– Good Shepherds and Mercenaries

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In the last days the most daunting challenge for the Church (those who worship in Spirit and in truth -John 4:24), is not from any outside influence. It’s from those who claim to belong, even become leaders, who introduce destructive teachings that completely undermine the body of Christ. Whether it’s deliberate or by mistake depends on who each of those people really are and if they are open to repenting once corrected, or not. Either way the damage done means that believers who are genuinely committed to living the Judeo-Christian life will need to be even more dedicated to discerning the truth.

A huge problem today is related to the influence of money in wealthy western nations. A great irony arises in which the very blessings promised by God on righteous nations can become the focus of the ministry rather than a two-way relationship with Himself. Some refuse to be content with what God gives them and never have enough. They allow prosperity in Christ to lead them to powerful delusions sent to those who refuse to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). They begin with a powerful Spirit-inspired ministry only to turn it into something that revolves around themselves instead of Him. The results are a toxic and deadly mixture of what is truly from God and something of the evil one added as well, to lead many astray.

The biggest problem is not the level of wealth. It’s entirely possible to be right with God and very wealthy because of also being very generous. With the measure we use it’s measured to us and some find out by experience that we can’t out-give God. Their wealth is not automatically a sign that something’s wrong because they may be giving away even more than they own. The biggest problem arises when false doctrine becomes part of the equation specifically to keep the money coming in. Jesus taught us to recognize the wolves in sheep’s clothing by their fruit, not by how much they own. Some have great wealth because of dedicating all they are and all they have to the Kingdom of God, trusting God knows how to keep them free from preaching false doctrine as well.

One of the main issues with the false doctrine is that those who would be leaders fail to lead the way Jesus did. He called Himself the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:10). He said all others who try to come into the sheep pen any other way are thieves and robbers. It doesn’t matter if they have fine sounding words or powerful revelations about God; it doesn’t automatically mean they truly know Him because they know about Him. The way to truly know Him is to take up the cross and walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6; Matthew 16:24). There are no shortcuts for those who truly want to lead the body of Christ in the end times. All else produces a mixture of truth and error with error becoming increasingly grave.

Today we witness some obscenely wealthy leaders who have no testimonies of having shared in the suffering of Christ to truly share in His glory (Romans 8:17). They may talk about how they started off with very little income only to receive great wealth, because they starting tithing and sowing financial offerings into the Kingdom of God; but what they don’t say is just as revealing about where they’re really coming from. Without the overcoming testimony of having endured great trials of hardship to prove their faith as genuine, it’s not the same to hear them speak of ‘believing God for something’ as if He’s Santa Claus with a sack of goodies for everyone.

God’s Word says the saints will go through all kinds of fiery trials with Christ to ensure that their faith – of greater worth than gold – is proven to be genuine (1 Peter 1). When we see wealthy prosperity preachers teach the gospel but fail to share testimony about the hard times they went through to be where they are, it prompts discerning listeners to always beware the potential for false doctrine designed to get money. It’s the overcoming testimony that speaks the loudest, and the sharing of hard times with other saints, to demonstrate how God can pick us up out of any situation cause us to prosper His way, when we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.

Some leaders will brag about their great wealth from God but not lift a finger to help a believer who is suffering great lack for various reasons, when it’s well within their ability to do so. Their attitude is ‘what’s mine is mine, and you could have more too if you only had more faith, and sow money into my ministry while you’re at it.’ Also, ‘I’m anointed so don’t touch me, verbally or physically, but keep giving me money which I’m entitled to because I’m the anointed one.’

They expect donations from their listeners and wrongly assume the only one who is anointed in the assembly, is themselves. There may be powerfully anointed believers in their gatherings, sent by God to be part of it all, but no room is made for anyone but the ‘owner’ of the ministry. Nobody is considered for assistance on a financial level as the wealth is hoarded for a select few. They treat their ministries like financial pyramid schemes with themselves at the top and imagine themselves as untouchable. In truth they are in a very dangerous position before God because of failing to serve as good shepherds who lay down their lives for the sheep.

At the heart of it all is the absence of the love of God for those they consider to be ‘their sheep.’ It’s the love, not the money, that constitutes an unshakeable ministry for the Kingdom of God. The Word of God is full of scriptures about how important it is to be motivated by His love above all else; otherwise whatever we do comes to nothing (1 Corinthians 13). We can have a faith that moves mountains or abundant knowledge about many things, but if it’s only used to build ourselves up instead of others, it’s futile.

Yet this is where some of the most prominent western ministries are going. The deceitfulness of wealth causes a subtle shift to happen to move them off their original foundations in the will of God, so they end up being mercenaries only, instead of good shepherds who lay down their lives for the sheep. The lifestyles that they’ve established for themselves require massive incomes to sustain them and the money has to come from somewhere. We now witness some teaching false doctrine to that end.

