The problem with those who call themselves “Red-Letter Christians” is not that they give insufficient heed to the black letters of the Bible, but that they give insufficient heed to the red ones.
Their agenda sounds more like it comes from the Democratic Party’s platform than it does from the words of Jesus.
Do not think that the body of Christ is the same thing as the number of people participating in organized Christianity.
Do not think that the body of Christ is the same thing as the number of people who identify as Christians.
The true body of Christ are those who are currently connected to the head – Jesus Christ.
Do not preach so that people will connect with you, your church, or your ministry. Preach so that they will connect with Jesus.
The body of Christ in the earth today is much smaller than Christendom. Much smaller. Christendom is ruled by men. The kingdom of God is ruled by Christ.
We don’t need Christendom to grow. We need the kingdom of God – the body of Christ – to grow.
Christians don’t need a relationship with more Christians or different Christians. They need a relationship with Christ and they need that relationship to be growing.
Take heed to these verses, preachers, and be sure that you are practicing what you are preaching. Jesus only preached that which He practiced.
Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. – 1 Timothy 4:16
you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?
– Romans 2:21
For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.
– Ezra 7:10
He who teaches before he practices short-circuits the three-step process that Ezra demonstrated.
When Jesus is preached, life springs forth from those who hear. I have seen it happen over and over.
I am talking about proclaimingthe profound simplicity of Jesus Himself – crucified and risen – King of the Universe and Lover of Souls!
Preachers today preach about many things. Few preach Jesus. This is why there is so little life in the people.
You are a walking, talking advertisement for God’s rule in a human life.
Are you an attractive billboard for His message, or a blighted one?
Your manner of life is already sending a message about your relationship with God before the first words ever come out of your mouth. Take heed to the billboard that you are.
Those who would be Christian leaders must first seek to be mature Christians. Christian maturity is achieved only when the tongue is under control. This is what the third chapter of the letter of James is all about.
If you cannot control your mouth, you have work to do. Let James set you straight.
What the verses below have in common is the idea that he who would be a minister of the word must be sure to minister that word to himself as well as to others.
If you are a preacher, be sure that you apply to your own soul the same preaching that you hope your listeners will apply to their souls.
If you are a parent, be sure that you are applying to your own life the spiritual lessons you are teaching to your children.
1 Timothy 4:16
1 Corinthians 9:23
John the son of Zebedee gives us a vivid picture of the spiritual growth the Lord wants to work in us.
In the Gospel of John, he presents himself, along with his fellow disciples, as fleshly in orientation. This was early in Jesus’ ministry. For example, Jesus would say to them something like “I have food to eat that you do not know about,” and they would say to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” (John 4:32-33). Jesus was speaking spiritually, but they were still quite fleshly.
In another example (Matthew 16:5-12), Jesus speaks to John and the others about leaven. They think He’s talking about physical leaven, but He’s actually speaking about spiritual leaven.
Note then the great contrast when you get to the book of Revelation, also written by John. That book is so spiritual, and we are so fleshly, that it sounds like gobbledygook to most of us. Yet the same John wrote it that had such a hard time understanding Jesus in the beginning. John had grown. He had matured from a fleshly orientation to a spiritual orientation.
We must go through the sort of change that John did – especially if we are to speak the word of God to others. Remember 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 and let not its admonition apply to you. Remember also Hebrews 5:12-14. If you are to teach others the way of Christ, be mature. To be mature means to be spiritual and not fleshly. The apostle John provides a clear example to follow.
…Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession…
– Titus 2:13-14
If He’s purifying for Himself “a people for His own possession” why do popes and pastors claim these same people for their own possession? It’s not right.
Hear the word of the Lord, O pastor:
…”Let My people go…”
– Exodus 5:1
Why should you let the people go? Because they are His people, not yours. And so that…
…”…they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.”
– Exodus 5:1
How will the people celebrate a feast to Him in the wilderness? According to Romans 12:1, they will offer their lives a living and holy sacrifice to the Lord in every place they go.
The Lord wants to possess His people – He does not want us to possess them. He wants us to point the people to Him…that He may possess them.
…the older shall serve the younger.
– Genesis 25:23
Christian leadership operates on a principle at odds with worldly leadership. In the world, the older has authority over the younger, but in the kingdom of God the older serves the younger.
Notice how God sets the example. He Himself is older than everyone, yet He serves everyone. When the world had gone completely astray, He committed Himself to coming to earth as one of us to set an example. From the ignominious death He suffered in the fulfillment of that commitment, He was raised back to His place of majesty.
Likewise, you and I are to humble ourselves on earth that we might be exalted in heaven. If therefore you aspire to Christian leadership, know that you are aspiring to be a servant – not a ruler. It’s not about how many Christians you can be over, it’s about how many you can serve.
