The hypocrisy of a self-professed religious leader/Part 2
"But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…..(why?)…..so that, just as it is written; "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." [1 Corinthians 1:30, 31]
A misunderstanding of Biblical proportions
Throughout the history of what has become known as "Christianity," most of its adherents have taught and passed along a most grevious error. This error has led to an abundance of false doctrines as well as false practices, many of which in our day are now considered to be orthodox. That error is believing that we can contribute something to God's cause in this earth that derives outside of Him. In other words, instead of believing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us [1 Peter 1:2, 3], (including wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption above), rather we have proceeded upon a false basis in thinking that we could add to what Jesus said He has finished. Does a man try to be righteous, sanctified or redeem himself? No, neither does one ask God to make him more righteous, sanctified, loving, patient, peaceful or anything of that sort. Is God in the business of dispensing pieces of His attributes here and there or has He already delivered up Himself that we might freely possess all things? [Roman 8:32]
Notice the verse above, especially the words, IN CHRIST JESUS. Have you ever considered the implications of what it means to be IN CHRIST?
In our relationship with God the Father through Christ, we have inherited all things, for we have inherited Him. Sadly, most have not learned Christ in this way and therefore do not have a true knowledge of Him, but rather a partial or misguided knowledge in place of Him.
In place of Him
For thousands of years our adversary the devil has attempted to oust Jesus from the hearts, lives and practice of those who claim Him. He has many strategies for going about this, none more effective than offering what appears to be a suitable or acceptable substitute for the real thing. The adversary, his demonic forces and even his human instruments will present themselves as angels of light so as to deceive if possible even the elect. [2 Corinthians 11:14, 15] [Matthew 24:24] A primary strategy of His is to convince us that within ourselves their are resources that can be used in the building of Christ's kingdom. This belief leads directly to "looking inward" to discover what we might contribute to God's work. The Result: Attempting to do things for God.
Attempting to do things for God is tantamount to failing to discover and rely upon Christ for everything. It is failing to rely upon Him as our only resource. But seek first His kingdom…. and then what? All these (other) things will be added to you. How? Through the spiriritual union we have with Him. We appropriate more of Him as the need arises.
Who is called to lead?
"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God" [1 Corinthians 1:26-29]
The Characteristic of God's calling
The verse above denotes the character of the people in whom God entrusts His truth and the reasons why He entrusts it to them. Note the contrasts in these verses and the reasons why they must exist.
|Traits of those called||Why called||The Result of calling|
|not wise, but foolish||nullifies man's wisdom||no man can boast|
|not mighty, but weak||nuliffies man's power||no man can boast|
|not noble, but despised||nullifies man's nobility||no man can boast|
It should be noted from the outset that these characteristics are not specifically directed toward leaders but are reminiscent of all Christians. The reason God primarily calls these type of people couldn't be more obvious: that no man can boast before God. Boast of what? Boast that anything they do or accomplish as Christians as having derived in themselves or through resources of their own. Did you get that?
The above verses do say not many, indicating that there were some who were likely considered wise, mighty and noble in the world's eyes who were also called by God. For those who might be tempted to think God reserved these to be His leaders, consider the man everyone considered to be the leader to the Gentiles in the New Testament Ekklesia; Paul the apostle. In the very next two verse he says of himself:
"And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
And what was the evidence that this was true?
"I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God."
It goes without saying that the apostle Paul's example above is the exact manner in which every Christian is called to live their lives before God. Paul makes it very plain what the enemies of Jesus Christ and Him crucified are, those things which stem from this world system; man's wisdom, power and nobility. These three things are the antithesis (the opposite) of what God intends to use in and through us. A real Christian not only understands that these are off limits in God's service but also recognizes that he has been crucified to them through his union with Jesus Christ.
"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" [Galatians 6:14]
The world loves its own
"The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil" [John 7:7]
With the above in mind, let us revisit the manner in which our earlier examples of today's professing religious leaders would direct us in fulfilling what they say is God's plan for us as Christians.
Rick Warren would have us utilize his "Purpose Driven" resources for growth (man's wisdom), his desire to recruit a billion foot soldiers for his peace plan (man's power) and his reputation as an influential evangelical who interacts with world leaders (man's nobility) to further the cause of Christ. Sorry Rick, but your plans are antichrist to the core.
John Maxwell would have us utilize his EQUIP training program to train leaders (man's wisdom), recruit the most influential and powerful people (man's power) and utilize his personal reputation to spread his influence around the world (man's nobility). Sorry John, your intentions are also opposed to Christ.
