Money, Sex and Power

Read: II Peter 2

“But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you.” (II Peter 2:1)

Oswald Chambers said, “The Bible treats us as human life does—roughly.” In the entire second chapter of Peter’s second letter, the Apostle really goes after some people—and he treats them roughly.  He is going after false teachers—religious figures who pervert the Gospel for personal gain and manipulate God’s people for their own pleasure.

Peter is telling us to be on the lookout for such people. His message is clear:  We are not to be duped by these phony spiritual leaders. And by the way, in case you didn’t know it, there are plenty of them even in our day.  Just surf through the religious program on your TV set and you will see one before you know it.  But they’re not just on TV; they are in denominational headquarters, they teach in seminary classes, they fill pulpits and lead small groups all around the world.

So how do you spot them?  It’s not all that hard really, because no matter what era you are in or what position of authority they are in, these phonies fall into predictable patterns.  You can spot them because they are always grubbing for money or they are always trolling for sex or they are always maneuvering for power—or all three.

If you spot a religious figure who seems to be preoccupied with money—watch out! I’ve seen plenty of pastors and TV preachers who were pretty good at that. They are slick, so don’t be fooled!  Peter says “in their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money.” (verse 3)

Likewise, if you run into a spiritual authority that seems to be a little too loose with the girls (or the guys)—have nothing to do with them.  They are bad news, and when they fall, they will take people down with them.  Peter says that God will be “especially hard on those who follow their own twisted sexual desire and who despise authority” (verse 10).  If a spiritual leader is unwilling to be accountable for his sexuality, that is the kind of person Peter is talking about.

And finally, whenever you find a religious figure that is egotistical, prideful, and self-serving—you have found the makings of a false teacher.  When you get on the inside of their world and you don’t see humility, sacrifice and grace, you’ve got a leader who is, among other things, driven by power.  Peter warns of them in the last part of verse 10, “These people are proud and arrogant, daring even to scoff at supernatural beings without so much as trembling.” Verse 13 says, “they scoff at things they don’t understand.” Verse 18 tells us, “They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting.”

Peter is really quite rough on these people: These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness.” (verse 17)  He calls them “a disgrace and a stain among you.”  And he says, “they live under God’s curse.” (verses 13-14)

Tough chapter, I know.  But as I mentioned at the beginning, the Bible sometimes treats us roughly in order to protect us from evil influences and preserve our salvation.  And as it relates to so-called spiritual leaders, it is time we do the same.

A little rough treatment might clear some of them out of the body of Christ and off the airways.

Lord, cleanse your church.  Make us holy—the holy Bride of Christ—without any spot, or wrinkle, or blemish.  Give us greater discernment and courage to root out the false teachers among us so that we can be the kind of church with whom you are well pleased and in which the world cannot find fault.

Hypocrisy desires to seem good rather than to be so; honesty desires to be good rather than seem so.” ~Arthur Warwick

How To Spot A False Teacher

II Peter 2

“But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as
there will be false teachers among you.”
(II Peter 2:1)

Thoughts… Oswald Chambers said, “The Bible treats us as human life does—roughly.” In the entire second chapter of Peter’s second letter, the Apostle really goes after some people—and he treats them roughly. He is going after false teachers—religious figures who pervert the Gospel for personal gain and manipulate God’s people for their own pleasure.

Peter is telling us to be on the lookout for such people. His message is clear: We are not to be duped by these phony spiritual leaders. And by the way, in case you didn’t know it, there are plenty of them even in our day. Just surf through the religious program on your TV set and you will see one before you know it. But they’re not just on TV; they are in denominational headquarters, they teach in seminary classes, they fill pulpits and lead small groups all around the world.

So how do you spot them? It’s not all that hard really, because no matter what era you are in or what position of authority they are in, these phonies fall into predictable patterns. You can spot them because they are always grubbing for money or they are always trolling for sex or they are always maneuvering for power—or all three.

If you spot a religious figure who seems to be preoccupied with money—watch out! I’ve seen plenty of pastors and TV preachers who were pretty good at that. They are slick, so don’t be fooled! Peter says “in their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money.” (verse 3)

Likewise, if you run into a spiritual authority that seems to be a little too loose with the girls (or the guys)—have nothing to do with them. They are bad news, and when they fall, they will take people down with them. Peter says that God will be “especially hard on those who follow their own twisted sexual desire and who despise authority.” (verse 10) If a spiritual leader is unwilling to be accountable for his sexuality, that is the kind of person Peter is talking about.

And finally, whenever you find a religious figure that is egotistical, prideful, and self-serving—you have found the makings of a false teacher. When you get on the inside of their world and you don’t see humility, sacrifice and grace, you’ve got a leader who is, among other things, driven by power. Peter warns of them in the last part of verse 10, “These people are proud and arrogant, daring even to scoff at supernatural beings without so much as trembling.” Verse 13 says, “they scoff at things they don’t understand.” Verse 18 tells us, “They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting.”

Peter is really quite rough on these people: “These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness.” (verse 17) He calls them “a disgrace and a stain among you.” And he says, “they live under God’s curse.” (verses 13-14)

Tough chapter, I know. But as I mentioned at the beginning, the Bible sometimes treats us roughly in order to protect us from evil influences and preserve our salvation. And as it relates to so-called spiritual leaders, it is time we do the same.

A little rough treatment might clear some of them out of the body of Christ and off the airways.

Prayer… Lord, cleanse your church. Make us a holy Bride, without any spot, or wrinkle, or blemish. Give us greater discernment and courage to root out the false teachers among us so that we can be the kind of church with whom you are well pleased and in which the world can find no fault.

