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The Zeal for the Lost Error

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"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. - Matthew 23: 14-15 (ESV)

your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should." - Dr. Ian Malcolm

The renowned actor Jeff Goldblum played Dr. Ian Malcolm in the box office hit "Jurassic Park." His snarky character had some of the best lines in this movie including the one above, which offered that being able to do something is not justification for whether it should have been done to begin with. When I think of the state of the modern Seeker-Friendly Industrial Complex this famous movie quote comes to mind. The church has been purposefully driven into the ground. The Gospel has been purposefully driven out of the church. When Rick Warren's heretical theology first appeared in the 1995 in The Purpose Driven Church the promises were of growing massive mega-churches beyond a small town pastor's biggest dreams. The methodology concluded that if followed correctly, this new brand of religion and new way of doing church would transform the church culture. Everyone was so excited when they started applying the principles and saw these huge Christ-corporations dotting the landscape. They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should. There is a word for that. It is called zeal. The dictionary defines zeal as:

great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective

Zeal in and of itself can certainly be a good thing. If the cause for which one is zealous about is good and correct. One prime example of misspent zeal is Judas Iscariot. Most biblical scholars believe he was part of the political faction of the day known as the Zealots. These were Jewish people zealous about resisting the Roman occupation and devoted to revolution. They actually believed if they could incite such revolution that it would bring the Messiah to deliver the Jewish people. The beginnings of Jesus' ministry no doubt sparked great hope in the Zealots. His message was in line as being one of national repentance and His miracles confirmed His deity. Towards the second half of His ministry however, Jesus started all that talk about dying, the cross, and sin. Scholars believe that in his zeal for the cause, Judas may have justified the betrayal.

What we see today in Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex is a great zeal. There is no denying the fervor. I think this is what makes it difficult for some people to examine who they follow at a deeper level. One of the most common defenses someone offers up for false teachers is their zeal. I hear all the time how I do not "know them." I do not see how "passionate they are." How much they "love the Lord" or are committed to "reaching the lost." As if these personal traits should trump doctrine.

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. - 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV)

Beloved please note first of all that this verse is from a pastoral letter. Paul was writing to his protege Timothy who was commissioned to be the Pastor at Ephesus. As such, these instructions are for pastors, church leaders, and preachers. Paul tells them to only watch two things closely. Their life and their doctrine. You watch your life so you yourself are saved. It serves as a reminder that their position does not exclude the possibility of living wrong, backsliding, or even walking away from the faith. One just needs to look at the Rob Bell's of the world to realize that one day you can pastor 12,000 people and the next day be Oprah's darling preaching that there is no place called hell. Watching your doctrine however is crucial for the salvation of those who would listen to you preach! Not smoke machines and relevant messages. Not skinny jeans and faux hawks. Not your annual "missions" trip to build a playground in Guatemala. Certainly not your zeal. Without correct doctrine, exactly what are you being zealous for? This was Paul's lament regarding his own people:

Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. - Romans 10: 1-2 (ESV)

These verses spell out for us in no uncertain terms that a zeal for God is not enough! It has to be rooted in and grounded upon correct doctrine! It must be "according to knowledge." There are plenty of Mormons who are zealous but their zeal does not make them right. No one would argue that the Jehovah's Witness cult members are not zealous! Their zeal however does not make them right. While most people who fancy themselves Christians can easily agree with these truths they cannot see it within mainstream Christianity. They see prosperity gospels, hyper-grace, word-faith, false signs and lying wonders, watered down seeker friendly gospels, sugar-coated purpose driven drivel and anything else that comes across the mega church landscape as being acceptable. I think the reason is they have accepted the error that a zeal for the lost is more important than a zeal for sound doctrine.

Because those that preach these heresies all claim to do so for the cause of reaching the lost. They have actually transformed the role of the church, which is supposed to exist for the saints, into a machine designed to reach the "unchurched." Think about it. The logic Creflo Dollar tried to use to defend asking for donations to buy a 70 million dollars Learjet was so he could bring his "spreading the Gospel" to the lost across this world. Look at some of the poorer continents today and you will find we have exported our heresies to them. Prosperity preaching has exploded in South America and Africa. The richest pastors now hold court in Africa. In the days of Jesus' ministry the zealous false teachers of the day were the Pharisees. They were respected like Osteen, Meyer, Jakes and Warren are today. If there was television back then they would have had their own satellite channel with Share-athons every year. Yet just like the purpose driven church model seeks to only replicate itself and protect the model, so did the system the Pharisees had set up. They were the top dogs in the food chain and they protected this at all costs. Jesus however warned them in our key verses and there is a stark application to the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex today. Let us reason together and break down the key verses:

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!

Let us not lose sight of what these warnings actually are in Matthew 23. The biblical definition of woe is an "exclamation of judgment upon God's enemies." Then He lays the charge against them. They are hypocrites; something that Jesus was quite critical of in His ministry teachings. It is not merely ironic that the number one complaint against the church today from unbelievers is not that they are not relevant but that they are in fact hypocrites. These charges being made by Jesus should not be glossed over. They should not be taken as some mere trifle. He is in fact passing judgment upon them for their various hypocrisies.

For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.

Remember the charge to Timothy! Guard your doctrine for the sake of the salvation of your listeners! This judgment does not speak about intent, desire or zeal. None of those things will allow someone to become born again. Only doctrine can. Without correct doctrine, the kingdom of heaven is shut. To be truly regenerate and enter into the kingdom means to sacrifice oneself. It means to carry our own cross. It means to partake in the sufferings of Christ. It means to deny this world for the one that is to come. The Pharisees had no intention of doing any of this and neither does the false teacher today. They may be well intended beloved. They may truly believe that they are right but in the end it is only faith in their own wicked hearts that is leading them. They themselves do not wish to enter the kingdom and lose their earthly empire. Paul Washer once quipped that everyone wants to go to heaven it is just that most do not want to see God when they get there. Not the real God who wrote the Bible. So they recreate God into the image they want. The earthly blessing dispenser who is never angry with us. The parlor trick magician who dazzles the crowds with carnal oohs and ahhs. The God who must heal us. The God who must do whatever we say. Thus, they do not enter in.

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Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to (more...)
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