#2  The “Stumbling Blocks To Spirituality” Series




TEXT:         Matt. 23:15;   Lk. 6:27-36; 9:51-62;   Gal. 1:6-2:10


INTRO:       In the early part of this previous century a young man was born who later proved to be a hard worker, made great efforts to become a good artist, loved dearly his mother whom he lived with trying to make ends meet after his father died.  He was ambitious in his work, and concerned about the people of his country.  He fought hard as a soldier, earning one of the highest awards for bravery.  He was disciplined as a young man, neither drinking nor smoking.  He had a gift for moving crowds of people when he spoke ... his name: ADOLPH HITLER!


He was a man of great passions, devoted deeply to those things he believed in, his conversion to these ideas led to a perversion of most things considered sacred!  WHY?  Because he was devoted to the wrong things!  He was zealous ... but without knowledge!  You can be sincere, and yet still be sincerely wrong!  It is not enough to be devoted to something ... it must be the right thing!


Image and perception are not the ultimate goals, truth is, God’s truth.


ILLUS:    Let's--all of us--decide to stop trying to convince the world that Christianity is true because Jesus makes us prettier, happier, thinner, wealthier, bigger, more successful, more popular, healthier, stronger, and more influential than everyone else.  Do we actually believe that the world is impressed with our fancy new churches, 12,000 in Sunday School, five services each morning, the "millions" who are watching on television, converted beauty queens and professional athletes, our book sales, or our crusades?  The world is laughing at us--mocking us and the Jesus we supposedly are serving. -- Mike Yaconelli in The Door (Sept./Oct. l989). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 2.


PROP. SENT:      The Word of God will teach us that we are to be devoted to the Lord our God ... and to keep God's priorities in their proper order.  Where our devotion is, there our talents, time, and finances will be.  To not be devoted to the RIGHT THINGS can lead to a perversion of our priorities!


I.    MISPLACED DEVOTION    Matt. 23:15a;   Lk. 6:27-36; 9:51-62


A.   Energy Waste!    Matt. 23:15a;   Lk. 6:27-36

1.   “Woe” or “Alas” ... God's heart was broken and angry over the way the leaders of the Jews had put so much energy into making converts, only to turn them instead into perverts!

a.   They traveled over land and sea just to gain one convert!

b.   Much energy expended to add to their numbers.

c.   There is something seriously wrong when “rules” become more important than people and their needs!


ILLUS:     One a warm spring evening in May 1998, Christopher Sercye was playing basketball with a few friends half a block from Ravenswood Hospital.  Three teenage Latino gang members looking for a black target approached and shot young Sercye, a 15 year old African-American teen, in the abdomen. His frantic friends carried him to within 30 feet of the hospital and ran inside for help.  The emergency room personnel refused to go outside to assist the dying boy citing a policy that only allows them to help those who are inside the hospital.  The boys called for nearby police to attend their wounded friend.  When the officers arrived on the scene they proceeded to call for an ambulance, but refused to carry the boy inside.  While passersby pled with the officers to get the boy into the hospital, he lay in a pool of blood unconscious.  When, after several minutes, the ambulance had not yet arrived, the police gave in and carried Sercye into the emergency room.  By then, nothing could be done to save his life.

   As is often true, when we legalistically insist on the letter of the law, the needs of others are overlooked.  By holding to standard operating procedures, the "royal law of love" was pinned to the mat. Initially, hospital administration vehemently defended their ER's lack of involvement.  Only after a barrage of community outrage did Ravenswood Hospital reverse its policy of treating only those inside its doors.

   It was Jesus who observed "Woe to you teachers of the law, you hypocrites.  You give a tenth ... but you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy, and faithfulness." (Matt. 23:23) -- Greg Asimakoupoulos. From the files of Leadership.


2.   They saw it important to make converts ... this in itself was noble of them, but the kind of convert they made was deplorable!

a.   It is still true today ... many cults go to great lengths and efforts to make one convert!

b.   We could learn from their example of energy!

c.   They are serious about making converts!

d.   What about us who hold the truth of God's Word ... should we be any less energetic?

3.   No energy put into missions means zero converts!

4.   It is all too often true that many Christians don't make their own salvation and other's salvation an important priority.

a.   You can tell if they do ... look at where their energy, resources, and time go!

b.   That which is important to us we will be devoted to!

c.   There is often a connection between those who have spiritual problems and those who don't have time for God and His church!  They are usually related!

