May 8, 2009

REFERENCE TEXT: (John 13:12-17, Hebrews 12:2, 1 Peter 2:21) - NIV

"When he has finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. You called me Teacher and Lord and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Hebrews 12:2. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God".

1 Peter 2:21. "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps".

One of the saddest things I deal with is the destruction caused when the Pastor of a church or Christian Leader falls. Sadly, the destruction does not stop with the lives of the Pastor or Christian Leader, their family, the person they sinned with (in the case of adultery or fornication) and that person's family. Like all sin, there is an incredible ripple effect and when a Pastor or Christian Leader falls, those ripples are far reaching and affect the lives and faith of many, many people. On top of the damage done to the lives and faith of many people, there is tremendous, in some cases, crippling, irreparable damage done to the work of that particular church or ministry the Pastor or Christian Leader was overseeing for God.

I wish I could tell you that a Pastor or Christian Leader falling is a rare and isolated event, but that is simply not the truth. I have encountered a Pastor and the Praise and Worship Leader fornicating for years and both gets up on the pulpit and they preach the word and lead the congregation into worship at each and every service. Satan is VERY BUSY and we know from the very lips of Jesus his goal is to kill, steal, and destroy. If you think you are going to start a church or ministry that is going to do the work of God and Satan is not going to bother you, you have obviously never read God's Word. Never forget, the more you are doing for the Lord, the bigger a target you become. The more you are doing for the Lord, the more Satan will set his sights on taking you out. The more you are doing for the Lord, the more prepared spiritually you better be, since the battle we fight is NOT of flesh and blood but it is a spiritual one!

Think with me for a moment. If you were Satan, would you spend your time and energy trying to take down one person who is witnessing to people, or would you spend your time and energy trying to take down the Pastor of a church with 2,000 members? If you were Satan would you spend your time and energy going after a Believer who did little with his faith other than show up for church on Sunday morning, or would you be plotting to take out a Christian Leader that was followed by thousands of people. SATAN ALWAYS HAS AND ALWAYS WILL TARGET PASTORS AND CHRISTIAN LEADERS.  He knows by taking down a Pastor or Christian Leader he also wipes out many people who follow them in the process. It is like bowling, hit the head pin and watch all the pins behind fall down. This is why I tell people all the time to stay focused on THE man and never A man.

One of the major complaints of non-believers is that Christians are hypocrites and they are given reasons to support their beliefs. Those who do not even know the great stories of the Bible, can tell you in great detail the stories of top celebrities; Brian Lara, David Beckham, Tiger Woods, and the preacher down the street who ran off with a member of his or her congregation. It is one of the most common objections of someone who has rejected Christ and the truth of God's Word. They say that they would be a Christian, but those who are Pastors and Christian Leaders do not act like a Christian should act - making a mockery of God's calling in ministry.

I am sure there were many in the first days of the church who said, "I would be a Christian, but look at what Peter did. This man who claimed to be a follower of Jesus denied him, not once, but THREE times!!" They make a valid point. The fact is however, a Pastor or Christian Leader is nothing more than a sinner who is saved by grace. Even though they are Leaders, they are still frail, prone-to-sin creatures living in a sin-filled environment. That in no way excuses their sin, but it is the reality of who they are.

By the way, a note for those non-believers that loves to use this excuse for rejecting Christ in their life. God is not going to be interested that you rejected Jesus because of what someone else did. We are each going to be held accountable for our free will, choice to accept or reject Christ in our hearts and lives.

A major part of the destruction when a Pastor or Christian Leader falls is the damage it does to the person in the pew or those who follow that person's ministry. Let me warn you today. One of the quickest ways to fall away from your faith is to put too much emphasis on a man or woman of God. God uses human instruments to plant the seeds of salvation. He uses human instruments to disciple us and help us grow in our faith. He uses human instruments to impact our spiritual lives. In a society that is prone to idolise others, such as entertainers, athletes, and successful people, we take that into our Christian lives as well. We tend to place our Pastors and Christian Leaders on pedestals they do not belong on.

