Businessman Or Preacher?

34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mk. 8:34-36

It is incredibly strange how Jesus’s teaching that one should deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him is juxtaposed alongside the prosperity gospel that is rife in the church today.

There is an infinite difference between motivational teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The principles embodied in motivational teachings are not for the church; they are for the world. Jesus should not even be mentioned in such teachings, because He did not come to seek after the success of this world.

Millions in the church will try these principles and still remain poor because God is not involved in such principles – or their end result, which is worldly riches and success.

These teachings by Dr. Myles Munroe only encourage greed for worldly success and glory, and worldly riches. (The Bible calls greed “covetousness, which is idolatry” – Col. 3:5)

In the end, so much good $25,000 did Dr. Munroe.

 

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The Way We Are

I got this post from a friend on Facebook and I asked for permission to share it with my readers on WordPress. The post is based on Colossians 3:1-4. The location is Africa. The time is the present, going all the way back to the 1990s. So, here goes, with some slight variations.

Scene 1:

Prophet: Can I prophesy ?
Congregation: Prophesy, man of God
Prophet: In one year I see some of you getting visas to relocate to the US.
Congregation. Aaaameeeen! (Attended with ululations, stampeding, breaking off of tree branches and charging around the church; general pandemonium)

Scene 2:

Prophet: Can I prophecy ?
Congregation: Yeeees,  Prophet of God. Prophesy!
Prophet: In one year I see some of you desiring more to live in complete holiness and service to the Lord in readiness for Heaven.
Congregation: (Silent, absolutely no response. Major look of disappointment on most of the faces; confusion in the rest.)

[And now, to calm your frayed nerves, I have chosen this beautiful song for you…]

Prosperity Not Gospel

When John the Baptist came preaching in Judea, he did not have even a shirt on his back. The Bible says:

“And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.”  (Mat. 3:4)

The man was that poor materially. Moreover, John went on and preached, saying:

“He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” (Lk. 3:11)

When Jesus lived here on earth, the Bible says of Him:

“The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Mat. 8:20)

And, pray, what have we here today? We have preachers who own private jets and million-dollar homes and cars and who claim to preach the same gospel that John and Jesus preached.

Aw, c’mon! C’mon!!

[Prosperity preachers are not much different from this fellow. Scheming and conniving to get their paws on their material “dues”]

“Much Tribulation”

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,

22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:21-22

What would you rather have preached in your church?

Today, the church has a wide range of choices when it comes to what people want to hear. But this wide range of choices is a dangerous thing for all these things cater to the flesh. The Apostle Paul warned his young protégé Timothy:

“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.”

To which he added an admonition:

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

Notice that “endure afflictions” is firmly tucked in there. We may have a choice today, but the early church did not have the luxury of hearing what they wanted to hear. No doubt they, just as much as we, would have liked to hear a “soft” gospel, one which promised them a comfortable and trouble-free life here on earth and eternal life in the hereafter. But God would not allow that, for in surrendering to the flesh there is no life.

The apostles were men sent of God. They had in their hearts a revelation of Christ, Christ crucified. They therefore had only one message to deliver:

that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

I wonder how you can reconcile this Biblical message with the man-made messages of financial and material prosperity, promotion and whatnot. In today’s gospel setting, it seems you are not allowed to upset people. It is more important to talk about the “abundant life”, whatever that is, than the suffering that we are to endure for the gospel’s sake.

But if we live, we live for Christ, and if we die, we die for Him also. This is borne out by the example of the Apostle Paul himself who, when addressing Timothy, writes:

“16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me… 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

It would have been wonderful to read that God delivered Paul from harm in order that Paul could continue living his own life. But this account states otherwise. It says here that God preserved Paul in order that he might continue preaching the gospel. God preserves us for a purpose – His purpose. There is no place in scripture to believe that God preserves us in order that we might continue doing our own thing here on earth. God preserves us in order that we might preach and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is for this reason that God brings the cross into our lives. The cross is God’s plan for mankind. The cross involves all the things listed in 2 Corinthians 12:10:

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

In this gospel, people will stamp on you and you will tried and tempted in many different ways. And God expects us to take all that patiently.

The Bible makes clear that you can enter into the Kingdom of heaven minus many of the things that we think are important in our lives – financial success, promotion at work, healing; Jesus even said you can enter with one eye and one hand (Mat. 5:29,30) – but you cannot enter the Kingdom of God without living out the cross in your life. The Bible says that we must through much tribulation enter into God’s heavenly Kingdom. That means suffering and bearing with a lot of negative things in our lives as believers.

That being the case, how about we begin thanking God for the problems instead of wishing them away. We might have been taught otherwise in the mega-churches; but we just might find we are on the right track here. Actually, the Bible says we are.

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

To exhort means to encourage. You encourage someone when they are undergoing challenges and hardship. The Christian life is a challenge. Living the Christian life is actually the greatest challenge there is in life. The reason for this is because this challenge is not necessarily about physical or material deprivation. Rather, it goes deep into the nether parts of our souls and challenges us there. Here, the deepest things of our hearts are challenged. Here, our pride is challenged. If you are white, your whiteness will be challenged. If you are an African, your Africanness will be challenged. If you have a greed for material wealth like the rich young man we read of the other day that will be challenged also.

These and other carnal traits are the things that make up the un-Christlike character in us, and God wants them out of our lives. God sends us His servants to exhort us to bear with hardships for the gospel’s sake. They encourage us to die to self and to our lusts. After we are truly and fully dead, the grace of God – which is the life of Christ – will increase in us, and we will be able to please God in every area of our lives.

[What would you rather have preached in church?]

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The Reluctant Slave

Many years ago I read a story about a man who was taken into slavery into a faraway land, and when he was taken into slavery, it so happened that he was taken straight to the king’s palace. He lived there for many years, working as a slave.

