Home Church Congregation Questions Pastor’s Lavish Lifestyle Upon Purchase Of ’98 Corolla

Congregation Questions Pastor’s Lavish Lifestyle Upon Purchase Of ’98 Corolla

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FREDERICK, MD—A quorum of church members at Ridgewood Church voted 56–3 in favor of formally reprimanding teaching pastor Stewart Coles for reckless and irresponsible spending upon the discovery that he splurged on an as-is 1998 Toyota Corolla he spotted on Craigslist.

Reporters were able to catch up to one of Ridgewood’s deacons Wednesday at a local golf resort as he got out of his Cadillac. “We’re not saying it’s necessarily a sin for a pastor to make money, but it’s definitely unwise to flaunt your wealth like that,” the deacon said as he took a few practice swings with his new Callaways. “We openly call upon Pastor Coles to repent of his lavish, prodigal lifestyle.”

According to the church’s disclosed financial information, Coles pulls in a cool $42,000.00 per year plus a lucrative $500.00 continuing education fund. Congregation members began to question his opulent lifestyle in early April as he was spotted eating at Denny’s with his wife for their fourth wedding anniversary, but the scandal didn’t fully break until he was seen rolling up in the gaudy $1,500.00 vehicle, complete with sunroof, cassette deck, FM radio, air conditioning, and a full three out of four automatic windows functioning properly.

“It’s just sick,” the deacon went on. “I know we’re not supposed to muzzle the ox, but an ox that’s riding in a whip like that is way too well-off. Unbelievers will see him rolling on those fourteens and immediately assume Christians are all about the money, giving all of us a bad name and killing our collective witness. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a tee time with the mayor.”

As part of the official referendum, Coles must donate the Corolla to charity and get something more appropriate for the ten-mile commute he makes seven days a week, such as a reliable, modest Schwinn or Huffy.

Read Wednesday’s Word by Paul Tripp
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What Is A Christ-Centered Life?

“Christ-Centered” – it’s a phrase we love to use. It’s probably in the mission statement of your church and in the title of a book you own.

But “Christ-Centered” is a lot easier to talk about than to live, isn’t it? In the mundane moments of everyday life, a lot of other things compete with Christ for center stage.

Today I want to share four words that have helped mold my understanding of what a Christ-centered life looks like.


A Christ-centered life begins with realizing that the source of everything we are is the Lord. He created us, he owns us, he gifted us with talents, he authors our story, and every blessing that we receive comes from him (Gen 1, Acts 17:26, James 1:17)

Additionally, Christ is the source for our daily righteousness. We have no internal desire or moral ability to live up to biblical standards on our own, but in Christ, we have everything we need for godly living (2 Pet 1:3).


A Christ-centered life means that a Person is the motivation for everything we think, say and do. Many of us leave little room for Christ in our Christianity. By that, I mean that our ability to “keep the law” or our pride in historic tradition is what defines our faith, not the person of Jesus.

Is your Christianity intimate and personal? Do you want to know Christ? (Phil 3:10) Do you want to be part of his work? Do you want to please him? Do you want to incarnate his character? A Christ-centered life is deeply intimate and motivated by relationship.


A Christ-centered life has one ultimate goal: that Jesus gets the glory. It’s not wrong to pursue personal goals, but the glory of Christ is the orienting compass that gives direction to all others.

Because we want Christ to be known, honored, worshipped and obeyed, we submit every other attainable goal to him. Our decisions are no longer controlled by selfish desires, but by new desires we get from his love (2 Cor 5:14-15).


A Christ-centered life finally puts all our eggs in the basket of the Lord. We know that this life is not all there is, and that an eternity is coming (1 Cor 15:19, Rev 21:4).

But a Christ-centered life is more than just a ticket out of hell. We have hope in the here and now, because Christ has promised his presence and grace until we go home.

Ask yourself: is my life Christ-centered?

Is Christ my source for life? Is he the motivation for everything I do? Is his glory my goal? Is he my hope, both for today and for eternity?

Like I said at the beginning, a lot competes for center stage in our hearts. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus accepts us and forgives us when he is not at the center.

Our Savior patiently walks with us and fights for us as we progress to make him the main focus of our life!

God bless

Paul Tripp

Reflection Questions

  1. Where are you taking credit for what only Christ has given?
  2. How can your relationship with Christ become more intimate and personal?
  3. When did you make a decision last week that put the glory of self over the glory of Christ?
  4. How does the hope of eternity give you hope for today?
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In this brief clip, Albert Mohler explains the disappearance of the ‘mushy middle’ in the church.

Deconstructing the Kingdom of Self

What I’m about to ask won’t be easy to answer.

When was the last time you did something outwardly “for God” that was actually inwardly motivated by personal gain?

That’s a hard question because it first requires the courage of humble honesty. It’s not easy for us to admit that we prioritize ourselves over our Lord and Savior.

But second, it’s a hard question because we struggle to see our motives, words and actions with biblical accuracy.

Let me rephrase the question and lead with personal confession, using two examples from my own life and ministry.

When was the last time you served someone you loved, not first because you wanted to freely sacrifice for their good, but because you were attempting to put them in your debt for later?

When was the last time you participated in a public ministry activity, not first because you wanted to build the Kingdom of God, but because you wanted other people to notice, respect, admire, or accept you?

You see, in our everyday lives, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of self are always at war with one another.

As long as sin remains, our motives, words and actions are shaped by a troublesome mix of the agenda of these two kingdoms.

So today, I want to give you five questions to ask of yourself regularly. These questions are not designed to beat you down with guilt, but to give you eyes to see the deceptive kingdom of self.

1. Self-Focus: Before making a decision, do you think, “What’s in it for me?” or do you freely sacrifice for the good of another without expecting a return?

2. Self-Righteousness: Are you more concerned with, and on the lookout for, the sin, weakness and moral failure of others than you are your own?

3. Self-Satisfaction: Do you feel regularly discontent, always looking for something new to satisfy you, instead of being satisfied with a God-honoring life?

4. Self-Reliance: Do you avoid living in intrusive and intentional relationships, where others admit their need for grace and seek the help of biblical community?

5. Self-Rule: Which law gets the most attention and the quickest response in your life and relationships, the Word of God or your own desires?

That’s a pretty devastating list of questions! Which of us could ever measure up to that standard?

But we have Good News – there is a Warrior Savior, and abundant grace for the battle of these two kingdoms!

On the Cross, Jesus broke the power of the kingdom of self. He paid the debt for every self-centered motive, word and action that we prioritize over biblical living.

On the Cross, Christ purchased power for us to obey, and with his resurrection, he guarantees that some day our kingdom conflict will be over.

Until then, your Lord battles zealously on your behalf, and he will never rest until the battle is over. Why don’t you commit yourself right now to be one of his soldiers?

God bless

Paul Tripp

Reflection Questions

  1. Ask yourself again: When was the last time you did something outwardly “for God” that was actually inwardly motivated by personal gain?
  2. Which of the five questions do you feel most convicted by, and why?
  3. What is one practical step that you can take to focus on the Kingdom of God over the kingdom of self in that area?
Copyright © 2017 Paul Tripp Ministries, Inc., All rights reserved.