The Need For Sound Doctrine – Part 2

Sometimes the problem is not the mega-church and all it entails. Paul also told Timothy:

“1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (1 Tim. 4:1-3)

Sometimes the problem is “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”. Imagine… God’s people literally being led by demonic forces! And when you hear the devil, don’t expect to see him in horns. Oh, no. What you will see is a priest or pastor or preacher who has probably even been to Bible school. And, actually, when you read this particular scripture, you will realize that the Bible is talking about mainstream denominations!

Take, for example, a ‘church’ that forbids people to marry, or one that forbids people to eat certain foods. The Bible here states that both these doctrines are doctrines of devils. And yet… false denominations and cults use these same teachings to deceive their members.

The Bible calls these doctrines of devils because they aim to found people’s faith on something else other than the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ.

The second thing – which is the subject of the second part of this series – is that you would think, as I had always thought, that the culprits in these modern-day charades are the greedy, worldly (and sometimes demon-possessed) preachers. We love talking about how these preachers are ripping off God’s people and how they are leading them into error. But lo and behold… the Bible has news for us! According to 2 Timothy 4:3-4, the real culprits are not these preachers. The real culprits are the people themselves, who have given these preachers the platform to deceive them. That is what the Bible says right here:

“…after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers”.

The whodunnit in this crime are the believers who attend churches where the cross of Christ has been stripped of its power (1 Cor. 1:17)!

False preachers’ tentacles reach far and wide. I have a brother right here whom I one day found letters in his office from a famous American preacher directing the brother to send to that preacher’s ministry a large sum of money in exchange for an upgrading of his status in the ministry’s roll of honor. He was told he would be sent a gold-edged certificate.

The letters had come in thick and fast. With each succeeding letter the demands got more strident. The last letter was an actual threat. Luckily, our man got to hear the gospel of the grace of God just in time, and he and his family were saved from an impending catastrophe.

Countless other people have not been so lucky.

Now, when we see or hear of these people being deceived and fleeced by these mega-preachers and other demon-possessed cultists, we are prone to sympathise with them. But God’s outlook is radically different. God’s outlook is that a blind man who accepts to be led by another blind man will fall into the same pit that his blind leader fell into. In other words, they shall both perish. It is not a matter of God pitying them or not. God has given them the freedom to choose the path they wish to follow.

And when you come to look at it in light of scripture, there is really no excuse for a person who has been born again by the Word of God to be deceived. God’s Word has the power to hold and to keep! We get deceived when we reject the truth of the cross.

That is why Paul charges Timothy to:

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

There is nothing ‘good’ about God’s Word. Notice the words Paul uses here:

“reprove, rebuke, exhort…”

The word “exhort” here means “warn”. There is nothing good about being reproved, rebuked or warned. They are all hard, difficult things to bear. But these are the things that constitute the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ. That is exactly what the cross comes to do in our lives!

When you accept to listen to a different gospel than this, it means you have changed course and you have begun chasing after other things. When you hear a gospel that does not lead you to deny yourself and to take up your cross and follow Christ, you are being deceived and you ought to ask yourself how you arrived there in the first place.

[In a homestead deep in central Tanzania, dinner is served!]

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True Service To God

1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

4 I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not. Is. 66:1-4

In a desperate bid to become like God, man goes to all kinds of lengths to avoid touching the ground. That is why we avoid the dust by riding in our cars. That is why, also, it is fashionable to fly in an airplane. Planes fly us far above the earth. (And, here’s a tip: in case you want to own your very own private jet to keep you constantly air-borne, you will need to come up with around 65 million dollars, U.S., according to the latest buzz I heard.)

Even when asleep we lie above the ground, on beds. It is only after we have died that we grudgingly allow ourselves to be laid down in the dust.

But all these efforts are futile, for the heart of the man who has not been born again by the Spirit of God is hopelessly rooted in the earth. Such an one is a child of Satan, the ruler of the darkness of this world, and his lusts are what he fulfills.

But God is holy, righteous and pure. He lives above the darkness of this world. If the earth is God’s footstool, it is evident that what occupies God is not what goes on beneath His feet but rather, what goes on above it. What engages God is not what occurs on the earth, but what takes place in heaven!

That does not mean that God does not care about us and the world around us. Rather, it means that God is Spirit and what concerns Him is the spiritual, not the worldly or material. He keeps the world by His power all right, but that does not mean He is pleased with the world.

