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How Do I Know If I Am Really Saved?

This is one of the most common questions a pastor gets asked: How do I know if I am really saved?

Some believe that you just need to say, “I believe!” Others might insist that you hand over a resume of faith plus some good works — including regular church attendance and a giving record to boot.

With the vast majority of opinions being hit or miss, we are compelled to ask, What does the Bible have to say? For those seeking assurance of salvation, that’s all that matters.

Is it a one-time decision or a lifestyle?

The first question needing serious consideration: Is being a true Christian — as in, a “saved individual” — a one-time decision or an ongoing lifestyle? Take, for example, three individuals who make “decisions” to follow Jesus Christ. Now, fast forward ten years and the first of those individuals live in rampant sin but claims, “I am a Christian. I believe. I walked the aisle, prayed the sinner’s prayer, accepted the free gift of grace from God, and punched my ticket to heaven.” Meanwhile, the second individual made a similar decision to follow Jesus, but eventually walked away from their faith and decided not to believe. Finally, the third individual was completely different. Sin was present in their life at times, but not as a rampant lifestyle. They humbly acknowledge shortcomings but could confidently point to the fruit of the Spirit as being present in them (Galatians 5:22-23). Their life is not marked by perfection, but a definite progression in holiness, righteous living, devotion to Jesus, and love for others.

All three made decisions. All three claim to be Christians. Which one is?

Continually believing…

If you take the original meaning of Paul’s words in Romans 1:16 literally, you’ll see that the truly saved will be known by continual belief.  Paul explains that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”

“Believes” here is to have faith or to entrust, and comes from the Greek word pistis that means persuasion or conviction. Grammatically, this word is a present active participle meaning, it is an ongoing repetitious action. This passage could be read as saying, “to everyone who is continually believing” or in broader (but still accurate) terms, “to everyone who continues to walk in deeply persuaded convictions that Jesus Christ is Lord!”

The bottom line is that the truly saved will stay saved. “Backsliding” was the term we used growing up for people who “lost their salvation.” But the fact is, based on the Scriptures, they were never genuinely saved. The parable of the Four Soils (Matthew 13:1-23) reminds us that some will look saved, but in the end, they weren’t. 1 John 2:19 is a sobering expression concerning those who “went out from among us because they were never really one of us.”

If you genuinely believe something, you won’t just say you believe it. Your actions will back up your words. The Bible is clear that you are not saved by good works, but you were saved for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). Jesus told His disciples, “If you love Me, keep My commands” (John 14:15). James tells us that “faith without works is dead” and that even the demons believe! (James 2:17, 19).

How do I know if I have truly believed and am saved?

You confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and trust in Him by faith (Romans 10:9)

Every true believer must come to Christ declaring, “You are God! Your way is better. My way doesn’t work. I need you. I believe in you. I trust in you by faith for my salvation. I will follow you for the rest of my life!” Have you believed in your heart and confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord?

You confess sin; no longer indifferent towards it (1 John 1:9)

True believers care about sin, not because they like committing it, but because they want to deal with it. Confession is the mark of genuine faith. Those who are following after Jesus bring their sin and shame to His feet claiming, “I repent! I hate this sin that keeps waging war against my soul. Please forgive me. Help me escape it.”

Habitual patterns of sin are decreasing and fading (1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Cor. 5:17)

If you’re a “new creation” you’re not going to look like “old” for long. Genuine faith transforms us! When the Bible lists horrible sins and says things like, “such were some of you,” the genuine believer can joyously say, “Yes, I was!”

You desire to be obedient to Christ (James 1:22)

If you truly desire to follow Jesus and He has won victory in your heart, you’re not just going to want to hear the word of God, you’re going to want to do it!

Your love for others is increasing (1 John 3:14)

Hateful Christian is an oxymoron. Yes, being a follower of Jesus means telling it like it is and speaking truth no matter the cost, but that is always to be done in love (Eph. 4:15). More than that, true believers are marked by a love for others that goes way beyond what they say — it’s about what they do.

You hunger for God’s word (1 Peter 2:2)

A genuine for love for Jesus and a true conversion of your soul is going to result in a passionate hunger to know what He has said and what He has called you to do. True Christians are not indifferent to God’s word.

You are filled with a desire to see others saved (2 Cor. 5:18-20)

People who have been reconciled to God want to see the same happen for others! It’s that simple.

You love to serve the body of Christ with good works (Eph. 2:10; 1 Peter 4:7-11)

There is no such thing as “lone ranger” Christianity or a genuine belief that does not want to genuinely serve! Good works are not required for salvation, they are the result of salvation. Christians are given spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ.

You experience the discipline of God (Hebrews 12:6-8; Romans 1:18-32; Psalm 11:5)

This may seem crazy, but experiencing the discipline of God means that He loves you! Only a cruel parent lets their child run into harm’s way. God’s correction is done with love. Like a gracious Father, He is not content to let His children continue in sin that harms them. He guides the truly saved as a faithful shepherd guides his, even if that means using the “staff” sometimes to correct their crooked path.

You are bearing the fruit of the Spirit; persevering to the end (Luke 6:43; Galatians 5:22)

Bad trees don’t produce good fruit. Good trees don’t produce bad fruit. So it is for people as well. A fake Christian will be known by false fruit or no fruit at all. A genuine believer will look at the list in Galatians 5:22-23 and by God’s grace rejoice saying, “My life looks like that more than it used to!” In the end, they’ll have witnessed God finishing the work He began in them when their earthly life ends and they meet Christ face to face (Philippians 1:16).

It may be hard to face certain realities in your life, but the wise and prudent Christian finds comfort in Paul’s words to Corinthians when he exhorted them, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

 

4 Prayers on Book Launch Day

Today is the day!

God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel has now officially released and is available on Amazon, Christianbook.com, Barnes & Noble, Target, LifeWay, and other retailers. It has several options depending on your preference including audio, Kindle, and a Spanish version.

By God’s grace, the book debuted on Amazon as the #1 New Release in Religious Biography here in the United States, and a #1 Bestseller in Canada as well.  My prayer is that project will reach far and wide for the glory of God and the message of the true gospel.

If the book has been a blessing to you, please offer a review on Amazon so potential readers can benefit from your encouragement.

As various news organizations begin to publish articles and select parts of the book to use for salacious reports on past exploits of my uncle and others, here are some ways we can be praying and maintaining perspective as believers with a more gospel-centered goal:

Pray that the book rescues people who are in bondage to false teachers

Until someone gets saved, the project is not a success. It doesn’t matter how many books sell, what best-seller ranking it achieves, or how excited the already-saved get. We must pray for a harvest of souls.

Pray that the book is used by God to undermine the abusive ministries of prosperity charlatans

Far too many teachers keep people in bondage with their offers of false hope and fear tactics.  Aside from saving souls, there would be no greater success for this book than to be used to blow a hole in the greedy empires of false teachers; causing them to hit rock bottom and turn to Christ in repentance.

Pray that the book triggers seeker-driven churches to assess their “prosperity-lite” approach

The prosperity gospel creeps its way into many churches — not just the outlandish ones. Many seeker-driven churches preach an easy message every week designed to keep people happy and coming back. These churches and their pastors don’t tell people what they need to hear, they tell them what they want to hear. They market a “lite” version of the prosperity gospel full of comfort and ease; avoiding topics like suffering and sin. They may not drive Bentley’s or twist Scripture, but avoidance of hard truths in order to cater to the audience is dangerous territory to be in. This is the American Gospel.