Bill Hybels would have us join up into his secular Willow Creek Association and attend his Global Leadership Summits (man's wisdom), boast about how many thousands have joined up (man's power) and use the reputations of both the religious and secular world leaders (man's nobility) to convince us of his good intentions. Sorry Bill, you have been deceived and have been taken captive to do the devils will.
C.P. Wagner would have us believe that joining up in the NAR by means of his own Wagner Leadership Institute will fulfill God's will for us and redeem the cultures of earth. Not only is his institute nothing more than (man's wisdom), his school and his faculty think themselves the special recipients of God's power via new revelations but in actuality is (only the appearance of power) and his reputation as a Fuller Seminary Professor (man's nobility) means little if nothing. No way Peter, your new revelations have literally gone over your head!
All of these men would convince us that "their methods" are the vehicle in which God is altering lives for His name's sake. In reality, these methods are the very things I've shown you are entirely opposed to God and stem from the resources of men (their imaginations) and promoted through earthly mammon (money) which each of these men require you to pay them. God does have a plan, but far from recruiting people to "do things for Him," His actual sole requirement is altogether different than what these men would have you to believe.
To "do" or to "die"
It is not one or the other, but one (DIE FIRST) and then (DO) the other. Let's look at some more evidences of one who has truly died and therefore can be useful in the Master's service.
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it" [Luke 9:23-26]
"Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh (His disciples did), yet now we know Him in this way no longer" [2 Corinthians 5:16]
"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." [Galatians 1:10]
Let's get right to the point. Can a man teach the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches and be fulfilling God's will upon the earth? Can he use earthly wisdom, earthly power, earthly people, earthly mammon and the reputations of earthly people and call that in some way Christian? Can a man take fire into his bosom and not be burned!
Don't be fooled by the enemies use of Bible verses and Christian speak. All of God's adversaries talk the talk. None of them embrace death. The rubber meets the road through the cross.
The vehicle through which scriptural leadership is exemplified
"I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the ekklesia of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" [1 Timothy 3:14, 15]
One of the reasons so many of God's real children are deceived into supporting the misguided or deceptive pursuits of men is due to being convinced that God has an unlimited number of ways in which He intends to mature His children. It is true that God can and does use our misguided efforts at times, nonetheless His heart will always be toward what His Son alone is capable of building and promises to build: His Ekklesia; the pillar and support of the truth.
In the preceding article on this subject, we discussed how the author of an entity is the arbitrator of how that entity will function and the sole authority therein. Only the creator of the entity can decide who will comprise it, what functions they will have, how those functions will be exercized and in what manner and to what degree they will affect the whole. Jesus Himself has promised to build His Ekklesia and therefore only He can bring about the proper working of the individual parts as they intersect one another.
The primary problem with God people over the years has been their attempts to "build something for God," in most cases either a "church" or a "Christian organization" of some sort to address some type of neglected service to either the sinners or saints. These misguided efforts have led to hundreds of thousands of different sectarian organizations, most of which have religious hierarchies which employ men who assume spiritual titles within and exercise authority from religious positions. How far we have fallen.
Until individual Christians recognize that Jesus desires to build local ekklesias in geographical areas as the primary means of establishing the saints and proclaiming the gospel, men will continue to fall prey to the devils best counterfeit in religious sectarian institutions.
Sadly, mankind has fallen so far away from what has always been God's heart so clearly delineated in the New Testament and yet so sorely neglected. Please understand and embrace the fact that what man is building and what God is building do not intersect. One is one the flesh, one of the Spirit. One falls prey to the devils schemes, the other prevails against them.
It is any wonder then how Satan's ministers can grab so easily a foothold among the people of God when they are free to start their own "ministry" where they can disseminate whatever information (what they call truth) they want and be completely free from any real Biblical scrutiny or accountability. This cannot be said for the small intimate local ekklesias which most of God's people have jettisoned for the more visible and exciting and affluent "houses of men." Even where we're willing to see the failures of our sowing, little if ever are we willing to renounce what is really the cause of our troubles.
