A friend texted me about an upcoming Christian program on TV and asked me if I thought it would be worth watching. The channel the program was on often skews things in an un-Christian way. I've learned this station often uses a professor who is an unbeliever as their "scholar." He often omits information to appear Christianity has it all wrong.
The second red flag on the program was who was producing it. It was a well-known Christian man who has a reputation in the Christian community for preaching what is referred to as the prosperity gospel. This preacher gives half the message. He talks about how God loves you and God will bless you, but pretty much ignores God is holy and our sin grieves Him and we must be obedient to Him. It's a feel good message that encourages people. I heard of his reputation and so I listened to some of his sermons. It wasn't what I heard was wrong, but that he only seemed to be giving half the message. He seemed to omit the holy part of God's holy-love. I didn't hear the part that convicts people and brings them to true transformation. This man is the head of a mega church and is extremely rich. More red flags on the man's character.
So I don't know if the program would be worth watching. I'll probably skip it. I told my friend if she watches it to have discernment.
I've learned over the years that there are some Christian speakers that send out red flags. They don't appear to be running a good race. I personally stay away from them. I don't read their books or listen to their sermons and messages online. I see they wrote something and I just skip it. Maybe I didn't give the above mentioned man a fair chance as I didn't listen to too much of his stuff. But there are some Christian speakers and authors out there who I know are sound. Since I have a limited amount of time to read or listen, I choose people I know are worthy.
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
There are a few Christians whose teaching and character I think might be questionable and I just don't put them in front of me.
I told my friend about a study I had done a few years ago by the pastor of another mega-church. I learned so much from doing that study and when I found out this preacher was on the radio on weekdays, I tried to listen to him at every chance possible. His teaching was so moving. I learned new things. I pondered new concepts. I never heard him say anything questionable. Then a couple years ago I looked him up. Wow, there were a lot of red flags! Major struggles with this pastor and others. Over the past couple years I would occasionally check out what was going on with him. It was heartbreaking to watch things go from bad to worse until his church finally recently asked for his resignation.
I don't doubt he started out well, with the right heart for God; to be part of building up God's kingdom. Along the way he became powerful and he made a lot of money. The power and the money seemed to bring his downfall. He regarded the church he planted which grew into a multi-campus mega-church and ministry to belong to him. Perhaps he forgot it belonged to Jesus.
There is another nationally known preacher who I've heard a lot of bad things about. I've watched several of his sermons and I didn't here anything 'off'. His style of preaching isn't to my taste. I've never read one of his books. But a few years ago he built a 16,000 square foot gated estate. Supposedly he built the mansion with proceeds from his books. His extravagant lifestyle is a red flag. Then I found out his church does not release detailed financials or his salary. Red flag. Then there was an incidence about planting people to encourage other people to get spontaneously baptized. That was horrific in my opinion. Too many red flags to give this guy my time.
My friend said she understood. She replied, "We have to be careful of the source no matter the subject - religion, medical, political." True.
The above mentioned Christians didn't or aren't running a good race. They may have begun on the right path, but somewhere along the way they strayed off of it.
There are Christians who have run an excellent race! Billy Graham, C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, A. W. Tozer, William Wilberforce, Amy Carmichael, Corrie ten Boom, Charles Spurgeon, Elisabeth Elliot, George Muller, etc. They ended well. Men and women who have been excellent examples for us.
We start along this Christian path and it isn't long before we begin stumbling and falling. We aren't immune to huge spiritual failures. We are all prone to leave things unchecked which can corrupt our character. Money, power, popularity, the pursuit of happiness,... It begins subtly with poor choices. It grows in us. Red flags start popping up and then in a mere moment we can lose our reputation; lose our credibility. Yes, left to ourselves we might even walk off the proverbial cliff.
It is hard to run a good race. The only way we can do it is to stay connected to God.
Paul wrote to Timothy, the young pastor: Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16)
No we aren't ministers of a church, but people are watching our walk with Christ, listening to what we say, judging Jesus and the gospel because of us. We are His witnesses. May we never forget that.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)
Only reliance on God will let us be victorious.
Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Corinthians 9:27b)
We persevere. We keep up the effort required to do something and to keep doing it until the end. It will be hard at times. But we keep feeding our mind and thoughts with worthy things and keep our hand in His and let Him guide us.
Stay the course. Run a good race.