Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. - 2John 1: 8-11 (ESV)
As noted in an earlier writing this week, the five year trial of mega-church pastor Kong Hee has ended with a guilty verdict on all counts. Evidence and revealed documentation proved that Hee and his senior staff willfully stole 24 million dollars to finance his wife's secular music career and then stole another 26 million to cover it up. That is fifty million dollars fleeced from the sheep of the Lord by the man entrusted to watch over them. Kong Hee is just a microcosm of all that is wrong with the Americanized version of churchianity that is far more concerned with greed and prosperity in this temporal life than preaching the Gospel so people might enjoy eternal life with God. When Jesus was pronouncing His woes to the Pharisees one of the them was regarding their zeal to travel the globe to win converts, which only results in the "converted" being twice the son of hell as they are. Such is the plight the world faces as Capitalist Christianity is spreading like a virus throughout the world. Africa now boasts some of the most egregious false prosperity preachers in the entire world. South America is starting to catch up and catch on. Kong Hee's mega church is in Singapore. Hee was widely supported by Australian mega church heretic Phil Pringle and America's own AR Bernard. Even in the face of the guilty verdict these hustlers are standing by their man instead of their God. We should be embarrassed that the world understands that stealing 50 million dollars is wrong while the church pretends it is persecution or an attack of Satan. The attack of course was on Hee himself, not the trial that sought the truth about him. That Satan can so deceive people into thinking that they are doing the will of the Father by making merchandise of His very sheep. Or Satan can so fill the heart of someone to deliberately pursue the riches of this world over the kingdom. It is truly sad.
I think however this provides for Christians a teachable moment and an opportunity to revisit how we refuse to hold our own Christian leaders accountable. I attended a large church for many years and the usual refrain from believers was their responsibility ended when they handed in their offerings. After that God would deal with the leadership if they misappropriated it. I think that is simply put; a cop-out. I know very well intended people who stay in apostate churches for varying reasons and yet they still give. They partner with the apostasy. They support it. Their only defense is this sense that they are only responsible for giving, not what that giving actually ends up supporting. The Bible does not condone such a hands off approach:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." - 2Timothy 2: 15-19 (ESV)
Irreverence is a lack of respect for the things of God beloved. Irreverent babble as presented here is false teaching, specifically in this case involving the resurrection. It can be any other false teaching placed in the same set of verses however. The point does not change. False teaching spreads like gangrene. Not ironically, gangrene is caused by a lack of blood supply! A lack of the Gospel beloved! It results in healthy cells dying. False teaching also results in death. In many cases the only treatment is to cut off the dead portion through amputation. Paul is writing to Timothy here and in another reference regarding Hymenaeus he cuts him off by saying he has been turned over to Satan (1Timothy 1:20)! Look how these verses end though! Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity! Within this context the iniquity is that of false teaching! We have a responsibility beyond merely handing money over blindly. We need to make sure what we are supporting is promoting the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ and not the secular singing career of our pastor's wife. Or supporting our pastor's favorite itinerant preachers or evangelists. Or disappearing into a "building fund" where nothing ever seems to be built. I remember at our annual business meeting it was a struggle to attain a quorum, which was only one-third of the voting membership. How pitifully sad. The reason why Kong Hee thought he could get away with this was the same reason Mark Driscoll thought nothing of stealing $200,000 of tithe monies to cheat the NY Times Best Seller list. No one was holding them accountable. The board of elders is usually a panel of yes men who would not dare challenge the pastor and the congregants seemingly do not care or even worse support the thievery because most are into "pastor worship" more than God worship.
Our key verses today however spell out even more clearly for us the role we are to play in these matters. What is central here is the teaching of Christ. The Gospel. It must always be paramount. The Bible teaches us the division in the church is brought in by false doctrine. Paul warned the Ephesian elders that fierce wolves would arise from within to seek to tear apart the church. The dangers are real beloved. Our only protection is in the Word of God. It is sound doctrine that saves people as the Gospel is the salvation of men unto the power of God. How serious is this to God? The key verses instruct us to not even receive into our house or give any greeting he who is bringing a false Gospel! Not only that but if we do we are actually taking part in his wicked works! Without the surrounding context of the entire epistle, one can easily think this is in relation to personal actions and sins but I think it goes beyond that. The context of 2John is warning against many deceivers who have gone out into the world. The house he speaks of is not only our own abode but the house of the Lord! Here is an excerpt from Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible regarding this verse:
"receive him not into your house; neither into the house of God, suffer him not to preach there; nor into your own house, give him no entertainment there: false teachers always tried to creep into houses, where they served their own turn every way, both by feeding their bellies, and spreading their pernicious doctrines; and therefore such should: be avoided, both publicly and privately; their ministry should not be attended on in the church, or house of God; and they should not be entertained in private houses, and much less caressed"
Not only do we see too often pastors suffering false teachers to visit their pulpits and spread their teaching but entire congregations tolerate it from their own pastors! I speak to brothers and sisters often who have had to take the bold stance to leave a church they loved because the pastor had taken it off the doctrinal rails and refused to repent and be corrected. The church belongs to God not the pastor. It is there for the correct teaching of the Gospel to the sheep of the Lord. When you look the other way when your pastor preaches abusive tithing messages and why Jesus was wealthy, you can end up with him stealing 50 million dollars of money that was supposed to help spread the Gospel. When you insist on paying money into a false teaching ministry realize what you are spreading is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that the Bereans were of more noble character because they checked Scripture to ensure Paul was speaking the truth. We are rapidly running out of the Berean spirit in the church today. The false teachers have banded together and labeled that Berean spirit as legalistic. Even worse is labeling it "religious" as if religion was now a dirty word. God ordained the word beloved so let no man try and take it away.