Let me stop for a moment and say something important. God does not share His glory with ANYONE. I realise that in the drive to amass numbers, in the drive to generate funds, many Pastors and Christian Leaders fall into the trap of ALLOWING people to idolise or worship them. Some actually encourage this. God does not share His glory with ANYONE. It is the responsibility of those Pastors and Christian Leaders to always keep the focus on Christ, and never allow the people to worship them, but remind them they are only to worship Christ. THE TRUE PASTOR AND CHRISTIAN LEADER COMES TO SERVE, NOT BE SERVED!!!

We normally only see those God has called to be Pastors and raised up to lead ministries when they are "on," when they are doing what God has called them to do. Because of that, we almost tend to forget they are human. These men and women walk in the same frail clay bodies as everyone else and are prone to the same weaknesses that every person is. Since we rarely see these Pastors or Christian leaders other than the times they are doing the Lord's work, we lose sight that those moments are only a part of their life. They have lives outside of their work for the Lord. THEY ARE ONLY AS CLOSE TO GOD AS THEIR OWN PERSONAL DAILY WALK WITH THE LORD.

Because they are in the spotlight, when they fail, when they sin, it is made known to the public. Our first reaction is, "how can that be possible?" Nobody is immune to sin my friend. No matter who you are, your life flows from your personal relationship with Christ. A Pastor and Christian leader is only as close to God as his or her daily walk. Like anyone, if they neglect their daily time with the Lord, they get farther away from God and become an easy target for Satan. Most Pastors and Christian leaders fall when things are going great. They lose their humility, they quit working as hard as they used to, they have more idle time, and they do not stay as close to the Lord as they used to. It is only possible to minister to others from your own personal walk with Christ. As you neglect that daily time with the Lord, you start to be disconnected. You may have some spiritual gasoline left in your tank, but eventually you will use that up. Those Pastors and Christian leaders, who fall, fall because they have neglected to invest time with God one on one. Even more than most, a Pastor and Christian leader cannot afford to neglect their daily time with Christ.

The key point I want you to understand today is that you must keep focused on THE man, and not A man. Christ was the only one who did it perfect. My personal philosophy is to take the spiritual wisdom from other men and women of God, but never idolize them, never expect them to be more than the man or woman of flesh and blood they are, but realise that God has touched them in a special way and given them something that can benefit your spiritual life. I have always called it my spiritual filter. Being in ministry for over 50 years and full-time for the last almost 20 years, having ministered in several churches of every type of denomination, having spoken at hundreds of conventions, being involved for many years in the Christian media world, I have had the unique opportunity to meet and know an incredible number of Pastors and Christian leaders of our day.

However, no matter who the person is I always do two things. I always line up what they said with the Word of God. That is number one. I do not care who the person is. If it is not in line with the Word of God, it is not something I want. Secondly, I always look at the man or woman of God as an instrument God is using. I never expect them to be supernatural or anything other than a vessel God is using to bring spiritual truths into my life. The only person I ever idolized or tried to pattern my life after was Christ. I have always taken what I can from men and women of God and tried to use that to help me in my quest to be more like Christ each and every day. I learn to prove all things.

Fellow ministers and Christian Leaders, this teaching today and the Word is an important reminder to never get so focused on a man or woman of flesh and blood that you let it get in the way of your own personal walk with Christ. God has placed men and women of God in our lives to help teach us, show us the truths of His Word. However, no matter how close to the Lord they may be, the only one we should ever try to pattern our lives after is Jesus Christ because He is the only one who lived this life without sin. He is our example and the one each one of us should strive to be like.

I am praying every day for those Pastors and Christian leaders who have fallen from grace. Let me encourage you today, God is not done using your life. There are always consequences for our sins, and things will never be the way they used to be, but that does not mean God cannot use you. Look at Peter. The key is, Peter humbled himself before the Lord and allowed God to restore him to fellowship and service. I pray today that for those fallen Pastors and Christian leaders, they will follow the example of Peter.

I will also be praying every day for those who are listening to this teaching, who have had their faith shaken by a Pastor or Christian leader who fell. It is normal and OK to be upset, but never forget that your faith is in Jesus, not that Pastor or Christian leader. Of course you have every right to expect them to live up to the standards God has set for those who lead His church. However, when a Pastor or Christian leader falls, do not allow the enemy to destroy your faith just because of the failings of another person. Again, your faith is NOT in that Pastor or Christian leader but in JESUS CHRIST! AMEN.

N.B. For those Pastors and Christian leaders whom have read the foregoing please refer to my teachings on the Doctrine of Repentance.