Category Archives: Wealth and the Kingdom of God

Tithing and the New Testament Church

Dubois Park and Jupiter Inlet14″ Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross….” Colossians 2:14

10 “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?” Acts 15:10

7 “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

 

I strongly believe that generous giving is an essential element of New Testament Christianity. We are to give to the poor (if coupled with gospel evangelism), and to those who labor in the word, in evangelism and in doctrine. I also believe we are to care for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to the extent that they have physical needs, such as food, clothing and shelter. The scriptures are clear – we are to give joyfully, freely and without any type of man-made limit. We are told time and time again by Jesus and Paul, that we are not to live for the treasures of this dying world but instead are to build up treasure in heaven where moths and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal. Therefore, generosity should be second nature to any true believer, redeemed from the lies of this world by the precious blood of the lamb.

What I wholly reject, based on the clear mandate of scripture, is the teaching that the Old Testament law of tithing (Hebrews 7:5) is still somehow in effect. Jesus abolished the law (ALL OF IT) in his body on the cross. (Ephesians 2:15, Colossians 2:14-17, Hebrews chaps.7-10, Galatians chaps. 2-5, etc.). In the western church, many pastors have greedily and fearfully resurrected a dead doctrine, thereby spitting on the very cross they preach. Tithing perished on calvary, yet is taught as law by tens of thousands of pastors either out of willful ignorance, or in order to manipulate their congregations into giving. If God is truly for their ministries, then HE will provide, with no wresting of the scriptures required.

There are a multitude of sound biblical arguments, which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that tithing is dead. As a starting point, believers are never, ever told to tithe in the New Testament. Furthermore, there are enormous portions of scripture (in Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews, to name a few), which torturously lay out the fact that the entire body of Old Testament law died with Jesus on the cross. Yet many pastors still, somehow, gleefully and forcefully proclaim it as the law of the Christian land, without teaching that any other part of the Jewish law (such as animal sacrifices) survived the cross. Why do they cling so tightly to the only law that gives them money? I think we all know the answer, and in America at least, that answer is green.

When I am out evangelizing on the streets, a substantial number of the church goers I meet, especially those from lower income areas,  have been brainwashed into believing that they MUST sow their seed to their pastor by, at a minimum, tithing. They are so indoctrinated by their “church” that they often become angry when anyone suggests the contrary, even when using scriptures. Many are so deceived by this false and legalistic rule, that they ignore the fact that their pastor has a Mercedes and a nice house while they have a bike and share a small, filthy apartment with six other family members. It is disgusting, but just like everywhere else where serious doctrinal error exists, the problem is due to the fact that they haven’t studied the Bible for themselves, but simply trust whatever the well-dressed, charismatic preacher on stage tells them…yet may God be true, and every man a liar. (Romans 3:4).

Paul addresses New Testament giving clearly and directly in 2 Corinthians 9:

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

Not only does Paul make it clear that we are not to give with a bad attitude or because we feel we must (ahem…guilt over tithing), but he also makes it resoundingly clear that a generous heart will lead to bountiful reaping. While I do not know what that means exactly, I do know from 1 Timothy 6:4-6, that we are not to equate godliness with financial gain. What I have seen in my own life is that when I am hoarding my money and placing my trust in material blessings, I never seem to have enough, but when I am free with the things the Lord has provided for me, I always seem to be at peace with where I am financially. That…can only be from the Lord.

Another key point in the case against tithing is the fact that, when the Jerusalem Council  met (see, Acts 15) to discuss what elements of the Old Testament Law should survive for the protection and edification of the church (as legalism had begun to leach into the body), money was not even mentioned one time. While many of the converted Jews were trying to reinstitute elements of the OT law (such as circumcision), the concept of creating a new, legal framework for believers was resoundingly rejected by the apostles. Instead, a few simple guidelines were laid out to help protect the young church from slipping into sin. Here is a brief summary of why the Council met, and what was said by the apostles:

But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them (the Gentiles), and to command them to keep the law of Moses.And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe…And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith10 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?  Acts 15:5-10

After discussing the fact that the church should not be placed in the unbearable fetters of the law, the Council declared:

28″ For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well….”  Acts 15:28-29

Even the way the above passage is phrased makes it clear that no Old Testament laws were put back in place for the church. Instead, the church was simply given guidelines in order to help believers walk in the holiness to which we are all called…and money wasn’t mentioned at all.

The question I have for everyone who considers tithing mandatory or even highly advisable (versus giving freely and generously through the spirit), is: why would you lay a yoke of slavery on either yourself or others that our forefathers in the Judeo-Christian faith couldn’t bear, and one which the actual apostles refused to place on their own disciples?

It has been argued by some that, since tithing preceded the Law of Moses (Abraham tithed to Melchizedek), then it should survive the death of the law as well. My answer to that is simple. Besides the fact that not even one New Testament scripture supports this belief, animal sacrifices also predated the law (Abel, Abraham, etc.), and, like tithing, were merged into the law – yet no one teaches that they somehow survived the cross (not Paul, not Peter, and not even Benny Hinn or Creflo Dollar!). All of the law perished via the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that includes the practices which predated Mosaic Law but were merged into it. I have never heard even one sound argument(or scripture) explaining why tithing survived the cross but blood sacrifices did not.  More importantly, there is not even a single letter to a church from an apostle that tells us that tithing is still in effect. Thus, there is no biblical justification for teaching it today. Fortunately, we now have a better testament, a living hope, and the yoke of slavery…is gone.

 

EPILOGUE

It is often said that biblical doctrine can not be gleaned from one or even two verses on a subject. In the case of tithing, as noted above, there are exactly zero verses where Paul, Peter, James or John tell the church to tithe. In fact, the most direct verse on giving (2 Cor. 9:7, quoted twice in this article) says the very opposite – do not give out of necessity but give what you want to give from your heart. That exhortation is consistent with everything the blood of Jesus Christ did to the law. It was destroyed in the body of his flesh so that a new, better testament, written in blood, might prevail. Thus, in my estimation, those who push this false doctrine, are in deep danger…wresting the scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

Caring for the needs of the poor, and providing for our Christian brothers and sisters, are most certainly acceptable acts of financial stewardship in the eyes of our holy God. Giving directly to a sound teacher, author or evangelist is also in perfect accord with the scriptures – whether or not they are part of a building with the word “church” on it. Sadly, the corporate “church” has falsely corralled believers into thinking that a 10% tithe must first go to them, and then and only then can one give “offerings” to anyone else. That teaching is self-serving, false, and will not stand at the judgement seat of Christ. The very reason Jesus came to earth to live and then die brutally on a cold, hard cross, was to set us free from the bondage of the law of sin and death (Romans 8). Yet out of ignorance, greed and fear many pastors are quick to place that yoke of slavery right back on our necks…exactly where it was prior to the blood of our great God being spilled to wash away our sin. Pastors and teachers are informed by James that they are under a higher standard of judgment than the average believer (James 3:1). If I were one of them, I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with placing even a small part of that unbearable yoke on the necks of God’s precious little flock.

I would love to see pastors, worldwide, reject the false doctrine of tithing, and to publicly repent for the bondage under which they have placed their congregations.  I would love to see them trust the God of heaven and earth to provide for their church no matter the cost, even if they, like Paul (a tentmaker), have to occasionally work to meet all of their needs. If their ministry is truly of Jesus Christ, instead of simply being a means to have a nice middle class lifestyle on the backs of God’s children, then He WILL provide. It may be a struggle, and the pastor’s life might not look like it did when the yoke of slavery was on his congregation, but it just might look a lot more like the life of the greatest apostle to ever preach the gospel….Paul, and great will their reward be in heaven.

Money and the Ministry: What did Jesus and Paul say about it?

