THE ABUSE OF HONOR

This piece may get me in trouble with those in the world of Christendom who crave honor. But if you imitate the Master you will love and appreciate the following Scripture very much. 

“I receive not glory from men [I crave no human honor, I look for no mortal fame]…” (John 5:41 — AMPC).

I believe in honor. The Scriptures have much to say about it. I believe in giving honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7). I believe in honoring worthy leaders, especially those of high character who labor in the Word and prayer. In fact, double honor is encouraged for them (1 Tim. 5:17). 

In one form or another, however, all my Christian life I’ve heard plenty of messages on the necessity of honoring leaders. What I don’t remember ever hearing is on the abuse of honor and the inequality of it. Please allow me to explain. 

Case in point, who gets the best parking space at church? Who gets the best seats in the sanctuary? Who has the finest office? Who gets special days of appreciation in their honor? Who gets the most attention on their birthday and anniversary? Who gets access into the VIP lounge after special services?

Is it the dear single godly mother who is busy working two jobs to support her two children? Is it the humble couple who are caring for their invalid father or mother-in-law? Is it the church handy man who services the poor and needy at no charge? Is it the saintly widow who regularly visits the nursing home and cares for the forgotten of society? Is it the local working soul winning evangelist who is not on church staff payroll, but puts in more hours per week ministering to the poor and homeless than they do sitting in their plush offices? Sadly, in most cases, it is not.

Why this seemingly inequality? Why this lack of balance? Do esteemed leaders have need of more honor and esteem? I think not. Read these verses carefully:

“And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:23-25).

When honor does not also flow to those parts that have need of honor we are standing on unscriptural and ungodly ground. Again, I take no issue with honoring leaders. The problem is in many circles the gross overemphasis and spotlight is usually on them, and hardly ever on those who most need it. And it is the constant glaring example of the former is always before us. 

How did we become so uneven? 

Let me share what I believe has greatly contributed to this imbalance. Be warned; this will irritate our glow-in-the-dark celebrity ministry icons.

COULD THE MODERN APOSTOLIC AND PROPHETIC MOVEMENT BE THE CULPRIT? 

I believe the modern apostolic and prophetic “movement” has to take much of the blame for this. The flagrant overemphasis on apostolic “alignment”, prophetic “counsel”, pastoral “covering”, and spiritual “fathering” and “sonship”, although it contains a truth, is excessive and extremely overstated — at least in the world of Charismatic-dom.

I neither have time nor space to delve into the intricacies of this convoluted doctrine that borders on the heretical, but I’ll offer some admonition. 

Jesus warned us, actually forbid us, from the use of inflated titles, false prestige, and inordinate reliance placed upon men acting as mediators and brokers for the favor and blessings of God in the lives of ordinary believers and up and coming young leaders. 

“But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Matt. 23:8-10).

The modern apostolic, prophetic, and even pastoral policies of honor are in many cases quite dishonorable and some are downright abusive. Apart from the rebellion and dishonor found in some members of the body of Christ, it is also littered with hurt and disillusioned believers who have been abused by church leaders and authority figures. 

Take the theme of spiritual “fathering”. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “son in the house”? It’s a term to describe the supposed loyalty of a believer to align himself in submission and service to his “spiritual covering,” whether it be the “apostle of the house” or the ambitious pastor pushing for the same. Most of the time it’s not a spiritual “covering” but a spiritual “smothering”.  

This teaching is usually presented as a spiritual concern for the success of  upcoming young leaders, but it’s often veiled by the real issue at hand — the need for preeminence among ignorant and insecure “spiritual fathers” and the protection from the hurt and betrayal of unfaithful sons or so called “Absaloms” or a “Judas”. The fact is, Jesus had a Judas, and so will every spiritual leader at some point in his life and ministry. 

Apostles and pastors/leaders who set up authority structures and father-son ministry paradigms to insulate themselves from the betrayal or personal hurt of an “Absalom” or a “Judas” are actually working against the principle of death and resurrection that will greatly aid in transforming them into the image of Christ. Stop trying to save your life and save your ministry. 