Pray that the book equips Christians to boldly live for the gospel

When it comes to topics like the sovereignty of God, healing, money, and evangelism, many Christians are not well-equipped. Even more concerning, many Christians cannot articulate the gospel! Pray that the book equips believers in these areas and that many will utilize the “recommended resources” section to grow in godly wisdom. May boldness abound in the lives of those who know the truth!

Thank you for praying and supporting this project. I trust God will use it as He sees fit.

Your Prosperity Is Too Small

There was a rich young ruler who once had the opportunity to sit face-to-face with God. Like a child humbly seated at the feet of his father, this ruler had a question and knew where to go for the answer. Surely God Himself could provide an adequate solution to his longing soul. In an instant, a weighty inquiry burst forth. He asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” On the outside, this rich ruler appeared to be a cut above everyone else. He was wealthy, powerful, and seemed to be a model of morality. Eternal security was all but guaranteed, right? But there, concerning the state of the ruler’s soul, Jesus brought the sobering reality of heaven down to earth.

Jesus said, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me” (Luke 18:22). The ruler’s response? “But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked him and said, ‘How difficult it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!’” (Luke 18:24).

Wealth is not a sin, but chasing it can cloud even the sharpest of minds. That is why in God’s economy, it is not the balance in your bank account that matters; it is the affections of your heart. God is not partial to those who are rich with pride and presumption; it is the poor in spirit that move Him.

This ancient temptation still rears its head today. There is not a more blinding, arrogant, and myopically presumptuous belief system than the “prosperity gospel.” While it promises a long list of earthly treasures to those who will succumb to its lusts, it leaves its victims spiritually bankrupt. Like the rich young ruler, the prosperity gospel appears big and bold on the outside, but when compared to the true gospel, its bleak return on investment is suddenly revealed. Those who adhere to the prosperity gospel possess a view on prosperity that is too small.

A Vicious Cycle

The wake of devastation the prosperity gospel leaves behind stems from selling a version of Jesus that overpromises and underdelivers. Instead of rightfully putting their primary emphasis on lavish spiritual blessings unlocked in Christ (Eph. 1:3-12), prosperity preachers twist Scripture to put the emphasis on temporary pleasure, promising that Jesus is a Heavenly Banker who wants everyone to be healthy and wealthy on earth. According to the prosperity gospel, Christ’s goal is your comfort. Sadly, there is no comfort to be found. Many people who make donations in exchange for the “American Dream” only end up broke. They are told to sow a seed of faith into the fertile soil of a prosperity preacher’s ministry on the grounds that it will produce a hundredfold return! The painful reality is the only people getting rich are the prosperity preachers themselves. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Is this the picture of the gospel that we see in the Bible?

There Will Be Suffering

When a prosperity preacher and a faithful preacher stand in front of Christ on Judgment Day, two very different outcomes will occur. For these two preachers, suffering will be inevitable. For the faithful preacher, he would have likely suffered on earth and will be rejoicing as Christ welcomes him into the eternal rewards and riches of heaven! In stark contrast, the prosperity preacher will have lived his best life on earth—free of suffering and peril. Yet, there in front of Christ’s throne, his knee will bow and his tongue will confess Jesus as Lord, then he will enter into eternal suffering.

Each of these preachers will suffer. When they suffer and for how long they will suffer depends on their faithfulness to the gospel here on earth. Temporal suffering on earth is but a molecular moment in comparison to infinite ages of heavenly glory. For those who trample the gospel in seeking temporal gain, the suffering that awaits them in eternity is insurmountably greater than all the royal comforts of earth combined.

Infinite Promises and Eternal Glory

The Bible repeatedly turns our perspective upward into the vast expanse of eternity. The prosperity gospel calls us into a downward spiral that leads to a desolate perspective. Jesus promised that treasure in heaven could not be destroyed (Matt. 6:19-20). Jesus promised suffering saints eternal crowns and glory in His kingdom (Rev. 2:9-10; 3:10-12). Jesus promised that anyone who sacrificed something for His sake would receive many times as much and inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:29).

In Christ’s kingdom, the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Matt. 19:30). To the poor in spirit belongs the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). The infinite promise of Christ is that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33), but He has overcome it and prepares a place for us that is beyond anything the prosperity gospel can deliver (John 14:12). When suffering comes upon us, we can find comfort in the arms of the Prince of Peace (Phil. 4:6-9). Blessings, joy, riches, and comfort are now and will always be found in Christ — but not always in the ways we imagine. These treasures will not always be realized on earth, but for those who choose Christ no matter the cost, these things will be enjoyed for all eternity in heaven.

When I was living the dream as a prosperity gospel benefactor, my confidence soared. I was a “big success.” It was only when Christ opened my eyes to the one true gospel that I was set free from the chains that held my soul. It was then that I realized how bankrupt I truly was. Compared to the eternal riches found in Jesus Christ, the biggest earthy promises of the prosperity gospel will forever be too small.

***This article was originally featured in the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s inaugural issue of “Permanent Things: The Annual Journal From The Center for Public Theology.” The entire issue can be downloaded for free.

3 Principles on Spiritual Conflict

Spiritual conflict (or “warfare”) is a subject that often succumbs to two extremes. First, there are people who blame the devil for everything — even things that are their fault. Second, there are those who dismiss demonic activity altogether; lumping it into a mystical-mindset best relegated to the extreme corners of fringe charismatic groups. Both of these views are anemic. The fact is, spiritual conflict is real and leaders do well to maintain a balanced understanding of this subject for the purpose of their own lives and counseling those they serve. The first chapter of Mark’s Gospel provides a splendid backdrop for valuable principles on spiritual conflict. These can be used to walk people through the delicate balance of discerning what spiritual warfare is, and isn’t.

The Devil is in the Business of Temptation

Right of the bat, Mark records Jesus’ encounter with the Devil in the wilderness (Mark 1:13) in which Satan tempts the Lord. Even Jesus was tempted! Spiritual conflict is very often synonymous with temptation. Think about your own life for a moment. Have you ever noticed that whenever you commit to walking in obedience, temptation comes knocking on your door? Plenty of longtime Christians will tell you that their greatest moments of weakness come after making big commitments to the Lord. Jesus modeled perfection in the face of temptation (Hebrews 4:15) and dealt with it by sticking to the word of God (Luke 4:4,8,12). And remember, Satan doesn’t show up at the foot of your bed with a red tail and pitchfork claiming, “Here I am to tempt and deceive you!” We often think spiritual warfare looks like a Hollywood scene. It doesn’t. Temptation is part of “enemy tactics” so don’t be blind. Turn to God’s word and remember that God has given us a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). Win the battle by first refusing to live denial. Admit that temptation is real. You are not immune. Then, turn to God’s word and resist the Devil and he will flee (James 4:7).

Christ Has Power Over Demons

Mark records a powerful moment in which an evil spirit that was possessing a man (could have been many evil spirits because they say “us”) declares that Jesus is the Holy Son of God! (Mark 1:24). Jesus, with a mere command, takes authority over the unclean spirit and casts it out instantly. No sweat, no screaming repetitious phrases, no three-hour exorcism. There are numerous people claiming power of demons today who go around putting olive oil on people and shouting superstitious — mostly repetitious — phrases. But is this the model for modern ministry? Even the archangel Michael did not take “authority” over the Devil in Jude by saying, “I rebuke you, Satan!” Michael, knowing where true power came from said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 9). Our best bet in spiritual conflict is to stick close to Christ. Where He reigns, demons cannot. Where He resides, demons cannot. If someone believes they are experiencing demonization of any kind, the first thing we ought to encourage them to do is to get on their knees, confess their sin, and surrender their will to Christ.

