Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sermon: To Tell The Truth

Angela Lee Price
Minister in Training,
St. Stephen Baptist Church,
Louisville, KY

"To Tell the Truth: Will the Real Deal Holy 'Fill' Please Stand Up?!"

1st Timothy 4: 4-14 (NLT)

Back in the day, there was a game show on television called “To Tell the Truth.” The show consisted of a host whose job it was to introduce the noteworthy individual appearing on the show, contestants, usually three, each claiming to be that particular person, and panelists whose job it was to ask the questions of the contestants and listen carefully to their responses in order to determine who was telling the truth. Two of the contestants were imposters and one was “the real deal.” The imposters’ jobs were to be as convincing as possible in order to increase the amount of money to be divided among the contestants at the end of the show by way of the panelists voting in error. You may remember the audience sitting spellbound in anticipation because each person knew their contestant would be the one rising at the end of the show when the announcer said that famous last line, “Will the real so and so please stand up!” Today, it might be said 21st century style, ”Will the ‘real deal’ please stand up!”

That was television back in the day. It seemed to be a simpler time. It was a time of “The Mod Squad,” “The Jeffersons,” “Room 222,” and it was a time of “To Tell the Truth.”

Today’s high-speed electronic age has provided us with so much from which to choose. Television and the Internet have given the clergy an electronic global platform from which to amass huge global audiences. We have an abundance of Christian programming, ranging from terrible to excellent.

In the book Myths That Mire the Ministry by Rev. Dr. Harold A Carter, I have learned that a minister true to the call of God will be diligent and careful to deliver a balanced view of Jesus as suffering Servant and triumphant King. However, as Dr. Carter explains, many ministers have “jumped down from their steeples” by way of “prayer cloths, providing illicit numbers for lotteries and passing out blessings for material gain.”

A preponderance of television preachers on Christian networks preach a gospel of health, wealth and prosperity. Added to these “faith” preachers are those purveyors of signs, wonders and miracles. Some with the largest audiences use cheap mesmerist tricks, wheelchair props and smoke and mirrors to gain followings in the United States and abroad, particularly in Africa. It’s enough to make you want to holla, get up out of your seat and shout back, ”Will the real deal Holy ‘Fill’ please stand up?!”

This is the age of relativism and post modernism. The “believe-what-you-want-to-believe” philosophy and attitude has gained significant ground in society. Objective truth is no longer the standard. Common occurrences on television are talk show hosts such as Larry King and Oprah Winfrey who embrace new age believers one day and Jesus believers the next. It would appear that the mantra of Rodney King of “us all just getting along” has taken root in a perverse kind of way.

Increasingly orthodox Christians are joining with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others of non-Christian beliefs in religious ceremonies to worship God under a new kind of unity that disregards doctrine and truth. All the while, everyone is shouting that their Jesus, the cosmic Jesus, the only-a-prophet Jesus, the born-again-in-hell Jesus, is the true Jesus. Dr. Forrest Harris, a guest speaker the St. Stephen Church 76th Anniversary said, “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is it a duck?!” It’s enough to make you want to holla, get up out of your seat and shout back, “Will the real deal Holy ‘Fill’ please stand up?!”

In the book of 1st Timothy (NLT), Paul gives encouragement and instruction to the young, preacher, Timothy who is pastoring the church at Ephesus. Paul admonishes Timothy to beware of false teachers, to stop those teaching wrong doctrine, and he tells him what constitutes true wealth.

In 1st Timothy 6:4-5, we learn that false teachers are filled with pride and ignorance. They have an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. They always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt and they don’t tell the truth. To them religion is just a way to get rich.
In 1st Timothy 6:11-14, we learn that real teachers are filled with the fruit of the Spirit. They run from evil things, and they pursue godly living. They fight the good fight for what they believe. They obey God’s commands with all purity, and they avoid godless, foolish discussions with those that oppose them with their so-called knowledge.

The definition of wealth is found in lst Timothy 6:6. The Bible teaches that wealth is not the abundance of things, cash, cars and clothes, nor is it the absence of sickness, physical impairment, and suffering. True religion with contentment is wealth.

Just because some athletes, actors and hip hop celebrities support certain high-profile mega-church pastors and faith healers doesn’t necessarily mean those preachers are the “real deal.” Heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield goes by the nickname “The Real Deal.” But did “The Real Deal” chose the real Holy “Fill?” Holyfield dislocated his shoulder in a fight against opponent Michael Moorer in April, 1994. He was diagnosed with a heart condition at the hospital. On December 27, 2003, Dateline NBC aired an expose on Bennie Hinn. Evander Holyfield was slain in the spirit and reported cured of his heart ailment. Michael Jordan owned and played for the Washington Wizards, but that didn’t make the Washington Wizards a winning team.

Bennie Hinn has been the subject of many documentaries calling his miracles and lavish and unethical spending into question. A second Dateline NBC expose’ entitled The Preacher’s Life aired on NBC on March 6, 2005. It featured interviews with family members of people supposedly healed at Hinn’s crusades. The family members reported that their loved ones either still had the same diseases they were supposedly cured of or had later died from those same illnesses.

A prophet true to the call of God will be diligent and careful to deliver a balanced view of Jesus as suffering Servant and triumphant King. Are the preachers you like to watch on television or listen to on the radio doing that, or are they constantly preaching health, wealth and prosperity, signs, wonders and miracles? At least once, you need to ask, “Are you the ‘real deal,’ do you tell the truth?”

From: Jesus Saves Ministries Newsletter - November, 2005

Note: This sermon is an updated version of a previous message to Means Avenue Baptist Church, Hopkinsville, Kentucky on November 24, 2002, Rev. Enoch David Nyakoon, Pastor; and to House of Prayer Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky on May 25, 2005, Rev. Stephan E. Kirby, Sr., Pastor.

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