Authority and the New Testament Believer

The written word of God is truth

 

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Heaven With God Forever: Your Best Life…Later Part 2

                            ETERNITY IN PARADISE WITH GOD:

                                             Your Best Life…Later

 

                                                          Part 2

 

3…And there before me was a throne in heaven…. and the one who sat on the throne had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

 Revelation 4:3-6

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalms 42:2

“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 ‭KJV‬‬
 

As I have noted in several of my other writings, the word is clear: as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to live, not for the temporary pleasures of this world – be they material, sexual, or reputational. We instead live for the never-ending glory of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, a kingdom, which can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4). Because of this unseen, everlasting and glorious reality, we should all seek, through the Holy Spirit, to release our grasp on everything that we hold dear on this planet, which interferes with our pursuit of Jesus Christ – as the parable of the Pearl of Great Price so perfectly illustrates. For truly, what does it profit us if we gain anything – or even everything – from this earth, and then, after seventy-five or so years, when we die, we forfeit our souls to the fires of hell for eternity?

Below I am simply going to go through some of the verses, which refer to the promise of eternity we have with our God in paradise.

John 14 is, in my estimation, one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. It is both intimate and powerful in describing exactly how much Jesus and the Father love us and desire to be with us forever…in their kingdom. At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus tells us not to be troubled in heart, but to trust in Him and to trust in His Father. For in His Father’s house He promises, are many mansions, and Jesus Himself is going back to heaven to prepare those mansions for us, and after He prepares them for us, He will come back for each of us and will take us back home to be with Him and His Father…forever.

As one who has always been intimidated by the glory, power, and omniscience of the Father, I love how verse 23 states that, if we love Jesus, and keep His Word, then the Father Himself will love us and will come and make His home with us! The Father God, the Ancient of Days, and Jesus Christ Himself will come and make their home with foolish, selfish, and sometimes lazy me?! Now that is a promise I can live for, regardless of my circumstances.

In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus tells the crowd of people he is preaching to during the Sermon on the Mount, not to store up for themselves treasures on earth where moths destroy and thieves steal. Instead they – and we – should build up for ourselves treasures in Heaven, which can never, ever spoil, be destroyed or be stolen.

In Matthew 25:34, Jesus promises those who love Him an eternal kingdom, which was prepared for us by God since the foundation of the world.

In Romans 8:18, Paul states that his suffering on this earth, which was extreme to say the least (multiple stonings, floggings, shipwrecks and imprisonments), is nothing compared to the glory of Heaven which one day shall be revealed to all of us.

In 1 Corinthians 2:8-10, Paul states that no eye has seen and no ear has heard nor has it entered the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.

In 1 Corinthians 15:41-43 Paul shares with us the glorious mystery of what our bodies will be like in eternity:  “41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another…and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” My old, weary and decaying body looks forward to this permanent upgrade.

2 Corinthians 4:16 through 2 Corinthians 5:2, states that, even though our outward bodies are perishing, our inward person is being renewed daily. For our light and temporary affliction is building up for us eternal glory. So we focus not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.

When our earthly house is destroyed, we will gain an eternal building forged by God in the heavens – a house not made by the hands of men, but one made by God Himself.

In Philippians 3:7-14, Paul speaks eloquently and powerfully about how he truly believes that every single thing that profits him on this earth is a loss if it in any way interferes with knowing Christ and the power of His death and resurrection. Paul clearly understands that the temporary pleasures of this world are nothing compared to the glory that is ahead in and through Jesus Christ.

In Colossians 1:4-6, Paul reminds believers that their hope is laid up for them in Heaven, and not on this earth.

In Colossians 3:1-5, Paul exhorts the people to desire those things, which are above with Christ, and not earthly things.

In Colossians 3:22-25, Paul reminds the people to do everything on earth for God, knowing that we will receive an inheritance as a reward, for we live to serve not ourselves, but Jesus Christ.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-20, we are told to do good works in Christ because it builds up for us a good foundation for the coming age.

In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Paul tells Timothy that as he (Paul) approaches the end of his life, he knows that he has fought the good fight, he has finished the race, and he has kept the faith. Therefore, he will receive the crown of righteousness that God has prepared for him in Heaven and also for all of us who love Jesus Christ and long for His return.

In Titus 1:1-3, Paul states that he is an apostle of Jesus in the hope that he will receive eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, has promised from the beginning of the world.

In Titus 2:11-15, Paul states that the grace that brings salvation teaches us to deny worldly desires and to live righteously with godliness as we await the blessed hope of the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. We live, not for the temporary pleasures of today, but for the hope of living with God in Heaven forever.

In Hebrews 10:34, Paul notes that his brothers in Christ had compassion on him and they all joyfully suffered through the confiscation of their property knowing that they had, in heaven, far better and enduring treasures stored up for themselves by God.

How many of us would joyfully endure the confiscation of our property even if we thought that it was building up for us some type of treasure in Heaven? I can say fairly confidently that I would not joyfully endure it under any circumstance. I pray that the Holy Spirit of God will move in me to change my heart…because I have a feeling, that at some time in the not-to-distant future, it’s coming.

In Hebrews 11:23-27, Paul states that, by faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh, and instead chose to suffer afflictions with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short term pleasures of sin. He esteemed the reward of God as greater riches than the riches of Egypt and he looked to that reward as he lived.

Moses endured this life – not by holding on to the luxuries he enjoyed as Pharoah’s son – but by looking to the One and Only God. He knew that if he surrendered this life, and obeyed God’s commands, he would end up in a far better kingdom than anything this world could offer, for eternity.

Hebrews 12:28, states that we, as believers, are receiving a kingdom which can never be shaken so let us worship God with reverence an awe…for our God is a consuming fire.

In 1 Peter 1:3-7, Peter states that Jesus has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that does not fade away, but is kept in Heaven by God for all of us who believe. He also emphasizes that our faith is more precious than gold because it, unlike gold, is eternal.

In 1 Peter 5:2-4, we are told to shepherd our flock willingly and not for dishonest gain, because when Christ, the Great Shepherd appears, we will receive a crown of glory that will never fade away.

In Revelation 1:12-18, John describes Jesus Christ as He is today, and as He will be in eternity with us. His head and hair are white like wool, as white as snow and His eyes are like blazing fire, His feet are like bronze glowing in a furnace and His voice is like the sound of rushing water….

This is an accurate portrait of the God we love and the God who loves us. He is the One with whom we will reign forever.

Revelation 19:11-21, is extremely encouraging as I see this world slipping into deeper and deeper darkness because it illustrates exactly how things will play out at the end of the end of the world, when Jesus comes for us and takes His vengeance on those who hated Him and us. If I am ever poor, weary, persecuted and broken (as Jesus and Paul were so often)…those days will cease, and when they cease, our King will come in unmitigated power and glory, riding on a white horse with His robe dipped in blood, and with iron scepter in His hand. The armies of heaven are following Him, also riding on horses and wearing fine linen, white and clean. He will crush His enemies forever and will gather all of us to be with Him and the Father in glory, in heaven…forever.

Revelation chapters 4, 21 and 22 (which are at the end of this writing) give us just a little taste of the beauty and glory of our eternal dwelling with God.

I would encourage each one of us to make sure that we will be a part of the army of Jesus Christ when He returns – and not amongst those who are destroyed because we, in our hearts, put our faith and hope in possessions, our reputations and our pleasures, rather than in the One and only God. Jesus Christ the God who stepped off His throne to become man, who died for us cold and broken on a cross, who was raised from the dead to reign over all things in glory…wants us to be with Him in His Kingdom… forever. That life my friends will be our best life.

EPILOGUE

Below…is our eternal city.

The New Jerusalem

Revelation 22

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” 9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The River of Life

Revelation 23:1-6

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. 6 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

The Deceitfulness of Wealth: Your Best Life…Later Part 1

                              THE DECEITFULNESS OF WEALTH: YOUR BEST LIFE…LATER

 

                                                                         Part 1

 

6 …Godliness with contentment is great gain.7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.  1 Timothy 6:6-11

 

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.”   Revelation 3:14-19

 

 The above passages, especially the one in Revelation, are speaking, without doubt, to a huge portion of what passes as the “church” today. So many of our teachers and preachers have become rich, powerful and famous preaching a “gospel” of wealth, happiness and success. This, of course is no gospel at all – and their deceit and flatteries have stolen the hearts of many away from the things of God. The word is clear – while Jesus is concerned about every single detail of our lives, His focus is not on whether we are rich or happy, whether we like our job, whether we get a big Christmas bonus check – or even if we have a great marriage. He is primarily concerned about the deep, eternal things of the heart – because He knows that if we seek our best life now, we will forfeit a far better life with Him and His Father in eternity. And if we truly, in the deepest places of our hearts, seek HIM first…all of those things will be added to us as well (Matthew 6:33).

