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Modern Covetousness In The Pulpit

 

By Dr. Richard Ing

December 3, 2010

THE WAY OF BALAAM

I usually leave a Bible in my car.  When I wait for my wife as she shops or does banking, I pray in the car and sometimes read my Bible.  Yesterday, when I opened my Bible, it fell on Exodus 18.  That chapter relates how Moses' father-in -law, Jethro, observed Moses sitting down and judging the people.  The lines were long, the work arduous and lasted from morning to night.  Jethro counseled Moses to appoint men to handle the easy problems and leave the hard ones for Moses, lest he and the people wear away.  Ex. 18:13-23.  Jethro said, "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers over thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens."  Ex. 18:21.  (Underlining added)  My eyes kept coming back to the words, "... men of truth, hating covetousness." 

That's God's requirement for leaders of His people, even today.  Sadly, many Christian leaders are covetous, desiring large congregations or ministries, fame, acceptance, recognition and the wealth that comes with it.  They spend much time planning and scheming how to grow their church or ministry but spend precious little time praying to find out what God's specific will is for them that day and in the days ahead.  Their focus is on worldly success.  Churches have become big business with corporate structures and strategies.  The successful ones drive beautiful cars, wear expensive suits, join country clubs and live in penthouses like CEOs of large corporations do. 

They teach their members how to be worldly and covetous like them and ignore the hard messages of sin and repentance, growing up into spiritual maturity and standing up against the kingdom of darkness.  They preach, "Peace!  Peace!  Prosperity!"  Jer. 6:14; Jer. 8:11.  They sometimes talk about how Jesus died on the cross to give us life abundant, good health and prosperity, but they leave out sin and repentance.  When they do mention sin and repentance, they keep it light.  No tears are shed and no hearts break.  They fear that it might offend the audience. They give the people what they want to hear and not what they need to hear.  The people love it.  Jer. 5:31.

When I was in Europe a few years back, some pastors had large photos on Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and Pat Robertson hanging on the walls of their office or home.  One pastor invited us to lunch at his home and played a DVD featuring Benny Hinn performing before a huge audience.  He asked me questions about what I knew of these successful ministries.  He was anxious for tidbits that would help him emulate and duplicate the success of his idols in America.  He wrote books about his own life and sold CDs and DVDs of their sermons and services, featuring much music and Christian hype.  He wanted to be somebody important.

Pastors seemed desperate to emulate America's prosperous and famous televangelists and duplicate their worldly successes.  Their staff was required to wear suits and their choirs dressed in beautiful robes.  The sanctuary was a thing of beauty with illuminated crosses and the most modern musical instruments.  The old overhead projector gave way to laptop computers with Power Point on a large screen.  Everything was formal and structured.

PERSONAL AMBITION

Moses, the servant of God, ruled over a large nation of perhaps three million Israelites, according to some historians.  David ruled over a large kingdom.  But Moses had no aspirations.  When God told him that God was going to use him, this is what Moses said: "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."  Ex. 4:10.  He had no earthly ambition and asked God to use someone else. 

David was anointed to be the next king of Israel after King Saul, but he had no desire to hasten the process.  He just wanted God's will to be done.  King Saul attempted to kill David several times but failed.  He chased David into the wilderness for years and David was forced to live in caves and gulches as all of Israel looked to kill him.  God gave him two golden opportunities to kill Saul, but David refused.  In 1 Samuel 24:3, Saul went into a cave and fell asleep.  David and his men were hidden at the back of the cave and David's men encouraged him to kill Saul.  After all, everyone knew that Samuel, the prophet, had prophesied that David would be the next king.  But David refused to touch someone God had anointed to be king over him in order to advance his own position.

In 1 Sa. 26:7, David and his men came upon Saul sleeping in a trench.  Again, David's men encouraged him to kill Saul.  "And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?  David said furthermore, As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish."  1 Sa. 26:9-10.  David refused to take matters into his own hands in order to promote himself in any way.  He wanted God's will to be done, not his. 

When David's own son, Absalom sought to kill David and take his throne, David was forced to flee.  On the way, a man by the name of Shimei came out to curse David.  Shimei had been a supporter of King Saul.  He threw stones and dust at David and his men and taunted and cursed David.  2 Sa. 6, 13.  David's men wanted to kill Shimei for his actions, but David said,

What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David, Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?  And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it?  let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him.  It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.  2 Sa. 16:10-12. 

