“And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Step forward.’ Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.” (Mark 3:1-5)
Jesus knew who He was dealing with. He knew the Pharisees were more interested in the rules, regulations and the way “we have always done it” than they were interested in the people they were there to care for and watch over.
He was trying to bring them back to the reason they were set apart: to love the people that Jesus was there to save.
He also knew that most of them would never get it. Watch their reaction to His teaching:
“Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.” (Mark 3:6)
One dictionary defines the term Pharisee like this:
member of ancient Jewish religious group: a member of an ancient Jewish religious group who followed the Oral Law in addition to the Torah and attempted to live in a constant state of purity
self-righteous or hypocritical person: a self-righteous, hypocritical, or sanctimonious person
There are other conditions that can go with that. A pharisee always has an unteachable spirit. Pharisees think they have everything figured out – and THAT can be a fatal flaw for anyone. There is a sort of opposite to being a pharisee – whether it be in the first century or now. The opposite of a pharisee is a disciple.
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.’” (John 8:31)
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8)
Jesus used the word "disciple" a lot. The word "disciple" simply means "a learner."
Pharisees will not allow themselves to truly be disciples of Christ because they aren't learners. And the reason they aren’t learners is simple: if a person thinks he or she knows it all…..what (in their mind) do they have to learn?
And THAT is tragic and sad.
First off, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, tells us that when we were saved we entered a lifelong process of potential learning.
“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6b)
If we think we know it all…if we ever think we have “arrived”, will we be open to learning from Jesus (directly, through other Christians or even through the lost) to changing….to being made into everything the Father has intended for us?
No, we won’t.
See why it’s tragic and sad?
Look at what the Bible says about people who will not allow the Lord to teach them:
“Poverty and shame come to him who refuses instruction and correction, but he who heeds reproof is honored.” (Proverb 13:18)
As the Lord led me to this topic I did some research. I’m VERY aware that I don’t know everything. I expect to ALWAYS be learning something new. I want to be healthy and I want to be everything God intends for me. So, I try to be a teachable person.
I found lists like the following list all over the place as I did my research:
In those who are unteachable, these things are true...
Definition of “dogmatism” – “the tendency to express strongly held opinions in a way that suggests they should be accepted without question” (you might say “bullying”)
There is reaction rather than submission.
There is insecurity rather than peace.
There is anger rather than tranquility.
I’ve found this to be true as I have grown as a Christian and practiced in ministry. Unfortunately, as I read the list, I could see many of those in my own past. As the Lord has revealed my own pride I have asked Him to scrub that from me. I hope the trend in my life is to not be typified by these qualities.
When someone is led by the Lord to approach a brother or sister….or if the brother or sister comes to us and asks for help, their reaction will often betray if they are teachable or unteachable.
Often, they are more concerned with being right….or worse, with APPEARING TO BE okay, than they are concerned with being sanctified by the Lord.
This is what happened when Jesus tried to teach the Pharisees in the first century and Jesus called them out on it:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)
Jesus is telling them…and us…that when people are unteachable they tend to be VERY concerned with how they look to other people. Jesus was there. Jesus on the earth was God in human skin.
He was the ultimate teacher for them and their external reactions revealed a quality they had inside them: they were unteachable.
Toward the end of this incident in Matthew Jesus says something VERY harsh to and about the Pharisees. He addresses the reactions to godly teaching He had seen in them for all the time He was on the earth.
“Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” (Matthew 23:31)
Think about that. How they reacted was a witness against themselves.
How WE react when someone tries to correct us or teach us is a witness against ourselves.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16)
The Word of God is given for these purposes and God has an intended result for its use:
“…that the man (and woman) of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17)
God wants us to be successful as Christians – so He equips us, corrects us, and teaches us. Satan HATES that, so he tempts us to be unteachable.
You see, this teaching is not really about Pharisees with a capital “P” – men who died many centuries ago. It’s about the pharisee in all of us – right here….right now.
We all struggle with pride and being unteachable at times. One man said that pride is like body odor – everyone has at least a little bit of it. I’ve found that to be true in myself…. and in the rest of us – to varying degrees.
This teaching IS meant to be a celebration of the ways we already allow God to make us disciples of the Lord Jesus and to be an encouragement to allow Him to rip and run in our lives in terms of continuing to be taught and trained and corrected when needed.
Pride is like a poison that slowly saturates our lives. The antidote is humility.
Never confuse humility with humiliation. Humiliation is committed against a person when someone forces them to be disgraced, shamed or degraded.
Humility is the decision to not see ourselves as being superior or to have arrived. One chooses to be humble and practice humility. This verse from Paul is a good example of humility being defined:
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)
We were originally made in the image and likeness of God and, in Christ, are being restored to that image and likeness. Real humility comes from God working though us because HE is humble:
“The LORD is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high,” (Psalm 113:4-5)
God really IS all that! But look at what He does:
“Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?” (Psalm 113:6)
He bends down to where we are…indeed, in Jesus, He actually came to live here with us.
“He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with princes— with the princes of His people.” (Psalm 113:7-8)
Peter encourages us to do this:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)
I’m saying all this because if we are going to more and more become disciples of Jesus – people who are constantly learning from Him directly and through other Christians – we will have to face the fact that we do not know it all.
We will have to begin by taking the first step in humility: admitting to ourselves (and maybe someone else) that we have not arrived and that we have plenty to learn and to unlearn.
This means that while I want to live boldly for Christ and to act on what I believe to be true about Him, the Bible, Christianity, etc….I have to also always be ready to change what I believe when the Word of God and the Holy Spirit – directly or through other people – reveals something that I’m wrong about.
We will know when we resist doing this.
We will quickly argue with the person the Lord is using to teach us.
We will not take the time to consider their point, read the Scriptures they are sharing, pray to God about what they are saying
We will get angry
We will become argumentative about nitpicky points and not pay any attention at all to the spirit of what it being said
We will change the topic and leave the truth that was shared with us laying in the dirt….rotting like yesterday’s manna
We might even be tempted to use name-calling and other childish tactics to make the person stop sharing with us.
We might even do all this with God if He is trying to teach us directly.
In other words, we will practically sweat pridefulness.
It will NOT be pretty. And who will suffer?
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6)
Taking the reality of this verse into the new covenant of grace we can see that refusing to be teachable might cost a Christian spiritual opportunities (sometimes even ministries) and will harm their spiritual and/or physical children.
This is a serious issue and important enough for me to teach about today. This has been on my heart for a long time and is not a result of anything that has happened recently. It has ALWAYS been a problem for God’s people.
So, today’s encouragement is for us to choose to be teachable – moment by moment.
There are happy results for those who are teachable. Let me summarize a few of these that I found while researching this topic.
People who are teachable both experience and model:
1. Openness to other people. This has all kinds of practical benefits as far as Christian service is concerned.
2. Self-acceptance and a desire to grow personally and spiritually, and to do this in relationships with other people.
3. An inquisitive mind that can sort, process, and integrate information. We start seeing the connective tissue between verses, passages and God’s ideas.
4. An appreciation of the nature of Scripture and God’s wisdom.
5. A life that builds relationships and isn’t lived alone and afraid of people.
6. An understanding of how spiritual growth happens.
7. A willingness to pursue a goal of value and a desire to constantly grow and change with God’s help and guidance.
In our Christian lives, in order to be spiritually healthy and productive it is necessary to remain teachable.
May each of us always remain teachable!
Here are some things God’s Word has to say about people who allow themselves to be taught:
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” (Proverb 9:9)
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverb 9:10)
“Whoever loves instruction and correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is like a brute beast, stupid and indiscriminating.” (Proverb 12:1)
Wow! Remember: Mike McInerney did not say that anyone was stupid and indiscriminating (in other words, unable to make distinctions between good and bad or truth and lies) or like cattle. I didn’t say that.
I quoted God’s thoughts on people who hate being corrected and taught. That’s what He sees.
As I close this article, I want to point out that there are really only two choices here.
Either we choose to walk in humility and allow ourselves to be corrected, taught and guided in such a way as we will continually cooperate with God as He completes the good work in us that He started when we were saved and placed in Christ
Or, we choose to be stubborn and proud, unteachable and risk losing opportunities to be everything we can be in the Kingdom of God and to risk being not chosen by Him to do things for Him.
Happily, it has been my experience that most of those I have known in the Body of Christ have at least tried to be teachable. These have experienced something that I call “The Incredible Value of Being Teachable.”
They will never hear the Lord say this about them:
"You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51)
Most Christians seem to not actively resist the Lord like that but if this teaching has touched something in you – if the Holy Spirit is convicting you of having been in any way unteachable over the years there is something you can do about it today:
Repent about that - change your mind - turn around so that the sins of being proud and unteachable “may be wiped clean and so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Act 3:19)
We all want to hear Jesus shout the same sentence over us when we meet Him face to face:
“Well done, My good and faithful servant!”
This is one way we can cooperate with Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, to help ensure that happens.
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
© December 31, 2016 (from a “sermon” I taught in September 2014)
(For use with permission)