A Spoiled Generation

Matthew 11:15-19, NLT

15 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! 16 “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17 ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ 18 For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” Jesus compares His generation to spoiled children who cannot be pleased. Jesus and John had opposite personalities. Jesus was extroverted and a fun lover. He enjoyed parties and people. John was an introvert and very ascetic in nature. He enjoyed fasting and spending a lot of his time alone. He was anything but a socialite. The Pharisees attributed John’s austerities to insanity; they said he is crazy and they said Jesus had a devil. John was too morbid like a funeral dirge and Jesus was too happy like dance music but the Jews turned a deaf ear to both. Jesus is saying, “What would take to please you guys?”

SPOILED CHILDREN ARE USE TO GETTING THEIR WAY

The first thing that comes to my mind when dealing with spoiled children is that they pout when they don’t get their way. Neither Jesus nor John  appealed to the Jews because neither would compromise. John told them to repent and called them a brood of vipers. Jesus referred to them as white washed tomb stones and hypocrites. Both John and Jesus preached the truth about sin and repentance and the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders did not want to hear it. They wanted to be commended not convicted. They did not respond to either John nor Jesus because they were demanding to have their own way. You can not serve God your way! Millions have tried but it cannot be done. Cain was the first to attempt serving God with the will of the flesh. God taught the boys through Adam what was required for forgiveness; there had to be shedding of blood, the innocent die for the guilty. Cain rejected the doctrine of atonement and he took it upon himself to rewrite the laws of sacrifice. He said to himself, I will present what I please and God will accept it or else. Well, it turned out to be else. Abel went by the book, he sacrificed according to God’s requirements and God accepted his sacrifice. We cannot worship God our way. We cannot serve him our way. We cannot honor him our way. “Our Way” is the problem. He does not want anything “Our Way” but demands that it be His way. There is enough self-will in the average Baptist Church to sink it to hell. We have committed people, but they are committed to doing it their way and then some have the audacity to call it following the spirit. They are following the spirit but it is the wrong spirit. Have you ever wondered why the devil worshipers choose a goat as their symbol. Goats are stubborn and self-willed. A goat will kill itself rather than surrender. I have seen a goat butt a tree until it broke both horns off and almost bleed to death. When you make a goat mad, they go crazy. They will not only hurt others, they will hurt themselves. The Jewish religious leaders had the nature of a goat. It was their way or else.

SPOILED CHILDREN CANNOT BE PLEASED

It really doesn’t matter what you do, you cannot please a spoiled child. If you play happy music, they want sad and if you play sad, they want happy. Most of them want to be unhappy and they want to blame someone else for their being unhappy. John was ascetic and they didn’t like him; said he was crazy. Jesus was happy and hung out with common people and they said he was full of the devil and at one time called Him a bastard. Unhappy people choose to be unhappy but they blame others for their condition. I’ve been in the ministry for  45 years and have served churches for 43 of those years and I am telling you that some people cannot be pleased and you will compromise your convictions if you try and even then you will not succeed. It is a lose/lose and a waste of time. I always have people that are upset with me because I am not upset that they and others are upset. It is not that I dislike people but I have learned that we cannot make pleasing people our priority. There are conviction that govern my life and I live by those convictions.

  • There is only ONE person that I have to please and give an account to and that is Jesus. That does not mean that I am unaccountable to people or that I do not listen to their advice. It does mean that when the final decision is made, my greatest consideration is whether or not I have pleased the LORD. Some will admire and support that while others will disapprove but that is the point, I don’t wait for their approval. It most cases it is something that I will never have.
  • Practically, you cannot please everyone and if you are the leader of an organization, you are going get blamed for all mistakes or lack of progress so it is best to make wise decisions regardless to how they are perceived by the general public or even your followers.
  • God gave John his message. Jesus most certainly spoke for the Father. They could not change their message without disobeying God the Father.