Some destructive heresies coming from once Spirit-led anointed leaders, is truly astounding. Like King Saul they use their anointing to build themselves up in everyone’s face rather than being obedient to the will of God. They begin with an anointing and end with causing great grief to the Lord for how they use it to defy His sovereign will. It’s entirely possible to be anointed and still fall away from the Kingdom of God this way. The truth is we come to the Father THROUGH the Son, not by avoiding the Son and claiming the blessings of knowing the Father alone (John 14:6; 1 John 2:23). He said “If anyone would come after Me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Yet we hear much false doctrine today that tells us we don’t need to share in the suffering of Christ to share in His glory.

The King James Bible uses the word ‘damnable’ to describe such heresies, saying “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” The teachings they introduce to the body of Christ are to be condemned and rejected, not embraced. Spirit-led believers with the gifts of discernment and distinguishing between spirits, who see the problems, need to be heard.

Some of those teachings are presented as revelation given only to a certain leader by God. Such a leader talks as if He’s in good with God, getting the inside scoop on His Kingdom and he alone is privileged enough to receive it. The truth is he may not be hearing from God at all but a powerful spiritual entity described in the Bible as a principality or power that is actually from the enemy of God (Ephesians 6:12).

The Bible refers to God’s enemy as the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Until Christ comes again, wherever the air is permeated by a certain evil principality it impacts our reality on the ground. We can hear the voice of God by way of the Holy Spirit within us but also be at risk of having our thinking changed by what’s in the air all around us. Only a Spirit-led walk with Jesus the way of the cross teaches us how to be delivered from all that, and it’s directly tied to recognizing His Word – the Holy Bible – as the defining standard of truth in this world.

The easiest way to tell the difference between false doctrine and the truth, is to look for the sacrificial love from the good shepherd for the sheep, such that he or she is willing to make huge personal sacrifices on their behalf and not care who gets the credit as God alone gets the glory. Instead we may see an attitude that says ‘look at me!’ in the leader who presents himself (or herself) as one of God’s ‘elite.’ He (or she) confuses the word ‘elect’ with the word ‘elite’, and imagines that being one of God’s ‘elect’ is all about privilege and financial gain rather than being elected to share in the suffering of Christ to truly share in His glory (Romans 8:17).

Another sign is increasingly deviant doctrine that strays from the truth of God’s Word. The followers are told that there are great mysteries of the Kingdom to be learned for those whom God has chosen, then presume to speak some of them in a way that elevates the leaders so that they appear to be equal with God, rather than subject to Him. They will teach other believers that they too, should count themselves as equal with God and if they don’t they’re missing out on something. At the same time they are devoid of sound teaching or testimony about how to walk as Jesus did, to come into a genuine two-way relationship with the Father. It takes great humility, not pride, and a willingness to endure all kinds of hardships from which we receive a harvest of righteousness and overcoming testimonies.

Hebrews 12:5-12 teaches that God chastens, even punishes, those He accepts as sons of the Kingdom. We endure hardship as discipline because God treats us as His children.It says  “For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.” So what does that say about leaders who insist they will rebuke every sign of hardship and suffering because it is not from God, and encourage their listeners to do the same? What does it say about the damage done to their faith when they continue to suffer anyway?

It’s not quite the same as testifying of having been financial broke and now wealthy because of how they handled their money. An overcoming testimony will include details of mistakes made, times of falling short of God’s best, horrendous suffering even at the hands of those who claim to know Him, how they forgave everyone involved and stood in the gap before God on their behalf, and claimed the final victory over the evil one by even staring death in the face rather than denying the Name of the Lord.

It’s not the same to have a testimony that says, essentially: ‘I was financially broke and now I’m rich. Give more money to me while I teach on the mysteries of God’s Kingdom and you can be rich too.’ There’s no solid spiritual food being shared that feeds the spirits of their listeners, nor any love of God being exchanged, but only a time of building themselves up in God’s face.

As of the year 2020, those who have truly overcome, receive 2020 vision of God’s coming Kingdom. They recognize the deceitfulness of wealth poisoning the body of Christ for what it really is. The false doctrine that became part of such ministries is going full circle so that we witness the deceivers now being deceived themselves. With the measure they used for their listeners, it’s being measured back to them. They have side-stepped the need to follow the example of the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, and instead behaved like hired hands who care nothing for the sheep (John 10). They prove to be thieves and robbers who failed to come into the sheep pen by the gate (who is the good shepherd Himself), and instead came in by some other way.

Powerful delusions now arise to lead many to destruction who refused to love the truth and be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). The most terrifying part is they truly believe they’re hearing from God and they are! It’s because God Himself is sending the delusions that will lead to their destruction so those who cling to the way of the cross can finally be delivered from their false teachings.

