WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVE?

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

2 Peter 2:3 (NLT)  “In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money.”

Today Peter addresses another of the characteristics of false teachers and false churches – the issue of motivation. It’s a topic we don’t always enjoy looking at in our own lives. We prefer to be graded on our performance not our motives. We insist on hiding the depths of our heart to impress others and earn their approval with external appearances. We even intentionally choose wrong motives thinking that other people will be shallow enough to only see the action and reward us. Many times – more than we probably choose to admit – we are motivated by greed – that deep desire for personal benefit.

For example, many years ago, some vandals cut down six royal palms along Miami’s Flagler Street. Since the palms were very expensive, Dade County authorities weren’t sure if they could replace them very soon. But then someone donated six more and even had them planted. The old ones had been about fifteen feet tall and provided a nice foreground for a “Fly Delta” billboard. The new palms were thirty-five feet tall—completely hiding the sign. The new donor: Eastern Airlines.

Or what about the motivation of making oneself look good to others? We tend to talk down about others. Sometimes we go on and on talking about the flaws of others and the only real reason is because we think it will improve our own status or image in someone’s eyes. But nothing makes a long story short like the arrival of the person you happen to be talking about. At that moment we have proven that our motivation was not for their benefit but for ours.

M. Scott Peck writes, “Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection, they are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity. They worry about this a great deal. They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others might think of them…. They dress well, go to work on time, pay their taxes, and outwardly seem to live lives that are above reproach.

“The words “image,” “appearance,” and “outwardly” are crucial to understanding the morality of the evil. While they seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their “goodness” is all on a level of pretense. It is, in effect, a lie. That is why they are the “people of the lie.”

“Actually, the lie is designed not so much to deceive others as to deceive themselves. They cannot or will not tolerate the pain of self-reproach.”

Before we even begin to talk about the motivation of money, which we will do tomorrow, we would all benefit from some personal introspection today on this issue of “image consciousness” and the power of its motivation in our lives. We must not be apathetic about this. It has become one of the strongholds of Satan in our lives, and He uses it daily to keep us from becoming truly surrendered to Jesus and effective as His servants. We must crucify daily the desire to please self and build self-worth. We must take up our cross and follow Jesus as people of integrity – people who are real and true to the core.

We would all benefit from following the advice of Albert Einstein, who said, “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”

Pastor John

HYPOCRISY

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

False teachers are self-centered. They have developed a system of theology that is attractive to the person who is seeking spirituality but is somewhat spiritually illiterate. Their teachings have a flair of emotionalism and appeal to the powerful need for acceptance. Many fall prey to the apparent grace they hear that permits their continuation of pursuing the pleasures of the flesh.

2 Peter 2:2  “Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.

According to Peter, the next thing we need to identify about false teachers is this deadly combination of grace and flesh. False teachers are convinced, and convince many followers, that the two can coexist. The Apostle Paul knew that was an issue when he wrote to the Romans and said, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?…For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…”

The hypocrisy of the false teachers is evil, deadly, and shameful. It embarrasses the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and puts a stain on those who truly call Him Lord. Our Lord himself was most angered at the self-serving hypocrisy of the spiritual leaders of His day.

John Boykin, writing in an article entitled “The Gospel of Coincidence,” says, “What was so bad about [the Pharisees’] hypocrisy? If we think of it as consisting merely in their teaching or pretending one thing while in fact practicing something contradictory, we will miss Jesus’ main point. What He nailed them for was that they were using God and the things of God as a means to some other end. That’s what was insidious about the Pharisees’ example. ‘They do all their deeds to be noticed by men’ (Matthew 23:5)… Theirs was a problem of priorities: their first priority was social status, to which end God was but a means. What greater affront to God could there be? Better to ignore Him altogether than to exploit Him as a means to something else you value more highly.”

This is one of the things that identifies the false teachers of today – they exploit people spiritually for the sake of personal gain. But we must examine our own lives before we simply turn in anger towards those we have already pictured in our minds. Let us not become focused on others until we have first dealt with the hypocrisy of our own lives, because there is probably some in there. The world is watching, and they form their opinion on the validity of Jesus by the impact He has had on our lives.

There is nothing more devastating to a believer’s testimony than looking spiritual while living in defeat. In his book “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” Larry Burkett tells this story:

“One couple shared how God shook them out of their complacency about deception. They were selling their home, which had a significant problem with flooding in a basement playroom. During the dry winter season, they replaced the carpet and put the house on the market.

