The apostle Peter wrote a warning to his followers — 2,000 years ago:
“There have always been false prophets among God’s people, just as there will continue to be teachers of a false spirituality among you. They will ingeniously introduce ruinous sectarianism and divisive lies amongst God’s people — even disregarding Jesus Christ Who reclaimed them from death and darkness on the Cross.
They’ll bring swift destruction on themselves, but first a great number of people will be deceived and follow these destructive ways and the True Journey of Christ will come to have a bad name. In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with good-sounding arguments they’ve made up in order to turn you into nothing more than mere, financial merchandise…”
It’s true — the “Way of Christ” has “come to have a bad name” in America and around the world. And the word, “Christian”, hasn’t been vilified because of Jesus but because of so many people who casually claim the name of “Christian” — but certainly don’t love like Jesus loves.
Yet the center of responsibility lies not so much with people who’ve been deceived into believing they’re “following Jesus” when they’re really only following dishonest and deceitful religious leaders. These false spiritual leaders cleverly dupe many people into thinking that they’re “following Jesus” when in fact they’re following cleverly devised lies and deceptions. Again, according to Peter:
“There will be teachers of a false spirituality among you. They will ingeniously introduce ruinous sectarianism and divisive lies amongst God’s people…”
That business of “disregarding Jesus”? It means that instead of being concerned with following the Path of Jesus, they’ll simply disregard Jesus and turn people away from knowing Him or following Him. They’ll replace Jesus’ way of Life, Love and Empowerment with manipulation, deceit, and death.
But why would any “spiritual leaders” mislead people, drawing them into paths and life-styles that lead away from Jesus Christ and even bring disrepute on His Name? Why?
The answer’s simple. Same ol’ same ol’; gather a bunch of people to follow your “divisive lies” and you gather one or more of three things: money, sex or power. Which is what the apostle Peter, 2,000 years ago, warned his followers about:
“In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with good-sounding arguments that they’ve made up in order to turn you into nothing more than mere, financial merchandise…”
Does it ever seem as if religious people, preachers, churches, and the like in America (and many other places throughout the world) seemed focused on getting money out of the pockets of “the faithful” and into the pockets and favorite religious programs of church leaders? How many church services in America make it all the way from beginning to end without either passing the “offering plate” or building near the entrance a “tithes box” into which everyone is expected to leave money? (Not many!)
Now, it’s true that every organization has to have money to maintain its various functions — whether it be the local Kiwanis, the Community Water District, or even Juicy Lucy’s Topless Gentleman’s Club. But the apostle Peter’s warning is very specific: there will be hypocritical, smooth-talking religious leaders whose organizations focus less on manifesting the Love of Jesus Christ to the world at large and more on building and maintaining ego-gratifying and wealth-creating local and international organizations.
To sum this up: The “take-away” on this isn’t merely to gripe about “preachers always wanting more money”. The focus here is to be better prepared by Peter’s 2,000 year-old warning that religious leaders will often tend to try and shift a person’s focus away from the Reality and Love of the Person of Jesus Christ. They’ll do this in order to substitute great-sounding programs and ideas that successfully draw a stream of money out of the pockets of people who are (actually) empty inside and hungering for spiritual Realities.
On your own, personal Journey in knowing God more, be careful — very, very careful — of a society that’s full of greedy people willing to promise the world (and Heaven and Eternity and anything else that might attract you!) as long as you conform to their expectations and contribute to their coffers.
Jesus never once asked for an offering. He never asked for help in a building program or promised a person “salvation” if they “joined his church”. All Jesus ever did was to walk the walk of Love along with a promise that whoever followed him would suffer as he suffer, but would also be empowered by his Spirit to love as he loved, lead other out of darkness and death into Light and Life!
Now, that’s the sort of “spiritual leader” that’s more likely to lead you into Life instead of just another ditch…