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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.

Preaching Sound Doctrine Matters

Some years ago we did things a little differently at our church than we do now. We had a band that was filled with hired guns and we paid them to play the lights out every Sunday. To illustrate: our guitarist would tour the world with a famous boy-band, then roll in on Sundays to put on a show for our church – true story.

As far as the sermons would go, they were a mixture of some Bible, exciting and emotionally driven stories, and an ending that was designed to move everyone into an emotional response to the message. We were the typically modern, attractional, evangelical church. And make no mistake about it, lots people were dawning our doors. But they were not coming for doctrine – they came for the personalities, the music and the emotion. It was working!

This is why it seemed like our teaching-pastor had lost his mind when he suddenly got up one Sunday having “fired” all the hired musicians and telling the congregation, “If someone is musically gifted and won’t play for free, this church will no longer be a good fit.” Going even further he started preaching verse-by-verse through books of the Bible to grow our church in doctrine, and songs changed from the latest Jesus Culture or Hillsong hits to songs rich in theological truths. Emotionally driven services were replaced by the clear preaching of God’s word. Suddenly there were calls for biblical action out of love and obedience for Christ!

Then, there was an exodus. We went from being a brand-new shiny object – a fast-growing church plant holding multiple services and cruising through the 300-attendance mark – to suddenly having empty seats everywhere. Eventually we grew past where we once were, but this time, it would not be merely numerical, it was spiritual.

Sound doctrine (paired with prayer and patience) did the heavy lifting.

We Need Sound Doctrine

From big name preachers suggesting we “unhitch” ourselves from the Old Testament, to sermon series on mere behavior modifications from self-help books, to entire services being absent of the Bible but full of entertainment, the church today is in dire need of a strong dose of good ole’ fashion sound doctrine.

In short, doctrine matters.

Nothing else will satisfy the deepest needs of the human heart. Nothing else will quench the spiritual thirst of believers who have been transformed by the Gospel, and nothing is more true to the mandate of Christ’s commission in Matthew 28:16-20. Jesus didn’t suggest that someof what He taught be passed along in whatever modernized way His disciples saw fit. Nor did He give the nod to whatever methods get people in the door. He said that “making disciples” included “teaching them to observe all (emphasis added)” that He commanded (Matt. 28:20).

When the Apostle Paul was providing ministry instructions to his young protégé in the faith – Timothy – he hammered home imperative after imperative concerning the importance of sound doctrine! From that model alone there is no question of what a good minister of the Gospel is to do. We must be nourished on – and nourishing others on –  words of faith and sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6).

What Exactly Constitutes “Sound Doctrine”?

Sound doctrine in the Christian faith is accurate Bible teaching. “Doctrine” can be defined as the central beliefs that are held by a group of people and “sound” implies that something is reliable. Therefore, when churches spend more time entertaining people and giving shallow sermons, they are not fulfilling what a church is supposed to do and be. We must be preaching and teaching the central beliefs of the Christian faith based on what the Bible teaches – regardless of how the world around us is changing. Like a reliable friend who will tell you what you need to hear vs. what you want to hear, a reliable church (and specifically the preachers) should be giving you the truth and nothing but the truth.

Why Preaching Sound Doctrine Matters

Much is at stake, but great things are in store if a church stops playing games and bolts the Bible to the pulpit and the pulpit to the floor boards. Sure, some people may not like it, but God’s word promises that the blessings will outweigh the backlash.

Let’s look at five reasons that preaching sound doctrine matters:

  1. It is Required of Faithful Pastor-Elders

Do you know a pastor-elder who doesn’t want to be faithful in their duty for Christ? Most of them do. Plainly, the pastor-elders who are called to be the servant-leaders of the church are failing their duty if sound doctrine is not the central focus of the teaching and preaching ministry. Churchstaffing.com does not determine a pastor’s job description, nor does any other agency. God has, and continues to expect His mouth-pieces to fulfill His purposes laid out in Scripture. Men of God must be faithful. The New Testament lays out the role of those who oversee the church in no uncertain terms (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Tim. 4:6, 11-13, 16; 2 Tim. 3:10, 14-17; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). God commands that His people be served spiritual food loaded with sound doctrine. A pastor-elder can be gifted in many ways, but he is only faithful if in all that he does he preaches sound doctrine.