TRUE SPIRITUAL COVERING

This is what true spiritual covering is. 

“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13”17).

The word “obey” those who have rule over you, implies obedience learned and earned through trust. 

Again, please hear my heart. I am 100% for the principle of honor and honoring true leaders, and there may be a lack of honor for leaders in certain places where teaching is needed, but I believe the lack is on the other end. The less honorable and less presentable parts need more honor, so “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”

Why are we addressing the abuse of honor and highlighting the apostolic and prophetic ministry? Because if the Church is going to be transformed from an ego-centric, entrepreneurial, consumer-based ministry to a Christ-based community, the example of it must begin with this foundation of authentic apostolic ministry and true fathers of the faith, who though they be less loved will “the more abundantly love others and will very gladly spend and be spent for their souls” (2 Cor. 12:15).

The modern apostolic and prophetic movement needs maturing. When we see maturity there, we will see it everywhere else.  

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THE TUMULTUOUS 2020s: THREE MODERN DAY FALLACIES DEFILING THE CHURCH

I heard a popular television preacher recently say this: “If God judges America He’s going to have to apologize to Jesus.”

But the Word says: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Pet. 3:12).

And this:

“The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the Day of Judgment” (2 Pet. 2:9).

The first fallacy in today’s visible mainstream church world is ignorance concerning God’s judgments and even wrath.

FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND GOD’S JUDGMENTS

The aforementioned preacher’s understanding lacks balance and the whole counsel of God. He says that Jesus bore our judgment and therefore God will not judge America or anyone for that matter. Honestly, this belief system is the edge of universalism.

It says Jesus bore everyone’s judgment on the cross, so no one will be judged. Everyone is okay. Everyone will be saved in the end. Actually, it is this popular view that has opened a large door to so much deception in the church. It breeds a lackadaisical spirit and an absence of holy fear in most Christians. It emphasizes a positional truth at the expense of an experiential truth.

In fact, Romans 1 offers specific proof that America is already under the judgment of God.

“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth through unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).

God’s wrath is already being revealed. Present tense. In other words, we don’t need to wait until the Day of Judgment to see God’s wrath. It is being demonstrated now. You need to read the rest of the verses that follow this verse to see this.

“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness” (Rom. 1:24a).

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (Rom. 1:26a).

God gave them over to a debased mind” (Rom. 1:28b).

These verses are talking about sexual immorality, specifically the sin of homosexuality and lesbianism. The entire so-called sexual revolution is a product of God’s wrath. America has been under the judgment of God for decades! We’ve praised AIDS victims as if they are heroes, but in actuality, it is the penalty of their sin that they have received (Rom. 1:27).

In fact, when those who practice such things that are deserving of death, also approve of others who practice them (v. 32) it is one of God’s final signs of His wrath on a society.

HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF THE PRESENT JUDGMENT OF GOD UNDER THE NEW COVENANT

This list does not include the promised future judgments of God that are also found throughout the New Testament.

1.  The wrath of God is currently and continually abiding upon all those who reject Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 3:36).

2.  Ananias and Sapphira (believers) are struck down dead for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-10).

3.  King Herod is struck dead by an angel of the Lord for not giving God glory (Acts 12:20-23).

4.  Elymas the magician is struck blind “by the hand of the Lord” for being a fraud and son of the devil (Acts 13:8-12).

5.  The immoral brother is judged and handed over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh (1 Cor 5).

6.  Believers are judged and become sick, some even die, for not judging themselves before partaking of the Lord’s supper (1 Cor 11:27-32). 

When you take away the present wrath and judgment of God from the New Covenant you are changing the word of God and removing your name from the book of life and the holy city (Rev. 22:19). You are guilty of creating a god made in your own image and participating in an antichrist agenda.

Wake up, church! What are some of these preachers saying? God’s judgment and wrath are already here! Can they escape? Yes, if they turn to God in sincere repentance, they can still receive His mercy and be saved and delivered. But many will not do so.

