The Tragedy of Misdirection

It was supposed be a very specific YouTube search.  I was looking for one thing, but in the small frames on the right side of the screen it was as if YouTube was calling me somewhere else.  Should I?  Should I click one of those videos that made me feel like it was made personally for me? I wanted to look for a video on Count Zinzendorf (a famous Pietist), but on the screen next to the Count was a Catholic Priest giving his perspective on Methodism.  In another video a famous Calvinist was about to criticize Arminianism. Should I or shouldn’t I?  Naturally I did – I watched them both, and even a third. 

This is not a blog about YouTube.  Most of us know the power of our video driven culture.  Rather, this is a comment about a tragedy – the tragedy of Christian misdirection.  Perhaps you’re thinking that I got misdirected by looking at random videos, but that’s not the misdirection I’m talking about.  Rather, here’s what I mean by Christian misdirection:  too many of us, especially pastors, spend our time attempting to rally the troops against other churches and other Christian denominations. The goal of course is to get people to know “the truth.”  Good pastors try to help their people know their Bibles and their Traditions. However, in our pursuit of truth (and if you know me at all, you know that truth seeking is very important to me) is it possible that we have directed people the wrong way?  Is it not possible that we have focused so much on being “right” (in contrast to other churches), that we have given our people a false idea of what it takes to enter and enjoy the kingdom of heaven? 

It’s amazing to me how many clicks some of the famous pastors have on YouTube.  I’ve always wondered how they get them, and I know that much of their popularity comes from book deals and various publications.  Large churches breed a large number of clicks, etc. That’s fine, and I want people to listen to good Bible preachers and teachers.  However, I think we all know about the power of controversy and the temptations that come by attracting a large audience.  Yet large crowds never impressed Jesus.  Again and again He focused upon personal faith and character, and He often walked away from the masses.

The real issue in the Christian life and in Christian ministry is not being “right.” All of us make errors and although it’s important to be sound in our teaching and preaching, it is far, far more important to be loving and to encourage our people to enter into a deep knowing, even an intimacy, of and with Jesus Christ.  When the Lord calls our name, He won’t ask us about our doctrine, but He will affirm or deny our relationship with Him.   Consider His words in Matthew 7:21-23

21   “Not everyone who  says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will  enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who  does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22  On that day  many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not  prophesy in your name, and cast out demons  in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23  And then will I declare to them, ‘I  never knew you;  depart from me,  you workers of lawlessness.’

Luke 1

Luke 1,1  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that  have been accomplished among us, 2  just as those who  from the beginning were  eyewitnesses and  ministers of  the word  have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write  an orderly account for you,  most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have  certainty concerning the things  you have been taught.

The word is epistemology, and before you decide not to read this blog (a person’s epistemology is one’s way of knowing), let me ask you a simple question:  How do you know what you think you know?  Let’s face it: It has become one of the most pressing questions of 21st Century life.   We live in a world of assumptions bolstered by the growth in social media and what many call “fake news.”  That story your child told you about concerning his/her incident on the playground?  Did it happen that way?  How about that beautiful photo of your friends on Maui?  Are those people really happy, or did they scuffle between themselves gathering for the photo?   With people showing only their best and with people telling events only their way, are we ever going to get to the facts in life’s daily events?   Then we can ask this question:  are we ever going to get to the truth?

Such questions about facts and truth surround us seven days a week, and it’s not just a 21st century current event problem.  It’s a problem in the Church as Christians approach scripture.  The study of the Bible is demanding work.  It can be approached casually, and I certainly encourage any such reading.  Read the Bible, read the Bible, and read it again. Yet if a person desires to dig, to work hard at understanding, to pursue treasures in the text, with the help of the Holy Spirit the study of scripture requires much effort.

Don’t be discouraged!  Our God is an awesome God willing to help all who call upon Him, and the good news is that the Bible comes to us as a bedrock of truth.   How do we know this?  How do we know that the Bible is just not an early form of social media filled with “fake news?’  Let me suggest one simple answer among many: the writers of the New Testament were persecuted for their faith. 

Notice how Luke opens his gospel:

Luke 1,1  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that  have been accomplished among us, 2  just as those who  from the beginning were  eyewitnesses and  ministers of  the word  have delivered them to us,

The eyewitnesses Luke is talking about includes the Apostles who were all persecuted and most martyred for their proclamation that Jesus is King – the King who rose from the dead.  Luke is not simply writing a casual story.  He himself is taking a personal risk numbering himself with the Apostles who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. 

How do we know the Bible is true?  We know because it came from a persecuted subculture in a hostile Roman Empire. These were men who did not write for fame and glory.  They received no earthly rewards. They didn’t get a book deal. Rather, they wrote because they had witnessed God do amazing, awe-inspiring things, and the Lord was with them in their writing so that one day the world could know the greatest truth of all: Jesus’ loves you and me.