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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The Road To Error

For in him we live, and move, and have our being. Acts 17:28

Most people think that cults are only those that are led by people with dreadlocks and who mumble unintelligible mumbo jumbo. But I can assure you that your average church could very easily be a cult. The Bible doesn’t mention the word “cult”; but the Biblical definition of a cult would be: “A place of worship – call it church or whatever – where men, and not Jesus, are placed on a pedestal”.

About 10 years ago, my friend Joshua and I were invited to preach in a certain church. I do not remember the exact details concerning the pastor of this church, but I do recall that we came away with the distinct impression that this was a man who was “full of himself”. He was in total control of everything and he presented himself in such a manner that he was revered tremendously.

To this day, Joshua and I still use the phrase “a man full of himself” since, in the course of our ministry, we have met many men of God who use their influence to draw attention to themselves.

Upon reading the Bible, however, it is evident that the Godly men of old did not talk about or draw attention to themselves. On the contrary, they talked of and represented God. In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself being the prime example, talked so much about His Father that, one day, Philip said to Him,

“Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” (Jn. 14:8)

This scripture does not mean, as some people suppose, that Philip and the rest of the Apostles were telling Jesus off, or that they were tired of hearing Him constantly refer to His heavenly Father. On the contrary, it infers that they were so captivated by the kind of life that Jesus kept referring to as belonging to God the Father that they wanted to know, literally, what kind of God was this? And, could such a lifestyle be possible with man? It sounded so surreal!

Their jaws must have dropped when they learned, through Jesus’s answer that, in Him they were looking at the very God He was talking about!  Jesus confirmed to them that, through the kind of life that He had lived with them, He was God. His was a perfect, blameless life.

God, and not man, is the subject of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout the ages, Godly men have been full of God, and not themselves.

After Jesus had ascended to heaven and after the apostles, through the Holy Spirit, had validated that Jesus indeed was God, thereafter, in the totality of their ministry and lives, they laid it thick on the Lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ and on the Godhead of our Heavenly Father. At every opportunity, they emphasized only these two things.

But concerning themselves, they had only the most abasing things to say. The Apostle Paul, talking of himself, could only say:

“…I be nothing.” (2 Cor. 12:11)

Recently, I was watching a documentary about a cult called the Heaven’s Gate, where members were told that they would be transported to heaven by an alien spacecraft. That farce ended with the suicide of 39 of the sect’s members. Incredibly, some of those who escaped the collective suicide, speaking in the documentary, told of how they still believed in the man who organized it and in his teachings. Unbelievable, to say the least.

In November, 1978, the Jonestown cult orchestrated the forced suicide of more than 900 of its members. They had all been brainwashed by a madman called Jim Jones.

These and countless similar incidents all point to the dangers of believing in men. Men, hearkening to seducing spirits, have long been leading multitudes of men and women to hell through demonic teachings and ‘revelations’. Some years back, in our neighboring country of Uganda, a ‘prophet’ named Kibwetere directed his congregation to sell all their property and to prepare to go to heaven. After taking all their money, he then locked them in his ‘church’ and torched it from outside. Everyone died, and to this day Kibwetere’s whereabouts are unknown.

In Nigeria, just last year, over a hundred people, many of them South Africans, were crushed to death when a poorly-constructed building fell them. They died at the very place they had gone to seek healing for their bodies and other miracles. The list of such things is endless.

Let me reiterate that, however holy, however sincere, however ‘good’; even if a man has the best reputation both in heaven and on earth, still, he is nothing. Christ is all in all. True, we are called upon to follow men, but the men we are called upon to follow are men who have crucified their lives with Christ.

“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Cor. 11:1)

We need the revelation of the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ to discern such men, for many will come in sheep’s clothing, but on the inside they are ravenous wolves.

Christ is the foundation of our faith, not men. Today, people are putting men on a pedestal at the expense of Christ. The reason for this, of course, is what Jesus said in John 5:41-44:

“41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”

Men who love giving men honour also love receiving honor from men, and the Bible here tells us that such people have not the love of God in them. They do not love God, their claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Why should we want people to praise us, anyway? It is because we want to appropriate His glory for ourselves. Now, in worldly terms, that is called treason. And, in every country of the world, the punishment for treason is death. When you attempt to challenge the authority of the king, you arouse his highest level of wrath.

The same applies to God.

Many so-called churches today are nothing but cults. The reason is, simply, that men, and not Jesus, are exalted in these churches. And when we exalt men, we exalt nothing but the flesh.

But when we exalt Christ, we exalt Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And in Him alone who died and rose again is to be found the life of the Spirit.

Where is man in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified?

Here, man has been crucified with Christ.

“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.” (Gal. 2:20)

[There are a whole lot of fascinating things going on in this clip, from the shakings to the fakings. From the woman yelling, “Puuuuush!!” to ‘Manpower’. For me, though, it is the speed with which T.D. Jakes raises his hands as 1m. U.S. dollars closes in on him that generates the most interest]

The Neglected Narrow Road

Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. 2Co 11:1-4

The Apostle Paul was addressing the Church here. He tells us that it is possible to have another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel preached to us. in other words, not everything that comes under the name of Jesus is of God.

