The Danger of Pride – Part 2

Today, in Africa, it does not feel comfortable to not address a man of God without preceding his name with a title. You hear, “Apostle so-and-so” or “Prophet” or “Bishop” or “Pastor so-and-so”. Some preachers are simply known by the title “Bishop” and half their congregations do not even know their names. Preachers love addressing each other by these titles. It is like there is an obligation – an obligation to satisfy each other’s egos! Calling a man by his title is not a problem with God, of course; but the fact that men love this glory thing  is a big problem with God. In other places preachers actually demand it.

But there is another danger here: the Church is being taught to covet these things. In other words, the sin of covetousness is being taught and perpetuated by church leaders. No wonder, therefore, that everyone wants the big posts. The result is that wars and factionalism have become common in church today.

We Christians, above everyone else, should be keenly aware that the glory belongs to God alone.

In several places in the scriptures we see the apostles – Peter, John, Paul – rushing to correct people’s wrong perspectives of them as great men – or even as gods. They told them, “We are ordinary men just like you. All we have done has been by the power of God, by whose mercy and grace we live and have done all that you see.”

The Apostle Paul says of himself, “I am nothing”.

You don’t hear that kind of language very much in the pulpits today. On the contrary I see many men and women who are perfect examples of pride and arrogance.

Regrettably, just as with Herod, God sometimes moves. In our town there was this very gifted preacher, a young man. He had the gifts of the Spirit and he had charisma, and when some missionaries came from abroad and saw him, they took him under their care. They took him to a Bible school in their country, where he stayed for a number of years.

When he came back, he was no longer the humble man we knew before. He was now a ‘great man of God’ and he made it clear, without speaking so much as a word, that he was a cut above us. He had money and a big car. He lived in the biggest mansion in town. I once asked him whether his house was not too big for him and he said no.

With his charismatic bearing – and the gifts of God still upon him, since God’s gifts are without repentance – he became the most popular preacher in town. He started his own ministry and he preached all over the country and even abroad. Soon you could not address him without appending the title “Bishop” to his name.

After some years he fell into sin. He fell into adultery. Somehow, unfortunately, he contracted the AIDS virus.

The rest, as they say, is history. Before we even knew what had happened, he had vanished from the ‘radar’. He disappeared from town and his whereabouts remained a mystery… until we got wind that he was in his rural village where he was dying. Soon enough he died, and a handful of preachers went to bury him.

It is no secret that preachers today love the glory. But such examples as of this young preacher – and the dissimilar examples of the apostles’ lives – should teach us that the glory belongs to God alone. We are nothing.

The Danger of Pride – Part 1

And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country.

And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.

And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.

And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. Acts 12:20-23

Many years ago I used to work in a big farmers’ organisation. The chairman of that organisation was a very powerful man. He spent most of his time far away in Dar es Salaam, simply enjoying the good life, which included visits with our country’s president. Whenever he was around the company’s offices in our town, which was very rare, everything would revolve around him. In the first place, he always arrived by plane, sometimes charted. I was in charge of vehicles at the company and it was my responsibility to make sure that every vehicle was at the airport at the moment of his arrival. He would then be brought to the offices in a long motorcade.

But he had a strange peculiarity. He would get out of his car in the middle of town and walk to the offices on foot. That way, a big procession of his workers and other town folk would escort him, the top managers packed close to him and answering to his every breath.

I would sit in my office and watch the procession approaching. I did not have the heart to engage in such sycophancy. In fact, he and I hardly knew each other personally.

But ours was an organisation that was ruining farmers. The top management and everyone else used the farmers to enrich themselves while the farmers rotted in poverty. (One and a half years later I resigned in disgust).

One day, we heard that the chairman had fallen ill. But it was no ordinary disease. It was what the locals call a ‘bush boil’. It is a boil that simply pulverizes the entire pelvic area and it is known to be unhealable. The locals call it a ‘curse’.  They dread it more than any other disease. Our chairman was taken to an expensive hospital, but no hospital could treat that boil. After some time they brought him back home.

He died a few weeks later, in a witch doctor’s hut, his last resort.

 

It is apparent that Herod was a great orator. When he visited the people of Tyre and Sidon, he gave such a rousing speech that the people were overwhelmed by his oratorical powers. They shouted in unison: “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.” Other factors were in play, of course.

God is so patient that up till then, Herod was without fault in God’s eyes. But then the Bible says that he “gave not God the glory”. In other words, he accepted the glory for himself.

An angel of the Lord smote him immediately and he died – “eaten of worms”. He died a violent, horrible death.

