Monday, October 31, 2011

Touching Not God's Anointed?

Recently I have posted on my personal Facebook account some very critical statements of recent sermons from the church I used to attend. It has led to some people "unfriending" me in some cases and being critical of me in others. Now, let me be perfectly clear: I have no ax to grind with that pastor. I left his church for a number of reasons, which I will enumerate in a future post. None of them are personal, they are all based on biblical grounds, but that is for another post.

The point I wish to address in this post is whether or not a pastor is exempt from criticism based on Matthew 18:15-18, which says,
15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
It is interesting that while I had planned on dealing with this particular scripture as part of the "Scripture Twisting" series, God has forced me to deal with this issue over the past few weeks. God is totally sovereign in how He directs the actions of man, even with this insignificant blog. Now there are a number of teachers and pastors (and their congregants) that believe they should never receive any public criticism for any publicly spoken preaching. Instead any correction should be done in private, or in my case, not on my Facebook account, according to these scriptures. Is this the case with this particular passage?

First, what is the context of this verse? The context on Matthew 18 deals with the ethics and morals of those that are following Jesus and not biblical doctrine. If a believer falls in the areas of ethics and morals, then there is loving private confrontation in hopes of restoring the believer. If the believer fails to respond to the correction, then the confrontation is escalated.

Second, the New Testament illustrates how false doctrine, when spoken in public, should be handled. Paul confronted Peter when Peter was acting in a hypocritical manner (Galatians 2:11-14). Paul publicly rebuked Hymenaus and Alexander regarding their blasphemy (1 Timothy 1:20). Paul publicly addressed the harmful actions of Alexander the copper-smith (2 Tim. 4;14). John publicly rebuked Diotrephes over his false doctrine and his failure to submit to John's leadership and the authority of others (3 John 9).

Third, there are many well intentioned Christians who have told me that this sort of public criticism give non-believers the impression that there is no love or unity among Christians. While there is to be love and unity among Christians, it is important to note that Christianity is not based on love or unity. Rather Christianity is based on truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Christians are to fight for the faith (Jude 3). Believers are to examine everything spoken from the pulpit carefully and to hold on to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Lastly, Christians should be following the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11. Here these people who were hearing the preaching of the Apostle Paul actually had the temerity to verify what they were being taught by actually comparing what they were taught to the Scriptures! They were actually verifying the teaching of a truly  anointed Apostle of Christ, not a self-proclaimed one. All of these examples showed a commitment to truth. Without a commitment to truth there can be no true love or unity within the church.

Lastly, my criticisms are rooted in love. I do not look for opportunities to be critical of others. These issues are brought to my attention by others that are concerned by what they are being taught. They come to me. I do not go to the church's streaming video and look for issues. I do not attend that church any more, and I really don't want to hear the preaching from that pastor. It is my love, however, for the people that are concerned, and those that are not sophisticated enough to understand that they do not have to believe everything they are taught without being critical, that motivates me. These people have not been taught how to root through a sermon, discarding the bad and treasuring the good. Which is what I had to do for many years while attending that church.

True love an unity is exemplified by the pastor's love of truth, and not his adherence to his particular false teaching. True love and unity is exemplified by how followers of Christ adhere to the truth of the scriptures. That is why I write this blog; to help you, the reader, understand the truth and to fight for it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Joshua 1:8 - Is This Verse a Key to Finding Financial Prosperity?

Joshua 1:8 states:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
In my years as a member of a borderline Word-Faith movement, I cannot tell you how many time I heard this verse used as a proof text that God wants Christians to prosper financially. The problem I saw with this particular use of the scripture is that I never saw financial prosperity as the topic in question. Based on the context of chapter one, the prosperity meant by God was military.

The conquest of the land by Joshua and the armies of Israel hinged on Joshua's commitment to meditate on and obey God's Word. The prosperity that God spoke of to Joshua included the fulfillment of God's promises in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3). Just before his death, Joshua urged the people to continue living in submission to the Scriptures (Josh. 23:6).

Nero Burning Christians
What the Prosperity teachers fail to realize is that Jesus never promised His followers a life of prosperity and health.  In fact, He promised the opposite, adversity and tribulation. The illustration above, is a representation of that tribulation in which the Roman Emporer Nero dipped Christians in pitch and set them on fire in order to light his courtyard so that he could engage in chariot races at night. All through the Gospels and Epistles we see Christians encouraged to face persecution and tribulation with courage and hope.

Paul called the persecution and tribulation he faced a "momentary light affliction" when compared with "the eternal weight of glory". Sadly, I know of one church pastor that once told me that this hope for the hereafter was "not enough" to get people into church. He said that he needed to offer the people something for now. Interestingly, Jesus never spoke about having abundance in this life. He taught His followers to pray for our "daily bread". Meaning that we are to be content with what God gives us.

The prosperity movement is based on contentment, but on greed. In order to justify this greed, Prosperity teachers insist on ripping verses from their context in order to justify their greed and desire for a lavish lifestyles and fleecing of the people they are charged with caring for.

So what is the lesson in this abused verse? Very simply, do not smuggle ideas into the text that are not there. In this case smuggling an idea of financial prosperity into a text that promises military prosperity. We also see the importance of "not reading a Bible verse" but looking at the paragraph and chapter of the verse in order to  draw out the meaning of the verse. So remember whenever a person or a pastor wants to proof text.