Daily Devotional for Sunday March 17, 2013
Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus and Not a Man
(John 13:15, Hebrews 12:2, 1 Peter 2:21)
***ASK BILL: Pastor Bill, I believe Jesus was immaculately conceived by God and born of a virgin, but what about the sin of Mary? She wasn't born without sin, so how did her sin not pass to Jesus?
ANSWER: That is why our Lord was immaculately conceived by the Holy Spirit and not Joseph to a virgin. The fact Mary was a virgin, does NOT mean she was sinless. Despite being God's vessel for the birth of our Lord, she was a human being, conceived in the normal way, and like ALL people sinned during her life in addition to being born with "original sin" (the sin of Adam). If Jesus had been conceived by Joseph and Mary, their sin would have been passed on like Adam's sin is passed on to each person born. Being conceived by the Holy Spirit allowed Jesus to be born void of original sin, and the fact He lived a sinless life, is why He could die on the cross for the sins of all mankind.
***SPECIAL COMMENTARY ON THE NEW POPE! Please be in prayer for the newly elected Pope Francis I. Pray that he will have a heart to lead lost souls to faith in Jesus (sola fides), while putting the Absolute Truth of the Bible as our final authority in all matters (sola scriptura). May he not waiver that homosexuality is called by God a sin, and it is not the church of Jesus Christ that has to change to accommodate an apostate culture, but an apostate culture that must change to accommodate God's Holy Word! May the new Pope stand strong on God's Word in a world that has rejected Jesus, and embraced every false god, idol, and religion man has created in his sin-filled mind!
Keeping your eyes on Jesus and not a man (or woman). Today is a very difficult Devotional for me to write since part of me is outraged by the private conduct of some of those who have accepted the responsibility of spiritual leadership, and the other part has great compassion and empathy with these people who have to be going through so much turmoil and heartache on a human level. The fiery evangelist in me wants to lambaste them for the damage they are doing to the cause of Christ and to the lives of many who follow them, yet the minister in me wants to love them, comfort them, and help them heal. So after much prayer over this message, today I am going to do both!
Throughout the history of the church, God has soverignly raised up men and women for a season to guide and lead His people just like He did throughout the Old and New Testaments. These were men and women who faithfully served the Lord, that He allowed to rise to a place of prominence for a season to bring His Truth and hope to the people of their day. No doubt through the years some have "manufactured" their rise through the use of man-made schemes, devices, and resources.
Simon the magician in the Book of Acts comes to mind as someone who sought to buy the power of God on the open market. You have always had the false prophets who duped people and led them astray, but they are always exposed by the Truth of God's Word. The fact is you can't buy a sovereign move of God, you can't manufacture a sovereign move of God, you can't duplicate a sovereign move of God, and you can't fake a sovereign move of God. When God soverignly raises a man or woman up, there is an unmistakable power, presence, and anointing that is obvious, even to someone who rejects God and His Truth.
The problem we have in the year 2013 is that with the incredible amount of media that exists, with a church that is for the most part Biblically illiterate and operates with little spiritual discernment, and a hero worship mindset most people have, it creates an environment ripe for men and women to rise up and take positions of spiritual leadership through human efforts instead of being Divinely appointed.
I know some well known TV preachers who will NEVER preach on sin or sacrifice. I know some well known TV preachers who have preached the same message for 20 years. I know some well known TV preachers who end EVERY message with a reason your are supposed to send them money. They are so clever they can preach on the verse, "Jesus wept," and make you believe Jesus was weeping because you didn't help them buy a new Gulfstream!!!
Also, in the past 20 years you have had the rise of the non-denominational church on the Christian landscape. Trust me, with most of the old mainline denominations either turning away from the Truth of God's Word and embracing sins like homosexuality and abortion or simply being "dead," there was a need for a new breed of church and pastor who weren't interested in denominational politics.
The problem that became evident very quickly is that these churches had little or no accountability. They were run like dictatorships or fiefdoms with the pastor being a ruling monarch. Over and over scandals involving sex and money have been seen in many of these non-denominational churches, and the biggest contributing factor has been little to no accountability!
So is it any wonder why in the past month, two of the biggest superstars of Christian TV who generate tens of millions of dollars a year are both in divorce court? One is from the Tampa area and has been in the news for years due to the lavish lifestyle she and her husband led, and now again once their divorce was publicly announced.
The other who lives outside of Atlanta had the unmitigated gall to broadcast her wedding on TBN just 3 years ago, a wedding that reportedly cost well over $1 million dollars. She begs people to send her money, and then spends that money, not on saving souls but on some fairly tale wedding! She was in the news last week after getting into a literal physical fight with her estranged husband in the parking lot of a hotel in Atlanta.
These are two women who millions of people are being fed by every day! Sadly, neither has announced they would be stepping down, taking time off, or going through a time of healing or restoration. Neither one has slowed down or missed a beat. If you saw them in person or on TV recently, you would never know their personal lives were in shambles. They are both still preaching, primarily to women, on how to have blessed and successful lives and marriages.
Again, they have ZERO accountability and answer to nobody. Most disturbing is the fact that despite their very public divorces, the Christian TV networks and stations they air on, aren't taking their programs off the air. After all, these two women are both huge cash cows for these networks and stations, not to mention they are also big money raisers during their many telethons throughout the year. I hate to admit it but he non-believing world is right about this one, it is simply a big business!
