Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Did I Do That?
Have you ever noticed the tendency we have to make our witness for Jesus Christ more about ourselves and less of Him?

I am sure this is a question most would deny about themselves, especially those who feel they are in lockstep with the Lord in their devotion and service to Him.  But let us consider, for a moment, how deeply penetrating this question can be in light of our current condition and the effect it has on us.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Eph. 2:8-9

Amazing grace.  What a concept of reality and truth!  But it is clearly one we tend to forget in our zeal to save others.  When we approach those who do not know their sinfulness, we forget that we were once like them.  The degree of their sins may seem more offensive to us, but ours were no less-offensive to God before He drew us out of the world and poured out faith into our hearts.

The false teaching that salvation is not given without faith and works, one the Catholic church and others strictly preach, can often be unknowingly embraced by evangelical minds, too.  We may wrongly see the necessity for works, making them our own, rather than a divine appointment made by God in order for His work to be completed.  We then ceremoniously add a feather to our cap and boast to others of our success.  And the Lord is relegated to second place.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Prov. 16:18

Lately, I have noticed a disturbing trend on the internet, especially in social networking sites.  Small communities of professing Christians have created relatively tight-knit groups of like-minded people.  But every once in a while, someone is added to their clique that may differ with them on a particular doctrinal issue.  Although it is recognized by most that hungry wolves are preying about the Ethernet looking to disrupt, deceive, and destroy - and we should use every opportunity to warn others away from them -  there are also those who may have been poorly taught, or are struggling to understand a specific truth of Scripture, and God just may have put them in that little group to teach them a vital truth. 

Nine times out of ten, my experience during these discourses has been to witness a “haughty spirit” by some who are perhaps better taught - or at least think they are.  The dissenter becomes the recipient of vitriolic condemnation instead of gentle reproof or rebuke (1Tim. 5:1-2), and a victim of rejection and expulsion from the group.  It is true we are to stand firmly grounded in the Word of God and never waver, but not on a foundation of pride which we, ourselves, have erected.  To “shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces” (Matt. 23:13) in this manner demonstrates an attitude of arrogance and an elevated view of ourselves and the little knowledge we do have.

“You are preaching to the choir!”

We all want to share with others the joys and benefits of our salvation.  But the question remains, “To whom are you telling this good news?”  If we are exclusive, only interacting with fellow believers, are we truly fulfilling the Lord’s commission to make disciples of men, regardless of our location?

A case in point could be applied again to the internet and what is shared there.   It is right and good to exhort our brothers and sisters with encouragement and prayer, and more importantly, caution them about a liar and deceiver that's being touted as a man of God.  However, all too often, there are found within certain groups those who find it necessary to continually hammer away on a specific fault within the church.  The problem is that their readers are usually aware of these things and are mostly, if not completely, in agreement.

In light of this, how often must the “choir” be subjected to videos of charismatics writhing on the floor or leaping about in pagan ecstasy and babbling like a moron, or an endless onslaught of examples of false shepherds misleading the church?  One can only hear so many times the errors of men like Osteen, Hinn, Driscol, and Bell by those who spend hours searching for videos and articles to point out these false teachers’ blatant faults and heresies.  Other than the well-intentioned warning to avoid them, they benefit none of us and could possibly reveal an arrogance seeping from the one who is posting them, and a failure to acknowledge their own faults.  Would it not better serve our Christian brothers and sisters to exhort them with sound teaching and stories and images of faithful service to Jesus Christ that lift them above the world and its depravity?

It is premature for anyone to condemn others for the errors we see in them.  God, the ultimate Judge, may not be done with them yet, and to elevate ourselves above them by continuing to show their failures ad finitum makes us look like a self-righteous finger pointer.

“Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!”  1Cor. 9:16b

However, that does not dispute the fact that a new breed of church leaders has risen from the muck and mire.  The grime is still clinging to them and they are smearing its filth on multitudes sitting in pews every Sunday.  I am able to say with complete confidence that today’s church is greatly lacking Bible-grounded pastors and teachers who preach repentance and true salvation. 