“They were showing it to a very interested buyer, and when they went to the playroom the potential buyer mentioned that the carpet looked new.

“Sure,” the small daughter replied, “the old carpet got wet every time it rained.” This came as a shock since the couple had skillfully avoided any mention of a water problem. The buyer left, but not without a thorough discussion of ethics and Christianity. You see, the couple selling the home was a well-known pastor and his wife. Later he told me, “We allowed our personal needs to choke out our spiritual values. God simply used the honesty of a young child to expose us.”

The truth revealed will make you truly free; concealing facts will make you a captive of your own hypocrisy.

We bring shame to the Gospel of Jesus Christ when we try to combine our faith with the flesh. It makes us as guilty as the false teachers. Let’s all do a little inward reflection today under the influence of the Holy Spirit and give Him full permission to reveal any hypocrisy in us.

Pastor John

HOW TO IDENTIFY FALSE TEACHERS

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, February 6, 2023

Secular journalists love exposing Christian charlatans. But is it a modern phenomenon? Not really. Lucian wrote satire in the mid-second century, and he loved to pick on Christians—especially when he smelled a fraud. In one of his works, he reports on a huckster named Peregrinus, a murderer and child molester who fled to Palestine and got involved with the Christians.

“In a trice he made them all look like children; for he was prophet, cult leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.”

Peregrinus was imprisoned for his involvement with the Christians. This, Lucian says, was an “asset to his future career” as a charlatan. Christians traveled from all around to visit him; some tried to rescue him.

“Much money came to him from them by reason of his imprisonment, and he procured not a little revenue from it.” Lucian comments on the strange beliefs of “these poor wretches,” the Christians, who “despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence. So if any charlatan or trickster, able to profit by occasions, comes among them, he quickly acquires sudden wealth by imposing upon simple folk.”

Released from prison, Peregrinus wandered for a while, “possessing an ample source of funds in the Christians, through whose ministrations he lived in unalloyed prosperity.” But his defrauding of the Christians would not last forever. Lucian says he “transgressed in some way even against them (he was seen, I think, eating some of the food that is forbidden them) so that they no longer accepted him.”

Lucian’s tale continues, culminating in Peregrinus’s spectacular suicide. Before a crowd of Greeks at the Olympic festival, he jumped into a burning pyre. “So ended that poor wretch [Peregrinus], a man who (to put it briefly) never fixed his gaze on the verities, but always did and said everything with a view to glory and the praise of the multitude.”

Of course Lucian treated this story in his classic satirical fashion; he may have overstated the facts. A fraud like Peregrinus could never dupe Christians so thoroughly, could he?

2 Peter 2:1 “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.

The church of Jesus Christ is being duped by false teachers, as it has been since the time it started 2000 years ago. Peter wants us to be able to recognize the false teachers when they come. He begins his discernment training in verse one, and points out the following fundamental traits of a false teacher:

  • They are sneaky – they will seem to know what they are talking about and be very convincing, but their hearts are blackened with pride. They will slowly infiltrate what little truth they teach with seemingly insignificant suggestions that bring doubt and questions to the follower’s mind, causing them to question what they really believe.
  • Their teaching is destructive – This doubt leads to the destruction of true spiritual intimacy with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is quenched and fellowship with Jesus is minimized.
  • Their teaching is heresy – heresy applies to any teaching that benefits self. The Greek word means to “choose what one wants for himself.” These teachers thrive on giving people choices of what they want to believe, all for personal benefit.
  • Their goal is to renounce the Deity of Jesus Christ – Ultimately the goal of every false teacher is to discredit Jesus. They will deny that He is equal with God. They will deny that He needed to die to save man from sin. They will deny He is Lord of Lords. They seek to remove any and every reason for man to be dependent on anyone or any God other than self.

We are off to a good start, and our understanding is already growing. Take time to review these indicators of a false teacher. (Four today and one from the previous devotional) Learn them. Then ask the Holy Spirit to make you keenly alert to them in your church or in the churches of your friends and family. The true church of Jesus Christ must remain pure and strong against the evil of the day, and that evil is pretty sneaky.