The minister in me hurts for both of these women because I deal with women and men daily who are going through the pain of divorce and know the incredible hurt and pain it brings to a person's life. I've been friends with the woman from Tampa and her husband for 13 years. The woman from Georgia grew up on the south side of Chicago and comes from a family of preachers. I knew her brother early in my ministry 16 years ago.
So I have a great deal of empathy for both of these women and their husbands on a personal level. I can only pray that God will put the right people in their lives to minister to them and help guide them thru this time of personal tragedy. Both of these women and their husbands need to step down for a season, take some time off and get their spiritual and personal lives in order. You can't lead others when your life is a mess!
My word for you today is simply this, KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS. One of the major complaints of nonbelievers is that Christians are hypocrites. Those who don't even know the great stories of the Bible, can tell you in great detail the stories of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and the preacher down the street who ran off with his secretary. It is one of the most common objections of an unbeliever, that he would be a Christian, but those who claim to be Christians don't act like Christians.
I am sure there were many in the first days of the church who said, "I would be a Christian, but look at what Peter did. This man who claimed to be a follower of Jesus denied him. Not once, but THREE times!!" It is a valid point. The fact is, however, a Christian is nothing more than a sinner who is saved by grace. Even though we are saved, we are still frail, prone-to-sin creatures living in a sin-filled environment. That in no way excuses our sin, but it is the reality we live in.
The quickest way to fall away from your faith is to put too much emphasis on a man or woman of God. God uses human instruments to plant the seeds of salvation. He uses human instruments to disciple us in our new-found faith. He uses human instruments to impact our spiritual lives. In a society that is prone to idolize others, such as entertainers, athletes, and successful people, we take that into our Christian lives as well.
We place our spiritual leaders on pedestals. We normally only see them when they are "on", when they are doing what God has called them to do. Because of that, we almost tend to forget they are humans, men and women who walk in the same frail clay bodies as we do, prone to the same weaknesses we are. Since we rarely see these spiritual leaders other than the times they are doing the Lord's work, we lose sight that it is only a part of their life. They have lives outside of their work for the Lord. THEY ARE ONLY AS CLOSE TO GOD AS THEIR DAILY WALK WITH THE LORD.
Because they are in the spotlight, when they fail, when they sin, it is often made known to the public. Our first reaction is "how can that be possible?" Nobody is immune to sin. No matter who you are, your life flows from your personal relationship with Christ. A minister, a priest, a spiritual leader is only as close to God as his or her daily walk. Like anyone, if they neglect their daily time with the Lord, they get farther away from God. It is only possible to minister to others from your own personal walk with Christ. As you neglect that daily time with the Lord, you start to be disconnected. You may have some spiritual gasoline left in your tank, but eventually you will use that up.
Those spiritual leaders who fail, fail because they have neglected their time with God. Someone who is in the Lord's work has to guard more than anyone else against neglecting their daily time with Christ. There is a very real enemy who is out to kill, steal, and destroy. The enemy is very wise in the art of warfare. Why waste time working on taking out people one by one, when if you can take out a leader you can wipe out many people at once. The enemy knows that to take down a Jim Bakker or the pastor of a local church, he can take out many people at one time.
I love you and care about you so much. The key point I want you to understand today is that you must keep focused on THE man, and not A man. Christ was the only one who did it perfect. My personal philosophy is to take the spiritual wisdom from other men and women of God, but never idolize them, never expect them to be more than the man or woman of flesh and blood they are, but realize that God has touched them in a special way and given them something that can benefit our spiritual lives. I have always called it my spiritual filter.
Being in full-time ministry for the last 17 years, having been in over 500 churches of every type of denomination, having spoken at hundreds of conventions, being involved for many years in the TV world, I have had a unique opportunity to see an incredible number of God's choicest servants of our day. The list is a who's who of spiritual giants. However, no matter who the person is, I always do two things. I always line up what they said with the Word of God. That is number one. I don't care who it is. If it is not in line with the Word of God, it is not something I want.
Second, I always look at the man or woman of God as an instrument God is using. I never expect them to be supernatural or anything other than a vessel God is using to bring spiritual truths into my life. The only person I ever idolized, or tried to pattern my life after, was the life of Christ. I have always taken what I can from men and women of God and tried to use that to help me in my quest to be more like Christ each and every day.
Today's word is an important reminder to never get so focused on a man or woman of flesh and blood, that you let it get in the way of your own personal walk with Christ. God has placed men and women of God in our lives to help teach us and show us the truths of His Word. However, no matter how close to the Lord they may be, the only one we should ever try to pattern our lives after is Jesus Christ, because He is the only one who lived this life without sin. He is our example and the one each one of us should strive to be like.
Take time today to pray for those God has placed in spiritual leadership over you, your pastor or priest. Pray for those that God brings into your life to share the truths of His Word and to help you grow spiritually. But never lose sight that they are mere mortals, men and women of flesh and blood like you. Never let your eyes focus so much on A man that you lose sight of THE man. After all, no man could die for your sins. It was THE man who loved you so much that He willingly bled and died so that you might have everlasting life. Keep your eyes focused on HIM.
In His love and service, Your friend and brother in Christ,