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5 Reasons I Hate the Prosperity Gospel

Hate is a strong word. Using it should always be done in prudent fashion. People today hate a lot of things, but we must ensure we’re hating the right things. Hate is simply defined as “intense or passionate dislike” and can be a helpful learning tool for others who may be wondering why you feel so strongly about __________ (insert issue here).

In several simple paragraphs, I want to share with you why I hate the prosperity gospel. Let the reader understand, I don’t necessarily hate the people preaching it or family members who propagate it, nor do I believe that malicious or violent behavior towards a prosperity preacher is becoming of Christians. Such a thing is detestable. Still, there is an anger that God considers to be righteous (Ephesians 4:26) and we have a duty as Christians to push away apathy and embrace action when it comes to anything that tears down our God and His truth. Hatred, albeit taboo to say so, is not always a bad thing. Anger towards that which is “anti-Christ” is acceptable in God’s sight but it should always be accompanied by humble prayer and biblical explanation lest we become the dragon we’re trying to slay.

With a level-headed understanding of the kind of “hatred” in focus, here are 5 reasons why I absolutely hate the prosperity gospel:

I. It’s not good news

I’ve heard friends say, “There’s really no such thing as the prosperity gospel because there is only one gospel.” I completely agree, though I still prefer to use the terminology because people understand it so easily. “Gospel” literally means good news, and the prosperity gospel is not that at all. While prosperity preachers sell what appears to be good fortune, it’s actually damning heresy that paves the road to hell. Too strong? Not when you compare the true gospel to the lunacy that prosperity preachers promise. I love seeing lost people saved by the Gospel so much that I hate anything that gets in the way of them hearing transformational truth (Galatians 1:6-12; Romans 1:16).

II. It blasphemes Scripture

If you love God’s word, the Bible, would you ever want to lie to people about what it really says? One of the most hateful and abusive things happening in the church-world today is when a person opens the Bible and uses it as a tool for deception. This is blasphemy. This is what prosperity preachers do. The Bible declares some incredible things about itself. 2 Timothy 3:16 specifically reminds us that Scripture is “God breathed.” How dare someone take what comes directly from the Holy One and use it for sordid gain?

III. It insults Christ

I hate the way the prosperity gospel insults my Lord. He’s worthy of honor, glory, and praise. One day, every knee will bow before Him and declare Him King (Romans 14:11). But for now, there are those who smear His heavenly name to build their earthly empire. They ascribe promises to men that Jesus never made. Jesus did not come to inaugurate a get-rich-quick scheme for humanity, He came to fulfill a redemptive plan. What an insult to make Jesus into a lottery ticket! Jesus didn’t die on the cross to provide a steady stream of Bentley’s, Big Diamonds, and Botox. He died on the cross to provide our atonement. We deserved wrath for sin but He took our place. We deserved an eternity in hell but He ensured heaven would be home for those who put their faith in Him.

IV. It exploits the poor

Slowly read 1 John 3:17-18 for a moment: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Now, imagine a prosperity preacher flying into a poor country on a private jet, staying in luxurious hotels far away from the slums, and then packing a soccer stadium with 300,000 desperate people in order to exploit them for money and good TV marketing. Then, imagine the prosperity preacher airing their perfectly edited program on TBN (or other platform) and telling their American (and global) audience to give money to help the poor people they’re reaching who need the gospel. Lastly, imagine the money pouring in and the ministry CFO ensuring that millions of dollars goes to the “anointed” leader to fuel his lavish lifestyle. Wash, rinse, repeat. I’ve been there and done that. It’s fun on the inside but scary once you think about eternal ramifications. God loves the poor. Exploit them and you’re going to be dealing with Him one day.

V. It has become mainstream

Have you ever been tossed by a wave in the ocean? I remember the feeling of total helplessness several years ago during a morning surf in California. Forecasts predicted ten foot swells so a couple friends and I packed up our egos and went out to surf. Fast forward to me gasping for air and getting crushed by wave after wave as the sets rolled in with little relief. I had no business being in the water that day. Nothing is more disheartening than being crushed by the momentum of something you cannot control. Similarly, I hate the prosperity gospel because it has produced a massive wave of destruction across the globe. Worst of all, that wave of destruction has become mainstream. People want it (2 Timothy 4:3-4). From America, to Africa, to South America and beyond, the prosperity gospel is en vogue.

If you hate the prosperity gospel as much as I do, the most loving thing you can do is speak the truth to those who need to hear it the most.