Truth Transforms

In Mark 1:38 Jesus leaves one region and goes elsewhere saying his purpose was “…so that I may preach there also, for that is what I came for.” Jesus did not come to put on an endless show of exorcisms and mystical wonderings. His primary goal was to preach His kingdom come! The truth transforms so we must proclaim the truth. It also stirs up and drives out evil.

I once had a counseling session with a man I knew very well. He was in charge of an area of our ministry. Within ten minutes of our session, his eyes were moving in different directions and his face was contorting in disturbing fashion. I could see something was off so I chose to counsel him by reading a certain passage of Scripture out loud. Suddenly, I looked up and realized he was staring intensely at me. Then, without warning, he attacked me physically. His eyes grew large, his voice changed, and he tried to subdue me. After sitting on him and eventually getting him over to our main office I called other pastors in to pray. It became very obvious that this man was experiencing some level of demonization. He was cursing at us, calling us false prophets, and calling the church pulpit “weak.” At one point he looked at me, claiming to be the Devil himself, and said, “I own your uncle and I own you! You’re ours!” I remember wondering how someone who was sitting under the faithful preaching of God’s word each week could experience such bondage. Turns out, he wasn’t. One of our elders discovered that this man had stopped coming into the sanctuary and was hiding in the corner of the courtyard avoiding the preaching portion of service every week. Whatever was at the root of this man’s oppression did not want him hearing the preaching of the word. The truth always cuts through the core of people’s hearts. Want to know the best way to stay spiritual safe in the midst of spiritual war? If you’re a pastor, preach the word. Saturate your life with it. If you’re a church member, cement yourself under sound preaching and supporting the ministry of the word. Saturate your life with it. Truth is the best antidote in spiritual conflict.

In just one chapter of Mark, we quickly see a framework for spiritual conflict and can apply it to our lives. Spiritual warfare is real. Jesus is victorious. His truth protects our lives.

3 Takeaways from India 2019

From January 25th – February 3rd I and a brother from our church embarked on a 34-hour journey deep into the heart of India. While it’s not necessary to share our exact location, I can share that we were in the southern half of India. Our objective on this trip was not to convert Hindus, but rather, to strengthen and encourage local pastors who are facing monumental challenges in ministry.

The trip was prompted by a request from our local partner and was spurred on by a zeal to see pastors trained and supported in a region with little opportunities for such training.

Over the course of nine days, we came to learn about local threats to the gospel directly from national pastors and leaders and spent time discussing strategies for the years ahead. We also provided training seminars during the day and expositional sermons at night. In total, I had the privilege of preaching and teaching about a dozen times (sometimes cramming two sermons into 90 straight minutes of preaching at the request of our hosts). We ministered everywhere from a small village church to a crowd of 700+ pastors from all around southern India.

It’s impossible to put into words all the incredible experiences that we had on the trip but I’d be doing my dear brothers from India a great disservice if I didn’t at least boil things down to a few key takeaways. I’m not saying I have the solutions to the challenges contained in some of these takeaways, but it still seemed noteworthy to point them out.

The Prosperity Gospel is the #1 Issue The Global Church is Facing Within Its Own Ranks
One afternoon we sat with approximately 15 pastors for a time of fellowship and discussion. What I came to learn was shocking. Previously, I understood that the prosperity gospel was somewhat of an issue in India. After all, 15 years ago I was in Mumbai for a massive crusade with the “Hinn family entourage” and millions of people attended our crusades where we promised health, wealth, healing, and salvation to the desperate crowd. But this trip was different. As the pastors shared their hearts, I was told that the entire region is seeing a wave of compromise within the church. One pastor confessed that he has “started preaching prosperity theology” because people will leave his church if he doesn’t. Another pastor shared that even in areas where the church appears to be thriving, those churches are not healthy — they preach the prosperity gospel. As men opened up in honesty, the clarion call within the room was that faithfulness was still our mandate.

While religions outside of Christianity (like Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism) still result in great persecution against Christians, nothing seems to be assaulting the church from within like the prosperity gospel and other branches of charismatic extremism.

When you analyze the global church on a macro level; adding in stats from South America, Africa, and even China (yes, China!), the prosperity gospel (and associated movements) is the #1 issue we’re facing. Sound doctrine is in short supply. There is a famine in our land.

Our Brothers and Sisters Are Hungry for More Access to Theological Training
Over and over again the pastors and leaders asked, can you please help us get more resources in our own language and help us access training for ministry? Out of the approximately 1000 pastors I came across, very few had received any formal theological training though they were desperate for it. It’s not as though they could apply for financial aid and simply go to seminary. In the smaller group of pastors that I interacted with, 6 had been to seminary, 5 had finished. Of those 5, at least 3 had to leave the country to acquire their training. While I understand that these numbers cannot accurately represent the entire global picture, they do serve as a wake-up call for the need to train and deploy leaders internationally. People are hungry for theological training so they can be more effective in local ministry.

At one point a pastor shared with me that India has its very own version of “Benny Hinn” and “Joel Osteen.” These local national imitators put on the same ruse that false teachers do in America. I immediately thought, where are the local national theologians who can push back on this threat? Why is it that there are influential false teachers assaulting the church but these local pastors are hard-pressed to find a commentary set or apologetics resource in their own language in order to study and answer the questions of their congregation? I was struck with the conviction that we must be intentional about training nationals to be warriors in their own nation. Furthermore, it seems there are still many places around the world that are not getting the translation support they need to contend for the faith.

How amazing would it be to see countries explode with their own seminaries and their own theologians so that more locals can move more quickly into training opportunities and be unleashed on the local church when ready? It’s hard enough to minister in places around the world where persecution is intense. Without access to theological resources, many leaders are like unarmed soldiers in the middle of a war zone. If we can help them get started, we must.

Jesus is Building His Church and the Gates of Hades Cannot Prevail Against It
Even in the darkest corners of the earth, Christ’s light cannot be stopped. India is no exception. One church we visited was located in a village that had been completely Hindu one generation prior. All efforts to evangelize people there had borne no fruit. Then, a family planted a church of 4 people in the village and tried once more. The result? An explosion of conversions and some 80 members now growing in their faith. The locals have threatened them and tried to eradicate their church, but Christ continues to increase their number. One pastor shared how his church started in his living room, then spilled outside his home, only to lead them to erect a church building to meet the growing need for space. Now, 400 members gather each week to hear the preaching of the word, share a meal, and sing for the glory of God together. Without question, in the midst of a spiritual battle between darkness and light, our unstoppable conquering King is building His church.

As generation after generation seeks to be faithful to the Great Commission, God will use them to see great things unfold. It’s easy to get lost in the noise that can is American evangelicalism. Personally, being reminded of what our family in Christ is facing around the world puts many things into perspective. Suddenly, stone throwing over social justice and arguing over politics seems less important. It’s amazing what nine days, less Wi-Fi, and some good old-fashioned Indian food will do. Change of pace and change of place really do equal a change in perspective.

Here’s to more living out the Commission we’ve been called to. Life is short. Let’s stay busy.

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

Is the Old Testament Law Useful Today?

Few genres of Scripture cause more confusion in the church today than the Law. Perhaps one could reasonably argue that the book of Revelation outdoes the Law in crossing the Christian’s eyes, but beyond that, there isn’t much debate here. We’re left asking, “What is the role of the Old Testament Law in the life of the Church?” or “How in the world do we interpret passages from books like Deuteronomy or Leviticus?”

