Sunday night I preached from Matthew 16:1-12. My sermon seemed to resonate with the people, so I thought I’d share a few highlights with a broader swath of friends. In a nutshell, my attempt was to unpack some of the spiritual dangers faced by all of us on a regular basis.
First, there is the danger of HAUGHTY OVER HUMBLE. It was a bit unusual for the Pharisees and Sadducees, together, to confront Jesus – because they represented opposite ends of the theological spectrum. But the one thing that seemed to “unite” both groups was their spiritual pride. Religious pretense. Religious pride will make even enemies friends for a season. You and I must make sure that “church work” never lulls us into thinking too much of ourselves. It’s about Christ.
Then there is the danger of SIGN OVER SAVIOR. It’s certainly O.K. for us to ask questions as we seek to grow in our faith, but when our spiritual searching becomes all about the next exhilarating “sign” or experience of goosebumps – or even answered prayer – we’re in trouble. If we have Christ, and if He has us, then we have all that we will ever need. “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign.” Just saying.
Next there is the danger of OBSCURE OVER OBVIOUS. Some things are so right-in-front-of-us that we miss them! Jesus had to explain to the religious elite that – although they were adept at interpreting things like the weather – they were blind to the realities of His kingdom work all around them (“the signs of the times”). They had majored on the temporal while overlooking the eternal. Do you and I really delight in the eternal gospel?
Then there’s the danger of THRILL OVER TRUTH. Sunday night I pointed out a simple fact: we’re on a battlefield, not a playground. The Pharisees believed in resurrection, taught resurrection, and preached resurrection. They represented the very best in Biblical scholarship on the subject of resurrection. But most of them would be totally unmoved by the resurrection of Jesus. Sad and sobering.
Next there’s the danger of AMNESIA OVER ALERTNESS. The disciples had forgotten to bring any bread with them across the Sea of Galilee. This should have been no big deal to them, as they were accompanied by the Creator of all, and in light of the fact that they had just witnessed and experienced the miracles of the feeding of 5000 and 4000. But, when we read Matthew, we get the distinct impression that they’ve forgotten everything that matters! Sometimes we need even more spiritual alertness after a major spiritual victory, as that’s when we tend to fall asleep at the wheel (when “all is well”).
And lastly, there’s the danger of TOMORROW OVER TODAY. Have you ever tried to use your GPS in a large city, only to find out that it couldn’t calculate your desired route because you were too close to your destination? This has happened to me more than once. I was close, but still very much lost. My destination was within reach, but I couldn’t get there because I hadn’t acted soon enough. It’s a silly illustration, perhaps, but it reminds me to acknowledge my “lostness” while I can. When Christ walked the earth, the incessant pride of the religious leaders prevented them from embracing the Savior who was as close to them as their own breath.
“At ease in Zion?” The phrase is stolen from Amos 6:1. Israel and Judah assumed that God was “on their side,” even when He was not. You and I must guard against a false sense of invincibility. Spiritual arrogance and overconfidence are never fitting for those who know Jesus – those who have been captured by His amazing grace.