The Church Today…

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Tim. 4:1-8

This entire portion of scripture ties in together.  When Paul tells Timothy:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day”

he is telling him to do exactly what he did in order to receive what he will receive from God at his death. In other words, there is no other way for a preacher to fight the good fight than to do what Paul tells Timothy to do here, i.e., to

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (v.2); and to

“watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (v.5)

There is no short-cut to heaven.

More precisely, however, for our purposes today, let us zero in on verses 3 and 4; and, especially the phrase:

“For the time will come”.

In other words, the Apostle Paul is telling Timothy that it is not all times that people – God’s people – will turn their backs on sound doctrine in this manner. Even at the time when Paul was writing this there were false apostles, false prophets and all kinds of counterfeit preachers of the gospel. These people have been there throughout the entire history of the church, ever since Adam.

What Paul is talking of here is not a cranky preacher here and there; rather he is referring to something vastly monumental. He is referring to a time where the church as a whole (or at least most of it) will be overcome by the lusts of their flesh but, in order to keep a semblance of ‘church’, they will bring in preachers who will read from the Bible but who will preach/interpret scripture according to the lusts of the flesh. These preachers themselves will be men (and women) who have no heavenly agenda in them; their lives are centered on filling their bellies.

The Apostle here, by the power of the Holy Spirit, predicts a time in the future when God’s people will, wholesale and actively,

“not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (vs. 3-4)

The “they” Paul is talking of here is the church. The Bible explicitly says that God’s people will not endure sound doctrine! That’s incredible, to say the least.

Now, about the “time” that Paul is alluding to here. I very much doubt whether that “time” is not now. When you turn on Christian TV today, what do you see? Can you sincerely claim to find amongst all the teachings there any amount of preaching that has a bearing on the true gospel of Jesus Christ? Can you find there anything remotely related to Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 2:2:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you… determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”?

Sound doctrine is there, no doubt, but it is infinitesimal. Without a doubt, more than 90% of what you find on Christian TV are material, worldly teachings, much of it conveyed through so-called motivational teaching.

Even in third world countries like mine, all you hear on radio and television concerning the gospel is how to get rich or die trying; how to exorcise demons; tales of how people have been to hell (and heaven) and back; encounters with witches, etc. These are fables!

That means over 90% of the church is turning away from the truth and turning to fables.

I heard a preacher in the West say on TV, “Next is now!” She was preaching the false ‘new dimension/next level’ gospel.

I will take her phrase and use it here. The time Paul was talking of is now. At no other time have God’s people have had a sort of ‘herd mentality’ in running after materialistic teachings – “the good life”, etc.

That is why today – now – is the time to

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” and to

“watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

That is the way it has to be with us today.

The word “watch” here is filled with meaning. It means not just to watch in prayer, but it also refers to carefully living a Godly lifestyle.

These are the two things that will bring Christ back into a dying church, and a dying world.

[Below: The church today is not much different from these wrecked vehicles. But there is comfort in Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life”. Jesus can resurrect the church if we turn to Him and receive the revelation of the cross in our hearts]

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Itching Ears vs God’s Word – Part 1

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Tim. 4:1-4

[Before saying anything, let me express my heartfelt condolences and empathy to the victims and relatives of all who who were killed or injured during the Bastille Day terrorist attack this Thursday in France. Mine are not mere words, but my heart is torn apart by the violence that we are witnessing in every corner of the world on an almost daily basis. France has been hit particularly hard by terrorists, and my heart goes out to this lovely nation. May God bless and comfort you all.

All said and done, it is time for everyone to turn to God through believing the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. Amen.]

Now, to the main article…

The Apostle Paul wrote many warnings and many “charges”, or commandments, to his spiritual son Timothy. This was because Paul, being an apostle and a prophet, saw in the Spirit things that would happen in the future, and what he saw troubled him greatly. He saw a time of great apostasy within the church, when God’s people would shun the truth and hanker after doctrines that would cater to the flesh. And it was revealed to him that there would be no shortage of preachers to lead God’s people down that road.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy there would come “perilous” times (1 Tim. 3:1), and that these times would occur on Timothy’s watch. “Perilous” means dangerous. Dangerous times for the church would come in Timothy’s time.

And so here we see Paul charging Timothy, and that before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to… “Preach the word”. Then he adds something else there: preach “sound doctrine”.

What is “the word”? The Word of God is scripture. In our case, it is the Bible. The Bible is the reference point of everything we say or do. This was the same Book that was there in the early church’s time, even if not in its entirety. Jesus Himself stuck to scripture.

Here Paul was therefore telling Timothy: “You must be a stickler to the holy scriptures”.

