And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. Matthew 24:4
Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. “For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” Mark 4:24-25
Jesus Christ the author of the Christian faith warned all to take heed of things including about what they hear from God and others. As a matter of fact everything that any child of God hears from anybody about what is supposed to be true or the truth is to be checked with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who is their Counselor, Friend, Teacher and Guide. The Holy Spirit alone is the Authority for all truths, commands and directives that might be given to them by anyone. He alone is God and the all sufficient one and they need no one else! God’s word is unchanging:
And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. “But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. “And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:5-11
So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5:25-29
The Apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost and were teaching the people and the religious ones didn’t appreciate this and commanded them not to teach in Jesus name. But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” The Holy Spirit alone is the Commander of His servants and of His church and no other! God alone is our Lord and to Him we give account and not to a mortal men who are here today and gone tomorrow. The clergy was not created to rule over the laity or anybody else. And Jesus was aware of this spiritual abuse in His day. He chose twelve untrained disciples who were not of the elite class of the day including Pharisees, scribes and lawyers. He told His the multitudes and His disciples:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. “They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, “greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:1-12
The religious and political leaders of Jesus day were quite educated but Jesus still called them fools and blind ones (Matthew 23:17,19). In other words just because a man is educated doesn’t mean he is not a fool especially if he doesn’t acknowledge that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” Unfortunately for them even many of God’s people are fools because they despise wisdom and instruction from others and especially His apostles and prophets. They feel their special position as pastor, preacher, church leader, choir member or church usher has made above reproach and they are accountable to no one but God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put his finger on one of the greatest dangers to the modern society including the church.
Every personality cult that is concerned with important qualities, outstanding abilities, strengths, and the talents of someone else—even though these may be thoroughly spiritual in nature—is worldly and has no place in the Christian community. Indeed, it poisons that community. The demand one hears so often today for . . . “powerful personalities” springs too often from the spiritually sick need for the admiration of people, for the erection of visible structures of human authority, because the genuine authority of service seems too unimportant (Life Together, p. 108).
The word of God encourages us to have the attitude in ourselves Christ Jesus had including that nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind we are each to esteem others better than ourselves. And we are to look out not only for our own interests, but also for the interests of others. God’s word is unchanging:
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11
Many seek the ruler’s favor, But justice for man comes from the LORD. Proverbs 29:26
Jesus wasn’t predictable. He didn’t ask His disciples to sacrifice their wages to build a bigger house for Himself, nor did He merely talk a good line. He healed blind eyes and withered limbs, and raised the dead. He walked on water and calmed stormy seas. Over and over, in so many ways, He showed Himself worthy of a following–not just by talking about faith and self-sacrifice and the endtimes, but by the miracles He did. He proved He was God’s sacrifice for our sins when, after voluntarily allowing Himself to be nailed to an executioner’s cross, He rose bodily from the dead to show that He was King of kings and Lord of lords. As part of His legacy, He left a band of disciples who were willing to live and die for their testimony that together they had seen Him alive after His resurrection. Together they bore witness to One whose teaching and example has become the measure of those who are dangerous and those who are not. [xi]
Spiritual abuse is quite common in many churches in America. When spiritual abuse takes place in any congregation it is time to go. No one should ever be spiritually abused. We all know of pastors who abuse and we know a lot of pastors who are emotionally and spiritually abused by congregations. And many righteous ones with the wisdom that God has given them have protested about spiritual abuse and the rights of the sheep such as Rev. Jack Cascione, The Voters’ Assembly Is Invested With Authority from God, who stated:
‘Thus writes St. Paul (1 Cor. 3:21-23): ‘Therefore let no one glory in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come-all are yours. And you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.’ From this [passage] we learn that all things that even Paul and Peter had were only treasures from the jewel room of the believing Christians or of the church.” (“Church and Ministry” C.F.W. Walther, 1851, CPH 1982, page 50)
“However, this equality of believers is abrogated and the church is changed into a secular organization if a minister demands obedience not only to the Word of Christ, his one Lord and Head and that of all Christians, but also to what his own insight and experience regard as good and suitable. As soon, therefore, as adiaphora or things indifferent, that is things that are neither commanded nor forbidden in God’s Word, come in question in the church, a minister may never demand absolute obedience to what merely appears to him to be best” (“Church and Ministry” C.F.W. Walther, 1851, CPH 1982, page 312)
“It follows from these statements of Scripture that the congregation of believers enjoys a sovereignty under Christ which are not to be restricted or limited in any way. Christians may not be made subject to a minister or a priest, because they are all ministers and priests in their own right who have the privilege of approaching God directly. ” (“The Abiding Word”, Alfred von Rohr Sauer, Volume III, CPH 1947 page 306)
“As such they (congregations) possessed all the gifts and rights of the Church which Christ has bestowed upon it. Specifically, the function of the Christian congregation is to administer the means of grace in its midst and to serve in this world for the conversion of the sinner to God. This is nothing else than the administration of the keys of the Kingdom. (Matt. 18:17-20; “Tell it to the church”; Matt. 16:19, John 20:22-23, “Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”)….The church, therefore functions as the administrator of the office of the keys of the Kingdom.” (“The Abiding Word”, Richard Klan, Volume III, CPH 1947 page 383)
Yes, Christians may not be made subject to a minister or a priest, because they are all ministers and priests in their own right who have the privilege of approaching God directly. Apostle Paul taught that “there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27). In other words in the eyes of God and in the words of Jesus we are all brethren and no one except the Lord has the right to rule over another Christian. Chuck Swindoll, author, pastor, seminary president, once talked about the six traps in ministry including Authoritarianism, Exclusiveness, Greed, Rationalization, Sensuality and Unaccountability:
1)Authoritarianism is the lack of a servant’s heart. This is when the leadership has gone wild with a tyrannical, oppressive pride. Don’t suppress God’s people. Respect them and encourage them to be all God wants them to be. Don’t abuse God’s people. Christ is Lord, not the pastor or anyone else in His church.
