who, we are fighting for.
I attach this parable to the previous teaching because the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to do so. In military bootcamp, one learns rather quickly which one is the sergeant and which ones are the grunts. In basic Christianity, Jesus is Lord and we are simply His followers and servants.
So, it becomes basic for people of faith to be faithful, to obey the word of God, and to quickly check ourselves when we get out of line. It is also basic Christian friendship and fellowship to lovingly lift up a brother who is falling down. If he stays out of line or if he goes down, everyone suffers. Let us do our duty, and let us remember for what, or Whom, and whom, we are really fighting the bad fight against sin.
God’s name and glory are at stake. The bad fight is actually a good fight indeed, a fight for the goodness, greatness, and glory of God. We trivialize God when we trivialize sin. We make Him look bad, we tread the precious blood of Christ underfoot, we grieve the Holy Spirit. This should be motivation enough.
God’s church and her mission are at stake. Grace is harder for the unbeliever to obtain when grace is abused by believers. We do not sin so that grace may abound (ref. Romans 6:1ff). We abstain from sin so that grace may be poured out upon sinners. Gandhi famously said he would have become a Christian except for the Christians, and this sentiment is exponential in our present world.
The bodies and souls of men, women, boys, and girls are at stake. Think of the victims of church splits fueled by slander, gossip, and pride. Think of the victims of homes ripped apart by adultery and deceit. Sin is not a harmless toy, it is a poisonous snake, and woe to the ones who let it in the house.
Atticus Finch fought the bad fight against the sins of slander and racism in To Kill a Mockingbird. In the closing courtroom scene he begged the jury to do the right thing. He said it was their duty. He said, “In the name of God, do your duty.”
In the name of God, let us do our duty, and fight the bad fight against sin.
Copyright Â© 2018 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
Check out the weekly happenings at Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
RICH MAN, POOR MAN
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 9, 2018
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
— Luke 16:19-31, ESV
With this parable found only in Luke, the author continues to chronicle Jesus’ apparent assault on the rich, or at least upon those who value money more than God. No doubt the Pharisees were again in view, along with others of their ilk who prized their purses more than the Creator and the apex of His creation.
The parable is a classic contrast, with a rich man appearing alongside a poor man. Much is made in the short story about what each one has and what each one has not. Appearances are deceiving, life is shorter than we know, and true riches and true poverty are revealed at the gates of Heaven and Hell.
The rich man lived heavenly, but wound up in Hell.
We don’t know much about the first character in the parable. He is given no name except a description that marks him as “a rich man.” He has all the trappings of wealth. He wears expensive suits, eats gourmet food, and lives in a big house in a gated community. He looked good, he lived well, but when he died he found his tables turned upside down.
We are not told how he became rich. Being rich is not a sin, necessarily, depending upon how one earns and spends his wealth. Many Old Testament saints, including Abraham, were quite wealthy. Many New Testament Christians with great fortunes have used their money to support churches, missionaries, seminaries, hospitals, and other entities that bring God glory and do people good. This man could have been an honest businessman and a philanthropist. Even so, money used generously cannot buy a ticket to Heaven.
We are not told how he treated Lazarus. He did not let him into his house, but would you let an apparent bum with open wounds into yours? It is not a sin to be protective of your home and family. We know Lazarus lusted after the rich man’s leftover food, but we do not know if he got any or not. Perhaps the rich man was kind, perhaps he sent Lazarus a plate every evening, but we do not know. We only know that good works are, well, good, but they are not the means by which a person enters into the kingdom of God.
So do not falsely accuse the rich man of hoarding ill-gotten gains or turning his back on the poor. Jesus did not say, so we do not know. We only know he lived a heavenly life, full of blessings and benefits, but wound up in “Hades,” or Hell, a place we learn much about from this parable.
Hell is irreversible. Once you go there, there is no way out. A “chasm” that cannot be crossed separates you from God and the saints. You cannot buy your way out. You cannot work your way out. You are there, forever, for there is no purgatory, no second chances, no way out.
Hell is inconsolable. This is a parable, so the “flame” is symbolic, but the point is sharp. Hell is hotter than fire, darker than night, and more final than death. It is the most uncomfortable place ever devised and there is no relief to be found. The rich man must have done some good deed for Lazarus, because he asked for repayment from Lazarus in the form of a single drop of water. But no kindnesses are repaid, no mercy is expressed, no comfort comes, ever, in Hell.
