I was reading Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, and I found something in the fourth chapter that intrigued me:
I don’t write these things merely to make you feel uncomfortable, but that you may realize facts, as my dear children. After all, you may have had ten thousand teachers in Christian faith, but you cannot have many fathers! For in Jesus Christ I am your spiritual father through the Gospel; that is why I implore you to follow the footsteps of me your father. I have sent Timothy to you to help you in this. For he himself is my much-loved and faithful son in the Lord, and he will remind you of those ways of living in Christ which I teach in every church to which I go. (I Corinthians 4:14-17)
This is certainly different from modern preachers. They habitually avoid making you feel uncomfortable, yet Paul was apologizing, but certainly making them feel uncomfortable. As the late Leonard Ravenhill stated:
We’re living in an unprecedented day (when) evil is no longer evil. We’ve changed the terminology– iniquity is now infirmity; wickedness is now weakness; devilry is now deficiency.
A Roman Catholic priest startled us not very long ago by saying that for 25 years he had been sitting in the confessional, listening to the confessions of men and women. He said he heard (of) murders, rapes, adultery, and fornication. He met men and women who have broken every law of God and man with repetition. But never in 25 years had anyone ever confessed to be covetous. Covetousness! We wrap it up and call it ambition. We may call it business or something, but right down in the middle of those things is a rotten word called “covetousness.” Paul called it idolatry!
Wow! That may offend some of you . . . but what was Paul saying that could have possibly made them uncomfortable? Well, he wrote:
As I see it, God has placed us apostles last in line, like people condemned to die. We have become a spectacle for people and angels to look at. We have given up our wisdom for Christ, but you have insight because of Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are honored, but we are dishonored. To this moment, we are hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, roughly treated, and homeless. We wear ourselves out doing physical labor. When people verbally abuse us, we bless them. When people persecute us, we endure it. When our reputations are attacked, we remain courteous. Right now we have become garbage in the eyes of the world and trash in the sight of all people
Wow, that is tough. Now I am going to address a pet peeve of mine that I have mentioned on previous messages, but you see, I do not approve of the religious titles we apply to ourselves. You know, “Apostle So-and-So;” “Evangelist Do-Dad;” or “Bishop Whoever.” Those of you who wear the title of “Prophet (or Prophetess); or even “Pastor” or “Teacher.” Who are you trying to impress? Not me.
If your particular “gift” is prophecy, then prophesy and quit having the attention brought to your gift. As I tell people, I am not a “Diabetic.” I may have diabetes, but I am not my affliction. You are not your particular calling. In fact, you don’t even own that office. It was given to you to use to give Glory Christ, and to uplift the Church! (And, by the way, I can tell you from personal experience, He can remove that gift from you just as easily!). Oh, I know that for some it is just verbiage, but the principle is very important. When I hire someone to repair my plugged sinks, I don’t call him “Plumber Bob,” I call him Bob. But let’s be honest and admit it. having that “title” in front of our name is kind of “heady.” But aren’t we to boast that be belong to Christ, and not that we were given a particular gift?
Paul says that he was placed as an apostle, but he never asked for special treatment or deluxe accommodations at the Jerusalem Astoria. No, he expected to be “last in line,” like someone “condemned to die,” “dishonored.” He stated that he was “hungry,” “thirsty,” “poorly dressed.” But if you look at some of the modern preachers they drive BMWs and wear $500 suits! Do you see a problem here?
Yes, some affectionately call me “Pastor,” but I have never asked them to, it is simply out of their respect for me (and I am deeply honored). But note, that is how they address me. They never introduce me as “Pastor Nickolas.”
I don’t know who wrote it, but it certainly reflects what has become of the church:
“The church began as a movement in Jerusalem. It became a philosophy in Greece, an institution in Rome, a culture in Europe and, when it came to America, it became a business… a highly profitable business. But God is coming back for a movement.”
What else does Paul say? He says that when people abuse him, he “blesses them.” How about those of you who wear the titles, when you are criticized or abused in some way, do you “bless them,” or call your attorney? When people persecute you, do you endure it, or fight back? When your reputation is attacked, do you remain courteous, or talk about them in your next sermon? Paul demonstrated a different attitude even though he knew that in the eyes of the world he was garbage. Are you wiling to accept that?
Hey, those of you who have a prophetic gift, use it to glorify the Lord, don’t wear it as a badge of honor. Those of you who share the Gospel, there is no need for you to advertise yourself as an Evangelist, just go out and evangelize.
What I am getting at is that we need to “get over ourselves.” Begin to give all the glory to Jesus, instead of trying to draw attention to yourself. The Psalmist understood this when he cried out, “It does not belong to us, Lord. The glory belongs to you because of your love faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1)
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.