Greed And How To Overcome It

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called… 1 Tim. 6:9-12

Notice verses 9 and 10: “… they that will be rich”. These words refer to those who want to become rich. If a believer wants to be rich in this world, he is playing with fire. No, no, no, it does not say that being rich is a sin; it is the desire to become rich that is wrong. It is this desire that God is fighting against. The Bible says that such a desire will make one to “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

In the epistles of the Apostle Paul, there are two things which he expressly tells the church to flee from: FORNICATION and IDOLATRY (1 Cor 6:18; 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). I have capitalized both words because these are words that no man should miss seeing.

The two greatest sins that have plagued the charismatic, Pentecostal church throughout history are idolatry and fornication. Idolatry refers to the worship of things. Therefore, although it may refer to the worship of idols as the Roman Catholics and other mainstream sects do, and as we see Paul explaining in 1 Cor. 10:18-23, yet, under the New Covenant, idolatry principally refers to covetousness, the love of worldly things, including money. The Apostle Paul states this clearly in Colossians 3:5:

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry…”

In simple terms, idolatry, which is covetousness, is greed.

Idolatry and fornication go hand in hand. Once the body has been fed well and there appears to be peace all around, lusts which had long been submerged under the drought of hunger, lack of money and lack of status, gain strength and begin demanding to be satisfied, too. That is what we see with Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible states that their land was “even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt…” – Gen. 13:10.

Sodom was an incredibly rich country!

These were the same circumstances that set the stage for the tragedy that befell King David in the case of Uriah’s wife. It is worldly contentment.

In today’s world, we may not have literal lands that are like “even as the garden of the LORD”, but we have money. Money can give us everything we want. But money also has hidden dangers. We can very easily grow fond of it. And this mindset can sweep us off our spiritual feet in an instant.

The prosperity gospel that is preached today spawns many, many dangers to the believer.

I often wonder at the fact that every high-profile TV preacher that I have seen or read is a victim of either covetousness, fornication or both. Ever since Oral Roberts introduced the false “seed” gospel and ever since the days of the infamous televangelist Jim Bakker, who personified excessive lust for material consumption, including sexual perfidy, the graph curve of these two influences in preachers’ lives has only continued to steepen. Nearly every high-profile TV preacher, past and present, is a victim: Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, John Osteen, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton, Creflo Dollar, Ted Haggard, Paula White, Mike Murdoch, Ed Young, Joseph Prince, T. D. Jakes, Eddie Long, Jesse Duplantis, Paul Crouch, Rick Warren, T.B. Joshua and others.

At least these are the most prominent faces on Christian TV here in Africa.

I am not saying that these men have never loved the Lord. What is clear is that they were/are unaware of the dangers of the prosperity gospel that they embrace. They had never known what it means to identify with Christ in His sufferings and death. But God is a merciful God and I am sure that He has restored some of them.

Another evil that the love of money brings in a person’s life is pride. In Tanzania, people have a saying: “Greet people, your money will end!” It is a rebuff for the arrogance associated with the rich, who normally tend to ignore the lower classes.

But this worldly “richie” attitude has also crept into the church. I have heard some of the most arrogant and inane things coming from the lips of some of these very same TV preachers. This is the result of pride.

The problem, of course, is that these preachers never had any revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ. They were unaware of what the cross can do in their lives in terms of mortifying the lusts of the flesh in them. They are unable, therefore, to represent the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which says:

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mat. 16:24)

But, the gospel of the cross of Christ is the light at the end of the tunnel. In the midst of all this darkness, the gospel of the cross is the very gospel that Christ is revealing to the church again today. I say again because it was there in the early church, but it became submerged under the teachings of men who have always defended the flesh.

Notice verse 12, which says:

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

God has called us to lay hold on eternal life. That is a call that is in direct contradiction to the race to become rich. We ought to desire and pray for the revelation of the cross of Jesus in our hearts. This is what will make us to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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“Swift Destruction!”