5.   That's one reason the word "DEVOTION" is used for Bible study at home, it takes devotion to do it!


B.   Enticing Ways    Lk. 9:51-62

1.   "My rights" mentality!

a.   The disciples were interested in how they looked, rather than on the reasons why the Samaritans refused them lodging ... thus they responded with anger for their personal loss.

b.   Jesus saw beyond just the immediate reaction ... and ended up rebuking His disciples rather than the Samaritans!

c.   In our zeal, let us not forget who we are and what we are called to be and to do!  If our concerns are our own appearance we will have zeal for the wrong thing!

2.   Let's be careful not to spend our energy and time "calling down fire from heaven" against everything and everyone that doesn't suit our likes and dislikes!

a.   Such as the problem of AIDS among the homosexuals! 

b.   We should not rejoice over this, but be broken for what sin is bringing on these folks; they are sinners in need of a Savior, Jesus Christ!

c.   Our own sins should break us, and the sins of all sinners should move us to bring “good news” to those sinners – Christ died for all.

d.   If it were not for the Grace of God, we too would be worthy of “fire from heaven!”

e.   Our own efforts at “cleaning up” other people’s lives often end up in disaster; it would be so much better to let God handle that!


ILLUS:      At their school carnival, our kids won four free goldfish (lucky us!), so out I went Saturday morning to find an aquarium.  The first few I priced ranged from $40 to $70.  Then I spotted it right in the aisle: a discarded 10-gallon display tank, complete with gravel and filter for a mere five bucks.  Sold!  Of course, it was nasty dirty, but the savings made the two hours of clean-up a breeze.

   Those four new fish looked great in their new home, at least for the first day.  But by Sunday one had died.  Too bad, but three remained.  Monday morning revealed a second casualty, and by Monday night a third goldfish had gone belly up.  We called in an expert member of our church who has a 30-gallon tank.  It didn't take him long to discover the problem: I had washed the tank with soap, and absolute no-no.  My uninformed efforts had destroyed the very lives I was trying to protect.

   Sometimes our in zeal to clean up our own lives or the lives of others, we unfortunately use "killer soaps" -- condemnation, criticism, nagging, fits of temper.  We think we're doing right, but our harsh, self-righteous treatment is more than they can bear. -- Richard L. Dunagin, Denton, Texas. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3.


3.   Too much zeal without godliness can lead to perversion of the concepts of God's love and God's grace!

4.   We are to be fighting for the salvation of the lost, conversion that is real!  We are to fight for conversion, not condemnation.

a.   The turning from sin.

b.   To have God's heart!

5.   When we begin to feel too righteous then we are becoming unrighteous!


ILLUS:      You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. -- Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 8.


a.   Then our own conversion soon becomes perversion!

b.   We lose our perspective on everything!

6.   We must not be enticed to convert people to our way of thinking, but to God's way of thinking ... or we will convert them, and pervert them!


II.  MISERABLE DISCIPLES   Matt. 23:15b;   Gal. 1:6-2:10


A.   Eternal Waste!   Matt. 23:15b;   Gal. 1:6-2:5

1.   The Pharisees’ concern with the temporal, outward conformity to man's rules created an eternal waste of human souls!

a.   Not only were they lost, they were making others spiritually dead!

b.   They began preaching a different Gospel!

2.   In Galatia the same problem broke out, they had begun with salvation by repentance and faith in receiving God's grace and cleansing; then they started adding to this other man made things!

a.   Some were being led astray by this ... they put much energy into making the converts, then creating perverts!

b.   Paul says that if they do this, he ran the race in vain for them; in other words, he wasted his time!

3.   Many years ago people were told that if they were to be a Christian, they must wear short hair as men, not dance, play cards, wear jewelry, etc ... thus the true Gospel was perverted, and many miserable disciples were created that were more concerned about external things than eternal things.


ILLUS:      The problem with the church today is not corruption.  It is not institutionalism.  No, the problem is far more serious than something like the minister running away with the organist.  The problem is pettiness.  Blatant pettiness. -- Mike Yaconelli in The Wittenburg Door (Dec./Jan. 1985).  Christianity Today, Vol. 31,  no. 15.


a.   To be sure, there is something to say about living a "holy" lifestyle, but this is the result of salvation, not the road to salvation!  Holy living is driven by the internal working of the Holy Spirit and not the external demands of man’s expectations also.


c.   Yes there are things godly people won’t do, but this is driven by the Spirit of God creating a desire against those things which don’t “profit” a man/woman … and those things which the Word of God declares are sin … not by cultural decrees.