Jesus Christ frequently taught that the material things of this world are inconsequential when compared to the glory He has in store for those who love Him. He, Himself, came to earth in the form of a man, not to conquer…but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. He also promised us that, in His Father’s house are many mansions, and if we love and obey Him, we will dwell in those mansions with Him and His Father forever (John 14:1-3, 15-24).

Jesus and Paul placed absolutely no value on earthy possessions, and simply lived each day trusting God to provide for them as He saw fit – because, in Paul’s case, he knew with great certainty, that at death he would receive a crown of righteousness, which can never perish, spoil or fade away. Jesus also knew that, after completing His mission on earth, He would receive a name that is above every name and that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that He alone is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

What is important to Jesus Christ is that we, as believers, understand exactly how wicked and deceitful our hearts are before a perfect, holy and omnipotent God (Jeremiah 17:9). He wants us to know, in the innermost places of our being, that we deserve hell for rebelling against our glorious Creator who gave us the stars, and the still, quiet night sky, the soft, slowly-floating clouds, fiery burnt-orange sunsets, rich deep-blue oceans teaming with trillions of colorful fish, blazing-white mountain peaks, lush tropical jungles, fields of pink and yellow wild flowers, a myriad of rich tropical corals, white sand beaches, powerful frothing ocean waves, perfectly designed snowflakes, springs of clear cool water, cute, playful animals, precious innocent children, friends to laugh and cry with, and many different types of food and drink to taste and enjoy.

God has given us so many glorious tangible things to delight in each day. All of those things are an important part of His loud, loving voice (See, Psalms 19:19 and Romans 1:18-20), calling every man and woman to love and worship the One who first loved us. Yet the blessings of those God-given gifts are often obscured by our selfish, material pursuits. Many times each day we fail to recognize the beautiful blessings placed before us, as we wander from home, to work, to the grocery store, on a jog or walk, to a restaurant, and back to our homes again. How much more do we fail to recognize the depth of our sin and the marvelous gift of the death of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, on the cross for us…cold, broken and in agony…and His triumphant resurrection?

What we want, and have been taught to want, directly or indirectly by our pastors and our Christian mentors are: a second SUV, a bigger house, influential friends, children who excel at sports or academics, lavish vacations, a bigger bonus check and a fat retirement account. Why isn’t God giving us these things, we ask? We deserve them! My pastor and the deacons are all very well-off – and the pastor says we should expect to be wealthy too if we are truly in God’s will – and we need to give more (to him) to receive God’s blessing! Is God punishing me or is He just not listening to me? Am I a bad person? Does God not love me?? Is He a bad God?? These are all scandalous and outrageous lies propagated by the false church!

 

The scriptures below specifically address what Jesus and the Apostles said about wealth, material possessions, and temporal success, thereby instructing us how to view them as well. The message from all of these men is eternity…eternity is what matters to God. These men lived their lives for God’s everlasting kingdom, and they proved their beliefs by their actions. Jesus himself lived a life of deprivation upon deprivation upon deprivation, showing us that a life not centered on material wealth, but focused on obeying God, can be lived, even by a king. We, with the help of the Holy Spirit, should be eager to give up whatever we are asked to give up as well- whether it be money, possessions, reputations, or relationships – all for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 5:42, Jesus teaches us to give to anyone who asks us for something, and to lend freely to those who seek to borrow from us.

Our hearts should not be tied to our possessions, which will ultimately burn…instead, our eyes and hearts should be set firmly on Jesus, loving Him and those He sends us to love – not just with our mouths, but with our time and with our possessions. It is not easy, but it is our calling in Christ, and we can grow into a more selfless heart with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus teaches us to not store up for ourselves treasures on earth where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But instead, we should store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven, which can never be stolen or destroyed. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Rarely has a truer statement been spoken – what we truly treasure in our hearts we reflect with our actions. Do we care more about keeping our house perfect than we care about showing hospitality to friends and neighbors? I know I tend to care more about an orderly house than sharing it with others, sadly. Do we care more about how we as parents come across to other people by our children’s behavior and success (or lack thereof) then we care about their precious little hearts? There are many, many areas we all need to examine in order to determine where exactly our treasure is.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says that men cannot serve two masters, for they oppose each other. We cannot serve God and money. Therefore, we should not worry about what we will eat or drink, because life is more than food and clothing. The lilies of the field do not work yet they are beautiful. If God takes care of flowers, which are here today and are gone tomorrow, how much more will he care for us? Take no thought of what we will eat or drink, but seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be given to us as well.

We all at times seem to forget the “seek first the kingdom” part, and instead simply want to be “blessed” with more and more material things. As a result, we often only seek Jesus half-heartedly; looking over our shoulder for that material blessing we’ve been hearing so much about at church. The real blessing, my dear friends, is Him.

Seeking Jesus first means truly and deeply surrendering all of our wants and needs to Him and then walking closely with Him in trust, knowing that Jesus knows far better than we do what we really need in this life in order to accomplish His primary goal: remaining in intimate union with Him until death.

In Matthew 8:18-20, Jesus says that foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has no place to rest His head.

Jesus did not even have a home. That is a fact that many of these prosperity pastors – and all of us really – should meditate on when we aren’t satisfied with our possessions.

In Matthew 10:9-10, when Jesus first sends out the twelve disciples, He tells them to take no money or clothes with them, since through their testimony, God will meet all of their needs.

In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus says that, whoever loves their family more than Him is not worthy of Him, and whoever does not take up his cross and follow Him isn’t worthy of Him. He who finds his life in this life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the sake of Jesus will find it. See, also Mark 8:34-37

This is a critically important scripture because it contradicts the majority of what is being taught in American churches today about wealth, prosperity, and even relationships. According to this passage, God is to be honored, even above our closest family members, and while Joel Osteen and company tell us to seek our best life now, Jesus Christ says, seek it later. Instead, we must lay down our earthly lives…all of it…and take up our cross and follow Him wherever He leads us. Then, when this short life is finished, we will join Him and our Father in paradise, where we will live and reign forever….

In Matthew 11:7-8 (also in Mark 12:41-44), Jesus tells a crowd, who seem surprised that He is not dressed like a king, that men who wear fancy clothes are found in palaces, not in the kingdom of God.

This is another clear repudiation by Jesus of worldly values and the false connection between wealth and God. Paul specifically said in 1 Timothy 6:5-6, that godliness and financial success are not connected. In fact, Paul’s life and the life of Jesus (along with their preaching) seem to demonstrate the exact opposite.

In Matthew 13:44-46, Jesus says that the kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that is so precious that we should be willing to sell everything to obtain it.

Matthew 19:16-30, is the parable of the rich young ruler, where Jesus was asked by a young rich man what he must do to inherit eternal life. The rich man noted that he obeyed the law and thus, considered himself to be good. Jesus saw through his charitable deeds, and peered into the depths of his heart. Jesus saw the idols, which prevented him from loving God above all things, and thus, Jesus told him to sell everything he had and to give the money to the poor, and then he would be rich in the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus knew that only by selling everything would the man’s heart truly reflect his words and thoughts about himself. This man walked away from the Lord dejected because he had great wealth and in reality, he loved his possessions more than he loved God. Only Jesus could have revealed the lie he believed – that he was somehow a “good” man because he obeyed certain parts of the law. This parable teaches us in very clear terms that Jesus wants more from us than self-righteous obedience…He wants everything. He wants our hearts.