  1. It Saves the Lost

Church growth from disgruntled “transfers” are a dime-a-dozen…especially in America where we treat our churches like restaurants and the customer is always right. But the real deal when it comes to preaching sound doctrine is genuine conversions that happen when the lost come to faith by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Of course, people transferring from a doctrinally dangerous church to one that preaches sound doctrine is wonderful, but it can be argued that few things are sweeter than seeing new believers come face to face with the awe-inspiring power of the living Word through faithful preaching! From old sinful ways to new creation in Christ, sound doctrine washes over the heart and mind of lost sheep, regenerates their soul, and preserves their faith (1 Tim. 4:16).

  1. It Empowers the Saved

Sound doctrine catapults the people of God into spiritual growth because they are building their lives on the bedrock foundation of God’s Word rightly taught and rightly applied. They are mobilized and equipped to live mature in their faith and protected from false teaching (Eph. 4:11-14). Sound doctrine empowers Christians to live high-impact lives because they are living out right relationships with God, fellow believers, and the world. A right relationship with God means a proper view of the Gospel and His attributes like holiness and omnipotence. A right relationship with fellow believers means serving one another (Gal. 5:13), loving one another (Rom. 13:8), forgiving one another (Eph. 4:32), exhorting one another (Heb. 3:13), and stirring one another up towards good works (Heb. 10:24)! A right relationship with people in the world means evangelizing them (Rom. 1:16), being a model in your Christian witness (Col. 4:5), and never compromising the truth (1 Cor. 16:13). It’s incredibly amazing what can happen when Christians are taught sound doctrine and live their lives for the glory of God.

  1. It Purifies the Church 

Preaching sound doctrine is important because it not only produces strong believers, it purifies the church of false ones. This may not seem like a very “nice” strategy, but consider for a moment what Jesus did to thin out the ranks of those who were superficially following Him merely for divine favors. Luke records Jesus delivering one of His toughest truths when the crowds were large (Luke 14:25-35). Jesus was dishing out free food, miracles, and wisdom, but the minute He pushed into deep doctrine and hard truths, it divided the real followers from the false ones. True converts love God’s Word, false converts will be repulsed by it. Eventually, as books of the Bible are unpacked and the glorious doctrines contained in Scripture are laid bare for all to see, a decision will inevitably be made by those who hear the truth. Their hearts will either turn towards it, or they’ll scoff at it and turn away. This is a vital part of a preacher’s duty in the ministry of the word. In doing so he is participating in Christ’s building of His church, which includes purging it of imposters.

  1. It Impacts the Future

Now before you imagine “preaching sound doctrine” as a sort-of boring academic forum in the church each week, remind yourself of what sound doctrine is one final time: reliable and accurate Biblical teaching. Preaching sound doctrine is may seem dull and simple, but it’s dynamic!  If the New Testament church was willing to bet their ministries on it, why shouldn’t we? The impact of this is exponential and powerful. When sound doctrine was taught in the early church, it exploded (Acts 2:40-41). If a generation of believers will preach sound doctrine and stand for the truth, they will be modeling faithfulness for those who will come next. In other words, they’ll be discipling the next generation of disciple-making disciples with the foundation they’ll need to glorify God. 

While many more important benefits can be added to this list, the fact remains, preaching sound doctrine matters – both now and in eternity.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally featured in Theology for Life Magazine (Volume 5, Issue 3, Fall 2018) as “The Importance of Preaching Sound Doctrine.” 

The Holy Spirit: Triumph or Tragedy?

There is a member of the Holy Trinity that is most neglected, misunderstood, and misrepresented, yet, He is an integral and equal part of the Godhead. Many of His works go unnoticed, while many foolish and outlandish practices are credited to Him. The feeble attempts to “reveal” Him by well-meaning believers, or preying “prophets”, do nothing to thwart the powerful truth that He is God – the Holy Spirit.

