Mark 12:28-30

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”

Renewed In Knowledge

Almost everyone who is a Christian knows that a large part of the job given by God to His pastor-teachers is to feed the lambs, the young in Christ. He is also to care for the needs of the whole flock entrusted to his care so they may grow to maturity in their relationship with the Lord. In Colossians 3 it is written – you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (vv.9-10). Today there is a dearth of good pastors, and when this is coupled with the lack of respect shown to those of us who are attempting to fulfill our task, you have the recipe for the doctrine du jour of today’s American Christianity: “I’ll just select from the menu what I feel like believing and doing right now.”

In the late 1950’s, as A.W. Tozer was lamenting the sad fact that too often pastors neglect to inform our congregations that it is simply not enough just to know a few things about God, he also exposed the reptilian roots of what would eventually become the ecumenical new evangelical purpose driven emerging word faith heading home to Rome church:

Through His promises we learn what we may claim as our heritage, we learn how we should pray. But faith itself must rest on the character of God. Is this difficult to see? Why are we not stressing this in our evangelical circles? Why are we afraid to declare that people in our churches must come to know God himself and not just know about Him? Why do we not tell them that they must get beyond the point of making God only a lifeboat for their rescue or a ladder to get them out of a burning building? How can we help our people get over the idea that God exists just to help us accomplish our selfish ideas? God is not a railway porter who carries your suitcase and serves you. God is God…He is the great God Almighty. He is not your servant. He is your Father and you are His child.

This idea of being renewed in knowledge in the image of [your] Creator finds its own source in Mark chapter 12 and verse 28. Among the grossly mistaken ideas today that have wormed their way into the fabric of Christianity, we find the weak-willed teaching that if we confront error in religious matters–and specifically within the Church–we are somehow being “judgmental.” So now too many who profess to be Christian just sit back and let false doctrine about God slowly slither its way into our culture, where it then spreads through the Church as quickly as a computer virus. In this missive I’m going to show you that this was not how Jesus–the Great Shepherd–handled this same sad situation was when He was teaching. Another thing we need to remember here is that right from the very beginning of His ministry our Lord–in addition to teaching in the synagogues and the Temple–was also preaching publicly; being involved in the “market place” of ideas as it were, teaching out where the people are that need to hear from God, and to be correctly informed about Him.

The Times Haven’t Changed Much

You need also to be aware that there is a revisionist idea being spread by the Emergent Church movement that “contemporary evangelical theology” is only concerned with “the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.” This is exactly what you read in an article called “Conversation about Walter Rauschenbusch” which is posted on Brian McLaren’s website where these two quotes originated. Lord willing, I’ll cover this in more detail in an upcoming article, but for now let me categorically state that this is simply not true at all. The historic orthodox Christian Church has always taught that true conversion leads to a faith which produces good works of a social nature. It can be summed up as “if the people won’t come to the church, then let’s take the church to the people,” and this is the explanation for the scores of social improvements that have come about through the doctrine espoused–albeit heavily compromised–by “contemporary evangelical theology.” But in the meantime what has happened is that the Emergent Church and the seeker sensitive purpose driven movement have actually revised this idea as follows: “If the people don’t like the church, then let’s make the church like the people.”

This pattern of social interaction through the Gospel was evident in the ancient Christian and we see can see a mandate for this even in our current text. So as Jesus is teaching the crowds out along the highways and hedges (see–Luke 14:23), it was inevitable that Satan would make his slimy appearance to stir people up to challenge the Master about what He is teaching. Chief among these children of the devil (see–John 8:42-45) were the Pharisees, a very strict sect of Jewish religionists who depended on the “scribes and teachers of the Law” for their interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. This group was not unlike the conservative hierarchy of the apostate Roman Catholic Church of our day in that they also attributed “tradition” as equal to Scripture. But in practice this actually becomes that these traditions derived from men’s interpretation of these Scriptures, then will supersede what the Bible actually says.

At the same time there were the Sadducees, who were Jews that were made up from the wealthy and sophisticated classes who were also most interested in protecting their own status within society. This humanistic world-view led them to reject most of the Hebrew Scriptures and attribute everything to free will, which would be similar to those who follow the humanistic doctrine of what Dr. Walter Martin labeled “the Cult of Liberal Theology” in today’s dead and dying churches of mainline denominations, i.e. the American Baptist Church, the Congregational Church, the Episcopal Church, and The United Methodist Church to name just a sickening few. Oddly enough despite their denial of all religious writings but the Torah the Sadducees were actually in control of the High Priesthood, which again is not unlike the chokehold that liberal theology still has on virtually all of our Bible colleges and seminaries.

