Monday, July 28, 2008

There Are More Important Things

“And he [Jesus] said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. - Mark 2:27-28

      Some things are more important than other things. This is not to say that the other things are of no importance, only that they are of lesser importance than the more important things. For instance, your reputation is important, but your character is more important. Reputation can be contrived; character must be developed and constantly nurtured. Reputation can change with the variable whims of societal standards, but character remains constant whether in Jerusalem or Babylon (Dan.1).

      The story found in Mark 2:23-28 gives us an example of how wrong-headed we can be in the priorities of our lives—especially our Christian lives. On this occasion, Jesus and His disciples were walking through a cornfield on the sabbath day. I don’t know how long they had been walking, but it was long enough for the disciples to develop a hunger (That happens a lot with preachers!) Instinctively, they reached for an ear of corn, pulled away the husk, and began to chow down.

     The Pharisees, who happened to be following along, as they often did, pounced on this immediately, saying to Jesus, “Your disciples are breaking sabbath law. Why?” This was a definite distortion of the law, but our Lord simply pointed out an occasion when their revered King David and his men had broken Sabbath law by eating the tabernacle shewbread meant only for the priests (1 Sam. 21). (We read in other of the Gospels that He gave more examples.) His point in verse 28 was, “Look, I’m the one who instituted the sabbath in the first place; I have the right to set it aside or even suspend it, if I so choose.” In other words, He is more important than…well, than anything.

      You and I as believers are in danger, I think, of failing to see the forest because we are scrutinizing one or another tree. We lose sight of real priorities when we are focused on acquired preferences. Here are a few examples:

      (1) The organization is not more important than the organism. The great body of believers that make up the Church, the Bride of Christ, is more important than my denomination or my local church, as important as these are. I embrace historic Baptist doctrine and am committed to the local body of believers that make up my local church, Temple Baptist Church of Lodi, California. But there is a great host of fellow believers who do not attend my church or even call themselves Baptists, and we, along with them, make up that hated band that Jesus promised the gates of hell would not prevail against (Matt.16:18).

      (2) The Oracles are more important than the order. By this I mean, the style of worship and the order of service are not as important as Bible directives and principles. Within the boundaries of decency and order (1Cor.14:40), and observing the limitations of women (1Cor.14:34), as I see it, local believers are free to conduct their worship services however the collective body sees fit. The order of service (or lack thereof), style of music, etc., are neither dictated nor implied. This is not to say I have no preference on either. I do. But I understand it to be just that: preference.

      (3) The pastor is more important than the program. I am amazed at people who sacrifice the opportunity for their family to sit under the preaching of a true man of God expounding the Word of God, so that their young people can be part of an “exciting” youth program. To me, it’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Your children will need a godly pastor long after they have graduated from Sunday School. Ideally, of course, one should not have to choose between the two, but if we do, we should remember one of old Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.’s sayings: “Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

      (4) The Lord is more important than liturgy. I am thinking specifically here of the two ordinances of the Church: Baptism and the Lord’s Table. As I Baptist, I believe strongly that baptism should only be for repentant believers and should utilize the mode of immersion. There are others in the Body who prefer sprinkling and, and some practice infant, or “paedo,” baptism. I cannot subscribe to either, in good conscience; but I acknowledge their right to practice these and still be my brothers and sisters in Christ, as long as they ascribe to cardinal doctrines such as salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, His bodily resurrection, and the inerrancy of the Bible.

      I have come to believe after these many years, and after studying the Word of God and people, that the most successful Christians are the ones with a well-developed, Biblical-based sense of prioritization. In other words, those who are able to zero in on the more important things and put everything else on the back burner. Not forgetting them, of course, for they too are important…in their rightful place.

      Jesus Christ is Lord of the sabbath…and everything else. There is nothing more important than that.



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