An Appearance of Godliness (Pt 23): King Joash

2Ki 12:1-3 In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. (2) And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. (3) Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places.

Sometimes the appearance of godliness can persist for a long, long time before the fraud is exposed. Such is the case in the life and reign of King Joash (aka Jehoash) of Judah. These were the days of the divided kingdom – Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Joash was king of Judah, the captial of which was Jerusalem. He was of the line of David, the northern king and kingdom being a fraud.

Joash was crowned king when he was only seven years old, having been hidden from the murderous impostor queen, Athaliah who had murdered all of the other descendants of the royal line. Joash’s life was preserved because a courageous lady named Jehosheba took the infant king and hid him for 7 years (being reminciscent of the infancy of Moses and the actions of Pharaoh’s daughter).

In the seventh year of Joash’s life, a priest named Jehoiada came on the scene. You probably have never heard of him, or if you ever did, you have long since forgotten. This should not be. Jehoiada is one of the most remarkable men of faith to be found in the Bible. He protected Joash and it was Jehoiada who ensured that the rightful Davidic king would be anointed and come to power. Joash was crowned and the wicked Athaliah put to death.

Then, look at what Jehoiada did-

2Ki 11:17 And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, that they should be the LORD’s people, and also between the king and the people.

It is at this point that we read:

2Ki 12:2 And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him.

A time of wonderful reformation and revival in Judah took place. The temple, long neglected due to the wicked idolatry that permeated the land, was repaired. But then something remarkable happened. It’s like one of those movies or novels in which the glorious and good times of “Camelot” occur and yet…there is this troubling minor note playing in the background all along. And now that theme shows itself:

2Ch 24:15 But Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and died. He was 130 years old at his death.

Did you notice that Joash did what was right because Jehoiada the priest instructed him? And again, “…Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” Once Jehoiada departed from the scene however, check out what happened:

2Ch 24:17-18 Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. (18) And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs.

2Ch 24:20-22 Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’” (21) But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD. (22) Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!”

Isn’t this remarkable? For nearly 40 years King Joash appeared to be a truly godly king. But as it turns out, the real power of godliness rested in the priest, faithful Jehoiada. Who was Joash, really? He was an unregenerate, faithless man whose “godliness” was merely external. Have you ever known someone like this? They have no inner “spark plug” of godliness. All the show of religion that they make is something that is the result of someone or something else outside of them. In the case of Joash, that someone was Jehoiada. But the moment he was gone…

I have certainly known people just like this, and I suspect that most of you have as well. That troubling “minor key tune” is always playing in the background. You sense that they have to be constantly pushed in the right direction. Their religion is something that is like a mirror reflection of the truth, yet not the truth itself. And when the eventual test finally comes, their true self is revealed.

People like Joash are traitors. They are betrayers like Judas. So many of you have told me of your experience with this kind and I have known far too many of them as well. The test comes. For all appearances these people can be counted on when you expose your abuser. You tell them. You trust them. But when whatever that “Jehoiada” has been is gone that has been the real push to their “godliness,” they turn out to be an enemy of righteousness.

Paul warned Timothy, and us, about such people:

2Ti 3:5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

And again –

1Ti 5:24-25 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (25) So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

Therefore, we must be wise. We may not immediatley recognize a Joash, but we must be aware that his kind exist, and that their numbers are not few. Trust in the Lord, but take care about trusting in men.

An Appearance of Godliness (Pt 21) – Celebrity “Christians” and their Fan Clubs

Mat 11:7-11 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (8) What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. (9) What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (10) This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ (11) Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

A friend recently told me about an experience he had years ago when he was at a Bible conference. He said that a very famous preacher was the featured speaker and just before he was about to come on “stage” my friend saw and heard numbers of young seminary students rushing down the aisle to get front row seats. They were excitedly muttering about how so and so was about to speak and they wanted to be right up front close to him.

This is a terrible and widespread evil in the church today. Christian celebrities and their fan clubs. After all the widely publicized sin scandals uncovered among those on high pedestals, you would think we would learn. Apprarently most do not.

I remember having a somewhat similar experience long ago. Another popular and essentially worshipped celebrity of the church was holding a conference on youth ministry. There were many hundreds of people in the audience and of course the thing opened up with what you would expect – pastors and other church leaders trying to be “hip” (I suppose that word evidences me as out of touch. “Woke”? “Lit” Whatever). But they were trying to be “relevant” for the younger people present. And as you can imagine their first opening tactic was to play music soooo loud that it literally vibrated your chest! Words were of course totally unintelligible but we were all told they were fine, Christian words.

At the “intermission” all pastors and youth ministers were requested to come “backstage” to meet with the celeb personally (this of course promotes churches connecting with him and giving more $$$) and so I went back rather reluctantly. What did he have to say? “I want you all to know that I LOVE your kids, and I am going to go out there on that stage in a moment and I am going to LOVE your kids to Jesus!” That said it all for me. The guy oozed arrogance. I have marked him as a phoney ever since.

Now, I would suggest to you that Jesus, in the Scripture quoted above, was confronting the crowds with this very same celebrity motive and mentality.

Mat 11:7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (8) What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.

You recall that the crowds had gone out into the boondocks to see John the Baptist because the buzz around town was that a prophet, or Elijah, or maybe even the Messiah had shown up. But mostly they went out there not to repent of their sins, not to hear a message about repentance, not to prepare themselves for the way of the Lord. No. They went there for the show. They figured that they wanted in on some temporary excitement that was in reality nothing more than a weed being blown around by wind, but it was exciting and entertaining – a circus if you will.

Jesus then told them who John really was –

(9) What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (10) This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ (11) Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

What should these crowds have been doing? What should have been their motive? To go out to hear God’s Word preached by His messenger, and then to respond to that message in real repentance and humility, preparing themselves to receive the Messiah who was even then at hand. But they weren’t. They were just like the crowds that ran after Jesus later only in order to get more bread and fish from him for lunch.

Professing Christians go to conferences and concerts. Why? To hear the Word of God? To see Christ more clearly? To repent of their sins? No. They go for the show. They go for an appearance of godliness that is devoid of God’s power. They go for….well, just look at the advertisements for the thing. Big names. Famous names. Going to be there in person. Going to give autographs after the show. And the Lord says of such people that they are nothing more than a weed being shaken by the wind. Those that travel far and wide to see them are fools. “Hey, why did you drive for 4 hours to get here and spend hundreds of dollars for a motel and food and tickets? Oh, well, I heard that a weed was going to be shaking and I just had to see it.

But all of this is far worse than stupidity. It is sheer disobedience to the Lord. It is a means the enemy uses over and over to plant his evil servants among us and delude us and enslave us. It feeds the oppression of the weak and innocent. It promotes a false gospel and takes people to hell. It scandalizes Christ’s name to the world – how many of these famous ones are going to be found out before this year even ends – that they were fakes and perverts and abusers all along?

And so we are reminded once again:

2Ti 3:5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Avoid such people. STOP seeking them out.

1Co 2:1-3 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

An Appearance of Godliness (Pt 20) – The Judas Moment

Mat 26:14-16 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests (15) and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. (16) And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

“And from that moment…”. Judas of course was an evil man before this. He used to steal money out of the treasury that was meant for the poor. But this little phrase – and from that moment – is fascinating to me. It seems that it was a moment of decision. A kind of point of finality at which Judas made a once and for all choice. A point from which there was no going back.

Mat 27:3-5 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, (4) saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” (5) And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

I have heard ear-tickling preachers claim that Judas repented and we will see him in heaven. That is ridiculous. Repentance became impossible for him at the moment he chose to betray Christ. His fate was sealed.

I have observed something all these years that I have been a pastor. It is a pattern and it has repeated itself quite a number of times in my own experience. It goes like this:

  • A person has a very convincing appearance of godliness.
  • In fact, their Christian profession appears to be quite real. They might even become your very good friend.
  • This state of affairs goes on for quite some time, even for many years.
  • And then, very suddenly, in a flash of a moment, their entire demeanor changes. One day they are your Christian friend and fellow church member, the next they want nothing to do with you and even hate you.
  • They never repent. They never give an explanation. And when you run into them some years down the line, it is as if those past years never existed.
  • If you ever do have opportunity to ask them what happened, they will only give a vague, general answer that will always put blame on you – never on themselves.

So what did happen? I can tell you. They arrived at their Judas moment. A choice had to be made for Christ or for the world. They chose the world.

You see, in order for these people to continue with Christ, to continue to walk with you as you follow Christ, there is a price that must be paid. That is true for any real Christian. To follow Christ we must take up our cross and follow Him, turn out backs on the world, and be willing to pay whatever price Christ requires. So, for example, I have known people whose Judas moment meant:

  • They were going to have to stop associating with evil family members who were pressuring them to cease from this “nonsense of religious extremism.”
  • They were going to have to suffer financial loss.
  • The image they enjoyed presenting to the world, an image which gained them popularity and acclaim, was going to be lost.
  • They realized that if what the Bible says is true, then they themselves or their family and friends were most likely not Christians at all. They were not willing to admit this. (I had one man who had been in our church for 4 years and who claimed to be my friend, literally turn to me and say “I don’t care what you say, my mother is in heaven! I saw her pray once.” I had never said anything directly about his mother, and I had never met her.) This “friend” has hated me from that moment on.
  • They realized that their wicked real self was being exposed and if they were to continue with us they were going to have to confess their sin and repent.

The list of course could go on, but the point I want to emphasize is that just as Judas was brought to a point of ultimate and final decision, so it is with these kind. They have an idol. They have a treasure. They serve another master than Christ. And at the critical and final moment, they are brought to a point of decision.

It turns out then that just like Judas, these people were never Christians at all. They were never our brothers or sisters in the Lord. Their Christianity was a facade. Esau sold his soul for a bowl of oatmeal, and in that moment repentance and salvation became an impossibility for him.

Heb 12:15-17 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; (16) that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. (17) For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.