Arguing For God

With this as our backdrop, we now look a bit closer at our text where various members of these groups have been challenging Jesus of Nazareth and trying to entrap Him by asking our Lord a series of questions that they hoped He would then answer incorrectly. You can file this one under “Things That Make No Sense,” arguing with God Himself, a really bad idea. Watch closely how Jesus handled this opposition to the Truth He had been preaching and teaching. Mark 12:28 – One of the Teachers of the Law came and heard them debating. Uh-oh, it seems as if the Master wasn’t just sitting back like so many today and thinking: “Well, Father it’s all in Your hands, there’s nothing I can do about what they believe. But I’ll be praying for them so the Truth will just “pop” right into their heads, or maybe it’ll just jump right off the scrolls and bite them.“ No, we can plainly see here that Christ Jesus answered them right back–He “argued” with them. Verse 28 again, the Teacher of the Law – heard them debating – and men and women that’s what you do in a debate–you “argue” with your opponent.

Yet invariably still someone will say: “I thought Christians shouldn’t argue with people about religion?” Well, who told you that? It certainly wasn’t God, because this is exactly what our Lord is doing here within the God-breathed pages of Holy Scripture. Let’s look one more time at verse 28 – One of the Teachers of the Law came [over] and heard them debating. [The King James Version says – reasoning together; it’s obvious from our text that they were exchanging ideas back and forth. Now look at what transpires next] – Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Can you see what happens here; because Jesus was willing to debate–reason, argue–with those who opposed Him, the Master thereby attracted the attention of this other teacher, and in this way our Lord provided this man an opportunity to hear more Truth about God.

If you read on in the text Jesus will eventually say to him – “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” There is good reason to believe that this man became a follower of Jesus because the Lord was willing to argue about God publicly. But to finish up the idea of the Christian using our head so we will be able to teach those whom God puts in front of us, we go back to the b part of verse 28 where this teacher of the Law asks Jesus – “Of all the Commandments, which is the most important one?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ’Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” If you caught that, our Lord has instructed us that we must love God with all the strength of our mind–as well with our heart and soul. Beloved, you can’t do that if you don’t discipline yourself as to what goes into your mind. This means the Christian needs to be very careful about what we do; what we watch; what we listen to, and yes, even what we think about.

Love The Lord With Your All

Remember now, our Master reminds His Church – The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness (Matthew 6:22-23). In the Spirit I admonish you that being a Christian is an especially serious business, and particularly in this age of universalism, which is the lying spirit behind this growing apostasy we are now living in. You must be ever diligent to keep close watch over what you surround yourself with. Sometimes people will look at something, and they think – “Well this thing here isn’t so bad. I know I shouldn’t do this, but it’s only a little wrong.” But as has been pointed out elsewhere, “There’s no such thing as a healthy form of cancer; you don’t get it, it gets you,” and a little sin–the next thing you know, you’re up to your eyeballs in crud.

Lastly on this critically neglected subject of using your head and loving the Lord with all your mind, you simply won’t be able to accomplish this if you won’t let anyone teach you, and if you aren’t diligent to present yourself approved to God. I am personally quite tired of spending hours in biblical study and historic research only to have people without a clue in these areas simply disregard implicitly sound arguments for no other reason than they just don’t like them. In fact this whole arrogant argument of: “I don’t need to study because I have the Holy Spirit,” explodes right here in 2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to show thyself approved unto God as it reads in the KJV. So. let me take you through this logically 1) The Bible was written by God the Holy Spirit. 2) The Bible tells us to study. 3) Therefore, God the Holy Spirit Himself just told you to study.

Then if we go to Ephesians 4 in the Word of God we are told that Christ–Who is undoubtedly the Head of His Body–gave gifts to His Church that apparently the Master decided were necessary for its health, and yes, this is even for independent Americans:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ (vv. 11-15)

And anyone who possibly thinks that the Christian Church in America–fragmented by tons of superfluous pride-filled denominations–isn’t being tossed back and forth by the waves of false teachers and women “pastors” and blown here and there by every wind of teaching like that found in the Purpose Driven deception and the burgeoning cult of the Emergent Church and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming of the Word Faith Movement from its repugnant “Christian” home of the Trinity Broadcasting System, is in serious need of having their spiritual head examined. Don’t you recognize Christ’s judgments on His Church when you see them? This is exactly why the Great Shepherd gave you true under-shepherds in the first place; yet I wonder, why is it these devils prosper while we are forced to continue on sans support? When you get a moment, I encourage you to read Hebrews 13:17.

Do we not expect our young people to go to school in order to gain the knowledge necessary to become successful in this life? Then how much more should the true Body of Christ use our heads and study under those pastor-teachers the Master has given us to help acquire the wisdom and knowledge that we as children of the living God need for a successful walk with Jesus? The truth is that all of us who are really Christians should want to follow our Lord’s example in Luke 2:52 – And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Finally, it is only as we use our heads and submit ourselves to proper teaching–as did Christ Himself–that all of us will be able to confront false doctrine as Jesus Christ of Nazareth did. And men and women, this is also the only way that we will truly be able to help young Christians to learn the life-lessons that we ourselves may have had to learn “the hard way.” Have you ever found yourself on that path?