There is only one thing that pleases God: a life lived in the Spirit. And what, pray, is a life lived in the Spirit?

People do all kinds of things for God in an attempt to impress Him, but God is the Creator of everything. There is nothing that we can surprise God with. You can build a complex temple of pure gold for God, but that cannot impress Him. All the gold in the world is His, and all the building designs in the world are His also.

When it comes to our religious posturing, we can prostrate ourselves all the way to the Arctic, but God would not be impressed with that either. We can also sing the most beautiful songs, and dance with all our strength like David did, but Jesus said that God can cause stones to sing out, too (Lk. 19:40). And we can deliver the most stirring sermons, but God does not expressly need us to do that; the Bible tells us that God once used a donkey to deliver one of the most moving sermons in the history of mankind … a sermon that saved someone’s life (read Numbers chapter 22).

There is absolutely nothing that we can do that is not born of God’s heart that can please God. On the contrary, the more we insist on doing for God things born outside of His heart, the more we vex God.

“He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol…”

God is not concerned with our religious affectations. But God is very concerned with a man or woman who trembles at His Word, for God’s Word is the only tool that can make us to do that which delights God. Trembling here does not mean we are to stand somewhere shaking. On the contrary, when we tremble at God’s Word, it means our spirits are quick to obey Him by leaving off sinning.

Who is the person who trembles at God’s Word, and who obeys God? Who is it that can leave off sinning? It is the person who denies themselves, carries their cross and follows Christ. This is the person who truly pleases God.

There are gospels today that have no idea of what God requires from us. Indeed, there are false gospels that have been engineered to remove the fear of God from men’s hearts. This is what the Apostle Paul means when he says in 2 Corinthians 11:3:

“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.

Paul goes on to say in verse 4:

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.”

These false gospels set men’s sights on the material things of this world. They also trivialize God’s anointing and His power by treating these qualities like disposable commodities.

A brother once attended a big conference in a neighboring country that was being led by a powerful preacher. When he came back, he excitedly told us, “Y’know what? I fell under the anointing!”

There is nothing in such things to bring the fear of God into men’s hearts.

At any rate, we should be careful. The Bible says that both the devil and his servants are able to transform themselves into ministers of light (2 Cor. 11:13-15). That is why we should be careful with all these emotional manifestations that have invaded the church.

But – praise the Lord! – there is one place where you can absolutely not go wrong with God: living the crucified life. Living the crucified life produces the character of God in us, which is the fruit of the Spirit; and the fruit of the Spirit is the one thing that God seeks for in us (Mat. 21:18-19). God’s Word in Galatians 5:22-23 tells us:

 “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance”.

This is the kind of lifestyle that God is looking for in us, and it can only be found in a crucified life. The Bible sums it up by saying:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24)

[Below: A praise session. Here, God looks upon the heart]

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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]

Paul – A Bond Slave of Christ

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Eph. 6:18-20

Notice that Paul was “… an ambassador in bonds”.

Have you ever seen a man in chains? Not handcuffs, but real chains. Sometimes we see prisoners in, say, the prison at Guantanamo, in chains. The chains make it impossible for the prisoners to move about with any amount of freedom.

That is what Paul is talking of here. But he is speaking in the Spirit. The fact that he was chained in the natural or not is not what Paul is referring to here. He is talking about being chained in the Spirit.

Paul was chained by God Himself. And the reason that God chained Paul was so Paul would not speak or preach anything that did not come from God. God did not want Paul to preach in his own freedom. He did not want him to preach anything he thought he wanted to preach. Above all, God did not want Paul to preach things that came from his mind. And mark you, Paul had one of the finest minds you will ever find on this earth. But God did not want anything to do with that.

(Some of the most misguided preachers today are men who carry the world’s most brilliant minds.)

When Paul therefore went to the Corinthians, he was already in chains, God’s chains, and this is what he tells them:

“1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

Scripture here gives us, in a nutshell, a true picture of the attitude that a servant of God ought to carry in ministry. Notice Paul ministered “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” because he feared lest he compromise the message that God had committed him to bring.

It is incredible how Christians believe that every person who claims to be a preacher has been sent by God. And it is even more incredible the amount of garbage that Christians swallow believing it is the Word of God.

But the truth is that not many preachers actually carry the true, unadulterated Word of God. Most of today’s preachers have not even been sent by God, and all they carry is human wisdom, the lusts of their own flesh.