Elders, God's humble leaders by example
Although the Bible makes clear that we are to call no one our leader but Jesus alone (Matthew 23), nonetheless, the Spirit of God has called each of us as believers to a life which characterizes that of our Lord. Paul the apostle put it this way, "Therefore, I exhort you, be imitators of me." [1 Corinthians 4:16] It is important to recognize what Paul meant by this statement. In the preceding context Paul shows them what must result when one comes to know Christ. He distinguishes his own life as foolish, weak and without honor; whereas theirs is one of prudence, strength and honor- the exact opposite of that to which they had been called. [1 Corinthians 1:26-29] As Paul said, "I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children" [1 Corinthians 4:14]
Paul was their father in the faith, he had personally established them in Christ and exemplified before them Jesus and Him crucified. Despite this, these Corinthians were hesitant to follow his example, choosing rather to retain their prudence, strength and honor in which the world around them valued. This is exactly what those in our day also choose to retain as I have previously shown. As a result of their stubborn refusal in conforming to Paul's example, he was sending Timothy to them to remind them of his ways which are in Christ, just as he taught in every ekklesia. [1 Corinthians 4:17]. What Paul calls "his ways" are representative of the revelation Paul personally received from Jesus Christ, the same revelation he also prayed that the Ephesians and others would receive as well. [Ephesians 1:17]
It goes without saying that unless each of God's children in a specific locale see and receive the same revelation of truth, unity will be difficult if not possible to establish. Initially it is the actions of both apostles and prophets who establish this foundation in a geographical location which is then passed onto the responsibility of the older men (a plurality of elders) in these locales to speak out and practice that revelation of truth before the other saints. The other saints (not laity, but simply those not appointed to lead by example) are to follow in the footsteps of their elders due to their Christlike example of faith and practice.
"For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this (as apostles) but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example." [2 Thessalonians 3:7-9]
Today's professing religious leadership
We should carefully take note of every individual around us who either claims to be a Christian leader or who presents himself as one. There are some very clear indicators of the sincerity and integrity of those who claim to be leading us. It is true as stated earlier that there are several reasons why individuals err in regard to their manner of leadership. Let's reiterate them here.
The Roots of Improper Leadership
1) The primary reason Christians have so many misunderstandings in relation to leadership is they do not derive their beliefs from the Bible.
2) For hundreds of years now a false precedent has been set in that leadership preparation can be derived from attending a formal educational facility. Knowledge is beneficial although in and of itself only creates pride in one's accomplishments. It is not a barometer of true spiritual maturity.
3) For those who want the recognition of becoming leaders over others without the same expense of formal schooling, many a man and his own self-made organization or fleshly training materials are widely accessible. We discussed a few of these earlier. There are many problems with this approach, the most evident is the foregoing of God's own method of training and equipping through a local ekklesia with a substitute offered by man. Anything that takes the place of Jesus Christ is automatically antichrist. The actual content of the training or leadership material is entirely irrelevant. That is because what men teach is Christ + their materials as a solution instead of Jesus Himself being the solution. A similar mistake is evident in those who attempt to seek Jesus for strength to overcome some sin in their life verses seeing their victory already accomplished in the Person of Christ. Jesus doesn't offer us "help" to overcome sin, no, He offers us Himself as our victory! Along the same lines, the person who truly exemplifies in practice the character of Christ is exemplifying a life to be followed. They live faithfully all the while claiming to be nothing but a simple unworthy servant- because that's all they are!
4) Sadly, the most prevalent exhibition of misguided leadership is with those who claim to be today's pastors and priests through modern day churches. Although many of these individuals may be sincere in their intentions, nonetheless their is no scriptural warrant for their actions. This is easily proven from Scripture. Others use these "religious positions" and "spiritual titles" within a hierarchal organization in a very purposeful effort to deceive people into error.
Regardless of which of the above is exemplified before you, some of the following unscriptural tendencies and practices are all too evident among these people. None of the following can be or should be equated with the exemplary leadership example of Jesus Christ in which all Christians should model.
Religious hypocrisy by default
Anyone who claims to live by the authority of the Bible for their Christian practice and yet fails to do so or guides people in a different direction is plainly a religious hypocrite.
- Where in Scripture is any man desiring to aid in overseeing a local assembly ever instructed to attend a formal educational institution as the means to do so?
- Where in Scripture is any man who desires to exercise his spiritual gifts among the saints ever directed toward an institution where he can earn a man-made certificate that supposedly gives him the right to do so?
- Where in Scripture is any Christian told to establish a formal religious entity for the purpose of worshipping God, disseminating truth or establishing the saints?
- Where in Scripture are believers found starting and naming religious entities that are subsequently known as "our" church or our ministry?
- Where in Scripture is establishing a religious hierarchy permitted among the saints?
- Where in Scripture is any Christian permitted to assume any religious position among the saints?
- Where in Scripture is any Christian permitted to assume any spiritual title among the saints?
- Where in Scripture is any man allowed to be called by a spiritual title such as Pastor, Priest, Father, Reverend, Teacher or Leader?
- Where in Scripture are their two classes of believers such as "clergy" and "laity?"
- Where in Scripture are Christians allowed to alter the definitions of terms like ekklesia into terms like church that do not mean the same thing?