You must know Him intimately, you must understand Him accurately, and you must have Him assuredly. The world’s response to Him, and how believer’s know and treat Christ and the Father’s equal, can mean triumph or tragedy.

So how do you sift through the YouTube madness, the gold-plated TBN version of the so-called Holy Spirit, and come to truly know Him and His role in your life? Study the Scriptures for yourself and refuse to be spoon-fed by cheap imitation and misinterpretation. God has given you the ability to go to His word concerning everything.

Here’s some biblical starting lines to put you in the race of truth for the Holy Spirit:

1. The Holy Spirit is a Person

He’s not an “it”, a mystical blue mist, a white-sheet covered ghost, or like “the force” from Star Wars. Read John 16:5-15 and circle the masculine pronouns used to describe the Holy Spirit. If you’ve counted 13, you’ve now done your own study on the fact that He is a person!

2. The Holy Spirit Gives Believers the Advantage

unnamedJesus Himself said to His disciples, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). That alone should perk your ears up. Isn’t Christ the ultimate? Why would He say there was an advantage to Him leaving His disciples to go back to the Father? Many say this is because we now will have power to do signs, wonders, and live in total victory over our health, finances, and relationships…Really? That’s the best we can do with this verse? Three truths prove the Holy Spirit’s advantages will point us to Christ more than ever, and have nothing to do with exalting ourselves:

a. The Advantage of Regeneration

Regeneration happens when a sinner turns into a saint in the eyes of God! They receive a new nature that begins to take over their life. The desire to sin turns, their heart turns to God, real change occurs and it lasts! (2 Corinthians 5:17). You can fake being saved by saying all the right things, but a truly regenerated person will prove to be truly saved by bearing fruit. When the Holy Spirit hits the lights, you’ll know it because darkness dies, sin begins to decay, and the new you begins to live (Titus 3:5).

b. The Advantage of Sanctification

Sanctification is the transformation process that begins and continues after a person is regenerated (saved). Have you ever heard someone say, “God accepts you just the way you are, but loves you too much to leave you the same?” That just means that a follower of Christ is always growing – even if times are tough (James 1:2). The Holy Spirit causes your moral and spiritual character to do a 180, and your life’s trajectory is a slow, upward growth pattern. This isn’t perfectionism, it’s continual progression. Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and ask yourself, “Have a changed from a care-free habitual sinner, to a saint who cares deeply about dealing with sin?” If you’re answer is yes, you’ve been enjoying the Holy Spirit’s residence in your life.

c. The Advantage of Illumination

Illumination is when the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the believer to the truth of Scripture. Some falsely assume that this process is like a Holy-Spirit jump drive that He automatically downloaded into your brain because you’re a Christian. No, but He’s right there with you when you put on your Bible work-boots and work diligently to study the Scriptures. Like a loving parent, He rewards His children who exercise discipline in study and keeps the desire for truth burning brightly inside of their hearts. If you’re not experiencing a deep love for the Scriptures, pray a prayer like Paul for the Ephesian church in Ephesians 1:17-18.

3. The Holy Spirit Gives Sinners the Truth

The triumphant and tragic results stemming from the Holy Spirit’s ministry mainly relate to Jesus’ explanation of the primaries concerning the Holy Spirit’s role (of course, not limited to only these things), in John 16:8-11. Christ said, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgement” (16:8). We could easily boil this down to three statements that are either accepted or rejected:

a. You’re a Sinner!

“…because they do not believe in Me” – John 16:9

He convicts the world concerning sin because it’s a sin not to believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:18). Unbelief rejected Christ, unbelief crucified Christ, therefore unbelief is sin against Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their guilt saying, “You crucified Him!” The realization of our sin leads to triumph through repentance, yet the rejection of the Holy Spirit’s conviction is tragedy for those who refuse to admit their sin. This is the basic foundation of the Gospel. Do you admit your sin accepting “guilty” as the verdict on your life without Christ?

b. Christ is Righteous! 

