Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Leader Led the Way

The Leader Led the Way
October 1, 2018
Ezra 9:2  ". . .And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness."

Not ironic, leaders are meant to lead. There have been many successful leaders in the past few thousand years, leaders both good and evil. Nebuchadnezzar could have been considered a successful leader in Biblical times, building a vast empire, however he was not considered a moral man even by non-Christian standards today. There are many successful leaders that lead entire nations of people astray and down the wrong path. World War I & II are perfect examples of that, with successful leaders on both sides. In the end, good won out over evil, but not after many people were led down the wrong path and millions upon millions died unnecessarily. And those evil leaders convinced many their way was right, leading them to commit the unimaginable. Today, those unimaginables are obvious, but that does not mean the world is absent of leaders who lead many down the wrong path.

In Ezra's time, there were some Israelites left in-country, under occupation of foreign rule, and some who were carried off into exile, into that foreign land. Both groups of Israelites were still under the rule of the foreign king, though. One of the Lord's commands to the Israelites after they left slavery from Egypt was not to intermarry. This was not because of racism, but because of the propensity of foreign idol worship and the different religions and gods brought along with these different people groups. The rule of not marrying and mingling with them was intended to keep them pure from a religious perspective. The draw and influence from a spouse was, and is, significant if they serve another religion. The Lord wanted to stave this off. He instructed them to marry only other Israelites. But during the occupation by the foreign king, the Israelites intermarried with them. Not only were the general population intermarrying with them, but even the religious leaders, the Levites, were intermarrying. This frustrated the Lord, not because of racism, but because of the disobedience, as likely those foreign marriages resulted in household trinkets and symbols and practices to influence Judaism.

The Bible says the leaders led the way in these practices. If anyone should have known better, it was the religious leaders, but they compromised. That compromise enticed more people into what was somehow acceptable and they were led into that same sin. While each person is responsible for his or her own sin, the Bible is clear that leaders, specifically religious teachers, will be held to a higher standard. The way a religious leader leads will have a profound impact on each person's future, their eternal future. In Ezra's time, these leaders led the people into sin. From the outside perspective, it did not look to be an immoral activity, but it was against the Lord's rule book. There are millions of churches, that look to be completely fine from an outside perspective, not harming anyone. But are the practices in each church leading someone to live and act in a manner that does not line up with the Lord's rule book? Not all who call themselves Christians follow the Lord's rule book. What is more important, calling yourself a Christian or living according to the Christ standard?

While neither of us can judge, specifically, we are called to weigh everything according to the Lord's standards. We are called to live according to the way the Lord set up, the example led by Jesus, and the instructions left in the Bible. We are to hold the church, the church doctrine, and the religious leaders up to the litmus of those standards. While the leaders should know better, ignorance is not a viable defense before the Lord. Just because a leader is leading, does not mean it is the right way. You have an obligation to make sure you attend a Bible-believing, Bible-practicing church. You also have an obligation to weigh your pastor in light of the Bible, which requires knowing the Bible. Just because the leader is charismatic and seems to have good intentions, does not mean they are leading your down the correct path. Be careful of the doctrine you follow. Is it the doctrine of the church or the doctrine of the Bible?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ezra 9:1-4, Acts 17:11, Rom 12:2-13, James 3:1

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