He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, "Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!" And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!" They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" -- Isaiah 44: 14-20 (ESV)
You gave me fortune, you gave me fame
You gave me power in your God's name
I'm every person you need to be
I'm the cult of personality
It is one of the cornerstones of purpose driven church growth. It is an absolute requirement in order for the schemes of Rick Warren to work. There must be a charismatic public speaker in the pulpit. I do not mean charismata in terms of the gifts of the Spirit but rather a cult of personality. Someone to rally around who will scratch those itching ears right where we like it. A congregant of Joel Osteen once famously said that Pastor Joel give him just what he needs to get back to him the next Sunday. What a horribly powerless way to live a life that is supposed to be free. When you think of the most successful mega churches today they are all led by unmistakable public speakers that the crowds love and will defend to the death it seems. Sounds hyperbolic? Try explaining to a Joseph Prince adherent that Prince is a heretic. Try explaining to a TD Jakes follower that he is a modalist. Try saying anything vaguely negative about Joel Osteen. This is why the lyrics to the 1990's popular song Cult of Personality seem so prescient for the church landscape today. We give them fortune. We give them fame. We give them power in our God's name. They are our cult of personality beloved.
We must understand things against the backdrop of Scripture and the end times we live in. We all know and would agree that the Bible teaches there will be a one world religion. This one world religion which will usher in the antichrist will persecute real Christians of real faith in Christ. If you have ever wondered how this will be possible, we need to look no further than the cult of personality pastor worship that goes on today. These charlatans routinely mangle the Bible and depart from Scripture regularly, yet they only grow in popularity. Rick Warren once said that pastors should not preach the Gospel on Easter so their visitors had "a reason to come back." Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer and many others preach that we are little gods. Some go as far as to say God cannot do anything on earth without our approval. Joseph Prince says God is never upset with us and has preached the flood as an act of God's love instead of wrath. He has also preached that repent merely means to "consent to be loved." Last year, Andy Stanley preached that we ought to not preach the infallibility of the Bible. Perry Noble once rewrote the Ten Commandments to make them more acceptable to unbelievers. ACDC, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, The Backstreet Boys and many others have been integrated into worship within these church walls. This list of rank heresy can go on for as long as we can stomach it and grows every single week. You would think with such blatant false teaching that the ministries in question would be suffering but instead they are thriving, which is biblical:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, - 2Timothy 4: 3 (ESV)
Accumulate for themselves beloved. The reason why Stanley, Jakes, and Copeland exiis because it is exactly what the people want. Sound doctrine? That is for suckers. In fact, the cult of personality preachers will demonize anyone who seeks the truth and verity of Scripture. Bill Johnson says that they need a deeper revelation of the Spirit. Perry Noble once called them the jackasses in his church. Another mega church pastor referred to them as the excrement in the Body of Christ. Even Rick Warren himself in the Purpose Driven Church mocks these people as "pillars of the church" because they hold up your progress. He then explains they need to be "blessedly subtracted" from your fellowship. I think sometimes we can tend to only look upon those who sit under false teaching through the victim lens and forget that they have accumulated these people unto them. Paul Washer once explained this phenomenon well:
"False teachers are God's judgment on people who don't want God, but in the name of religion plan on getting everything their carnal heart desires. That's why a Joel Osteen is raised up! Those people who sit under him are not victims of him, he is the Judgment of God upon them because they want exactly what he wants and it's not God!" -- Paul Washer
Some however can come out from among them and it is to those that discernment ministries hold onto for hope. Perhaps it would be more useful and beneficial to call this cult of personality pastor worship what it really is -- idolatry. I think we confuse idolatry too much in the church with worshiping graven images and certainly that would be a form of idolatry. Let's however be fair. It has been a great many years since people literally bowed down before a carved block of wood. No, today's golden calves are not as obvious. Today we bow down to money, fame, lust, family, career, or any number of things before we would bow down to God and that is essentially what idolatry is. It is worshiping anything before God. Wealth, food, alcohol, sex, your children, or even yes, your pastor. Wait a minute preacher! I don't worship my pastor! If you cannot hear any criticism of him without reflexively defending him, regardless of what the Bible actually teaches -- yes you do. If you cannot have a lucid biblical conversation regarding your pastor and instead turn to "his heart" or "how much he loves God" -- then yes, you worship him. I love my pastor but he did not die for my sins. He is a man just like I am. Iron sharpens iron. You know who taught me these things? My pastor. So let us turn to the Bible to see what God says about idolatry so that perhaps if we are caught up in it we can break those bonds and return to worshiping Christ alone. Now because Israel was involved in idolatry throughout the Old Testament, there were plenty of Scriptures we could have turned to. The key verses come from the Prophet Isaiah who dealt with quite a bit of idolatry from the nation of Israel. Let us reason together and see what God has to say about the sheer folly of idolatry.