SPOILDED CHILDREN ARE INDIFFERENT AND CONTEMPTOUS

Have you tried to entertain a brat? They are unimpressed with anything you do. Jesus said that His generation were like bratty children; they were filled with indifference and contempt, especially in regards to the things of heaven.  You could play a happy song and dance and they did not respond: you could do slow funeral music and they did not respond. They were unresponsive to John, unresponsive to Jesus, unresponsive to anything that was of God. Jesus even compared them to the generation that lived during the days of Sodom. He said, “And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.” We make too big of a fuss over the delivery boy instead of praising the editor. When God called Moses in Exodus 3-4, Moses repeated informed God that he was a poor speaker. The LORD assured him that his speech was not a problem. I will tell you what to say. Moses thought the Pharaoh would have to be confronted by an articulate man. The LORD told him, it will not be your speech that moves him, it will be my power. This generation of Jews heard two of the all time greats preach but it was like water off a ducks back. People make fun of my inability to articulate things clearly. My diction is horrible but that has nothing to do with nothing. I’m not going to move my generation with slick or eloquent sermons. We are as bad as the Jews. God sent Moses before Pharaoh as His spokesman but it was God’s power that broke Pharaoh’s will. I like the Black preachers version of Moses and the burning bush: it goes like this….

  • Moses–Wow, what a bush!
  • LORD–What are you talking about Moses?
  • Moses–The bush, I’ve never seen a bush like this, ever. Wow, What a bush!
  • LORD–Turn Moses and look behind you and tell me what you see.
  • M0ses–I see an ordinary bush, Lord, and then over there another ordinary bush.
  • LORD–Look all around and tell me what you see.
  • Moses–I see bushes LORD, in every direction there is a bush.
  • LORD–Moses, it is not the bush, it is my glory on the bush, any bush will do.

If Jesus could not reach the Pharisees and Scribes of this world, you and I are not going to reach them. They are spoiled, self-willed, contemptuous and content. They are not going to respond to anything we do or say. Indifference dulls our ears to God’s voice and to the good news of the gospel.   Only the humble of heart can find joy and favor in God’s grace.  Do you know the joy of the gospel and is you life in tune with Jesus’s message of hope and salvation?

Unbelievable!

At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.” Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?  I tell you, there is One here who is even greater than the Temple! But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, 10 where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.) 11 And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. 12 And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! 14 Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.

Matthew 12:1-14, NLT

Introduction

I have a good friend who’s favorite expression is “Unbelievable!” In today’s text I see four UNBELIEVABLE things about the Pharisees who were representative of the Jewish religious culture. I even see a progression as each action is more unbelievable than the previous.

FIRST: THEY ACCUSE JESUS DISCIPLES OF VIOLATING THE SABBATH

Jesus and His disciple are talking a casual walk through a wheat field on a Sabbath. The disciples are hungry so they shuck some grains of wheat and crunch them between their teeth. What they did would be no more filling than you and I eating sunflower seeds. A kernel of wheat may actually be bigger than a sunflower seed. The Pharisees show up out of nowhere and say, “Aha, we caught you, Your disciples are violating the Sabbath.” My first question is: What were the Pharisees doing in a wheat field? They were spying on Jesus. They were dogging His steps. They were persecuting Christ. They were hunting for a mistake. Pharisees were nitpickers. Do you know what a nitpicker is?

Nitpickers are people who are looking for small or unimportant errors or faults, esp. in order to criticize unnecessarily. the word Nitpicking actually comes from the act of removing nits (the eggs of lice, generally head lice) from the host’s hair. As the nits are cemented to individual hairs, they cannot be removed with most lice combs and, before modern chemical methods were invented, the only options were to shave all the host’s hair or to pick them free one by one. It was a slow and laborious process. Imagine Jesus and His disciples walking through a wheat field and the disciples began to shuck some of the grains of wheat and eat them much like we would eat nuts. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, comes a group of Pharisees. This is no coincidence. These guys were following Jesus. Why would they follow Him, they did not want to be His disciples: they were following Him to catch Him in some kind of fault. Moses had some strict Sabbath rules but the Jews had added to them. They had 365 additional laws regarding the Sabbath and they caught Jesus disciples breaking one of those laws.