“…because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me” – John 16:10

He convicts the world concerning righteousness saying, “This man you condemned and crucified as a villain will be welcomed to the right hand of the Father!” How can anyone enter the presence of a holy God unless they are perfect and holy? The Holy Spirit’s arrival declares triumphantly that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ because He was, and is, righteous. Tragic for those who refuse to confess sin, and to accept His righteousness by faith (1 John 1:9).

c. Satan is Condemned!

“…because the ruler of this world has been judged” – John 16:11

The Holy Spirit’s arrival confirms that Satan is the one who stands judged and condemned, and He pleads with sinful men declaring, “The accuser of the brethren has been found guilty!” This is triumph for believers who are victorious over death, and tragedy for those who choose the fleeting pleasures and ways of this world (Revelation 12:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

4. The Holy Spirit Gives Christ the Glory

Perhaps the most important fact concerning the Holy Spirit is that His primary role is tounnamed (1) glorify Christ. His work points to Christ, His conviction is on behalf of Christ, and He is most evident when believers exalt Christ! Jesus said, “He shall glorify Me…” (John 16:14a). Christ didn’t say He would elevate men, be a slave to the believer’s beckon call, or be an entertaining sensationalist. That which does not glorify Christ is not the work of the Holy Spirit.

It is important to note that even though the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available only to believers, they are bi-products of His primary work of applying the saving work of Christ to our hearts. One would never assess their salvation by whether or not they have a spiritual gift, but rather, whether or not they are regenerate, being sanctified, and illuminated to Scripture. Therefore, gifts need to be held in their proper place of importance as a wonderful outworking of the Holy Spirit in our lives for the common good, and the edification of the body (1 Corinthians 12:7). Christ’s description of the Holy Spirit holds salvation, and His (Christ’s) glory above all else.

Ask yourself these 7 questions and spend some time praying and analyzing your current habits, lifestyle, and core beliefs.

  1. Am I experiencing the biblical advantages that come from being indwell by the Holy Spirit? Am I evidently saved, changing/growing (old sins dying slowly but surely), and does Scripture make more sense the more I read it?
  2. Do I joyfully affirm that I am a sinner, made righteous by Christ, and do I believe the patterns of this world to be fleeting, flawed, and false?
  3. If married, do I and my spouse affirm that there is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work through improving patterns of love, conflict resolution, fidelity, and mutual submission?
  4. Do I enjoy being held accountable and understand my need to consistently confess sin?
  5. Do I find myself responding to biblical preaching with a hunger for truth like those who responded to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:37-42 saying, “What must I do?”
  6. Is my view of the Holy Spirit based on teachings that I have never weighed against Scripture?
  7. Am I more interested in the gifts of the Holy Spirit than Christ? Do I have a relationship with God based only on what I can get from Him?

May you experience the great triumph of mourning sin, receiving Christ’s righteousness by faith, and trading satanic sorrow for eternal victory through the power of the Holy Spirit!

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.

pastor-chris-benny-hinn-lagos-1

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!

bennyhinn

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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Pharisees and False Teachers

There is a word that used to have no derogatory meaning but has found its permanent place in  the insults of “Christianese.” Its original meaning referred to a man’s position as an expert adherent of God’s law with rabbinical duties to guide others. The word is – Pharisee.  

Nowadays, this word is used and thought of in a slightly different way. If you call for accuracy in biblical preaching you could get called a Pharisee. If you lovingly confront a small group friend concerning their sin, you’re not thanked through tears – you’re called a Pharisee. If you voice concern for dangerous doctrines and the exploitation of those desperate for hope…well, you’ll see.

