Friday, May 13, 2011

Your Pastor May Be a Pope If: He Peddles Self Esteem

     "Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God..." 1Cor. 3:18-19a.
     This will commence a new series, not a continuous one but one that appears as the Spirit moves.  One of the great dangers of our present day is that we think of ourselves as anti-institutional and we gravitate more and more often towards churches that have no denominational structure or to something like the Southern Baptist Convention which is not set up as a denomination and every church is its own island.  We seem to hate hierarchy's so we gravitate towards churches which have no up and down structure and are often run by those who act more as a Pope, who can speak ex cathedra on matters of faith.  In place of structure, oftentimes churches have devolved into an extreme authoritarian structure.  Interesting how our thirst for freedom in ecclesiology(church government) ends up looking like the structure of a third world tin pot dictatorship.
     One of the ways that we can determine if your pastor or church government is biblical is if they actually promote what Jesus taught, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me," Mark 8:34b.  Too often, way too often, we succumb to the unbiblical, anti-biblical ideas of this world.  Paul describes this in Colossians as, "vain philosophy".  The most prominent of these "vain philosophies" of our day is the ridiculous notion of self-esteem. 
     At its base, self-esteem denies the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before Me."  Webster's defines esteem as, "to value highly, respect."  If you value yourself highly, you are deceived.  Notice Job's response to continuous calamity and the loss of his great wealth, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I return there.  The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD," Job 1:21.  He was considered the greatest of all the people of the East.  He, if anyone ever has, deserved self-esteem.  He was blameless, wealthy and prominent.  Yet, he understood his proper place.  He understood God's sovereignity.  Job understood that he owned nothing at birth and that when he died, if he died with the most toys, he still was dead.  His joy, his esteem, was not in himself, his wealth nor even his family or prestige.  After almost everything was taken from him, his reply was still, "Blessed be the name of the LORD." 
     Now, if you have a pastor that tells you that your worth is intrinsic, that it is within yourself, you have a pastor who is placing man made traditions or philosophies above the plain teaching of scripture.  You have a pastor who is seeking to make people comfortable in their own selfishness and he is driving the flock away from the Shepherd of their souls.  This type of pastor causes the sheep to focus inwardly and only in a shallow, humanistic way.  God has shown us that we are only to examine ourselves for two reasons: to confess our sins to Him and to seek reconciliation to others.  When we focus primarily on ourselves or our immediate circumstances, horrible things will happen.  We will become materialistic and get our worth from the things of this world.  When these things disappear or are ruined we become angry, despondent or depressed.  We are to "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart," Psalm 37:4.  Only, your heart will be transformed from a hard heart to a heart of flesh that desires God's righteousness, mercy and grace and you will be like Job and not consider calamity as a cause to curse God.  Job's wife saw it differently and told him to, "Curse God and die."  "She did not delight herself in the Lord."  When we focus on our self-esteem we are slaves to our emotions, tyrannized by every whim.  Is it any wonder that there is so much spiritual depression in the church?  We need to consider God and others before ourselves and when we consider ourselves God still needs centrality in everything we do.  I am convinced that other than physiological causes, depression is a spiritual disease, a sin based on our all consuming attention to ourselves and our current circumstances.  When this is true, the last thing we need is some worldly preacher telling us to think positive about ourselves he convinces us that our selfishness and pride are needs not being met.  What we need to do is dwell on God and His goodness.  We need to sing, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty.  If we can, we need to minister to others and serve them.  These are the cures to all depression that is not a physiological manifestation of our fallen nature.
     There are many other pestilent ideologies paraded by pedantic pastors and you need to watch out for them also.  Anything that someone parades apart from or above the clear teaching of scripture is false teaching.  Regardless of how long it has been taught or from what tradition it came.  When a pastor puts his pet postulation above the word of God, he may be a Pope who sets the traditions of men above the Bible.
     Remember, learn, live and love the Gospel.

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