One More Thing… “Hypocrisy desires to seem good rather than to be so; honesty desires to be good rather than seem so.” —Arthur Warwick

$trategic $tewardship—The Kind of Giver God Loves

Read II Corinthians 9

“Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give,
not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful
giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so
that in all things at all times, having all that you need,
you will abound in every good work.”
(II Corinthians 9:7-8)

Thoughts… Paul has been teaching the Corinthian Christians for two whole chapters now about the ministry of giving, and he gives some pretty clear guideline as to how God desires us to give.

First, you are to give with authenticity. No one should tell you how to give or how much to give—not even the preacher. “You are to decide” about giving, Paul says. You need to dig way down deep and come to grips about the ministry of giving, until it is a value that drives your stewardship.

Second, you are to give out of heartfelt desire. Give because you really love God and want to demonstrate your love with a tangible expression of your devotion to him. Don’t do it because it will make you feel better, ease your guilt or make you look good.
Don’t do it just because you feel pressured to do it, not like the boy who mis-memorized the verse, “Each should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not repulsively or under convulsions.” Instead, you are to give because it’s just what you ought to do. Give because it is the nature of love. Give because it is consistent with Christian character. Give from a convinced heart. If your gift doesn’t send the message of genuine desire, it won’t count for love.

Third, you are to give with delight. Why? “For God loves a cheerful giver.” A truly authentic and heartfelt giver will enjoy giving the gift. They don’t think of giving as a loss or a requirement or a burden, rather they think of the joy it brings and the love it communicates to the recipient. That’s what we’re told in Hebrews 12:2 about Jesus, our example of joyful generosity, “For the joy set before him, endured” the ultimate act of giving: the cross.

Fourth, you are to give expectantly. Paul teaches that when you give in a way that is pleasing to the Lord—authentically, from the heart, and joyfully—God will make sure that you will always have plenty to give away: “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” As someone has wisely pointed out, “Give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving.”

What a privilege it is to give back to God. When we get giving right, God makes sure we ourselves will abound in every good work.

Prayer… Lord, you are the Supreme Giver. You gave your best, you gave your all, you gave yourself. From the depth of my heart, I thank you. It is now my honor and joy to give back to you. May the sacrifice of my offerings be acceptable worship pleasing to you.

One More Thing… “Since much wealth too often proves a snare and an encumbrance in the Christian’s race, let him lighten the weight by ‘dispersing abroad and giving to the poor’, whereby he will both soften the pilgrimage of his fellow travelers, and speed his own way the faster.” —Augustus Toplady

A Touchy Subject

Read II Corinthians 8

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though
he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you
through his poverty might become rich.”
(II Corinthians 8:9)

Thoughts… Money is a touchy subject in most churches. Pastors have to tread lightly in this area these days or face being compared to money-grubbing televangelists, of which there seems to be an endless supply. Congregations get nervous about money too, sometimes feeling as if they exist only as a financial means to help the pastor achieve his ministry ends.

Periodically, I have a chance to watch religious services on television—which usually cures me from watching again for a long time—and it becomes apparent that some pastors have no fear of talking about money—or should I say, “asking” for it. These spiritual leaders take offerings with skill and passion that would make a door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen proud, and their congregations seem not to mind one little bit.

In most churches, however, this is not the case. Pastor and parishioner alike gets twitchy when it comes to offering time, and thus the subject that Jesus talked about more than anything else—money—is avoided like the plague.

But the Bible never backs off from the subject of money. William Allen has pointed out, “One verse in every six in the first three Gospels relates either directly or indirectly to money. Sixteen of our Lords forty-four parables deal with the use of misuse of money. A loving, joyful, liberal giving to the Lord’s work is an acid test of a spiritual heart, pleasing to God.”

The fact is, money is critical in the life of the believer and to the ministry of the church. God’s blessings are predicated upon his people being wise and faithful stewards of their resources, and the effectiveness of the church cannot be separated from the adequate resources it takes to carry out ministry. Every ministry I have encountered in my travels throughout the world, whether near or far, all face the same challenge: The resource challenge. Money is important!

That’s why Paul devotes two whole chapters to it here in II Corinthians 8 and 9. Paul wasn’t afraid to address this issue and challenge his people to have the right attitude toward giving. He knew that giving keyed both blessing to the giver and effectiveness for the ministry. And for that reason, Paul unashamedly promoted eager, generous, fair, joyful and expectant giving among God’s people.

And the basis for such an appeal was rooted in the eager, generous, fair, joyful and expectant giving of God revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. That’s what the verse I began with is describing. In his generous grace, Jesus gave up the riches of heaven and took on the impoverished life of living as a human being in order that through his sacrificial giving we who were helplessly and hopelessly poor could partake in his eternal riches.

God is a giver. He set the example. He established the pattern. He did first what he now calls us to do. He gave his all, his very best, and he did so with eagerness and joy. He did it purposely and passionately. He did it you and for me. And now he calls you and me to do it as well.

“Just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (II Corinthians 8:7)

Perhaps it’s time for us to re-examine our attitudes toward money and giving. May our faithful stewardship in giving enable our faith to pass the acid test of true and God-pleasing spirituality.

Prayer… Father, all that I have is yours. All that I possess is from you. Even my ability to make a living is a gift from you. You are the true owner and giver of everything I have. So I re-dedicate myself to honoring you with the first fruits of my wealth, such as it is. My giving is my worship, and as such, I pray that it will be acceptable and pleasing to you. Cause my stewardship to result in the growth of your kingdom, and may souls stand in eternity some day as a direct outcome of my faithfulness in giving.

One More Thing… “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.” —C.S. Lewis