Pastor John

THE GREAT FALLING AWAY

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, February 3, 2023

For the next few days our devotions will not be easy. They will not be your average devotional that makes feel good points. They will make us think about the times in which we live and the tragedy that is occurring around us as we speak – the great turning away from the truth. It may be hard for some to understand. It may be harder still for some to accept. But the truth is that the truth is being denied for the sake of pleasing people and building large churches.

It is not a new problem. Peter spends the rest of this letter on the subject. For the next forty verses he warns the church about the dangers of false teachers who will infiltrate their midst with deception and destruction. There had been false prophets in the past. There were false teachers in Peter’s day. It is truer now in these last days than when Peter wrote these warnings.

I’m not sure enough of us recognize the dangers of compromise when it comes to the Gospel. Over the next few days we are going to discuss some of the very real ways that the deception of the devil is attacking the church and how many church-goers today are being blindly led down a path of exploitation. It is very important stuff, and I pray that you will not pass it off as irrelevant or boring.

2 Peter 2:1 “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.”

The first point I want to make is the most critical. It is the foundation upon which all other information is based. It must be the beginning and ending point of all discussion on this issue.

Peter just told us in chapter one that the Bible, God’s Divine revelation of Himself to mankind, is absolute truth. It was written by men carried along by the Holy Spirit who is truth. At the same time they were writing, there were false prophets just as there are today. The point Peter is making is this – the Bible is the one and only authority for truth and for the discernment of false teaching.

Far too many churches today deny the inerrant inspiration of Scripture. Many theories are accepted that allow for errors in the text and for man’s personal interpretation of God’s sacred Word. It would be very wise for you to ask your pastor what he believes about the Bible. If he denies in any way that it is the fully inspired and inerrant word of God, then you should consider what other doctrines he is falsely teaching. (I told you this wouldn’t be easy.)

If God’s revelation of Himself to us cannot be considered absolute truth, then God Himself is left open to scrutiny. How do we know He is truly God if what He reveals is not absolute truth? Far too many churches have fallen prey to slick-talking con men who present themselves as teachers of truth. They are simply using elements of truth to please people and pad their own pride. I will not go easy on them. I will not seek to understand them. I will rebuke and renounce them as Peter did. It is God’s call upon His Son’s body the true church.

So for today, evaluate your position on the Word of God. Do you fully and completely accept it as God’s truth? Do you trust that it is the source of all knowledge of the one true God? Will you commit yourself to not only studying it but believing it and living by its truth? I hope you will.

I promise I will not allow myself to fall into the sinful position of pride. I will speak of those under the deception with the grace of God and pray for their repentance and restoration to truth. But we must continue to warn God’s people about the dangers of falling into compliance with false teaching simply because it’s comfortable or gratifying. Let us pray together that God would use the rest of our study of Second Peter to equip and prepare His people for the great falling away that is now happening before the final return of Jesus.

Pastor John

IT’S ALIVE!

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, February 2, 2023

A Christian university student shared a room with a Muslim. As they became friends, their conversation turned to their beliefs. The believer asked the Muslim if he’d ever read the Bible. He answered no, but then asked if the Christian had ever read the Koran.

The believer responded, “No, I haven’t, but I’m sure it would be interesting. Why don’t we read both together, once a week, alternating books?” The young man accepted the challenge, their friendship deepened, and during the second term he became a believer in Jesus.

One evening, late in the term, he burst into the room and shouted at the long-time believer, “You deceived me!”

“What are you talking about?” the believer asked.

The new believer opened his Bible and said, “I’ve been reading it through, like you told me, and just read that the Word is living and active!” He grinned. “You knew all along that the Bible contained God’s power and that the Koran is a book like any other. I never had a chance!”

“And now you’ll hate me for life?” queried the believer.

“No,” he answered, “but it was an unfair contest.”

2 Peter 1:21  “… men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 

My friends, there is no greater challenge that I can give you than this – read the Bible. Study it.

The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind.

It is the only way to know the Redeemer Jesus Christ.

It is the only way to know His specific purpose for your life.

It will bring you to life because it is alive!

Pastor John

GOD HAS REVEALED HIMSELF

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Word of God – the Bible – is the full and complete revelation of what God wants mankind to know about Himself. Written by over 40 different authors under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit over a period of 1500 years, it remains the one and only source of absolute spiritual truth in written form. Yet so many people reject it.

