Beware of the Money-Hungry Preachers!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;…” (1 Timothy 3:2,3 KJV).

Today’s Scripture lists a few qualifications of the bishop, the overseer of the local church. One of the qualities of a bishop (sometimes called “pastor”) was that he be “not greedy of filthy lucre” (cf. Titus 1:7). The deacons were to also be “not greedy of filthy lucre” (1 Timothy 3:8). What is “filthy lucre?” Extorted money. Considering those qualifications, many preachers and deacons would be out of a job!

The Apostle Peter instructed leaders of the Jews, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof… not for filthy lucre” (1 Peter 5:2). Titus 1:11 speaks of many Jewish religious leaders who were “unruly and vain talkers and deceivers… who subvert [overthrow] whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.”

Religion is the world’s most profitable business, and for good reason. As long as someone occasionally reads from the Bible and mentions the name of Christ, no one would ever suspect the person would be guilty of extortion. Unfortunately, this very thing took place during Christ’s earthly ministry. Israel’s religious leaders “devoured” whole houses—all for the sake of money! Jesus called Israel’s Temple a “den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12,13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45,46; John 2:14-17).

Notice Jesus’ rebuke: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Matthew 23:14; cf. Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47). The Pharisees and scribes had a good outward appearance, but they ministered under false pretenses—all for money. Just like today, if you pay enough, churches will pray for you.

Grace is not against giving, but it is against covetous preachers who extort money. Never let someone force you to give, such as binding you with Israel’s tithe. Beloved, beware of the money-hungry preachers!

Casting All Your Care Upon Him

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7 KJV).

The Apostle Peter uses today’s Scripture to encourage the little flock to endure the extreme hardship and persecution of Israel’s seven-year Tribulation. We too should “cast all our care upon [God].” Notice other verses that utilize that Greek word translated “care.”

Paul expressed his “care” (concern) for the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28). The Bible speaks of “caring” for the Christian brethren (1 Corinthians 12:25). Philippians 2:20 affirms Timothy “cared” for the Philippians’ well being.

In Luke 10, Jesus visited the home of Martha and her sister Mary. While Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him speak, Martha was “cumbered [distracted] about much serving” (verse 40). Martha besought Jesus to command Mary to help her serve. Notice Jesus’ reply: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (verses 41,42). “Martha, relax!”

Being “careful” means worried, distracted, and troubled in mind. Two of the best verses in regards to Pauline prayer are Philippians 4:6,7: “Be careful for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

God does not want us worrying (“careful,” full of care). He wants us to talk to Him in prayer about the details of our lives in light of His Word. If we want peace in our Christian life, we need to daily practice Philippians 4:6,7. This is easier said than done, I know.

Grace teaches us not to worry because, regardless of our circumstances, we have “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” God will “keep [guard] our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Saints, relax, ye have the peace of God!

May we learn “to cast all our care [worry] upon him!”

The Wages and the Gift

Monday, June 13, 2011

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23 KJV).

Often used to lead someone to salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, today’s Scripture is loaded with doctrine. Two contrasting phrases catch our attention: “the wages of sin” and “the gift of God.” In addition, we see “death” and its antonym “eternal life.”

“Wages” means “compensation for labor.” Contrariwise, “gift” is “something freely given to someone without him or her doing anything to receive it.” Notice the Bible uses “wages” (plural), indicating sin causes two deaths. Physical death, when a soul separates from its physical body, and spiritual death, the “second death,” when a soul is cast into the lake of fire, eternally separated from God’s holy presence (Revelation 20:14,15; 21:8).

Romans 2:6 says God “will render to every man according to his deeds.” Verse 7 explains that God will give eternal life to those “who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality.” Then verses 8 and 9 say, “but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul that doeth evil.”

God will give eternal life to anyone who is perfect, yet Romans 3:23 says none of us can live up to God’s perfect standard because we are sinners. Death is our “wages.” We have earned death because we cannot keep God’s law perfectly (Romans 3:19,20; Galatians 3:10)!

At Calvary’s cross, God demonstrated His wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” our sin (Romans 1:18). But, at Calvary’s cross, God also demonstrated His righteousness (Romans 1:17). Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Son, bore our sin and suffered our death. Christ paid our sin debt with His blood, and He now offers His righteousness and eternal life as a free gift to you (Romans 3:21; Romans 5:15-18). Will you receive that gift by trusting in Christ as your personal Saviour?

The wages of sin, or the gift of eternal life… your choice!

Lights in the World

Sunday, June 12, 2011

“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15,16a KJV).

Jesus Christ told His Jewish believers that He was “the light of the world” (John 8:12). He told them they were “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Consequently, He instructed His followers: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Today’s Scripture is an exhortation for us Christians to “shine as lights in the world” and “hold forth the word of life.” Undoubtedly, these are references to Christian good works and us proclaiming to the world the wonderful salvation in Christ Jesus!

In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the Bible says we are “ambassadors for Christ.” We represent our homeland, heaven! The two previous verses, 18 and 19, explain: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”

God has given us the privilege of telling the whole world that He has reconciled the world unto Himself through Calvary’s cross! We Christians are beacons of God’s grace in this cruel dark world. We extend the message of God’s grace to all people. We have something the lost world needs: the salvation found only in Jesus Christ!