When I entered the ministry in 1969, I had no idea that Baptist Churches were filled with nitpickers; people who would swallow a camel while trying to strain a gnat. A lady came to me during one of my two seminary pastorates and said, “I sure like you more than our last pastor.” I should have had brains enough to stop her right there but I was too curious so I said, “How is that?” She said, “Because you always say amen and he said ah-men.” I walked away in shock. A pastor friend of mine was giving an invitation and a man came forward: he assumed he was coming to make some kind of decision. When he got to the pastor, he opened the Sunday bulletin and said, “Who proofs this, I found 6 errors.”

SECONDLY: THEY COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTAND AND MISINTERPRET SCRIPTURE

Three times in this passage, Jesus questions their knowledge and understanding of scripture:

  •  Verse 3: Jesus said to them, Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?
  • Verse 5: And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?  One greater is here than the Temple!
  • Verse 7: But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’

Is this unbelievable or what: these guys knew the O.T. by heart but they had totally misunderstood all the O.T. types, the spirit of the law and the heart of God. These guys were anything but Godly. Jesus give three examples of where the Pharisees has totally misunderstood the scripture.

  1. They misunderstood the law. God gave us rules for our own welfare and protection. The Sabbath was not to punish but to prosper us. The Sabbath was never intended to make life harder but easier but the Pharisees were legalist, they pressed the letter of the law far beyond God’s intention. Let me give you an example: abortion is not constitutional, it is based on the right to privacy which is not in the constitution. The liberals knew that we could not make a clean jump from the constitution to abortion, so they created the right of privacy and then from there they went to the termination of the baby’s life. I promise you, the original intent of our forefathers was not to legalize killing babies. The Jews had done the same thing with the law of Moses so that it had become harmful to certain segments of the population.
  2. They misunderstood symbols and types. The Jews were notorious at working the symbol and ignoring the substance. Jesus said, “One greater than the Temple is here.” Israel’s first worship center was a tent made of goat skins. It was simple, plain and I suppose unadorable. It was not one of the wonders of the world. Moses constructed this portable worship center by following God’s detail instructions. God was content with the goat skin tent: He did not want an elaborate edifice because He knew the Israelites would worship the structure rather than Him. You know the history, they were not satisfied with the tent, they wanted a temple, a huge temple with gold plated walls studded with precious gems. And what did they do with this magnificent temple, they worshipped it. Jeremiah the prophet had a sermon on temple worship. Not only did they worship the temple, they worshipped the Sabbath. Let me ask you a couple of questions: what was the purpose and meaning of the Tabernacle? Was it not God’s intention to dwell among His people and thus the sacred tent. John tells us in 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Literally, Jesus pitched His tent among us and we who are believers saw His glory. Unfortunately, the Jewish religious establishment did not recognize the deity of Christ which explains why they persecuted Him.
  3. They misunderstood the heart of God. God is merciful, the Pharisees were anything but. The LORD prefers kindness to sacrifice. He loves mercy. The Pharisees who claimed to be God lovers did not know God’s heart.

THIRDLY: THEY HAD MORE COMPASSION ON ANIMALS THAN PEOPLE

I told you that it would get more unbelievable as we went. They follow Jesus to the synagogue and there is a man there with a withered hand. Jesus can heal him but it is the Sabbath. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit you to heal on the Sabbath?” What a dumb question. First of all, Jesus created the Sabbath, He is greater than the Sabbath. Secondly, healing the man will be something good. Is it wrong to do good on the Sabbath, to relieve human suffering. The unbelievable thing is the coldness of the Pharisees. Jesus stands the man in front of them, his hand is withered. He cannot use his hand which is a disability. They feel no compassion on the man, none.The man with the withered hand was invisible to them. They were so wrapped up in their own selfish agenda that they didn’t even notice the hurting man and they didn’t care to notice.