Hell is avoidable. Fully aware of his fate, the rich man requested a warning for his remaining family members. He wanted them to be able to avoid Hell by hearing from a resurrected saint who would obviously get their attention and give them the key to get out of Hell. God said no, but in doing so revealed the secret, the entryway into the kingdom of Heaven. It is the one thing Lazarus possessed that the rich man lived, and died, without.
The poor man lived hellishly, but wound up in Heaven.
Though we know as little about the “poor man” in the parable, at least he has a name. He is one of two people mentioned in the New Testament, this one fictional and the other one historical (ref. John 11-12), with the Greek name “Lazarus.” The Hebrew “Eleazar” is more common in the Old Testament, with at least eight prominent men bearing the name. Though this Lazarus is a character in a parable, what we learn from him is all too real.
Somehow Lazarus endured a hell on earth. He reached the end of his life dirt poor, which like being rich is not necessarily a sin, no matter what Pat Robertson and other televangelists have to say. He seems to be an honest man who fell on hard times, with no family or social support to help him in the end. His only companions were dogs, and they were not exactly man’s best friends in Jesus’ day.
The only thing we know for sure about Lazarus, and it is a big thing, is that when he died he went to Heaven. No one on earth seemed to care for Lazarus, but God cared for Lazarus. No one on earth seemed to love Lazarus, but God loved Lazarus. No one on earth gave anything to Lazarus, except maybe crumbs, but God gave to Lazarus all the resources of Heaven, citizenship with great saints like Abraham, the forgiveness of sins, and a too-wonderful-for-words eternal life.
Heaven is permanent. Once you are there, that same “chasm” that keeps people in Hell will keep you in Heaven. Lazarus could pay no rent on earth, but found a home in Heaven for free, all afforded by the manifold grace of God. All of his debts were paid, in more ways than one.
Heaven is wonderful. Surely this parabolic glimpse does not scratch the surface. But it is obviously a place offering fellowship with God and the whole family of believers. It is a place where the fullness of love, joy, and peace will be felt forever. It is a place where we know and are known by name, names like Abraham and Lazarus. It is a place of no tears, for there is no more sin, no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more death.
Heaven is attainable. On earth, the rich man had everything and Lazarus had nothing. But as earth gave way to eternity, the storehouses were switched, and the rich man had nothing and Lazarus had everything. Surely back on earth, Lazarus must have had something that the rich man did not. That he did, and it is the secret, the key, the very thing God demands that sends a person to Heaven and enables them to escape Hell.
What makes the difference between Heaven and Hell?
What did the rich man live for, possess in mass quantities, love with all of his heart, that Lazarus did not? Money, fortune, and fame. How is that working out for him now? Not too good.
What did Lazarus have that the rich man did not, other than poverty, sickness, and humiliation? Why did Lazarus get to go to Heaven while the rich man went to Hell? What is it that makes the difference between an eternity in Heaven or Hell?
When the rich man asked for a miracle, Abraham pointed him to something most people deem mundane. It was something the rich man and his brothers had under their noses their entire lives. It was something they ignored, or were ignoring, to their eternal peril.
To speak of “Moses and the prophets” in Jesus’ day was a way of referring to the written word of God, the Bible. The rich man probably had thirty-nine leather bound volumes in his home, but never bothered to read them. Lazarus could not afford a paperback copy, but listened and learned and believed and obeyed. Therein lies the difference. The key to Heaven is faith in the word of God and its central message, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The word of God is to be treasured. Most Americans are much more like the rich man than Lazarus. We are materially blessed. We wear nice clothes, eat good food, and live in better houses than most people in the world. But if you have a Bible, you are in possession of the most valuable thing on earth, for in it lies the key that escapes Hell and puts a person in Heaven forever.
The word of God is to be read and heard. Neglecting your physical health can lead you to an early grave. Neglecting the word of God will lead you to an eternal grave. The word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ are of no use to anyone who refuses to read and hear it. If it does hold the key to eternity, and it does, should it not be our ambition to consult it every day and throng to hear it read and preached on the Lord’s Day?
The word of God is to be believed. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (ref. Romans 10:17). I am no Unitarian nor Arminian, but I believe that anyone who opens and reads, or listens and hears, the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ with an open mind and heart will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The grace found in Scripture is irresistible and the power of God in the gospel is spiritual dynamite.
