Isa. 1:13 π Mk. 9:41 π Lk. 17:3 π Jn. 13:12-15 π 1 Cor. 8:1 π Eph. 2:8 π Eph. 4:3 π Phlp. 3:18-19 π Col. 2:6 π 2 Tim. 3:5 π Jas. 1:17 π Jas. 2:15-16 π 2 Pet. 1:3-4 π 2 Pet. 1:5-7; 2nd π 1 Jn. 1:7 π 1 Jn. 2:27 π 1 Jn. 3:16; 2nd π 1 Jn. 3:16-18 π Rev. 13:8
One of mammon’s more effective and therefore more dangerous deceptions has been to get people to think vicarious charity is the same thing as Christ’s agape love. Vicarious charity generally has three elements:
1) the giving is usually impersonally done through some “charitable organization”;
2) the gift given is most often some object that the owner no longer needs, wants or finds useful or else it is leftover money from an excess in cash flow; and
3) the act of “charity” makes the giver feel “good” or superior.
Agape love, on the other hand, is all about personal service that meets the true spiritual and (not or!) physical needs of the one given to. (see Jn. 13:12-15 ) It is about laying down one’s life for one’s brothers and sisters ( 1 Jn. 3:16; top ), not merely passing along one’s castoffs or giving out of one’s leftover excess. And it is done in obedience to Christ, bringing Him, not the giver, glory and honor.
The deception begins very early in a believer’s life in Christ. Peter wrote,
Through [God’s great and precious promises that, by His power, He has given us everything we need for life and godliness] you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. ( 2 Pet. 1:3-4; top NIV)
Here it is yet again: God has made a way for us to depart from iniquity and live in His light. Everything we need for life and godliness is accessible to us by our steadfast faith that overcomes the world and the devil. This thread runs throughout the New Testament precisely because it is the heart’s blood of the gospel of the glory of Christ.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, [agape] love. ( 2 Pet. 1:5-7 NIV; top)
These eight instructions are the steps we all must take to reach spiritual maturity. The first instruction here is to make every effort. The enemy works hard to get new converts to be lazy or inconsistent in this regard. If this ploy fails, the enemy will work to deceive the new convert into applying his diligence in wrong directions.
The second instruction is to add to your faith goodness. Faith is already given to us in the sacrificial death of Christ who was slain before the foundation of the world. (see Rev. 13:8 ) We apprehend and utilize that faith upon our conversion to Christ ( Eph. 2:8 ) and faith is how we are to proceed to grow into all aspects of Christ. ( Col. 2:6; top ) So we are to add goodness to the faith God has already given us. That is, we are to simply do good things for everyone around us immediately after we come to know Christ. For many of us, the abrupt change from being evil, selfish people to being good, others-oriented, caring people is appropriate and alluring testimony to Christ’s life-changing power. That many people never express this abrupt change but rather remain evil, selfish people - even after years of “church” - is adequate testimony to just how effective the rulers of darkness really are in deceiving those who lay claim to the name of Christ.
The common deception found in false religion’s “church” causes many converts to add to their faith knowledge, not goodness. That is, new converts are routinely sent directly from their “sinner’s prayer” (which has no place in the New Testament) to a “new believers class” (which has no place in the New Testament either). The damage this does to the new convert is incalculable as it removes the convert from the realms of interacting first with the God of goodness who newly lives in their hearts and it begins to train them to listen first to men. It also derails their training toward agape love and instead sets them up for a number of misconceptions - one of which is believing that vicarious charity is a godly thing.
Here is how: As each aspect of our life in Christ grows toward spiritual maturity (Peter?s eight characteristics – 2 Pet. 1:5-7; top ), the first characteristics form a support for the later characteristics. If we tried to make a picture of this, it would resemble a pyramid where the lower levels are continually built outwards to make room and support for the upper, newer levels. What the enemy tries to do at every level, but especially at the lower levels where a convert is not as aware of the devil’s devices, is to deceive the believer into building the wrong structures on upper levels when the lower levels have not even been sufficiently developed to support the higher work.
Thus, the last two instructions (to skip ahead to the characteristics most germane to our present discussion) - add to your godliness, brotherly kindness; add to your brotherly kindness agape love - are thus unavailable and completely unattainable to the convert who has been diverted early in his walk with Christ. They may possess a form of godliness ( 2 Tim. 3:5 ) but it is a religious counterfeit based on “church” attendance, Bible knowledge (that puffs up – 1 Cor. 8:1 ) and “good works” (that is, vicarious charity whereby “tithes” and “offerings” given by the convert to the “church” enable, but do not require, the “church” staff to attend to the orphans, widows and those in need). Meanwhile, the convert’s life is not the simple abiding in Christ as taught and enabled only by the Holy Spirit of God. ( 1 Jn. 2:27; top )
Since there is no real godliness, there cannot be brotherly kindness. We are brothers only in the light of Christ and we only have fellowship with one another as we walk in the light just as He is in the light. ( 1 Jn. 1:7; top ) If we walk in the darkness of religious deception, we will not treat each other as brothers, not even in any immature sense of the word. Rather, we will only be associates tasking together in religious activities.
