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December 23, 2019

 

In Whose Image ?

My Dear Friend,

     Romans 8:29 declares it is every Christian's general predestination to be remade in "the image of His Son." If we trust and obey holy love Incarnate - our Lord Jesus Christ - the Holy Spirit will gradually work this wondrous transformation in us. But there's another possibility.

     The Jewish Pharisees and Scribes of Jesus' day showcase the ugly alternative. “They watched him," says Mark, "that they might accuse him” as He taught and ministered in a synagogue (Mark 3:2). They were not present to receive teaching from God’s Word, or even to pray, or worship, but solely to find fault with this peasant carpenter turned popular prophet! Criticism was their passion and misjudgment their pastime.

     Before Jesus came along, they carefully scrutinized every rival religious or political group - the Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes, Zealots, Samaritans, etc. - while calmly assuming they needed none. Now that Jesus was on the scene, they were on fire!

     They followed Him everywhere to accuse Him of anything, anywhere, anytime. They criticized Him and His disciples at Matthew’s banquet (Mark 2:16, 18), as they walked through the wheat fields (2:24), and now in an unspecified synagogue (3:1). They attended not to hear heavenly insights or witness heavenly miracles but only "that they might accuse him."

     Note the stark contrast between their spirit and God’s.

     God is holy love and love “covers” a multitude of sins and seeks restoration, reconciliation, and unity whenever possible (cf. Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; Galatians 6:1-3; 1 Peter 4:8). But their spirit lusted to find something, anything, in Jesus' ministry or lifestyle to expose for official censure and public ridicule. That would give them pleasure. And if they could find no legitimate fault, they seemed quite willing to twist and misrepresent Jesus' or His disciples' actions or words to bring charges.

     These religious authorities weren’t giving Jesus an honest, open evaluation, as they should have done for any new rabbi. They had already rejected him, due to envy (of his amazing gifts, power, popularity) or prejudice (since he was not a product of one of their accepted religious sects), or religious pride (seeing all other rabbis, including Jesus, as inferior). Now they just needed some outward evidence to corroborate their inner ruling. This was neither just nor loving.

     But there's something more ominous here. They embodied the very spirit of Satan, the “accuser [lit., adversary] of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10; cf. Zechariah 3:1), whose very nature is the “devil” (Revelation 12:9; Gk., diabolos, lit., slanderer or false accuser). Why talk about this?

     Lest we imitate them! When we consistently look to find faults and make defaming accusations against born-again Christians or Christian ministers of another denomination or doctrinal persuasion, or one of our own church and theology, we are imitating these mean-spirited Pharisees. And doing Satan’s work for him! And manifesting just how unlike Christ we are.

     When fundamental errors and gross misconduct appear in the churches, yes, ministers are obligated to identify them and call their advocates to repent. But never without a true, yearning desire for healing and restoration. And never for any reason should we watch a minister or movement or church "that we might accuse them."

     Sadly, I must report there are Christians who regularly examine sermons, books, and articles only to find something to contend over, anything, even the smallest incidental statements. They then brand other ministers as heretics, describe their statements and actions in the worst possible light, and disparage and demonize their characters on Internet websites, blogs, or other posts. And these Pharisaic policemen are everywhere!

     Don’t listen to these bitter, arrogant, pharisaic Christians who hope to build their reputations by destroying others' good names. They "minister" not faith, hope, and love but fear, misjudgment, and division in Christ's body. Why?

     Their inmost attitudes are twisted with spiritual pride or the competitiveness of envy. Or they think too highly of their own doctrinal positions, creeds, or favorite ministers. Strangely, they are oblivious to Christ's and Paul's urgent calls to church unity (John 17:21-23; Philippians 2:1-4). They are flatly disobeying Christ's paramount command that we walk in love with one another even when we disagree over non-salvific doctrines, ways of worship, or matters not specifically addressed by Scripture (John 13:34-35). And it is evident their social graces are lacking: they have never learned to disagree agreeably.

     So, let us ask ourselves, in whose character image do we wish to be remade, the critics or the Christ?

Choosing Christ's image,

Greg Hinnant
Greg Hinnant Ministries

       Greg Hinnant Ministries
PO Box 788, High Point, NC 27261
1-336-882-1645