Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Which Crown Are You Aiming For?

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 3:13-14)
     Some young preacher will study until he has to get thick glasses to take care of his failing eyesight because he has an idea he wants to become a famous preacher. He wants to use Jesus Christ to make him a famous preacher. He's just a huckster buying and selling and getting gain. They will ordain him and he will be known as Reverend and if he writes a book, they will make him a doctor. And he will be known as doctor; but he's still a huckster buying and selling and getting gain. And when the Lord comes back, He will drive him out of the temple along with the other cattle.
     We can use the Lord for anything--or try to use Him. But what I'm preaching and what Paul taught and what was brought down through the years and what gave breath to the modern missionary movement that you and I know about and belong to was just the opposite: "O, God, we don't want anything You have, we want You." That's the cry of a soul on its way up. Success and the Christian, pp29, by A.W. Tozer.
     This great message from brother Tozer immediately reminded me of the story about James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who asked Jesus if He would grant them the honor to sit next to Him in the Kingdom, one on His left and one on His right.
     One can easily understand the excitement that both James and John were experiencing now that they had discovered the truth about eternal life. One can also understand the human need to obtain an important position in life; it’s a concept that has been inculcated in our mindset from the very beginning. Success! Status! Money! Power! Fame! These all have been the mantra that has been drummed into our head from childhood. Most of our education is mostly geared to secure the tools necessary to achieve a successful life and all its trappings (homes, car, bank accounts, best looking spouse, etc.), and few can deny this inherent aspiration and built in motivation. We (our conflated egos) probably think about these things throughout the day, but most will not admit it.
     While spirit-filled disciples of God have learned that these things are not important and that we should be willing to cast off everything for Christ, I’m certain that a day does not go by where we are not engrossed with the need to be lauded for any success we can achieve in our new walk with Christ. Those in the ministry cannot deny that part of their efforts are motivated in part to receive at least a certain amount of glory for the “wisdom” they have acquired since coming to Christ. 
     Believe it or not, the Apostle Paul suffered from this very thing, as we read about the thorn that was buffeting him, which Christ told him that His grace was sufficient. In that story, Paul said that a messenger from Satan was attacking him to actually keep him from becoming conceited after he had experienced being lifted to the third heaven (he really didn’t know if he was in paradise or not), but He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. One can imagine the heavenly mysteries that Paul had heard (and possibly saw), that no one is allowed to hear until the Lord returns to establish His Kingdom here on earth for an eternity. Imagine how privileged Paul must have felt; looking at his fellow servants and even thinking, “Hah! You guys have no idea what I have heard and seen about Heaven, but I can’t tell you. Boy! Wouldn’t you love to have this knowledge? But only I have it. Na Na Na Na Na!
     But, obviously God allowed a messenger from Satan to keep him in a state of constant affliction, so much so that a state of humility had enveloped him due to the severely and excruciating pain he experienced throughout the day. Nevertheless, through this thorn in his side, Jesus Christ actually blessed Paul with inside knowledge that the torment he probably experienced until the day he was beheaded, was that rather than boasting about the knowledge he now possessed, by virtue of being the only human being to get a glimpse of Heaven, instead, Paul said he will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong,(2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
     Obviously, the issue of big egos was rampant amongst the Apostles during the time that Christ was with them, and probably more so after He ascended to Heaven. Even in those days, Christians had their respective heroes, as we read in 1 Corinthians1:12, where competing ministries existed between Apollos, Paul and Cephas, and probably many more. One can imagine how today’s preachers, evangelists, teachers, authors, talk show hosts, actors, singers and any people with talent can easily fall prey to a sense of the high self esteem as they eventually develop their own groupies. 
     Imagine how so many renowned evangelists speaking before a crowd of 10 thousands to a 100 hundred thousands of hungry sheep must feel when they deliver a great, power-packed sermon (regardless whether it is completely truthful), and they are applauded and praised by this throng of adoring followers. Heady stuff is today's American version of Christian ministry. Many popular evangelists nowadays are actually treated like rock stars. Therefore, who wouldn’t aspire to become an evangelist or a singer or a great orator immediately after turning their lives over to Christ. Believe it or not many individuals, who had previous fame in the secular world, after turning their lives to Christ, immediately went into the ministry and can now be seen on television or radio or involved in a forum that actually provides them with the same adulation they experienced before. Only now, they claim they are using their talent for Jesus!
