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For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29: 11 (NIV)
Sometimes you see the same abuse over and over again and you become desensitized to it. You just start to accept it. The danger of this in a discernment ministry is you never speak the truth about something so basic that new believers and people seeking the Lord are more susceptible to it. More fall prey to the schemes of the devil if we stop doing our Biblical duty to mark that which causes division in the body of Christ through contrary doctrine. So for today I want to speak about the not so subtle destruction of the notion of greatness by the modern church teachings today.
It seems you cannot go five minutes today without seeing a new sermon series designed to sell you the notion of personal greatness. Best selling Christian authors have penned such titles as "Destined to Reign" and "Your Best Life Now." Just today I saw local sermon series promotions about how we were made for so much more and achieving some level of greatness. I understand why these pastors preach what they do. It sells great. It is easy to leverage biblical stories of greatness and pretend that it somehow portends greatness for us all. But beloved we must understand that this is exactly what the Bible warned us about in these end times:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. - 2Timothy 4: 3-4 (NIV)
To preach about the greatness of man is the definition of scratching itching ears. The problem of course is the Bible is a story about the greatness of God. But that flies in the face of purpose driven theology which says that God has pre-ordained a fantastic purpose for your life at the foundations of the world. But preacher? Are you saying God does not have a great purpose for my life? Well that all depends on how you view greatness now doesn't it? The way it is sold by pastors today is a carnal definition. It is based upon some form of personal accomplishment, even if allegedly in the service of God. It is to become a leader. It is to run a ministry. Or in many cases it is more obvious because it is rooted in wealth acquisition or worldly fame. It is the way the world views greatness, not God. To the Lord, godliness with contentment is great gain. Do you think the disciples were rock stars? Do you think they were famous? Rich? No beloved. They were despised. They were hunted. They were martyred. That is greatness to God.
So is the average Christian life that honors and glorifies God. The housewife who raises her children under the admonition of the Lord. The factory worker that shows Christ everyday to his unsaved co-workers by refusing to compromise. With language, crudeness, or flirting. So does the pastor who has a congregation that never seems to get past a couple hundred souls but he continues to labor in the Word. He continues to be faithful with what God has given him. He has no dreams of anything beyond what God gives him because the rest is of the flesh. When Timothy was pastor in Ephesus does anyone really believe he was secretly eyeing Corinth and the chance to take over that flock too? The college student who refuses to party with the crowd and sleep around is greatness in his or her glorification of God. The neighbor who actually acts like a neighbor. Beloved greatness can never be about us but must always be about Him:
"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5: 13-16 (ESV)
Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. - Colossians 4: 5-6 (NKJV)
The lost in this world do not need to see worldly greatness from us beloved. They need to see Christ. The same Savior who went willingly like a lamb to the slaughter for our salvation. The same Savior who taught us that the last will be first and the first last. That humility is what we ought to strive for. There is a great picture of this in the Book of Acts. There was a certain man in Samaria who had plenty of fame and notoriety:
But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the power of God that is called Great." And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. - Acts 8: 9-11 (ESV)
So Simon was well known and the people actually considered him great. They even went as far as to correlate his greatness to God. They paid attention to him for a long time. He was destined to reign. He was living his best life now. Then along came Phillip preaching the Good News and Simon's life was turned upside down:
But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. - Acts 8: 12-13 (ESV)
The Word expressly says here that Simon believed! He even made a public declaration of his faith through baptism. Now instead of being the great one, he saw miracles performed for the glory of God! Then he watched as Peter came to town and laid his hands on people that they might receive the Holy Spirit and old habits died hard for Simon:
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, "Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity."- Acts 8: 18-23 (ESV)
What changed when Simon made his request is that he wanted it to be about him again. He wanted the power. He wanted the fame. He wanted the credit. He was someone living for his own purpose and briefly exchanged it for God's purpose. He briefly gave up his own fame for God's. Peter cuts us all to the core here though. Your heart is not right before the Lord! Beloved do not fall for the purpose merchants occupying the pulpits today. There is nothing wrong with a life that honors and glorifies God which the world may look upon as average or not noteworthy. Anyone can be Simon the Sorcerer today beloved. The world invites it. But not everyone can give that up to truly pursue God and represent Christ as salt and light to a dying world. Look at how the Colossians verse state it - redeeming the time! Time is running out for the lost beloved and we are playing church games about our own potential for greatness?