The “blab it and grab it”, or health, wealth and prosperity preachers, have positioned themselves behind the pulpit, or the internet altar, and are methodically whittling and carving away at Holy Scripture like a butcher carves a carcass.  Among many other glaring heresies, “Self” is predominate in their preaching.  “God loves you and wants you to have your best life now” has become their mantra.  And, sadly, far too many have fallen into this snare. 

Rather than faithful ministers of God preaching the redemptive properties of Christ’s atonement, repentance, justification, faith, and sanctification, along with the perfectly just and wrathful nature of God, these purveyors of lies have convinced the world that you can have your cake and eat it, too.  In other words, create your own god that fits your own sensibility, fits your own interpretation of Scripture, or say a prayer and continue to expect blessing after blessing, regardless of how you live your life.  And after you have "secured" your salvation, make sure your friends and family follow your lead by giving them the same false gospel so that they can also have their cake and eat it, too.  (Oh, and remember to pile your cash on the offering plate so they can stay in business, because they are watching to make sure you do.)

Knowing the brand of sermons that are being preached by these wolves demonstrates a lack of conviction and commitment that Paul experienced in his lament to the Corinthians.  Unlike Paul who was unable to NOT preach the true Gospel of Christ, their sermons are self-serving and self-gratifying and fueled by the accolades they receive from the unlearned, nominal Christians, or false professors who only desire the benefits of claiming Jesus Christ for themselves in order to reap the harvest in this life.

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”  Matt. 25:23a

Thankfully, there are still men who are faithful to God in their deliverance of His Word.  One such example among many is John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Community Church, who once said that when he started to preach, he determined to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1Cor 1:23).  He, and Pastors like my own, are dedicated to verse by verse expository preaching and word by word hermeneutics and eschatology that continues to feed the souls of those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

These men never make their message about themselves, nor is their preaching about our self-perceived “worth.”  Rather, like Christ Who always exalted the Father, their sermons are focused on the Lord, His atonement, the Gospel’s complete message, and what Jesus expects from His children and what they can expect from Him.  So that we are equipped to handle the truth of God rightly, nothing is left out when they stand and deliver the Word of God. 

The gospel of “Self” that is preached by so many others is dangerous and will not gain an inch toward heaven for those who believe it.  It just drives them closer to an eternity in hell.  These men and women are merely stumbling fools (1Cor. 1:23) who will eventually fall into the same trap they have set for others.  But, we should use caution not to imitate them, even when we think we are guarding ourselves.  The sin of “Self” that is infecting others may go unnoticed in us if we fail to examine ourselves from time to time.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  (Prov. 3:34; James 4:6)

Humility is a virtue not common to men of today.  It is rare to find a man or woman, let alone a servant of God, who is truly humble, who forsakes himself for the benefit of others and honors God by giving Him His due glory.  Our fallen human nature will always drag up a perceived need, want, or excuse, despite our relationship with God, and our pride and arrogance throws humility out the window.

There was only One with that divine attribute: Jesus Christ.  He willingly obeyed the Father in order that He could impute our vile sins upon His sinless Son so that His Son’s righteousness could be imputed to us.  If “self” had been a factor in the Holy decision making, no mere man would have agreed to endure it.  But Jesus Christ was not a mere man.  He was the Lord God Almighty, full of Truth and Grace, and He humbled Himself on a cross in order that we, His children, could be saved from eternal death and be imparted eternal life.

My conclusion?
It should never be about me.  Nor should it be about you.  Our walk and our talk, even our posts and dialogue on the internet, should always reflect the Lord Jesus Christ.  Pride, arrogance, and selfish ambition is of Satan.  These should never drive us, and disorder should never divide us.  

We should mourn our own sinfulness before a Holy God, and then turn to Him with profound thankfulness that it was, is, and always will be about Him.

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