Jesus then went on to explain exactly how difficult it is for a wealthy person to enter into the kingdom of Heaven by using the well-known biblical analogy of a camel going through the eye of a needle. Jesus further states that those who are willing to give up everything they have on earth for the sake of the name of Christ, including relationships, possessions, or anything else that He may require will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. The powerful and counter-intuitive message of this is that our prize is eternity with God in His kingdom, and it is a reward that will never perish, spoil, or fade away. If only more pastors would share this message with their flocks, or at least teach it without telling their congregations to give up their earthly possessions…to him.

In Matthew 21:1-11, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Creator of all things, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, triumphantly entered Jerusalem at the end of His journey to save mankind…humbly and on the back of a donkey, as prophesied approximately five centuries earlier by Zechariah. Isaiah 53 prophesied that Jesus would not be physically attractive lest he appeal to the flesh of men. Even upon victorious entry into His beloved city to win back the souls of men from the evil one, He came quietly, and humbly. By reverently submitting to the ways of His Father, He would take back the keys of death and Hades from Satan (Revelation 1:12-18), and all men would receive an opportunity to accept Him as Lord and to inherit paradise.

In Matthew 23:11-12, Jesus teaches the crowd that whoever wants to be greatest among them must be their servant, and whoever exalts himself will be humbled. But whoever humbles himself for the sake of the kingdom will be exalted – and like everything Jesus taught, He was the perfect example of these words Himself. Jesus lived a quiet and humble life for His first 30 years, working as a carpenter and even during His ministry time, He wandered from town to town, city to city, on foot, without a home and with no possessions but the clothes on His back.

In Mark 12:41-43, Jesus noted, when it came to money, like in the story of the rich young ruler, Jesus sees deep into the heart of men. In this passage, both rich and poor were giving money to the temple, and a widow put in a single penny. Despite the fact that, in the world’s system of weights and measures, what she put in was almost nothing, in the eyes of Jesus it was everything because she had nothing more to give. She gave all she had, while the rich, who often made a show of their generosity and gave far bigger monetary sums, really only gave a tiny portion of what they owned. The heart of a man is what Jesus sees and it is what He wants.

In Luke 12:13-21, someone asked Jesus to tell his brother to split the family inheritance with him. Jesus responds by saying that the dispute in question is none of His business and notes that a man’s life does not consist of his possessions. The point of His response seems to be that Jesus did not come to resolve disputes among the rich. He came to give life – eternal life to those who will receive it, most of whom were poor.

Jesus then goes on to tell the tale of a rich man whose land produced plenty of crops, so he built huge barns to store all of his grain for the future. This man was very satisfied with himself, thinking that he was prepared for the future and could now relax and enjoy his life. Little did he know that the very night when he expressed his deep sense of security and self-satisfaction, that God required his life. Next, Jesus states that this is what happens to those who store up treasures for themselves on earth, but have not been rich in their hearts toward God. It is at this point in Luke when Jesus goes on to discuss how He clothes the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. He reminds His little flock not to worry, for the good shepherd is guarding them and it is His good pleasure to give them eternal life with Him.

The message of the parable of the rich fool is quite powerful. Frequently, we waste our lives building up wealth for what is ultimately, no matter how long we live, short-term satisfaction. We often neglect the important things that we have been given like the scriptures, our families, the glory and beauty of creation, and sharing the sacred soul-saving message of Jesus Christ with the people around us- all to build things that will one day burn to ashes. Why do we not instead, expend maximum effort building for eternity? Where we focus our time and our efforts on this earth reveals where our hearts truly are, no matter what we say with our mouths.

In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus. Jesus describes how the wealthy man had a sumptuous life, full of fine wine, food and clothing, while the poor man Lazarus had nothing, and begged for food every day, desiring even to have the crumbs off the rich man’s table. Lazarus was also covered with sores, which were licked by the dogs as he lay on the ground in agony.

However, Lazarus must have loved and trusted God, because, despite his extremely difficult life, when he died he was taken to be with Abraham in paradise. The rich man, who had a life full of wealth and pleasures, also died. Obviously, he did not see any need for God because of his wealth and comfortable life, and thus, he went to Hell for eternity. While in Hell, he was able to see Lazarus and Abraham together in paradise and he asked Lazarus for just a single drop of water to cool his tongue. Jesus then explained that, because the rich man did not trust God, but instead trusted in his wealth, he is forever separated from heaven and must live eternally in the fire of hell. Lazarus on the other hand, had nothing in this life but agonizing circumstances, yet he ended up in paradise with God forever. The obvious implication is that, even though he was scorned and rejected on this earth, and suffered greatly (this sounds very much like Jesus), he loved God in the depths of his heart… and inherited paradise.

This parable goes on to emphasize exactly how hard it is for a rich man to enter Heaven. When Abraham is asked by the rich man to go warn his brothers about the deceitfulness of wealth and the reality of hell, Abraham tells him that if they do not learn the truth about what God requires from the scriptures, which were readily available to them, they wouldn’t listen to a ghost returning from the dead either. That my friends, is quite the warning about the dark and consuming power of riches.

I think, unfortunately, that we will see a lot of this at the end of time, especially amongst the rich in the church who presume to be saved because of their temporal success and attendance at church and Bible study. I know that I personally, was the farthest away from Jesus in my heart when I was the most successful in business…but God was merciful enough to take that success away from me, that I might seek His face more earnestly and come to know Him and his surpassing love better, building up treasures in heaven where moths and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot come in and steal.

My kingdom is not of this world. John 18:36 … and neither is ours, thank goodness.

In Acts 20:25-37, Paul warned the flock about false prophets rising up from among the brethren. He reminded the people that they were purchased with the blood of Christ and were building an eternal inheritance through His word. To prove his sincerity and the purity of his motives, he reminded them that he did not seek anything material from them but with his own hands provided for all of his needs and also for the needs of others. He reminded them that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and he was embraced by the people with great emotion as he prepared to head to Jerusalem where he faced certain imprisonment and eventually, death.

Paul certainly provides us with a stirring example of how to build love and trust with other believers. He did not seek anything of material value from any of them, but simply nurtured them and taught them in purity and in truth, forging bonds of love and unity that only God can create.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Paul speaks boldly and clearly about the sharp contrast between the ways of God and the ways of the world. Unlike men, and even most churches, Paul stated that God chose the weak and foolish of the world as followers, not the rich and powerful.

Jesus knew that rich men are often proud and full of themselves, so He chose the weak and the poor. Poor men, especially back then, are rarely as concerned about their reputation as the wealthy since they are focused on survival from day to day, and as Proverbs says, the poor are often glad simply to have a friend. Jesus is honored to be their friend.

In 1 Corinthians 9:13-19, Paul noted that, although he does have the right to earn a living through his preaching, he rejected everything material from the believers in order to avoid the appearance of improper motives. He was willing to risk living without his needs being met in order to make sure that the purity of the Gospel remained intact. Paul summarizes his Christ-centered view of life, and specifically his perspective on temporal things, in Philippians 3:7-14, where he so eloquently states that he considered every single thing that was a benefit to him in this life a loss for the sake of Jesus Christ. He truly wanted to become like Jesus in his death…and so somehow to attain to the resurrection of the dead.

Paul didn’t just say these things with his mouth; he lived them every single day. He suffered all kinds of depravations and indignities, because he knew that he was living for an unimaginably glorious and eternal kingdom, one that cannot and will not ever be shaken. Instead of seeking material comforts, Paul pressed on toward the goal to win the prize of an eternity with Christ Jesus in Heaven (vs. 14).

In Romans 16:17-19, Paul warns the church to watch out for false and divisive teachers who preach certain things to serve their own fleshly appetites. (i.e. They preach what will make them rich).

In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul states that, despite his suffering in Philippi, he traveled onward to Thessalonica, where he continued to preach the Gospel which was a trust given to him by God. He, unlike preachers today, did not preach with flattering words or with a pretext for greed because he knew that God Himself was a witness to his actions. Instead, with gentleness among God’s precious people, he labored day and night so as not to be a burden on them in any way.