Jesus asked them the question, “If you had only one sheep and it got in a ditch or pit, would you rescue it on the Sabbath?” He knew the answer, they were greedy and yes they could pulled their ox out of the ditch but they did not care about this man’s pain. They had no ability to care for people. If we are going to follow Jesus, we have to feel the same way about people that He did, we must love people, more than we do our pets and more than we do our possessions. I don’t believe there is a believer in the building that could not think of at least one lost friend if we tried, the problem is, we don’t care. People are going to hell and we don’t give a damn. The proof is that we are more upset with the word I just used than we are the fact that people without Christ are going to hell. Let’s be honest, we don’t care.

FOURTH: THEY INITIATE A CONSPIRACY TO MURDER JESUS BECAUSE HE HEALED A MAN ON THE SABBATH

Jesus does a good deed, He relieves a man from his suffering and they get angry, so angry that they have a meeting where they discuss a way to get rid of Jesus. How could anyone hate Jesus or want to kill Him, that is unbelievable. How can a act of kindness and love arouse hate? To my knowledge, it was this act of kindness, Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath that initiated the conspiracy that would eventually lead to Jesus death. It all began on this day.

CONCLUSION

What conclusion can we draw from this story?

  1. We do not want to be like the Pharisees. [Nitpickers, fault-finders, cold, indifferent, misguided and full of hate for Christ]
  2. We want to move in the direction of Christ. Where are you spiritually. With the Pharisees being a 0 and Jesus being a 10. Where are you in your love  for people: are you where the Pharisees were with no love for people or where Jesus was, a perfect 10, willing to lay down your life for others. How many of us are closer to the Pharisees than we are Jesus.

Christless Religion

Religion Without Jesus
Religion Without Jesus

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 12:38-45, NLT

38 One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.” 39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. 42 The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen. 43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

46 As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 47 Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” 4Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 50 Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

 

Introduction

This is a great text because it reminds us that JESUS IS GREATER THAN…Jonah, Solomon, Religion or even Family. The reason the world celebrates CHRISTMAS is that Jesus is greater the Mohammed, Confucius, Aristotle or anyone else. All of this and more is implied in the text but I want to narrow the search somewhat and focus on Jesus and the Pharisees. This particular story begins with the Pharisees demanding a sign. According to scripture, their words were… Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority” but Jesus said…Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign. The Pharisees are trying to cover their intentions by being some what respectful but Jesus knew exactly what their intentions were: they were trying to discredit him before the masses. It was a form of threat but Jesus did not yield. It was not that He could not, but being God, He would not. God does not respond to threats or demands. I would not advise this approach: I would think pleading or praising would be more appropriate. The Pharisees were devoutly religious but their religion was void of Christ. They had a Christ-less religion whereas I have priceless relationship. Speaking of signs: what are the signs of a Christ-less religion?

[1] ITS A RELIGION WITHOUT TRUE FAITH

Essentially, the Pharisees said, “If you are the Son of God, prove it…do a miracle to authenticate your claim.” It is similar to the devils approach in Matthew 4, Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” God does not have to prove Himself to anyone; as a matter of fact, He chooses not to give infallible proofs. He makes it very clear in His word that His way is faith… And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek Him. Faith is the only language that heaven understands. It is impossible to please God without faith. Therefore we do not exalt signs over scripture. God has given us His word: why do we need a sign. When Dives woke up in hades he begged Father Abraham to send someone from the dead to warn his brothers of hell and Abraham said, “Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’” Paul said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” We have HIS word so why do we demand signs and feelings. You want a sign, you got the only one your going to get, it is a cross and an empty tomb. It is three days that begin with hell and ended in glorious triumph. You have the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and that is the only sign you need. I want to make this perfectly clear: you will never have a relationship with Jesus by an other means. You either trust HIM, put your faith in HIM or else stay condemned. He will never give you more than His word. If you are waiting for the lighting to strike you may very well burst hell wide open.

