Continued from PART 1
THEY PATRONIZE BELIEVERS
All believers belong to Jesus Christ and no one else. It is true that some church leaders refer to members as their members, my people and such like but in a strict sense that is incorrect for the body of believers, Christ's church, belongs to Christ and Christ alone but individuals may identify with and become part of a specific local assembly for the purpose of corporate worship and edification. Imposters expend a great deal of effort and time patronizing those whom they consider likely recruits and would even go out of their way to be complimentary and helpful. The process of seduction for their hearts and minds may be lengthy and complex but the imposters are not deterred and will use all means necessary to achieve their objective for they belong to the Devil and will do his bidding.
It is most unfortunate that in spite of the warnings given to believers and the many examples of the unwary being trapped and comprehensively destroyed, some still fall prey to these imposters, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron." (1Timothy 4:1-2) It has always been the case that the Devil chooses people who are mostly presentable and clever and able to project an image of reasonableness and sophistication to hoodwink people, just like some slick salesmen selling shoddy goods, and Paul saw some of this even in his day who he described as, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:5-7)
Most imposters who break away and form their own assembly usually do so by taking away members from their previous assembly. Sometimes the break comes through some schism and the imposter is cast out and at other times the imposter strikes when he has recruited sufficient in number to do his own thing. Sometimes the imposter takes over from the appointed leader by supplanting him and moving him out but in every case it is preceded by a time of patronizing believers. This is a very old tactic and it was tried to topple King David. Here are the relevant verses.
"And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel." (2 Samuel 15:1-6)
Absalom's patronizing did work for first he "stole the hearts of the men of Israel." and then went on to get himself crowned king and caused David and his family to flee but like all imposters and fakes they do come unstuck sooner or later and Absalom was no exception for his fall from grace was swift, publicly humiliating and fatal. Absalom's death was grisly and the Bible recorded it thus, "Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. And ten young men that bare Joab's armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him." (2 Samuel 18:14-15)
THEY ARE FILLED WITH AND PROMOTE HUMAN PRIDE
It takes a very special kind of person to imagine he knows better than God. As we have seen so far one such person is the Devil and we saw how he attempted and miserably failed to dethrone Almighty God and was comprehensively cast out of heaven. Another such person is the imposter and he adopts this attitude because he becomes so full of himself, so carried away with his status, so consumed with his own importance that he becomes bloated with uncontrollable pride. All such persons, like Absalom, come to a crashing end, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)
Within the company of believers, human pride stands out because salvation brings with it certain characteristics of grace; among them humility and meekness. Imposters cannot easily mask their pride so they attempt to develop it in others around them in much the same way that certain VIPs will have some of their security dressed the very same way as him so that he is not easily identified. When any man comes between the believer and God that is a clear sign that he is false and it does not matter what that man's title is be it pope, archbishop, priest, superintendent, minister, pastor, elder, apostle or any other fancy title. God approves of no one, has appointed no one to come between him and the believer other than Jesus Christ and the Bible is most forceful on this, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 2:5) Pride causes man to want to elevate himself to the rank of God and whenever the opportunity arises these imposters seek to supplant God, both in word and in deed whether it was the Roman Catholic priests selling indulgences and forgiving people for future sins or the religious leader who tells you that the only way you can get to heaven is by joining his group and doing what he tells you.
Some religious groups go to great extremes in consolidating their prideful lordship over believers to the extent that they instruct members how to address and interact with the leadership, instructing members to use titles expressly forbidden by Jesus, titles such as "father" and "teacher" and requiring members to curtsy to the leaders as if they are royalty and to bow the knee and kiss their sullied hands or accursed Masonic ring. These are all a throwback to the festering and despicable hypocrites known as the Pharisees whom Jesus aptly described, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwards, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." (Matthew 23:27)
In contrast to all this the Bible teaches and promotes the opposite of pride, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2: 3-8) It has always been the case that to be like Jesus, our true and proper example whatever our gifts or office, is our highest calling and pride is the poison that prevents that attainment.
Let us be clear that this pride, that is so very destructive, is not a proper sense of self-worth and self-respect, or a sense of satisfied achievement, which are wholesome and positive qualities, but rather conceit and aloofness bordering on the narcissistic. This is the pride that overwhelmed Eve in Eden, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat." (Genesis 3:6) and caused the downfall of the first family and the commencement of travails of all humanity. This same conceit was witnessed in the assembly at Corinth and Paul alluded to it, "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." (2 Corinthians 10:12) All believers who are in good standing with God must be able to detect human pride wherever and whenever it is on display.
THEY PROMOTE MATERIALISM
The promotion of materialism is a tactic of the Devil to batter and submerge the spiritual life and reduce people to the level of mere consumers with all its attendant greed and envy. Jesus warned believers against materialism, "And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Luke 12:15)
Some religious groups whole rationale for their existence is the promotion of materialism proffering the theology of prosperity as the proof that you are blessed and doing the will of God. That this nonsense is acceptable to some says much about the state of their spirituality and focus. The Bible says this, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37) From the inception of Christianity the Devil has been trying this tactic and trapping the unwary into spiritual suicide. The Devil even tried it on Jesus, "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, ALL THESE THINGS WILL I GIVE THEE, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." (Matthew 4:8-9)
For all those people who subscribe to this unsound theology, whatever may be their explanation, materialism is nothing short of idolatry for it is the love, focus and pursuit of money and possessions that gives meaning and direction to their lives. These accursed imposters, promoting materialism in their feeble attempt to subvert the body of Christ, would regard everyone not committed to their theology as losers. In this regard the most successful human being ever lived would, by their standard, be a failure for Jesus never had any of the trappings of wealth so beloved by these imposters as seen here when Jesus responded to a would-be disciple, "And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goeth. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man have not where to lay his head." (Matthew 8:19-20) Nowhere in the Bible are believers encouraged or instructed to pray for riches, however if by chance riches do come the Bible puts it firmly in proper perspective, "if riches increase, set not your heart upon them." (Psalm 62:10b) Imposters delight in promoting materialism among believers, for by it believers are weakened in their standing with God, and it allows the imposters to more readily expand and conceal their nefarious activities.
