ďGo Along, Get AlongĒ

Sept. 19, 2004

Texts: John 7:1-13

 

††††††††††† Go along, get along is the song of the world.And sometimes, sad to note, the church gets swept along in its worldly current.It may take the form of simply wanting to be like every one else, unexceptional and safe.It caters to the human impulse to be accepted.However, Christians are not to give in to that pressure to conform--neither to the world, nor to other churches which seem, well, nice and comfortable.One has to judge for himself or herself but two words come immediately to mind when I read the record of the life of Christ, and of the early church:non-conformist and controversial.Neither our Lord, nor the early church was known for a go along, get along philosophy.Love, real love and pure love is inherently disruptive.Christian love doesnít go along, get along either.It sets a standard and thus disturbs all lesser loves, all inferior loves and the result is frequently anger, hostility and judgmentalism.Now it is not possible to please the world and to follow Christ.That is the perennial crisis of those who encounter the truth.That antidote for all this?Let God be God.When you let God be God in your life everything changes, you stop appeasing man and start pleasing God.This is your work:believe on Jesus and on the Father who sent Him.

 

††††††††††† These familiar and, perhaps, worrisome dynamics are what largely inform the passage under scrutiny today.Jesusí brothers apparently ascribe to the go along, get along approach to life.That is why when the brothers of Jesus are confronted with the startling truth about Jesus, they respond with unbelief.So do we if we are the go along, get along sort.Whether we are talking about salvation (our introduction to Jesus) or sanctification (our life-long growth in personal holiness), when we are confronted with the truth, we will balk.People typically balk because of their unbelief--which they often see either as a betrayal of common sense, or as a violation of what is reason.This side of the cross, Jesusí dying for our sins, frankly, made very little sense.

 

††††††††††† So, we are entering the second year of Jesusí public ministry.It is the harvest season, September to October--itís time for the Feast of the Tabernacles, a kind of happy harvest festival, one of three in-gatherings mandatory for Jewish men.And the feeding of the 5,000, followed by the teaching stint in Capernaum lies some six months behind us.Jesus is ministering in Galilee because the Judeans, those who lived in and around Jerusalem, have already expressed their intention to kill Jesus.Itís A.D. 29.Todayís passage is placed by some after Mt. 8:21-35, Mark 9:49,50 and Luke 10:17 et seq.We are about to embark on a journey through the episodes of controversy which take place in Jerusalem--indeed, verse 14 is thought by some to represent the earliest record of Jesusí teaching in the temple.The amazement of the learned Jews at this point in time reminds us of their earlier astonishment at the 12 year old Jesus!Perhaps we can get in touch with this feeling by noting that Jesus had no known, no recorded affiliation with higher learning.If He ever attended a rabbinical school, we have no proof of it.But, this supposedly illiterate, itinerant preacher from Galilee--what we might call a country bumpkin, or rube--demonstrated a thorough knowledge of Scripture and current rabbinic methodology.He was a spell-binding expositor of the Word and the learned couldnít figure out who His tutor was.(We do know though, it was His Father in heaven.)Jesusí brothers were just as in the dark, apparently, about Jesusí doctrine; they had no idea where He got it from.They were too worldly.[1]Now we may rejoice that they overcame their misconceptions of Jesusí person and mission after the resurrection; but the weightier concern is that we not become like them--so settled in our own ideas and infallibility that we also stumble as they did.And to be clear, I do not necessarily mean, stumbling over salvation as much as I mean stumbling over the process of sanctification, that growth in personal holiness that makes us different--and sometimes difficult to those who think we ought to just go along and get along!Holiness, our proper vocation as born-again believers, is a real bother--a major, major pain.It demands more from us that we typically want to give and it never gives up.It requires humility, soul-searching, introspection, repentance and turning as well as the extension of kindness and mercy to the undeserving and indifferent.