4.   So much energy in many churches goes into making people look and act like a Christian before they are saved (or after!), (or their version of what they think one should look like!) more devotion should be put on real salvation!


B.   External Walls   Gal. 2:6-7

1.   We put too much emphasis on external appearances.

a.   The Pharisees spent so much time and energy on making the convert look right, and for them to do everything right first

b.   They taught them how to stand, what to wear, how to speak ... but not how to touch God!

2.   Their zeal was to make themselves look good to the people and to have the people admire them!


ILLUS:      What was so bad about [the Pharisees'] hypocrisy?  If we think of it as consisting merely in their teaching or pretending one thing while in fact practicing something contradictory, we will miss Jesus' main point.  What He nailed them for was that they were using God and the things of God as a means to some other end.  That's what was insidious about the Pharisees' example.  "They do all their deeds to be noticed by men" (Matt. 23:5). ... Theirs was a problem of priorities: their first priority was social status, to which end God was but a means.  What greater affront to God could there be? Better to ignore Him altogether than to exploit Him as a means to something else you value more highly. -- John Boykin in The Gospel of Coincidence.  Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 5.


a.   Some of the most spiritual people DON'T draw attention to themselves!

b.   You can almost imagine what these Jewish leaders did:

(1.  Had courses on "Discount land travel & boat crossings for converts."

(2.  Course on "how to convince someone to become a Pharisee."

(3.  "How to look spiritual – bigger robe borders & phylacteries" course.

(4.  "Sincerity for fun and profit" course.

(5.  "How you can win at least 1 convert a year" course.

(6.  "Phariseeism made easy."

(7.  "Rule books 101-102-103-104 ad-nausea."

(8.  "How to be admired by others."

(9.  "Praying In Public 101" or "Long Loud Public Prayers 102."


3.   These kind of "man-made" concepts of salvation only pollute the Gospel that Jesus brought.  The Gospel is free upon request & repentance!  It just creates external walls that no man can climb over to find God!

a.   It doesn’t require special “rules” to win people to Christ!

b.   It doesn’t require special “talents” to win people to Christ!


ILLUS:      If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.  After all, there are comparatively few people in the world who have great talents. -- D.L. Moody, Christian History, no. 25.


C.   Eager Workers    Gal. 2:8-10

1.   Note in these verses Paul's concern that they work "together" to reach all!

2.   This way no one man gets glory, but only God!

a.   We are all fellow laborers in the kingdom of God!

b.   We are all called to "make disciples of all nations."

3.   Paul's call was for all to work and be devoted to the same thing ... to God and reaching the lost for Him!

a.   All zeal is to be directed this way and only this way!


ILLUS:       When my wife and I went to Dallas Seminary, we decided we wouldn't live in the "cemetery" housing.  Instead, we lived in the high-class, red-light district.  If you want to get an introduction to life itself, that's the place to be.  We made a commitment to take one non-Christian person, couple or individual, out to dinner once a week.  Did we ever get a liberal education.  But what fun; we had people coming to know the Lord right and left in that place, because we simply loved them.  We opened our home to them. -- Joseph Aldrich, "How to Be a Redemptive Person," Preaching Today, Tape No. 113.


b.   Zeal that leads to anything else or glorifies any other is misplaced zeal!

c.   Are we trying to make converts to our way of thinking, or to Jesus Christ and His glorious kingdom!?

d.   How can I know if my zeal is properly placed?

(1.  Where is my energy spent?

(2.  Where are my finances going?

(3.  Where is my time spent?

(4.  How much of me does God really get each day?

4.   It is the way we answer those questions that will help us know where our devotion really is, where our zeal is placed!

5.   Are we making CONVERTS or PERVERTS?

a.   Ask these questions:

(1.  Am I trying to make the person admire me or Jesus?

(2.  Am I trying to make them obey my system of rights and wrongs, or am I teaching them to submit to Christ and His righteousness!

(3.  Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to them through my life and from God's Word ... am I open to being honest about my own need for growth!

b.   Where’s the focus?

6.   God wants us to be zealous, but for Him only!  Many times in Scripture God was honored when His servants became "JEALOUS FOR THE LORD MY GOD."


ILLUS:      If we can convince people that we are onto something that's full of joy, they'll stampede one another to follow us. -- William Treadwell, Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 3.


a.   Such was Moses

b.   Such was David

c.   How about you?


CONCLUSION:     What you devote yourself to will drain off your resources; your time, talents, and your finances!  That which is most important in your life can be measured.  Are you devoted to the right things?  If your conversion does not move you and others to Christ it will only lead to perversion!