1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2 Pet. 1:21-2:3

Sometimes the King James Version of the Bible is a little foggy particularly for our modern times, so let us begin with a little grammar check on these verses.

“Privily” = secretly

“Pernicious” = harmful, evil, deadly, ruinous

“Make merchandise of” = exploit

“Feigned” = deceptive

There. Now, let us look closely at this portion of scripture.

The most important thing I want us to notice here is that God promises to bring “swift destruction” to a certain group of people within the church. The term “swift destruction” is so telling here, and we had better pay attention.

Now, notice the particular group that God promises to bring swift destruction upon: false teachers… who privily shall bring in damnable heresies”.

What is a heresy? A heresy is a teaching that takes God’s Word and uses it to negate what God has said. In fact a heresy actively fights against God and His Word. In that sense, it brings spiritual destruction to whoever is listening to it. A heresy destroys God’s people.

God is not bothered by the weak Christian who is struggling with sin. The Apostle Paul struggled with sin (Romans 7), and yet God loved and effectively used him. We all struggle against sin, but God is not angry at us.

But God is angry at false teachers within the church. Why? It is because these people destroy God’s church. God is very, very upset with is someone who would introduce into the church something to defend their fleshly desires and the carnal way of life they have chosen to follow. Yes, you might not know it, but there are preachers out there who have chosen to live a certain worldly lifestyle and they will go to any lengths to achieve their goal. There are others who are actively listening to demonic teachings.

Yes, there are preachers today who are doing exactly that. Unfortunately, they are too many to count. In all likelihood, they far outnumber the true servants of God. Moreover, they are doing it openly. They have no fear of God. Some are using the Bible to enrich themselves, and to throw God’s people off the track to the road of salvation.

But the church is God’s sanctity. You cannot play around with it. God cannot allow that. If you find the narrow road is too tough for you, you would be better advised to go back into the world – where you might have another chance of beginning anew – rather than play games with God’s church. God’s patience with that is pretty thin. That is exactly what the Bible is saying here.

Now, there are people in church who will defend anything. There are people who will defend these kinds of preachers to the death. But, pray, why not defend God’s Word? Who is that “important” person you are defending? Is he/she more important than God?

God says in His Word that He will not allow anyone to play about with the sanctity of the church.

Y’know, one time I took my children to a small farm i had bought, to farm. It was virgin land, and thick with overgrowth. Suddenly, some animal rose up from the bushes, and the commotion it made was so abrupt and loud that everyone nearly had a heart attack. But I remember what I did. Without thinking, I rushed ahead and instantly put myself between myself and the animal. I don’t think I am an exceptionally brave person, but on that day, I was ready to die to defend my children. Luckily, the animal lost nerve and ran in the opposite direction.

It is the same with God. God will not allow someone to destroy His church. He will swiftly destroy these fraudulent preachers. They bring reproach upon the church, and upon the Word of God. Today, in my country, I see a trend whereby the world is slowly disbelieving the church. The title “Pastor” or “servant of God” is associated with hooliganism, thuggery, and unending scandals. And it is the same with the terms “saved” or “born-again Christian”.

This is all a result of the heresies that are being introduced into the church. The church is no longer teaching the pure doctrine of Christ, therefore it has no power to convict the world. But the Bible says about the early Church: “And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them” (Acts 5:13).

Today the world scoffs at the church.

God will not allow that to continue happening on account of preachers who want to fulfill the lusts of their flesh. He says He will bring “swift destruction” upon them. They are the enemies of the cross of Jesus.

We need to fear God and go back to the message of the early church: the message of the cross of Jesus Christ, which alone can deal with all these carnal heresies that are tearing apart the church of God.

Of Worldly Wealth And God’s Kingdom – Part 3

… So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Luk. 12:21

This is the last post in this series.

There is something we read of here called ‘laying up treasure for oneself’ and there is another thing called ‘being rich toward God’. These are two contrary states, and they both reside in the heart of man.

Let us conclude our discussion by saying that this is a battle for the heart of man. Money, or wealth, is the undisputed god of this world; and our God is the God of heaven. One is natural. The other is spiritual. Both are striving for control of our hearts. Mark that, and beware.