The word of God is to be obeyed. Obedience to baptism, communion, and participation in public worship do not earn salvation. Keeping the ten commandments or the many other commandments in the Bible do not tally points that will score you a victory in Heaven. But a person who does not obey the word of God and the gospel is a person who does not believe the word of God and the gospel. Lip servers will not be found in Heaven, only life servers.
The fate of the rich man was sealed by his neglect and disbelief in the truths of God revealed in Holy Scripture. The future of Lazarus was secured by the promises he believed in word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripture enshrines this story as that of a rich man and poor Lazarus. But in reality, and in eternity, who is the true rich man and poor man?
PHARISEES AMONG US
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 19, 2018
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. 16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. 18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
— Luke 16:1-13, ESV
Among the various personalities who paraded into Jerusalem during the last phase of our Lord’s public ministry, none were more notorious than the Pharisees. Though seldom was heard a discouraging word from the lips of our Lord, His few condescending comments were usually aimed at them. We boo and hiss when the name pops up in the Gospels, but we must remember the Pharisees were quite popular in Jesus’ day.
Pharisees were not born, they were made by learning to walk to the right of everybody else. They created and clung to elaborate, extra-biblical rules and regulations that they thought made them right with God and better than other people, even religious people, even the incarnate Son of God. As the confrontation between Christ and His biggest critics drew to a close at Calvary, the people opted to side with the Pharisees.
The Pharisees’ greatest hypocrisy was their claim to know and love God more than anyone else. After gaining the people’s confidence, they proceeded to steal, lead people astray, preach heresy, and commit adultery, all in the name of God. The Pharisees hounded Christ in His day and in hide out in the Christian church in our day. There are still Pharisees among us, and here is how you can spot them.
A Pharisee is a professing Christian who loves money more than God.
The first salvo fired at the Pharisees in this text comes on the heels of the previous one. Jesus’ declaration, “You cannot serve God and money” (ref. Luke 16:13) was aimed primarily at them. Instead of saying, “My God, You’re right,” they exalted themselves by belittling Jesus in the eyes of His beholders. When you cannot heed the message, attack the messenger.
It is true that you cannot serve God and money, though you can serve God with your money. But the Pharisees served money with God. In other words, they used their outward piety to gain increasing profits. They cheated widows out of their estates by feigning to act in God’s best interests (ref. Matthew 23:14). They withheld their resources from helping their aging and needy parents in the name of God (ref. Mark 7:11). These Jewish laymen constantly used their standing in the synagogue to prop up the earnings in their various economic interests.
Jesus knew the Pharisees loved money more than God, so He hit them right between the eyes with these words. Sadly, God’s words did not seem to poke their eyes nor penetrate their hearts. Perhaps they will comfort or condemn ours.
If you love God more than money, you can be a good follower of Jesus Christ. If you love money more than God, you are a Pharisee. Pharisees among us today rob God of tithes and offerings, are stingy with family and friends, and turn their backs on the poor. Statistics bear this out, but only God, you, and your banker know for sure if you are a good follower or a Pharisee.
A Pharisee is a professing Christian who leads people away from God.
The Pharisees were doers of good deeds, and they went to great lengths to make sure everybody knew it. They made long public prayers and let everybody see what they put in the offering plate (ref. Mark 12:40; Matthew 6:2). They took the best seats in the synagogue and scolded people for not following their rules and regulations. Of course they were hypocrites, but people fell for their act.
Since the Pharisees put up such a good front, people followed and even put them on a pedestal. The Pharisees’ movement was akin to the fundamentalists and prohibitionists of the early twentieth century who also gained great followings. But as people began to walk with the works-righteousness of the Pharisees, they were pulled further and further away from the grace and imputed righteousness offered by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus knew the Pharisees were leading people astray. The people followed them because of their outward appearances, but God knew their thoughts and intentions. Jesus revealed this to them, but once again His words ricocheted off the Pharisees’ hard hearts. Perhaps they catch us on the rebound, for what is popular with people is not necessarily kosher with God.
If you are a sincere follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, then no doubt you are leading others to do the same. However, Pharisees among us today go to church not to see God, but to be seen by people. They crave power in the church, too, wanting people to follow their rules rather than the pure and unadulterated word of God. They lead people astray from God and God’s word, and one day they will be called onto the carpet in a large room with a great white throne.
A Pharisee is a professing Christian who promotes heresy against God.
