November 20, 2006
1 Thessalonians 2:3-6, "For our exhortation did not come from deceit or uncleanness, nor was it in guile. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness — God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ."
In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul makes a statement that in light of the current spiritual climate would cause many to wonder if we, as Paul, are still approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, and if once approved and entrusted with the gospel, we speak it not as pleasing to men, but pleasing to God.
As unfortunate and tragic as it may be, we must acknowledge that we have reached a point in Christendom wherein we have distanced ourselves so far from the truth of the gospel, that rather than face this reality, confront it, and remedy the situation, some simply ignore it and bury their heads in the sand, feeling in their hearts that it is beyond repair. We are living in a generation wherein the abundance of man pleasers, and soothsayers has reached critical mass, and for fear of being exposed for what they are, these selfsame wolves attempt to stifle the truth wherever and whenever they can.
The underlying mentality of many Christians does much to aid the deceivers in attaining, and even surpassing their goals, because rather than confront deceit, heresy, and hypocrisy within the church, most look the other way, adopting the mindset that we are not to air our dirty laundry, that we are to put forth a certain image of piety and righteousness to the world, even if all we have left is the image, absent of substance. The facade is cracking, and the sins that many have kept hidden, are bubbling up to the surface, causing the world to look upon the church with disdain, calling us on our hypocrisy. We can no longer be content with the pharisaical mindset that has permeated the house of God today, we can no longer stand by and accept the 'do as I say not as I do' dictum, pleased with the outwardly appearance of a man, even though sin has devoured the inward parts. In His day Jesus called such men whitewashed tombs, which indeed appeared beautiful outwardly, but inside were full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
Am I being critical? Yes I am. Is my criticism justified? I believe wholeheartedly that it is, for as long as we are more concerned with the image of a man rather than the content and substance of a man, we will continually suffer defeats and setbacks in the house of God. When we realize once more that preaching the word of God is not a popularity contest, that it has nothing to do with fine linens, chiseled jaws, quaffed hair, manicured nails, or impeccable dialect, but rather the truth of God's word, and only that, we may again prize substance over image, and be the better for it.
Ask any builder, and he will tell you that the strength of a home is wholly dependent on its foundation. If the foundation is weak, so is the rest of the house. The strength of a work is likewise dependent on the foundation that it is built upon. If a ministry is built upon the foundation of God's word, then it will stand the test of time, if it is grounded and rooted in men's doctrines, or upon the charisma of a certain individual, it will crumble into the dust, crushing beneath its weight all those still found within its walls.
Before he speaks of what his exhortation is founded upon, Paul expounds on the things upon which it is not built, namely his exhortation did not come from deceit, uncleanness nor was it guile, but rather from the purity of God's word. To know the future of a movement, ministry, or work, one must look at its foundation too see whether or not it is the truth of God's word. All we do hinges on the foundation upon which it is built.
Having pursued this avenue of thought, the question begs to be asked, how does one know if a certain teaching or doctrine is founded and comes from deceit or uncleanness? What are the means by which one can discern deception? The answer to these questions, as well as all other questions we may have concerning God, and His will for our lives is found in the Bible.
Psalm 36:9, "For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light."
Psalm 27:1, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
In God's light and the light of His word, we can be certain whether or not something is unclean, destructive or deceitful. In God's light, and the light of His word we can understand truth, and righteousness. In God's light, and the light of His word, we are freed from the darkness of death. I can go on, but the thread is obvious, namely that only in God's light, and the light of His word can we be certain of our foundation. When we attempt to mix the word of God with men's opinions, or unscriptural doctrines, deception has made its way into our hearts, and the fall is not far behind. The greatest obstacle in our rightly dividing the word of God, in seeing light in His light, is our own flesh, which at the most inappropriate times riles itself, attempting to impose itself, beguiling us to believe a less than scriptural message because it is so pleasing and comforting for it.
Our knowledge of truth is conditional upon our remaining in the word of God. When we distance ourselves from the truth of God's word, and adopt the doctrines of men, we are no longer able to see light in His light. This is why those that do not live in the holiness of the Word, and in the light of its obedience cannot know the truth.
There are multitudes today who would deceive others, who would use guile and uncleanness to lead them astray, down the wrong path that can only have one inevitable destination. Worse yet, there are those who deceive themselves, and lose themselves because they chose not to heed the truth when they heard it, but rejected it in lieu of the lie. There is no worse deception than self-deception, and the number of those living a life of constant self-deception is much larger than any of us would like to believe.
Oh that we would search our hearts, and echo the words of Paul, that we would know in the depths of our hearts, our exhortation did not come from deceit or uncleanness, nor was it in guile.
Since Paul's exhortation did not come from deceit or uncleanness, the question still remains, what sort of preaching, admonition, correction or exhortation can be defined as having come from uncleanness and deceit? To preach Christ out of a spirit of contention, monetary interest, or vainglory is to do so from deceit and uncleanness, as it is also unclean and deceitful to preach Christ driven by the spirit of denominationalism.
To preach Christ while still in the flesh, without having experienced a true repentance, without having obtained the spirit of love and humility, is also doing so in uncleanness and guile.
It is one thing to contemplate Christ intellectually, and to speak of Him only in the abstract, to perceive him as a good role model, a great teacher, or even a prophet, it is quite another to have received Him into your heart as Lord, King, and Savior, to have turned away from the sins that so easily beset, and to acknowledge the living Christ, the Son of God, who sits at the right hand of the Father.
Only the new beings, those born again in Christ, those who have resolved the issue of sin in their lives, and have turned away from the spirit of the world, can truly preach the Gospel without fear of doing so in deceit or uncleanness. There is only one thing we can do to safeguard ourselves from falling into the snare of exhorting others in deceit, and that is daily search our hearts in the light of God's word, and daily renew our commitment and surrender to Christ Jesus the Lord. If our life does not mirror our teaching, if we preach one thing but practice another, then we are not approved by God, or entrusted with the gospel. Only when our teaching and our living are as one, when they complement and mirror each other can we say that God has approved us.
Due to the fact that he clung to the crucified Christ, and strengthened his testimony by the suffering and rejection he endured, Paul proved that his exhortation did not come from deceit, uncleanness of guile. How could he have been a deceiver, when he would have willingly laid down his life for that which he preached?
We prove that we are not unclean in our exhortation and testimony, when we stand only in the Lord, and are willing to suffer for His name's sake. As the saying goes, it's one thing to talk a good game, it's another to stand up for your convictions, defend your Lord, and be willing to endure all things for His glory and honor.
In a generation when compromise is the order of the day, when truth is betrayed, abandoned, and stifled, we must know the origins, the genesis of the messages and doctrines we allow in our hearts, and if they are birthed in deceit, uncleanness or guile, may we turn away from them, and embrace the truth of Christ and His way of life.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.