This does not mean that Christians are not allowed to become rich or to own wealth. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not about being rich or being poor in the natural. Indeed, the gospel is not natural in any sense. It is something spiritual.

Our father Abraham was one of the richest men that lived in his day. But the fact about Abraham was that his heart was never set on or taken up with the things of this world. He saw something in his spirit for which he was willing even to sacrifice these things.

If you as a born-again believer see something in the spirit for which you are willing to sacrifice everything you have, including your own life, then you are a spiritual person. It is as simple as that.

The Bible says this about Abraham: “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (Heb. 11:9). Our spiritual forefathers were extremely rich in the natural, but they dwelt in tents! Long before Abraham was born men were building towers of brick and mortar (Genesis 11:3). He and his sons could have built similar structures. But they chose to live in tents.

Verse 10 tells us the reason why. “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

Abraham was not interested in this life. On the contrary, he sought after the things that make a man “rich toward God”. Much is written about Abraham in the Bible and in all of them we see a man of a Godly and noble character:

–         He was magnanimous and humble (He allowed his nephew Lot to choose which portion of Abraham’s inheritance to take);

–         he was loyal (he went to Lot’s rescue);

–         he was kind and generous (his ministry to the angels, whom he initially thought were men!);

–         he was merciful (he stood pleading for sinful Sodom in the presence of the Lord). In short, Abraham was rich in the things that pertain to Godliness. He had the heart of God.

In the final analysis, it is not about believers owning wealth or not. It is about making sure that our hearts are not given to the spirit of this world, but are caught by a vision of heaven. It is about not walking in the natural, but by faith. Faith is what sees into God’s Kingdom.

The Apostle Paul was not as rich as Abraham was. And yet in the spirit he lived the same lifestyle that Abraham lived. He lived a life of the Spirit. This was because he lived a life of faith that saw in the spirit. He says: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:20-21).

Notice Paul says that the life he lived in the flesh he lived by faith. That means that even though he lived the same earthly world that you and I are living, he was not bound by this natural life. What a spiritually fulfilling life he must have lived!

Notice he also says he does not “frustrate” the grace of God. That means he does not deny the Spirit’s role in his life. His life was controlled 100% by the grace of God, not by what he had or what he knew in the natural. That is the faith that we ought to have. In every condition, rich or poor, intelligent or less intelligent, whatever our natural state, we are to FULLY acknowledge God’s grace in our lives. That is what faith is all about.

In 1 Timothy6:5, the Apostle Paul warned Timothy about those Christians who supposed that “gain is godliness.” He was talking about people who would equate being rich with being ‘spiritual’. They would think that the more they have, the more they know or are known by God. These are people who cannot see into the spirit and therefore have no faith. We could say they are in it for the money. But their spirits are empty. Remember money is a natural thing. It is not spiritual.

Paul here is talking about the people who subscribe to what is popularly known today as the gospel of prosperity. It is sad, but a majority of the church are in this group today.   

Paul tells Timothy, “From such withdraw thyself.”

In other words, he is telling him, ‘Do not allow yourself to be in that group. Do not receive those teachings. Do not be a part of them.’

That’s tough language. But the gospel is all about “the strong meat of the gospel”! Heb. 5:14

He continues in 1 Timothy 6:6-12, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

We could own the world. God has no problem with that. But He wants us to live by faith. Many times we think that only the poor should live by faith. But as we just saw with Abraham, we are all called into a life of faith. Faith is what pleases God. Faith also is what makes us to see into the spiritual kingdom and live out the life of God in us.

Of Worldly Wealth And God’s Kingdom – Part 2

And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.

And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? Luke 12:13-14

In the days that we are living in the gospel of Jesus Christ has been compromised and today gain is thought to be godliness, as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:5. Paul called the people who advance these kinds of teachings “men of corrupt minds” and “from such”, he admonished Timothy, “withdraw thyself”.

