I was recently reading Luke 5:17 where it says that the Pharisees and doctors of the law were seen “sitting by” while Jesus was teaching. Then I read a commentary by Matthew Henry where he wrote,
“How many are there in the midst of our assemblies, where the gospel is preached, that do not sit under the Word, but sit by! It is to them as a tale that is told them, not as a message that is sent to them; they are willing that we should preach before them, but not we should preach to them.” Ouch!
Then A.W. Tozer said something even plainer when he wrote:
“For a long time I have believed that truth, to be understood, must be lived; that Bible doctrine is wholly ineffective until it has been digested and assimilated by the total life.”
I’ve been in many Bible studies and church services where a few people were profoundly affected by the teaching or worship — yet others were completely unmoved. Like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, sometimes the unaffected can be the most “religious” people in the room. Maybe the problem is that they were sitting by instead of sitting under God’s Word!
One man wrote:
I know I am really only moved to tears or action by the Truths which I experience, rather than the many text books on theology I possess.
The greatest challenge and pleasure lies in the willing sacrifice of my will to God’s life changing truth . . .
I admit that I have often settled for the un-lit flame of Elijah’s neatly laid-out altar, but that has been because I lacked the courage to allow God to come down and light the fire, because I was not willing to make my life and will become the sacrifice upon that altar! I preferred to be “my own man,” and to see things through my own eyes. Then, I met Jesus, and all that changed.
At church, we often discuss all this and I asked my pastor to give me his thoughts:
The problem in large part stems from the way in which church is done.”Come, sit in the pew, observe, pay your entrance money (tithe), don’t make waves, or ask any question – whether awkward or not, smile ‘be nice,’ don’t rock the boat” – and in amongst all of this – probably don’t learn anything either.
How many believers can clearly articulate the faith they say they have? Peter asks that we should always be ready to give a reason – an apologetic – for the faith we say we have. Too many folks think an ‘apologetic‘ is to say ‘sorry‘ for having the faith we have. But Peter knew what he meant – and so would we if we paid attention and desired to learn, by sitting under the word – because the word also became flesh and dwelt among us.
Peter wrote expecting that the recipients of his letters would be able to express a reason for the hope they have. But when church is reduced to ‘bum-on-seat‘ time, once a week, if we can fit it in. No bible study – too busy playing tennis or golf, then the message gets lost in the stuff of life, for the message has been reduced to entertainment, when it should be compelling us on towards ‘love and good deeds‘, for we are receiving the goal of our faith – the ‘Redemption of our souls.’
So we come, ‘rock out‘ to the trendy worship leader in the faux ripped jeans, with the Bono affected voice, and we can’t tell if he is leading us into authentic worship as a family, or if he – or she – is singing about his/her boyfriend. Truth must be lived, and to do anything else once we have had a revelation of the truth, is to live a lie. The truth cost, most don’t want to pay it. Following Jesus has been reduced to a ‘lifestyle‘ choice, like going vegan, or green. Until the church grasps squarely that it has come to the living God, the author and perfecter of our faith, the church is going to struggle to make an impact – for when the church tries to ‘sell‘ church, by how easy to access its services are, the point will be lost.
Following Jesus is to sit under the authority of His sovereignty and word 24/7. Not chalk up one Sunday morning hour after the next, thinking that that is the essence of our faith.
See why I love him so much? This is what each us must experience. Even after we surrender to the rule and Lordship of Jesus, we need to continually examine the attitude of our hearts. Are we open to learn from even the most unlikely sources? Now don’t make that declaration too quickly, because you don’t know what it will cost you. But make that decision, you must do.
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