 

††††††††††† Those who ascribe the view of go along, get along are suffering from spiritual deficiency.They have exchanged true spirituality for a religious spirit.Their God is remote.They are religiously indifferent--either superficial or actually deistic.Deists are those who ascribe to God as a divine being.This view is distinguished from that of theists by the lack of personhood--theist believe in the person of the God of the Bible.†† For deists, God is at most an idea, or a concept but not a living, loving personal entity.If church goers were immune to this drift, the point would be hardly worth pursuing.Deism, however, is the acceptable view of God in our time and day.Some churches have bought right in!Gone are the divine attributes of judgment, mercy, love and truth which Jesus incarnated, embodied for our sakes.It is, as Iíve said, an inadequate view of God, or of Jesus that hampers our spiritual growth.For example, we all warm to the mercy and love--especially for ourselves--but we either want to do without the truth and judgment, or we want to reserve that part of God, judgment and truth, for others.God, however, is all of these all at once and in perfect integration for every one.Our job is to attain a similar aptitude; that is, to become like God in making righteous judgments that are also merciful and loving.Now Jesusí brothers did not believe that Jesus could make much of an impact in Galilee--and they certainly didnít believe that His manifestation would necessitate His dying on the cross.

 

††††††††††† At the bottom of their counsel, we find ďselfĒ and a thinly veiled reprise of the devilís temptation.They encourage Jesus to go where the crowd is, to chase some applause, make a name for yourself.In the old days, this would be known as vain glory.Jesusí response has a decidedly chilling effect:He answers meekly and calmly that His time and movements are determined by God.He distinguishes Himself from them by pointing out that while they think they have nothing of moment, nothing of great importance to do, He does.Specifically, Jesus has the ministry of the seventy to attend to--and that work results in the fall of Satan from heaven.The movement towards the cross is thrown into high gear.Things are intensifying.Of course, around the middle of the feast, possibly Wednesday, He does go up quietly, or privately (but not deceitfully) and He begins to teach in the temple.He departs not out of His own purposes, but out of obedience to the Fatherís unfolding plan.That is, with foresight and maturity, Jesus proceeded to the next step of the journey.He denies them His company because they were too carnal, too vain and careless, even hypocritical--making a show of their religion, but not engaging in it from their heart.Christians would do well to examine the company they keep, religiously speaking, with Jesusí example in mind--there is an earnestness to our faith, a seriousness about living righteous and holy that cannot be set aside in a carnival spirit.Our worship is not entertainment and it is our duty to engage ourselves--to sanctify ourselves--and not simply to expect the service to be engaging.

 

††††††††††† Mat 23:23"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.Mat 23:24"You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!Mat 23:25"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.Mat 23:26"You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.Mat 23:27"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.Mat 23:28"Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

 

If only those words were reserved to the religious folk of yesteryear!But, alas, they have a current application all too often.

 

††††††††††† Now the good news is that Jesusí brothers gave up the go along, get along approach to their faith.They became deeply engaged in the work of the infant church--the church that is always reforming, always building.And hereís what made the difference: Christís glorious resurrection.All their confusion about the necessity of the cross was cleared up once Jesus demonstrated that He was indeed Lord of death and life.And that He is Lord of your life as well.Listen, outward union with Christ is not always real and fruitful.Let those who make an end out of church attendance do so no longer.What about the mission to the lost, the Jew and the Gentile?What about those lost in sin and sexual confusion?What about the children who have never heard about the love of Jesus?How about all the works of mercy lying about, close at hand, looking for someone to up and do them?Ah, keeping church to and for oneself is such a selfish thing and those who do find the laws of Christ incomprehensible, the language of faith seems foreign, forgiveness awkward and the gospel requirements hard and grievous.But things do not need to be so--there is glorious liberty for those who focus on the goodness of the Lord, on what He has already done, and on the bounty that He has showered upon us.If we go along in Godís way, we shall get along towards rightousness, health and heaven.



[1] This insight into their unbelief comes to us from the disciple, John, into whose care Jesus had commended His mother at the cross.Whatever their relationship may have been before that watershed event, we can be sure that they became intimately connected thereafter.So this is not a causal observation, or an uninformed opinion.