While our Christian teaching and preaching seems worthless or futile at times, it never is. We have not run in vain, nor laboured in vain, just as Paul did not run in vain nor labour in vain (Philippians 2:16). Beloved in Christ, continue holding forth the word of life by being a light in the world—the lost world desperately needs your ministry.

Obey God or Men?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 KJV).

What would you do if your government threatened to imprison or execute you for your refusal to deny the Lord Jesus Christ? Notice what the saints of old did when faced with such a predicament.

Israel’s religious leaders commanded the Apostles Peter and John to stop preaching in the name of Jesus Christ, yet the apostles continued preaching (Acts 4:18-19)! Peter and John were eventually arrested and imprisoned, but God miraculously released them from the jail (Acts 5:17-19).

Now, in the context of today’s Scripture, Peter and John have been recaptured. The high priest asked (Acts 5:28): “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?” The apostles’ response is today’s Scripture: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” After the apostles were beaten, they were released, yet they went right back to teaching and preaching Jesus Christ again (verses 40-42)!

In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar commanded everyone to bow down and worship a golden image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, Jewish believers in JEHOVAH God, refused to worship the silly idol, even after Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into a fiery furnace (verses 13-18). Miraculously, they were unharmed inside the furnace (verses 24-28)!

Later on, Daniel’s enemies manipulated King Darius to decree a law that no man should petition any God or man, other than petitioning Darius, for thirty days. The punishment for doing so was being cast into a lions’ den. Daniel, having full knowledge of that law, still prayed to JEHOVAH God, three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Finally, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. The Bible says, “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God” (verse 23).

And so, we follow the ensample of the saints of old. Even when faced with the threat of imprisonment or execution, “we ought to obey God rather than men!”

The City of the Great King

Friday, June 10, 2011

“[Swear] …neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King” (Matthew 5:35bc KJV).

Although the name “Jerusalem” means “abode of peace,” this city has been anything but peaceful. Throughout its history, it has been destroyed twice, captured over three dozen times, and attacked over four dozen times. Currently, Jews and Palestinians are contending for it.

Jerusalem first appears in the Bible in Genesis 14:18. At that time it was simply known as “Salem,” meaning “peace” (Hebrews 7:2). In the Bible, Jerusalem is also called: “a city of truth” (Zechariah 8:3), “the holy city” (Matthew 4:5), “the city of David” (2 Samuel 5:6-9), and “the city of God” (Psalm 46:4). Ironically, just outside of the city walls of Jerusalem, “the city of the great King” (today’s Scripture), Israel crucified her King Jesus on Calvary’s cross (John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12).

Why is Jerusalem so important in Scripture? In the future, when Jesus Christ sets up His kingdom in the earth, Jerusalem will become the world’s capital! The prophet Isaiah (2:3) wrote concerning the establishment of Jesus Christ’s kingdom in the earth: “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain [kingdom] of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”

One day, after His Second Coming, Jesus Christ will assume King David’s throne in Jerusalem (Mount Zion; see 1 Chronicles 29:26,27). From Jerusalem, Jesus Christ will rule the world forever and ever (Daniel 2:44; Luke 1:31-33). The prophet Jeremiah (33:16) describes the day when Jesus Christ establishes His earthly kingdom: “In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.”

When Christ, the Prince of Peace, comes back, Jerusalem will be “the [peaceful] city of the great King!”

Seek Another’s Wealth

Thursday, June 9, 2011

“Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (1 Corinthians 10:24 KJV).

Today’s Scripture sits in the context of whether or not it was acceptable for Christians to eat foods that had been offered to pagan idols (this is not a problem for us today). Paul instructed the Corinthians that although God did not forbid them from eating foods offered to pagan idols, they should not eat those foods in the presence of weak believers who did not think it was appropriate to eat those foods (1 Corinthians 10:25-33). The Apostle Paul also dealt with this issue in Romans 14.

The Bible says (1 Corinthians 10:23): “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” In this the Dispensation of Grace, we are not bound to observe the Mosaic Law. Paul does not instruct us, “Thou shalt…” and “Thou shalt not….” However, “all things are not expedient [profitable, beneficial].” Why? “All things edify not.” Galatians 5:1 says we have liberty in Christ, but let us remember that our actions may tear down someone (and not “edify,” or build them up). See also Galatians 5:13.

In Romans 12:10, the Bible says: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” That word “preferring” means to put the Christian brethren before yourself! Before you take action, consider how it may affect others. Will it destroy the Christian fellowship? Or, will it encourage and strengthen your Christian brethren? The “What can I get out of it” attitude brought on by our sinful flesh is overruled by the Bible instructing us to say, “What can others get out of it?”

Most importantly, we recall that the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, left heaven, “took upon himself the form of a servant” and “humbled himself” (Philippians 2:5-11). Christ Jesus thoroughly demonstrated that He loved us and He endured Calvary’s pain and shame because He was seeking our wealth… our forgiveness and our salvation!