Consistent interpretive wisdom on this topic is in short supply. For example, read the following laws and notice the significant conundrum that arises if we try to apply them directly to our life in 2019:

  • A man who has lost his hair and is bald is clean (Leviticus 13:40)
  • Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19)
  • Do not eat pigs or touch their carcasses (Deuteronomy 14:8)
  • Stand up in the presence of the aged (Leviticus 19:32)
  • No tattoos allowed (Leviticus 19:28)
  • Lethal force is acceptable at night; not in the daytime (Exodus 22:2-3)

Unarmed with faithful methods of interpretation we’re left playing an unfortunate game of hermeneutical roulette. If we take several of these at face value, we’re in trouble. Apparently if you’ve ever eaten a Honey Baked Ham, worn a shirt with cotton and polyester, tattooed your favorite Bible verse or sports team on your bicep, or failed to stand next to grandmas chair all Christmas evening, you’ve sinned against God! But if you’re bald, you’re good. Based on that conclusion, you might say the role of the OT Law in the life of the Church today is to confuse us! But that’s not true.

Certain principles help us see the Law for what it is, and what it’s not. A resource will be recommended at the conclusion of this post for further study. To get you started, here are some basic principles that can help in a variety of ways including, protecting you from false teachers who twist the Old Testament, and helping with the difficulty of applying your morning reading from Exodus:

  1. The Law teaches us about God’s covenant with Israel

Israel receives the Law in the context of God’s covenant with them­­—usually called the “Mosaic Covenant.” He essentially says, “If you obey me and keep my commands, I will bless you.” This covenant was conditional, limited to Israel, and not something you or I should apply directly to ourselves today. It had a purpose.

  1. The Law teaches us about God’s nature—especially His holiness

Sometimes we miss one of the most important purposes of the Law in the Church today when we mistakenly attempt to read ourselves into aspects of the Old Testament Law. Often, the Law serves to point to a simple truth: God is holy and expects His people to be set apart. This timeless truth carries to the New Testament when Peter calls the Church to obedience and holiness under the New Covenant in Christ (1 Peter 1:14-16).

  1. The Law teaches us about man’s nature—especially his depravity

If you think humanity is intrinsically good, the Law can help shed light here. For example, Israel cycled through decades of crying out to God, receiving help from God, complaining again to God, sinning when they grew impatient with God, then crying out to God when their sin got them in trouble with God. Does this need further explanation? Just read 1 Corinthians 10. We aren’t literal “Israel” in the Church today, but we sure act like Israel don’t we? We need divine intervention in our lives. Thank God for Christ.

  1. The Law teaches us to appreciate what Christ has accomplished

Have you ever driven by someone renovating a terribly kept yard on your way home to your own freshly manicured lawn? Imagine yourself driving by for a moment. Picture the type of long grass that clogs a lawnmower, weeds that break through the concrete and break your back, mold growing up the siding, and bushes so overgrown you’d sooner sell the house than deal with them. When we look at Israel underthe Law compared to our lives inChrist, a deep appreciation develops; causing us to run into the arms of Christ like the undeserving leper crying, “Jesus, thank you.”

  1. The Law teaches us principles that can be applied today

Some schools of interpretive thought ignore the Law altogether—presuming it to be useless in light of Church-Age literature. This is a slippery slope—no actually, a dangerous cliff. Jesus Himself used the Law in many teaching moments, including with the Rich Young Ruler (Matt. 19:18-21). Furthermore, He escalates certain Laws like adultery from being committed through sinful actions to being committed through sinful thoughts (Matt. 5:27-28). Paul himself said, “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Even though we are not under the Law, it still proves useful in teaching us today.

Much more can be said on this topic but these principles can help you foster an ongoing appreciation for the role of the Old Testament Law in the Church today.

For further study, the following resource is excellent for lay ministers to seminary students:

Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012).

Ten Theological Topics for Parents of Modern Teens

I get dozens of emails each month from parents whose teens are leaving the church or being swept away by a false version of Jesus and the gospel. Most of these parents seem to be well-intentioned believers who are baffled at the outcome of their teenager’s faith. In many cases, their teen was a standout church kid–complete with AWANA pins and VBS nametags from years of outstanding work!

So What Happens?

There are so many variables when teenage faith gets shipwrecked (ultimately, God knows the one in each case) but overall, the parents I talk to all say the same thing: We were definitely “doing” church, but I’m not sure my teen was ready to stand for Christ on their own two feet. It happens in the church like it happens in the car all those years. Kids ride in the backseat of the car while parents drive them around, and, the same goes for their faith. They follow mom and dad, obey all the rules, but don’t end up developed much further. Once the teen is on their own with decision-making, the parents find out the hard way that their beloved son or daughter has little clue about how to make it theologically on their own. Sure, they know enough Sunday school answers to get by, but they don’t know how to put theology into practice. Like a lioness who never teaches her cubs how to hunt for themselves, many parents spoon-feed their teens for six years without ever challenging them to skin their own meat–theologically, of course.

So Where Do I Start?

In this list I’ve compiled ten critical topics for the modern teen. It presumes you will address essentials, including (but not limited to) the gospel, so don’t miss that. Also, here’s fair warning that reading is required if you want to gain wisdom here. I’ll have recommended resources at the end of each listed topic. Do your family a favor and start a theological library if you haven’t already.

  1. How to identify a biblical church?

Does your teen know how what a biblical ecclesiology looks like? You may be thinking, “too many big words…” Well those are words you need to know about. Ecclesiology is basically how the church is supposed to structured according to the Bible. Like shopping for a used car, if your teenager doesn’t know what to look for, they’re likely to get swindled by some deceptive salesmanship. Choose either 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever or The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur. Challenge your teen by asking them: Can you name at least five priorities of a biblical church?

  1. How to identify a biblical church leader?

Abusive leaders are everywhere–that’s obvious today. Study 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and discuss it at the dinner table for the week. Ask questions like why does it matter for a pastor to be those things? What are some dangers things that can occur if a pastor doesn’t match that list?Both books above will nail this one for you, but just in case, try Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch. Read Part One (the first six chapters). It could save your teenager’s life.

  1. Christological heresies & other dangers in modern music movements

Music isn’t just about music these days. It’s a gateway to the famous teachers and personalities who lead movements. Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, and other Third Wave celebrity bands are all teaching things that no biblically-minded parent would want their teens to believe. These bands started under (and continue to submit to) the leadership and influence of false teachers such as Bill Johnson, Kris Valloton, Lou Engle, Shawn Bolz, Heidi Baker, and many others. They teach kenotic theology which holds diminished views on the deity of Christ. This includes the belief that Jesus did His miracles as just a man in right relationship to God…not as God. Based on that, they teach a long list of other dangerous doctrines. They also charge a hefty tuition to their schools that “teach” people how to work the gift of miracles. This movement makes itself sound amazing and attractive, but it’s theological poison. Try a short book called, Defining Deception by myself and Anthony Wood. It has enough truth to arm you for the battle ahead and enough footnotes to keep you up at night watching the dangerous practices these teachers will put your teenager through if they get their hands on them.

  1. False gospels to avoid

It’s important to major in what is true, but sharpening for the growing teen to know why other gospels are false. Kids like to ask “why” when they’re young. I think we still do as adults. Get your teen educated on why the prosperity gospel is a sham even if it looks like the way to live like LeBron James in the church-world. Show them why other “versions” of Christianity are not actually Christian. Analyze the basic beliefs of Word of Faith, New Apostolic Reformation, Mormonism, and Catholicism. Watch the DVD, Clouds Without Water II by Justin Peters. Also, James White should be helpful here. Listening to his shows or messages that center on apologetics is good for training.