David did not care if he was dethroned as king or killed, or insulted.  If God wanted David to be king, no one could dethrone him; but if God no longer wanted David to be king, nothing David did to hang on to his throne would stop God.  David would cease to be king.  All he wanted was that the will of God be fulfilled.  It may be that God was displeased with David and sent Shimei to curse him.  If so, David would do nothing to hinder Shimei or God.

In Acts 13:22, the Lord said, "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will."   That is why God loved David so much.  David's one desire was that God would be glorified and His will be done in all things.

God honored David by promising that there would forever be a son of David on the throne over Israel.  "For thus saith the Lord: David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel."  Jer. 33:17.  That promised was fulfilled when Jesus was born of the house of David:  "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."  Rev. 22:18.  A burning desire to do only God's will is what set David apart from all others.  Although he became a king and rich and famous beyond his wildest dreams, he never aspired to it and was willing to give it all up if it was the will of God. 

A PUPPET GOD

Without loyal subjects to do his every will and bidding, a king is only a figurehead and puppet.  Authority has no meaning without people obeying the king.  God's kingdom cannot be established on earth without loyal and faithful servants that will fulfill the will of God.  The Royal family in Great Britain, for example, has no real power and authority.  They are only figureheads or symbols to remind England of their glory days. 

Most Christian leaders have made Jesus Christ into a puppet God.  They honor him with their mouth and praise Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him.  Mt. 15:8; Mk. 7:6.  In truth, Jesus is only a stage prop for many pastors.  They give lip service to worshipping God and give Him praise, but they do their own will and not the Lord's.   Jesus is only the product they are selling.  They seek to fulfill their own agendas and strive to have a large congregation, a beautiful building, fame and recognition, acceptance by their fellow men, wealth and respect of the community.  They wear beautiful clothes, join country clubs, drive the best cars, live in penthouses and go first class while traveling.  They own their own airplanes and boats, if they can, and aspire to have international recognition.  They have their own television and radio programs and public relations team.

They give the people what the people want to hear, but not what the people need.  They are spiritual babes and children in the kingdom of God and prevent others from growing into the image of Christ.  Is. 3:4, 12.  Prosperity is their message because they want to justify their covetousness and surround themselves with like-minded people.  They may mention the Holy Spirit, but do not move in the Holy Spirit.  They cannot speak in tongues and are able to baptize in the Holy Spirit.  Deliverance and spiritual warfare are avoided and knowledge of the same rejected because it takes too much energy and time.  They keep the people immature babes in Christ.  A few that uses the gifts of the Spirit do so for personal gain and profit, thus bringing criticism upon the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.  Their divine healings and deliverances are labeled "phony" and "false" by their detractors because they use God's gifts for their own profit.  

Strange behaviors such as barking, howling and laughing continuously are presented to the public as manifestations of the Holy Spirit and proof of revival.  They are unbiblical and bring scorn and criticism from those that do not believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.   After all, Balaam was able to hear from God and prophesy too.  The apostles warned us vehemently against such leaders.


THE APOSTLE PETER'S WARNING

            The apostle Peter spoke at length and warned against Christians among us that will use Christianity and Jesus for their own benefit.  In 2 Peter 2:9 and 10, he says:

     

 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government.  Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. 

He wasn't talking about unbelievers; he was pointing at believers or fellow Christians pretending to do the will of God.  They walk after the flesh, serve Mammon and lust after things that are considered unclean for a Christian to walk in.  They compromise the gospel in order to be politically and socially correct.  They honor and seek to satisfy every lust of the flesh.  They live in luxurious quarters while preaching austerity and feeding the poor.  Some accumulate hundreds of millions of dollars and even a billion dollars of personal assets, all the time encouraging others to donate their meager earnings to them for a supposed project in Africa or Haiti.  Yet, their own contributions are miniscule compared to their total earnings from hapless followers.  It is hypocrisy.  Some engage in sexual lust, pornography and extra-marital affairs.  They do not submit themselves to spiritual authority and have no one or any group to oversee or demand accountability from them.  They presume that they are the highest of the highest in terms of spiritual maturity and authority.  

SPEAKING EVIL OF DIGNITIES

A group of Christians dedicate their lives to criticizing Christian leaders that are not of their own denomination.  While some of this is good, much of it is just plain lack of understanding.  Some self-appointed Evangelicals castigate Pentecostals constantly on their websites.  They contribute to division; yet, they themselves are deceived and teach doctrines and practices that are not biblical.  They are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.  The Amplified Bible defines "dignities" as "dignitaries," while the New American Standard Bible uses the term "glorified ones." 

Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.  But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time.  2 Pet. 2:11-13a.

Even Michael, the archangel, dared not rebuke Satan in his own name.  "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."  Jude 9.  Get on the internet and you will find thousands of websites dedicated to tearing down Pentecostals and charismatic leaders indiscriminately.  The Bible says that we are to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints."  Jude 3.  We have the responsibility to point out errors of doctrine and practices.  At the same time, we are to be careful in how we accuse, castigate and rebuke people in authority.   We are not to call people names or speak evil of them.   They are still brothers and sisters in Christ and we are to pray for them as well as point out their errors. 

We are to research and investigate our own beliefs and doctrines.  Many criticize the movement of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, deliverance, divine healing and intercession as being works of the devil.  They are in error themselves and deceived and often base their criticisms on prejudice and lack of knowledge, being swayed by the particular doctrines that set aside their particular denominations from the rest of the body of Christ.

Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: which have forsaken the right way and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.  2 Pet. 2:13a-16.

Televangelists and pastors that are in it for the money are spots and blemishes on the body of Christ.  Eph. 5:27 says that the Lord Jesus Christ died for the church so that He could "present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish."   These showmen and those that emulate them, give the world a wrong testimony about what Christianity is all about.  They engage in adulterous affairs, get divorced, ride expensive cars, buy all manner of luxuries and promote self-adoration.  The world gladly accepts our good works but rejects Christianity because these covetous leaders give the world erroneous testimonies about Jesus and Christianity.  What the world sees is evil, pride and covetousness.

Other religions look at Christianity as a self-indulgent, arrogant and sinful religion because our most admired and famous leaders are being exposed to the world for their infidelity, greed and covetousness.  Their actions affect the entire body of Christ and cause outsiders to scorn and deride Christianity.  They contribute to hatred of Christians and will no doubt, help bring about widespread persecution of the church one day.

These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.  For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.  2 Pet. 2:17-19.

Because of my insomnia, I listen to Christian sermons almost every night, into the wee hours of the morning.  Many preachers have great oratory abilities and interesting sermons filled with funny stories and jokes.  But when you look deeply into what they are saying, the words are hollow and vain.  Their messages are shallow and intellectual.  They concentrate on telling the people that God wants to bless them and if they seek Jesus, He will bless them abundantly and solve all of their earthly problems.  I have seldom heard the words "sin" or "repentance."  I hear the words "prosper," "blessed," "abundant," "wealth," and "good life" all the time.  Yet, the true message of the kingdom is that God wants us to carry our cross daily and we are made perfect through the sufferings we endure.  Prosperity messages take our focus away from changing into the image of Jesus and away from the Holy Spirit.  Instead, they massage our flesh and the lusts thereof.

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, then, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.  But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.  2 Pet. 2:20-22.

Many Christian leaders start off wonderfully in the Gospel and in their personal lives.  But greed and covetousness overtake them and they begin to succumb to the lusts of the flesh.  They start off with the Spirit and end up back in the flesh. Gal. 3:3.  Worse, they begin to lead other Christians down the same covetous path.  That is the condition of much of the body of Christ today.  We are babes and have need of milk instead of strong meat.  Heb. 5:12-14.

These are harsh words.  But if they apply to Christianity's most revered televangelists and those that follow them, the body of Christ is in great danger. 

God is still looking for those that will stand in the gap for him.  Eze. 22:30. Years ago, I had a great idea.  I was able to obtain sheets, towels and blankets by the thousands and send them to the Philippines.  My partner and I hatched a plan to unite the churches in the Philippines by organizing a humanitarian movement to help the poor.  We conducted several very successful meetings with church leaders.  One day, we were returning from a meeting and feeling good about it.  As I was congratulating myself, I heard an audible voice say, "Give Me the glory!  I don't need your plans and your strategies, and I don't need your networking.  All I am looking for is one man to stand in the gap and obey Me."  I quickly looked around the car we were in.  Everyone was asleep except the driver and me.  I knew it was God.  I wept and repented.  When we got back to the mission house, I called a meeting of all the staff pastors and canceled our humanitarian movement.  It was not the will of God, even if we had good intentions.

Not knowing and not doing the will of God is a much more serious matter than we realize.  In Matthew 7:21-23, our Lord Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?  And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity."   Of course, Jesus knows everybody; but He did not know these Christians intimately. 

Doing the will of God is one of the most important things in our efforts to know Him and have a close relationship with the Lord.  Heaven is open to those that do His will. 



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