CROOKED VIEW OF HOLINESS

The second fallacy in much of the church world today is a total misunderstanding of true holiness. In fact, the Lord told me that there’s been a diabolical silence on it. I believe that restoring the beauty of biblical holiness in the Church is a critical ingredient to healing the moral confusion in our culture. As the Church goes, so goes the world. Our disproportionate view of holiness is one of the big reasons there is so much of the spirit of the world in the Church.

True holiness has gotten such a bad rap and is looked upon with a sort of disdain, as being primitive, outdated, and just not culturally relevant. We need to realize, however, that negative experiences or unsound teaching does not nullify the real meaning, necessity, and beauty of God’s holiness.

One of my favorite definitions of holiness as it applies to believers is that it is a moral dedication and a life committed to purity of thought, word, motive, and deed. At the center of that definition is the fact of being set apart or consecrated to God’s purposes. in other words, we are not to be conformed to the world’s ideals, patterns, or standards, but to God’s nature and will.

But even more importantly, holiness has more to do with whom we belong to. To whom do we give our loyalty, love, and allegiance to? To be holy means that all we are and all we have belongs to God, not ourselves, and is set apart for His purposes. This is the theme of the apostolic letters to the early churches. How are some believers, even preachers, missing that today?

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1)

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord…” (Heb. 12:14).

A distorted view of holiness, or simply the ignorance of it, is clouding our understanding of God’s true love. When God is seen as a loving, non-demanding pushover whose love overrides His holiness, whose grace no longer teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts then people will live in accordance with that belief and come under the judgment of God. Permissiveness and promiscuity will be prevalent.

This brings me to the third big fallacy I see in the church today and that is the false concept of the love of God.

WRONG CONCEPT OF THE TRUE LOVE OF GOD

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

There’s a sentimental mushy kind of love expressed in the church and lives of so-called Christians today that falls so short of the real God-kind of love. It is a love not based on truth and deeds.

For example, one of the hot controversial topics today is that of the aforementioned homosexuality. More and more people in the church world are accepting it and now celebrating it. Entire denominations are now ordaining gay clergy. This is being done all in the name of love. But it is so clear from the Word of God that this is a complete abomination that should have no place whatsoever in the church. There are churches and entire denominations turning into “synagogues of Satan” “where his throne is” (Rev. 2:9,13). Doctrines like this are the “depths of Satan” (Rev. 2:24).

Does this mean we stop loving gay people? Of course not; we should love them all the more because they are in grave danger, but we must do so in all kindness, wisdom, and love, speaking the truth to them. But most people will hate you for it as they did Jesus.

“No man was ever more loving than Jesus Christ. Yet even His love made people angry. His love was a perfect love, a transcendent and holy love, but His very love brought trauma to people. This kind of love is so majestic we can’t stand it.” (R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God).

You see, love must be mixed with truth and holiness for it to pass the biblical test. As I said, today we are altering the Scriptures because we don’t like certain verses that contradict the lifestyle that we or our friends may be living. Many have removed God’s judgments and wrath, holiness, and hell, right out of the Bible. It’s one of the signs of these evil last days we are living in.

We may criticize what is happening in the world all we want, but judgment must begin in the house of God if we desire to see His glory and the awakening that many of us have been praying for. Let us remove the evil from us. Let not any form of sexual  immorality be even named among us (Eph. 5:3).

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God, and if it begins first with us, what shall the end be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17).

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THE MODIFICATION OF THE GOSPEL HAS GREATLY WEAKENED THE CHURCH

“When backsliders, hypocrites, and the half-hearted seeker among us are made to feel comfortable instead of convicted, soothed instead of smitten, pampered instead of pricked, then something is terribly wrong. The holy fire of God is to burn so brightly in the Church that it allows no room for indifference so that hypocrites will not be able to stay and the true seekers will not remain unchanged.” Bert Farias

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:6-9).

These are the strongest of words penned by the apostle Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Galatian Christians. Twice Paul declares a terrible curse on those who pervert the real gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of the great tragedies of the modern Western gospel has been the accentuation of the blessings and benefits of salvation at the exclusion of other components of the cross. There is a very large movement that is sweeping through many churches today that majors on life-enhancement, self-help, and self-esteem without hardly ever confronting sin and the works of the flesh. Sadly lacking from this sugar-coated gospel are heart-repentance, holiness, and the empowering grace of God to live in obedience to His demands.

