“After these things, God proved Abraham’s character…” Gen22v1
A proof of our spiritual maturity is our behaviour in the day of adversity.Are we going to complain like the Israelites in the wilderness or are we going to persist in faith like Joseph? Remember that “If you faint in the day of adversity your strength is small”.(Prov24v10)
The soulish life longs for an endless season of pleasure. It is excited in a season of harvest but complains and murmurs when there’s dryness. This reflects childishness. The heart of the mature spiritual believer isn’t controlled by externalities. His joy is fixed, his hallelujah is secure, and his praise is unconditional.He is like prophet Habakkuk who said “although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat;the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab3v17) or like Job who said “Though He slay me YET will I trust Him…”(Job13v15)
Let’s hold on to the profession of our faith, with our eyes constantly upon Jesus and nothing else. May He strengthen us at our toughest times.
“False prophets appeared in the past among the people, and in the same way false teachers will appear among you. They will bring in destructive, untrue doctrines, and will deny the Master who redeemed them, and so they will bring upon themselves sudden destruction.” (2nd Peter 1v2 GNB). I start this article with a scripture I relish because of its prophetic insight-relating the past to the present and it serves as the anchor on which this topic stands. The questions that readily come to mind, then, are: Who are the seductive apostates? How are they identified? How do they convince (or seduce) people into their ecclesiastical anomalies?
These apostates are referred to as “false teachers” (2nd Peter 2v1), elsewhere, they are regarded as“…some godless people [who] have slipped in unnoticed among us…” (Judev4). In the book of 1st John, they are called “Enemies of Christ” who “really did not belong to our fellowship and that is why they left us; if they had belonged to our fellowship, they would have stayed with us. But they left so that it might be clear that none of them really belonged to us.” (1st John 2v18-19). How do we know them? It’s simple. They “…distort the message about the grace of our God in order to excuse their immoral ways, and who reject Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord…” (Jude4)
It is important to state at this point that such miserable individuals whose condemnation has been preserved long ago don’t always appear as enemies of Christ hence their seductive nature. So, what is their strategy? “Even so, many will follow their immoral ways; and because of what they do, others will speak evil of the Way of truth. In their greed these false teachers will make a profit out of telling you made-up stories. For a long time now their Judge has been ready, and their Destroyer has been wide awake!” (2nd Peter2v2-3) These “made-up stories” which take a number of Christians away from the true path of light are consolidated with “signs, miracles and wonders” These people twist the Holy Scriptures and make destructive(but often seductive) inferences from it in order to manipulate people in Church. Unfortunately and as the bible rightly predicts many will follow their immoral [damnable] ways.
Herein is the admonition: What validates a pastor, a teacher or any leader in Church is not how well he quotes the scriptures or how ‘anointed’ he appears or how many signs and wonders he is able to perform but the appropriate application of the word of God both in his words and in his deeds. That’s all. Christ buttresses this point in the book of Matthew7v22-23: “When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!’ ” The onus is therefore on the believer to make Christ and His infallible word the standard through which he can compare whatever he receives in Church in order to guide his actions and thus live rightly in the sight of God.
To be continued
The sensitivity of the issue of the world system stems from the widespread usage of the word “world” especially in the Christendom: people tend to associate people [or things used by such people] outside the church as “worldly”. Hence, we hear statements like “people of the world”, “worldly music”, and the like. The biblical concept of the phrase “the world” is profound and expository especially in its origin and applicability to the extent that “the world” might even exist in the Church.
The bible says in the book of 1st John 2v15-16: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” These verses give us an expository picture of the concept of the world: It speaks of an orchestrated system which is anchored on three pillars: The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. This world system was designed by the prince of this world which originated at the fall of Man in the Garden of Eden.
After the creation of Adam and Eve, Man began to fellowship with God in blessedness, enjoying His providence. Satan, the prince of this world, became jealous and devised a scheme which had a tripartite anchorage on the pillars mentioned earlier, with the aim of terminating this holy fellowship. Hence he lured Eve into deception: “And the serpent said unto the woman, you shall not surely die: For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (the lust of the flesh), and that it was pleasant to the eyes (the lust of the eyes) and a tree to be desired to make one wise (the pride of life), she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Gen 3v4-6). This was the beginning of Man’s doom and Satan’s establishment of his system of operation-The World System.
The lust of the flesh describes everything that characterises the cravings of the sinful man. This is exemplified in acts such as sexual immorality, greed, gluttony, covetousness etc; in short, any act that depicts self-gratification.
The lust of the eyes describes anything that stirs up the desire of the sinful man when he sees them. The principle of this factor is simple: the eyes see, the body desires. This is exemplified in envy, pornography, obscene music videos, the use of seductive models in product branding, provocative outfits (in the name of fashion trend), the crave for power, the crave for wealth, etc.