Once again, Paul proved with his actions that preaching Jesus in purity and truth was his only goal. He was not willing under any circumstances, to risk that goal by asking anything from the people he was caring for as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. The world desperately needs more leaders in Christ like this, who care nothing for recouping the cost of their seminary degree and then pursuing a nice middle class life on the backs of their flock, but instead consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

In 1 Timothy 2:10, Paul states that he was willing to endure all things for the sake of the elect so that they may obtain salvation and eternal glory.

Eternal glory in heaven with God was the gift he knew that God had given him to share with those who would listen, and give it he did, no matter the personal cost.

In 1 Timothy 6:5-6, Paul tells Timothy to withdraw from men of corrupt minds who suppose that godliness equals material wealth.

How many churches in the United States are filled with proud, wealthy men, who have far too much respect and influence from church leaders and parishioners, simply because they are successful businessmen? When one is wealthy, character and godliness are often presumed, while in reality, families, business partners, and Jesus Christ are frequently trampled under foot as the wealth and reputation of these men grow like terminal cancer. Their gospel of materialism spreads further and deeper into the church, and many hearts are drawn away from the things of Jesus to the temporary things of this world by these enticing lies. This is a foolish and wicked practice, which opens the door to heresy in the church by allowing in false doctrines, which appease the rich and bring in new attendees who hopefully become eager donors.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul tells Timothy to command those who are rich in this life not to be conceited nor to trust in uncertain riches, but instead to trust in the living God who generously gives us all things to enjoy. The wealthy should be rich in good works, and generous in all things, laying up for themselves a good foundation for an eternity with God.

In Hebrews 10:34, Paul reminds believers about the persecutions they have suffered and he specifically reminds them to joyfully endure the confiscation of their property knowing that they have in Heaven better and enduring possessions.

In Hebrews 11:8-16, Paul notes that by faith Abraham obeyed God and went into a new country, not knowing where he was going, for he was looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. Furthermore, Abraham’s descendants, not having received the promise, had faith, and desired a better country – a heavenly one – therefore God was not afraid to be called their God and He prepared an eternal city for them.

In Hebrews 13:5-6, Paul states that we should live our lives without the love of money and should be content with the things we have for God has said that He will never leave us or forsake us. We may all boldly proclaim that the Lord is our helper and we should not fear. What can man do to us?

In Hebrews 13:17-18, Paul has the people to whom the letter is addressed pray for him as he prepares to leave, and he asks that they specifically pray that in all things that he may deal honestly.

I appreciate the fact that Paul is aware of his own potential bad motives and the deceitfulness of his heart, and he wants to make sure that in all things he honors the Lord. He is not afraid to look bad by asking for prayer for this.

In James 1:9-11, James states that the poor man and the man of low status should rejoice in the fact that in Christ they are exalted. On the other hand, the wealthy man is made low and will pass away like grass. As the sun burns and withers the grass so will a man who trusts in wealth wither away and come to nothing.

In James 2:1-9, James implores the brothers to have faith in Christ without showing partiality to a rich man or to a man of high position. A rich man should not be given a position over a poor man since that is a type of judgment in God’s eyes. For God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He has made for those who love Him.

In James 5:1-6, James states that rich men should weep and howl for the miseries that they will suffer in eternity (See Lazarus and the rich man, above). Their wealth and their possessions are corrupted, and their gold and silver are corroded. That corrosion will be a witness against them and will eat their flesh like fire. The wages they have failed to pay the laborers who worked in their fields are crying out against them, and the Lord hears those cries. Many of the wealthy have lived in pleasure on this earth, straying from the path of truth.

1 John 2:15-18, tells us not to love the world, and that if anyone loves the world then the love of the Father is not in them. For everything in the world, the lust of the eyes, the boasting of what we have and do, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires will pass away, but the one who does the will of God will live forever.

Many of the above passages are a stinging indictment of the wealthy – many of whom fancy themselves “believers,” yet they have abused and underpaid God’s precious children in order to gain and store up wealth for themselves. That wealth will ultimately condemn them, and it will eat their flesh like fire, apparently in Hell.

In Revelation 2:9, Jesus Christ Himself praises the church in Smyrna. Although they are living in poverty and are suffering great persecution, the church is rich in the eyes of God because of their works on His behalf and because of the tribulations they are enduring in His name. Unfortunately, the opposite is true of the church in Laodicea (quoted at the top of this writing), which closely resembles our prosperity-oriented churches today. Jesus sternly warns the Laodicean church that they are lukewarm, storing up for themselves earthly wealth rather than spiritual treasures; therefore, Jesus is preparing to spit them out of His mouth if they do not repent. They have sought riches in this world and have stored up good things for themselves thinking they are in need of nothing. Jesus tells them, that, despite what they think of themselves, they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked in His eyes. He then counsels them to buy FROM HIM the gold of the Spirit refined in the fire, that they may truly be rich. May this passage be a warning to us all.

In Revelation 18:11-17, at the end of days, when Jesus pours out his wrath on the earth, the rich merchants of the world and those who lived for material goods will watch as everything they have longed for and hoarded is destroyed in an instant, forever.

The Psalms and Proverbs also have numerous scriptures teaching us about the deceit of wealth and about true, eternal riches.

In Psalm 19:7-11, David states that the law of the Lord is perfect, right, pure, true, and is to be much more desired than fine gold, and that by obeying the word comes great reward.

Psalms 49:5, states that those who trust in their wealth cannot redeem each other on the day of wrath, nor can they pay a ransom to God. The fool will perish, leaving wealth to others. The rich take nothing with them in death and their glory does not descend with them. Men of worldly honor, without the understanding of God, will perish.

In Psalm 52, David writes that God will forever bring down the man who does not make God his refuge but instead trusts in the abundance of his riches, growing strong in wickedness. Trust instead in the mercy of God for as long as you live.

In Psalm 119:127, the psalmist writes that he loves the commandments of God above gold. Almost the entire 176 verse Psalm speaks of the eternal value of the scriptures in the eyes of God.

There are also many, many proverbs that instruct believers that wisdom and understanding are like fine silver and gold, and that wealth does not profit a man on the day of wrath. My primary point of this writing is to make it as clear as possible that Jesus was not wealthy, did not look wealthy, and did not seek wealth – and neither did Paul. They both taught all of us time and time again, to put our trust in the hope of the everlasting Kingdom of God rather than in material possessions, which rot, corrode, and ultimately will burn. Jesus Himself lived what He preached, humbly and in poverty, and Paul followed His example. We too should follow the examples of Jesus and Paul, and reject every single voice on this planet that says otherwise.

EPILOGUE

The road to heaven is narrow for all of us, yet according to Jesus it is even narrower for a rich man (camel/eye of needle). Yet how many rich men do we all know who think that God has blessed them, and that they are headed straight for heaven? Will they, and those they have influenced, discover, to their horror, at the end of days that, like the rich fool, in the deep places of their heart, they really trusted in their wealth, and simply honored God with their mouths? I challenge all of us to take this message, and the gospel message of sin, repentance, forgiveness and love to all of those we care about who are caught in the deadly trap of wealth. Perhaps some might hear, turn and be saved from the fire, where no lie will stand and where the rich man will dwell forever, in agony, from which no ransom can ever be made.

