I don’t know if this is the best topic for an ODJ devotional, but it struck me recently that many emergent leaders inadvertently shut the door to the kingdom, which is precisely the problem that Jesus had with the Pharisees. I’m not sure if my logic holds in the third to last paragraph, but I’m trying to convey the idea that these leaders not only shut the door to the kingdom but also remove its very idea.
read > Matthew 23:1-15
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either” (v. 13-14).
Who are today’s Pharisees? The easy answer is traditional Christians who load believers with legalistic lists of worldly activities to avoid. Their not-too-subtle message is that good Christians look, act, and vote in particularly conservative ways. While this threatens the gospel of grace, there is a new breed of Pharisee which is equally devastating.
The new Pharisees shut the door to the kingdom by assuring people that they are not sinners and therefore do not need to believe in the Savior. Everyone is born already on the inside and need do nothing to enter.
This differs from Jesus, who announced his kingdom by commanding people to “Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15). He explained that he did not “come to call…those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Matt. 9:13). Our sin is why Jesus said he is the Door and only “those who come in through me will be saved” (John 10:9).
If Jesus is the only Door, then anyone who denies his necessity is shutting the door to the kingdom. This doesn’t trouble the new Pharisees, for they believe that everyone is already in. But a kingdom which includes everyone and asks nothing from anyone is no longer a meaningful concept. Any set which is everything is also nothing. So the kingdom no longer exists, and you can’t enter what isn’t there.
Finally, the new Pharisees are as legalistic as any fundamentalist. They also have distinct ideas about how Christians should dress, eat, and vote, though now their answers lean hard to the left. It used to be a sin to drink and swear; now it’s a sin not to.
Beware of Pharisees on the left and the right. Let nothing distract from the beauty—and necessity—of Jesus.