Grace For The Journey
What do you think of when you read the words “Prosperity Gospel?” Odds are 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 duplicated in our churches. In another sense, however, it’s naive. One does not have to cruise 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 biblically illiterate.
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 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. Someone has said, “It is like they use Jesus’ bandwith to hack in and launch spiritual viruses in the world.”
Regrettably, the prosperity gospel has gone viral. Being more nuanced and subtle than you may think, it is very active in the church. Like a computer virus it is draining vitality and productivity in the covenant community. And you know what the worst part is? You may not even know that you are impacted by it.
Here are a few ways that you can tell that you are nibbling at the hook of the prosperity gospel, without, perhaps, even knowing it.
(1) You are dissatisfied by the ordinary means of grace.
The Sunday gatherings of the Lord’s people are seen to be very unspectacular. We sing and praise God, but it is not with a fully equipped praise band and orchestra; read the Bible, but it is without the PowerPoint and other dramatic presentations; and study Word together, but it is not always cased in the new and cutting-edge way. We probably don’t walk out of church like we walk out of a movie saying, “Wow! That was spectacular! I can’t believe how it ended! I never saw that coming.” No, although there are occasions of the “wonder-working power of God” in our services, we do the same thing every week with variation of songs and Scripture. We do this because God tells us to do it; He says it is good for us (Hebrews 10:25). We trust Him. But sometimes we want a little more. Dissatisfied by preaching, prayer, and singing we want it to be a little more “upscale, varied, and more to our style” and to fit “our tastes.” Soon . . .
We find ourselves looking
For that perfect place for us
Rather than the faithful place
That God has ordained.
Somehow worship becomes “our show.” This subtle shift shows that we are at least susceptible to if not fully on board with prosperity thinking.
(2) You think more about God’s blessings than God Himself.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am thankful for the innumerable blessings that are ours in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). But . . .
We must remember
That the blessings are not the end
But a means to an end;
Blessings point us to God.
It is God Himself that
Is the ultimate blessing.
You can see how this plays out when you lose something that God has given you (maybe a job, a relationship, health, opportunity, etc.). How do you react? Many times people get sideways with God as if He has changed. This preoccupation with created things instead of the Creator has the footprints of idolatry (Romans 1:20-25). It is also at the heart of the prosperity gospel. Christians should be on guard for this type of unbiblical thinking in their church and in their lives.
(3) You avoid communion with God in the Word and in prayer.
Let’s get right down to it . . .
Christianity is spiritual before it is physical.
If you are restless about what you see
Then you will never be content
In the One whom you cannot see.
There is an epidemic of Bible negligence and prayerlessness in the church today. It is not because we are too busy, too smart, or too whatever – it is because we do not want to have communion with God. I believe this is a manifestation of prosperity thinking. It is hard work and a real demonstration of faith and discipline to read your Bible and quiet your heart before the Lord in humble adoration, confession and petition. We are very distracted by our stuff and our craving for stuff (created things) and not so drawn to God (our Creator and Savior). This is prosperity thinking and it has gone viral in the church.
(4) You’re exhausted.
I understand some people are exhausted for medical reasons or from simply working hard. I get that. But what I’m talking about is . . .
The weariness of the soul and body
From the endless pursuit of stuff.
Life is a sprint from one thing to the next.
The whole day is filled with
The pursuit and pleasure of things.
We work and play – then we repeat. This is what we are told to do. But what about what you cannot see? What about the heart? What about the world to come? Do we as Christians not believe that there is a relationship between our bodies and our souls? Is there a connection between the restlessness and lack of contentment in our souls that so drives us to grind out our lives day by day?
(5) You think that if you work hard for God then He will work hard for you.
Many have bought into this lie. We go to church, keep our noses clean and do whatever extra we can. Then we hope God will do His part and bless us with good kids, a nice house, a steady job, and plenty of money. But what happens when the company downsizes? When the kid starts taking drugs? When the 401k shrinks? We go into private litigation in our minds because God has not kept His end of the bargain. We want to sue God for not following through on His prosperity promises that we have signed on to.
(6) You believe suffering is an intrusion instead of an instrument.
The Christian, of all people,
Should know that suffering
Is part of the Christian life
(John 15:20; Philippians 1:29).
We follow a Savior who was crucified after all! The prosperity thinking has shaped our thinking to see that suffering is an intrusion in our lives. “Why is this happening? How could God let this happen?” These are questions that operate from a position of privilege and, frankly, biblical ignorance. It is happening because we live in a fallen, broken world. But it is also happening because God uses suffering to strengthen and sanctify His people. He makes us more like Jesus through our suffering (Romans 5:3-5; Hebrews 5:7; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9, etc.).
Far from an intrusion,
Suffering is an instrument from God
For our ultimate good and His glory.
(7) You could just live here forever.
When so much of the emphasis is upon the here and now and so little is placed upon “the New City” that awaits us, we have to ask the question, “Do you even want to go to heaven?” Let’s say I had the ability to make you a deal where you could stay here in this world forever. You would never die and the ability to enjoy this world would not end. You could play all the video games, watch all the sunsets, drink and eat all the best food, and utilize all the apps that are available; there would be football, hunting, shopping, and whatever else you want. You could just ride the merry-go-round of this world forever without ever having to put in another quarter. The only catch is this: God is not there. That’s right, you can’t pray, read the Bible, go to church or anything. It is on the shelf. Would you take it?
The very thing
That makes heaven
That which makes Christians long for heaven is not a lack of possession or prosperity, it is the lack of God-wardness here (starting in our own souls but moving out to the world around us). Ultimately . . .
We don’t want more rides on the merry-go-round,
We want fellowship with God
Unhindered by our sinful flesh!
Prosperity thinking has subtly lulled us to sleep dreaming solely of sunsets, success and self-fulfillment. Friends, it’s not ultimately about any of this. The gospel brings us to God. I’m afraid we’ve gotten this twisted. The prosperity gospel has gone viral and the worst part is, many of us don’t even realize it.
The Gospel Message Needs To Go Viral
I believe what is missing in Christianity today is . . .
That many Christian have lost the sense
Of the value and worth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
And are so wrapped up in themselves
That they see no need to share it with others.
If Christians today had the biblical reality of genuine Gospel-faith we would be moved, not to seek the prosperity of the health and wealth gospel, but to seek to spread the salvation message of Jesus to every person on the Planet.
Viral messages are spread through social media when people who perceive the value of a particular message and they share it with their friends, who share it with their friends, who share it with their friends. An example is the video of the cute baby making silly sounds with her mouth that appear to sound like real words. There is not any profound message that accompanies it, or anything shared that is going to change the world or anyone’s life, but in 24 hours it reached100,000 people; in 48 hours, it reached 1.5 million, and in 72 hours, it has surpassed 10 million viewers.
Folks . . .
The gospel message is profound and life-changing!
It not only has perceived value,
But it has real tangible value.
It is the power of God
That brings salvation – Romans 1;16-17.
The gospel has the power to make blind people see and make dead people alive. If any messaged deserved to go viral, it should be the gospel. Not only is the message powerful, but those who have already heard and accepted the gospel are commanded by Jesus to take the gospel to every group of people on earth and to every creature. Not only did Jesus command us to take the gospel to every person, He also empowered us with the Holy Spirit to do so.
So . . .
We have the
Most eternal message
That we have been
Commanded by the most
Amazing person to
Share with everyone.
Why not pass it on?
Could it be that
The prosperity gospel
Has distracted us
And pulled us away
From our main task?
My prayer is that the Lord will open our eyes and give us such a passion for sharing the Gospel that it will go viral . . . Post it, tweet it, YouTube it, Instagram it, text it, like it, share it, and watch it go viral!
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”