Since there are no brotherly relations (substituted instead and at best with a flimsy co-worker mentality), there can be no agape love whereby we lay down our lives for our brothers. ( 1 Jn. 3:16; top ) The end result is the misuse of our resources and wealth as we spend what God intended for others (orphans, widows and our brothers in Christ) for our own comforts, desires and luxuries. This is especially true when we believe that a “tithe” is all that is required of us to keep God happy! Let us completely forsake the notion that the demonic is not effective against the people of Christ!
In deceiving the people of Christ into misusing their wealth, the spirit of mammon has also developed its own “codes of conduct” when it suits its purposes. These codes and laws are unwritten practices begun in wealthy circles that somehow get imported into Christian circles and, when practiced by followers of Christ, have the same effect as any other law. We remove ourselves from grace, estrange ourselves from Christ and return again to our own ability to determine good and evil. In short, we step away from God and into the hands of the demonic.
One such “code” that first developed among the wealthy plantation owners of the American South is “Southern gentility.” In addition to the gentler, nobler aspects of this code of conduct, there are some elements of snobbery against coarse, rude or poor people and some racial bigotry, particularly against blacks and Hispanics. This code with its snobbery and bigotry, when imported into Christian circles, is inappropriate, at best, but even when these two elements have been purged, the code itself is not Christ and obeying the code instead of Christ opens up one’s life to demonic influence.
Another such code is the “gentleman’s club rules.” In decades past in large cities in America, it was fashionable for the wealthy men to be members of gentlemen’s clubs. At these clubs, where it was taboo to bring one’s wife or children, one could drink, gamble, flirt with the women present, etc. But one never spoke of what one did or what one saw others doing at these clubs and one always maintained one’s self with an air of calmness and civility. This “discretion” and “restraint” has been imported into “Christian” circles as believers, in a mistaken notion of what “the bond of peace” really is, refuse to confront their “brothers” in their sins. ( Lk. 17:3 ; Eph. 4:3 ) The result is not a holy, sacred assembly nor a spotless bride of Christ but a mixed multitude of believers in Christ worshiping God right alongside sinful rebels against God. (also see Isa. 1:13; top ) The stench this must produce in the nostrils of God is unimaginable!
Another of mammon’s financial scams is to get us to live our lives by the dictates of a budget. Some believers who lack discipline and order in their lives are personally directed by Christ to structure their finances with a budget. That is not what we are discussing here. What we are discussing here is the “law” that everybody needs to budget their monies and cannot spend a penny outside of the budget’s allocations. One sign of the origin of this budgetary law is that the “tithe” is usually the first item on the list! A second indication of the source of budgetary law is found in the lack of freedom to spend pre-allocated funds for some other use. Whereas God may unexpectedly direct us to spend something for someone else, one who is under the deceptive bondage of a budget believes that he or she has no funds available for such a thing and, as a result, disobeys God. If we put ourselves under this budgetary law, we forfeit our ability to walk in the power and liberty of the Spirit of grace and we bring ourselves back under the curse of the law as well as open our lives to further demonic enslavement. Such a deal!
No discussion of mammon’s deceptions would be complete without at least mentioning its annual celebration: Christmas. Without doubt, many good deeds are done around the end of December and these are not a completely wasted effort. (see Mk. 9:41 ) But the customary celebration of Christmas (where each person spends hundreds of dollars just to give gifts to his closest friends and family) has routinely and progressively excluded Christ and, like the “tithe,” leaves us believing the deception that the rest of the year we don’t have to give anything to any body (except for our token charitable contributions to keep us thinking that we are “good people,” of course). Our Father of lights gives truly good gifts any day of the year ( Jas. 1:17 ) and He expects us to use all our resources (and not just our excess) to meet the needs of and to further the work of God in the lives of all our brothers and sisters in Christ around us. ( Jas. 2:15-16 ; 1 Jn. 3:16-18; top ) If at Christmas (in truth, all year round), like the world, we expend large sums of money to buy gadgets, baubles and trinkets for a select few people who neither really want nor need them and even one brother, sister, orphan or widow around us has their needs go unmet, we can be certain we have been deceived by the spirit of mammon. We can also be certain that our self-centered misuse of our God-given resources has not missed God’s attention either. We would be wise to repent now.
Another victim of mammon’s scams is the overweight religious “leader” (absent some valid medical condition that causes uncontrollable weight gain, of course). This person is really controlled by his own belly and is therefore, in reality, an enemy of the cross of Christ. (see Phlp. 3:18-19; top ) Any claims to being a godly example of Spirit-led Christ-likeness are erroneous, exaggerated or simply deceptive. This does not excuse the obsessively skinny (who may be victims of fashion’s expectations or peer pressure) nor necessarily commend those with physical bodies kept healthily fit and trim (these may worship the belly god through obsessive exercise rather than obsessive eating or they may just worship themselves or exalt their own body!). The only sure indicator here is that excessive skinniness or fatness (again excluding those with valid physical/medical imbalances) is a sure sign that the individual is not truly led by the Spirit of God but by some other spirit.
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