The pride of life describes a man’s boastings of his possessions and achievements. This is vividly exemplified in the music industry today: Many of the songs released by artistes speak of their boast of wealth, sexual strength and the like. Even some so-called gospel songs are characterised by the pride of life.
These pillars control the world we live in: they are not geographically defined; they are indwelling in the lives of the subjects of the Prince of the world whether at home, in Church, in the office, in school, wherever.
However, God warns us to that if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not on him. Hence, we need to be careful of our attitude towards sex, money and power; we need to be wary of the kinds of music we listen to, the movies we watch, in short, the things that dominate our mind. The love of the Father is created by the Holy Spirit of God who gradually builds the nature of God in us as we depend on him for transformation. The book of Romans 12v2 says: And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
God bless you.
Hardly would anyone agree that a Church, through its ecclesiastical activities, could become a firm because there wouldn’t be any visible evidence to substantiate such a horrendous claim. Who is the C.E.O? Who are the Investors? Who are the shareholders? Is the Church a brand? What is the market structure like? All these questions amongst others would make one to normally conclude that there can never be a time when a Church would become a firm. But when a Church becomes latently fashioned, both structurally and functionally, in a manner that parallels with a functional firm, though alienated from the path of the true elect it has become a firm. Let us take a cursory look at some of such activities, which dominate many a Church-turned-Firm today.
First is the issue of Return-on-Investment. It is sardonic that there are Churches that practice this aberration, maybe not cautiously. This is evidenced in instances where certain individuals are distinguished from the congregation and given such VIP treatments as Church appointments, seat reservations etc., because of their enormous financial contribution to the organization (Church). In some cases, such individuals take advantage of their ‘Shareholder rights’ by determining who takes certain leadership positions in Church and can, at any time, question the authority of people they regard as their enemies. And when the recommendations of such shareholders seem to be discountenanced, they threaten to leave the Church. And since every firm strives to achieve Shareholder value and profit maximization, the management of such a Church is forced to compromise. These nabobs are the individuals who constitute various Stakeholder groups (G-8, Club 50, Council of Directors, etc.)I’ve heard of being instituted in Churches.
The next issue is that of Recapitalization Strategy. Many Churches today herald meetings, conferences, revivals through handbills, media advertising, stickers etc., which are presumed to be power-packed and intended for the uplift of the members; whereas the actual underlying motive is to glean the attendants of such meetings of whatever financial resources they may possess. They do this through the altar calls of sacrificial seed-sowing, special offerings, pledges-to-the-Most-High, etc. The money thus realized from such meetings boosts the capital base of the Church and its Leaders. And such programs may be organized subsequently depending on when ‘God desires of such a meeting’. The sardonic part of this ecclesiastical anomaly is that: one, the feedback mechanism (testimony sharing), if at all, is usually crafted in such a way that indirectly gives glory to the ‘man of God’ or to the program itself; Two, after such programs, there really isn’t any lasting significant improvement in the lives (especially spiritually) of the majority of the congregation and the leaders are often less concerned about this matter.
Another issue worthy of note is that of Sales Promotion Strategy. Many so-called Evangelists, Outreach crews preach Church (or sometimes Christ) in the hope that their ‘converts’ would become potential members of their Churches. Some Churches even go as far as placing rewards (incentives) for members (Sales Representatives) who are able to bring more members to the Church. Why would such a Church crave for membership or, in business terms, market share? Profitability is the answer. They believe in the 4M Rule: More-Members-More-Money. I don’t think there is anything wrong in inviting a friend to Church but what I find most disturbing is when the motive behind such an act is targeted towards the potential increment in tithes, offerings and sacrificial seeds. And quite a number of Pastors constantly seek to retain their members by persuading them that there really isn’t any good Church out there and that there are many false prophets today; They also try to use various means of ‘spiritual gifts’ like prophecy, healing, etc., to hoodwink such vulnerable folks into their falsehood.
In the book of Matthew 7, Christ warns us of heretics and thieves who clad themselves in apparels of Pastors, Ministers, Evangelists, Apostles, and the like. Matthew7v15-22: “Be on your guard against false prophets; they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves. You will know them by what they do. Thorn bushes do not bear grapes, and briers do not bear figs. A healthy tree bears good fruit, but a poor tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a poor tree cannot bear good fruit. And any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do. “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ I don’t know of any ‘man of God’ who has declared himself as a false prophet.