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Documentary Resource: 

“American Gospel: Christ Alone” has released and quickly become one of the most impactful documentaries on the prosperity gospel to date. Brandon Kimber directed and produced this film to help people understand the difference between the gospel of the Bible and counterfeits being sold today. Numerous testimonies are already pouring in from people who held “watch parties” as a tool for outreach to friends and family being deceived. Watch it on Vimeo on Demand today. Here’s the trailer.

 

Coming in 2019: 

In order to combat some of the evil spreading through prosperity theology today, I chose to write a book that deals with it head on. It will include a thorough look at life behind the scenes, and plenty of biblical teaching to help people grow in truth. The book is titled, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel and is being published by Zondervan. You can pre-order it on Christianbook.com (currently discounted at the time of this article) or Amazon right now. Other outlets will carry it in the coming months.

The Prosperity Gospel: A Global Epidemic

Prosperity is hot topic in the church. Does God care if a pastor drives a nice car or lives in a nice home? Does God command that all who follow Him take a vow of poverty and starve their families in a protest of earthly comfort? Bible teachers sell millions of books and accumulate mass amounts of wealth, are they in the same league as other wealthy preachers? Some will have deep convictions about attaining any measure of wealth, while others will be content use their wealth to give back to their church. Some will use their wealth to fund a child’s college tuition, or even scholarship a seminary student. Others will invest their wealth with the goal of giving even more away in the future. Stewardship comes in all shapes and sizes but one thing doesn’t—God’s ability to weigh a man’s heart and motives. It is a man’s heart that God is most interested in and the gospel a man proclaims that God will judge most. When Heaven’s final bell rings and every man is recompensed according to his deeds, God will have the final say. The issue will not be whether that pastor took home a six-figure salary; the issue will be what that man taught and wrote while representing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In this article, the prosperity gospel is placed front and center as one of the deadliest teachings in the world today. It has attached itself to the Bible, and to Jesus Christ—though it has no business doing so. Countless people in third world countries chase after it in search of stability and hope. Yet, all those who live and die trusting in the prosperity gospel for salvation will be left wanting in both this life, and the next.

What is Prosperity Gospel Theology?

Obviously, the prosperity gospel is not “good news.” Therefore, let’s understand that it’s no “gospel” at all. That said, I use the term because it’s so widely recognized when discussing these kinds of issues. A very basic definition of the prosperity gospel can be described as this: God’s plan is for you to live your best life now. Health, wealth, and happiness are guaranteed on Earth for all who follow Jesus. Heaven is simply the eternal extension of your temporal blessings. The prosperity gospel’s theological foundation can be traced to at least three twisted versions of biblical truths. Prosperity preacher’s twist these in order to legitimize their version of the gospel.

  1. Christ’s Atonement Means Abundant Life Now

The Bible clearly teaches that Christ died to atone for our sin (Isaiah 53) and that because of what He accomplished through His death and resurrection, we’ll experience the abundant life that He came to give us (John 10:10). Though we enjoy some benefits of the atonement now—such as the forgiveness of our sins and assurance of salvation—His atonement guarantees eternal promises that won’t be fully be realized until Heaven. We’ll receive a glorified body, there will be no death, no sin, no pain, no suffering, and no disease! Those are just a few of the eternal benefits of the atonement. Best of all, we’ll enjoy perfect fellowship with our God forever more. Prosperity preachers teach that health and wealth were “paid for” in the atonement—just like sin. Therefore, this twisted interpretation allows them to teach people to expect complete healing, monetary riches, and total victory in every area of their earthly life. Instead of telling people to put faith in Jesus Christ and excitedly await their best life in heaven, they offer an empty gospel that promises people their best life now.

  1. God’s Covenant with Abraham Means Inheritance Now

There’s an old children’s song that goes something like this: “Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord!” It’s used by many faithful Christians as a way to teach children about the great joy associated with God’s covenant with Abraham. Specifically speaking, the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) has much to do with redemption, and God’s promises to His people. However, prosperity preacher’s use the covenant as a means to promise an inheritance (usually land and money) for their followers now. This has become their most common use for it. In the prosperity gospel, God’s covenant with Abraham is littered with statements like, “If you’ll sow a seed of faith like Abraham, God will bless you”, or “If you speak it and live it by faith like Abraham, God will prosper you.” These type of statements are a way to present any temporal or eternal inheritance that awaits God’s people as a blanket guarantee. If these twisted versions of the Abrahamic covenant were true, then the millions who trust in the prosperity gospel would become millionaires and land-owners overnight. Thus far, it is mainly the prosperity preachers who are benefitting from the offerings of those they deceive.

