Friday, June 02, 2006

"For a Limited Time Offer..."

15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.
Philippians 1:15-18

Doesn’t it seem strange, for Paul to mention that some others were preaching Christ with baser motives-envy of Paul’s popularity, strife and what he calls ‘selfish ambition’? Some envied Paul’s ministry, but not his chains. That doesn’t sound like he’s describing Spirit-filled, born again in Christ Christians. But who else would be proclaiming Christ? We are all too human, and I have seen good ministries begin well, bearing fruit but end up a shambles. As I am certain that God is perfect, that leaves only the people themselves to blame.
Selfish ambition. Here we go.
I’ve been noticing quite a bit of selfish ambition on religious TV broadcasts, and it’s disturbing to me to see the Gospel being misused to sell stuff, the name of Jesus being used to pitch religious junk. Remember that Jesus cleared the Temple twice of the moneychangers and the sellers of sacrificial animals. First, near the beginning of His ministry:

14And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” John 2:14-17

and the second time, in the week before His crucifixion:
15Then they came* to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.”

This is just my view, and is hardly a scientific examination of religious programs across the TV landscape-but I see problems that are troubling. “Holy water” still being sold by one, to his eternal shame, and I’ve noticed James Robison, who’s had a TV ministry for years, is now acting as the geek when “Minerals and vitamins” are being hawked in half hour infomercials. I guess Balaam found a way to prophet after all.
It’s not just the religious junk that bothers me. It’s also the religious junk man-centered philosophies which are being preached instead of the Gospel. Usually to stadiums filled with believers. “Did you see me in Dallas last week? Man, I killed! 60,000 eating out of my hand!”
Think of it like this: There are two separate groups that are appealing to two different audiences, to attain two different results.
1: The Gospel is being preached to the lost, the good news that Christ died so that we may live again, restored into God’s family by adoption, is being broadcast around the a small percentage of Christian ministries on television. Their audience is the lost.
2: The larger percentage of Christian broadcasters aim their gospel at the body of Christ. Their audience is the Christian, who is in TROUBLE. Christians must be stu-pid-they need to be taught how to live happily, succeed prosperously-they need the “Ten Rules”, the “Five Conditions”, the “Seven Be-Attitudes” which will make the Christian Life healthy, happy...(and if you act now and buy the complete Book/ DVD set, I promise you’ll have better looking children.) You can be thinner, look younger, have a sexier marriage...all in the name of Christ.

Am I alone in this? Has anyone else been bothered by the commerce going on in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
“I know my book will help you...these five rules will change your life...stop messing up your life, my DVD will show you CAN live Happy right now, today, and when you order I promise that...if you want to be Blessed by God, then by God, you need this tape series...”

Think about this. Our Helper, our Teacher and Guide is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit which illuminates the Word of God, and we do not need to be taught by man how we should live. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. And our only schoolbook is the Bible.
I do not support those ministries which market their wares at Christians. They are siphoning off support which should go to the spreading the Gospel rather than the building up of our selfish lives. I support a few ministries, including the Voice of the Martyrs. And more importantly, in my church WE support missionaries around the world, a radio ministry and an orphanage in Mexico.
“16and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.” Sounds like a precept that could improve our lives. Where’s my scourge of cords?

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