Remember Saul? Not Saul who become Paul and wrote most of the New Testament letters. But Saul, king of Israel. They had the same name but the exact opposite life stories. Old Testament Saul started out doing right, then ended up doing wrong. New Testament Saul started out doing wrong and ended up doing right.
This reminds me of a parable the Jesus said about the two sons of a farmer. Jesus says that their Dad asked them to go work the field. One said he would, but he didn’t. The other said he wouldn’t, but he did. One started out bad, but later did good. The other started good, but later did bad. (Matthew 21:28-32)
Both Saul’s and the two son’s parable illustrate the difference between people. There are some who claim and even believe they are doing good yet don’t. Then there are those who end up doing good in spite of themselves.
Jesus used the parable in Matthew 21 to show that it was the sinners (tax collectors and prostitutes) who heeded the words of John the Baptist. Like the one son who said no, they lived a lifestyle that would not have much room for religion. The pastors and ministry leaders of the day refused to listen to John and never changed their thinking or their actions.
There are many churches today like those people. They are stuck in their doctrine and value their own brand of religion over the Spirit and Truth of the Word. Worse though are the churches who adopted sinful practices and unbiblical practices and follow experience over truth, emotionalism over repentance, and either truth over spirit or spirit over truth. Often these churches are overtaken by a Jezebel spirit of pride and occultic practices mixed in with doctrine.
And it is not just churches that suffer from this error.
People, some very loving, follow and practice things that actually take them away from Jesus. I know some younger Christians who chase emotion. They sing the same verse over and over again until it becomes some type of hypnotic chant. Some people seek the experience of a spiritual high. These are like plants that sprout quickly but have shallow roots, so they spring up quickly and die just as quickly. They need experience or emotion to feel close to God. In the quiet times or the troubled times, when highs are hard to find, they often stumble in their walk.
There are also those people who use only one version of the Bible, follow the rules and expect others to live by their interpretation of the Word. I have even been criticized by these people over how I pray or what version of the Bible I use. They believe they purpose is to show others how to live.
In the first case, they have spirit but it is not partnered with the truth. In the second group, they may know the truth of the Bible, but they have no spirit. One is all compassion and love, the other is all rules and judgement.
What is the answer?
The Bible says to worship in Spirit and in Truth. John 4:24 reads “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” It is not enough to stand behind the Bible and tell people how to be. It is also not enough to go from spiritual high to spiritual high. We must bring the two together.
God is love (1 John 4:8) and “whoever does not have love does not know God”. So, we have to first of all have love. Combine that with God being Spirit and that covers the Spirit part. While everything is permissible for those who believe, this is not a license to forget about truth since not everything is beneficial. This covers the Truth part.
Don’t be like that one son who said he would honor his father and didn’t. Be like the one who wasn’t honoring his father and then did. Don’t be a King Saul, be a servant Saul.
Andy Becker is a pastor, retired counsellor and former CEO of a Hospice organization. Currently, his wife, Stella and Andy, lead both Lighthouse ministries and Bread of Life ministries in North Central Regina, one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.