Philippians 1:15, 17
Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will… the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.
The longer I am a Christian, the greater my disgust grows towards certain types of preachers. Many of them can be found on your cable network early in the morning or late at night. Others, if you look closely enough, and dare to admit it, can be discovered preaching in your own church. Before you jump on the bandwagon, though, understand that I’m not talking about false profits, cult leaders, or any of the other easy-to-spot fakes. Rather, I’m concerned with the same type of men that Paul refers to in Philippians 1:15-18.
They teach Christ just like any honest pastor would do. Their ministries are often growing and their influence is great, but their hearts are in the wrong places. They long for the glory of their position, wrestling to obtain it at whatever the cost. These are the men who, as Paul writes in Philippians 1:17, “Proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives…” Who do these men think they are, and where do they come from?
Oh, if it were only so simple. I wish that I could point to a certain denomination, country, or even some off the wall cult… but I can’t. You see, the scariest part about this is that these pastors are bred in your youth group. These men who preach Christ out of selfish ambition are the found in every student who attends church for their friends rather than their God. A selfish pastor is no more than you and me… all grown up.
But how? How does this happen? How do everyday students, who at one point in time desired to honor God more than anything else, end up preaching Christ out of selfish ambition? It’s really quite easy if you think about it. They buy into the lies of the Deceiver. They fall into the same trap that resulted in the expulsion of Satan from heaven: God is reduced, and self is glorified. When this happens, when you allow yourself to value popularity, looks, knowledge, or influence more than your creator, you take your first steps down the same path as these men did.
Are you living the Christian life for selfish reasons? Do you only go to church when your friends do? Was your decision to go on that mission trip because you wanted to share Christ with others, or because your favorite crush told you he or she was going as well?
Know that I’m not concerned about the message of Christ here, but only for your future. I rejoice as Paul does, knowing that verse 18 continues to ring true: “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes and I will rejoice.” I do not find disgust in preachers such as this because they preach the gospel, but rather because they use it like a magic genie, believing the power of God to be no more than a stepping-stone for their own wealth, power, and popularity. The longer I’m a Christian, the greater my disgust grows towards our own selfish ambitions. I can only imagine the disgust our Lord must feel.