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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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MENDACIOUS OR MIGHTY IN TRUTH?

There was a popular preacher who often called out the names of a few people in his audience during the service and described their physical problems. The evangelist claimed that God was speaking to him and giving him information about the individuals he spoke to. According to him, he had never met or spoken to prior to calling out their names. However, it was later discovered that employees of the evangelist would talk to people in the crowd before the service and gather facts about the people attending. They would give this information to the preacher’s wife. She, in turn, would talk to her husband through a tiny receiver in his ear. By this means their ministry became a financial success. (Information from James Randi, The Faith Healers)

We have all run into liars from time to time. Usually, they are harbingers of serious disappointment. It is especially disappointing when we discover we have been lied to by someone we counted on as a friend. We all want to believe that there are certain individuals in society in whom we can put our trust, such as family; friends; our heroes; teachers; doctors; government authorities; and men and women who are spiritual leaders.

Let us consider, specifically, spiritual leadership. Spiritual leadership has traditionally been a highly respected role in American history and culture. The Christian preacher or pastor’s responsibility is to make known the truth of God. However, there are people who claim this position who are liars. This should not be totally surprising since even Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light”. (2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV)

Why do liars lie? In the Bible, Satan is called “a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 ESV) It is his character because there is no truth in him. Satan is humanity’s adversary. Lies are his tools to manipulate and deceive. We follow his example when we lie to avoid responsibility, lie to manipulate others, or lie to enhance our status (pride) for personal or monetary gain.

Simon the magician was such a man. He convinced people he was “the power of God” and someone great by using his skills in the magician’s art to manipulate and deceive others. Simon’s magic, however, was a lie whether it was the product of his own cunning or the work of demons. Unlike the famous magicians of today, who readily admit their tricks are illusions for entertainment, Simon used his skills as a con-artist who looks to steal your possessions and the glory due to God alone. (Acts 8:9-12)

I once watched a video of a sermon by a man who called himself a Christian preacher. He had a large and prosperous congregation who seemed no different from most people in church on Sundays. His ministry, nevertheless, was built on lies. He taught that if people would eat healthy foods and truly put their faith in Jesus Christ that they would live forever; physically not spiritually. He preached that if you just had the faith, you would become physically immortal. I suppose that when a member of this congregation died the explanation would sound like this: “Poor John. He just did not have the faith to live!” No. John did not physically live forever in this world and neither will the rest of this easily duped congregation, but the pastor made a lot of money telling them they would. I also noticed that none of the people who were visible to me in the video carried Bibles. Maybe this is why they were so gullible.

You may have watched a preacher on television teach his congregation that if they follow a few steps (outlined in his latest book) and have faith they will grow rich, healthy, and enjoy effortless success. This is sometimes called “the prosperity gospel” or “the word of faith”, but such preachers are the ones who prosper off the money and uninformed faith of the naïve. If you believe Jesus taught this, you have missed the point of the Gospel entirely. This is a defective view of God’s grace. John writes:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1 ESV)

There are many false prophets in this world who claim to preach Christ while only preaching their imaginations. There are many false prophets in this world who claim to preach the Gospel, but only weave a web of manipulation for power or monetary gain. There are many false prophets who have gone out into the world to spread lies that will rob men of their souls. They are children of the father of lies. They lure people to their churches by twisting the Scriptures into lying promises of worldly prosperity.

… because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. (2 Peter 2:2-3 ESV)

Many people are too quick to follow their emotions instead of what the Bible plainly teaches. We even carelessly allow more to be added to what the Scriptures state than the clear meaning of the words admit. This occurs because the level of Bible illiteracy is so high in our churches. The average modern self-proclaimed Christian is beginning to think of the Church as more of a motivational movement rather than an instrument of Christ leading to eternal salvation.

The spirit of the false pastor or preacher is a lying spirit. This is why so many Christian churches lack the power of the Holy Spirit in their communities. Yet, this lying spirit is pleasing to many. Paul said:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4 ESV)

It is your responsibility to decide if your Bible is going to be anything more than a decoration on your coffee table. If you do not spend time during the week reading and studying your Bible and praying for understanding, you may very easily become the victim of spiritual lies. Such preaching and teaching will kindle your emotions to center on your own felt needs and not on what it is to live for Christ. False worship teaches, “My will be done.” True worship in the Spirit teaches, “God’s will be done.”

Do you want to know God’s Will? Read your Bible. Do you want to be able to identify false teaching when you hear or read it? Study your Bible. Do you want to be able to discern a God-centered church and a Christ-centered pastor? Read, study, and pray to understand your Bible.

In closing, I want to share these thoughts from Robert Lewis Dabney on the minister’s role and relationship to the Scriptures:

The preacher is a herald; his work is heralding the King’s message. . .. Now the herald does not invent his message; he merely transmits and explains it. It is not his to criticize its wisdom or fitness; this belongs to his sovereign alone. On the one hand, . . . he is an intelligent medium of communication with the king’s enemies; he has brains as well as a tongue; and he is expected so to deliver and explain his master’s mind, that the other party shall receive not only the mechanical sounds, but the true meaning of the message. On the other hand, it wholly transcends his office to presume to correct the tenor of the propositions he conveys, by either additions or change. . .. The preacher’s business is to take what is given him in the Scriptures, as it is given to him, and to endeavor to imprint it on the souls of men. All else is God’s work. (R.L. Dabney, Sacred Rhetoric, 1870)

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