[2] IT IS A RELIGION WITHOUT A RELATIONSHIP

The Pharisees were not seeking to KNOW Jesus: their intent was to prove Him false. They put absolutely no effort into getting to know HIM. The Pharisees were religious and they even accepted the law and the prophets as the word of God. They believed the story of Jonah surviving three days and nights in the belly of a fish but ironically, they did not believe Jesus or believe in HIM. They had a religion but they never developed a relationship. Religious people can have impeccable character, at least on the surface. They may be straight as an arrow morally. They may cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s but the one thing they do not do is talk about Jesus. They Pharisees talked about God, even professed to have a relationship to Him but they did not talk about Jesus, not in a positive way. They did not preach or praise Jesus. They did not do as John the Baptist and point people to Jesus. I am dumfounded by the myriads of preachers who talk about everything under the sun except the SON. A very misguided youth brought me a tape of their favorite preacher. He was enamored with the man; thought he was the greatest thing since light bread. I’m not positive but I believe the message was on the subject of worship. It was approximately a 30 minute message and he never mentioned Jesus, not one time. At the end of the message, he did pray in Jesus name but he never mentioned Jesus during the message. I don’t think the man was anti-Christ, I think is had subtlety fell into the politically correct mold. His intention was to be seeker friendly. I checked this guy out and I believe he is genuine but what he was doing was yielding to the world’s pressure to conform. The world does not want us praising Jesus. It is offensive to them, they don’t like it. Beware of religion without a personal relationship with Jesus. I will tell you something else: the devil is a master at diverting our attention within the body of Christ. Some believers are more excited about their spiritual gifts than they are the Giver. I’m sure the devil is behind the worship wars. He will do anything to get our focus off of Jesus. The devil does not hate worship; he hates Jesus and of course he hates for us to worship Jesus. But when we go to promoting worship over Jesus, we have grossly missed the point. This Christ-less, Cross-less religion is not new but it has really emerged in the last 40 years. If Jesus is not the center of your theology, you need a new theology. If He is not your focus in worship, you need to change your worship. The Pharisees were very religious but they did not have a relationship with Jesus the Son of God.

[3] IT IS A RELIGION WITHOUT TRUE REPENTANCE

Jesus used a great analogy: He said, “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”  This is a picture of a person who reforms their way of living but does not  truly repent of sin and turn to Christ. Salvation involves more than cleaning the house: the most wonderful aspect of our salvation is that Jesus comes into the house. He indwells the believer. The big difference between reformation and repentance is Jesus. Jesus does not reform us, He transforms us and conforms us. We reform ourselves. The big difference between a REFORMED RELIGIONIST and TRANSFORMED CHRISTIAN is humility. A reformed religionist is easily offended or insulted. They are legalistic record keepers. They can be no other: they give themselves credit for the clean house and they tend to check your house to see if it is as clean as their house. They are filled with pride because everything they believe in depends upon what they have accomplished. They continually go back to their record.

Conclusion:

I have an agnostic friend who sees red whenever you mention Jesus. He told me several years ago that Christianity was the cause of, the prime root of wars, greed and corruption in the world. I said to him, “You are talking about Christianity as a religion. I don’t believe that Constantine’s conversion was authentic and he did a lot of harm by stamping the Christian label on all that he did but the mistake that you have made is that you think Christianity is a religion and it’s not, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ. I know the people you are referring to did a lot of horrible things under the name of Christ but they were not true followers of Jesus, they did not have a relationship with HIM.” The world is filled with Religious people and so are our churches but religion does not produce true righteousness, only Christ can.

The Pharisees demanded a sign and Jesus said, “You are going to get one, “For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” The death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the only sign that this unbelieving world is going to get. Friend, don’t wait for lightening to strike or for some strange experience: repent of your sin today. Christ is as near as the air you breath: confess Him as LORD and ask Him to come into your life. Commit to follow Him as your LORD and master.