However, Christ teaches that we can discern false prophets by their fruits. That is exactly what the word of God helps us do. It teaches guides and helps us discern falsehood. 1st John 2v27 says “But as for you, Christ has poured out his Spirit on you. As long as his Spirit remains in you, you do not need anyone to teach you. For his Spirit teaches you about everything, and what he teaches is true, not false. Obey the Spirit’s teaching, then, and remain in union with Christ.” You will know if you are in a wrong gathering or not by the Spirit’s discerning power-weighing the things you hear and see with the word of God.
This is the story of an innocent teenager who lost his mother and whatever consolation, if there was any, had to come from the love of his aged father in a polygamous family of eleven sons and one daughter. The affection thus bestowed on him by his father inevitably resulted into envy by his ill-willed siblings who eventually ostracized him in the vilest manner conceivable-he was sold to slavery! This is the story of Joseph, a foreigner who once served as Pharaoh’s second-in-command in Egypt. His success story is surely not bereft of his pain- rejection from his brothers, betrayal from his Egyptian Master, Potiphar’s wife. Expounding on the latter incident, let’s take a retrospect at what really happened to this Man few years after his exile to Egypt and learn some vital lessons there.
The Bible makes us to understand in the book of Genesis 39v1, 4 “Joseph had been taken to Egypt. Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s Egyptian officials and captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there…Potiphar liked Joseph so much that he made him his trusted servant. He put him in charge of his household and everything he owned. This certainly was God’s consolation to a teenager who had been treated with hostility. However, the first thing we notice is that The Lord was with him. Joseph carried the presence of God and this was so evident that it was perceived by Potiphar. Verse three of that same chapter points out that “Joseph’s master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made everything he did successful.”
What could have been going through Joseph’s mind? “Lord may it continue to be like this! How could I, a Hebrew slave, have this much power?” And just as Joseph was relishing his near superintendence, the unbelievable happened! Potiphar’s wife attempted to lure him into having an illicit relationship with her (Gen39v7). He knew he was at a crossroads: to compromise and be at peace with her or to resist and be at war with her. He chose the later because he knew his God. Little wonder, then, why he said in resistance to her malicious offer “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
What then was the outcome of Joseph’s staunch resistance? He was thrown to prison for attempting to rape his Master’s wife. But once again the Bible records “that the LORD was with him. The LORD reached out to him with his unchanging love and gave him protection. The LORD also put Joseph on good terms with the warden. So the warden placed Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in that prison. Joseph became responsible for everything that they were doing. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care because the LORD was with Joseph and made whatever he did successful. This couldn’t have been humanly conceivable considering the degree of offence Joseph had committed.
What do we learn from this story of Joseph? Whatever opposition you face as a believer, however turbulent the situation may be, be rest assured of one thing: The Lord is with you. The book of Isaiah 54v10 substantiates this “The Mountains may move, and the hills may shake, but my kindness will never depart from you. My promise of peace will never change,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” What comfort, hope and strength we receive from God! The Lord who turned Joseph’s mess in today’s message is able to walk with you through the fire and through the stormy sea. Hold on to the promises of God and receive the strength you need to overcome that seemingly difficult obstacle.
The sensitivity of this issue is often discountenanced, largely because many, especially leaders, are comfortable with the deception that their deceitful carnality brings-church positions have a way of indicating perceptible attributes-the higher-ups are often seen as the most righteous! Hence, we have thieves who guise themselves with priestly robes, and many a church member are too blind to see. And some who, by Divine grace can acknowledge the notoriety such people latently exhibit are disempowered because it is wrong to ‘touch the Lord’s anointed’ or say anything wrong against the Man of God, knowing full well that his gleaning gimmicks are out rightly contrary to the Scriptures. Hence, people are occasionally unwillingly sowing unaccountable ‘seeds’.
Many a Church, in the context of local assemblies, have come to be a place where many exhibit their pretentious carnalities of whom it can be rightly said, they worship me with their mouth but their heart is far from me(Matt15v8). Such people do not understand what genuine worship is; they’ve become inundated with self that their worship is mechanical. The Church has become a place where people try to act ideal; No one wants to be the sinner. The eventual outcome is that the Church becomes a gathering of many stained glass masquerades: People who can hardly testify of victorious Christian living but will stop at nothing to throw judgmental glances at people who have been unashamed to admit their weaknesses.
The Bible says in Matthew 7v21 “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do.” This suggests, therefore, that those will eventually reign with Christ and thus true Christians aren’t puppets who cannot willfully submit themselves to the Holy Spirit and dig into the word of God in order to know what God wants them to do. Not those who are carried away with working for God and attaining positions in Church but those who will strive to walk with God. Believers who reflect the life of Christ everywhere they are-in church, at home, at work, in school. People whose ways are governed by the word of God and not by the teachings of men, however influential they may be; People who will discountenance any instruction that does not conform to the principles contained in the Scriptures.
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