It seems that one of the best tools that Satan has in his arsenal against the Christian is the ability to redirect every attempt that we take to try to please God to an extreme where we become ineffective for Him. This could be one of the more deadly of his tactics, because it starts out as something very good and ends up as something very bad.
When Saul was asked to become the first king of Israel, he felt himself unworthy of the task. He was sure that there had to be some better man to be the leader, and had to be called out of the crowd in order to take his place as the king that Israel wanted. From these humble beginnings and a right relationship with God, Saul was mighty in doing the Lord’s work. This was a good thing, if there ever was one.
But the kinghood, the blessed treasure of God to Saul, had an effect on the man who got so consumed with that work that he went to the extreme, and let his power get the better of him. The result, he drifted away from God, hunted the next anointed king, and ended up really putting the kingdom that he had been so hesitant to serve in a place of servitude to him.
Peter, on frequent occasion, allowed his zeal to get in the way of doing the right thing. Who can forget the time that our Lord was stating that he must die for all mankind and Peter said “Not so, my Lord.” Jesus rebuked him as Satan, trying to thwart the plan of God. Peter also went to the extreme in saying that he’d never deny the Lord, even after the Lord told him that he would.
It was a right attitude, stay with the Lord until death, but taken to the extreme, it became folly, and a rebukeable offense.
Today we live in a world of extremes. It is the way to win a debate, take the idea to the extreme. This is the way that it is in the world. They live in a society void of absolutes. However, we, as Christ’s followers, have an absolute standard to follow. A Christian must be very cautious to follow what Christ teaches. This was one of the great problems with the religious leaders of Christ’s day. The Saducees wanted a more lax religion that didn’t have to believe in the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees were religious zealots who created laws to protect the people against possibly breaking the Law!
Both had the problem of not sticking to the Bible. The Saducees took what they considered to be the best of their religion and threw out what they didn’t agree with, basically, the belief in the resurrection. After all, how can we prove that people are alive after their body dies? We have many groups out there now that do this very same thing. There is a predominance of people out there that want to just focus on God’s love. He becomes a grandfather in the sky, doing only those things that we would like. They don’t want to deal with any other part of God. They don’t understand that God is more than just love; He is also holiness, justice, judge, and many other of His perfections. To them, their God is limited to what they want to make of Him, and if anyone challenges that view, they bring up the verses that talk about God being love, and how judgmental and unloving you are. Just like if someone brought up to the Saducees about the resurrection, they’d point to their Scriptures, no doubt, and the facts at hand and say that there was no way such a thing existed.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, added to the law. It made good sense. If you looked at Israel’s past, you would, no doubt, see all the different times where the people of God were judged because of they neglected to follow God’s Word and offer sacrifices the way that He prescribed. So, to make sure that doesn’t happen again, they put in laws on top of laws so that the people wouldn’t get anywhere near doing the wrong thing. A good motive, but when they just followed restrictive laws, instead of coming obedience from a heart of love, they were doing it just for the sake of doing it and it was not glorifying to God. There are people, especially in the cults, that restrict or confine what others believe, specify how one must worship, and exact discipline upon people instead of teaching them to do the service of the Lord for love of the Lord.
The point is this: there are laws in the Bible. There are things that we should follow, and these things should be our love offering to Him. If we had the right heart attitude, if we had the right motivation, if we had the right center in our lives, neither of these would happen, but too often we end up going toward one of these two. Instead, we end up with either a religion that ends up being less than what God wants it to be, or one that is based on what we have to be in His service, and we miss the whole point: Living a life that is pleasing to Him because it is a life that displays His love, holiness, and all of His attributes. We don’t please Him by just focusing on His love. It’s an amazing thing, but not the whole thing. And we don’t please Him by being beasts of burden under the weight of duty. We must find the place where His love facilitates our service. Only then will we have the right focus on Him.
Until that day, and even when you reach that day, Satan will try to take that zeal that you have and steer it off course. That is why we need to continually guard our hearts, uplift each other in prayer, and take things to Him; that we may be on course with Him, our wills aligned. In that way, we will give Him the glory, and become stable, planted on a rock and looking at the miry pit that He took us from, rejoicing in the God of our salvation.