As Jesus taught:
“But do not be called Rabbi;
for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
Do not call anyone on earth your father;
for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
Do not be called leaders;
for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.”
– Matthew 23:8-10
If we are all brothers, then those of us who are older (i.e. who have been walking with the Lord longer) should set out to serve our younger brethren – not lord it over them.
Consider also how Jesus responded when His disciples pestered Him about who was “the greatest” (i.e. who would be in charge when He wasn’t around?):
And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
– Luke 22:24-27
Survey the institutional church today and see that leaders do not “become like the youngest” or “like the servant.” Rather, they have authority over their flocks. And indeed the flocks are theirs and not the Lord’s. This is the case whether it’s a mega-church of thousands or a small church of less than a hundred.
It’s not about hoarding the sheep; it’s about feeding the sheep.
If the prophets and the apostles don’t call God “trinity,” why should we?
The prophets and apostles called God by many names. Many names. Are there not enough of these names that we have to add our own?
We are warned against adding to, or taking away from, the word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5, 6; Revelation 22:18, 19). Why then do some so boldly add “trinity” to the list of names by which God has called Himself through His servants, the apostles and prophets through whom we have the Scriptures?
We ought to stand in fear of a holy God and use only the names for Him that He has given us.
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to plead “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10 KJV; Luke 11:2 KJV). Why then are Christian leaders seeking their own kingdoms? They might as well be praying “Our kingdoms come.”
The Baptists are seeking to grow the Baptist kingdom. The Catholics are seeking to grow the Catholic kingdom. And so on.
At some 30,000 denominations and counting, there is a lot of self-seeking – and not much kingdom-seeking – going on in Christendom these days.
Let us get back to seeking the King and His kingdom. It’s hypocritical to pray “Thy kingdom come” and then live in pursuit of your own kingdom.
We’ve all heard this phrase and many of us have used it. It’s the reaction that comes when we read or hear something that we know will serve well as sermon material. I’ve come to be very wary of this expression.
Why wary? Because it can be a sign that we are more interested in saying what God says than in doing what God says.
Ezra the priest gives us the proper three steps for declaring God’s truth – whether it’s to a neighbor as an individual or to a crowd as a preacher. Those three steps are: 1) study the word, 2) practice the word, and 3) preach the word (Ezra 7:10). We short-circuit this process when we gain an insight during our devotional time (step 1) and then say to ourselves, in effect, “That’ll preach!” (step 3). If we’re not careful, we’ll skip right over step 2.
I’m not saying that it’s a sin to ever think or say “That’ll preach” but I am saying that every time you think it or hear it, you ought to stop and ask yourself if you’re unwittingly skipping over Ezra’s critical second step. This is what caught the Pharisees (Matthew 23:3 “they say things and do not do them”).
Balaam is given to us in the Scriptures as an example. A bad example, to be sure. Yet we can learn from bad examples just as we learn from good examples. In fact, bad examples help make the good examples more clear to us.
I do not think we preachers today are paying enough attention to the bad example of Balaam. We too easily think, “Oh, that couldn’t be me; that’s someone else.” Usually, we think it’s televangelists who are always asking for money. Yet the love of money can be a far more subtle corruption.
We are to be free from every form of corruption – that’s what the good examples of the apostles are to teach us. Will we point the finger at someone else and say “He loved money more than I did” as if that’s going to be an acceptable excuse before the Lord? Turn your heart toward Him. Ask Him if there is any area in life wherein you might be committing the sin of Balaam – which is to allow the love of money to corrupt your preaching for God.
One of the biggest tests I ever faced in this regard was when I began preaching the more radical truths I had come to learn from the Scriptures: everyone is going to heaven, the kingdom of God supersedes institutional church, and the second coming of Christ has already occurred. I could quickly see that declaring such things would jeopardize my standing with those for whom I was a pastor. I could see that I was eventually going to lose my church, and therefore my living – my way of life.
I did not want to give up my way of life. I wanted to serve the Lord through preaching the gospel. I wanted to remain in full-time ministry. I cannot think of words to convey to you how badly I wanted this. And yet, to keep it I would have to suppress the very things God had shown me because I had been praying for the people of my church. Once I realized this, I simply had to accept the fact that I was going to lose my parishioners…and therefore my church and my living as a minister.
Though it was painful, I have never regretted this decision to preach the truth regardless of the cost. I did not “follow the way of Balaam…who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15). And the peace of mind this gives me means far more to me that the financial security I lost.
The way of Balaam is subtle. He was not a complete fraud for he related to the true God. He heard the words of God. And he spoke a degree of truth. But a little corruption is like a little poison – never safe.
Beware the way of Balaam. Be a pure-hearted preacher of Christ. Keep humble before Him that He may keep your heart pure…day after day after day. We can never be free from all temptation until we leave this earth.