Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thabiti, Benny, Osteen, and Fame

The other night I had the joy of fellowshipping with my “blog friend” Thabiti Anyabwile. Pastor T was in town to preach for the Sola Scriptura Conference on Islam and from all reports he brought two very powerful and helpful messages.
After preaching in the morning for my friend Kenny (of the church with no web page) he joined us for our evening service and came back home for some dinner and fellowship. All of this reminded me once again how different men are that love the doctrines of grace.
Some may disagree, but I don’t think you would find Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn coming to our church and giving up an evening to talk ministry. You might say, “Well, these fellows you mention are big time – best-selling authors, television personalities… they are in a different class.” But I beg to differ.
I have spent some time around some pretty large luminaries in the broader evangelical constellation. It is rather funny how that has worked in my life! But it was not until I came around men of reformed persuasion that I met men who were genuinely more concerned for the glory of God than the glory of their own name. They have their assistants and such, but the whole flavour is different. It is not all “entourage” and “take a number” and celebrity “perks.” Rather, it is normal guys, aware of their own wicked hearts, in love with the Saviour and willing to keep on preaching in spite of the popularity.
It struck me last week that popularity, or perhaps “influence” might have been one of the deepest temptations for our Lord. Didn’t the Devil promise authority and glory over all the kingdoms of the world for a moment of worship? So much influence, at such a “small” cost! Yet, “you shall worship the Lord your God and Him alone shall you serve!” Praise the Lord for His faithfulness in withstanding the wiles of the Devil!
Even then, in reading through the Gospels, one cannot help but notice that immediately before many of the times Jesus is said to have “gone alone to a desolate place to pray,” was a moment of immense popular influence. Could it be that Jesus ran to His Father in order to guard His soul from the applause of men?
Weren’t some of Jesus’ sharpest words reserved for Peter when the foot-shaped-mouth disciple urged Jesus to ride the wave of popularity? “Get behind me, Satan!”
The esteem of men is slow poison.
One small compromise here… one great delight in applause there… and soon the heart is chasing the wind of self-exaltation. How do I know? I have had a fairly decent glimpse into my own heart in the matter! And what I see there is frightening.
The only tonic for this heart-sin is Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible who rescues dead sinners according to sovereign, electing grace, by applying His perfect cross-work, and calling God-haters to Himself and keeping them by His power until heaven. And once a man sees all that Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for him… it is very hard to feel like you are much of anything.
I must decrease, but He... HE must increase!
The last few weeks have been a good reminder to me that there is much to be said for a quiet, faithful, God-centered ministry… and much to be feared in fame. I say, let’s pray for those men God has lifted up to positions of great influence. That is no easy place to stand.