And why, pray, is it that most preachers cannot bring the true Word of God to the church? It is because not many are true “ambassadors in chains” in the Spirit. Not many preachers will allow themselves to be chained by God in the Spirit. Not many would accept to undergo the kind of life that the Apostle Paul or John the Baptist lived. Not many would accept to be debased.

Many preachers want to speak and live freely. But that is a dangerous place to be because that is exactly where the devil wants them to be. The devil wants preachers to be free in the flesh. Thus they can “speak their mind”, literally.

But Paul did not want “speak his mind”. He wanted to speak “… as I ought to speak.”

How did Paul ought to speak? Paul wanted to speak as God wanted him to speak. Sometimes we overlook the fact that we have a nature in us that wants to be heard.

God therefore stripped Paul of his freedom, and put him in chains. He put a bit in his mouth. He told him, “From today on, you, Saul, are dead. You will henceforth be known as Paul, my servant.”

Not too long ago, someone approached me and they wanted me to write something. They told me, “Mwita, you are such a fine writer, we think you should begin writing such and such a thing.”

The thing they wanted me to write on had to do with the gospel all right, but in a slightly different vein.

My mind thought about the proposal, but in my spirit nothing moved. It was quiet there as a graveyard. But I was too foolish to make the connection.

And then, one day, I read this scripture, where Paul revealed that God had chained him in order that he would not preach anything other than the Word that came from God’s mouth. Instantly, I knew that God did not want me to run that series.

I did not ever answer the brethren, and I am glad they never called back. For me, it was over.

By saying that, I do not claim that everything I write in this blog is God’s Word. There are times, I am sure, when I write before I have heard clearly – or even vaguely – from God. But, that notwithstanding, my desire is only to say what comes from God’s heart. Hopefully, one day, I will arrive at the full realization of that desire. But I know it will come at a price, a price that I am slowly becoming conscious of in my heart.

God’s church is sacred. We cannot play about with God’s church. We cannot preach whatever we want just because we are looking for money, fame or influence. As human beings all we have our own personal agendas, agendas which are not of God. Actually, the human agenda is all about self. We therefore cannot bring God’s agenda into the church or to the world, even with the best of intentions – unless we are on the right foundation. That foundation is the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ, where we are daily crucifying the flesh.

Paul told the Corinthians: “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” (1 Cor. 15:31)

This foundation is what Paul is talking about when he says he was “an ambassador in bonds”. The crucifying of our fleshly desires should be our aim as children of God. Only then can we be sure that we are serving God as we ought to.

[Below: Beautiful Tanzania – “Karibu!”]

Karibu!

Photo Credit: Carol Lanthier

Heads Or Tails?

And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them. Deu 28:13

God is so rich! In fact, God is infinitely rich. There is so much richness in His Word! People are looking for all kinds of riches in this world, but the most exciting riches I have come to discover are not in the world, but in the Word of God. You can open any scripture and literally get blown away by the power of the revealed Word that you find there. At such times, earthly treasures pale into nothingness. You begin to understand why David would say in Psalm 119:72, “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.”

And in verse 127 he says, “Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.”

Here was a truly spiritual person talking!

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the modern Church. Deuteronomy 28 is probably the most-quoted chapter of the Bible among born-again believers; and yet, in the majority of cases it is done in the wrong spirit and God’s people are completely missing out on the real riches that God has for them.

You see, we cannot take the Old Testament literally, simply because everything in the Old Testament was a ‘type’ of the real thing. The real blessing came with Jesus Christ, and especially after His death and resurrection.

Deuteronomy 28:13 is not what many believers have been taught to ‘claim’ it as. In fact, it is one of many scriptures talking about our victory in the spirit after we have laid down our lives, taken our cross and followed Jesus. When we are living that kind of lifestyle, we will have victory in every area of our lives.

Today Christians are taking this scripture and using it to seek for promotion in their places of work; to claim ‘victory’ over their perceived enemies; and a host of other self-glorifications and the fulfilment of their fleshly lusts. When we consider the way Deuteronomy 28:13 is applied in much of today’s Church teachings, we realize how far the Church has removed its focus from obtaining the true riches of God in their lives. There is no denying the fact that the Church appears to be seeking after something else. As a result we end up being the tail and not the head!

May God help us to align our lives  with the true, living gospel that will enable us to lay claim to the victorious New Testament inheritance that is ours.