I am embarrassed, I am angry, and I am afraid, and I want to tell you why. I want to talk about a very delicate subject. I know it is, and I hesitate to get involved in it. I was watching a television program the other night. To be perfectly frank, I do not watch a lot of television. I should probably watch more, but I have all I can do to do the work involved in Faith 20 and in some of the other things I have to do.
I saw a religious television program and I could not believe what I was seeing. The pitch for money on that program was absolutely unbelievable. I watched it with amazement. I am not going to tell you exactly what the evangelist, so-called, was saying on that program because I do not want it to be identified. I am talking about something that is of a general nature, which is happening today in connection with religious television and it is sick and it is going to destroy people. That is why I have called this program today, "Careful, Careful!" You have to be careful if you watch television. If you receive your religious inspiration from television, you have to be careful, because something is happening on television today in connection with the raising of money that has nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity. As I watched that program I was just appalled by what I saw.
I want it understood at the outset that I am not necessarily against people on television finding ways to support their program. Obviously this has to be done in one way or another. But what is happening today is that religious leaders, evangelists, preachers of the gospel, are using television in a totally commercial way, in order to further their own enterprises, in order to accomplish their dreams. They have all kinds of dreams and they will, if you don't mind, just use your money in order to accomplish them. This is happening. As I said a few moments ago, I am embarrassed, I am angry, and I am afraid.
First of all, I am embarrassed because, to tell you the truth, it is embarrassing to be part of this scene. It is a bad scene when religion is used to raise money, when religion is used to further the dreams of an individual. Who knows where he gets the dreams (See Jeremiah 23:16, 25, 26)? He says he gets them from God, he says he gets them from the Bible. This is happening all the time. When I look at this I can understand why some people think of everyone involved in television religion in the same way. They think everyone is alike. They see this happening over and over again, and they come with the conclusion that this is the way it is and this is the way these people are.
Then I say, "It is embarrassing to be a part of that particular group of people who are using television in order to promote their own empires." Now there are a number of us, and I believe this most sincerely, who are bringing the gospel over television today, who are doing so at great cost, not for self-aggrandizement, not for the building of an empire, but because of an earnest conviction that it is absolutely necessary to use television in order to tell people the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately there are also many who are using television in order to raise money for their own pet projects. I hope that you will be able to tell the difference. But it is embarrassing to be part of this scene and to observe what is happening today in connection with the television presentation of the gospel.
I also said that I am angry. The reason I am angry is that I believe sincerely that what is happening today amounts to a total corruption of the most beautiful thing in the world. The most beautiful thing in the world is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than that. People are changed by the power, of God's great Spirit, when He comes into their heart and makes them into new creatures. When a person has been living in darkness for years and years and suddenly is transformed through the power of God's great grace — this is beautiful. And this is happening.
It is happening also through the television and radio proclamation of the gospel. I know it is, because I am part of a broadcast enterprise that is sponsored and carefully supervised by a denomination. This is a broadcast outreach that is bringing the gospel to the world today in nine different languages. As responses come to us we know that God can use the broadcast proclamation of His Word in order to do great and beautiful things.
But it is horrible when something so beautiful is corrupted as it is being corrupted today. There is a very instructive passage of Scripture in the book of Acts the 8th chapter and this will explain to you why I am angry. We read there:
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, 'This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.' They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, 'Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'
Peter answered him, 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin'.Acts 8:9-23
There you see that right at the beginning of the Christian era there were those who saw that it was possible to use the gospel for commercial gain. Simon the Sorcerer, a pagan, had great power among the people. Then all of a sudden he saw that there were greater opportunities. He believed in Jesus. The Bible tells us that when the gospel came to Samaria and Phillip the evangelist preached there, this man also believed and was baptized. Then when Peter and John came down and Simon saw the Holy Spirit come upon these people, his eyes widened and he thought: "I have to have that too. I am willing to pay in order to get it, because if I can have that power, I will be able to be a man of great influence in this area."
Peter said to him, "May your money perish with you." Those are some of the sternest words of rebuke that you find on the pages of the Bible. Some people translate even much more harshly than they are translated here in the New International Version. This man was confused about the nature of the relationship between religion and money.