     I’m ashamed to say this experience happened to me after I committed to follow Christ in 1975, after working as a radio and television talk show host and news reporter for about 5 years. After being a Christian for only a short while, I joined these same folks in public ministry as an evangelist and Christian broadcaster. After about 4 to 5 years of this, Christ got a hold of me and whacked me good. He told me that He didn’t save me to become a Christian Super Star but to get down in the bunker and use the Holy Spirit gifts He blessed me with to help the widows, orphans, infirm, prisoners and the lost, which is true religion in the eyes of God. Actually, I'm glad God got me out of that aspect of ministry because I could not deal (both spiritually and emotionally) with the inflated egos and the fund raising techniques that were used by many to keep their ministry afloat. Like the Apostle Paul, I couldn't sell the Gospel.
     It wasn’t until I left the “ministry” in 1985 and began working at several schools and colleges with young gang bangers, counseling Viet Nam veterans, developing jobs for kids coming out of prison, working with pregnant single girls who had been abandoned by their boyfriends, working at a homeless shelter, and many other social service endeavors, that I felt I was finally being used by God to do the work he initially called me to do. 
     Sadly, we see thousands of people who have turned their lives over to Christ (especially on the Internet) who are more motivated by obtaining glory and adulation from the "online church" they have nurtured rather than serving God in the trenches. The worst part about this phenomenon is that a majority of these individuals is that they water down the Gospel with soothing messages rather than proclaiming the true word of God, which includes the reality that Christians will suffer great tribulation. Rather than warning the sheep that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that they need to pick up their crosses and practice true religion, they feed their audiences with titillating messages their itching ears want to hear. Rather than teaching them sound doctrine, their loyal and adoring followers turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths, (2 Timothy 4:4). 
     One of those messages is the Pre-Tribulation Rapture to Heaven theory which is not biblical. Obviously preaching and teaching their flock that it won’t have to endure great tribulation, which the Apostle Paul emphatically stated they must experience in order to enter the kingdom of God, is a more acceptable message. Speaking and teaching against the Rapture to Heaven myth is not a very popular position to take. I haven’t made many friends in the Christian arena for writing and speaking out against this non-biblical theory; as a matter of fact, I have lost many former friends and associates and will probably lose many more. My message most certainly does not create much interest for Christians to buy the two books I have written on this subject. If anything, I have been branded a heretic for even suggesting that God would allow His children to suffer. Well, we know what happened to Paul and all the other apostles for speaking God’s truth.
     The Bible tells us we must pick up our crosses and follow Christ. The cross is an instrument of death as it was for Jesus and His original apostles. Today's followers of Christ must be prepared to follow this same path of tribulation and even death, eventually. Many say the Christian of today will not experience the horrors the early apostles had to endure. All were either beheaded or crucified except for John who was exiled to the Island of Patmos. The others were executed. Since then, millions have been tortured, burned in oil or at the stake, beheaded and a myriad of other horrible deaths (read Fox's Book of Martyrs) which are too gruesome to expound here. Sadly, American Christians believe they have a “get out of jail free” card due to the non-biblical dogma called “The Rapture.”
     But, in the end, when Christ returns, and it’s time to hand out His reward to the faithful, many will be surprised that those sitting next to Jesus Christ on His throne may or may not be James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee. Many will be surprised that we won’t even see the evangelist de jour, the pastors of America’s mega churches, authors of many books on prophecy, or hosts of a 1000 radio and television shows strewn throughout the Electronic Church, those who are already receiving their glory, fame and riches. 
     We probably won’t even recognize those seated closely to Jesus. It may well be a nameless nurse who labored with starving, bloated-belly children in Rwanda or Darfur; a young mother who took in stray and wayward young prostitutes who escaped from the demeaning clutches of that insidious business; a humble, unknown lady in her 80’s who devoted the majority of her life to cooking and feeding hundreds of hungry kids in the ghettos and barrios of America for over 40 years, or it may even be a humble usher in a backwoods church, somewhere in the Appalachian Trail of Georgia, who always greeted church members with a gleaming smile on his face. For certain, they will be those who have chosen to wear the thorny crowns of life rather than seeking the glittery one that can only belong to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 
     I pray that I may be accounted faithful to even be allowed to enter through a side door, much less worthy enough to see my Lord through a pair of binoculars while seated in the last pew in His Kingdom.

For more information about the author and his two books, please click on The End Times Passover and Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation. To access his web sites and blogs, please click on Joe Ortiz.


  1. Thanks, Brother. Well thought out, well written, and well worth applying to myself.

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