What do you think of when you read the words “Prosperity Gospel”? Odds are your stomach turns a bit as you think about the preachers on television that speak to very large crowds and appeal to even more in their books. More than likely you look at it as “out there” rather than “in here”. In one sense this is good. The shenanigans that some of those religious hucksters engage in should never be replicated in our churches. In another sense however, it’s naive. One does not have to cruising around in a private jet or be dressed ostentatiously to qualify as a promoter of the prosperity gospel. It is more subtle. And it is more pervasive.
In its unabashed nakedness, the prosperity gospel is a damning heresy that is not a gospel at all. It is a Ponzi scheme concocted by those at the top to prey upon the weak and vulnerable. Preachers of this false gospel use God as a genie who is dispatched to give us stuff, as a result, the gospel gets reduced to getting more stuff. This message is primarily physical rather than spiritual and is about this (best) life now rather than the one to come. And most damning of all, it is about us rather than God. The cross of Christ is reduced to a stage prop to support the large tent meetings they hold. It is like they use Jesus’ band-with to hack in and launch spiritual viruses in the world.
Regrettably, the prosperity gospel …
Authenticity is a big word in the news as of late. People are trying to prove that they are real and others are working to prove that they are fake. We see it in politics where some are considered “Republicans in name only” because they do maintain a pattern of “sound” conservative principles. We have also seen it with the visit of the Pope as the distinction between those who identify as Roman Catholics but do not embrace all of the church’s teaching. Then there is the back and forth between the Republican presidential candidates about whether or not someone is really a Christian or not. Is President Obama really a Christian or is he one in name only? Is Donald Trump truly a Christian or is it simply in name only? Is Ben Carson a Christian or is it just in name only?
This brings us to an important question. Who gets to say who is in fact a Christian? Does anyone have this authority?
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus asks those following him a very important question.
“…”Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”” (Matthew 16:13)
There were a bevy of ideas floating around (not unlike today), however, Jesus wanted to drill down and see what those who were following him believed. So he asked more specifically:
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”” (Matthew 16:15)
Peter, speaking immediately and confidently, said,
“Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”” …
It seems that everyone has an opinion about Gay Marriage, and these opinions are rarely ambivalent. Christians have (and rightly so) been outspoken in their opposition to a redefinition of marriage. This recasting of the institution of marriage is not, we would argue, a progressive and healthy advancement but rather a disastrous detour from what biblical, therefore, right and good.
At the same time and while marriage is on the front burner, particularly the undermining of God’s plan for it, let me ask a question. Are Gay and Lesbians the only ones who undermine God’s plan for marriage?
The answer is, “Of course not!” Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God’s plan for marriage. You don’t get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.
This is where it gets quite personal for us inside the Christian camp. God’s plan for marriage includes the following:
This is a strange time for patriotic American Christians. On the one hand, we will observe the 4th of July this weekend. Most of our neighborhoods are ringing with fireworks and are adorned with symbols of American pride. Many will celebrate the 4th with family, friends, and an open grill. At the same time, our stomaches are still turning by the fresh reminder that we and our Christianity are increasingly not welcome here. This is truly a strange confluence of emotions.
Feeling Unwelcome Here
In talking with a number of Christians last week I was struck by how the Supreme Court decision to legalize same sex marriage brought such an unsettling clarity to their perspective. Any morning fog that lingered in our minds that this was a nation that was at least neutral towards biblical Christianity was quickly eradicated last Friday. With the court’s affirmation, the chorus of celebrations on the news and in our neighborhoods, and then the White House being lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate the decision, it seemed to bring clarity. Most Christians knew this deep down but for some it did not home until last week. At some point they looked up and said, “I’m not welcome here.”
What Not To Do
What do you do about this?
What is the dumbest thing you have ever said? You probably don’t want to repeat it. Since, I think it is edifying, I’ll reset my moment. I was a new Christian and was talking to my wife one Sunday afternoon when I dropped this gem on her: “Christianity is so easy. I don’t see what the big deal is.” But, I wasn’t finished– “I read my Bible, pray and talk to people about Jesus. Then, we go to church on Sunday and hear someone preach. What is so hard about it?”
God would show me what was so hard about it within 18 months. We began attending a church that emphasized fellowship and the “one anothers”. In no time I was getting on people’s nerves and they were returning the favor. Life in community with sinners doesn’t fit on in a Hallmark Card. It’s messy and pride exposing. It is anything but easy.
One of the favorite lines around our house when one of the kids does something wrong is, “What is this going to look like when you are 18?” As parents, our point is that these sins in their toddler stages do grow up and mature. Pigging out and lusting after the cheese dip does mature into a lack of self-control in all of life as you grow. Connect the dots.
Let’s apply this principle to your Bible reading and devotions. If you take your current practices of spiritual discipline, what does this look like when you are 80?
Too many times I hear people talking about wanting to be more disciplined, more faithful, more intentional without being more active. The fact of the matter is, you will be tomorrow who you are today if you don’t make any changes.
So who do you want to be when you’re 40? 50? 60? 70? or 80?
For centuries people have navigated their way across unfamiliar territory by utilizing the celesstial GPS in the night sky. The stars and their alignment remain as amazing as they are helpful.
One of the first things you learn when you are trying to discern the heavenly canopy is that Polaris is important to find. This is because Polaris, or the Pole Star, stands almost motionless over time. And further, all the stars in the North sky seem to rotate around it.
As star gazers would tell you, “Find Polaris, get your bearings, and go from there.”
The Christian life operates in like manner. The person and work of Jesus (gospel) is the fixed aim point by which we calibrate our understanding of reality. By understanding who Jesus is and what he has done we understanding the world was created by him and for him (Col. 1.16-17). We remember that he is the one who is accomplishing God’s eternal plan to unite everything in him (Eph. 1.10-12)…that is he is the King of everything! We learn also that all of Scripture points to, it testifies to him (Luke 24.27, 44-47). Christ is the great pole-star!
The danger for Christians is to find ourselves getting our spiritual alignment on ourselves, our circumstances, other people, etc. This is as foolish and untenable as trying to navigate a journey by calibrating yourself on the dot of Orion’s belt. Things move. They change. Christ is fixed. Christ gives meaning to everything.
Christ is the centerpiece of history, our …
I recently enjoyed a great discussion with some seasoned saints. One gentlemen wisely stated that your true theology is how you live. This is an incredibly inciteful and important conclusion.
Here are some examples that have been fermenting in my mind since then:
Most of us do not openly confess to be open theists but then when a trial or tragedy comes we react like God is not sovereign or knowledgeable of the present and the future.
We confess that God is loving and good but yet complain and bemoan circumstances.
We confess that God answers prayer but yet there is dust in our prayer closets.
We confess that God’s Word is sufficiently powerful to equip and sanctify us yet we too often tip our hat to it like a privacy disclosure form.
We confess that Jesus is the only Savior yet we rely upon other saviors to meet and satisfy our deepest needs (money, sex, power, fame, fitness, etc).
We confess that we must honor Christ with our mouths yet we find ourselves attacking others because they are not like us.
We confess that the church is the unique place whereby God has designed to meet with his people through the Word and corporate gathering yet we too often arrive for meetings dull & distracted.
We confess that this is not our home and our citizenship is in heaven yet we plant roots here, find our identity in politics, a flag, and are more moved by the National Anthem than In Christ Alone and are more frequently reading …
True or False: The essence of the Christian message is that you are to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.
The answer is…
This is not the message of the gospel but the message of the Law! When Jesus was asked about the sum of the Law, what did he say?
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 22.37-40)
The gospel message is not a call for us to get busy doing the best we can to please God but rather a call to realize our sinfulness and to trust upon one who truly did please God. In other words, the essential message of Christianity is never about what you and I can do but about what God has done in Christ!
Sadly many professing Christians have unwittingly wandered to Sinai and tried to package it as good news. Do you not still see the bright lightening and the dreadful mountain wrapped in smoke? Do you not hear its trumpet blast, peals of thunder, and knocking of Moses’ knees? As God descends upon this Mountain to proclaim his inflexibly rigid standard of righteousness he is to be seen as holy, unapproachable, and worthy of awe.
This is devastating. …
Yesterday I began looking at some of the characteristics and demonstrations ecumenical ministry. In this post I want to briefly consider if and how God restricts his people from involvement with others. Specifically I aim to answer questions such as, Does God put restrictions on partnership? Is ‘unity at all costs’ biblical? What is the criteria by which believers are to measure their ministerial involvement with others?
God is a God of unity. He is not the source of error rather Satan is (Jn. 8.44). At the same time as the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth he does have the final say as to what types of spiritual endeavors his people are to enter into.
: the teaching of Second Corinthians
Second Corinthians chapter six is a passage that is often cited with reference to marriage, however, the passage falls within a context of instructions on biblical ministry. Christians are given clear and concise instruction that there are parameters within which the Christian church can do ministry. Look at what the Scriptures say:
2 Corinthians 6:14-15 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
The imagery employed by the Apostle Paul draws a great picture …