  1. Faith is a Force You Can Use to Control God

The Bible teaches that Christians are justified by faith (Romans 5:1), that Christians overcome the world through faith (1 John 5:5), and that Christians live by faith because of what Christ has done (Galatians 2:20). The list of verses on the blessings of faith is endless! Faith pleases God, is directly related to salvation, and is the evidence of trust in God for the believer. Prosperity gospel preachers depart from this orthodox teaching on faith when they often add in “Word of Faith” teachings into their sales pitch. They teach that faith is a force you can use to get what you want from God. In other words, you were able to obtain salvation and justification by faith, so why can’t you obtain a Ferrari the same way? Prosperity theology is centered on the notion that God’s will is to save you and make you rich. In such a theological system, right believing, right thinking, and right speaking are all linked with faith in order to create physical blessings. This is where the word of faith movement often hybrids with the prosperity gospel.

How Did the Prosperity Gospel Get So Popular?

Long before the Catholic Church was selling indulgences, the correlation between ministry, money, and manipulation was crystal clear. The Bible even describes Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-24) as a magician who thought he could buy the gift of God with money. Specifically speaking, the modern day roots of the prosperity gospel go back approximately seventy years. It was during the 1950’s that this divergent gospel pioneered its way into the mainstream evangelical scene and nobody at the time could have imagined that it would spread across the globe. Born in 1918, Granville “Oral” Roberts was, in many ways, the lead prosperity pioneer. He went from being a local pastor, to building a multi-million dollar empire based on one major theological premise: God wanted people to be healthy and wealthy. Oral Roberts didn’t mince words about his version of Jesus or the gospel. He adamantly taught and defended his belief that Jesus’ highest wish is for us to prosper materially and have physical health equal to His peace and power in our soul.[i] He twisted the Bible to make his point and would teach that it was Jesus who said, in 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou may prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth,” when in fact that was the Apostle John’s loving way of greeting his readers at the time. John’s greeting is comparable to the first line of many of our modern day e-mails that begin with, “Hi! I hope everything is going well for you.”

Bestselling books by Roberts often brought the two distinct teachings of the prosperity gospel and the word of faith movement together under one roof. His books brandished catchy titles such as, If You Need Healing Do These Things, The Miracle of Seed-Faith, A Daily Guide to Miracles, and Successful Living through Seed-Faith. Desperate crowds could hardly resist his big promises and they ignored the fact that Roberts was butchering Bible—namely, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Big crowds and big money had blinded both Roberts, and those who followed him.

Today, the prosperity gospel has exploded to become one of the most popular teachings in the world. It has overtaken continents like Africa, and South America as it continues to breed pastors and people who are looking to land a serious pay-day.

How Can a Pastor Preach Against it?

It’s a proven fact that the best way to spot counterfeit money is to become an expert in what real money looks (and even feels) like. Knowing the right stuff about the real thing protects you from being fooled. The best way that a pastor can strengthen his flock and protect them from being deceived is to teach them faithfully about the truth. Any seminar, series, or conference on false teaching should always be paired with clear biblical truth, not merely a protest concerning errors.

Here are three ways that a pastor can move from only protesting errors, to also preaching the truth:

  1. Teach a Biblical View on Prosperity

The people of God need to know and understand that prosperity does not validate a person’s salvation. No amount of money, awards from an employer, or inheritance from relatives can act as a “sign” that God’s hand is upon someone’s life. The blessing of salvation can rest upon an orphan just as much as a king. God is not a respecter of persons. Next, a biblical view of prosperity will teach people that the preacher’s message is not validated by his own wealth. For example, many prosperity preachers will use their own net worth as proof that God is blessing them and therefore, their message is trustworthy. This is unacceptable. Finally, prosperity does not validate a church’s doctrine. Much like the pastor’s message, a church may think big offerings and big crowds are evidence that God is pleased with their ministry. Undoubtedly, God is more likely pleased with a church of 80 who is faithful yet poor, than He is with a church of 8,000 who is rich yet false.

