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“28 The wicked flee when no one pursues,
But the righteous are bold as a lion.”
Proverbs 28:1 (NKJV).
“16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
Matthew 10:16 (NKJV).
Every day brings about new circumstances, and those circumstances give us a new set of potential obstacles to persevere over. Often times these situations will bring people in our path that challenge us in regard to upholding our integrity. Did my fellow Poker player try to share with me the pictures of a promiscuous woman in scantily clad or no clothes? Did I arrive to the beach only to see rows of girls in thongs or topless, who may provoke lust if I am not reliant on the self-control of the Holy Spirit to help me evade them? Did a friend see you at the stop light on the street, rev up his/her engine, and entice you to speed beyond the legal limits? Did you watch a Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, or other Prosperity Gospel preacher teach you false doctrine? Did you observe the teachings of false doctrine at your local community college or in the university? Were you taught with an authoritative sounding voice that evolutionary theory assumptions towards origin were as sure as gravity? Did you get caught up in trying to earn your way to Heaven through false doctrine revolving around works based salvation, that reared its ugly head in circumstances with friends, extended family, or corrupt churches?
Have you picked up a Bible to immerse yourself in the infallible, incorruptible, timeless truth of God’s Word and measured all these things against it? Can you see that when you have discovered the truth of the Almighty God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – there’s literally nothing else on the face of the earth that will satisfy you? Did you approach it from a position of humility or pride?
“6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6. (NKJV).
We need to humble ourselves to approach God’s Word, and let it sink in to our core, so that we allow His truth to guide our steps.
You see the nature of humanity is depraved, sinful, and fallen. God resuscitated us from being dead in our trespasses, and we died with Jesus Christ. We rose again with Him as a new creation, and now we have the capacity to be led by His Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit that in dwells us as believers. We need to rely on Him for all the fruits of the Spirit, but as it pertains to not allowing wolves in sheep’s clothing, or any sort of wolves to pervade our minds for that matter, we need to continually rely on the Holy Spirit to provide for us. We need to follow Him each and every day; otherwise we get caught up in the idea of self-confident foolishness.
“2 A fool has no delight in understanding,
But in expressing his own heart.”
Proverbs 18:2 (NKJV).
Sometimes I feel a sense of pride about my capacity to write or other vastly more futile areas of skill, giftedness, or past accolades. How foolish to get caught up in my own capacity, when I know that it isn’t even mine. It’s God’s gift and He can give and take away His gift as He desires to. The beauty is that He cannot take away the gift of our salvation, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. There’s a distinction between a temporal gift and an eternal one. If it brings God glory to remove something from you in this life, then He will do that. I am thankful for the capacity that He has given me, and I hope to focus on delighting Him, but I know that I need to remain humble as He helps me to do so. Without Him I know I am nothing, and anything I can do that has any value or eternal substance, is because God allowed it to happen by working in, with, and through me to His good pleasure.
This is why the clear antidote here is the opposite of this outlook, an outlook of humility. Delight in understanding, or in other words be a lifelong learner and thirst for righteousness. Also, not to desire to always express oneself, defend oneself, or desire to be a slave or puppet to the fickle opinion of men. No matter what you do, you’ll always have natural enemies. As a simple result of being a believer, you’ll have people that choose to love and hate you, simply because of what you stood for. To borrow a quote from Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain:
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something sometime in your life.” – Winston Churchill
The Bible promises those who please God safety in Proverbs, and likewise corroborates the words of Churchill in this sentiment in Luke as well:
“7 When a man’s ways please the Lord,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Proverbs 16:7 (NKJV).
“26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets.”
Luke 6:26 (NKJV).
Whether you’re standing alone for the sake of the Gospel, or with many allies as God provides, you need to come to the recognition that it’s not the quantity of people standing with you that makes it worth fighting for. If God told you to stand up for something, and you know that which you are standing for is correct, you need nobody else to support you. Likewise, if millions happen to be standing for what is right, all the merrier that God would hopefully extend His mercy and grace towards those people for being upright. The key is not to allow the flow of cultural whims to guide your convictions, but rather to allow the moral compass of God – His revealed Word, to provide us the guidance necessary to accomplish His will. Prayerfully consider what He would have you do to avoid being devoured by the wolves, and take solace in the fact that He will never contradict His will.
In regards to environmental factors, we need to be sober and vigilant. Likewise we need to make sure that the conversation isn’t causing more damage to us, over God’s help in influencing them through us for good. Likewise, we also need to take a step back from toxic environments, so that we are solidly fed spiritually and prepared to wage spiritual warfare when the time comes. I have noticed in myself timidity as of late in regard to explaining that using the Lord Jesus Christ’s name in vain is a serious offense to God. At the Poker game, I noticed this fly around at least 2-3 times in recent games, and it really bothered me. I didn’t point it to their attention, but I should have at least explained to them the severity of their offense in the eyes of God. After that, of course I know they have free will and freedom of speech to express themselves, as they so desire. They simply need to come to the recognition that they won’t be answering to me, but rather to God on the Day of Judgment. Hopefully if they come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, they will not need to worry about the ramifications of their past sin. Since we know they will have been covered through saving faith, as they repent, and trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior for their eternal salvation.
