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The Error of Balaam - 6

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
February 19, 2023 7:00 am

The Error of Balaam - 6

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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February 19, 2023 7:00 am

In the New Testament book of Jude we learn about Balaam, an example of religious leaders whose motive is not to honor Christ, but to gain financial reward.


We continue in our exposition through the little epistle of Jude, and we have come, as you know, to verse 11.

There we have taken pause. Verse 11 says, woe to them, for they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. And in this one verse, we have three examples of corrupted religion. Namely, number one, the way of Cain, number two, the error of Balaam, and number three, the rebellion of Korah. Last week, we examined the first of those, the way of Cain, as we studied more carefully what happened, what transpired between Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter four. And we saw how Cain endeavored to worship God according to his own design, his own plan, his own idea of God. The way that God ought to be worshiped, and how that manifested an unbelieving heart, and how it led to great sin on his part.

Today, we're going to take up the second of these three, namely the error of Balaam, which is a rather long account in Numbers chapters 22, 23, 24. It is also mentioned in several other places scattered throughout the Old and the New Testament. And it is an event for God the Holy Spirit to devote so much space in the Bible to this particular happening. Of course, you remember that Jude is warning God's people about religious intruders. Those who come into Christian assemblies claiming to be Christian believers, but they are not. And they come for the very purpose of bringing destruction and harm because they have been sent as messengers of Satan.

Dispatch to deceive Christians and to destroy the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ wherever they are able to do so. And Balaam is a prime example of these dangerous people. And so we're going to look at him today, primarily from the book of Numbers, and ask the same three questions about Balaam that we asked about Cain last Sunday. Do you remember what they were?

Who was Balaam? Number two, what did he do? Number three, what does this reveal about him? Number four, what does this reveal about religious intruders?

Number five, how does this apply to us? I'm not going to get into detail in one sermon, but perhaps I can summarize it sufficiently enough so that we get in mind exactly what transpired here. Balaam is a very puzzling figure. It is clear that God spoke to him. It is clear that he gave some honor and acknowledgement that God is a great God. Was he therefore a prophet of the Lord?

So it would seem he certainly spoke to him. He spoke the word of the Lord that was given to him. But is that the way we are to conceive of him as someone that God called and prepared to be one of his spokesmen, a prophet of the Lord? And if that is not who he was, then how do you explain the close relationship he had with Jehovah God and the word of the Lord that he spoke very obviously to Balak and to others? Who was Balaam?

There are a few words that I think will adequately describe him. Balaam was, number one, a prophet. Number two, an ecumenist. And number three, a mercenary.

We'll explain each of those in due season. He was, first of all, a prophet. But he was not a prophet of God. He was a pagan diviner. He lived, we are told, somewhere near the Euphrates River, which is east of Canaan.

In a town that archaeology has not yet identified, so we're not sure exactly where it was, but he is one who received revelations through dreams. But if there's any doubt about how we should think of him, I think the words of Joshua or the words of God in the book of Joshua, chapter 13 and verse 22 should lay it to rest. There are two things about Balaam, and one we'll come back to, but one we'll notice now. And it says the children of Israel also killed with the sword Balaam, the son of Beor, and then this, the soothsayer among those who were killed by them. Balaam was a soothsayer, and I looked that up in the concordance, and it's used a number of times in the scriptures, but never of a true prophet of God. Always of a false prophet, someone who receives revelation that does not come from God, or if it does come from God, they are not ones who are worshiping God.

And most of the time, they are either faking their revelations, they don't really have any revelation at all, or they have received revelations from another supernatural power, but not God. And so right at the beginning, we can, I think, without question, identify Balaam not as a prophet of God, but as a prophet of Satan, and yet he was used by God. He was a soothsayer who had, we realize, a very widespread reputation for effectiveness in his ability to bless and to curse, a reputation that transcended a number of different countries in that early age. And therefore, he was well regarded as one who was able to curse or to bless and was utilized for his services. He was a prophet.