We live in an age of brazenly false doctrines.

There’s only one way to heaven. That is the way of the Cross, the narrow road that Jesus spoke about. It is a road where the flesh is dying daily. When people do not want to take that road they will look for another, simpler – a short-cut – to heaven. That means a ‘gospel’ will be preached, but it is not the true gospel. It is a gospel of the flesh.

That is what we see in today’s church. The flesh is not being confronted. On the contrary, it is being promoted. There are ‘other’ gospels being preached. Chief among these is the gospel of prosperity; prosperity in worldly, material terms. Every preacher makes as if he wants to take the road of the Cross; but then he suddenly takes a detour and makes sure to say he believes in ‘prosperity’! What a contradiction!

That is not the only false gospel being promoted today. Even a mundane topic like healing turns carnal all of a sudden. The ministry of healing has been turned into a billion-dollar business! In our country, if your church does not have the word ‘Miracle’, ‘Deliverance’ or ‘Healing’ appended to it, nobody is interested in such a church.

The Church must turn back and embrace the Cross. The Church must be willing to pay the price to become the true Bride of Jesus Christ.

I thank God so much for the ministry of CTMI, where the gospel of the revelation of the Cross of Christ is being preached. Here, one learns that they have only one option in their Christian life: to lose their lives. Hallelujah! That is tough – but has sweet fruits, which is the changing of our character to be more and more like Jesus.

Heaps of Teachers!

Ezekiel 33:4 Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.

It is a time to take Scripture seriously. In my next few posts I want to take some time to talk about the Apostle Paul, and the gospel that he preached. You might want to ask, why specifically Paul? Well, simply because the Apostle Paul had the true revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a fact which even the Apostle Peter affirms. If Peter could affirm something, we should be considering it doubly.

But before we talk about the life of Paul and the gospel that he preached I would like to discuss a word that is found in his writings. The word is “heap”. In order to get the right perspective let’s read the scripture in 2 Timothy chapter 4 verse 3 where this word is found: “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;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

You can see that word “heap”, right in there. That means that in the days that Paul was talking about that this state of affairs would occur, there would be not one or two or even three preachers scattered here and there who would be teaching these false doctrines; no, Paul says there will be ‘heaps’ of them.

I am sure that if you begin counting from the top-of-the-range televangelists to the unknown preacher way down the rung, there are literally millions of preachers of the gospel today. I wonder how many of these are in that group of ‘heaps’ of false teachers, which is what Paul is talking about here – an accumulation of false teachers in the last days.

But it is clear from the strange doctrines coming from the pulpits today that there is an incredibly large percentage of preachers who are in that group.

But Paul says something else, that it is God’s people who will be encouraging these false preachers simply because they cannot endure sound doctrine! When you sit there and  someone is telling you to give because it will be given back to you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, and you are thinking in financial terms, what a lovely sermon!

It is no secret that in today’s version of Christianity, men and women are in it for their own personal gain – and the levels of lust after material gain are incredible. Just recently a pastor of a large congregation in my town bought himself a Hummer. This is a Third World country I am talking about. And don’t think I am being personal or subjective here. We are talking reality.

As Christians we should be very, very careful not to flow with the current. Christianity is not about masses… “Oh, y’know, I worship in a 5,000 member church, etc.” Jesus proved just that when one day He turned upon the Jewish masses following Him and fired one shot at them and they scattered like flies. Even His own disciples left Him. You can read about this in John chapter 6. The once-popular miracle-worker was left with 12 men who hesitantly decided to “endure” Jesus’ hard but sound doctrine. A few brave hearted women were there also, praise the Lord!

Now in our day we are witnessing a dangerous trend where there is only one message: God loves you and He will take care of you, and He wants to do you good. Today’s general Christian message is an adaptation of ‘Welcome to America’. Preachers filled with carnal lusts have dug into the Bible and found there are thousands of promises in there, all ripe and ready to be picked. People are listening to these teachings and they are jumping all over their seats in ecstasy, simply because preachers are promising them financial and material prosperity, good health, safety from all danger, etc., etc. Psalm 91 has been read to shreds, just because God’s people fear to die!

Can you imagine Jesus or the Apostles jumping up and down in their seats because a preacher has promised them financial prosperity? It’s not bad to be blessed financially, but after that, then what? The Apostle Paul says 1Cor. 15:19 that “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

People are itching for this kind of life, that’s all they want to hear. It is a poor Christian world indeed we are living in today.

Let us be mature and realize that God is not against material or financial blessings. He is not against us living a good, prosperous, healthy, and trouble-free life. He is not against us enjoying life. It requires maturity to acknowledge that and move on. The issue for the Church is: Is that the crux of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is that the core of this mighty gospel? Is that the bottom of the matter? Was that what Jesus came on earth to die for? Was that the message He brought? Was that what the early Apostles preached? Is this what we find in Paul’s letters?

We are living in dangerous times and it is time for Christians to take hold of their lives and locate the right place to put them in. Ezekiel’s words have more meaning to us than they did to the Israelites.