He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, "Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!" And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!" -- Isaiah 44: 14-17 (ESV)
I love that God does not just speak against things but shows the utter ridiculousness of the folly of man. That someone would plant a cedar, see the rain nourish it and make it grow and then when the time is right use it to satisfy basic needs. The cedar becomes fuel for him. He keeps warm by the fire he can generate from it. He then uses the same fire to bake bread for sustenance. He uses half of the cedar to roasts his meat and is satisfied from it. He uses it for comfort and warmth. Yet despite knowing exactly where it came from and having watched it grow he takes the remaining half and carves and idol out of it. He then prostrates himself before this block of wood and prays to it and asks for deliverance from it. Of this Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible declares there cannot be a greater stupidity and folly.
We might be sitting here thinking what this has to do with us? After all, no one in the church today is hewing down cedars to carve idols but do not miss the point. God is saying that anything we make into an idol that we place before Him is just as stupid. For some people they idolize money. Money actually came from paper, which came from trees. Sure it has value but that value is only good in the temporal. The Bible is replete with warning about wealth and the pursuit of it. It even goes as far as to declare how difficult it would be for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. That was the folly of the rich young ruler who placed his money before God. Some might place their career or power before God. All temporal pursuits when we ought to be eternally focused. Now, this does not mean that money or our career is something we avoid but it is not something we place before God. It is not something that we bow down to and worship.
Here is the big takeaway today -- this includes our cult of personality pastors. We ascribe a certain level of piety and Christian value to them so we may not see them in this same light but far too often we place them before God. Again, we may not even realize we do this but so often I have presented biblical proof of false teaching only to be greeted with pleas about the teacher's heart, passion for God, or intentions. Realize when we do this that we are bowing down to the man of God instead of God. No man, pastor or otherwise is above the Word of God. To do so makes him an idol. Joel Osteen preaches that our words have the power of creation in them. TD Jakes denies the trinity. John Hagee thinks the Jews do not need Christ for salvation. Joyce Meyer believes we are little gods. Robert Morris believes God curses all of your money if you do not tithe first each month. Joseph Prince preaches that Christians do not need the Ten Commandments. Bill Johnson teaches the actual gifts of the Holy Spirit and such demonic manifestations as gold dust, gem stones, angel feathers, glory clouds and grave sucking. Beloved these are not hidden teachings. They are openly available for anyone who wants to actually see the truth. What do they all have in common? They are demonstrably false and contrary to the Word of God. There is a fancy name for that -- heresy. If you see such accurate biblical critique and your response is to split hairs, invent reasons and rationales, defend the indefensible, mangle the Bible, marginalize or attack the messenger, suggest praying for wolves, start talking about specks and planks in people's eyes or casting the first stone if ye is without sin, or anything other than rebuke of the false teaching then there is a very good chance that this form of idolatry is playing out. If you cannot be bothered by what the Bible says then you cannot be bothered with what God says. God did not give us His Word so we can look serious on a Sunday morning but so we can discern what is from Him and what is not. When we openly choose to not -- we are taking that half of a cedar tree, carving an idol, bowing down to worship it and pray that it can deliver us. But it cannot. Money cannot deliver you. Fame and power cannot deliver you. Pastoral worship cannot deliver you. Only Jesus can -- through the correct preaching of His Gospel. Let us return to the remaining key verses for today:
They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" -- Isaiah 44: 14-20 (ESV)