OK… So… I am rarely one to say “I told you so.” But sometimes I just can’t help myself.
As you will hear on this week’s PODCAST, my dear friends, I told you so.
All courtesy of Jesus.
All centered upon a Most. Significant. Parable.
One of a duet of parables, actually. The first having been discussed at length last week. The second to be discussed here and now.
Get ready to think. Be prepared to process. Buckle yourself in as we once again (thanks to Jesus) shift a paradigm.
In short, get ready to view the world differently.
Here we go, with Matthew 13:33 (NIV)
33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Much like today, when Jesus originally spoke these words, God was “big business”. A lot of people made a lot of money “doing God’s work”. From trading currency in the temple to selling illegitimate animals for sacrifices, to paying off Roman officials in order to receive perks of their own, corrupt synagogue leaders and others were able to collect quite a few coins from the faithful as they sought God’s grace.
Jesus sought to put an end to it.
And just like Pharisees such as Simon and even Zacchaeus, who could have worn the label of “Celebrity Rabbi”, we have celebrity Christian leaders today as well. I mean, imagine if Peter, John, or Paul were to ever charge people $80 to hear them speak God’s truth at a local conference. It didn’t happen. But it does today. And we pay. We sit at their feet and soak it in.
But, as I said, this celebrity pastordom isn’t new to the 21st century. Paul wrote about it in 1 Corinthians 1:
12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Then Paul picks up the same idea in the third chapter of 1 Corinthians:
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
Meaning this: The world has, and has always had, it’s list of celebrities; and we, the Church are too desperate to have our own.
It seems as though our own faith is so insecure that we only get charged up and encouraged when we learn that a nationally recognized football star proclaims his faith, or a highly rated television show features stars with Christian conviction, or when we hear best-selling authors or pastors at local conferences. There’s something in us that whispers, “If they believe it, then it must be true.”
In a modern context, we could look at Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and rewrite it to the Americans:
…One of you says, “I follow John Piper”; another, “I follow John MacArthur”; another, “I follow Mark Driscoll, or Beth Moore, or Joel Osteen, or Rick Warren, or Tim Tebow, or Jim Bob Duggar, or Phil Robertson”; still another, “I follow Christ…”
Now, before we go any further, know this: I am not taking a cheap shot at any of these individuals. I know and have worked with several of them and I know that their hearts are pure. They did not make themselves celebrities. We did. They didn’t put themselves up on pedestals. We did.
All I know is that when you look at the font size on the cover of a study bible and the size of the name of the author’s name is larger than the word Bible, we have a problem.
The truth is that if anyone should be recognized as a celebrity within Christianity, it should only be those who have died a martyr’s death for their faith.
Look at Matthew 13:31-32
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
When Jesus said the same thing about a mustard seed as he did a woman’s yeast, he definitely was trying to drive home a point: The kingdom of heaven is built of small things, seemingly insignificant things. Not the giant platform of a coliseum, or megaphones, or lights, cameras, or celebrity.
But beneath the surface, in the way roots of a mustard tree grow and the way leaven or yeast spreads, the influence of the Gospel spreads quietly, imperceptibly, person-to-person as you and I live out our commitment to Christ, touching one another’s live throughout the week without any fanfare.
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