They should have followed the way of love, first and foremost, and asked the Lord for whom should they lay down their lives and give it all up, so His love could be greatly magnified and His Name exalted. They would have experienced such a great outpouring of genuine revelation about His unconquerable Church there would be no question of Who is behind it. There would have been genuine signs of His coming Kingdom -miraculous healings that last and are easily documented, speaking in other tongues in a way that brought interpretation and revelation, carrying out all kinds of death-defying deeds in the process of loving others for His glory.

Instead those ministries get boiled down to one basic message: ‘I’m rich and powerful; I know all God’s secrets and you can be the same when you give money to me.’ Try not giving money any more and see what happens. They become like prophets of Baal instead of true prophets for Jesus Christ.

The word ‘baal’ means owner, lord or master. It’s often accompanied by another word explaining who the owner really is. Those who claim to be leaders of the Church, who revel in their wealth and have no overcoming testimonies of walking the way of the cross with Jesus, become owners or ‘baals’ in their own right. Followers who keep them on their pedestals, fall prey to the same baal worship that existed in the days of ancient Israel. They get owned even while handing over the resources necessary for the owners to maintain power over them.

The evidence comes forth in the fact that all the Lord gives the followers, in the way of anointing and spiritual gifts, are treated as inconsequential in the ministry of the one in charge. They are left hoping to find their voice and their place to serve God in this ministry, only to be made to feel like it’s not good enough, and it’s a threat to the power- trip that their leader is currently on.

As 2 Peter 2:17-19 says about leaders who introduce destructive heresies: “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. With lofty but empty words, they appeal to the sensual passions of the flesh and entice those who are just escaping from others who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves to depravity. For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”

Those who worship at the altar of the modern day baals should not be surprised to find themselves owned with no regard for anything the Lord has sown into their lives. In Luke 11:14-23 Jesus spoke about such owners who were threatened by the Kingdom of God that was genuinely at work in His life and ministry. He used the word ‘Beelzebub’ to describe the spiritual entity at work in such ‘owners’ who were so self-righteous they could only think of the cost to themselves when the Kingdom of God truly manifested among them. The name is defined in Strong’s Concordance as a name for satan, the enemy of God, and chief ruler of all evil spirits – lord of the house of God’s enemy the devil.

Jesus said “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his house, his possessions are secure. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted, and then he divides up his plunder” (Luke 11:21-22). This is currently happening in the body of Christ in wealthy western nations. The strong man is guarding his house and taking possession of all that belongs to the body of Christ through false doctrines like the prosperity gospel which teaches half the gospel only, in a way that promotes financial wealth instead of the need to walk with Jesus the narrow way of the cross.

The only way to overpower him is to heed the FULL gospel, including the parts about sharing in the suffering of Christ to truly share in His glory. Now’s the time to fast and pray for God to deliver us from the deceitfulness of wealth, from all false doctrine and delusions, and set us on that narrow path that few find because they don’t even want to know it exists. It’s called the way of the cross. It’s found by following the way of love, not money, even if it means foregoing a claim to financial prosperity so that our lives laid down in love for someone else means they find life to the full in Christ Jesus. Then, and only then, we let Him lift us back up His way, so that His Name is exalted above all else. He does so in a way that empowers us to plunder the house of the strong man currently holding the Church hostage to the influence of money.

The difference between the false gospel being promoted due to money’s influence, and what is really from God, is the difference between a continual lust for power and personal glory versus an ever-deepening humility before Him. To truly know Him is to understand the eternal nature of His judgments as well as the place of His great mercy. Forever is a very long time to pay the price of seeking wealth and self-aggrandizement at the cost of the well-being of His sheep – those who trust Him to know how to protect them from the wolves.

The good shepherds do not fleece the flock; rather they walk with the Father to hear about exactly how to lay down their lives for all who follow them. That’s why they follow, because such a lavish love from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit flows through to them like a river of eternal life. When such love does the talking it exposes the deceitfulness of wealth for what it really is.

Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I come to you kn the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; the good shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. I repent of all I’ve done to promote a false gospel that teaches your people to do the opposite, so that they seek personal power and self-promotion at the cost of the truth. Forgive me for going along with it and supporting something of the enemy coming against what is truly from you for the Body of Christ. I plead with you to deliver me from all false doctrines, from all the mixture of true gospel with the lies promoted by self-serving people masquerading as leaders, and from all the powerful delusions that lead to destruction.”

I open my heart and mind to receive your revelation on what it means to take up the cross and walk as Jesus did, for the same reasons He did. I beg you to help me find that narrow path leading to eternal life and to have the courage and conviction to walk it out with you by faith; trusting that you know better than I do about how to preserve what you’ve given me including my home, my livelihood, even my children and grandchildren. I entrust them all to you as I commit to come out from under the strong man’s ownership of who I am, and be used by you to overpower him as I walk with your Son the way of the cross. All for your glory I ask in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ (Yeshuah HaMashiach in Hebrew); King of Kings and Lord of Lords, amen.”