Part 2:  Heaven: Your Best Life…Later Part 2

And on money and pastors/teachers:

Teachers, Preachers and Mammon: Money and the Ministry

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

Favorite scriptures #3: Whether the Lord Gives or Takes away…Blessed Be His Name! (Job 1)

Money and the Ministry: Teachers, Preachers and Mammon

                      Money and the Ministry:Teachers, Preachers and Mammon 

5 …Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth,supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.6 …Godliness with contentment is great gain.7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.        1 Timothy 6

14 Behold… I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you…. 2 Corinthians 12:14-15

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

    Jesus did not specifically address how leaders in Christ should approach soliciting – or even accepting money from their flocks, but he did teach all of us that we are to live only for the kingdom of God. He was an excellent example to us of what this should look like since He gladly gave up his glorious throne in heaven (See, Ezekiel 1), to live a sweaty, dirty life of abject poverty and even homelessness while on this earth. (See, Matthew 8:20; and John the Baptist’s poverty as an example of those who are great in God’s eyes,Luke 7:24-28). He also taught all of us that we should be willing to lose everything in this life in order to gain an eternal inheritance, where moths and rust can’t destroy it and thieves cannot break in and steal it…for where our treasure is, there also is our heart. Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus was not even close to an average middle class man. As Isaiah 53 states, there was nothing about Jesus’ external appearance that would make him desirable to mankind – he had neither good looks nor material wealth. He was born in a manger, in a barn, and he toiled with his hands as a carpenter for most of His adult life. In Luke 7:24-28, when the people who travelled to hear Jesus speak, asked him about John the Baptist, the greatest man born of woman, Jesus commented on his poverty, and told them that they should expect to find those who wear fine clothes in king’s palaces, clearly implying that those who are called to preach the message of His eternal kingdom should have nothing in common with either the wealthy or the rulers of this dying world.

When Jesus sent his beloved disciples to spread the message of the kingdom, he sent them out with nothing but the sandals on their feet and the tunics on their backs. He did not instruct them to ask for money but to simply go…and spread the message of the kingdom of God, knowing that the people who met them would, by the Spirit, provide for their needs. He made them trust, not in themselves, but in the one who meets all of our needs so graciously (Matthew 10:7; Luke 10:7-8).

Philippians 2:5-11, also sets forth Jesus’ attitude towards His time on Earth very clearly. In this passage, Paul states that Jesus did not consider His equality with God something to be keep Him from fulfilling his earthly purpose, but instead, He let go of that glory, making Himself of no reputation, taking the very nature of a servant being found in human form…and He was obedient all the way to a cold and brutal death on a hard, wooden cross. Likewise, Paul in Philippians 3:7-14, explained his attitude toward earthly wealth by stating that, whatever on this Earth was to his profit, he considered a loss for the sake of Christ. In fact everything was a loss to him compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord, for whose sake he gladly lost all of the things that the world cherishes.  Paul’s attitude towards life and eternity

Unfortunately, our culture and traditions have placed huge burdens and expectations on our churches and pastors. Pastors often have large debts from seminary and thus, come out of school, expecting to make a living from their church position not only to pay off their debt but also to cover the needs and wants of a typical middle class American. Churchgoers also demand endless programs for themselves and their families, and expect the pastor, as CEO, to provide for all of their emotional and spiritual needs along with offering trendy(read: worldly) media and worship – along with a staff to cover every possible area of ministry. As a result, money is required…often a great deal of money, and  Jesus Christ often becomes minimized or even transformed into a character that has little or no resemblance to who he really was, is and is to come in the Bible. While there certainly are some committed, humble pastors who don’t allow money (and the false teaching that accompanies it) to ruin their churches, in America that seems to be the exception and not the rule.

Fortunately for us, Paul, as a great apostle and teacher, specifically addressed how he lived and provided for himself as he travelled the world with his companions, laboring to preach the kingdom of Jesus Christ, regardless of the personal cost to him…and thus, by example, showing us what to expect from those who teach and preach to us in this present age. Paul didn’t seem to think that preaching should be a full time job, as we will see later, but instead, he viewed the gospel as a sacred trust, given to him by God, and thus, he had no problem laboring with his hands daily as a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3) in order to provide for himself as he preached. He was willing to suffer anythingin order to avoid raising questions about the purity of his heart towards his little flock…as the following scriptures will illustrate.

In Acts 20:22-37, Paul speaks to the Ephesian elders regarding his upcoming trip to Jerusalem, which he knows will result in imprisonment, afflictions, and eventually death. Yet those facts did not deter him from making the journey, as he boldly stated that he did not count his life valuable, if only he may joyfully finish the ministry he has received from Jesus Christ – to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God. Paul then goes on to warn the elders about the ravenous wolves that will spring up from amongst the brethren in an attempt to draw them away from the truth.

Paul also reminded the elders that God is preparing an eternal inheritance for His children, and that he, as an example to them, did not seek any material things from anyone, but instead, provided for all of his own needs and also for the needs of others, and he did this with his own hands…for as he said (and lived!), it is more blessed to give than to receive. As Paul was preparing to leave them, the elders crowded around him, embracing him, weeping…and kissed his neck. This beautiful picture of deep love through Jesus Christ – from the sheep to their shepherd – can only come through that very rare breed of teacher who speaks and lives with a pure, loving, and selfless heart.

In Romans 16:17-19, Paul tells the brethren to mark those among them who cause divisions and offences, which are contrary to the teachings they received from the apostles. Paul noted that some people do not truly serve Jesus, but instead are actually serving their own appetites through smooth talk and flattery in order to deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. He then praises them for their obedience and tells them to be wise in what is good and innocent towards evil.  Paul was warning the Roman believers, as he so often did to the other churches, to be on guard for greedy, false teachers who openly and often subtley, lie in order to obtain improper benefits for themselves from amongst the brethren.

In 1 Corinthians 4:1-17, Paul states that he has been given a trust by God and thus, must be a faithful steward of that trust. He then goes on to say that God has called him to be a fool for the sake of Jesus, like a man at the end of a procession, condemned to die in the arena. He says that as Apostles, he and his companions are willing to be despised, to be poorly clothed, to be beaten, and to be homeless. He states that he labors with his own hands, being reviled and being treated as the trash and the filth of the world, if only to spread the message of the gospel.

Paul’s point in this passage is that his one and only goal is to further the kingdom of Jesus Christ, despite severe and unending difficulties, which at one point while in Asia (per Acts) even caused him to despair of life itself. Furthermore, in verses 16 and 17, he implores believers (us included) to follow him and his ways. The suffering Paul brought on himself by his selfless attitude may be great…but in his eyes, they are far outweighed by the eternal reward he will receive in heaven. May we, along with those who instruct us, live for that eternal reward rather than for the temporary pleasures of this life.

In 1 Corinthians 9:14-19 (see, also Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7-8), Paul states that, while those who preach the Gospel do have a right to have their basic needs met from their teaching, he personally rejected that right in order to keep his message pure and to avoid being a burden on his flock. He states that he preaches the Gospel free of charge so that he can truly be emancipated from all men, and can serve everyone freely, that he might win even more to Christ. Winning more souls to Jesus Christ was his only purpose. His goals were not to win others to Jesus while maintaining a decent lifestyle. Every single thing on this planet was a loss to him except for knowing Jesus Christ and spreading that eternal message to others (Philippians 3:7-14)…so that perhaps, some might be snatched from the flames.

In 2 Corinthians 2:16-17, Paul noted that he and his followers were not like those who peddled the Gospel for profit, but instead, they trusted in the sufficiency of God to provide for their needs. They knew that they were sent by God himself and thus, would be cared for as God saw fit, in obvious contrast to those who preached primarily as a vocation. Because of this trust, Paul said that he and his companions were able to share the Gospel sincerely and without questionable motives.

In the above passage, I believe that Paul is, at a minimum, questioning the whole concept of preaching the words of God as a job. Paul never even considered soliciting one cent for his ministry work, despite the fact that he had been entrusted with the gospel by a visitation from Jesus himself – and despite a miserable material existence. Paul also seems to question the sincerity of those who teach and preach the eternal kingdom of God for material reasons, and I think we can see why he feels this way based on what we see in many of our churches today. While preaching and teaching the word of God may take place…the flow of money to fund lifestyles and trendy programs often slowly and quietly becomes more important, and the Jesus of the Bible and the hard truths of the word, slowly fade into the distance….

In 2 Corinthians 11:7, when distinguishing himself from false prophets and teachers, Paul again notes that he preaches the Gospel free of charge. In 2 Corinthians 12:14-16, the very next chapter, Paul tells the Corinthians that he does not seek anything of theirs, but instead, he simply wants them! He then gives an excellent analogy of how a teacher should view his flock by stating that parents (him) ought to lay up treasure for their children (them), and not vice-versa. Paul did not want to be a burden in any way on those he viewed as his precious children. What a beautiful heart this man had toward those God gave him to teach and to love! May we find men like him on this Earth.

