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The greatest obstacle to God’s desire for redemption is God’s people themselves

Chris Wright challenged Pastors and Missionaries to confront these idols, during the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. He pointed out that the greatest obstacle to God’s desire for redemption is his own people.

We can all be guilty of idols that take the form of pride. Even if we are well-meaning Christians, we may unknowingly be harboring any of these seductive idols.

The three seductive idols of God’s workers

1. Idol of Power and Pride

It’s normal to desire recognition for what we do in ministry, but when we always hurt when we’re ignored or criticized, there could be a bad seed. Isaiah 2:12 tells us that God is coming against all that is proud and lofty. The Lord ALONE will be exalted.

What does God require of us?

Jesus said, “Whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving (Luke 22:26).” To be obsessed or concerned about status, position, or office in a Christian organization is sheer disobedience. Paul reminds us to be completely humble (Ephesians 4:2). As Chris points out, “it destroys the very thing we are seeking, we are called back to repentance to humility.”

The dangers of “God told me so”

Quoting scriptures is powerful and men of the cloth misused it for centuries. We could be mimicking a false prophet when we quote verses that we think is “Rhema,” when actually, the “Lord has NOT spoken” (Ezekiel 22:28). Paul warns us that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan knows the Bible and he loves to quote Scripture in order to destroy faith. In tempting Jesus, the devil argued from the powers of Scripture!”

2. Idol of Popularity and Success

You don’t have to be a sought-after speaker to be a popular Christian. Joining local church projects and posting photos of you doing the ministry can make you popular. However, we must be careful of our motives in telling people what we do for God. As a former worship leader, I was once rebuked for singing with too much vocal affectation. The stage belongs to God, it’s not a concert performance.

There are church leaders and workers who begin as a humble servant. As their ministry grows, motives change. As they reach the peak of popularity, unknowingly, they receive for themselves the accolades, instead of stepping back and letting Jesus get all the glory. 

We could unknowingly be stealing God’s glory

“Desiring recognition can lead us to manipulation, dishonesty, distortion, and exaggeration,” says Chris Wright. Who wouldn’t be delighted with a comment saying, “You are a blessing to God’s ministry.” We reply by saying, “To God be the glory,” but then people mostly see you instead of God’s work. We could unknowingly be stealing God’s glory by posting too much of what we do.

Dazzling preachers

Super preachers have thousands of followers and a lifestyle to match it. Ironically, Jesus walked the opposite, by being humble and frequently isolating himself from the crowd. Being impressive and speaking the good things are not always of God.

→ Why Christians should avoid politics

3. Idol of Wealth and Greed

Isaiah saw a whole culture of covetousness, which is idolatry. We know that God longs to provide abundantly for his people, but Moses also warned against the dangers of having too much of it. (Deuteronomy 8:10-11)

→ Red flags of an abusive or bullying pastor

Preaching much on prosperity is dangerous because it can poison motives. The devil tried to test Jesus with power and wealth but He chose the path of simplicity. Many Christians, including missionaries, fail this test according to Chris. As Johnny Cash said, “you could have it all, my empire of dirt,” and it’s not always about money.

Should we “claim it”?

Popular among Charismatic Christians, the “Name it Claim it” catchphrase is synonymous to the “prosperity gospel.” We must be careful of what we claim in Jesus’ name because greed has many forms. “Watch out! Guard yourselves against every form of greed, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” warns Jesus. (Luke 12:15)

The secret sin that disqualifies a church leader

Modern Pharasee

These seductive idols are big words that we may be dangling with. The longer you are in the ministry, the longer you can become desensitized and treat it as a job. Worse is to use your position to lord it over and regard others inferior to you. Ask the Lord of the harvest for a new heart! Metanoia (Repentance) is not only for non-believers but also for Christian leaders whose position have gone to their head.

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“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit because you can do nothing without Me (John 15:5); “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

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