You never really know what’s going on. Like sheep following the sheep in front of them, some have never even met the Shepherd.
“The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.” -Matthew 23:2-3 MSG
When denominations become corporations, leadership becomes a career. So come the politics of spit-and-polish veneer.
I heard a story a few months ago. The president of a denomination has a secret that could destroy his credibility, but only in a world where a person’s credibility is based on his ability to be a perfect example of the rules he sets forth. It wouldn’t have destroyed his credibility with me and probably not with you, either. We would have found hope in the rawness of life, knowing that everybody makes mistakes. He could have entered the world of grace instead of avoiding it by hiding under a blanket of technicalities. Good leadership is honest about their mistakes. Bad leadership makes people think it’s possible to be perfect.
“You can’t be a leader if you’re divorced unless you can prove that you had no fault, but you can never remarry, unless you can prove you were tricked.” Or, there about. All bylaws of loopholes and small print. The smart people can study the contract and find a way out of needing forgiveness. But, in the Kingdom world, they’re only finding a way to not need Jesus.
If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it. -Romans 4:14-15 MSG
As a result of the rules of the corporation denomination, men publicly hang the character of their ex-wives, just so they can keep their jobs. Women tell all of their ex-husband’s secrets and none of their own, just so they can still teach Sunday school.
“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.” -Matthew 23:13-14 MSG
This system has been set up to not ever be able to admit your fault. There is no grace there.
The wife of the denomination president had grounds to divorce him, but didn’t want to hurt his career. She got a legal separation instead. That way he could keep his job and nobody would ever have to know the secrets that could destroy the facade. He was able to later retire with no one the wiser. The inside was broken while the appearance remained in tact.
What about all those under him who feel abnormal and wrecked because they didn’t have the power to hide? What about the women with alter call carpet embedded into their knees? They’re begging God to take away their stains because they’ve been taught that you can’t have stains. What about the men who are no longer allowed to do what they know God has called them to do? They think they have to live out the rest of their lives with the chains of sin still wrapped around them.
I met a preacher who got his papers taken away because he made a mistake. His passion is still preaching. There’s a hollow ache in his disposition. But he’s only allowed to hammer nails.
“Still like Jesus,” I tell him, though I know my kindness can’t reach him.
What about him?
“Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?” -Matthew 23:24 MSG
“Writing a life’s story that’s wrong from start to finish.” It’s wrong from start to finish because you are not the Author. You can write all you want, but He is the One who’s published.
Nitpicked lives are slaves to their sin. Being a slave to sin is more than obeying the impulse. It’s believing it has the power, so much so that you devote yourself to avoidance more than you release yourself to God.
He writes your life story and He’s already said that He made the destroyer. Nothing the destroyer can form will be able to destroy you. No matter how bad your situation looks, it does not have the power to destroy you.
If anyone attacks you, don’t for a moment suppose that I sent them, and if any should attack, nothing will come of it. I create the blacksmith who fires up his forge and makes a weapon designed to kill. I also create the destroyer—but no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged. -Isaiah 54:15-17 MSG
The way into God’s Kingdom is through Jesus and it’s only by grace. Grace is for sinners. It’s not a safety net. It’s a gate.
Be open and honest about your failures. Let God’s grace wash over you. It completely transforms you. It lights you on fire and sends you blazing. That’s where the power comes from. It’s not from you and your ability, it’s from grace. God’s children need to see it. The people need to see that there is hope for them, too.
Nobody goes through life without knowing they’ve been saved from something that had every right to destroy them. Don’t set yourself up as someone who is so far away from that, that it steals the hope of grace from everyone else. Use the moment of someone’s failure to rejoice about the vibrant display of mercy, grace, and restoration that God is about to show. That’s when you can really see Him. It’s the rainbow after the storm. It’s in the eyes of someone who believes with everything in them that God has a plan for this, too.
You never really know what’s going on. Don’t be the sheep who follows the sheep in front of you, but has never met the Shepherd. No matter what people want you to think, everybody has some damage that only Jesus can justify.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”-Matthew 11:28-30 MSG