In Philippians 4:10-16, Paul, despite the fact that he has no possessions to his name except for the clothes on his back, tells the Philippians that he has no needs of any kind. He then teaches them a deep truth of the spirit… that he has learned to be content in all circumstances, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or living in want. He has learned to do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens him. In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul expounds further on that thought by communicating what a blessing it is to be entrusted by God with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because he views it as a blessing and as a sacred trust, he makes it clear that he did not share the message with guile, flattery, as a pretext for greed or for the glory of men. Instead, he shared the Gospel for one purpose – to honor God, and he did so with great gentleness – sharing not only the Gospel with them, but his life as well.

When writing to the Thessalonian church Paul states that, he, Silas, and Timothy worked day and night so as not to be a financial burden to any of them. He says that the three of them behaved with purity, righteousness, and blamelessness amongst the believers. Paul then seems to make the point that, because of the integrity with which they lived among the people, they were able to exhort, comfort, and command everyone with love and integrity, just as a father does a child. They had earned the trust of the Thessalonians by their selflessness. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, Paul, when again discussing his visit to Thessalonica, condemns idleness and reminds the church that he and his fellow apostles were not lazy while amongst them, but worked tirelessly, toiling night and day that they might not be a burden to any of them. He then notes that, while they did have the right to receive something for their preaching, they gave up that right as an example for others to follow. Clearly, preaching with pure motives, and teaching others to do the same was an important goal of Paul’s ministry.

Shouldn’t those who want to teach us God’s word follow the example of purity laid out by Paul and his companions, who cared only about glorifying Jesus and thus, constantly refused to take anything from the precious flock lest their heart and motives be questioned and the message be spoiled? Paul was willing to do whatever it takes, even if that meant toiling with his hands night and day, to make sure that the message of Jesus Christ was preached with purity and power through the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Timothy 6:5-10, Paul seems to define what a teacher should consider as sufficient if he desires to receive a material benefit from the preaching of the Gospel. (see also, Matthew 10:7 and Luke 10:7-8). In this passage, Paul tells Timothy to avoid corrupt men who equate financial gain with godliness, because godliness with contentment is great gain. He reminds Timothy that we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. He also tells Timothy that those who desire to be rich often fall into temptation, and into many foolish and harmful lusts, which drown men in ruin and destruction. In verse 8, Paul then advises Timothy that, if he and Timothy have food and clothing, they should be content. I think that is an excellent instruction to those who seek to obtain anything material from their flock, and it is consistent with what Jesus said to his disciples when sending them out in Matthew and Luke (per the above citations).

In Titus 1:7-13, Paul, when describing what an overseer in Christ should be like, states that such a man should be blameless as a steward of God, hospitable, full of sound doctrine, and not greedy for dishonest gain. He notes that many deceivers, who must be silenced, subvert whole households by teaching for dishonest gain. Those people should be rebuked sharply so that they may be sound in the faith.

Peter addresses the issue of money and discipleship as well. In 1 Peter 5:1-5, Peter exhorts the elders of the church to shepherd the flock of God eagerly and willingly, and not for dishonest gain. He then teaches them not to lord their authority over the people, but instead to be examples to the flock, so that when Christ, the Chief Shepherd appears, they all will receive a crown of glory that will never fade away. Peter, like Paul, was reminding the church to focus on eternal rewards, and not on short-term temporal gain, lest the flock sense greed and reject the message of Jesus.

In 2 Peter 2:1-3 and 14-18, Peter warns the believers that many false prophets will appear blaspheming the way of truth and in their greed will exploit them with deceptive words. He goes on to state that these false prophets entice unstable souls, and that their hearts are trained in the ways of greed. They speak arrogant words of vanity, enticed by the lusts of the flesh and by depravity. We all need to heed Paul’s warning, and be on the lookout for this type of teacher by testing every sentence our leaders speak, and every demand they make, with the unchanging, everlasting word of God.

In light of the scriptures referenced above, and especially in the face of Paul’s willful and severe deprivations, shouldn’t we all be asking why so many of our pastors seek middle class lifestyles through the money they receive from their flocks? Aren’t they supposed to be teaching us (and themselves) to seek eternal rewards instead of storing up earthly possessions? Why then do they refuse to follow or even acknowledge the examples of Jesus and Paul, and take little or nothing from their disciples?

Clearly, scripture states that the apostles should be content with food and clothing if they take anything from their churches, but Paul refused even that! Perhaps the large buildings and the fancy programs should be abandoned and pastors should consider taking a job full time elsewhere, lest they become a burden on their flock, or worse – slowly become greedy polluting and weakening the gospel of Jesus Christ to suit their own needs and the itching ears of their congregations. Perhaps meeting in the homes of the flock, and redefining the role of pastor in order to meet the biblical example of a true church might be a radical, yet appropriate option. This would require a huge change in expectations on both the church and the pastor and will require each person to use their gifts more actively, rather than have one or two people up front doing all of the teaching, sharing, and shepherding.

The key problems that arise when money becomes an integral part of a “church” are that many pastors inevitably end up giving undue influence to wealthy donors who may or may not have good character in Christ, and/or allow false teaching to take root, in order to draw in more people who will be attracted to the worldly message which is often shrouded in Christian language. The unspoken hope is that the new attendees will start giving money as well, thereby perpetuating the worldly programs and of course, the ever increasing salaries.

Slowly and quietly money starts to breed corruption in the church, but Paul made certain that where ever he went there was never, ever even the slightest question regarding his motives for sharing the message of salvation through Jesus. Paul adored his flock, and he gave up everything to make sure that they knew they were loved. That is why, as his ministry wound down and he began his long march toward death, the elders in Ephesus embraced him lovingly, kissing him, and weeping knowing that the next time they would see him would be in the eternal kingdom he preached about so passionately.

While I certainly don’t have it all figured out, I do know that we, in the west, have ignored the biblical model of church and instead have largely followed more of a business model in establishing churches, despite the clear contradiction between that model and the church form as set forth by those who established the church in the years immediately after Christ ascended. Let us demand the same type of selflessness and humility from those who preach and teach us as Paul and his companions exhibited, and as church goers let us release our pastors from the unnecessary burdens we place on their shoulders so that we can all work together as a healthy and complete body of Christ. May our congregations begin to model those of the early churches, where large buildings, wealthy pastors, cool and attractive worship leaders, big stages and flashy programs were absent, but…the sharp and flashing double-edged sword of the word was relentlessly preached.

EPILOGUE

In Acts 9:31, Luke notes that the early church grew when the people were…edifying each other and were walking in the fear of the Lordand the comfort of the Holy Spirit. I cannot say that I have seen many churches that are edifying each other in the truth of the gospel and are walking in the fear of the Lord. Instead, what seems to be popular these days, in order to encourage growth(and donations) all while earning  the acceptance of the worldly masses, is preaching a weak, temporal success oriented message, with eye catching media and worship that mirrors the ways of this wicked world. The message of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” is rarely if ever heard, while false, “positive” teaching and so-called “prophecies” are omnipresent. Every one wants a reputation…either as a healer or as a prophet. Yet Jesus was of no reputation and Paul considered his status as jewish royalty (Philippians 3:4-5) rot.False Prophets and Teachers: Wolves Among Us

When I think of walking in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, I think of living in a place of trust with God – not trying to squeeze every dollar possible out of every attendee, and most certainly not watering down the word of God to attract more people. As Jesus Christ said, when He is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself. May we lift up Jesus Christ as He truly is in the word, and nothing else, regardless of the financial cost.

Tithing and the New Testament

The Deceitfulness of Wealth: Your Best Life…Later Part 1

Ecumenicism: Praying With People from Other Religions

***Favorite Scriptures #4*** – God chose the weak and the foolish things of the world to shame the strong and the wise. ( 1 Corinthians 1:17 – 2:5)

                                                      The Way of the World…And the Way of God

 

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.  

