Derek Prince - This Is Corrupting The Life Of The Church
This is an excerpt from: The Cross In My Life - Part 2
Let's look for a moment in Philippians 2 verses 3 and 4. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition [or conceit], but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than himself: let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. So, that's the exact opposite of self-centeredness, isn't it? Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. I wonder how much would stop being done in the church if that rule was followed? How much ministry is motivated by selfish ambition? How many ministries are built on somebody's desire to have the biggest something?
I don't say this to be critical, but I just state it as it's a problem that I think is corrupting the life of the church. It's a problem that's got to be dealt with. The only way to deal with it is the cross, there is no other way. You see, the alternative is stated just in the previous two verses of Philippians 2: Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy Those are beautiful things. They're things we'd all love. But you see, they're incompatible with selfishness and self-centeredness. Then Paul says: fulfill my joy by being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
So, there are two opposites. Verses 1 and 2 are what we'd all like but verses 3 and 4 are what very frequently we experience in ourselves and in others. And until we come to the cross and accept God's sentence upon me, we will never have a solution to these problems. There is no other solution, there's no other way but the cross. In 2 Timothy 3 we have a very vivid picture of what human character and human behavior will be like in the last days. There are actually eighteen specific ethical and moral blemishes that Paul lists.
As I read them I invite you to consider how many of them are conspicuous in our contemporary culture. And having lived over 70 years I can think back quite a long way. I grew up in Britain between the two world wars. I'd have to say that Britain, although not by any means a Christian nation, was basically a law abiding people. And I find that when I talk to young British people today and tell them what it was like in those days they can't believe that I'm telling the truth. I also visited the nation of Sweden for the first time in 1947 for ministry. I'd have to say Sweden was the most God fearing nation that I'd ever been in. You could sense the fear of God in the streets, the people lined up in the streets on Sunday morning to get into the churches. And basically, you could trust the people to be absolutely honest and true to their commitments.
I was in Sweden in 1983 or 4 and I was interviewed by a young Christian Swedish journalist. He was asking about my background. When I told him what I remembered of Sweden in that time he could not believe that I was describing his own nation so rapid and so radical has been the moral and ethical slide in Sweden. I first came to this nation in 1967. It was a peaceful, harmonious nation. I don't mean that everybody was Christian but basically it was almost the kind of place you'd like to come to to get away from your problems. Could that be said today?
You see, there's something going on all over the world. It's going on with amazing rapidity. We can hardly adjust to the pace of the change. But it's described here in 2 Timothy 3. One thing I like about the Bible is it tells it as it is. It's never sentimental, never indulges in wishful thinking, its promises are true, but its warnings are equally true. So this is what Paul says: But know this [you can be sure of this] that in the last days perilous times will come. In the margin of my version the alternative translation, for perilous times is times of stress. That's really remarkable because again, 40 years ago people didn't talk a lot about stress. Today you can't go to any doctor without him sort of saying your problem is stress. And he may well be right. But it's a significant change that's taken place in the last 50 years.
Now let's look at the reason for the perilous times. Let me tell you it's not nuclear fission. The reason for the problem is inside human beings, that's where the problems begin. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God How many of the features of that list are conspicuous in our contemporary culture? And it's not just in one nation; it's in many, many nations around the earth.
What I want to point out to you is the root of the problems, it's in the first statement. Men will be lovers of themselves. It's self love that gives rise to all these other problems. And you would say, well, after all these people are not churchgoers, they're not Christians. That's not what Paul says. He says in the next verse: having a form of godliness. Paul would never use the word godliness of a non-Christian religion. So, these were people who had a form of Christianity but they deny its power. What is the power that they deny? The power that will change selfish people. That's what Paul's talking about.
You see, it's easy for a Christian to be very respectable, to abstain from drugs, alcohol, nicotine and all these obvious sins. And to pay his debts, drive a good car, not infringe the traffic laws. And yet, to be a very self-centered person. Is that true? And such a person has a form of godliness but is denying its power to change people radically. And until self is dealt with we have not been changed radically. You know what the word radical means? It's derived from the Latin word "radics", a root. Radical is that which goes to the root. And that's how John the Baptist introduced the gospel and Jesus. He said, 'Now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. And every tree that does not bring forth good fruit will be hewn down and cast into the fire.'
The gospel is the most radical message that has ever confronted humanity. It deals with the root. And the root is selfishness, it's the self life, self love. And the only axe that will cut that root out is the cross. See, I became involved in the ministry of deliverance in the 1960s. And I began to work with the obvious sins like people who needed deliverance from nicotine, or alcohol, or drugs. After a while I discovered I was only dealing with small branches that grew on bigger branches. Some of the bigger branches, one of them was frustration. I find every addiction grows out of a frustration. And if you don't deal with the frustration you haven't really solved the problem of the addiction. And then I realized that I was still dealing with branches but I wasn't getting to the trunk of the tree.
And you see, you can cut down a lot of branches but the tree will go on growing, and it will grow more branches. And finally, God showed me I had to deal with the root. The root is self love, selfishness, self-centeredness. Until that root has been dealt with we really cannot have the benefits of the gospel that God intends us to have. Self and the Christ nature are opposites. We have to let self die, and the Christ nature move in and take the place of self. I'm not saying... What I'm trying to say is this. Be realistic about yourself. Don't overestimate your spirituality. I'm not bringing anybody under condemnation because God is gracious, He's merciful, He's patient. He'll go on dealing with us. But don't deceive yourself that you're beyond where you really are spiritually. Check on how much self still dominates your life because that will tell you the answer.