  1. Teach a Biblical View of Sovereignty

A pastor will raise up a healthy and humble congregation if they are consistently taught that God controls all things—including prosperity. While it is man who is encouraged to work hard (Proverbs 6:6-8) and to be wise stewards (Proverbs 21:5), it is God who graciously pours out riches on whom He desires (Proverbs 10:22). It is also God who allows the poor to have joy while in poverty! Paul taught, in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, that Christians ought to be generous, but it is God who gives most. His grace is seen through the care of His children. This may include monetary wealth, or it may not. Trusting God unconditionally is the best way to live. Job learned this lesson well as he humbly said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

  1. Teach a Biblical View of Eternity

What debunks the prosperity gospel as well as anything? A high view of Heaven to come! What causes the church to shift its focus from obtaining earthly riches and putting energy into the Great Commission? A view of Heaven to come! Pastors must preach that our best life now is obeying Christ, that our best life now is spreading the gospel, and that our best life now can never compare to heaven. Mission-minded churches have very little time and energy to waste on being money-minded. Stewardship is to be employed for the furtherance of the gospel. Fundraising campaigns must have gospel-centered visions. The pulpit ministry is to be consistent in presenting money as a vehicle for doing more ministry—not having more “stuff”.

What is the Next Step?

One final note on how pastors can preach against the prosperity gospel: Get involved with organizations who are training pastors and sending resources to continents where this false gospel is an epidemic. There are many bold missionaries who know firsthand that the prosperity gospel is infiltrating their mission field more than any other type of teaching. They need our help.

If pastors will enter the pulpit full of zeal for the truth, and people will leave the pew full of zeal for their commission, perhaps by God’s grace a generation will crush the momentum of the prosperity gospel for the glory of God, and the joy of future generations.

[i] Roberts, Oral, If You Need Healing Do These Things (Garden City, NY: Country Life Press, 1950), 15.

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***Editor’s Note: This article was originally written for Theology for Life (Volume 4, Issue 2). 

Should Your Church Sing Jesus Culture & Bethel Music?

One of the top questions I receive is about Jesus Culture and Bethel Music. Inquiring minds ask, “What do you think about listening to the music, or using only the songs that are sound?”

It’s a fair question that deserves an answer. Still, each person must determine how they’ll proceed. To spark your consideration, the 5 reasons below approach the topic from a few unique angles.

Let’s start with the obviously theological reasons, then let’s move to some practical implications that can directly or indirectly effect your church and ministry.

  1. Their movement & leaders preach a heretical version of Christ

When I use the “H” word here, I’m not being extreme. Scriptural teaching, early church teachings, early church councils, and your Bible college textbooks would all confirm, the “Jesus” that Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, Bethel Music, and Jesus Culture propagate is not the real Jesus. Blending Kenotic Theory (that Jesus emptied Himself of Deity), and shades of Arianism and mysticism, Bill Johnson’s teaching is beginning to be widely rejected after years of remaining mainstream and acceptable. So what took so long? Perhaps it was the tolerance narrative that evangelicalism tends to lean towards, or, people have to see enough friends and family led astray before it hits home. Whatever the reason, it’s praise-worthy to see church leaders standing up for the true gospel.  There is no debate here. The “Jesus” of Jesus Culture and the rest of the Mystical-Miracle movement is not the Jesus of the Bible. If you’re not familiar with Bill Johnson, Bethel Music, or Jesus Culture, here are 5 options to read through (both short and long). I’ve listed our book last since it’s the longest.

At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement  By Stephen Tan

Book Review: When Heaven Invades Earth, by Bill Johnson By David Schrock

Responding to the False Teaching of Bethel Church, Jesus Culture, and Todd White By Gabriel Hughes

Why I Don’t Sing the Songs of Hillsong and Jesus Culture By Jonathan Aigner

Defining Deception: Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement By Costi W. Hinn & Anthony G. Wood

  1. They need to be rescued with truth; not mitigated in their errors

A typical response to this article might be: “Even if the movement is heretical, the music is still really good. I’ll just not sing the ‘bad songs.’” Or, “We’re just singing catchy songs, it’s not like Bill Johnson is preaching our Sunday services.” 

Let’s be honest for a second, even it stings a bit. You’re avoiding the real issue if this is your attitude. If their version of Jesus is the “kenotic theory Jesus,” then there could be a lot of people believing in, singing to, leading others to, and following a false Jesus. In other words, like Mormons or other false religions who appear to be “Christian,” a lot of people in this movement aren’t being given the truth and they need the real gospel. There are many following these false teachers (like many of us were before being rescued) who are in serious danger. That means we need to view them as a mission field instead of making excuses for our using the music. We need to engage them with the truth and reason with them from Scripture. The power we need is the power of the true gospel. When we start making concessions on the music, or using apathy to avoid facing hard truths, we’re cowering from the Great Commission. Be different. Don’t sing the music. Don’t muddy the waters. Reach these people.

