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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Kind of Person God Won’t Use

The following is a sermon for the Haftarah of Shabbat Zachor, ! Samuel 15. It concerns King Saul, the first king of Israel, and how his grandiosity and lack of integrity cost him everything.

Through Samuel, God told Saul to blot out Amalek—to deal radically with a cancer that had to be removed. But Saul had a better idea. And by failing to deal with matters the way God intended, Saul became the kind of man God could not use.

If we would avoid Saul’s fate, we must learn from his mistakes and not repeat them.

The thing about Saul was that he not only disobeyed: he lied to himself about it. He was a person whose sins were not his responsibility, but always someone else’s fault. Saul was someone who imagined his disobedience to be completely understandable.

It was not simply that he committed sin, it was that he was dishonest with everyone about his sins, begining with himself. And so the sin survived to grow—symbolized in this case by his allowing Agag the King of Amalek to live because he found it flattering to do so. (Jewish tradition posits that this surving Agag became the ancestor of Haman the Agagite, a notorious enemy of the Jews, who almost wiped out the Persian Jewish population, as recorded in the Book of Esther.

Another key indictment here is that people like Saul can and do sometimes substitute religious performance for obedience. God is not impressed. He says, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” This is not a passage against sacrifice—it is a passage against presuming to try and snow God, yourself, and others.

A third indictment in this passage is that such persons, often narcissistic persons, are generally prone to make cboices that make themselves look good. So it is that Saul looks good when he has an enemy king as a prisoner. He also looks good when he gives all his henchmen the plunder which he was supposed to destroy.

The upshot of these indictments is the removal of Saul from his position of privilege. He loses it all.

You may find a little or more than a little of Saul in yourself. Or perhaps you are afraid that you might repeat Saul’s mistakes. In that case, there are some things you can do.

First, make it a point to constantly tell the truth to yourself about your own compromises and sins. Be unflinchingly honest.

Second, decide now to stop the blame game—the reflexive habit of blaming others for your sins—“I wouldn’t do this, but they did that to me, so can you blame me?” “I can’t help myself!”

Third, beware of trying to impress God with religious camouflage. “To obey is better than sacrifice.” This means that you and I should not be concentrating on appearances, but on obedience, especially hidden obedience, obedience in the little things.

Fourth, examine yourself honestly to see if you have an overdeveloped need to look good. This means you deeply resent and obsess about anything that makes you look bad. It means you are always choose roles where you will come out looking good. IF you find in yourself a sickening need to always look good, realize that this is warped and immature. It is far better to do the right thing and look bad, than to do the wrong thing and look good.

Finally, realize that God can always knock you off your high horse, God can always remove you from your position, no matter how high and secure it is.

The bottom line then is this: learn to walk in the fear of God. Saul didn’t—and he lost everything.

As New Covenant believers, we have additional resources and insight into this dynamic.

17 By God's grace, you, who were once slaves to sin, obeyed from your heart the pattern of teaching to which you were exposed;

Verse 17 tells us that when we become Yeshua believers, there should be a standard of teaching to which we are exposed. This standard of teaching should include a very high standard of holiness—of walking in righteous character, maturing into the kind of person who makes progress instead of making excuses. I am afraid I have not done a good job here proclaiming that kind of standard. I will try and do better, But meanwhile, we need to set a very high standard and hold ourselves responsible to it.

This verse also reminds us that we ought to obey this pattern of teaching from the heart. There’s that word again: obey, or obedience. We must obey from the heart. I fear that too many of us are half-hearted about obedience to God. We need to do the hard work of holding ourselves accountable—and of working toward this standard like we really mean it—from the heart.

If we don’t do that, then the rest of this verse won’t be true: “You used to be slaves of sin.” If we do not learn to obey from the heart, to give to God heartfelt obedience, we will remain slaves of sin—that is, people who are characterized by patterns of immature, self-serving, blaming, shoddy and ungodly behavior. The only way to freedom in Messiah in the area of personal sin is to “obey from the heart.” Another word for this is to “take responsibility.”

Verse eighteen says gives us a broad strokes picture this kind of perspective. We should see ourselves as those who have been set free from sin’s dominance through the work of Messiah, persons who therefore choose to no longer live immature, other-blaming, self-indulgent, narcissistic lives. Instead, we should be people who make an increasing habit of yielding ourselves to God.

I spent the past week with a godly man—with a man mature in the things of God, who is the world’s greatest expert in his field. What impressed me most of this man was his humble faithfulness in little things. Here he is, the world’s greatest expert in Christian ministry in his field, and he is working on an article long-hand, driving himself around, at the end of a long work day, going to his room to complete this article which will appear in Christianity Today in a couple of months. What will not appear in Christianity Today is the record of his humble service, and dependability in the simple details, that is so much better than sacrifice.

As James Kugel points out in his book, “On Being a Jew,” true spirituality involves being Klein instead of Gross—small instead of large. It involves learning to color within the lines that God has laid out. For too many of us, our ambition is expansive, as was the case for Saul. Could it be that it is far better to be modest in our service of God, attending to the little things, rather than looking for the next big thing?

As Luke 16:10 puts it, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.” We would all do well to become focused on the small things, the little details. Saul, on the other hand was grandiose in his ambitions . . . and unfaithful to God.

Saul was the kind of person God couldn’t and wouldn’t use. If you want to be part of what God is doing in the world—don’t repeat his sins. Above all, you must wipe out Amalek in your life .. . . those things God says “No” to but which you habitually allow to survive because it makes you feel better to do so. Deal radically with Amalek in your life. And make it a constant habit to tell yourself the truth, stop blaming others, and to take responsibility to be and to do according to the call of God on your life.

It makes all the difference.

At 3/06/2007 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here you teach the law but no grace. Where did grace go?

At 3/06/2007 8:57 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Wherever you have the God of the Bible, you have grace. If you don't find the God of the Bible in my posting, then we have nothing to discuss.

The assumption that law and grace are antithetical is the legacy of Luther's sixteenth century struggle with an overdeveloped conscience and a demanding Medieval Church. As Krister Stendahl demonstrated in his famous article, "Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West," Luther's struggles are not those of Paul, and are not the NT perspective, nor need/should they be ours.


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