For many years now, I have been leading worship services in partnership with Wildwood’s Worship Pastor, Greg Hill. (BTW: We are incredibly blessed to have this man leading our worship each week as a congregation! But I digress . . .) As a part of every worship service we plan, we actually schedule down to the minute the content that is going into each service. This kind of precision is necessary when multiple programs are working in tandem throughout the building (children/student/adult classes, multiple worship services, etc.) As such, Greg and I have a running joke that goes something like this:
Greg – “How long is the sermon going to be this week?”
Mark – “Two more minutes than I think.”
This may sound or seem silly to you, but I promise it is really how I feel. No matter if I have 25 minutes for the sermon (like 3 weeks ago when we took extra time to honor the Hesses), or if I have 35 minutes (like I had two weeks ago), or if I have 30 minutes (like yesterday when we celebrated communion), I always wish I had 2 more minutes . . . 27, 32, or 37. I know that if I had those “two,” invariably I would want 2 more. Why is that?
You could say it is poor planning, but I actually script things out quite a bit . . . it actually has less to do with me as it has to do with God. I am not blaming God, but worshipping Him as I say that. His Word is just so much greater than any time can contain. If I was simply sharing with you my opinions or personal philosophies, I would need to find ways to STRETCH time, but when God’s Word is at the heart of the sermon, who can exhaust it?
That said, I am going to be experimenting this fall with sharing “two more” with you from the previous message here on my blog. I won’t do this every week most likely, but just as the Lord leads (and time allows). I wanted to start this week because there were a couple of things from yesterday’s message I wanted to expand a bit upon.
NOTE: You can find the 32 minute (ha ha) version of my 30 minute sermon from yesterday by clicking here (yes, it was my fault the service went 2 minutes long.)
Three added thoughts from Authentic (part 3):
- “They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long” – Matthew 23:5. In this verse I made the observation that Jesus was calling out the Pharisees and scribes as “actors wearing costumes” instead of possessing an authentic relationship with God. In the message we talked about how the Pharisees wore fancy costumes as they worshipped that included “can’t miss them” phylacteries and fancy fringes. Jesus here was not saying that people could not wear these accessories, but that they should not wear them FOR THE PURPOSE OF IMPRESSING OTHER PEOPLE. If those items were helpful for worship or to encourage others, I don’t think Jesus would have called them out, but these items were designed to gain personal approval, so Jesus rejected them as a mere costume . . . an imitation, not authentic faith. I made the application to our use of social media. There is nothing wrong with the use of social media in connection with our faith . . . but we should not show our practice of our faith through social media as a means to convince other people how spiritual we are. If we want to post to social media a picture of our Bible while we are having a quiet time in order to encourage our friends and family with a great truth we saw . . . go for it! But if we want to post a picture of our quiet time on social media just so people know we are having a “quiet time” then we are venturing into phylacteries and fancy fringes. It is a statement directed at our motivations as much as our actions. Next time before you post, ask yourself, “why am I posting this? To gain the approval of others (so they will think I am more spiritual/a better person), or because I want to serve them through directing them to this truth or practice?”
- “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 23:9. Interesting that Jesus does not here say that they should not seek to be called “father” but that they should call “no man father.” Now, this is not a rejection of the nuclear family, but it is calling out people’s ultimate allegiances. In the first century, there were various “traditions of the fathers” . . . different streams of thinking passed down from famous rabbis of the past. Some would say they were of “Father John” while others would say they were of “Father Sam,” etc. The trajectories can end up way off when people attach themselves to thought “fathers” and take that person’s understanding, theology, philosophy as “gospel” and stop running the opinions of that person through the grid of Scripture. I made the statement in the message that in our world today, people are equally tempted to associate with the teachings of people. Historically, there are people like Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, or John Wesley – whose theological legacies have influenced millions. Even today, people attribute much of their understanding of different issues to MacArthur, Piper, Keller, or others. Jesus here is not denying the value and input of others . . . but He is warning against allowing any human being (and their interpretations/understandings of things) to take precedence over the Scriptures. Our Heavenly Father Himself is the ultimate authority, and any other human leader is only ultimately authoritative as they are speaking in line with God’s revealed truth in Scripture. God’s Word itself is to be our ultimate guide.
- “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11-12. It is fascinating that Jesus ends this section of His message with this statement. At first glance, it seems like He was just making a generalized/disconnected statement . . . but this comment directly ties to the preceding context. The Pharisees were promoting a religion that sought to elevate self by showy practices, earthly honors, and fancy titles. Jesus cuts right to the chase and lets us know that the truly AUTHENTIC followers of God are best known by the love they show for others and the way they serve them. Isn’t that amazing? The Pharisees and scribes knew their bibles better than the average person, cared about theology, sought to be extreme in their “practices of personal piety,” and flat out wanted to “look” spiritual. Yet, Jesus says they were merely actors . . . imitations that missed the mark. The truly spiritual were not those who elevated themselves, but those who humbled themselves. The truly spiritual were not those who knew “everything” but those who knew Him. The truly spiritual were not those who pursued showy practices or fancy titles, but those who rolled up their sleeves to care for another – even if no one saw it (or tweeted about it). If you want to pursue an authentic relationship with God, it begins with Christ and it plays out in modeling His love and service for others. Can I get an “AMEN” to that?
Just a few things to continue to reflect on from yesterday. Now if I only had 2 more minutes 🙂