Verse 16 is one of the most difficult to interpret in the Scriptures. In this context it must mean something negative about the Pharisees. While the true word of God was preached by Old Testament prophets up to the time of John the Baptist, and while the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ has become the centerpiece of God’s word, the Pharisees were trying to force their way into the kingdom with their system of external obedience to extra-biblical commandments.
At least this much is certain. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had encapsulated the two greatest heresies ever known to mankind in one deadly pill. They denied the deity of Christ and believed in salvation by works. No two poisons are more potent. The Pharisees among Jesus disregarded His equality with God and disdained His offer of grace.
Pharisees among us abound with these two heresies hand in hand. Professing to be Christians, Arians and Pelagians and Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and many others have all followed in the Pharisees’ footsteps. Surveys in Baptist and other Evangelical churches reveal half of the people in the pews believe being good is the best way to Heaven. You see, there are still Pharisees among us.
Reject the Pharisees and the heretics. Believe in the Lord God Jesus Christ, and you will be secure in salvation. Rest in His grace, upon His finished work on the cross, in all He has done for you and not in what you have done for Him. Then be sure to do good works in His name, and keep yourselves free from idolatry and immorality, unlike the Pharisees among us.
A Pharisee is a professing Christian who commits adultery in the name of God.
Divorce is controversial in any context. Taking verse 18 out of context can make it even more so. Jesus is by no means condemning every person who has ever been divorced and remarried, even though the Pharisees among us, especially Baptists, take it this way.
Remember that the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. Jesus never promised we can get anything we want in prayer, even though some verses taken out of context might indicate such an interpretation. This has been exploited to the hilt by the health and wealth evangelists. A more perfect understanding is found in 1 John 5:14-15, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
Likewise, divorce is understood more fully when taking into consideration all of the biblical revelation. Scripture warns against it but realizes it happens. Therefore, it is regulated by the word of God (ref. Deuteronomy 24:1; Matthew 5:31-32, 19:7-9; 1 Corinthians 7:15).
The only legitimate reasons to be divorced, according to the Bible, are infidelity and abandonment. Those who commit adultery against a spouse or abandon an otherwise faithful spouse have a serious sin standing between them and God. Those who are victims of infidelity and abandonment are free to remarry, as long as it is another Christian, and so often a good remarriage is an answer to prayer and a healing gift from God. Only the Pharisees among us would condemn it.
But let’s get back to these Pharisees, the ones Jesus faced, for a moment. Clearly the term translated “indecent” in Deuteronomy 24:1 parallels with the New Testament understanding of “immorality.” But the Pharisees, with their myriad loopholes, translated it “any reason” in their religious rulebook. Therefore, even if a wife only burned the toast, a Pharisee was free to divorce her and marry another. Of course, like other sexual perverts before and after them, the Pharisees just used this as a guise for adultery and wife-swapping.
Surely there are not these kind of Pharisee among us today? Unfortunately, professing Christians divorce their faithful spouses every day, not because that spouse was unfaithful or ungodly in any definitive way, but just because, and I quote from years of counseling experience, “God wants me to be happy.” No, Pharisee, God wants you to be holy.
Here again, the word of God is meant to comfort the wounded and wound the comfortable. If you were the unwilling victim of a divorce, and you found a wonderful Christian person to marry afterward, then know that God does want you to be happy, healed, whole, and blessed. But if you divorced your spouse just to have sex with someone else, then you should repent before almighty God and apologize to the spouse, the children, and anyone else who got burned in your lust-fueled fire.
After all is said and done, there appears to be no love loss between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Pharisees. However, there is a great deal of love lost. Jesus lost their love, though He never had it in the first place. The Pharisees among us love themselves too much to have any room for anyone else, not even God. At the end of the day, however, God is not the one who suffers loss.
It is the Pharisees among us who will be hurt the most. They lose the love of God by simply not accepting it. They pass on Jesus, don’t think they need grace, and offer works of their own rather than faith in the Savior. They live their lives and go to meet their Maker without the love of God that has the power to save anyone in the world, even a Pharisee.
So, if you are one of the Pharisees among us, hear the word of God. You may not love Him, but He loves you. He does not need you, but you desperately need Him. Drop the act, burn your book of rules, repent of your hypocrisy, and find forgiveness and eternal life. Come to Jesus and find the love you need and the salvation He alone can give. Then walk and worship as a true Christians among us.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org