Recently, on TV, a prominent preacher was praying over people who had various needs in his church. There were hundreds, probably thousands, each holding up a placard with their prayer requests written on them.

One man had a placard that read, “LAND CASE”, and when the preacher got to him, he placed his hands upon him and said to him, “You have won”. In other words, this preacher was telling this man, ‘by the word of the Lord’, that he had won a dispute over land.

Immediately I heard that, somehow I knew it was not right. There was no Biblical basis for what this preacher had just told this man. I would not contest the fact that he might have received a revelation concerning that man’s situation, but as far as I was concerned, his words or prophecy had to link up with scripture. And they didn’t.

But what disturbed me even more was the fact that this is a prominent preacher, whom millions of people from all over the world pay attention to. And he was doing or saying something that was completely contrary to the Word of God right on TV!

When we look at scripture, we see that Jesus’ approach to a similar situation is poles apart from this preacher’s. Contrary to this preacher, Jesus told His man that He did not come to be a ‘judge’ or a ‘divider’ of worldly possessions.

But what did Jesus mean then and what are the implications of His words for us today? Let us look at this scripture in some detail.

The first thing we notice is that this is the only scripture in the Bible where Jesus used the word “Man” to address a person; and notable still is the fact that He used this word in connection with worldly possessions. The conclusion we come to here is that someone whose heart is set on worldly possessions is a mere man. He is not a spiritual man. Spiritually speaking, that is a sick person and what he needs above all else is the healing of his heart.

To bring this into even clearer perspective, let us consider another place where the word ‘man’ is used in a similar fashion. Paul, speaking to the Corinthians, says, “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” 1 Cor. 3:3. Notice the connection between the words ‘men’ and ‘carnal’ here. The two go together.  They are allies. A carnal person is a worldly-minded person. He might be a Christian, but as long as his heart is set on the things of this world, the Bible calls him carnal. He is a man or woman in whom the works of the flesh are evident.

There is only one person in the world who is not carnal, and that is the spiritually-minded born-again believer, one whose affection is set on “things above, not on things on the earth” (Col.3:2). A spiritual person is no mere man.

Back to Jesus and His man. The claim of this man was acceptable in the natural, but in the Spirit, it pointed to a very big spiritual problem in this man’s heart. By addressing him “Man”, Jesus was telling him. ‘With your attitude, you are a mere man’. It is important we understand the sense in which Jesus addressed this man because, as we shall see, this is very relevant to the church at present.

The second thing we notice about this scripture is Jesus saying He was neither judge nor divider between a man and his brother. Who or what is a judge? A judge is a person who administers justice. He is an arbiter. This is the second important thing we need to keep in mind as we continue with our discussion. Since the matter in hand involved a familial inheritance, we can safely conclude that Jesus was telling this man that He did come to arbitrate on worldly possessions. We wouldn’t know whether what this man wanted Jesus to do was right or wrong until Jesus agreed or refused his request. And His answer was a ‘no’.

Lastly, let us consider Jesus’ words in verse 15: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (verse 15).

The words “consisteth not” say it all. Here Jesus was saying that the Life that God is giving us has nothing to do with worldly possessions. Whether you own the whole world, or whether you are so poor that even the shirt on your back is someone else’s property; none of these state of affairs has anything to do with the Kingdom of God that dwells in our hearts.

Now, remember that the Jews in Jesus’ day did not have the Holy Spirit in them and everything Jesus told them left them totally confused. They did not have the revelation of the Word. But we have the Holy Spirit, and we can understand clearly what God is saying. You see, Jesus was not simply ‘putting off’ the man, but He was making a very important statement whose meaning the Holy Spirit would later reveal to the church.

So what’s in it for the church here? What is God telling His people here?

There are Christians today who are using the Word of God to ‘claim’ worldly possessions, just like this man wanted to use Jesus to claim his ‘right’. There are they who claim it is their God-given ‘right’ as children of God to have this and that thing. They say, “I claim this and that in Jesus’ Name!”, – and they are referring to just a natural or worldly ‘right’. There are preachers who are teaching people that “It is your right as a child of God to have this and that!”