2 Peter 1:20-21  “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 

What people reject is the truth about Jesus Christ. Not because there is reasonable doubt, but because they choose to remain comfortable in their sin. People love the darkness rather than the light. So they must reject the Light to enjoy their darkness.

In Peter’s day, not unlike our own time, there was serious doubt in the religious community about the identity of Jesus. Was He the promised Messiah? Is He THE one and only Christ, the Son of the living God?

Peter offered some simple yet profound proofs that Jesus is the Promised Redeemer.

Peter was one of many eyewitnesses of the life, death, and life again of Jesus.

Peter wrote down what He saw, as did other eyewitnesses.  (NOTE: Time is used by doubters as the enemy of fact. The Holocaust is questioned more and more as fewer and fewer survivors remain. The great stories of American History are subverted in modern day textbooks for purposes of cultural and political gain. Doubt is cast upon the credibility of written records by the so-called discovery of other records. HOWEVER, no such credible contradiction to the record of Holy Scripture exists. Time cannot change the written testimony of the eyewitnesses because they were writing under the inspiration of One who cannot lie.)

What they wrote down is also credible because it completely and absolutely matches what was recognized as written truth in their day – the Old Testament prophets. Remember what Peter said, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain.”

Every prophecy in the Old Testament about Jesus Christ has been fulfilled except for those relating to a time yet to come. That’s an amazing fact, considering that out of the 30 authors of the Old Testament, only a few knew each other and had any contact with one another. 1400 years of writing by 30 different people who didn’t read each other’s books and yet every statement about the promised Messiah came true in one man, Jesus Christ.

No group of men could contrive such a literary marvel. No group of individuals, writing by their own authority and knowledge, could unanimously agree in every detail when separated by such vast periods of time unless one thing was true – Someone else, namely the Holy Spirit of God, gave them the very words to write.

The Bible is the error-free, fully inspired revelation of God and His Redeemer.  Read it. Study it. Find the fullness of understanding the life and ministry of Jesus in it. Every part of it supports and enhances every other part. It all fits. Trust the Holy Spirit to give you understanding. Commit yourself to reading God’s revelation of Himself to you. It’s the only way you can really grow in your knowledge of God.

“A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us.”  W. H. Auden (1907–1973)

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”   Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)

“All things desirable to men are contained in the Bible.”  Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)

Pastor John

LEARN TO GLOW

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Phosphorus is a fascinating substance. It does not exist as a free element on earth. It cannot because of its high reactivity level. When exposed to oxygen it glows. It gives off light.

The term phosphorescence that we use to describe this reaction is essentially wrong. Phosphorescence is the giving off of light that has been previously absorbed. You’ve all seen that with glow-in-the-dark items that you hold up to the light, light is absorbed, and then the item glows in the dark after the light is turned off.

What happens with phosphorus is chemiluminescence. It is the production of light due to a cold chemical reaction.

You may be wondering what this brief science lesson has to do with today’s Scripture passage from Second Peter.

2 Peter 1:19  “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” 

Well, the Greek word for “morning star” used by Peter is phosphoros. Isn’t that interesting? As the Light of the World, Jesus shines on us so that we give off His light. We are to be involved in spiritual phosphorescence. Check out these marvelous messages from God:

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6)

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.   See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2)

The light of God’s glory has shined on us in the person of Jesus Christ. We are now phosphorescent and shine out the glory we have absorbed. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

Here’s what I think is the greatest part of this science lesson: when we are cold and dark in the midst of life’s depressing details, the Morning Star comes to us and rises in our hearts. The Holy Spirit, the breath of God, brings the oxygen. Chemiluminescence occurs. The light of God’s glory is created in our hearts. God initiates it when we pay attention to what He is doing.

So when you think you just don’t have any more ability to shine, look to Jesus. His light will shine in your dark place and make you glow. The Morning Star will rise in your heart and make you shine. God created the science for it. He’s created you to enjoy it. So go ahead – illuminate!

Pastor John

O HOW HE LOVES YOU

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, January 30, 2023

2 Peter 1:17  “For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 

Valentine’s Day is coming.  It’s the day we set aside to do something extra special for the person we love.

I remember one year, as my wife and I were shopping for essentials, we came across two bargains – one for her and one for me. She said they could be our valentine gifts.

I agreed, with my fingers crossed.

She thought we were done.

She was wrong.

