Over Complicating The Gospel

I have written at least one other blog talking about how I do Sunday School in my class (We sit down, the kids pick a page and we look at what the text says about God and about us).  Yesterday the kids picked the page that had Matthew 23 on it, so we looked at verses 1-15.

After we talked about the text and went onto morning worship it hit me that we Christians many times over complicate the Gospel.  We fall into the same traps the the Pharisees did.  We take everything that we learn and remember it, but many times fail to live it out.  Below is what we talked about in class:

1) Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
(Matthew 23:1-3 ESV)

We see here that what the scribes and Pharisees say/preach isn’t the problem.  Jesus tells the people to “observe whatever they say”.  Their words are not the issue at all its their actions.  The scribes and Pharisees had rules upon rules on how to live and obey the commandments God had given His people.  They where very good at knowing those commandments and laws.  However they never let those things penetrate their lives in such a way to live them out.  As we read this text the question arose as to whether or not we do the same things.  Do we know all the right words to say, as many “good” church people do, but fail to allow the Holy Spirit to use that knowledge to change our hearts and minds?

2) They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:4-12 ESV)

As we moved on to these verses it became rather apparent that even the Christian with the best of intentions sometimes does these same things.  Jesus tells the people that the scribes and Pharisees put heavy burdens on people, love the place of honor, loved being called rabbi and being arrogant.  If we are honest this happens to all kinds of Christians.  For those that have been Christians along time it is easy to make rules for those that have just come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  We see that they are still doing things that are considered bad and instead of coming along side them as a friend we put heavy burdens and rules on them to obey until they can get it right.  For new Christians this is also and issue.  When one gets saved they usually go from one end of the spectrum to another.  They will be converted and then go yell and scream at their family and friends about how sinful they are.  Their family may very well be sinful, but I have never heard that beating someone with a Bible is a very effective evangelism tool.  The new Christian suffers from arrogance while the old Christian suffers from rule making.

3) “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
(Matthew 23:13-15 ESV)

Lastly, we looked at the effects of all of this.  In short Jesus says that it ends up shutting “the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.”  The reason is simple because one can’t enter the kingdom of heaven based on rules.  One can not enter heaven based on how “good they have been”.  It is simply by the grace and mercy of Jesus.  We have been shown grace and mercy and therefore we then show grace and mercy to others.  If we are arrogant we will make those that come after us arrogant.  If we are rule makers we will make those that come after us rule makers.

The questions are really these: Do we know the things of the Bible, but don’t allow those things to change us?  Could we teach Sunday School, witness effectively and go on a hundred different mission trips and still not get into heaven?  Do we really believe that Jesus is all we need or are we will trying to live by the rules and think that they justify us?