Over the centuries, since the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, an apparent cause of individuals leaving God's Church has been allowing the perceived wrong example of other people in the Body of Jesus Christ to influence a person to leave the Church.
Today, people influenced negatively by another person in a congregation often choose to go to another fellowship until an offense occurs there, and on and on it goes until the living room becomes the final place of refuge from another person's less-than-perfect example.
It is natural for people to want to follow the leader. We learn to do it from childhood in the game by the same name. However, once one becomes a member of the Body of Christ, the Leader and Example to follow must become Jesus Christ, not another human being.
Over the years, many have looked up to a particular minister, deacon or member as the standard to follow. We have heard accolades like: "Isn't he or she a great example?" "He is a strong minister [deacon, member], we ought to try to follow his example." "That person really demonstrates the way we ought to live." "Their marriage exemplifies what all of our marriages ought to be like." Only to be shocked when these same wonderful human examples leave the Church, get divorced or do something that is perceived as offensive.
When we allow ourselves to fall into this trap of placing human beings on a pedestal, we are setting ourselves up for a man to be able to take our crown.
We must always remember what Paul was inspired to exhort us in 2 Corinthians 10:12, "For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
For those who have been truly called out by God the Father and have actually received God's Holy Spirit, there is a crown of righteousness set aside and held in the third heaven to be awarded at the second coming of Jesus Christ at the wedding supper of the Lamb (2 Timothy 4:8). However, this crown carries with it responsibilities now and in the world to come.
God's people are responsible now for several things. One is to live a life of enduring to the end of their physical life.
Today religious persecution to the degree of past centuries is practically nonexistent. Then what do God's people have to endure today, especially in the Western societies of this world?
Endurance is a requirement for all ages. "This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us" (2 Timothy 2:11-12).
God's people have three very basic and very real forces in this life to endure and to overcome. These forces are their own human nature (Jeremiah 17:9), the downward pull of this present evil world (Galatians 1:3-5) and the influences and deceitfulness of Satan, the god of this present world (James 4:7).
These downward pulls have been influencing mankind negatively from the very beginning. These negative forces have caused mankind to progressively degenerate to the point that God had to erase most of mankind, with the exception of Noah and his immediate family, from off the earth by a global flood and begin again through Noah's family. Moreover, very shortly after the Flood, God had to slow the downward progress of mankind by confusing the languages at the Tower of Babel.
All this being said, mankind today is at the same point it found itself at the Tower of Babel. Today, man is overcoming the language barrier and progressing toward what many world leaders espouse—a one-world government. Furthermore, man has the capacity to wipe himself off the earth by nuclear weaponry or by germ warfare. The influence of mass media with all its wonders now enables practically anyone to access or be influenced by every form of sinfulness that has existed until recently in the back alleys and the brothels of the underworld.
Today, the challenge to resist the downward pulls and to endure to the end for those God chooses to call out has never been greater and more deceptive. The perilous times of the end spoken about by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 definitely describe this world, especially the so-called Western world.
The crown of righteousness that is laid up for God's people must be paramount in our minds. We have been called to overcome and endure the downward pulls that exist so God can give us a crown and the servant rulership that goes along with this crown. Once received, this crown is an eternal reward and office for those who receive it. But in this life, we are required to resist and endure those things that can cause us to lose our crown of life. We now must be "temperate in all things" in order to qualify to receive this "imperishable crown" as Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 9:25.
It's interesting to note that the Greek word translated "temperate" here is enkrateuomai, which means to exercise self-restraint or self-control. We no longer can allow ourselves to submit or bend to the negative pulls and standards of this world. We now must be ever vigilant and constantly in tune and in touch with the high standards of God and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in us. Our focus and actions must be based on God's Word. We must be yielded to God's power and authority in our lives through daily heartfelt prayer, Bible study, meditation and occasional fasting. All of these give us the constant right perspective necessary to receive the crown of righteous and prevent any man from taking our crown. "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:11).
How Can Someone Take the Crown?
When we fall into the trap of observing what others in the Church are doing with their lives, whether ministers, deacons or members, and find out that they are "less than righteous" in a given area, and then allow that example to cause us to leave the Church or go to a different fellowship until a bad example occurs there, ad infinitum, we are in the mode of setting ourselves up to let a man take our crown.
When we see others in the Church falter, get into a wrong attitude or do something not in keeping with God's Word, we must always remember this admonition from Paul in Galatians 6:1-5, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load."
Furthermore, we must couple the following scripture with Galatians 6:1-5 to gain a deeper understanding of God's perspective on how to handle offenses in the Church. See Matthew 18:15-17 where Christ instructs us: "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."
Additionally, in 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul, in what is commonly referred to as the love chapter of the Bible, instructs that love "is not provoked." We must develop a certain amount of tolerance for the weaknesses of others. Not for blatant sins, but weaknesses, giving the benefit of the doubt that the person is working on overcoming sin. Likewise we must also understand that whether a person is ordained or not, everyone is growing at a different rate according to their ability and the revelation of their faults and shortcomings by God. It's a good thing that God does not pull up the shade all at once, and reveal all of our shortcomings at once to us, lest we all be discouraged and give up the fight for the crown of life.
In the final analysis, we are all individually responsible to God not to let any man take our crown. We must always look to the standard of Jesus Christ, not at the best man has to offer, and understand our personal responsibility to overcome and grow up to the stature of Jesus Christ.
As Jesus Himself instructs us in Matthew 7:3-5, "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Let's never allow a man to take the precious crown of life from us. Then we'll be able to fully participate in the future government of God and receive our individual reward from Christ. He reminds us in Revelation 22:12, "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. UN