Archive for March 11, 2008

Stiff NeckI am discovering that people living in a rural area usually chose to do so because they are a bit independent. The older ones are especially that way. They don’t like change, they don’t really like to be told what to do. Ones who have been faithfully attending a traditional rural church are used to hearing traditional-style sermons (3 points and a teary story). They don’t mind their hearts being tugged, but they don’t like to think too hard. They prefer a simple moral life. A ‘good’ religion with a few simple rules suits them fine. They can relate to “Thou Shalt Not’s”, because they are easy to understand. Don’t lie, steal, commit adultery is easy for them to do.

I’m not that kind of preacher.

I like the “Thou Shalt” kind of religion. I like it when Paul writes about ‘liberty’ and ‘walking in the Spirit’. I preach the “Gospel of the Kingdom” – the Gospel that produces change in earthly lives and enables us to live according to Christ’s Kingdom Commands. His Kingdom Commands are more “Thou Shalt DO” than thou shalt not (see Matt 5-7). The Pharisees burdened the Jews with so many DON’TS that the Joy of worship was gone. Jesus was all about JOY. He wanted His disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit was available to fill them. The Holy Spirit is the Key to Joy in this Christian Life. The Holy Spirit is the Key to DOING this Christian Life.

Not Traditional Southern Baptist Preaching

StephenI am discovering that this is not “traditional” Southern Baptist teaching. Some are enthusiastically accepting a life of Faith. Alas, some are what I believe God calls “stiff-necked”. Stephen got stoned because he called the Jews “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you! (Acts 7:51).

God said something interesting when he was disgusted with the Jews He had rescued from the slavery of Pharaoh. In Exodus 33:5 God says: For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, Stiffnecked people‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’ ”

Take Off Your Ornaments

These ornaments were the ones lavished upon them by the Egyptians as they were leaving. These were the same golden ornaments which were melted to cast the Golden Calf just days before. Their actions had prompted God to exclaim: Golden OrnamentsAnd the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” (Exodus 32:7-10). God wanted to kill them all, and start over. Now, due to Moses Intervention, He was allowing the people to continue toward the Promised Land, but He did not want to go with them.

God did make one thing very clear however. If they were to go on, they must set those ornaments aside. They must leave them there in the desert.

These ornaments represented their fleshly desires, their fleshly ways. They represented a walk of sight, not a walk of sightless faith. Even though they were slaves in Egypt, they were familiar with all the luxuries the Egyptians possessed. They desired to go back, to go their own way, to go after those things of the flesh. God said NO! If you are to go to the Promised Land, the Land of My Blessing and Victory, you must go according to My leadership and My commands. You cannot bring anything of the flesh or the world with you. Isn’t that what the writer of Hebrews was telling those Jewish Christians thinking of turning back to the world, turning away from God? In Hebrews 12: 1 they are told to “drop the weights and the sins that weigh you down”. These things were keeping them from running the race, from achieving God’s goals. They were told to “Look to Jesus!”

Many Christians are “Stiff-Necked”

The sad truth of many ‘Christians’ is that they are stiff-necked, clinging to a god or a religion that is far from the Life of Liberty in the Spirit of Christ. They are good and moral, but they fear the Walk of Faith. They would rather have their rules and pride in their goodness. They can only see Jesus if He is smack dab in front of them. They cannot turn their neck to follow after Him. But our God is seeking those who will worship in spirit and in truth. God is seeking those who follow after the Holy Spirit, and desire His fullness and His joy. The Christian walk is a walk of Joy because we are doing, we are following Christ, no matter where He leads.

If we do something today because we did it yesterday, that is law. But if we do something to day because the Holy Spirit is leading us, that is grace.

Another thing about stiff-necked Christians-they usually are a pain in the neck. No wonder God wanted to get rid of them. As Moses implored: “Do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever.”