  1. They get paid royalties to keep funding their heretical cause

Perhaps the most practical reason not to sing their music at your church is that by doing so you’re (or your church is) paying them royalties. These royalties fund their schools and programs like Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry and WorshipU, that allow them to keep reproducing more false prophets, more music, and more musicians; spreading their teaching around the world. Through CCLI, direct downloads, or other purchase methods, even when you use the “good songs” and leave out the “bad songs,” you’re putting money in the same pockets. In the previous generation, there was little discussion about using the music produced by false teachers like of Juanita Bynum, T.D. Jakes, and Benny Hinn. First Baptist down the street was not going to feature a special recording during the offertory by Hinn’s crusade choir just because it sounded good. The unanimity around them being prosperity preachers and a danger to the gospel was, and is, without question. Therefore, no discerning Christian wanted to support their ministries financially by using their material. We need to take the same approach today. However, this is a new generation and the lines must be drawn again. I don’t know too many believers who want to knowingly support false teachers. Avoiding their music is a sound decision.

  1. You could be limiting the creativity and talent of your church’s own band

How many songs would be written if we stopped using Jesus and Bethel Music and had to come up with our biblically reliable music? How much would it challenge us to new heights of excellence if we had to make great sounding music that was not on the downgraded slope of apostasy? What next-generation world changers would rise up to be used of God in the music industry if we fostered their value in our congregations by asking them to write homegrown songs? If we knew that our music originated in the right place, our questions on this issue begin to fade. Many churches are sitting on amazing talent and gifts but do not use what God has provided. Take advantage of the autonomy that Christ allows each individual assembly to have and take ownership of creating your own songs and music.

  1. People need clarity on this issue more than ever before

People will naturally call it legalism when we’re taking about whether or not to sing Jesus Culture or Bethel music. But the church may do well to “steal” an idea from our Baptist friends. Just like a most Baptists avoids drinking altogether for the purpose of avoiding even the appearance of evil, a church may consider avoiding singing songs by heretical groups under the same guiding principle. Wisdom and prudence may be in order on this subject because it has become such a stumbling block for people today – just like alcohol. Is it sin to sing a Bethel song with sound lyrics? Is it a sin to take a sip of wine? No. But it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to risk confusing people in an effort to not come across legalistic. There are better hills to take, and more pressing issues to focus on. This one gets put to rest if we just draw a hard line and move on. If anything, the question of music is an easy one to deal with if you keep things biblically balanced. Why even associate with anything that is unbiblical or in question? Some New Testament guidelines that can help with this hot-button issue are:

  • Avoid being a stumbling block to others (Rom. 14:13-23)
  • Avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22)
  • Dangerous people should be silenced, not supported (Titus 3:11)
  • False teachers should be marked, not mitigated (Rom. 16:17-18)
  • Leaders are responsible to guard their doctrine and lives closely (1 Timothy 4:16)

While you may not agree with all the points listed here, at the very least, I hope I’ve provided you with some food for thought as you determine your own trajectory both at your church (whether in leadership or not), and in your home.

Why Contend for the Faith?

Many Christians don’t contend for the faith because they don’t know why they should. Like a football team who hits the gridiron without a rally cry, the church can often be overtaken by naysayers who demand silence in the name of tolerance. This tends to rattle many passionate Christians who insist that we contend for the faith. It’s important to remember that we must know why we are contending sdo as to be properly motivated to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints! (Jude 1:4)

In this postmodern age of tolerance let’s be honest, contending is a word that denotes fighting, and fighting isn’t popular. More specifically within the church, the concept of fighting more often brings back ugly memories of a “worship war” or power struggle than it does standing up for truth. It’s about time for the church to redeem the biblical concept of contending for the faith. The truth about Christ must come back to the forefront of our battle cry. We must stand for the true gospel no matter what the cost!

So why contend for the faith?

I. BECAUSE CHRIST IS WORTH IT

No greater argument can be made than this.

Jesus Christ came down to earth, lived a sinless life, died a horrific death, and raised from the dead. He is the conquering King who calls hell-bound sinners to heavenly life! Jesus is the center of the Christian faith, and without Him, humanity is hopeless. Jesus is the only Way, the only Truth, and provides the only Life (John 14:6) that is worth living for, worth fighting for, and worth dying for.