1 Corinthians 1:27-29

  No scripture quite annihilates the patterns of this world – and sadly modern Christianity – as powerfully and as comprehensively as 1 Corinthians 1:17 – 2:5. In that passage, which I will quote in full below, Paul expounds, in clear and incisive language, on how exactly God chose and chooses to influence this world. It is a direct indictment of every earthly institution – including the modern church. He does not use the rich, the eloquent, the beautiful and the powerful. Instead, God chooses the weak and the foolish and the broken. He chooses empty things and lonely things, and things that are not to nullify the things that are so that no one…may boast before him.

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Chapter 2

 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

 The world, including, in very large part, our churches and Christian organizations, send us the message that we are to admire and follow the lead of successful businessmen, “Christian” politicians, the talented, the athletic, the wealthy and the beautiful. We are taught, in word and by example, to uphold those with obvious temporal gifts, and leaders are chosen accordingly. Why do we do this when it is contrary to everything we see in the scriptures? The Apostle John tells us “flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit to spirit.” (John 3:6). Yet time and time again, we as believers choose the temporal, the flesh, over the spiritual, when it comes to those we follow and admire.

Jesus was born to teenage parents…in a barn. He spent most of his life performing manual labor as a carpenter. Isaiah 53 makes it clear that he was not physically attractive so that people would not be drawn to his outward appearance – but to his spirit. During his time of ministry Jesus said that, even foxes and birds have holes and dens in which to live, yet He had no place to rest his head. The Living God did not even have a place to call home in while on this earth. The Apostle Paul, among others, followed this example and traveled the known world on foot and by cargo ship, seeking, not to gain wealth or temporal power but only to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that perhaps, some might be saved…for Paul was looking to an eternal kingdom, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the city of the living God. (Hebrews 12:22).

Jesus chose his disciples from among the uneducated and the despised. He chose fishermen and a tax collector to become the preeminent leaders in the kingdom of God. He chose men who were nothing in this world, to sit in judgment over the twelve tribes of Israel at the end of the age. Why didn’t Jesus choose successful merchants, political leaders – or even priests and military officers to be his disciples? Because such men were already full – full of pretense, and power, wealth and the admiration of men – just like the wealthy and the powerful today.

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven…very difficult. Why? Because their reputations and hopes are built on worldly achievements that have earned them, temporarily, financial security, the respect of men, and earthly power. Flesh truly does give birth to more flesh, and absent great brokenness and great humility, wealth and power are very difficult fates to escape.

In my experience I have rarely, if ever, seen a successful businessman or an influential person in the temporal sense, truly become a disciple of Christ – counting everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, for whose sake Paul gladly lost all things. (Philippians 3:7-14) I have seen such men engage in church meetings and Bible studies, building friendships and gaining knowledge – and even tipping a little of the pride and wealth out of their full cup. But typically it seems that the purpose of this activity is to have better relationships with family, learn new principles of leadership and gain new friends – and even business partners – rather to than to learn what it means to fall face down in humility and repentance before the consuming fire who is the Living God.

Even in our churches, it is the beautiful and the hip who take center stage leading worship and often preaching. The deacon and elder boards are filled with successful businessmen who contribute financially to the church and thus, have more control than any man deserves…not because of their character in Jesus Christ, but because of money and standing in the community. The eloquent and the clever speak and teach…yet Paul came in weakness and fear and with much trembling so that his message and his teaching would not rest on his wisdom…but on God’s power. Unfortunately, the western church may have gained much of the world by embracing its culture and methods…but it has also perhaps, forfeited its soul. May we not do the same.

Portraits of Jesus Christ in the word: Who Exactly is our God?

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

Teachers, Preachers and Mammon: Money and the Ministry

 

 

 

 

Favorite Scriptures #3 – Whether the Lord gives or takes away…blessed be his name! (Job 1)

In the darkest, most emotionally painful moment of my adult life, when I was lonely, broken and afraid, the Lord led me to an Old Testament book I rarely read…Job. He didn’t send me to Job because I, in any way resembled Job and the honor with which he handled the unprecedented personal destruction allowed by God on his life. I was sent to Job in order to fully grasp the righteousness and sovereignty of our great God, whether I have plenty or am in need, whether I am full of joy or lying on the floor in such great pain that it feels like emotional death.

My circumstances do not change the absolute truth that God is sovereign, loving and glorious. In ALL things and at all times the great and Living God is to be praised. The scripture quoted below begins the moment Job is told that, not only are all his children dead, but every cent of his wealth gone…. 20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

What an amazing disposition toward God in the midst of these horrific losses. What an unbelievable statement of faith, while in deep, deep despair – and with no end in sight to his misery. Even in what must have felt like total condemnation from God and rejection by God, Job embraced the one and only eternal truth that will remain after this world burns…God alone is sovereign in all things…and at all times… blessed be His name!

The above passage from Job 1 absolutely destroys the perspective on “christianity” that is held by so many in the western world. Somehow we think that God’s purpose is to bless us and prosper us materially. Here, the wealthiest man in the world loses literally everything he has and loves, and his wife and friends tell him that God is against him and that he should curse God and die…but he refuses. He stands with God in his pain and does not abandon the faith. His hope is not in prosperity or even in earthly health and happiness…his hope is in God alone. His hope was truly in an eternal kingdom that can never, ever be shaken, with the One who made all things and who promises glory, peace and joy forever and ever to those who love him with their hearts, not just their mouths. Surely God was testing Job’s heart by destroying everything…everything he held dear on this earth. Would we pass this test? If we know that we would not, I would go to to quiet place before the Lord, fall on my face and beg Him to transform my heart by his Holy Spirit so that whether he gives – or chooses to take away everything I hold dear, I can say, even in anguish…Blessed be the name of the Lord!!

Favorite Scriptures #1: Paul’s Perspective On This Short Life (Philippians 3:7-14)

The Deceitfulness of Wealth: Your Best Life…Later Part 1

Forgiveness: To The Merciful, God Shows Himself Merciful

Favorite Scriptures #1 – The Purpose of Life: Paul’s attitude towards life in light of what Jesus Christ did for him (Philippians 3:7-14)

When I was I was in my late teens, I was given Philippians 3:7-14, to memorize by a friend. As soon as I read that passage I knew that I had been given powerful, life-altering truths that would change the way I approached Jesus Christ forever. It was like a sharp double-edged sword of truth had been thrust deeply into my youthful selfishness, pride, greed, and lust. For the past 25 years there has rarely been a day when I haven’t quoted at least a part of that passage to myself. I still don’t live these verses as much as I’d like to…but I am praying that the spirit will continue to work their truths into me as I meditate on them day and night:

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The thought that every single thing on this earth that profits the flesh…everything – whether wealth, temporal power and success, athletic ability, good looks, perfect families, etc. – or even for a second allows me to put my hope and confidence in anything other than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…is a loss, resonated deep within me. Yet at the same time I knew that I did not -and cannot- think as Paul thinks, absent a massive work by the Holy Spirit. I don’t have Paul’s heart towards this life or towards God – but I long too because what Paul says so eloquently and powerfully is true. I can feel the strength, peace, and truth that rest in those words of surrender and yearning for a life completely hidden in God, every single time I read or recite them. Yet I know that my flesh doesn’t really want to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, becoming like him in his death. But I want to want to…desperately, and the more broken I become as a result of my failures in striving to grasp at the lies of this world instead of Jesus, the more I am able to understand how Paul can really mean what he says. Yet Paul knows that not even he “has already been made perfect” or has fully taken hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him. In that I can take comfort.

This passage ends beautifully and hopefully, reminding me that I am forgiven each day as I walk in the Spirit, and that I can continually put my failures behind me as I live…earnestly seeking the face of Jesus…. “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

The Deceitfulness of Wealth: Your Best Life…Later Part 1

Heaven: Your Best Life…Later Part 2