Herod could simply have said, “No, guys, I am not a god” and the angel of death would have passed over him.

But he did not; on the contrary, in his heart he accepted the glory as his due.

In this period of grace that we are living in, it is the easiest thing for Christians to not realize that they are taking up the glory for themselves, instead of giving it to God. When the church is not walking in the revelation of the Cross of Christ, the flesh becomes alive and no one is even aware of it!

Many men of God have been blessed with many extraordinary gifts by God. Some are formidable orators, like Herod was. Others have powerful gifts of the Spirit working in them. Others have been blessed materially. By giving them all these things, God meant for them to glorify Him. But, sadly, many take up the glory for themselves.

Do Pastors Understand The Word “Freedom”?

Before I got saved I did many, many really bad things. It would serve no purpose to mention any of them here. The remarkable thing is that from the moment I got saved I never again felt the guilt for the things I had done. It was like someone had simply wiped the memory slate clean. I was set completely free from even the remembrance of them.

Early on in my salvation, I did not exactly know what had happened in order for me to be set so completely free. But later on I came to know that since the Bible says that the wages of sin is death, someone must have died for me; and I came to know that that Someone was none other than Jesus Christ Himself, whose sacrifice alone could atone for my sins.

That’s how realistic my relationship with Jesus is – and so it is with you. We stand saved today because Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. Probably because we keep hearing them so often, those words sound so mundane; yet, how powerful and exciting the reality of it is in our lives!

Now, we need to understand that when God forgives He forgives completely. He does not take you back to the crime scene so you can see the amount of damage you have done and hint at you to weigh how sorry you ought to be. In fact, I never at any one time felt that I needed to be sorry about anything. The feeling I had was that all that I had done before I got saved was now none of my affair; and that if it still was an affair at all, then it was all Someone else’s affair! It was as the Good Samaritan who told the innkeeper concerning the man he had rescued on the road to Jericho: “Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” (Luke 10:35). In other words, ‘Don’t let him pay a cent!’ Wow! How so liberating!

When you look at your redemption in such terms it might seem unfair: how about the people you hurt, how about the money you stole, how about this and that? And the sins that you can really point to one by one are the really big sins. The small ones run into the millions and are simply uncountable, although the Bible makes it thoroughly clear that with God there is no difference between a big and a small sin.

The fact I am pushing at here, however, is that I never did hear God question me concerning any of those things. If I were to describe it in the simplest terms possible, it is that I never received a reminder of them. If anyone ever asked me about them I was free to say, in all honesty, “I never did that!” Probably the other Mwita did them, but not me. That is how powerful the redemption Jesus purchased for me on the Cross is: total freedom!

This thought came to my mind recently after I heard a preacher say on a Christian radio station that even after you have been become a born-again believer, there are some sins which you cannot be forgiven until you confess them specifically to your pastor. He talked about sins like murder, adultery, etc. He said that if you did these sins before you got saved, you need to go to your pastor and “talk these things over”, after which the pastor should do “deliverance” over you. (For those of you still in the dark, ‘deliverance’ is amongst the new doctrines that have emerged within the Church in recent times).

I was reminded of a church which I attended many years ago where we were taught that in order for God to forgive you your sins you had to mention them one by one, aloud – and preferably with someone listening in, just to make it all the more painful for you. I admit I was too cowardly for that kind of exposure!

There are so many such ‘extra-judicial’ teachings in the Church today. It is obvious that with many preachers today, the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was not enough and before a sinner gets completely saved they need to undergo some extra forms of penance. People are held in shackles, in irons – and anything else that can be used to hold them down – until they pay to the full according to the pastor’s particular doctrine. It is incredulous – and a pity – that Christianity can be so suffocating!

If in Jesus’ time He could see the people uncared for as sheep without a shepherd, how can that not be possible in our day? Today, this state of affairs is an undeniable fact regarding the Church. At that time there were Pharisees, scribes and teachers of the Law. Today, we have pastors and other modern church leaders.

There is no doubt in my mind at all that all this confusion within the Church of Christ is a result of a lack of a revelation of the true gospel, which is Christ, and Him crucified. This revelation was what the Early Church was built on, and you can read throughout the Book of Acts of the Apostles and the Apostolic Epistles and you will not find a whiff of the kind of gospels that you find making the rounds today. That Church was powerful, solid and united. They rested on the true grace that Jesus had come to reveal by His life and death on the Cross.

May the Lord help the Church today to realize that the Lord Jesus has fully bought eternal redemption for His people, and that we are called to walk in the fullness of that freedom!