Christ’s loving sacrifice was part of God’s perfect plan and redeemed man from the Fall. Even before sin had entered the world, Satan began his assault on truth and attempted to undermine the authority of God. In the Garden, he hissed to Eve, “You surely will not die! (Genesis 3:4-5) as he tried to convince her that God just didn’t her to be “just like Him.” Satan’s tricks have not changed for thousands of generations. He still seeks to undermine God’s Word through lies. At the core of his efforts is a motivation to divide people from the truth of the gospel, and conquer their soul. Contending for the faith pushes back against darkness with the weapons of warfare that Scripture commands we use (Ephesians 6:11-18).

Standing for the truth about Jesus Christ will cause conflict whether Christians like it or not. Jesus Himself explained why this conflict was going to be inevitable for His followers long before any modern apologist had contended for the faith:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:34-38).

Those are strong words from our Lord, but they undeniably affirm that He would be the center of controversy, conflict, and contention.

In all of this, He is worth fighting for and has called us to carry His message as ambassadors. Ambassadors act as an extension of the King and should anyone attempt to misrepresent the King or His message; an ambassador must fulfill his duty to the truth. In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul declared,

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

For the King and His kingdom, we must act as beacons of truth, and that means there will certainly be times when we must refute those who stand against our King.

II. BECAUSE THE BIBLE COMMANDS IT

Numerous imperative commands and Apostolic advice direct Christians to contend for the faith in the New Testament. Paul is the source of these (under the control of the Spirit as he wrote).

Here’s a just a short list of “to do’s” when it comes to contending for the faith:

There are a lot of things Christians would rather do than fulfill the list above. It often said that we should emphasize what we’re for rather than what we’re against. Singing songs to the Lord, fellowship, encouragement, evangelism, rest, and discipleship are all uplifting and even energizing ways to live out our faith in a positive way. No conflict. No mental drain. No danger.

Jude thought the same thing and had hoped to write about the wonderful fith that he had in common with fellow believers. But he soon realized that a serious situation required him to act out of necessity. He writes:

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus (Jude 3-4).

False teachers are those who Jude was describing as trying to creep in “unnoticed, ” and their entire purpose is to turn God’s grace on its head, deny Christ, and smear His name. And they do all of this as deceitfully as possible! Much like how Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), his false agents do not show up exclaiming, “Here I am to deceive you!” but rather they introduce destructive teachings that lead men away from Christ with subtlety. The more biblically illiterate the sheep, the easier it is to fool them. The more passive the sheep and leaders who refuse to contend, the easier it is for wolves to pluck them.

For the gospel sake, Paul was willing to be beaten, shipwrecked, robbed, wronged, and even didn’t care when men preached Christ out of selfish ambition as long as Christ was being preached. But step on the toes of sound doctrine or lead sheep astray from the true gospel and he would contend for the faith (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 1:20, 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:17). He was never one to back down when the truth was on the line. No Christian ever should.

III. BECAUSE MARTYRS HAVE DIED FOR IT

The life of Christ and the Scriptures are more than enough to inspire a true Christian to walk in obedience, but there are other important historical considerations.

Over the centuries contending for the faith has been no glamorous endeavor. Historically speaking, it’s widely understood that all of the apostles but John were brutally martyred. Other devout New Testament followers like Stephen were stoned to death (Acts 7:58-59). Then outside of the biblical canon, millions were tortured and killed for standing upon the foundation of Christ. A disciple of John named Ignatius (108 AD) was thrown to lions. Polycarp (156 AD) was set on fire. Perpetua’s (203 AD) judge begged her to deny Christ and live to feed her breastfeeding baby, yet she refused and was run by a bull then finished with a sword. Julian of Cilicia (249 AD) was put into a sack with serpents. Later on in the timeline of Christian history hundreds of Reformers were burnt and brutally tortured for opposing the Catholic system. Men like William Tyndale (1536) were strangled and burned at the stake but not before translating the Bible into English.

Today, our brothers and sisters in Christ still die for their faith in the midst of great persecution. Surely we can be willing to lose popularity for a faith that many better men and women have shed blood for.

IV. BECAUSE THE LOST ARE WORTH IT

If there be any final consideration given to this topic, it’s this: that the lost sheep must be snatched from the wolves who prey upon them. If Christians have any semblance of evangelistic zeal, then they cannot sit silently while deception runs amok on the sanctity of sound doctrine. Contending is part of being a Christian.