- Where in Scripture does it say the lost are to be brought into the fellowship of the saints to hear a religious message?
- Where in Scripture does man have the right to use Jesus to promote their church, programs or ministry?
- Where in Scripture does man have the right to copy shadows taken directly from the Old Covenant and attempt to make them applicable for today?
- Where in Scripture is a hierarchy of elders among themselves or over the saints ever appropriate?
- Where in Scripture is it appropriate to hire leaders or elders who have not been raised up within the local assembly of believers?
- Where in Scripture does God say it is appropriate to preach to the saints (to the family of believers?)
- Where in Scripture does a man need permission from another man in order to exercise their gift(s) among the saints?
- Where in Scripture is religious ecumenism not condemned by God?
- Where in Scripture does a choreographed church service replace the Spirit led informal and interactive fellowship in homes?
- Where in Scripture are not all professing believers accountable to the whole for what they believe and how they live?
- Where in Scripture does the law help a born again Christian life a sanctified life?
- Where in Scripture is God's forgiveness found as unconditional?
- Where in Scripture is a real man of God found who lives unto himself?
- Where in Scripture does God intend to help a Christian obtain a victory in the present?
- Where in Scripture are men and women not equal members in the body of Christ?
- Where in Scripture is a healthy spiritual body defined as a few members exercizing their spiritual gifts?
- Where in Scripture are Christians commanded not to judge other Christians?
- Where in Scripture is doctrine minimized or believers told to ignore Biblical truth?
- Where is Scripture are believers told to fight with the devil?
- Where in Scripture are individual believers to perform any ministry that is disconnected from a local ekklesia?
An abundance of lies
"I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father, the one who confesses the Son has the Father also" [1 John 2:21:-23]
Who are those who know the truth? Those who claim they do? Those who say they believe in Jesus? Those who act as leaders within a religious institution?
"As for you, (those who truly believe) let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father" [1 John 2:24]
True belief is founded on what was taught from the beginning; that is, in New Testament times. What was begun then should characterize our lives today. If this is so, then this is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.
And how might they do that? By telling us that what happened before doesn't matter. That things are different today. That we must be culturally relevant. That we must change Christianity or die. Indeed any lie will do, for every lie subverts the truth. Now, in light of all of man's wisdom, strength and nobility fueling their own intentions in complete contrast to what Jesus once began and indeed promises to finish, who is the author of confusion?
By way of reminder
"Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you" [2 Peter 1:12]
"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it" [Hebrews 2:1]
It is no coincidence that in the beginning, God in His wisdom and with His strength decided how His people would be brought from one place in history to another. It was He who provided the way, it was He who provided the means, it was He who brought all things to completion in His perfect providence and will. Not once, did God ever request or need the help of man with his own offering. Everything had to originate with God Himself. Any part we might play in the whole of His redemptive plan is but an underserved mercy, an opportunity in grace. We do not add, nor could we add to His finished work. He asks but one thing, and one thing alone.
Looking back over the history of mankind, we find a consistent trend among those professing to believe in God. It is not that religious men fail in claiming to know God, neither is it a failure in attempting to act in a fashion in which they believe will be pleasing to God. Rather, in the midst of their religious profession and act, they have entirely abandoned God Himself for what they believe to be an acceptable service for and towards Him. The list above under Hypocrisy by Default are just a few of the many traditions of men, they, not God deem to be acceptable in service. In reality though, far from being acceptable, they are in fact the hypocritical actions of men who although professing true faith are the instruments and leaders of that which is antithetical to true Biblical Christianity.
When one surveys their personal practice of what they consider to be Christian, might they ask themselves the following:
By what means might my service to God be effectual?" If my answer is anything other than Jesus Christ and aligning myself with what He is building, than I have only proven myself a liar. I will have been found guilty of promoting either myself or some methodology of mine or men instead of Jesus as the Way, as the Truth and as the Life. In the end I will have earned my place among the hypocrites.
If I am to know the truth, I cannot learn that from religious men who claim to be leaders. Those men will only lead me unto themselves and their own wisdom. I must be led to Another.
If I am to know the way, I cannot learn that from religious men who claim to be leaders. These men have a way, a way they claim is from God, but in effect is sustained by their own power. I need the power of Another.
Finally, if I am to have the life, truly possess His Life, I must reject those who tell me I can save my reputation, my nobility and the praise of others. Such a life is neither loving God, exemplifying true leadership or laying down my life for others.
God desires to raise up capable leaders in His time and His way, those with a proper attitude and appropriate actions which follow:
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God , did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" [Philippians 2:5-8]
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" [Philippians 2:3, 4]