The duty of ensuring the sound doctrine of those we sit under is clearly our own responsibility. Yes, preachers and teachers will be held to a higher standard but that does not mean we are not held to any standard at all. Paul Washer once famously quipped that Joel Osteen was God's wrath upon those willing to sit through his sermons. He was right. When we get right down to it though, many times we want the false teaching. We want to be told the Bible is about us. That God wants to prosper us beyond the dreams of avarice. That we are the head and not the tail. Above and not beneath. That God is just this blessing dispenser in the sky; there for our every whim. I am sure most know these verses:
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. - 2Timothy 4: 2-4 (ESV)
Take a good long look at these verses beloved. It is the people of God who will no longer endure sound doctrine. They will not even tolerate it! They will call it religious and legalistic! They will call it divisive! These verses teach us that we ourselves will accumulate teachers that suit our own passions. We want to be rich in this life so we will accumulate the Kong Hee's of the world. Or Brian Houston. Or Creflo Dollar. If we want to feel that we are as powerful as God we will accumulate unto us teachers like Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyers. If we want to sin unabashedly, we will gather around us Joseph Prince. If we want all of these things then our television will be firmly entrenched on TBN and we can watch all day long convincing ourselves to be spiritual when all we are doing is feeding our flesh. All we are doing is accumulating around us people to scratch our itching ears and tell us exactly what we want to hear. Then when those people fall we defend them over the sheep they have been slaughtering. When a pastor is convicted of stealing 50 million dollars of church monies to finance his wife's secular music career we barely bat an eyelash. Forget the 17,000 people who were defrauded, many of which will probably lose their faith over this and many others will cease seeking Christ for their very salvation. Hey, buyer beware, right? But don't you say anything about my pastor! Sure he may have stolen 50 million dollars but who among us has not "made mistakes?" Sure he falsified church documents to try and cover up his illegalities but who are you to judge? Sure he has eviscerated the Bible by preaching for shameful gain the things he ought not but doesn't the Bible say that he who is without sin should cast the first stone? Aren't we supposed to forgive? Aren't they supposed to know us by our love?
Now you may laugh a little at the obvious sarcasm there but the truth is not that far off. I remember people defending Creflo Dollar for trying to squeeze money out of his followers to buy a 65 million dollar luxury learjet. I recently posted on Facebook a video of a clearly demonic woman conveying demonic spirits to kids at a conference and someone actually defended her. The defenses are what I just joked about. Love and forgiveness, judge not, don't cast the first stone, and we all make mistakes. Here is where the disconnect is and I really hope you pay attention to this because it really is the key point. None of those defenses are written for wolves. We are not compelled to forgive and love wolves. The spiritual lessons about casting the first stone are not there for our consideration when dealing with wolves. Wait a minute preacher! Are you saying Kong Hee is a wolf? Yes beloved. He is. Even before he stole 50 million dollars he was a wolf. He preached an absurdly heretical gospel where Jesus was a millionaire and you too could cash in! What does the Bible teach us about people who preach a different gospel?
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. - Galatians 1: 6-10 (ESV)
I know what I am saying is not popular because it is not seeking your approval. A servant of Christ though does not coddle the wolves that are tearing His sheep apart. When a story like the Kong Hee story breaks my immediate concern is for the sheep, not the wolf. It does not matter to me if an angel of heaven was preaching the prosperity gospel, let alone a charlatan from Singapore. Let them be accursed! Do not even give them a greeting, let alone allow them into your home or your churches. The truly sad part of these Galatians verses is the opening. Paul is astonished at how quickly the people are deserting Christ. Notice the direct parallel he makes. Deserting the true Gospel is the same as deserting Christ Himself! The truth Paul also lets us in on here is that there is not another Gospel. Kong Hee can pretend there is. Joseph Prince can do the same. And line them all up down the false teacher line. There is only one Gospel.
The problem is that far too many of us have turned away from listening to the truth of the Gospel. We do not want to hear about our sin. We do not want to hear about denying ourselves if we are to truly follow Christ. We would rather wander. We wander off into myths. Prosperity myths. Little god myths. Word-faith myths. False signs and lying wonder myths. Greasy grace myths. We do so willingly beloved. We welcome these false teachings into our homes and allow them to run our churches. We support them de facto with our presence and with direct allegiance by way of our money and time. Then we think we can get out of our responsibility by thinking all we have to do is give and not be concerned with what our giving supports. Then one day a pastor of a church of 17,000 is convicted of breach of the public trust to the tune of 50 million dollars and we collectively shrug our shoulders as if that is his problem. It is all of our problem and we better get a handle on it soon, lest the witness for the cause of Christ continues to dwindle in advance of His return.