THEY PROMOTE LAW RATHER THAN GRACE
The original imposters in the early church were rather easier to spot than is the case today for they were mainly Jews, rather than gentiles, who had joined the local assembly but were convinced that Christianity was to be an appendage to Judaism. To them The Law and the practice of circumcision had to be incorporated: "But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." (Acts 15:5) The early church had to deal with this problem at the highest level for the very foundational truths on which the church is founded were being challenged. The Apostles arranged the first council at Jerusalem around the year 50 AD, "And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter." (Acts 15:6) and after much debate Peter made the most telling contribution that included this, "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they." (Acts 15:10-11)
With James presiding the council concluded matters and agreed to write to the believers at Antioch, for that was the headquarters of the church's outreach programme, and the letter contained this important declaration, "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment." (Acts 15:24) Although the Jerusalem Council settled the question of Law and grace it did not prevent imposters from their mission of subversion and everywhere the Apostle Paul founded a new church they were there undermining the believers. Paul reminded the church as Ephesus, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2: 8-9)
Those who promote law rather than grace today do not do so in exactly the same way as the imposters did in the time of Paul, but the intention and the effect is the same and that is to shift the focus of salvation from the merits of grace of God in Jesus Christ and put it on human effort codified in a list of does and don'ts and tends toward legalism. Anytime the focus of salvation shifts from the grace of God to the works of man, we are on a slippery slope that inevitably leads to the diminishing role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Imposters know this but they are not themselves grounded in Christ and have not the Spirit leading them, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," (Romans 8:9b) Because they are only nominal Christians, then they exalt and magnify the Law over grace, and often are able to quote scriptures to support their erroneous positions even when the scripture, properly understood, does not give such support. This is another reason why believers need to study the scriptures for themselves and, led by the Holy Spirit, understand the mind of God. Remember what Jesus Christ told his disciples, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come." (John 16:13)
THEY PREACH AND TEACH WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR
Earlier I mentioned that imposters patronize believers and a major part of that courtship is to tell people what they want to hear. This is a tactic so beloved by the Devil and his followers that it must be regarded as their "modus operandi" way of operating and is absolutely normal for them. This very same tactic is used by politicians, psychics, fortune tellers, clairvoyants, soothsayers and mediums for they always tell the people what they want to hear; truth is fiercely withheld and every trick is used to give patrons a smug feeling of money well spent or time well used so that their services are used again and again. Many there are who do not want the inconvenient truth, where they have to make lifestyle adjustment, or modify or change behaviour or attitude or just make different choices but rather choose to be comforted in error and misdirection and continue where they are.
Paul wrote to a young pastor by the name of Timothy about this in these words, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears." (2 Timothy 4:3) You see it everywhere in religion where people adopt an attitude of ease and comfort and heightened slumber and in the churches this is seen in their attitude to the outside world for whom they show little interest and their commission to reach out and evangelize is at best tepid and at its worst criminally negligent.
All of this creates an atmosphere hostile to doing what God commands and hinders the effectual working of the Holy Spirit whilst at the same time allowing falsehoods to spring up, take root and spread. Some believers seem not to care and others rather enjoy the whole spectacle just as Jeremiah declared, "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; AND MY PEOPLE LOVE TO HAVE IT SO: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" (Jeremiah 5:31) Jeremiah, whom we refer to with good reasons as the weeping prophet, was driven to tears when he saw how the people were misled and seriously endangered with the falsehoods that the religious leaders were feeding them. He did his duty admirably and even put his life on the line when he warned the people, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you." (Jeremiah 23:16-17)
Jeremiah was beaten, tossed into a well and faced imminent death because his was the lone voice troubling the king and people with his declarations from Almighty God. People did not want to hear the truth and the leadership, like all imposters then and now, was most happy to tell them what they wanted to hear regardless of the consequences.
History has shown that the warnings given to Israel, which they did not want to hear and which were contrary to the falsehoods peddled by the leadership, were in fact prescient and King Nebuchadnezzar in the year 612BC did invade Israel with deadly consequences, demolished the capital Jerusalem, flattened the temple built by King Solomon and carried away most of the inhabitants to servility in Babylon.
Church leaders teaching and preaching what people want to hear may provide all concerned with ease and comfort, as they joyously hurdle towards the precipice and certain destruction, but if as a believer you are going to stand up to the Devil and his demons and exalt Jesus Christ here and now then you must not be part of this lemming-like disaster. The Bible says, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord." (2 Corinthians 6:17a) You have to be vigilant and see things in their true light and not allow imposters to pull the wool over your eyes or forget what you have learnt as Jesus chided his apostles, "Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?" (Mark 8:18)
So will you be able to spot the wolf in sheep's clothing or are you too uncaring to notice?
Books by this author (non-fiction except indicated otherwise)
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ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT ON GOD'S CLOCK
Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2016
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