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When We Are Led Astray

Most of us would say deception is everywhere today, and fake news is the norm. Yet even though that may be true, I think deception is as dangerous coming from good things as it is coming from the cults.

That’s right, good things! I am personally less aware of how good things deceive me because they are good and good is still good. Yet I am convinced that there are good things that are replacing the importance of God in my life. No good Christian replaces God entirely, we simply add to our list of things that represent God and in time that list becomes more important that God.

Where is the scriptural precedent for this? 

Revelation 2:2-5 “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

The church of Ephesus was extremely successful and no one would argue that their success wasn’t an important contribution to the Christian cause of their day.  Yet, their ministry of doing good was a deceptive element of removing Jesus from being first in all they did. It was a big mistake and that’s why I want to tell you about my list that represents God and why it is so deceptive. 

Here is a typical list of good things, that left unchecked, could compete for the love we have for God:

Loving Ministry: Ministry is a good thing, but when it becomes the object of our love rather than our love for God, we are being deceived. Many times people fall in love with the benefits of ministry, which meets a need for being needed. Being needed is not a Christian virtue - serving is a Christian virtue, but if we twist these around, being needed is the wrong motive to doing ministry.

Loving Recognition: When leadership has an ego that needs to be recognized, you have a narcissist at the helm. Leadership that has an ego to be stroked is no better than anyone who takes a bribe. Narcissism is taking a bribe for being a leader and many leaders could not lead unless the bribes keep happening. You may say that is cruel, but I say when you have a narcissistic leader leading you, do you not have a person that God, resists because of pride? (James 4:6-7)

Loving Prosperity: We love things and things make us feel good about ourselves. It is a false sense of value, but we still love to be surrounded by nice things. Church property is a nice thing to have and to own. Yet property can create a stress that motivates us to think differently about people and their value to the church. No pastor is honest enough to say that they treat the wealthy of the church differently than the single mother. If that happens, it is a rare character to behold. Debt liabilities of churches can change the way ministry is done and how the message of the pulpit can even change.

Loving Knowledge: Respect has to be earned and the way we get respect is by our ability to know things. We require higher degrees for our pastors, and yet the scripture says we should have men of character leading our churches. There is quite a disconnect between these two streams of thought. I don’t think education is bad, but education is not the standard for Christian leadership, character is.  (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

Some education can be the greatest culprit that challenges faith. There is a reason we see so few miracles today in our churches compared to churches in the developing world. Could it be we have overeducated our leaders who lead our churches and their education doesn’t allow them the freedom to just trust God?

Loving Power: How many of us have been in a church dispute? Most of the time it is about who has the power to direct the ministry. We love to have the power to control the outcome of the ministry, spend the money, and be in charge of the direction the ministry should take. Yet it seems to me that the only power that should be associated with any ministry or church should be that of the Holy Spirit. However some even use Him as a scapegoat for control by simply using words like: “the Spirit told me”. Loving or seeking power is not a good thing for most people to pursue because it usually destroys them.

Loving Success: To be admired by others is a good thing especially if the person who is being admired is a humble servant of God. Too often that is not the case but instead we want to be known for the success of our ministry or the size of our church or the influence of our name among the brethren. How does this attribute sow godliness? How do any of these on the list so far sow into godliness? That is my point - these good things will and do replace God and become deceptive elements in our Christian walk.

Loving Values: This one is a bit tricky because everyone loves values and principles. Yet like some of our doctrines they can become more important than God. It is true that values and doctrine are important, but how they are used and how important they become is what is worth reviewing. Too often we will not have fellowship with people who do not believe like we do and it separates rather than builds. I am not suggesting we abandon our values, but I am suggesting that we don’t place those values on the same level as God.

I think you get the point of this blog. Not easy to read, and you may disagree, but prayerfully consider if our ways have lead us astray from our first love.

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

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