This heart condition of wanting the things of this world is a sin called covetousness, and the Bible equates it to idol worship (Col.3:5). In the Old Testament, this was the one sin that angered God above all. God’s first commandment to man is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Mat. 22:37-38).

There are people, infinitely more so today than in Jesus’ day, who want to use the Word of God as a ‘judge’ and a ‘divider’ of worldly possessions. A judge, as we just saw, grants rights to people. In the same way, people – Christians – want to use the Word of God to lay claim to certain ‘rights’ they feel they are entitled to as children of God. They use the Bible to ‘claim’ anything and everything they want.

I am referring here to the gospel of prosperity and other kindred gospels. These are carnal, worldly gospels.

But we have been called to serve God in Spirit and truth. I admire the Apostle Paul, who calls himself a “servant” of Jesus Christ. Paul was not a servant to this world.

In the final analysis, we have no rights to claim. On the contrary, we are called upon to lose our rights. That is what a revelation of the cross in our lives will teach us: to deny self, take up our cross and follow Christ.

The Nature of Our Calling – Part 1

And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. Genesis 24:58

I once watched on TV as a preacher informed his congregation that someone had offered to buy him a private jet. A loud, thunderous applause went up from the crowd. It suddenly turned into an uproarious affair and for an extended number of minutes people danced and did various kinds of jigs inside the church to show their joy at this ‘miracle’. Stuff – hankies, paperwork – was flying about and things were about near delirium. Had the preacher announced that he had caught a glimpse of Jesus hiding behind a cloud in preparation for the Final Descent, I doubt the pandemonium would have been greater. The commotion that took place within that church made it appear as if something really big had taken place. But in my heart I felt absolutely nothing and I could not understand what the fuss was all about. I am not implying that I am super-spiritual, you see; but ever since I got saved, there are some things to which my heart does not respond.

Nor am I implying that we should not rejoice when God blesses us with earthly goods; but I am of the opinion that these things are nothing to make a racket about. When we raise a storm over material “blessings” it just shows that our hearts are lying in the wrong place. Another spirit other than Christ’s is troubling us. As soon as we stop seeing in the spirit, we begin seeing worldly things.

But the story of Rebekah’s betrothal to Isaac is a great perspective-builder for the Christian. It clearly teaches us that we have been called upon to leave our own people and country (the world) and go to another (Jesus and His spiritual Kingdom).

In other words, God calls us to see into His Kingdom; and what we see there causes us to forsake our desire for the things of this world. God is so rich! Abraham’s servant carried so much wealth that it surprised even Rebekah’s kin. But do not be deceived that the Holy Spirit is talking to us about earthly “jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment”! (verse 53). No, sir, the Bible does not deal in that kind of merchandise.

These Old Testament people certainly had all these material blessings, but we have to understand that everything they had was a ‘type’; and these men and women also understood this. The understanding they had was what made them spiritual; that was why God was pleased with them.

In the Bible, Isaac is popularly known as “the son of promise”. He was the son that God promised Abraham. That means that Isaac is a spiritual figure. He represents something in the Spirit. Indeed, he represents Christ. When God therefore sends His Holy Spirit (who here is represented by Abraham’s servant) to come for us, all this is spiritual business. Everything happens in the spirit. We ourselves are witnesses to the fact that when we accepted Jesus into our lives, things happened which we did not even understand with our natural minds, although we knew we had changed. In other words, we were betrothed to another, Christ Himself! It was a deeply spiritual work. It is unthinkable, therefore, that we can begin to compare the spiritual Kingdom into which God has called us with the material things of this world. These desires are simply the lusts of the flesh and the Bible calls it idol worship, as Paul explains in Colossians 3:5 “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry”. (Emphasis mine).

In Ephesians 5:5 we read also, For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” .

A covetous man is the New Testament personification of the Old Testament worshipper of idols. And in those days, these were people who caused God to become exceedingly wrathful.