Charles Spurgeon famously described the kind of perspective and the kind of effort that should mark Christian zeal. Even as the doctrine of election remained a pillar in his preaching, Spurgeon refused to lay aside his responsibility to obedience! He said:

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

Jude finished his letter on apostasy with a sobering reminder that there is work to do even while darkness is allowed to operate under the sovereignty of God’s purposes. He pleaded:

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh (Jude 1:20-22).

It’s clear that passivism is not to be the church’s strategy when false teaching is harming sheep. Christians must do all they can to proclaim truth and refute the errors that lead people to believe in a false Christ.

True saving faith is on the line. Eternity is on the line. Let’s do our part and trust God with the results.


Originally posted on www.servantsofgrace.org on April 18th, 2017.  

God, Greed, & the Prosperity Gospel

Beamers, Benz’s, and Bentleys. Mansions, maids, and millions. These terms are synonymous with the prosperity gospel. If you’re new to planet earth or haven’t watched television during the past ten years, here’s a simple definition of the “prosperity gospel” to get you up to speed: Jesus Christ minors in saving sinners, but majors in making you healthy, wealthy, and happy!

With a gospel centered on what Jesus Christ can add to your bank roll, prosperity preachers are infecting the minds of desperate people, and cashing in more than ever. The results? Millions of people have the wrong idea about Christianity and money.

This issue used to be just a few big name preachers but simple internet search will reveal that it’s no longer just the likes of Creflo Dollars, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, or Joyce Meyer who are raking in millions by exploiting people. TV networks have launched shows like, Preachers of L.A., and countries like Nigeria have their very own Top 10 Richest Nigerian Pastors list. The globalization of the prosperity gospel has people in third world countries rushing to fill stadiums in hopes of receiving a “breakthrough” from a self-anointed false teacher.

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The third world has become a favorite target for prosperity preachers. They fly in on private planes, stay in presidential suites at the finest hotels, and then grace the stage at crusades claiming, “Healing is yours, health is yours, money is yours! Give to ‘Jesus’ and He’ll do for you what He has done for me” (obviously a paraphrase but hardly an inaccurate one).

Just a cursory glance at men like Benny Hinn’s ministry calendar  will show that he can no longer pack American hockey arenas with 20,000 people, but he can draw 150,000 to his crusades in places like Indonesia and Brazil. This massive global impact means that thousands of international pastors, government leaders, and desperate people, will potentially buy into the theology or buy one of the overpriced gimmicks on Benny Hinn’s website like special Israeli anointing oil for the low price of just $45. This theology and it’s ancillary products are a deadly poison of deception that point away from Christ!

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There was a time when a small group of holy-water selling, Bentley-driving “pastors” were the laughing stock of the real gospel ministers and regarded as fringe scam artists. But now, even political figures know how to tap the evangelical vote.

Donald Trump knew that the best way rally evangelicals was to get forty of the richest pastors in a room to support him. Enter Paula White, Joel Osteen, and countless others who were said to have represented “the mainstream evangelical” voter.

Clearly there are no limits on just how far prosperity preachers will go to cast up their shameful foam (Jude 13).

So what does Jesus have to say on the subject? Does real faith have anything to do with getting rich?

There are plenty of passages in the Bible that talk about money, but Luke records a conversation between Jesus and His disciples that puts the prosperity gospel to shame.

Let’s take a deeper look.

In Luke 12:15-21 Jesus teaches.

And He said to them, “Beware, and be on guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable saying, “The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ “And he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take up your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool!’ This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

When God calls someone a “fool”, it’s best to do the exact opposite of whatever that “fool” was doing.

In the following verses (Luke 12:22-34) Christ sets the record straight.

1. DON’T WORRY ABOUT EARTHLY NEEDS

Luke 12:22 Jesus said, “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.”

This is downright counter-intuitive but it’s the best way to live! Prosperity preachers will tell you to give big to them and receive big for you; to give $777.77 if you want God to give you your “breakthrough”, and to order their anointing oil and rub it on your monthly donation if you want God to bless you! These bold faced lies are backed by greed.0

Jesus says an anxiety-filled rich man built some barns for security and right as they were completed God took his life and he never got to enjoy them. Because treasures on earth are fleeting, because only treasures in heaven last, because you don’t know how long you’ll live…don’t worry!