2) Exclusiveness is the “I (or we) alone are all right.” “Only we have the truth, or the best program.” It constantly stresses the idea that we are the only people God uses. No one else is as good, doctrinally correct, blessed of God, filled with the Spirit, etc. God has blessed me, or our group as the elite Christians. The emphasis is on our distinctiveness, denominational pride, selective doctrine, a special revelation or anointing from God, etc. The leader promotes a clannish, cultic following, clicks, etc. The truth is in God’s grace there are no favorites. God does not play favorites with anyone. We are saved by grace alone. There are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God.
3) Greed is the money crazy theme. How much do you harp on money? What is your motive? Even building yourself a name for a church with a big budget falls prey to this abuse. As a pastor I don’t handle money. Let someone else do it. The church assigns a group of people to count the money, the treasurer writes the checks and an audit committee checks the books. Don’t even find out who gives the most or how frequently they give in your church. How do you handle money that people hand to you and say use it were the greatest need is? Do you continue asking for money after you know you have all the funds you need for a certain project?
4) Rationalization is the effort to justify wrong with a defensive spirit. Are you quick to gloss over personal sin, make excuses or lie about it? Are you over emphasizing or underemphasizing some area of purity? What areas and why?
5) Sensuality is how I handle sex. Treat all women in all purity. Stay away from any compromise or even the smell of smoke. Don’t become too familiar with the opposite sex, or your own sex. Stay away from all appearance of evil. Live a pure life.
6) Unaccountability is the idea I answer only to God and no one else. As a pastor and a member of my church I am always accountability to someone. I am accountable to the deacons, the deacons are accountable to the church, and the church is accountable to one another. Beware of the secretive, “I am accountable only to God and I answer to no one else.” No one is above accountability. Receive the confrontation of friends and mentors and remind yourself that only observed behavior changes.
The apostle in Philippians 2:5-11 is stressed the remedy to spiritual abuse in modern society. His emphasis was on the character of God that is seen in selfless service and obedience to Christ and others. Jesus Christ is our perfect example of obedient service. His attitude runs counter to the human tendency to dominate and control others for personal gain. “Think in this way,” Paul says, “just as Jesus Christ thought in this way.” That is the best safeguard we can have in the way we handle life. Follow the example of Christ’s selflessness, humility and obedience. On various occasions Paul has used Christ’s behavior as an example for believers’ lifestyle (Rom. 15:3-9; 2 Cor. 8:9; Eph. 5:1-2; Col. 3:3ff; 1 Tim. 6:13-16). Paul normally puts the emphasis on living the Christian life in the believer’s union with Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:1-14; 1 Cor.6:11-20; Col. 3:1-4; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 2:16-20; 5:16-26). But here he tells us not only to imitate the model of Christ. But “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” We need to yield and submit to Christ and the wonderful Holy Spirit daily so that the life of Christ might be lived out through us and not our life.
J. Hudson Taylor English missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission made the English term “exchanged life” popular through his testimony of how God made him a new man. (Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, page 154.) The word “exchanged” is used to signify that God has made it possible for us to exchange our total insufficiency to live the Christian life for Christ’s total sufficiency to live it through us. He did this by exchanging our old identity in Adam for our new identity in Christ and by uniting our newborn spirit with His (I Corinthians 6:17; Galatians 2:20). The term “exchanged life” is related to the believer’s discovery of his identity in Christ: that is he is a new creation, one born of God, that he is not what he was before. It is time that we rediscover and practice the truth that “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Yes, we are to let Christ live His life in and through us and we will not be foolish ones who die for lack of wisdom. God’s word is unchanging:
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. Colossians 1:24-29