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In Matt. 15, Jesus performed many miracles: He healed the, “Lame, crippled, blind, mute and many others.” He fed the 4000 with seven loaves and a few small fish. Amazing things were happening. Sending away the crowds, Jesus heads to Magadan, also known as Magdala. In Chap. 16, Jesus teaches the disciples and challenges them about the principle of influence. Some might call it discipleship. I want to challenge you to be a discipler and a disciple.
Who will influence your behavior? You need to be on guard, so here are some principles to follow. So how do you get involved? Let’s see.
I hope you have your Bible so you can read Matt. 16:5-12.
We need to choose carefully who we listen to. Just because someone comes in the name of God, doesn’t mean you follow them. If that is the standard, you will follow after any cult or schism that comes along. Choose who you listen to carefully. This applies to every area of your life. If you’re a business person, there are thousands of people out there just waiting to tell you how to do it. There are experts in every area of life. Anytime a crisis erupts, the experts come out of the woodwork. If you want to improve your marriage, there is a conference for you. If you want to be a great husband or wife, there are tons of books for you. Having trouble raising children? The bookstores are full of ways you can be the model parent. With only minimum effort, you can find something on any topic under the sun. But whose opinion really matters? Who’re you going to listen to?
When it comes to securing eternal life in Heaven, there are hundreds of ways out there, but they can’t all be right so who’re you going to listen to? Oprah talks about finding the divine within you. Others say you must be a member of a certain church. Still others will say unless you are baptized, or baptized in a certain way, you cannot get into heaven. Some say you have to pray to gods other than the true God to get to heaven. Others will say you can’t get into Paradise unless you pledge loyalty to Mohammed.
In choosing carefully, there are two standards that must be followed. First there is biblical authority. Not in the sense of someone that can quote Bible verses for you. Biblical authority in the sense that what someone says lines up with the teaching of the entire word of God.
The second is results in their lives. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about what the world calls success. Has God radically transformed the person? Don’t you just love the people that like to tell you how it should be in your life, but they don’t practice what they preach?
Exercise caution when looking for a discipler. If I want someone to help me raise children, I’m not going to consider someone that has no children. If I want to someone to help me be a great student of the Bible, I’m going to find someone that is a great student of the Bible. When choosing a mentor, you need to look not only at the results in their lives, but how that person produces results in others. Not every great athlete becomes a great coach.
Consider the Pharisees and Sadducees. In the fruit and results test, the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t measure up. They didn’t exhibit the love of God, the mercy of God, the compassion of God, the forgiveness of God. Both groups preached a sour, lousy, legalistic approach to God. They wanted everyone to look and act just like them. Jesus said, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matt. 16:6) A little leaven influences the whole batch of dough and continues to influence it. Choose your mentors carefully and listen with a filter. When you make coffee, you use a filter so the grounds don’t get into the coffee. If your filter has ever folded over and you swallowed grounds, you know why you use a filter.
You need to learn to discern when something doesn’t fit with God’s Word and you filter out what doesn’t fit. My wife is preparing to teach Bible study leaders about handling a difficult passage. She found a good resource online and at the end of the article, it presented an about the author bio. It said, “The author, . . . . helps those grieving the loss of a pet to understand the Biblical evidence that proves they live on. His most popular book, ‘Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates’ delivers hope and comfort to the reader in a very gentle, yet convincing way.” I’m pretty sure we don’t need to take the time to dig into whether or not our pets are going to be in heaven. Just because the author has a doctrinal position that I don’t agree with doesn’t mean I disregard all of his teaching.
That’s what Jesus was saying about the Pharisees and Sadducees. All of their teaching was not bad. If it was, Jesus wouldn’t have said “Beware.” He would have said, “Don’t listen to a word they say.” The Pharisees and Sadducees taught some correct things. They taught that people should be obedient, should worship God, should look for the Messiah. They should pray, tithe, and fast. They also taught some things that were way off the mark. They taught that the oral law or traditions of man were of equal weight as the written Word. We have groups today that teach the same thing. Col. 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” They taught that following God was not a matter of mercy and grace, but a legalistic code of rules filled with do’s and don’ts.
The Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t even get along with one another. The Sadducees were a small elite group composed of the priestly family. They denied all aspects of the supernatural; angels demons, miracles, and the resurrection. They rejected all but the first five books of the O. T. They were liberal in order to gain the favor of Rome. The Pharisees were more closely associated with the common man. They accepted the entire O. T. as well as the oral law. Neither group was always wrong and neither group was always right. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to completely ignore and reject them, He told them to, “Watch out and beware.” In 1 John 4:1, John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Test what you hear. How does it measure up with God’s Word? When someone opens the Word of God, is it consistent with the teaching of the Word? No matter the source, TV, radio. . . is it consistent with the Word?
There is one overriding principle. If you are going to listen with a filter, then you must KNOW the Word of God. No mentor, no teacher, no preacher, no pastor can ever substitute for your personal study of God’s Word. No one should take that place, and no one absolves you of your responsibility to carry out the command in 2 Tim. 2:15. The Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to spoon feed their followers so they could control them and give them just enough information so there was no discussion, no disagreement, no objection. Not everyone agrees with me an that’s okay. Know your position and why you believe that way. We should be open to discussing and studying the Word of God, but the Bible must be our authority.
Lots of people today don’t believe in spanking. What’s the Bible say? It’s our authority. There are so called experts that say to improve your sex life you should fantasize about relationships with others. That doesn’t line up with the Word of God. There are pastors and ministers who during counseling, advise their counselees to divorce their spouse. That doesn’t line up with the Word of God. Find a mentor, but listen with a filter . . . the Bible is your filter. You won’t be able to blame your mentor for your decisions. You can’t blame your parents if you wind up in jail. You can’t blame your spouse if you have a lousy marriage. You are the one that is responsible for your actions. You are the one responsible to discern truth. We are a society that points the finger of blame at everyone except those truly responsible.
Who are you going to listen to? Who will you allow to influence your life? Who will you allow to influence your child’s life?