Jimmy Baker, Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart’s recent capture of headlines, threatening to either die or expose something they hadn’t already exposed. National news coverage and editorials written weekly for the last six months. It is time now, I think, for us to comment and compare.
The church today is known to the world primarily through television. What image does the worldly or unconverted individual have, when he thinks of church? Now don’t disregard the headline snatching, diamond flashing, chauffeured, madeup, glitzy evangelist. Don’t kid yourself. They have a tremendous impact! Decisions concerning the true church, represented by God’s people throughout the world, will be made based on perceptions obtained from these types of preachers. You will be judged as a “typical Christian” until they get to know you better. Collectively we will suffer some scorn and ridicule as the church.
How would you characterize today’s popular evangelists? Apart from flagrant sin, can you condemn their actions and methods? Scripture says to “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits”. Matt. 7:15-16.
What a contrast we find between Christ, the prophets and preachers of old, and today’s evangelist. Naaman the great captain and ruler, was second only to the king of Syria. A rich man indeed. Elisha is not enamored with his wealth nor the opportunity to brush shoulders with the rich and powerful. No, he sends his servant to tell Naaman in order to heal his leprosy, to wash in the filthy Jordan River. Nothing fancy, just dip seven times in the dirty water. Simple and to the point. God’s powerful cleansing hand saves Naaman.
Earlier we see the Lord’s ambassador Elijah. A man that delivers the Almighty God’s decrees and judgements. A man who faces King Ahab and Queen Jezebel in the royal courts. And yet the Lord is pleased to have the ravens feed him. His water supply is the brook Cherith. He doesn’t own a fancy chariot, nor does he draw any attention to himself with expensive living and yet Jehovah speaks to him directly!
You would think that the forerunner of Christ, he who preached the need of a Redeemer would certainly be worthy of fine apparel and to live and dine on the best this earth can offer. But no! John the Baptist lives on locust and honey. Dwells in the wilderness and wears a coat of camel’s hair. He who bears the good news of the Son of God and is a contemporary with Him, is clothed with humility.
Compare Christ’s manner of preaching and miracle working with that of the electronic ministers. He was pleased to surround Himself with the unlearned, sought out the infirmed and healed in the most basic manner. To heal a blind man he spits on the ground, mind you, and places the mud on the blind eyes and instructs to wash in the pool of Siloam.
A far cry from Rolls-Royce automobiles, crystal cathedrals, lavish homes, hobnobbing with the worldly rich and famous, building earthly empires and holding showy rallies.
Would our Lord, if here today be found in flamboyant affluence or simplistic austerity? Be found in expensive suits and diamond rings or dressed as a simple Nazerene?
Be comforted with the words of I Corinthians 1: “Not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. . . And base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen.”
The temptation for us to bask in the glow of wealth is real. We like the finer things of life. Our affluence is a danger. The true church prospers when money is in short supply. When it is difficult make ends meet and sacrifices are many. Our attention is drawn to things spiritual and not distracted with earthly pleasures. Solomon prayed in Proverbs 30:8 & 9 “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full and deny Thee and say Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain”.
Let us not forget our great God, rather diligently pray and work toward contentment. Finding our joy and spiritual strength in the preaching from faithful dividers of God’s Word. What a rich blessing we hold to have humble preachers of the Word, not looking for national spotlight. Not trying to make a name or place in the religious world today. Content to be in a tiny denomination but holding the truth firmly and boldly proclaiming pure doctrine. Seeking praise of God rather than men.