  1. The assault on marriage, gender, and biblical manhood and womanhood

Every parent wants their teen to marry the right person but too many are not well-versed on what that looks like. Teens should be provided with a roadmap for understanding why gender is binary and why we can be firm in our theology while still flexible with people. Loving them doesn’t mean we sacrifice truth. For parents serious about gaining wisdom to guide their teen, this may mean that instead of watching Netflix you’re reading books five nights a week for two years. Small price to pay for a lifelong investment. Teach them about gender roles and God’s design for husbands and wives. Many adults are confused because they were not taught at teens. You get one chance to guide them. Try any of these: Recovering Biblical Manhood and Woman by Wayne Grudem and John Piper; The Grand Design by Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock; Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating; Disciplines of a Godly Young Man by Kent Hughes and W. Carey Hughes; Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes; Ethics for a Brave New World by John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg.

  1. The sufficiency of Scripture

Teens are in a process of discovery and questioning things. They may hear a friend or famous teacher say things like, “God spoke to me” or “God spoke to my heart” or “I feel like God said.” This can be confusing for a teen. Help them know confidently that if God told someone something, they wouldn’t “feel” like He did, they’d know He did. Teenagers need help to understand why the Bible is enough for knowing God’s voice. They must be equipped to know God’s word is God’s will. Those who learn this at a younger age are ahead of the curve in today’s church world. Read Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung; Found: God’s Will (short book) by John MacArthur; Our Sufficiency in Christ by John MacArthur.

  1. The holiness of God

God is holy, not a homeboy. He isn’t some “it” in the sky or a casual deity who lets everybody into heaven because they donated to the Salvation Army at Christmas. Teenagers should be taught why God is holy, what that means, and how they should live in light of that truth. Study The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. That will give you talking points.

  1. The sovereignty of God

Rebel hearts need training. Learning and applying truths about the sovereignty of God teaches that I am not in control, the world is not in control, and even parents are not in ultimate control! God is. Calm and assertive Christian teens are that way because they know God is sovereign. They go about their business, trusting and obeying. When fears come, they know who hold the future. Choose a book like The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink or The Invisible Hand by R.C. Sproul.

  1. The depravity of man

When our hearts get help on this topic, a humility comes over us that crushes pride and creates a dependency on God. Help your teen understand their sin and inability to satisfy the wrath of God outside of Christ. They are a sinner and hopeless without Him. Teach them how to admit deficiency and declare dependency! Make sure you’re doing this yourself too. Read A Small Book About a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch; The Vanishing Conscience by John MacArthur.

  1. Cultivating an eternal perspective

A 5-inch screen is all the perspective most teens end up with by age 15. Most don’t know a lot about biblical money management, missions, or making their lives count. If you want your teenager to have the tools they need to live with an eternal perspective, nurture their perspective on eternal things! They need to be taught about things like global missions, local church ministry, generosity, taking risks for God, and the importance of carrying on what faithful men and women started long before us. Several books can be helpful here such as Don’t Waste Your Life by John PiperManaging God’s Money by Randy Alcorn; The Daring Mission of William Tyndale by Steven J. Lawson.

What is the most essential ingredient not on the list? Your life. Teenagers can smell a fake from 100 miles away. It may be wise to tackle this list yourself while you’re at it. And remember, a list like this doesn’t guarantee your teen will not struggle in the world today or even go prodigal. Prayer will always be your #1 weapon. When paired with your own faithful witness, you can trust God knowing you’ve done your best.

Domenick Nati, Lauren Daigle, & Homosexuality

Lauren Daigle recently made headlines for an interview with Domenick Nati. Right near the end of his clip with her, he said he wanted to ask about her stance, as a Christian, on homosexuality and whether it’s a sin. Her response:

“I can’t honestly answer on that, in the sense of I have too many people that I love and they are homosexuals. I can’t say one way or the other, I’m not God. When people ask questions like that, I just say, ‘Read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know because I’m learning too.'”

Domenick’s response to her was, “Wow, you’re a pro already!”

Domenick Nati’s Latest Statement

Christians far and wide reacted to the interview in a variety of ways. Mostly, expressing frustration that Lauren failed to speak the truth in love about homosexuality being a sin. I believe that she has become a very popular Christian singer because of the integrity and reliability of her music, so people were genuinely rooting for her to answer it a certain way.

Excellent articles and books have been written dealing head on with the issue of homosexuality and whether or not it’s sin. We can be certain that it is sin and I recommend you search those out. This piece has a specific purpose.

The producer for the Domenick Nati Show reached out to me asking if I would be willing to post some or all of his statement concerning the backlash that Lauren Daigle received over her recent interview. I thanked him for reaching out and promised to review the statement closely and, if I felt it to be helpful, I’d interact with it in a spirit of fairness to Domenick’s effort. After reviewing the statement, I believe it’s important to clarify some truths for professing Christians. Anyone claiming to be a follower of Christ has a responsibility to be faithful to His Word, the Bible. Therefore, if someone is asked a question about the Bible and they “don’t know,” that’s fine to admit, but that doesn’t change the truth about the Bible.

Here is the statement from Domenick Nati, and my responses underneath. His words are in bold, mine are in italics:

“The backlash Lauren Daigle received from our interview has been very disappointing to witness. I was shocked by the amount of attack and assumption there was on someone simply saying “I don’t know”. The truth is YOU don’t know. You don’t know if she was being honest, you don’t know if she was dodging the question, and you don’t know if she was lying… and neither do I.”

In general, this is fair. There is nothing wrong with a person saying, “I don’t know.” In fact, it’s advisable if you don’t know something. It’s better than lying. Truth is, we don’t know what Lauren’s motive was, whether or not she lied, or what the state of her heart is before the Lord. For the most part, if we just take Domenick’s words at face value, there isn’t much to disagree with here.

“I know that Moses thought it was a sin and I know Paul thought it was a sin, but Jesus didn’t speak on it. And Paul and Moses didn’t always get things right in their writings nor was it always recorded, copied, and translated correctly. John 16:8-9 says “When the Holy Spirit comes He will expose the world concerning sin, concerning righteousness, and concerning judging. Of sin that they are not believing in Me.” Jesus identifies sin as not believing in Himself. Not our sexual preference, or wrongdoings, but rather our unbelief. So it’s possible that someone doesn’t know what is considered a sin and what isn’t, and neither does anyone else. Not Moses, Paul, you, me or Lauren Daigle because they’re “not God”.”

Here is where I do take exception to his statement. To be blunt, he’s flat out wrong from a historically orthodox Christian point of view. In other words, Christians for thousands of years would disagree with him, proper teaching for thousands of years disagrees with him, and only those who abandon the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture could do with Scripture what Domenick did here. I am not saying he is evil or malicious, but I am saying that this response is from a position that we, as Bible-believing Christians, reject.

