As Christians, one of the areas we often overlook in our discerning process is the misplaced emphasis of our teaching. The range of topics that most churches teach is varied and broad, but few topics are as important as submitting to Christ, repentance, humility, prayer, studying the word of God, and then what’s next. What's next is the preparation for the changes the end times will bring, and how are we preparing for the climax and conclusion of this world.
This has been my concern for a long time. I’m not sure we are preparing for what’s next on the world stage. Our media keeps us preoccupied with the indictments of former Presidents or how corrupt the Biden family has been for decades. All of this is preoccupying the nation with the wrong emphasis. The crime, the murders, and the racial discussions are all playing a part in creating the wrong emphasis. The church, on the other hand, is preoccupied with doing a series of sermons on topics that help us grow as Christians but fail to prepare us for the imminent return of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures teach us to watch and pray:
Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
This is where the emphasis should be placed. The watching is dialed into the signs of the times. As we read Matthew 24, we see how each section of this Chapter is about to happen, but the question I am asking today is, “Are we being prepared to play a significant role in preparing for the return of Jesus Christ?” Perhaps, some would say that is hope deferred, yet it is a hope that could happen at any time. Let me be clear … I’m not advocating for a total exchange from what we do now in church for only prophecy and end times, but I am asking that we look at where the emphasis is at in teaching and disciplining the church. The return of Jesus Christ has been referred to the Blessed Hope. How are we supporting that hope in our weekly and monthly teaching ministries?
Matthew 23 is the Chapter on the wrong emphasis. Jesus is excoriating the religion of His day. He calls them venomous vipers who do everything for public relations; in other words, to be seen by others. Jesus said all they wanted was the recognition of honor and to be the elite in their day. When they would evangelize for their religion, they would travel long distances to recruit new converts. Jesus was very firm throughout His assessment of these leaders … even calling these teachers people who train their followers to become children of hell. He called them blind fools, hypocrites, workers of lawlessness. He even ended His assessment by saying, “How can you escape being condemned to hell?”
When I read this Chapter, I get convicted of my own hypocrisy and realized we all need to make changes as we grow in Christ. I also think about this false narrative that the church preaches that we must love people, and not be offensive. Well, here is an example where Jesus told the truth. These leaders were driving people away from God through their teaching. Obeying the law doesn’t make you know God … it only makes you know His standards. This is why I have always taught that God hates religion. Why? Because religion doesn’t get to the root of what God wants. He wants your heart in relationship to His heart. He becomes our God and we become His people. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were only looking at the things He cited them for doing. That was the extent of their interest in God. Sad day, right? Religion, like the Pharisees, will only cause destruction and resentment toward God. Their blindness crucified Jesus … God used the blindness of religion to bring about the greatest event in history. So, I guess we can say that blind, hypocritical, pompous people can still be used by God.
Could these things Jesus cited be said about some of our religious leaders today? I think so. We have pastors and religious leaders in pulpits today who are even worse than these Pharisees. They support all the wrong causes, and they preach the wrong emphasis that is separate from God’s Word and the intent of the Holy Spirit. I’m not on a jag to root out names and ministries, but you know that some of the ministry emphasis you hear today is not squarely from the Bible. I have watched or read Christian leaders talk more about themselves, their vision, and their theology, than I about Christ. I really don't care anymore about anyone's success in ministry … that will be God’s job to judge them appropriately. I am concerned about my own life … that I would not become a Pharisee in my own way before God. Listen, there is only one Savior, one Head of the Church, one Counselor, one Lord of Lords, and one King of Kings … and we are not any of it. Our job is not to be a self-promoter, nor be arrogant and proud about our views, nor are we to be content with being properly fed spiritually. Why? Because God hates religion and those are all religious things. We can be thankful for a good Gospel-preaching church, but that's the extent of it. The rest of the story is how we obey God in doing how we are being fed. The failure in our Christian world is not that we aren't being fed well spiritually … it’s the failure of applying what we know. (Mic drop!)
Let me be clear. The misplaced emphasis on not pouring more revelation into people … it is getting them to do something with the revelation of God that they already know. The misplaced emphasis is to continue to do the same things that fail to engage the culture, with the claims of Christ. The misplaced emphasis is not on your best life now, getting blessed, and being prosperous … it’s about the sacrifice, the denial of self, picking up our cross, and following Him. That is a message that is missing in much of Christendom today. My prayer for you is to start asking the question, “What is the emphasis of Christ, and am I practicing a misplaced emphasis in my spiritual life?”
There will come a day when light and darkness will be indistinguishable, and we all will be living in the gray. ~David Wilkerson
We will live in the gray when we practice the wrong emphasis.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler