I have been looking at false teachers in the Bible and how we are to avoid such teachers. They are the wolves in sheep's clothing, and Jesus, along with the New Testament writers, have much to say on the subject.
But a false teacher does not always start out that way; many began a ministry with a genuine desire to do God's will. But when the Tempter came along, and proposed alternatives to a ministry founded upon a pure heart, this person compromised, took the offer and over time, the ministry began to reflect the satanic toxin flowing through it. It fell, taking the pastor, the church's trust and the name of Christianity with it.
Too many pastors are falling these days. Why?
Jesus equally faced, at the start of His ministry, the Tempter and his offers that would compromise His ministry. He showed us how to fight back, to save our calling.
Sadly, the church today reflects much compromise, and the sad consequences that follow.
Let's go back when Jesus began His public ministry. He came to John, who had been calling the people to repentance and baptizing them. John's ministry was to prepare the way for the Messiah. He had done so with zeal and people were flocking to him. Then Jesus appeared on the shore of the Jordan. John humbly tells Him that it is he who should be baptized; Jesus responds that all must be done according to the Scriptures. Then comes the dove, and God's voice, confirming His calling. God says that Jesus is His "dearly loved Son."
Jesus did not go right to work right away.
He was led by God's Spirit into the desert to be tempted.
Jesus does not have us walk where He has not walked before: He received His calling and then He was tempted. He shows us how to proceed. We are called to serve the Kingdom as God, and then here comes Satan. Jesus shows us the way to deal with the offers that Satan makes. His ministry was questioned, harassed and denigrated over the course of three years. It was attacked at the very start. Satan knew that the King of Glory had come to redeem mankind; Satan would not sit still for a moment.
We experience the same thing: we will be questioned, harassed and denigrated over the course of our ministry. We will be attacked from the very start.
Satan will not sit still for a moment.
Satan has not changed his tactics; what he proposed to Jesus in that barren desert will be offered to us as well. It doesn't matter whether we are called as pastors, teachers or any other kind of leader. Our ministry, whether it's focused on calling the lost and/or equipping the saints, will come under heavy fire.
We will face the same satanic offers that Jesus was offered and that He rejected. The Word was His weapon. Do we know ours well enough to do likewise?
Let's set the stage: We see Jesus out in the desert, hungry, alone, focused on the Father. Then comes the whisper. It is the enemy. He looks at Jesus. He looks at us:
My Offer No. 1: Publicly: God's Time. Privately: Your Time.
Yes, you ARE hungry, Son of God. No one is around, Big Guy. You have all this power--saving it up to save the world, huh? Right. But this is your time. You'll do all the God stuff in the public eye: blessing folks, healing, all that jazz. You are indispensable to God's work. I get that. But when the lights are turned off, the door's locked and the crowds go home, it's just you. Alone. No eyes, no ears, no waggling fingers about how you should be. You are now in your time. So, now, what to do? If you're hungry, zap up some bread. If you thirsty, zap up a cup of cold water. Hard ground? Zap up a soft bed. No one will ever know. Ignorance is bliss as you walk out in public--keep your followers stupid and happy.
Your future servants two millennia from now? Yup: Same-o logic. Lonely? Click that mouse and wow, those images. Sure makes a man less lonely. Hurting? Checking-out is only a few sips away. Angry? Yes, those demands on you and your time are ridiculous. Let those ugly thoughts swirl around your brain. No one can see what you really think about those stupid sheep you minister to. You are so indispensable to God's work. Your time is your time, and there's always grace--God forgives over and over. So, keep your sheep ignorantly blissful while you wow them with the God stuff, and all will be well.
My Offer No. 2: Use the Word To Glorify God and Yourself!
OK. You put the Word into the mix with that "not live by bread alone" bit. So, let's use the Word.
You see, where I come from, we twist the Word to make folks believe and do all sorts of ugly things. It's a bonus to add Scripture to a fleshly idea, thought or action. It gives the flesh some street cred, as it were, to make people not question the garbage being taught. I know Scripture so when I cherry-pick it, it has impact--oh, don't pardon the pun. I want you to have impact: jump off the Temple roof to an angelic landing, and wow those watching with a "God must really like this guy!" response.
It's all good. You won't be hurt (the Word promises that!) and you will walk away a megastar. People will follow you all ga-ga, and everything you say, they will listen to. They may wait impatiently for you to stop teaching and to get back up on the Temple roof--but hey! At least you have their attention! Right?
Your future servants? Oh, this is rich. Use the Word, for sure, and cherry-pickin' it is so 21st century. Use it to entertain, psychoanalyze and life-coach the sheep who wander in Sunday after Sunday looking with a "What's in it for me?" attitude. Then give them what they want: rockin' worship shows, lights, cameras, action, fog machines and whatever else their flesh needs to keep focused.
You will have impact. People will think, "Wow! God must really like this guy! Look at his church! Look at the worship band! Programs! Outreach!" You will walk away the megachurch pastor, whose name is on every lip. People will listen eagerly to what you say, kinda impatient though to hear the next story, joke or hip cultural reference. You can lightly dust Scripture over your fleshy ideas and no one will be the wiser, 'cause the Word ain't center stage anymore. You are.
You won't get hurt 'cause it's all for His kingdom, right? In the end, your flesh will revel in the shared glory with God. If you're indulging in Offer No. 1 as well, you need not stress. You got this. Stand on the Word and jump! He's got you!
Offer No. 3: Health, Wealth, Prosperity: It's All Mine...Want Some?
I got the whole world in my hands! Love that song. Wrong "he" though. Just sayin'.
Look what I have to offer you: all the kingdoms of the world, their glory, their money, their power, their influence to direct the course of events. Whoa. A lot to offer, but hey, it's me you are talking to. I lost heaven, but I gained earth and all its goodies, and I want you to have them. Why? If you appeal to people's sin nature, that is a ministry on steroids. Offer 'em what is so enticing about this planet: lust of the eyes, lusts of the flesh and the pride of life. Pride--love that word. So what it got me kicked out of heaven?
Anyway, build a ministry on the world's values and you won't fail. Ever. Make promises based on the assumption that God loves the values of the world too...He made this world, didn't He? He made all these humans, didn't He? He loves them JUST THE WAY THEY ARE? Right?
Use the world's values to build your church, Jesus. Use the Word to serve up such promises as: God always wants you well; prosperous; wealthy and happy. Suffering? Shhh. Pain. Double shhhh. Don't even bring up Job. Hate that guy.
Future servants? The Bible is useful to build a church using the world's values, 'cause you cherry-pick and away you go. If you using Offers 1 & 2, you are set to build a church that will cause others to admire and then want to emulate you. No more measly little churches on the corner with loyal folks meeting to hear the Word. No! Use the world's methods: marketing surveys, demographic studies and asking people what they want in a church (I will be happy to whisper ideas into their little brains).
Use the world's idea of entertainment: loud, proud, and overwhelming. Redub that whole Sunday thing as a "Sunday experience"--"worship" implies people come to give. Nah--"experience" says, "Hey! You here to get and we are ready for you!"
Offers 1, 2 & 3 were rejected by you, Jesus, for reasons I don't get. But I am happy to report a large number of your pastors today have taken me up on at least one offer; sometimes all three!
Just because I failed with you, doesn't mean I will ever stop with those who call on your name.
Excuse me. I gotta go. So much work to do.
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