Jesus didn’t speak directly about a lot of things including racism, child-abuse, or vandalism, yet that doesn’t make those “not sin.” Also, to pit the words of Moses and Paul against what Jesus did or didn’t teach is foolish. Jesus quoted from 24 books in the Old Testament, including all of Moses’ writings. Think they don’t matter or aren’t reliable? God Himself quoted from them. As for Paul, Jesus appeared to him, converted him, then commissioned him to be an Apostle (Acts 9). Countless scholars agree that he wrote nearly 50% of the New Testament letters. Further more, N.T. writers were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21) and guided “into truth” by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Finally, to take one little verse and say that it defines all of sin is what we call proof-texting or eisegesis. It’s basically taking something way out of its context. In John 16:8-9 Jesus is explaining that the Holy Spirit is going to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and “judgment” (not judging, as Domenick wrote). This means that the Holy Spirit is going to tug on people’s hearts and make it clear that they are sinners who need to repent, trust in Christ’s righteousness, and that He is going to judge them if they don’t. This is not a nullification of what is or isn’t sin. This is not a “get out of jail free” card for homosexuals. This is clear teaching that if you don’t repent of what the Law says is sin, you can never be made righteous in Christ. The Law says homosexuality and many other things are sin. That’s why we need Christ. We cannot keep the Law and therefore, are damned in our sin without trusting Him in faith. Therefore, we need to admit what is sin and turn to Him.

To true Christians, Scripture is not flawed or false. We believe it’s the literal “God-breathed” word to us and for us. We believe that Moses, Paul, and Jesus do not disagree with each other. We believe that even though time has passed God’s word will not (Isaiah 40:8). We believe that God has preserved His Word. It teaches us about Him, how to be saved from our sin, and how to live for His glory.

Lastly, for everyone that is accusing me of “setting a trap” for Lauren. I want to clarify two things. Number one, I have had a relationship with Jesus for eighteen years, however The Domenick Nati Show is not a “Christian” show, it is a pop culture/entertainment show that happens to be hosted by a Christian. The tagline for the show is, and always has been, “Maximum Exposure, Minimum Censorship”. Every celebrity guest knows that I always ask tough, provocative, and sometimes invasive questions that produce shocking content and news headlines. That is the show and it was not a secret before Lauren was our guest. Lauren was the first Christian artist we’ve ever had on the show and she does not deserve the backlash that she received.”

I don’t know Domenick and I want to believe the best about him. Let’s say he didn’t try to trap her, it still looks like he did. Beyond that, he achieved his goal of asking a tough question and producing shocking content and news headlines. Since his show aims for that, perhaps he should stick to dialogue with celebrities or artists about their work and lifestyle, rather than their theology or ethics (or lacktherof). If talking theology and ethics is his goal, then it’s pointless to dialogue with people who can’t answer his questions the way more knowledgeable Christians would. For example, if you want to talk basketball, call LeBron. If you want to talk Christianity, call a theologian or a proven Christian with a working knowledge of the Bible. If art is your aim, stick to art. I can see why people have a hard time ignoring that the question seemed to be a pre-mediated trap designed to drive “clicks.”

As for why Christians are upset with her, it’s important to be fair to their point of view, Domenick. People are upset with Lauren because she didn’t uphold biblical truths yet she claims to be a Christian. She represents “us” on platforms around the world. If she fails to tell the truth, she fails to uphold our collective witness. People are upset with Lauren because they expected better from a well-known Christian artist. People are upset with Lauren because they are tired of “celebrity” Christians misrepresenting our orthodox beliefs.

Compromising Christianity

As frustrating as it is to see Lauren miss the chance to suffer public backlash for proclaiming the truth, my heart goes out to her, and to you, Domenick. I don’t know your story, but so many professing Christians in celebrity culture, like you and Lauren, need to be encouraged and reminded that capitulating to the world’s pressure is not respectable. They’re owning you when you bow to their agenda. You’re not the influencer, you’re the influenced. To be a Christian is to stand upon convictions that transcend fans, fame, and followers. Being a Christian is about allegiance to Jesus Christ and His unchanging Word (Hebrews 13:8).

When thrown into the deep waters of mainstream media a Christian must determine to swim. What Lauren did was drown, and you helped. I don’t know if Lauren Daigle was lying, but I do know that as a professing Christian you lied to her. She’s not “a pro already.” She’s compromised the convictions that the Bible teaches and you’ve comprised your claim to be a follower of Christ. I hope you’ll give serious thought to that and consider what it means to follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-35)

The Bible is clear. Take God at His whole Word or take nothing at all.

Recommended Reading:

What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality– Kevin DeYoung

A Biblical View of Wealth

Money tests our hearts like little else on earth. Whether it be the test of poverty, or the test of prosperity, money brings out the best and worst in us. Far too often, and I am sure you’d agree, we don’t know as much about God’s view on money as we ought to, but are afraid to admit. Within church-circles, it’s even more daunting to face our deficiencies on money-management because we’re “supposed” to be people of the Book – with all of the answers rolling off the tip our tongue. Some people preach the prosperity gospel (false), promising God wants you rich. Some preach the poverty gospel (also false), promising God wants you poor. Reality is, everybody needs to continuously revisit biblical principles on money and be a balanced, lifelong student of financial stewardship. To help contrast some of the bad teaching out there, here are some starter-principles to build upon.

Principle #1: God owns everything

When we think of wealth, first, we have to understand that God owns everything! God doesn’t owe you and I anything, He isn’t shocked by the state of the world, and He never “lost the deed to the earth” when Adam sinned, as prosperity preachers and Word of Faith enthusiasts will preach. God doesn’t just hold the deed to all land; He is the Creator of all land.

God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10); He owns everything under heaven, for that matter (Job 41:11). The Psalmist declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). There is no arguing with the Bible on who owns everything. God does.

So if God is the owner of everything, what does that make us? When we understand this first principle, we quickly realize we are simply, managers. One day, we’ll give an account for how we managed what He’s entrusted to us (see Matthew 25:14–30).

Principle #2: Wealth isn’t guaranteed on earth

The Bible is equally as clear that while God owns everything, wealth isn’t guaranteed for everyone on earth. Jesus told His disciples that the poor would always be with them (John 12:8). We can gather from His words that people are naturally going to struggle financially in this broken world. No wonder Scripture is so adamant that the poor be cared for—they are some of society’s most vulnerable people. Assuming, of course, that they are not poor because they are lazy (the Bible has much to say on laziness, but we’ll have to cover that another time), God cares greatly for those who are in need. The book of Proverbs contains wisdom on serving the poor because wealth is not always going to be evenly spread around the world. Because of that we should:

  • Not oppress the poor, but rather, be kind to them (Proverbs 14:31)
  • Lend to the poor and trust the Lord with the results (Proverbs 19:17)
  • Be generous and share food with the poor (Proverbs 22:9)
  • Give to the poor and not ignore them (Proverbs 28:27)
  • Protect the rights of the poor (Proverbs 29:7)

Caring for the poor is necessary because wealth is not guaranteed for all. Beyond that, Scripture show us what God wants for all of us. Contentment, not riches, should be the goal of every believer. We must maintain balance in our understanding on wealth and poverty. With his intelligence, extensive religious training (Acts 26:5), and Roman citizenship (Acts 22:27), the apostle Paul was certainly deserving of great wealth, but clearly he wasn’t focused on whatever the prosperity preachers of today are selling. He has learned the value in contentment (Philippians 4:12).

God accomplishes his purposes in and through both the poor and the rich. In the end, contentment is the key to a happy heart (1 Timothy 6:8).

Principle #3: Wealth is a tool for gospel advancement

Even though wealth is not guaranteed on earth, God does give the opportunity to gain wealth. You may say, “Nobody gave me wealth—I earned it!” The children of Israel thought the same thing, but Moses reminded them that it was God who was blessing them based solely on His sovereign will (Deuteronomy 8:17–18). In short, if God has blessed you with wealth, you ought to humbly thank Him and realize that you have a great responsibility.

