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His Master's Voice
Copyright © 2012 - All rights retained by author
Written by: C. W. Booth

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Is Truth Really True?

OK, let me admit it right up front, my heart is full, heavy, and broken. Recently I learned yet again that Christians often do not consider truth to be true or even relevant to “ministry.”

In other words the intentional omission of needed facts is not considered being “untrue” or “lying,” but merely being clever. Purposely leading a person to the wrong conclusion for the sake of personal gain is not “deception” or “falsehood” but is seen as being cunning, shrewd, and expedient.

How far we have traveled from understanding that “the truth will set you free,” and that freedom only comes via obedience to the Word of Christ (John 8:31-32). How grateful I am that Christ does not leave out necessary facts about our salvation and that He does not purposely lead us down false trails of error.

Truth has no deception in it. Truth has no error in it. Truth does not mislead. People do misdirect others, and always for personal gain. It is for that reason Christ said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)

Each day does indeed have enough trouble of its own. It is too bad that Christians feel the need to heap more trouble onto the backs of others through the use of deception.

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth“ (1 John 1:5-6)


Post Script to the original above blog entry:

Many have asked me what event prompted the above blog on truth and honesty in ministry. I will not release the details or specifics, but I can explain the events.

I was invited to become an unpaid volunteer intern at a counseling ministry. Over the course of six months I learned that the "ministry" was actually a for-profit business, where the profit all went to the one owner-operator-counselor. The problem was that the owner told the IRS that the business was a not-for-profit church of which he was the senior pastor drawing a $20,000 salary, and then he told his clients that the ministry was owned by an entirely different church and that he drew no salary but survived only on "donations" to the ministry. Of course, he never did run a church and he was never a senior pastor.

When I discovered the depth of the deceptions I approached the senior pastor of a real church that was providing some "support" for the business and discovered that the senior pastor of that church not only knew of the deceptions but was complicit on the fradulent filings to the IRS. He too was obviously getting something out of this. He was shocked when I showed up at his office, and with me present he called his attorney to ask if he could receive jail time for his part in the scheme. To his massive relief the lawyer on the speaker phone said, "No, but you could lose your church if you do not bundle this up." So, the two con-men quietly that day bundled it all up, hid from all the clients and congregation all the lies, misdirected money, false IRS documents, and bundled it all up without ever revealing the truth.

I knew what the owner of the counseling business was getting out of it, money, but at first I was not clear on what the complicit pastor was getting. So I asked. He told me the counsling business was channeling people and donors into his church which gave him the ability to minister to more people than otherwise would have been possible. The fact that he had the largest church of his denomination in the area did not hurt his prestige and power base either.

Obviously I dissassociated from the counseling business, its owner, and the senior pastor of the complicit church. But my biggest heartache was to watch the energy they put into the subsequent coverup that took place instead of placing any effort into public confession, repentance, and restitution. The fake church was dissolved on paper, the counseling business was re-incorporated as a ministry under the complicit church, and the business owner was named as an associate pastor of counseling--and now all has the appearance of legitimacy with no one being the wiser.

Christ is not served by deception. When we think ministries can be grown via lies and theft we only deceive ourselves; liars may be heros on earth but their works are yet to be tested by fire.

For those I have left with an uneasy emotion due to my blog posted above, rest assured that some part of me does feel unhappy for having caused that. Yet, I hope a better outcome is accomplished, specifically, that Christians would think twice about not being open and honest in all their communications and business dealings and consequently will decide to be unambiguously truthful in their ministries and in their interactions with others.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How Good Must a Person Be to Be Holy?

How good must a person’s behavior and thought life be if they are to be considered holy? This question has been haunting my thoughts ever since two men advanced to me this explanation for their three years of sinful misconduct, “We did a lot of good because of our actions, and all that good sanctifies what we have done.”

Undeniably much good did come on the backs of their deceptions and their secret defrauding of the sheep. It reminds me of those evil men in the first century who preached the true gospel from pretense and motives of “selfish ambition” and even antagonistic spite instead of motives of love for Christ.

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

That some good has been done by such people who have also practiced evil, I must rejoice, as did Paul. But that does not mean that anyone, including those men, should call their deeds good or holy, for not even Paul said that. Their deeds were evil and their motives were evil even though good consequences resulted for a few.

In fact, Paul said he disciplined his lifestyle habits so that “…I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

We can do much good but when our behaviors and thoughts are selfish and evil, rather than the good outcomes sanctifying the evil deeds, the evil deeds actually disqualify the deeds and doer from potential reward.

Really, my original question needs to be re-worded. It might better be asked, “How good must a person’s behavior and thought life be if they are to be holy in the same way that God is holy?”

but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." (1 Peter 1:15-16)

'For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (Leviticus 11:45)

Being good cannot earn us salvation. But neither can good endings ever justify or sanctify evil actions. Evil deeds disqualify us from fellowship with God and require active repentance. Evil deeds must be forsaken, confessed, forgiven in Christ, and terminated, never winked at or rationalized.

So how good must we be in this life? Well, have you forsaken illicit luxuries? If so, that is good, but not quite up to the standard of God’s approval. Consider that God expects us to shed our literal bodily blood if necessary in our efforts to combat our sinful tendencies, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). Jesus was tortured and killed by sinners for telling the truth. Paul was beaten and left for dead by sinners for preaching. Joseph wasted away for years in prison for fleeing sin. That is how holy he expects us to try to be.

God is our model of holiness. How much pretense or evil motivation can be found in God?

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