She was surprised on Valentine’s morning when she saw a gift and card on the counter in front of the coffee pot. I had left it there before I went to the office early in the morning. It wasn’t a big thing, but it was one of her favorite collectibles. She called right away, and I was overjoyed to have brought her such joy.

I love giving! I enjoy the affirmation it brings to my life when I know I have served and encouraged another person. It helps when I know that person also loves me.

As Jesus was preparing to enter the final phase of His ministry and begin the daunting task of accomplishing the redemptive purpose of God on the cross, His Father in heaven affirmed Him. He had spoken words of love and affirmation once before at the river Jordan when Jesus was baptized. Now again, so that the disciples could hear it, God the Father affirmed His Son.

One point sticks out to me today: the Father’s affirmation had nothing to do with His Son’s performance, but everything to do with who Jesus was. The Father did not say “With His works I am well pleased.” He did not say, “With His behavior I am well pleased.” He DID say, “With Him I am well pleased.”

It was enough that Jesus simply existed for the Father to affirm Him. What a lesson I need to learn from this. How quickly I fall into the destructive trap of affirming others only when they do something. How selfish I am to think that unless their behavior or actions benefit me in some way that they do not need to be recognized or encouraged. It is so disheartening and destroys the spirit of another when they are led to believe that their worth is connected to their performance.

I praise God that He loves and affirms us simply because we are His children. We never have to do a thing to be the benefactors of God’s abundant love. Every moment, if I choose to, I can meditate on the affirmations of God’s love for me. His love is not conditional. When I am at my worst and weakest, I can be washed in the wonder of His love rather than drown in the pool of pity.

How awesome!!! God loves me and is pleased with me. Do you accept this truth? Do you spend every waking hour basking in its beauty? Do you realize that right now, as you read this and your thoughts are wandering into questions of worth, that God the Father is leaning towards His Son and speaking in a voice loud enough for all of heaven to hear, “I LOVE MY CHILD, AND AM PLEASED WITH HIM/HER.”

Believe it. Accept it. Apply it. Enjoy it. God affirms you because of Christ in you!

Pastor John

EYEWITNESS

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, January 27, 2023

According to several sites I researched on the internet, there seems to be an attempt by those in our legal system to bring discredit to the value of eyewitness testimony. Psychologists have teamed up with lawyers to put in place serious doubts about the average person’s ability to recall events clearly and without prejudice based on personal perceptions. People don’t remember things precisely. They embellish. They filter what they see through their own set of issues. The time that lapses from the event to the testimony brings one’s memory into question. Eyewitness testimony is not viewed as very credible today.

But there is a way that eyewitness testimony becomes credible. First, it must be consistent. The event must be related the same every time no matter how far removed from the event by time the witness is. And second, it must be able to be corroborated. The testimony must be supported by other testimony and by the evidence.

Consistency and Corroboration. The same qualities that make the eyewitnesses of the life of Christ credible. The same qualities that make you and me credible witnesses.

2 Peter 1:16-18  “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 

Peter didn’t make up a story. It was consistent for the rest of his natural life. It was corroborated by all the other eyewitnesses and the historical evidence. It continues to be.

But what about our lives? We are commissioned by Jesus Christ to be witnesses – eyewitnesses – of His saving power. Is there consistency to your testimony, both in word and deed? Can your testimony be corroborated by your lifestyle? By your friends?

Consistency and corroboration. Makes for a great eyewitness. You are one!

Pastor John

JESUS ALONE IS WORTHY

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, January 26, 2023

I found a quote this morning from someone named Principal Denny of Scotland. After several internet searches, I can’t find out anything about him. But what he said is powerful.

It pierces to the heart of our self-centered nature.

It smashes to pieces the elaborate and deceptive disguises that have been erected to resemble churches in our so-called progressive church age.

It minimizes the attempts of modern-day preachers to maximize attendance with creativity rather than truth.

It puts to death the philosophy that man’s ingenuity will eventually conquer all social ills.

In its simplicity is embedded the complexity of truth.

Are you prepared for something simple to challenge your thinking in every part of your life, work, and church? I wasn’t, but it has. I hope it does the same to you.

Here it is in its splendid simplistic beauty:

You cannot at the same time show that Christ is wonderful—and you are clever.

2 Peter 1:16-18  “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”

In all things, at all times, in all places, Jesus is preeminent and worthy of all glory. Live life in that context.

Pastor John