When it comes to being rich, the Bible is hardly silent on what rich people are supposed to do with their abundance of money. Yes, it’s biblical and prudent to leave an inheritance for your children (Proverbs 13:22), and it’s good to work hard and save for the future (Proverbs 6:6). But you know what the greatest purpose of wealth is? To advance the gospel and do God’s will! Paul told Timothy that rich people are to do this very thing. In a very straightforward passage he says,

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.(1 Timothy 6:17–19)

There you have it. Wealth is not a sin. You’re allowed to enjoy it. But don’t for a second fix your hope on it. It’s a tool for ministry, not materialism.

The best investment strategy on earth is putting stock in heaven! Jesus affirmed this investment strategy when He said to store up treasure in heaven where nothing can destroy it (Matthew 6:19–21).

Use your wealth to advance the gospel. You can’t take it with you. There will be no U-Haul behind the hearse.

Principle #4: Wealth is not a sign of elite spiritual status

Prosperity preachers will tell you that wealth is a sign of an elite spiritual awakening. As in, “You have finally realized your full identity as a child of God when you step into the wealth God has for you.…” Or some nonsense like that.

Again, check the Bible on this. It is estimated the Bible contains upwards of two thousand references to money. Approximately 50 percent of Jesus’s parables dealt with stewardship of money and “stuff,” and nearly three hundred verses in just the Gospels alone deal with money. Doesn’t this tell you that money and wealth are a very serious subject to God? Nor do all these verses contain exciting affirmations about being wealthy; rather, many of them contain warnings about being wealthy. In fact, wealth is often a distraction from what really matters, so it takes a lot of discipline and biblical teaching to keep your heart from being sucked in by money’s malicious pull. The wealthy are often in a tug-of-war between their affections for earthly things (Philippians 3:19) and the eternal life to come. Wealthy believers, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can overcome temptations and use wealth as a tool for good, but more than likely there will always be a battle in the heart between giving generously and the natural inclination to keep, keep, keep.

Does the Bible paint wealth as a mark of the spiritual elite, or does it warn of the dangers of having all the things your heart desires? Look at what the Bible warns about wealth and decide for yourself:

  • You can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
  • The deceitfulness of riches chokes out fruitfulness (Mark 4:19).
  • It’s difficult for rich people to choose Christ over wealth (Luke 18:22–23).
  • It’s difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25).
  • The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
  • Your soul is your most important asset (Luke 12:20).
  • You can gain the whole world yet lose your soul if you do not have Christ (Mark 8:36).

Furthermore, in the Bible, the poor and afflicted are given special attention when it comes to spiritual care, and they are often able to worship more freely because they are free of the entanglements that riches bring. Revelation 2:9 illustrates this perfectly and tells us what real riches are. Jesus calls the church of Smyrna “rich” because even though they are in poverty and tribulation, they have held fast to their faith no matter the cost! They receive the highly esteemed crown of life for their faithfulness and suffering on earth (Revelation 2:10). What a powerful truth! Wealth is not a sign of elite spiritual status—having Christ is.

Don’t buy the lies the prosperity preachers sell. The wealthy should be asking, “How can I be more sacrificial?” Rather than, “How can I boast in my elite status?” 

Principle #5: Wealth is an immense responsibility

If you’re wealthy, you were meant to build God’s kingdom, not your own earthly empire. Jesus said not to be anxious about any kind of provision but to instead seek His kingdom and his righteousness and that everything else would be taken care of (Matthew 6:31–33). In fact, we are all called to live generous lives with whatever means we have. Jesus said that when a widow gave two cents, she had given more than the wealthy who had given large amounts (Luke 21:1–4). He doesn’t see the size of your gift; He sees the state of your heart. When we give, we must give willingly, not under compulsion (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7). Wealth is a responsibility to steward, trusting that God has blessed you to be a blessing and that He will keep blessing you as He sees fit. Our job isn’t to keep; our job is to work hard, invest well, and give generously (again, see Matthew 25:14–30).

Prosperity gospel preachers want you to give to them to make them rich, but God wants you to give to faithful gospel ministries to help them reach. There is a world of hurting and broken people, and money can make a huge impact in ways that will long outlive you. You will be accountable for how you managed the wealth God has given you. That is an immense responsibility. What will your conversation be like before the throne of Christ? Will you stammer and stutter, claiming to have tried to give a little here and there while you spent most of it on your own pleasures and let the poor suffer and the church struggle? Or will you joyfully report to the Master, saying, “Lord, sometimes it went against the grain of this world to give sacrificially for your work, but pleasing you was the priceless treasure I held on to!” If we live that way, I have no doubt we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

So go ahead! Work hard, enjoy life, and celebrate the gifts that God has given you. Be content, seek His kingdom first, care for others, and give generously in whatever ways He has enabled you to do. In all your working, living, striving, giving, and caring, remember to maintain biblical balance and keep eternity in mind.

God is not trying to take away all you have—He’s the one who gave it. He is, more than anything, testing the affections of your heart and offering you a joy beyond this world with Him in glory.

Wealth is not a sin; it’s a responsibility. Use it well.

Will a Man Rob God? 5 Key Questions About Tithing 10%

A Twitter poll on my page last week asked a simple question about tithing. After well over 1,000 votes (with 17 hours still left in the poll) the results were both encouraging and concerning. It seems that the modern church is still in a hot debate over tithing.

For your consideration, here is a snapshot (with link) to the results and comments:

For your edification, here is a biblical examination of tithing and the model for New Testament giving:

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows” (Malachi 3:8-10).

The usual passage of choice for most tithe-pushing preachers is Malachi 3:8-10. The typical pre-sermon message you may hear on a Sunday morning before the offering is taken could last any number of minutes. We could probably recite it together having heard it so many times in churches of varying denominations – especially prosperity gospel churches.

It starts a little something like this:

Now I want to talk to you this morning before we take the tithes and offerings. Open up your Bible to Malachi chapter 3 and ask yourself, ‘Am I robbing God’? If you’re not tithing 10% to God, you are.”

Whether it lasts ten minutes or thirty minutes, what follows is an application of a passage from a book of the Bible in which God speaks through the prophet Malachi to the people of Israel about about their spiritual condition at that time. This is before the coming of the Messiah – Jesus. God is displeased with the people concerning their defiled sacrifices (1:7), their profaning of His name (1:12), their corrupted priests (2:9), and their open disobedience (3:8-15). This is excellent prophetic literature to preach in a church and there is so much to learn about Israel, God’s character, and the coming of Christ.

Unfortunately, it is primarily used to tell modern-day churches that they have to tithe 10% of their income or else they will be under a curse (Malachi 3:9), and that they have to bring those tithes into the “storehouse” (Malachi 3:10) – interpreting the “storehouse” to mean the church, or in some cases, the pastor’s bank account.

When it comes to “tithing,” so much is assumed because of ignorance, or bad Bible teaching. Some say that tithing is a command from the Old Testament that carries over to the New Testament. Others say it’s just a useful principle, while others insist on certain eras of church history being our model for tithing. Finally, there are those who simply believe they must tithe because it’s what they’ve always been told.

Let’s answer some important questions based on the Bible – not assumptions. This may alleviate a heavy burden you’ve been carrying concerning this subject.

What is a “Tithe”?

