Where is Your Spine?

By Pastor Nate Powell

Spineless // Definition: 1) having no spine or backbone, invertebrate. 2) lacking resolution, weak or purposeless.

Again, this past Sunday, in preaching thru John, there was a short 2 verse section that I didn’t comment on, but wanted to make sure I addressed in this space this week.

In John 12:37-41, John is reminding the reader of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled when people did not believe in Jesus. All who were opposing Jesus were unwitting tools in the hands of God in their unbelief. But there is another group of people noted among the Jewish leadership. We read of them in verses 42-43: “Nevertheless, many did believe in him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees then did not confess him, so that they would not be banned from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than praise from God.”

What is John describing here? He is describing someone who is spineless. They say they believe something, but they don’t believe it enough to speak up. He’s saying that there were Pharisees who had fully put the signs, words and clues together. They knew that Jesus was the Messiah. They were leaders in a position of leadership. But it says they did not confess him because they didn’t want to be banned from the synagogue. Their life was not in danger. Their health was not in danger. But their social status was in danger. They were too afraid to speak about Jesus, because they cared way too much about their standing among the other Jewish leaders.

“They loved human praise more than praise from God.” We can look at this statement on its face and understand that this is as despicable as the mindset of those who rejected Jesus, which is why the two types of Jewish leaders are listed together in this passage. Those who don’t believe and those who believe but stay silent are cut from the same cloth.

This idea of loving praise from people more than praise from God will ALWAYS be one of the biggest temptations for the Christian. It will always be easier for us to stay silent when it comes to wrongdoing & injustice than it is to speak out. It will always be easier for us to stay silent about the fact that we follow Jesus than to speak up. Praise of people will always be more desirable because it is immediate, it is convenient, and it is pleasing to our sinful flesh. Pride wants the praise of people. Humility seeks to serve people and honor God. These are directly opposed to one another.

There are currently Christians in our own country who have faced lawsuits, lost jobs, and faced very public derision because of their public stands against what is false and for what is right in their own lives. The articles I’ve linked to above are just the tip of the iceberg of the challenges that are increasingly faced lately, and may even be faced by us or people close to us.

Christian, today is not the moment for the spinelessness of the church. We must remember who we serve and who we are founded upon: Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone of the church. (Ephesians 2:19-21) He is the King of Kings. (1 Tim 6:15) And he demonstrated the way of the cross, to lay down his life for his church and for what is true. (John 10:11) We should ask a few critical questions today:

  • What cultural/philosophical idols are we being asked to bow down to? (Col 3:5)
  • On what truths are we being asked to compromise? (2 John 7-11)
  • In what senses are we being asked to call evil good, or good evil? (Isa 5:20)
  • Toward what ends are our words being pressured into silence? (Eph 5:11, Prov 31:9)

There are answers to these questions. Are your eyes open to see them? Do not be pressured into silence to please people. Do not be pressured into losing your identity in Christ. “Do not conform, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) Let’s stand strong in the Lord and be known as a people who have a spine.

Looking to stand stronger today than yesterday,

Pastor Nate