In those days, it was customary for a slave to be redeemed if his kinsfolk brought to his masters sufficient wherewithal to redeem him. During the time that he was enslaved, this man’s relatives worked and worked until they got enough means to redeem their flesh and blood.

After those many years, the relatives started on the long journey to the strange country to redeem their brother. On arrival, they were well received, as was the custom in those lands. They were washed, fed and treated very well throughout the night. In the morning, they brought their agenda to the king’s hearing and, upon hearing it and upon weighing up the wherewithal his relatives had brought, the king had only one answer: “The man is free to go.”

The man was asked to pack up and leave, but to the surprise of everyone, he refused to go. He told his relatives, “I have lived well here in this palace, far much better than I did back home. Furthermore, I know there will be – and there are – people back home who still dislike me, so I am not ready to go back to all those problems. I am comfortable here.”

His relatives were shocked by his answer and they began crying and beseeching him to consider them, his own flesh and blood; but he would not. He remained adamant and they had no option but to leave without him. They went away crying loudly, sorrowful that their brother had chosen to remain in slavery rather than to go live in freedom together with his own kith and kin.

Not long after this saga, it was reported in that faraway land that the king was seriously ill and, soon afterwards, he died. It was also the custom in that country that when the king died he had to be buried together with his favorite servant, alive. And so, therefore, while burial arrangements were being made, a council was set up to determine who should be buried with the king. It didn’t take long for the council to conclude that the servant whose relatives had recently come to redeem had been the king’s favorite servant. It was therefore declared that this man, having been the king’s favorite servant, would have the honor of getting buried alive with the king.

When the news reached the servant, he couldn’t believe his ears. He was shell-shocked. Not, of course, on account of the news that he was the king’s favorite, of which he was well aware; but of the fact that, being the late king’s favorite servant, he would be buried alive alongside the king. The latter was a fact that he was not aware of although he had lived in that country for a long time.

He tried to plead for his life. He told his new masters, “My brethren, whom you saw here recently, will be coming again to take me home.” But it was to no avail; his name had already been officially proclaimed.

In a desperate bid to save his life, he tried to escape, but he was apprehended and locked up. Finally, the day of the king’s burial arrived and the king was finally laid to rest, together with his favorite servant. As was the burial custom, the servant was buried alive, standing up straight, in honor of the king.

This man had recanted his flesh and blood to remain with a foreign king, and the reason he gave for denying his brethren was because he was living a comfortable life and did not want to suffer any problems! In the end he died – alone, in a foreign country.

This story reminds me of what is happening within the church today. It reminded me of the dangers of those who would not allow themselves to suffer for Christ’s sake. In particular, it reminded me of those within the church who would push aside the gospel of the cross in favor of other gospels. The revelation of the cross is the believer’s flesh and blood. We do not preach another Christ, however comfortable he is:

But we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)!

If you hold onto your life, you will be denying Jesus Christ, for He Himself said,

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mat. 16:25)

The comfortable gospel of prosperity and bodily welfare is probably the one true menace to the church today. The prosperity gospel “bodyslams” the gospel of the cross. It enslaves God’s people to this world. Philippians 3:18-19:

“18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”

One day, this gospel will die, and those who are deriding the gospel of the cross will be buried together with it. And so will all other gospels that are not lined up with the gospel of the Apostle Paul:

“20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)

When Jesus comes back, He will not be coming back for those who cling to the welfare gospel. He will be coming to take with Him those who have walked the strait and narrow road, those who loved Him and denied themselves.

[And now, for your listening pleasure]

Looking to Others’ Gain

Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. Phil. 4:17
If you gave me a gift or came to my help in any way, I would feel extremely thankful to you. The reason for me being grateful is because you would have gotten me out of a jam. In other words, I would be thankful for me.
But, clearly, it was not so with the Apostle Paul. When the Philippians came to Paul’s financial and material need, he thanked them. But he thanked them, not for his sake, but for their sake. He had already stated:
“11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (vs. 11-13)
The Apostle Paul was a true servant of God. He looked not to his own profit, but to the profit of others. He looked to the profit of those whom God had placed him over. And, even more importantly, he looked to their spiritual profit, rather than their material profit.
“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
The “account” Paul is talking of here is the heavenly account, not an earthly one.
Most high-profile preachers today are looking to their own profit – material and financial. I have heard of preachers whose congregations have “rewarded” them with Rolls Royces, multi-million dollar mansions and even private jets. The reason these preachers grab at these “gifts” is because possessing them justifies the gospel that they preach – the prosperity gospel. They have, of necessity, to provide the prime example of the gospel that they preach through their lavish lifestyles.
How so noble of them!
In like manner, Paul also became the paramount model for the gospel he preached. But, praise God, Paul’s gospel was not the prosperity gospel. On the contrary, it was the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ. His was a gospel that required total denial of self.
Total denial of self… This reality tops the list, of all time, of things that are easier said than done, by any man anywhere on earth. The fact that Paul could deny himself to the extent of not wanting to receive things from his flock for his own gain speaks volumes about his spiritual character. That is not what a natural man would do.
But, even more astounding is the fact that he saw and desired for the Philippians far into the Spirit, that their fruit might abound in the Spirit on account of what they did in the natural.
“Not because I desire a gift…”
How so telling of the character of a true man of God! But, even more significantly so,
“… but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
Where are such men of God? Even amongst we who have shunned the false gospels of worldly men, where are the men and women who can run such a distance in the Spirit? Whom among us can deny themselves to such an extent? Where is such love to be found?
Paul’s words are rare indeed in this present world, and they present us with a challenge – a challenge to know and to walk in the true revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Then, the church will have a reason to praise and thank God for the rare gift that such men and women are to the church.