Tithing simply means “the tenth part” or “one-tenth.” We see the tithe instituted in the Bible in the Old Testament law, and in a few select cases before the law when some made vows or one time offerings (Genesis 14:20; Genesis 28:22). The tithe involved a percentage of one’s livestock, seed, or produce. When the Old Testament law for the tithe is studied, one discovers some foundational truths that cannot be overlooked:

  • Total tithes would have conservatively been over 20% when multiple tithes are added up (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21, 24; Deuteronomy 14:22-27; 14:28-29).
  • The Priesthood was not allowed by God to own land or inheritance so the tithe provided for their living and needs (Numbers 18:24).
  • The tithes acted as a kind of taxation system that helped provide for the poor, annual festivals, and the operation of the governing priesthood system (Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Nehemiah 12:44).
  • Tithing did not primarily involve money except for certain circumstances (Deuteronomy 14:25).
  • Withholding the tithe was viewed as defiant disobedience in God’s eyes (Malachi 3:9).
  • Tithes (produce and other) would have been kept in a literal storehouse for proper distribution (1 Chronicles 27:25-27).
  • God views the storehouse and His house as distinctly separate (Malachi 3:10).

With that in mind, let’s draw biblical conclusions:

  • Israel gave of its produce, seed, and livestock.
  • The Priests were supported by tithes because they were not allowed to own things.
  • Tithing far exceeded 10%.
  • Tithing was law, much like a taxation system caring for national Israel.
  • Storehouses were literal, not “spiritual” or references to the temple.

How is Old Testament Teaching Misapplied Today?

Firstly, anytime someone is misinterpreting the Bible we need to be careful not to jump to aggressive conclusions. No one is a heretic for getting certain things wrong, but error is serious and can mislead people – that is a stewardship issue of its own.

Secondly, we need to determine what people are teaching and why. Do they have certain theological positions that lend to merging the Old Testament into the New? Do they make a habit of basing their teachings merely on historical “principles” and extra-biblical research, rather than biblical texts and proper exegesis (the process of “excavating” a biblical text)? Or, are they twisting Scripture in an obvious fashion to suit their financial desires and abusive ministry patterns? All of these are important questions to ask upon seeing a misapplication of Scripture.

Here are some common ways the “tithe” is misapplied today. Some of these are more dangerous than others, but all are worth noting:

  • The “storehouse” in Malachi 3:10 is taught to be God’s house – the church – or in many cases the pastor’s bank account.
  • Insisting that a 10% tithe is law while leaving out all of the other laws on tithes and offering.
  • Tithing is taught as a command for New Testament church goers and they are threatened with divine judgment if they do not give 10% gross on all their income.
  • Tithing is accompanied by a special anointing that can unlock special blessings like job promotions, debt-freedom, or even salvation of loved ones.
  • Avoiding Paul’s instruction on giving in favor of teaching Old Testament law.
  • Concluding that because Jesus didn’t denounce tithing that we must still do it.

Did Jesus Talk About Tithing?

A select few New Testament passages bring up the tithe, but nowhere is the church commanded to tithe. Some will insist on tithing in the modern church based on the fact that Jesus didn’t denounce tithing in passages like Matthew 23:23, and Luke 11:42. However, what Jesus said in certain situations (such as scolding the Pharisees in Matt. 23:23) had more to do with calling these people hypocrites than mandating the tithe as command for the church. The Pharisees would keep one aspect of the law but turn around and break another for their own gain. They oppressed people with laws they couldn’t even keep themselves! One cannot take an honest interpretive leap into presuming the church must tithe based on that.

To use Jesus’ words as an argument for tithing is a slippery slope when proper context is understood.

Can Tithing Be Assumed for the Church?

Some may argue that the New Testament church would have already known about tithing because they were familiar with Jewish law and assumed it to be a rule of thumb. Or, that at the very least, it could be a principle they could apply as an essential practice to obey. Aside from numerous interpretive holes in this argument, one glaring oversight is that the church was not comprised of merely Jews, and obedience to the law was not the focus of the church – Christ was. Paul was assigned to the Gentiles and the early church was packed with Gentile converts. If tithing was something for the early church to carry on from Jewish law, then why wouldn’t tithing be taught in his letters to the Corinthians? Galatians? Colossians? Not only are commands or teaching about tithing completely absent from New Testament imperatives for the church, the concept of giving is taught explicitly without teaching on tithing. What Paul teaches about giving is a grace-filled, New-Covenant-focused, Gospel-centered rewrite altogether.

We are no longer under the law.

How Should We Be Giving Today?

If we base our teaching and giving on the proper context of what the New Testament actually teaches, we will find both clarity and freedom. Many churches are scared to loosen the noose of “tithing” from their people for fear that no one will give. In other words, they assume that instead of giving bountifully and generously as the Spirit leads, people will either decrease or even cease giving altogether. This is a pessimistic view; thinking quite low of Christians and their propensity to obey the Bible. It also neglects to remember that giving generously is still very much a part of the Christian life.

When properly instructed, doesn’t every true believer want to do what is right in God’s eyes? If we teach and obey the Bible properly, won’t giving increase as God blesses the church for His glorious work? Won’t the needs of the saints be met? Won’t the church thrive in joyfully unity? Wouldn’t the rich live as gospel patrons and the poor give sacrificially as equal partners in God’s eyes?

Think of it this way: giving 10% could be under-giving for a millionaire, and back-breaking for someone in poverty. But if both gave the way the New Testament instructs, the millionaire may give upwards of 80% and still have quite a surplus, while the impoverished and sacrificial giver may give 2-3% and be stepping out in faith. God sees the heart, and the sacrifice – not the amount. Some people may desire to use 10% as a baseline, or a group of leaders may commit to giving a certain amount together to support the church – great! But none of this is mandated “tithing,” it is simply a commitment.

The Holy Spirit’s words through Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 should be taken more seriously, as should the Macedonian example of giving. Instead of teaching law-driven tithes to church-age saints, why not just trust the God who wrote and preserved the Bible (Isaiah 40:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) to work powerfully through His truth rightly applied?

Based on two of the premier New Testament chapters on biblical giving that were written by Paul, here are ten ways we should be giving in the church today. Not tithing…giving:

  1. As a result of the grace of God (2 Corinthians 8:1).
  2. In tough times and in poverty (2 Corinthians 8:2a, 2c).
  3. Joyfully and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 8:2b; 9:7).
  4. Based on ability, not mandated percentages (2 Corinthians 8:3a).
  5. Sacrificially (2 Corinthians 8:3b).
  6. Voluntarily, not by way of manipulation or compulsion (2 Corinthians 8:3c; 9:7).
  7. With a sense of eager participation in Gospel work (2 Corinthians 8:4).
  8. Out of love for the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5a).
  9. Generously as the Lord provides (2 Corinthians 9:6).
  10. Trusting God to replenish what is given so more can be given (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).

What a refreshing difference Paul’s words are from so many sermons that pull Old Testament verses out of context and apply them however a preacher fancies. Like the grace of God shattering the old bondage of the law and pouring out upon the church age, New Testament instructions on giving are liberal, generous, and Gospel-motivated! Not only is applying the requirement of a 10% tithe part of an inconsistent system of interpretation, it’s highly limiting when you think about how generous the church is encouraged to be. Giving isn’t an issue of the law, it’s an issue of the heart. The Macedonians were poor, but they gave like they were rich. They didn’t scour in obedience to the law, they rejoiced in the privilege of being a conduit of God’s grace. That is the perfect picture of how a Christian is to give in the New Covenant.

When properly understood in context and faithfully taught with conviction, the Scriptures give us all we need to be biblically minded – and biblically balanced – generous givers.