We have a right to be angry. We can look at television and see all sorts of commercial things going on. I do not want to talk about that now. Television is a highly commercial presence in our society and within our culture. All kinds of products are being sold all the time. If you want to sell your product on television, it is going to cost you thousands and thousands of dollars if you want to have it on prime time programs. But it is effective. You will be able to move shelf products if you use television properly to advertise your product. That is fine if you want to sell soap, if you want to sell cars, if you want to sell a whole host of things. I say nothing against it. But when people take television and use religion to manipulate people in order to get their money, something horrible is happening.
We have every reason in the world to become incensed when we see something as precious as the holy gospel of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ used in order to bring enrichment to those who proclaim the gospel.
This is a horrible thing and I hope that when you see it, it will make you angry too and you do not fall for it, you do not go along with it, you are not sucked into it. When people play games with other people's souls in order to enrich themselves, there is every reason to be indignant.
I also wanted to say that I am afraid. This is really the main reason why I am even justified in using this television program to talk about this subject. I suppose that someone could say, "Why do you have to talk about a subject like that on television when there are so many other things to talk about? If you have some kind of an argument with these people who you claim are not handling the gospel properly, why don't you deal with them on a person-to-person basis?" The main reason I am dealing with it here is because I am afraid of what is going to happen to people like you if what you see on television in connection with the way religion and money are brought together turns you off from the gospel.
I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and I was talking to someone who works in the inner city there. He told me that one of the things he discovered when he talked with people in Los Angeles about the Lord Jesus Christ is that they are turned off by the Lord Jesus Christ because what they see on television is so phony and so completely related to money that they do not want anything to do with Jesus. That can happen. People can turn away from Christ because of what they see in religion. This has been happening for so many years. There is nothing new about this.
The apostle Paul dealt with the same thing. In the sixth chapter of the book of 1 Timothy he says:
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and arguments that result in envy, quarreling, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.1 Timothy 6:3-6
There you have it. People already in those days thought that godliness was a means of financial gain, and they were turning people away from Christ because that's what they believed. Then Paul says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain." He turns people away from the kind of religion that is mixed up with money. He says the kind of religion that will do you some good is true godliness that we find on the pages of Scripture. The reason I am mentioning this today is because I am concerned about you, about your relationship to Christ, and I know that when an evangelist on the airwaves spends ten minutes talking about one of his favorite projects, trying to get people to send in hundreds of dollars to it, he cannot be telling them about Christ. In fact, he can be giving them the wrong impression about Christ. And that is what frightens me.
How sad it would be if a person like you — and you and I are both on our way to an eternal destiny — what a tragic thing it would be if a person like you were so turned off by what you see in television religion that you would turn away from Jesus. If television religion is doing that to you, turn it! off and do not look at it again. Do not even look at this program. Go to your nearest church. Find a church where God is worshiped and where Jesus Christ is exalted. Do not ever look at another television program. Find your faith right within your local church.
The local church is important. That is where we can meet Christ, where we can have fellowship with the people of God. That is where we can experience the discipline and the care that we receive from one another among the people of God. If you are going to look at religious television, make sure that you look at programs where Jesus Christ is exalted, where the cross of Jesus is the center, because that is what you need. You need Jesus. You need the crucified Jesus. You need the blood of Jesus. You need to be brought to the point in your life where you confess your sins, where you confess that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, and you turn over your life to Him and expect Him to save you.
That is what you need. We here on Faith 20 are praying that you who watch this program, as humble as it is, and with its flaws, will believe in Jesus. I am so afraid that people may get the wrong impression and they won't understand that Jesus is so important.
Do you know Him? That is the kind of godliness that you need, a godliness that really has nothing to do with money, nothing to do with riches, nothing to do with some great project someone is trying to accomplish within this world. You need the godliness that comes from recognizing that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has died on Calvary's cross in order that your sins might be taken away. You need the godliness that comes from believing in Jesus, by saying, "My Jesus, I love you, I know you are mine."