Seven times in the gospels Jesus commands, “Don’t worry!” Don’t be anxious, solicitous, over-occupied, concerned about earthly things. Paul hits this hard in Philippians 4:6-7 saying, “Be anxious for nothing!” Now, that’s a statement to stew on, don’t be over-occupied by any earthly thing…

Jesus says not to be worried about your life, what you will eat, or what you will wear. He’s mentioned three common areas of worry: 1) Stomach 2) Strength 3) Style. Imagine in history how much money has been spent attempting to better those three things! How many new year’s resolutions have been set around those three things! How much counseling, medication, and stress mgmt. books have been taken over those three things! How many gym memberships, insurance policies, teeth whiteners, diet plans, compression pants, all for those three things!

Does that sound remotely supportive of the prosperity gospel? It’s not even close.

2. LIFE IS MORE THAN EARTHLY NEEDS

Luke 12:23-26 “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?” 

Jesus says to get beyond trivial pursuits and realize that you could starve to death but your life would still continue on in eternity. Jesus expanded on this in Matthew 10:28 when He said, Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Who cares about the body if your soul goes on to eternal torment? You’ve wasted your life on bad theology.

Picture Jesus pointing over to some birds explaining that if God provides for an end-of-the-food-chain animal, which has a pea-size brain, with a purpose unto His glory, how much more so does He have a plan for you, a person made in His own image!?

If you believe in God, and have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then life becomes far more than earthly pursuits and more stuff.

Worrying about things can’t extend your life one hour so fretting over every menial matter is a waste of time and energy. You came to earth with nothing and you’ll leave with nothing no matter nice your casket clothes are, or how hard you try to stop it with anti-aging creams, cosmetic surgery, valiant exercise, and your Paleo diet. God has numbered your days and that’s that.

So can a “faith-seed” or special offerings buy you another minute of life or less anxiety? No. But on the flip side to that, this doesn’t mean that a vow of poverty, quitting your job, ceasing from advancements, and hiding from all riches will give you peace either. God is not interested in how much money you make or how much money you give…. He wants your heart!

3. GOD KNOWS YOUR EARTHLY NEEDS

Luke 12:27-28Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothes himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will he clothe you?

If lilies don’t sweat, and they don’t sew, yet they’re more splendid than earth’s greatest king, can’t God handle your needs? Those wild flowers would be burnt with manure in the clay kilns yet God created them with a purpose. And, if God puts that much energy into something with an inferior purpose, imagine what He thinks of you…

Then Jesus explains his whole point:

Luke 12:29-30 “O men of little faith! And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.

This isn’t a simple worry issue, it’s a serious faith issue, because worry means that I don’t trust that God is who He says He is, or that He can do what He says He can do. When I don’t trust God, it’s an assault on His person and power! That’s why Jesus points out the difference between the faithful follower and the pagan in this passage. Jesus is contrasting two different hearts:

The heart that trusts God vs. the heart that trusts itself.

4. SET YOUR ATTENTION ON ETERNAL NEEDS

Luke 12:31-32 But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Instead of “seeking” earthly things, instead of wanting what the pagans do, instead of building a reservoir of belongings, instead of security in stomach, strength, and style, seek earnestly heavenly things and all the other stuff will take care of itself!

Make it your all consuming charge to trust Christ, to know Christ, to obey Christ, and to share Christ.

Christians are different from everyone else. Christians don’t let fear reign any more because God the Father has chosen gladly (delights in, pleasures in) giving you the kingdom. Isn’t that great? God made you, and He’ll provide for you. God purposed you, and He’ll gift you. God knows your end, so you aren’t leaving planet earth until you finish your work for Him.

Luke 12:34 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

You see, there it is. Your heart and subsequent trust is either in earthly things or heavenly things. If you’ve ever privately questioned your faith in God, simply reflect on your attitude towards giving. Do you love to store up on earth or do you love to give towards heaven?

Jesus never promised that this life would be perfect, and that you would be healthy and wealthy – no matter how much you give.

What He did teach is that if you’ll trust Him with your heart, and invest in His true kingdom, heaven’s treasures are your eternal inheritance.

 Any belief system based on temporal blessings is absolute foolishness.


Portions of this post are from the sermon manuscript of Pastor Anthony Wood. Sermon Series: Treasures. Sermon Title: The Treasure of Trust : Luke 12:22-34. Originally preached on Sunday January 15th, 2017. To listen to the sermon in its entirety, click the link below:

Sermon Link: http://subsplash.com/missionbiblechurch/v/erzudyd

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