But secondly, we can say without too much doubt that he was an ecumenist, and what do I mean by that? Well, because he was not a prophet of God, we realize he was a man of his time, and therefore, he honored all the gods of all the nations, and his honor of Jehovah primarily has to do with his recognition that Israel's God was Jehovah, and that Jehovah was probably the strongest of all the gods. It does not mean that he truly worshiped Jehovah from his heart, but it does demonstrate this recognition that different gods served different nations, and Jehovah served Israel, or Israel supposedly served Jehovah, and that Jehovah was leading and guiding Israel, and that he was the one that you'd have to deal with if you were going to deal with the nation of Israel. And thus, he recognized Jehovah, or Yahweh, as the most powerful of all the gods. In fact, in the passage I read earlier in one place, he calls Jehovah my God. You'd almost think he was a believer. You'd almost think he did honor Yahweh as his God, and yet it's clear from the whole record that that is not the case.

It was an acknowledgment that Yahweh is the superior God above the other gods. So who was Balaam? He was a prophet. He was an ecumenist. He was a mercenary. That is, he applied his prophetic services for financial reward, and probably had become wealthy through his prophetic activities, owing to the fact that his reputation was so widespread that Balak, several countries away from Balaam, sought him out to utilize him. And when Balaam initially turned him down, Balak didn't say, well, there are other prophets who are just as good.

I'll call one of those. But instead, he went back again with the greater promise of reward to Balaam, because he was convinced that Balaam was the best of the best. And if that is the reputation he had, as the scriptures indicate, then undoubtedly he had become wealthy by these activities. But it's clear that he was willing to serve whoever paid his stipulated fees, which were probably pretty high.

We know, for example, well, that's the way it is in our world. There are lawyers and there are lawyers. There are, what, $100 an hour lawyers, and then there are $1,000 an hour lawyers or more, depending on their reputation, how good they are thought to be. So when we're told that these messengers went from Balak with the divination fees for Balaam, you can imagine that this was a pretty hefty sum. He had pretty high fees that he charged for his services and became wealthy thereby. The question, however, is how could he receive and speak the word of the Lord if he was actually a pagan prophet? And the answer, as we should know, is, short answer, God is sovereign.

He could do what he wants to do. And God can use anybody. I remember that sermon by James Zaspel. A few of you will remember when he used to preach for us regularly back in the late 70s and early 80s. And he had a sermon that was entitled something like, God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.

And that's exactly right. And Balaam is an example of that. God drawing a straight line with a crooked stick because God is sovereign. But Balaam is not the only example of God speaking through someone who we wonder why is he speaking through him? How can he be speaking through Cyrus, this pagan king? How can he be speaking through Nebuchadnezzar? Does that mean Cyrus was a believer? Does that mean Nebuchadnezzar was a believer? And we really don't know and won't know till we get to heaven.

But in all probability, the answer is no. But God chose to speak through them. God chose to use them as his instruments. And that is true in the case of Balaam. So that's answer number one or question number one, who was Balaam? Question number two, what did he do? We're going to try to skim over, I hope quickly, through the primary account in Numbers 22 through 24, and then pick up two or three other references that we need to get the full picture. So what did he do? And I'll break these down chapter by chapter. First of all, Numbers chapter 22.

What did he do? He entertained Balak's request that he come and curse Israel for a fee. Balak was the king of Moab.

Evidently the Midians were also in the same land, and Balak was recognized as king over both the Moabites and the Midianites. Balak saw the huge encampment of Israel as they were camping across the Jordan River, getting ready to come into the land of Canaan, a company that is estimated to be about two million people. And it must have been an amazing sight to see two million people camped in orderly fashion around the tabernacle, each of the tribes in their places.

I cannot imagine, can you imagine an encampment, tents of people that number that many individuals, two million or so. Balak saw this and his heart fell. He knew the reputation. He knew the account of what had happened in Egypt, how God had brought them out of Egypt, and how they crossed the Red Sea.

And he recognized that they were a formidable army, and he was concerned for his own welfare, that of his country. And he realized that under present circumstances, he would not be able to defeat them, but perhaps if he could get a soothsayer with spectacular powers to curse them, maybe that would weaken them enough so that he could handle them. So he sent messengers with the fees of divination to Balaam, and Balaam entertained Balak's request, but he knew that because he was dealing with Israel, he was dealing with Yahweh, the God of Israel, and he'd better inquire of the Lord. And it almost seems like he'd had some relationship before, that there'd been other times that he'd inquired of the Lord, because this does not seem like a strange thing to him. And so he goes and inquires of the Lord, and God said, Don't you dare go, and don't you dare curse them, because I have not cursed them.

I have blessed them, and I'm not going to allow you to curse them either. So he came back to the messengers in the morning and said, I'm sorry, I can't go. God won't let me. So they went back to Balak and told him what Balaam said. So Balak added additional reward, promise of reward, on top of the stipulated divination fees and sent back more messengers, higher ranking officers, princes, important people from the land of Moab and Midian, and approached him again and said, I am fully capable of honoring you highly.

I'll do whatever you ask, you name the fee, whatever it is, I'm willing to pay it. Please just come. And so Balak said, Well, spend the night and let me inquire again. Or Balaam said, Spend the night and let me inquire again. So he went once again and inquired of the Lord, and the Lord said, Okay, okay, you seem determined to go, but okay, I'll let you go, because God had a purpose in his going. But he said, You don't dare utter one word beyond the word that I give you.

Don't you speak one word on your own volition. So Balaam came and told them, All right, I can go, but I can't say anything except what the Lord allows me to say. And off he goes to meet with Balak. And he arrived and engaged with Balak in the last part of chapter 22. And he told Balak, I'm here at your request, but I can only speak what the Lord allows me to speak.

Okay, okay, that's fine, said Balak. So we move into chapter 23, and now they're getting prepared for Balaam's prophecy. And Balaam instructs them to build seven altars and to sacrifice a couple of expensive animals on the altars, offerings that seem very much like the ones that Israel would make to Jehovah God, and yet they're not identical to any that are prescribed in the book of Moses. And so probably they are the kind of offerings that would have been offered to other gods as well.

But they prepare these seven altars, and they offer the seven or the fourteen, I think, animals that Balaam prescribed. And then Balaam opened his mouth to speak his first prophecy, and instead of cursing, out came blessing. That's all he could do was just bless the people of Israel.

He blessed them royally. Balak wasn't very pleased. He wasn't getting what he was paying for or what he promised to pay for.

But he's patient. He recognizes that he's obviously dealing with a difficult situation, and so he says, well, maybe you're in the wrong location. Territorial gods were the order of the day. This god rules the mountains, and this god rules the plains, and this god rules other territories.

So let's move to another location and try again. So they move to another location, prepare seven more altars, offer more animal sacrifices, and Balaam goes and meets with God and comes back and speaks what God told him to speak. And what does he speak? Another word of blessing more powerful than the first. Well, Balaam clearly isn't pleased, but he's not ready to give up yet. And so they move to a third location. Same thing.

Similar preparation. And now we're moving into chapter 24. And we'll read specifically, here's another indication of the kind of prophet that he was.

Notice the words of verse 24, verse 1. When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, when Balaam saw, after twice trying to curse them and he couldn't, when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go at other times to seek to use sorcery. He had been trying to do what? He'd been trying to use sorcery.

It's very plain. He hadn't been able to, but that's what he was trying to do. And so now he basically said, I give up. I can't do it. God won't let me. I open my mouth to curse and out comes blessing in spite of myself.

That's not what I intended to say, but I couldn't help it. That's what I was forced to say by God. So at other times he could not go as at other times to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness and raised his eyes and so forth, and out came his third prophecy. And this is a greater blessing upon Israel than all the others. And here, interestingly, in these last two prophecies of Balaam, unlike the first two, Balaam identifies himself as a spokesman for Jehovah God. Notice verse 3 of chapter 24. The utterance of Balaam, the son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened.

That's what it said in verse 1. His eyes were opened and he realized he can't use sorcery. He's now been enlightened. He has greater understanding of God. Whose eyes are open, the utterance of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down with eyes wide open. He sounds like a man who has been spiritually enlightened, and indeed he has. He had some insight into who Jehovah was before.

He has greater insight into who Jehovah is now, which makes his unbelief and refusal to surrender to Jehovah all the more sinful, because he obviously knows that Jehovah is the one true God, and that God has spoken his word to him and through him. And so he utters his third prophecy, and now Balak is really mad, as you can imagine. And he says, get out of here.

You won't get one thin dime from me. But before Balaam goes, despite himself, he can't help himself. There's a fourth prophecy that blesses the people of Israel even more. And so four times Balaam blesses Israel rather than cursing them.

And then he goes. But before we leave this section in Numbers, I think we need to read the first few verses of chapter 25 to find out what happens next. And chapter 25 gives a count that seems to be unrelated, but it's not. Chapter 25, verse 1, Now Israel remained in Acacia grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab.

That's the country that Balak was the king of. Today, these women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal, a false god of Moab, of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel. And the account goes on and tells how that 24,000 Israelite men were killed by divine judgment because of their immorality and even more because of their idolatry, worshipping false gods.

How did that happen? Well, we'll find out. We'll pick up, and you don't need to turn here, but I can point you ahead to Numbers 31, 8, which tells about the death of Balaam. We already read something about that in Joshua, but here's another account in Numbers 31. This is when Israelites are dealing with the Moabites and the Midianites, and it says in verse 8, They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed, Evi, Recham, Zor, Hor, and Reba, the five kings of Midian.

And then who else? Balaam, the son of Beor, they also killed with a sword. So Balaam came to an untimely end when Israel was at war to conquer Moab and Midian, and he is living in that territory.

So something's happened here. He didn't go back to his home on the Euphrates River, but he came to live in Moab among the Moabites and the Midianites. And how do you explain that with Balak's anger with him who told him to get out of here?

I don't want to see your face again. Something has happened to change the relationship, and he has come to live with them. I wonder what that change was all about. Well, we get a little more insight when we move down in Numbers 31 to verse 16. When the army of Israel came back and they had killed a good number of the Midianites and they had brought back captive many of the women and children, and then Moses said to them, verse 15, have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel through the council of Balaam to trespass against the Lord on the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. So what was it that brought about the Moabites deciding upon this plan to have their women seduce the Israeli men to commit immorality with them and to worship their gods? It was the council of Balaam. He said, I can't curse them, but I can counsel you what to do so that God will curse them.

I can't do it, but God can, and if you'll do this, God will. And sure enough, they did that, and God did. He killed 24,000 of them. So we get this explanatory insight into the death of Balaam, and now we understand that gets us a bigger picture of what's going on here. Now we understand what his error is. Jude 11 talked about the error of Balaam.

What was the error of Balaam? His error was leading people into immorality and false worship for financial gain. He was determined to get his reward one way or the other. If he couldn't do it by cursing them, he would do it by counseling them, and when his counsel succeeded, he evidently was rewarded richly, so much so that he decided to come and live in the land of Midian and Moab.

He was earning good money there. He'd gotten a larger reward there than he had anyplace else, but that was his demise. He was killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to his own sinful purposes. But his error, to say it another way, was placing material gain above truth and righteousness. That's the error of Balaam.

He placed material gain above truth and above righteousness, and that is a grave danger. So that brings me to question number three. What does all this reveal about Balaam? And I've got five short statements.

I'll just list them, and then we'll go back through them quickly. But what does this reveal about him? Number one, he was worldly successful. Number two, he was spiritually empowered. Number three, he was supernaturally restrained. Number four, he was unrelentingly determined. And number five, he was divinely judged. Number one, he was worldly successful. He was effective at his profession of divination, of soothsaying.

He was impressive in his accomplishments so that people thought he was someone who really was in touch with supernatural powers, and they engaged in his services, and I think he was in touch with supernatural powers. I think there was no doubt the ministration of demonic activity through Balaam. I think I didn't mention this when we were going through it. I skipped the interesting episode about the donkey.

You remember that, don't you? And one of the most amazing things about that episode to me is that the donkey speaks to Balaam, and he doesn't bat an eye like, whoa, I never heard that kind of activity before. A donkey speaking like a man doesn't even seem to surprise him. Is that because he was so caught up in the drama of the moment, or is that because in his soothsaying demonic activity, he'd heard this before? He'd heard demons that had caused animals to speak before.

This was nothing new for him. He wasn't all that surprised when his own donkey spoke to him and warned him about the presence of the angel of the Lord, who was about to strike him dead on the path when he was going to meet with Balak. So he was worldly successful, wealthy by industrious employment of his trade, but number two, he was spiritually empowered. There was a supernatural element to his soothsaying, but it was supplied by Satan, not by God.

He was a messenger of Satan. And the problem in our day, if I can skip ahead to that, is that many people can't distinguish the difference between satanic supernatural power and godly supernatural power. And if they see anything that appears to have a supernatural element, they say, oh, that's God at work. That's God at work. Yeah, tell that to Balaam.

Tell that to Balak. Tell that, yeah, there was something supernatural going on, and it was satanic activity at work. He was spiritually empowered. Number three, he was supernaturally restrained by the superior power of God because even though he was accustomed to calling up demonic powers to assist him in his soothsaying, he was restrained on this occasion by the power of God, which was superior. He was restrained, first of all, by what appears to be a natural fear of Almighty God, which he did have, and that was God's merciful kindness to strike that fear into his heart.

Don't you dare speak a word that I don't give to you. And he recognized God's superior power, but he was supernaturally restrained. Number four, he was unrelentingly determined in spite of this revelation of the one true God. In spite of the demonstration of God's superior power, he was determined to earn his reward regardless.

It didn't matter to him. And so he found a way to gain financial wealth out of what appeared to be an impossible situation. He found a way to curse Israel. He couldn't do it, but in cleverness, he counseled Moab what to do so that they brought God's judgment down upon God's people. He was unrelentingly determined and was successful at that.

He was financially rewarded for doing that. But number five, he was divinely judged. That's what that verse in Jude, verse 11, says.

How does it begin? Woe to them, woe to them that go the way of Cain, that go in the air of Balaam, that go in the rebellion of Korah. Woe to them. Remember, woe is a pronouncement of God's judgment upon them. And he was judged. His sinful actions did not escape God's notice. His sinful actions did not escape God's judgment. And neither will mine, neither will yours.

You can be sure of that. Question four, what does this reveal about religious intruders? Now we're back to Jude 11 and the whole reason why this is put in the little epistle of Jude. Woe to them who are the them, the intruders that Jude is talking about, who've crawled into the sheepfold some other way instead of coming in by the door, Christ Jesus. Woe to them, for they have gone in the way of Cain. They run greedily in the air of Balaam for profit and perished in the rebellion of Korah. What does this reveal about religious intruders?

Well, several things. Number one, like Balaam, they are covetous. They have run greedily in the air of Balaam for profit. These intruders have run greedily in the air of Balaam for profit.

You can't miss Jude by the Spirit of God tying together the air of Balaam with the air of the religious intruders that he's warning God's people about. They, like Balaam, are covetous. They, number two, like Balaam, are ambitious. They run, we read in verse 11. They have run greedily in the air of Balaam for profit. My New American Standard translation says they rushed headlong.

They rushed headlong into the air of Balaam. They are ambitious. They are determined that they're going to make merchandise of the Christian religion. They're going to find a way to make it pay and pay handsomely.

That's what they are going to do. They are the messengers of Satan to deceive Christians and to destroy the churches, but Satan will make sure that his messengers are well paid for their work. So, like Balaam, they are covetous. Like Balaam, they are ambitious. Like Balaam, they are sinful. The air of Balaam, they misrepresent themselves like Balaam did. They encourage others to sin like Balaam did. They're willing to ruin others for financial gain like Balaam was. That's what this reveals about the religious intruders. Three things I mentioned.

Let me see if I can give you two more. Like Balaam, they are covetous. Like Balaam, they are ambitious. Like Balaam, they are sinful. Number four, like Balaam, they are dangerous.

They damage churches and they ruin the souls of men. And number five, like Balaam, they will be severely judged by God in this life many times and always in the life to come without question. Which brings me now to number five, question number five, how does this apply to us?

Two thousand years after Jude wrote, several thousand years after Balaam pursued his witchcraft. How does this apply to us? Well, first of all, we must recognize the presence of dangerous intruders. I keep coming back to this almost every week because that's the whole purpose of the Book of Jude. But it is something that I find among many Christians is hardly ever acknowledged as being a reality, that there are people like this who come into Christian churches. This is often ignored.

It is often considered impolite to even point this out or suggest that it might be happening or that there might be anybody who is in our churches that is acting like this, like the intruders of the Book of Jude or like the sinful engagement of the prophet Balaam. And yet the Bible gives us this information so that we will acknowledge it, so that we will be on guard. How can we safely ignore it? We can't. We can't ignore it. We certainly can't safely ignore it. How can we ignore it if we are true to the Word of God, if we are truly the people of God?

We must recognize the presence of dangerous intruders. Number two, and here's something a little bit different, we must resist teaching that appeals to our carnal nature. And if you're a child of God, you should be able to distinguish the difference between what is appealing to your new nature and what is appealing to your Adamic nature. And you should recognize that when something that purports to be Christian, that it purports to be religious, is appealing to your carnal nature, it's not right. Even if you don't know exactly what it is, it ain't right because that's not what God's Word does and that's not what God's true messengers do. And if you're listening to somebody who has that effect, you know something's wrong. Resist teaching that appeals to our carnal nature, what I would call feel-good ministries that are all designed to make you feel good, so you'll come back to make you feel good, so you'll support that to make you feel good.

Some of them are on television, some of them are on street corners in Alamance County. Make you feel good. Every now and then when I'm clicking through the channels, I come and rinse that guy with a great big smile who tells you to have your best life now. The Bible doesn't tell us we're going to have our best life now. The Bible tells us that our best life awaits a life to come and that in this life we will have tribulation and to be ready for that, to not be surprised by the trials and the difficulties and the sorrows. That's part of God's appointment for us. Anybody who appeals to your carnal desires to avoid all that and says you don't have to believe that, you don't have to experience that, you can have health and wealth and all kinds of good things now, I'm warning you, somebody like that, are they a true teacher or a false teacher? Are they sent by God or are they sent by Satan? Good.

You answer that question, but it's pretty clear from our text what the answer is, isn't it? We must resist teaching that appeals to our carnal nature, feel-good ministries, ministries that deride holiness, which the Bible tells us without which no one will see the Lord. God's interested in making us holy even now, making progress toward holiness, and of course that won't be complete until we get to heaven, but that's one of the purposes, maybe one of the main purposes for the trials and difficulties that God assigns to us in this life because he is removing the dross, he's getting the sinfulness out of our lives, he's changing us little by little from the image of Adam into the image of Jesus Christ.

He is increasing holiness in our lives. That's what God is doing, and any ministry that discounts that, that pooh-poohs that, that calls true biblical holiness legalism, is a false ministry. Now there is such a thing as a false legalism, adding rules to the Bible that God didn't put in there.

There is such a thing as legalism that is wrong, but to call the commands and precepts of scripture that are to be obeyed, that are to make us holy, to call that, oh, you're just being legalistic, is to identify yourself as a false prophet, like Balaam. We must recognize the presence of dangerous intruders. We must resist teaching that appeals to our carnal nature. We must resist, and this would be the third area of how this applies to us, we must resist the covetous spirit.

It can rise up in the hearts of any of us, any of God's true children. Jesus warned about that. He said you cannot serve God and mammon. He didn't say it's wrong to enjoy the blessings that God bestows in this life, and God sometimes bestows many blessings, great material blessings on some of His people and not on others. And again, that's God's sovereign choice. But if you are so blessed, you are to give all the more and don't have a covetous spirit, greedy spirit.

I want more, I want more, I want more, I want more for myself. I'm going to stock it away. I'm going to pile it up.

I'm going to leave it for other people to fight over and to ruin their lives. Guard against that covetous spirit. And one of the ways to help you guard against it is to be sure that you are giving to the Lord regularly and generously. When you learn to do that, that helps to subdue that covetous spirit that rises up so naturally within us. What your checkbook or however, whatever method you use to give to the Lord, whatever your checkbook says about your giving to the Lord is also a barometer probably on the level of covetousness in your life. I'm not going to ask you to show me your checkbook. I'm not going to examine your giving record that's between you and God. But I'm telling you for your own sake, that is a pretty good barometer of the level of covetousness in your heart. We must resist a covetous spirit. Now, there are two or three lessons I want to conclude with here to take some of this a little bit further. And in the light of all of this, my first closing lesson is be discerning about mega churches. They're not all dangerous. I'm not saying that at all. I know some really good ones.

Thank God. Where God's word is faithfully proclaimed and God has blessed them and they have grown large. But be discerning about mega churches because many are dangerous. Many represent the kinds of distortions of Christianity that we've talked about here. Many appeal to carnal desires, to materialism, and to immoral conduct. Health and wealth gospel appeals to your materialism. And this is often the explanation of their widespread appeal that makes them grow large. That's how they became mega churches is by appealing to carnality, particularly materialism and soft peddling immorality.

We don't talk about that. We don't make people feel guilty about that. And a lot of people say, that's for me. I don't want those old hellfire and brimstone style churches with their preaching against fornication and adultery and against materialism. I'm going to go to a church where I can still be a Christian and be covetous and greedy and materialistic and immoral and nobody's going to discourage it.

In fact, it'll probably be encouraged. And churches like that grow. And it's not always just mega churches because big successful churches, seemingly successful churches, spawn many smaller wannabe churches, churches that are trying to get big the same way. Look what made them successful.

Let's try the same thing. And so there you go with smaller churches that are copying the mega churches and it just corrupts biblical Christianity across the board. Be discerning about mega churches. Number two, resist surrendering your convictions to the religious tastes of immature people who can't discern between what's spiritual and what's carnal. What is the supernatural power of God?

What is the supernatural activities of Satan? Resist surrendering your religious convictions to the taste of immature people. It may be that your children say, I want to go to this church over here. They've got cool music. They've got this.

They've got that. And you finally give in and say, well, at least they'll be in church. You may damn their souls to hell that way. It may be your spouse. I don't like that Bible-believing church.

I like a feel-good church. Well, got to go where my wife wants to go. Be careful. Be careful.

Or maybe other friends or family members. Resist surrendering to religious tastes of immature people. And finally, number three, do not confuse strong religious experiences with a saving relationship with God. Did Balaam have strong religious experiences? Yes. Did he have a saving relationship with God?

No. How do you tell the difference? Well, a saving relationship with God always results in certain things in the life of those who are so related to God. It results in repentance from sin, not justifying it and finding ways to enjoy it. It involves submission to the authority of Jesus Christ. It involves obedience to the word of God, a desire to obey God's word, though we can never do so perfectly.

That's what it involves. And when that's not what's being produced, then you may be deceived by religious experiences that do not point to a saving relationship with God but are the clever counterfeits of our adversary, the devil, who is sending his messengers into Christian churches, climbing up over the wall some other way, and are bringing ruin to the lives of men. I end up about ready to close here, but I have one text that I had brought to the pulpit and failed to read. It goes someplace else in the sermon, but I overlooked it, but here it is. This is what the book of Revelation, all through the Bible, Balaam is referred to, Old Testament, New Testament, clear to the final book of the Bible. And here's what Revelation 2.14 tells us about Balaam. He's talking to the church at Pergamos. I have a few things against you because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

We're told more than once exactly what Balaam's transgression was, so there can be no mistake about it. We're warned. Now, how are we going to respond to the word of God? Let's pray. Father, help us to be honest before you in the application of your truth to our lives, to correct those things in our lives that are wrong, to change our thinking, to change our behavior, to change our ways, O Lord, by your Spirit to change our desires. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-20 17:40:22 / 2023-02-20 17:56:47 / 16

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