Often times I will say it’s the safe, but prudent choice, to restrain one’s tongue. Especially if we’re in an unfamiliar environment, or if we believe that our words might be too numerous. I make the mistake quite frequently to provide too many details, but I recognize that when words are many sin is not absent, on the basis of God’s Word. This means to me that I need to rely on God to help me to be cautious when I am speaking much, because I know that everything will be taken into account.
“19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.”
Proverbs 10:19 (NKJV).
I am thankful that God is merciful, gracious, loving, and infinitely understanding of me so that I am not judged harshly. I am also thankful that my sins have been forgiven; God helps me to repent by the lead of His Holy Spirit and gentle correction. I aim to embrace them at all times. I want to abide in God, because I know that when I do so, His yoke is easy and His burden is light according to Matthew 11:30.
In the end even when our reputation is compromised in the eyes of man, it’s best to choose to remain right with God. However, we know according to Proverbs, that often we can retain the esteem of both God and man.
“My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
2 For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.
3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
4 And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”
Proverbs 3:1-6 (NKJV).
Question whether your interaction with the people who are potentially toxic, misleading, peer pressuring, or otherwise potentially weakening you in your faith are worth the risk from your vantage point. From the perspective of general ministry, and winning souls for Jesus Christ, everyone is worth the risk. It’s simply not always our call to go where we think it’s best for us to go, and it’s not a timeless endeavor that we need to remain at a place where God specifically called us to go at one point. We need to continually ask where God calls us, where we should go, what He wants us to do, and how He wants us to do it. I need to trust God more, and be certain that he and not I manage the details. I know that I am finite, and I recognize my many limitations, but with God I am constantly being molded, polished, and refined into the precious diamond He desires for me to be.
Remember we’re not lions on our own, we are only as bold as lions when we have the Holy Spirit in us, because we’re God’s children. He is the Lion of Judah, and we’re the sheep. We need to pray for the sheep in wolves clothing to repent of what they’re doing, and God willing come to the recognition of the limitations of what they’ve done. As long as we’re all alive and breathing there’s still time to get right in the eyes of God. If you watch one of Joel Osteen’s sermons for instance, it may not be individually harmful, but there’s most certainly a lack of comprehensiveness to his preaching. I would personally elect to refrain from watching any.
At one point I was a fan of his, I own two of his books, and used to watch his sermons on a regular basis. Eventually I came to the recognition of the limitations involved with his ministry. You hardly ever hear him talk about the devil, demons, repentance, the reality of Hell, or take Proverbs in an accurate context. When he is given an opportunity to speak boldly about Jesus being the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and no one coming to the Father except through Him, did Joel Osteen refer to John 14:6 or did he give a tactful, politically correct reply? Thankfully at least the caller on Larry King pointed it out boldly. Unfortunately on Oprah, he also said Jesus is the only way to God, but then he said there are “many ways to Jesus”. That’s a tactful [read: deceiving] way of saying there are many ways to God, because Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Look it up on YouTube, see for yourself. Oprah and Larry King had interviews with Joel Osteen. Larry King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKF_QgNezBY. Oprah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XXUfTNCkzc.
Sometimes the wolves are in sheep’s clothing, or in other words they are masquerading around as preachers, false teachers, and even pastors who have infiltrated our lines. I don’t desire to judge anyone harshly, but these facts seem to speak for themselves. Other times the wolves are clearly wolves and don’t hide it, at least those wolves are not being disingenuous about what they stand for. Guard your heart, mind, and actions as you come across wolves of any form in your life. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. [Read: 1 John 4:4]. We don’t have to fear man, we only fear God. There’s no need to fear man [anxiety, terror, panic, irrational fear], the opinions of man, or anything man can do to you – when you fear the One who created us [reverence, worship, respect, and awe.] We are called to be bold and unashamed for the cause of Jesus Christ, don’t allow the devil and his demons to discourage you from being a light in the midst of the wolves. Hopefully they will repent, and join us as part of His flock, if God so desires to call them. We still have an opportunity for revival, as far as the human vantage point is concerned, we don’t know what God has in store for us, but part of that revival requires humility and prayer.
“14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV).
We also need to extend the grace and forgiveness to those who seek to genuinely repent of their sin, and to be transformed by God. Not idolizing anyone, nor looking down upon anyone, but looking at everyone without being a respecter of persons. This is much easier said than done, and that’s why we need to be sure to extend grace to one another, as we cannot claim to be able to peer into a man’s heart to determine its true motivations. It’s within the scope of possibilities that Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar could have the utmost intentions, but intentions aren’t enough to make false doctrine correct. We are called as believers to reproof, correct, gently restore, and bring people to understanding without compromise. This isn’t a personal vendetta, but rather a PSA (Public Service Announcement) sort of post for fellow believers, who deserve to be informed about compromised teaching or teachers.
“10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:10-17 (NKJV).
Let’s balance these realities of scripture as they pertain to exercising good judgment, in a way that intends to build up rather than destroy. Building up for its own sake, not revolving around ulterior motives or flattery, but rather to meet the end of what God desires for all of us. Let us also be open to these admonitions upon ourselves, when there are times where we may also arrive a point of needing the same or similar kinds of rebuke. We are imperfect human beings, but such imperfections are no excuse to propagate God’s Word in a manner that doesn’t properly convey its truth.
To borrow a quote from C.S. Lewis:
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis
Jim’s vantage point on False Prosperity Gospel teachings for your reading convenience: