And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by all her children. (Luke 7:29-35)
Our passage is very sobering and insightful. It reveals one of the primary reasons why multitudes of people will never enter the kingdom of God. In the KJV, the underlined portion is translated, but the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves. Simply put, they refuse to acknowledge their need of repentance. They rejected John’s baptism of repentance. God’s will was for the people to repent, confess their sin, and be baptized in water. Nevertheless, they dismissed God’s counsel by attacking the messenger’s credibility. This is the oldest trick in the book. However, they were not rejecting John the Baptist; they were rejecting the Lord God and what He was saying about their lifestyles.
Our verses reveal how some people will say anything to discredit a true minister of God. When the message is unpopular, it’s open season on the messenger. They posited John the Baptist as “demon possessed” because he lived outside the city — away from the sinners and sin dens of society. When Jesus took the opposite approach, they discredited Him by saying He was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” In fact, His own neighbors dismissed Him by saying, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” Here are effectively the two greatest men who ever lived, and both are being marginalized by any excuse the people can think up.
Where many ministers err is in trying to please people who are in rebellion against God. This is because God has given everyone a conscience that can register the truth of what is preached to them. Paul commended himself to every man’s conscience. He knew he could not reason with a person’s rebellious heart — so he targeted the conscience. In other words, in the heart rebellious people hated Paul’s message; however, their God-given conscience agreed with him. If he had preached to please their heart, the conscience would have rejected him as false. This is why it is impossible to please people who are in rebellion against God. The rebellious heart and the conscience are pleased by totally different messages. The rebellious heart wants an ear-tickling message, while the conscience wants to hear the truth.
Obviously, these people had determined already to “reject the counsel of God,” so it was a waste of time trying to conform to their standard of living. No matter what type of godly person came along — these people will reject them. The reason for this was not in the fact that one ate and the other did not; or that one lived in seclusion and the other among ” tax collectors and sinners” but because they did not like hearing God’s counsel. Simply put, they were not willing to agree with what God was saying to them through the mouth of His ministers. You will recall that in Acts 7, Stephen said that they always resisted the Holy Spirit. The primary way people do this is by rejecting the word of God as it is preached under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This is why the prophets were persecuted and killed. They snuffed out that voice.
Afraid to Repent
Many people will never get into God’s will because they love keeping up appearances. God’s will for these religious leaders was to confess (acknowledge) their sins. Because they had built up a reputation for themselves as holy and righteous, they could not bring themselves to repent (especially publicly). To confess now would be “reputational suicide.” What happened? They went on playing the game. Why? Because they were slaves to peoples’ opinions about them. They were too worried about sitting in the chief seats and appearing to be righteous. This is why they were called hypocrites (stage actors). They were not concerned with being righteous — only play acting like they were. Preaching repentance pulled their masks off in front of everybody. They did not like that.
Multitudes of common people lined up to respond to the message of John the Baptist. They had nothing to lose. They did not care what people thought about them. They were concerned with what God thought. However, the Pharisees and lawyers stood afar off and thought up ways to assassinate the character of the preacher. This is a sobering fact. John the Baptist reminded them of the wrath that was to come — something they were supposed to believe in (at least doctrinally). It turns out that in practice, these Pharisees no more believed in an afterlife or the resurrection than did the Sadducees. They proved this by their opposition to the call to repentance. With judgment at the door, they were building heir own kingdoms while smearing and slamming everyone who proclaimed the word of repentance. In modern times, it would be like saying, “He’s crazy,” “he has a bad attitude,” or “he’s angry at the world.” This is because people are either out-of-touch with the times, or they do not really believe in the resurrection and final judgment. They can discern the face of the sky, but not God’s time of visitation. They can argue doctrinally issues concerning eschatology (end time events), but never act on those beliefs. In the words of Jesus, they were too busy honoring one another to take off their acting clothes and come clean before God. (John 5:44)
Desperate Times — Desperate Measures
Sometimes we forget the hour we are living. It’s easy to buy in to the propaganda that comes from lukewarm preaching if we are not vigilant. Living in what must be one of the most evil times in the history of mankind, where man shakes his fist at God in new and profound ways, what type of word do we expect should be coming to this generation? Seriously. Think about it. If the Bible is any history guide, what type of preaching or “counsel” would you expect a consistent God to be sending forth? That’s right. Repent. There may be pockets of people who need no repentance; but this is not true in the main stream.
Not only does this generation smear true ministers, they have systematically redefined the character of God. Nevertheless, they are in for a real shock. There are two statements that I believe will be the most frequently thought or said by people who exit this life. The first will be of the lost who say, “I had no idea hell would be so hot.” And the redeemed who will say, “I had no idea heaven would be so holy.” Our world is so far removed from the kingdom of God that we have no idea how bad things truly are. All we know is the relative godliness that has existed at times among God’s people. But heaven, we haven’t seen anything like heaven.
The message of John the Baptist was meant to “prepare the way of the Lord.” This is very serious business. We are all about to step foot into the very presence of God — and all we know about heaven that is trustworthy is found on the pages of the Bible. Paul said, knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men. The writer to the Hebrews said we ought to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear because “our God” is a consuming fire. Peter asks what manner of persons ought we to be knowing that God is going to destroy the world with fire and a great noise? What do we say? I’m afraid an entirely different religion has been created in modern times and stamped with the name “Christianity.”
A simple, child-like, cursory read of the New Testament reveals a much different situation than is found in most of what is termed “Christendom.” Nevertheless, it is nothing more than a different brand of the same old rejection of the will of God that the lawyers and Pharisees moved in. Any message that negatively effects a person’s self-esteem is shunned. Understand that self-esteem is a concept that has made pride fashionable and acceptable. In fact, personal pride is promoted in our times. How can you preach a message of repentance to these type of people? The whole world is telling them how great they are, while God is saying you are a sinner and you must repent! That is like two semi-trucks hitting head on on a high-speed motorway.
For the Pharisees to repent it would be reputational suicide. The Devil wants us to believe that if we preach repentance we may drive people to true suicide. That is the force of his lies. What is the common denominator here? Whether it was John and Jesus or a minister in the 21st Century, it is the counsel of God that is being rejected. Perhaps we can ask ourselves in this generation the question the Lord Jesus asked in the first century:
And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like?