Prophet Jeremiah Johnson called this false gospel the gospel of accommodation.

“There is a very real war in the spirit realm over the true gospel, the gospel of self-denial, and this false gospel, the gospel of accommodation that is seeking to overtake the American Church. The gospel of accommodation encourages American Christians to fit Jesus into their life, rather than making Him their life. This false gospel requires no sacrifice, no commitment, and no death to self. It is dangerous, deceptive, and we are going to witness God beginning to highlight preachers and churches who preach this false gospel of accommodation.”

The preachers of this smooth, soft gospel may frequently speak of forgiveness, but rarely do we hear a clear and definitive call for surrender in true repentance. They may even speak of the blood of Christ to cleanse us from our sins, but rarely do we hear of the necessity of that same holy blood to appease the wrath of God against sinners. Frequently we may hear of how Jesus died to make us righteous, but rarely do we use God’s holy Law to strip the sinner of his self-righteousness. We may often hear of the need to gain the glories of heaven, but rarely of the need to shun the horrors of hell. At times we may hear of the resurrection of His power (although in many circles that is rare, too), but rarely do we hear of the fellowship of His sufferings. Frequently we hear of the good life we can have now, but rarely do we hear warnings of the judgment to come. And why don’t we hear more of the latter? Because we don’t want to offend anyone.

The offense of the cross has been virtually removed from our gospel.

What Salvation Army founder William Booth prophesied more than a century ago is increasing at an alarming rate in our day:

“The chief danger of the twentieth century will be,
Religion without the Holy Ghost,
Christianity without Christ,
Forgiveness without repentance,
Salvation without regeneration,
Heaven without hell,
And politics without God.”

The twentieth century has already passed, and things don’t seem to be improving at all in the twenty-first century.

A new gospel has been produced from the ruling philosophy of the day that says, “If it works, it must be better. If our message adds to our number, if it comforts the people instead of offending them, if it makes them happy, if it keeps them coming to our meetings, and keeps them giving to our causes, then it must be good.” The results are what count. This dominating school of thought regards anyone successful as long as they get the job done and accomplish the goals; in this case, growing the church and adding to its membership.

The proponents of this other gospel reason, “More people and more money equal success.” It doesn’t really matter how they accomplish their goals as long as they do. In this philosophy God becomes a means to an end; a useful God to help them attain the desired success. Others, to sound even more persuasive, may say, “More people means more salvations”, but are they really getting saved? Or “More money means a greater propagation of the gospel”, but is it the real gospel?

The rich man that went away sorrowfully after Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor (Mk. 10:17-22) would’ve still been with us today had he heard the modern gospel of goodness, acceptance, and prosperity. Many a popular preacher would’ve gone after him and negotiated a deal. Instead of a clear call to renounce his materialism, perhaps he could’ve been more easily convinced to just believe that Jesus was not merely a good teacher, but actually the Son of God. A simple little prayer would’ve got him in.

Maybe this rich young man could’ve been persuaded to give a tithe of his possessions to the ministry instead of selling it all and giving the proceeds to the poor. That would’ve been much more reasonable and much less offensive to him, and that tithe would really help the church. After all, he had worked hard for his money. Or another popular method employed today would’ve been to make him an elder and offer him a position in the church and then perhaps his sorrow would be eased and his happiness would return.

This is what we’ve done with the glorious gospel of our Lord. We’ve modified it; we’ve added to it and taken away from it; we’ve altered it, diluted it, and adapted it to fit the spirit of the age.

Now we are reaping the rotten seeds of a very faulty sowing of the preaching of this false gospel in days gone by. This is greatly weakening the Church and putting her to sleep while helping to destroy a  nation that is intent in rushing headlong into an antichrist abyss. It’s the perfect storm, one that we could stop if we would just shake ourselves from our lethargy and denial and wake up.

It is time to make these crooked paths straight and prepare the way of the Lord.

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Thank you, and may God’s richest and best be yours.