I love that with all my heart. Sticking to the Bible seems to be a problematic thing with believers in our day. People read out the Bible all right, but they cannot seem to align their words (and actions) to what the Word says. More so, sound doctrine is lacking in an even greater extent in today’s church. People prefer to hear things that tickle them. But, if we are to believe Paul’s words here (which we should), sound doctrine has been lacking in the church for a long, long time. Two thousand years, to be exact.

Do you believe that Timothy met with the state of affairs that Paul describes in his two letters to him? I believe he did.

And so, therefore, Paul commands Timothy to “preach the Word”. God’s Word would be the answer to the coming apostasy.

It is incredible how the Word of God has been compromised today. I once attended a burial service in our town and the preacher who was to deliver the sermon, a man whom I knew well, read a scripture from the Book of Philippians. There was a huge crowd there that day and when it came to hearing the Word of God, there was dead silence. In our country, people respect the Word of God. They may not necessarily believe it, but they have a primitive fear of God.

The air was absolutely clear and, as the man read the scripture, I could feel every word dropping into my heart. So much so that I could also feel the hairs on my body stand. The Word of God, when read under certain circumstances, is tremendously powerful. I am sure that God wanted to speak to the sea of people there that day, and that He gave the man that particular scripture to read. God loves His people, and He wanted to bless them.

But it was not to be. It is beyond belief what happened the minute the preacher began his sermon. The minute he closed his Bible and began preaching, the man of God shot off on a tangent and from the first sentence to the last, nothing he said had any connection with the powerful scripture he had just read.

Utterly deflated and shocked, I looked for some shade and sat down. But I was not entirely surprised. I had known for some time that many preachers today read the Word of God in church only as a formality, but what they speak afterwards is the fruit of their mind rather than obeying God’s command to “preach the word”.

Amongst the more progressive circles within the church today, motivational speaking takes the place of preaching the Word. Preachers say things which have no basis in the Word of God and they expand on them to invent doctrines. The Bible calls these things “fables”. Motivational speaking in church creates “fables”. And here we are talking of Pentecostal churches.

This was what Paul warned Timothy about. In other words, he commanded Timothy to stick to the Word. He instructed him not to give heed to fanciful ideas that might come from his head – and from a lustful heart.

Let me end by saying that if there was a way to force preachers to stick to the Word of God, many – very many – would drop from ministry. Probably out of every ten preachers only one would remain. The situation is that serious. This is because these preachers would find in the Word truths that they are currently not aware of, either due to a lack of revelation, or simply because they cannot “endure sound doctrine” and they deliberately ignore Biblical truth. They would find that there are many things that they cannot speak and do. They would find, for example, that the Word of God curtails the freedom that they exercise in formulating their own doctrines. They would find, too, that the church is not there to amass worldly wealth. The church is not to say, “We are blessed” simply because someone has purchased a new car or a new private jet.

In the early days of my salvation, in the 1990s, preachers were attracted to a Korean car called Musso Ssangyong. Urban-based preachers competed to own a Musso. That was the “blessing” in those years. Many years later I would meet with those same Mussos, now very old, spewing smoke on the road like furnaces, and dragging to one side.

Today’s “blessings” amongst preachers consist of private jets and private estates. They, too, will pass away.

True blessings, however, are of the Spirit. It says so in Ephesians 1:3:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

You don’t see a private jet mentioned there, do you? That is the heart of God.

[This is one of my favorite songs. I hope you enjoy it]

Beware Herodias!

6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.

7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.

8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.

9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.

10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. Mat. 14:6-11

I used to think King Herod’s promise to give his daughter “whatsoever she would ask” was just old-time parlance, or language – until it dawned on me that the king actually meant it. He was ready to give his daughter “whatsoever she would ask”.

Whatsoever she would ask!

And, y’know, she just goes and asks for John the Baptist’s head!

In Africa, we love meat so much that even the heads of the animals we slaughter are used to prepare soup.

But, pray, of what profit can a human head be to anyone? You cannot even make soup out of it! It is worthless.

My heart goes out to this little girl. I don’t know how old she was, but she must have been very young in age – and very talented. Imagine how beautiful she must have appeared as she danced for her dad’s assembled guests. Probably she had practised and practised for days in her room or somewhere, her pure heart imagining the joy that she would give to her parents and their guests. She probably wasn’t even thinking of getting a present.

But an incredible opportunity presented itself. The king was so pleased with her display that he bound himself with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. Mark’s account says that he promised to give her even unto half his kingdom!

I know in our ignorance we pooh-pooh these kinds of things; but stop for a moment and think of what a kingdom is. Take even five minutes. You can even check an encyclopedia if you need to. (Sometimes I wonder where we are hurrying to; and we miss out so much on God’s true blessings!)

The point here is to get the feel of what this girl had been promised by her father. In that instant she could have inherited the world. But she chose to ask for John the Baptist’s head!

What, pray, could possibly have made this lovely, wonderful girl to ask for a human head?

Verse 8 gives us the clue to this all-important question. It says she was instructed by her mother to do so.

The gospel of Mark puts it even clearer: “And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist” (Mk. 6:24).

In other words, she consulted with her mother. It was a deadly mistake.

Herodias had sat there the whole evening, brooding inwardly. All she wanted was John dead. No human mind could possibly “sound the depths” of the evil that lay in this woman’s heart.

The devil is so cruel! This girl’s mother robbed her of not only the chance to inherit half her father’s kingdom; she ended up with something which was of absolutely no value to her.

Probably beheading John was of value to her mother, but it was of absolutely no value to this girl!

The Prophet Jeremiah under the anointing of the Holy Spirit spoke thus of the nation of Israel: “10 For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. 11 Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. 12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:10-13).

It was such a horror what the Israelites had done, to seek after other gods (which were no gods) and to seek for a glory that would not profit. Even the heavens were astonished!

And that was exactly what Herod’s daughter did. She not only asked for something that would not profit her, but she asked for something that brought horror to everyone who would hear of it.

And it must have killed her spiritually. I cannot begin to imagine the nightly – and probably daytime – nightmares that followed after that.

Even her father Herod who in his own right was a by-name for cruelty was shocked by his daughter’s request. Had he been in a position to refuse her request, he most certainly would. But he had bound himself with an oath, upon which he could not renege.

And I can imagine with everyone else “shocked” would have been a monumental understatement.

Apart from shocking everyone to death, of course, the little girl also lost the opportunity to inherit half her father’s kingdom.

All this happened because this little girl consulted her mother! Herodias is a metaphor for evil. She hated the man of God with all her heart.

There are worldly gospels out there, and we better be careful. Paul warns us against these gospels in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. We need to be very careful what gospel we are consulting with or submitting ourselves to. If we submit ourselves to a worldly gospel, it will kill us spiritually.

A worldly gospel caters to the lusts of the flesh. It does not have a heavenly agenda. A heavenly agenda deals with the condition of our hearts.

And before we move on from here let me point out that a worldly gospel is a deceiving gospel, which means it is so subtle even the elect get caught in its snares.

Let me illustrate. If I preach that because I was faithful in giving God this and that amount of money, God therefore blessed me with this and that material blessing, what am I catering to? The flesh, of course! There is absolutely no heavenly agenda there.

If we tie in giving with “reaping” material blessings we have moved from the heart condition to the natural realm. If we preach this gospel in church, the man sitting in the pews who is blessed materially will be feeling comfortable and the one who has nothing will feel he has failed spiritually.

The only “catering to the spirit” that I see in that scenario is that people will die spiritually. The rich man will die of pride, and the poor man will die of a broken heart. The bitter irony is that the poor man could have given to the Lord all right, but his giving is now taken from his heart and tied in with his outside circumstances. And preachers today find no problem making such declarations openly. One prominent preacher here said on TV: “You cannot come to my church riding the back of a motor-cycle” – which is the normal mode of public transport here. He added, “You are supposed to come driving your own car, since I have prayed for you to be blessed!”

At the root of such a gospel is a worldly, not heavenly agenda, and it will kill people!

I also talked in one of my earlier posts about a man of God – a prominent, internationally-acclaimed TV preacher – who told a man as he was praying over him, “You have won a land case”, and that in full public view.

There is no heavenly agenda in such a statement. That would make God a worldly judge, a “divider” of worldly property. But Jesus in Luke 12:14 said He had not come to do such things.

There are a thousand ways that a worldly gospel can kill us. Even the healing ministry can kill you.

Can you see the ‘progression’ there: apostate Israel, Herod’s daughter, and finally us!

That is why we should not listen to or submit ourselves to any gospel except the one single gospel that the apostles paid such a great price to bring to light – the gospel of the cross of Jesus. This is the only gospel wherein the Holy Spirit can break us and bring us to our true inheritance – spiritual maturity, and reigning with Christ in heavenly places.

This is the gospel that deals with the issues of our hearts. And God is all about our hearts. All these things that these gospels promise are good, but they become a Herodias when they are preached in the natural realm, outside of the heart. They are not the subject. Our hearts are. And only the cross can deal with that.

I love the word “determined” in Paul’s words, For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:2. That would mean there were other, strange gospels that were clamoring for his attention; but he ignored them.

Herod’s daughter ought never to have listened to her mother. That simple action turned her daylight into night.

[Below: In Africa, poverty can sometimes go to extremes: here, somebody’s “shop” – literally!]

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