Recently a special conference was held in our city (Tustin, CA). The promoter promised signs, wonders, and miracles to those who would attend. A big sign was posted on the street and social media sites spread the word. Revival and health for the sick and needy was coming to our little corner of Orange County. Finally! Clever marketing tactics tagged the miracle working men as the “Pep Boys.” Perhaps because they were going give spiritual “tune-ups” to the crowd. Of course, admission was free. Based on some of the video footage from the conference host, the “signs, wonders, and miracles” were in short supply, but unintelligible tongues and bad theology was plentiful.15871887_941119289357321_4192490706401469971_n

Any push back against this tomfoolery could get you labeled. Shining a light on the flagrant lust for phony signs & wonders in today’s church climate could get you a new nickname. Encourage your friends to flee from this gimmickry and caution people about this unbiblical chaos, and you’re going to hear the P-word at some point.

You Pharisee.

Such a jarring indictment is enough to make any bold Christian think twice about opening their mouth concerning any serious issue. Jesus Himself called the over-zealous Pharisees horrible names. Would you ever want to be thought of as one of these?

  • Blind guides (Matthew 23:16)
  • Fools (Matthew 23:17)
  • Serpents (Matthew 23:33)
  • Vipers (Matthew 23:33)
  • Hypocrites (Luke 11:44)

That is one serious list. Obviously this kind of Pharisee is the last thing you ever want to be. Even from the earliest age, churches teach kids about these religious infiltrators with songs like,

“I don’t wanna be a Pharisee (a Pharisee!), I don’t wanna be a Pharisee (a Pharisee!), cause they’re not fair-ya-see? I just wanna be a sheep (ba-ba-ba-ba!).”

Ok so maybe only a few of us still remember that song from Sunday school, but you get the point.

There is one glaring problem with everything I’ve just described. Many people don’t know why Jesus used such harsh words with certain Pharisees. This leads to Christians getting either confused or fearful when called such a horrid term. So what in the world would constitute being called this type of Pharisee in today’s world? Is it being strict about biblical commands? Is it prohibiting the wearing of nail-polish or earrings at church? Is it calling out dangerous teaching? Is it the old guy who yells at the kids for playing drums in their youth worship service?

We need to let the bible speak so we don’t completely miss the point of what disastrous Pharisaic practices truly were.

Here’s what the gospels teach about the kind of things that the wretched Pharisees were doing to garner such harsh responses from Jesus:

  1. They Were Sign Seekers

When the Pharisees asked Jesus to show them a sign He replied, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after signs…” Then warning His own disciples Jesus cautioned, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees…He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:1,6,12).

Jesus calls the teachings of the Pharisees “leaven” as an illustration of how it changes bread dough when it’s added in. Similarly, modern day false teachers alter the gospel message with their own ingredients and corrupt it to the core. Signs and wonders is not what Christ came for and never to be our focus. He came to save sinners (Luke 5:32).Kris-Vallotton_large

When modern day churches start to obsess over signs, wonders (and everything in between) to draw an audience, they’re on a slippery slope. If preference is given to sign-seeking healing services over gospel-centered preaching, it is a sign that the wrong kind of Pharisees may be running the show. Further, if the gospel message is said to be powerless without signs and wonders, run from the place that teaches such a thing.

We don’t need more hype about signs and wonders. The pulpit must determine to know nothing among us but Christ crucified and Him raised from the dead.

  1. They Targeted Helpless People

In order to benefit themselves most, certain Pharisees preyed upon those who could defend themselves least. They were notorious for targeting helpless widows so they could benefit from the estate and resources a deceased husband had left to her.

Jesus described these greedy predators in His final public teaching discourse that Mark recorded. He taught, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation” (Mark 12:38-40).

These conmen took no prisoners and even broke God’s law to make a buck off of heart-broken widows! The Old Testament commanded that people not overharvest their crops so that widows could benefit from what wasn’t picked the first time. Widows were not even be held to their own pledges (Deuteronomy 24:17-21). God took the care of widows seriously along with those who could not care for themselves – such as orphans.

In these modern times, false teachers take advantage of the lonely, the sick, the weak, and still go after widows much like the predatory Pharisees did. “Christian” leaders who capitalize on the least, last, and lost of our society for their own gain mirror the kind of bottom-feeding behavior that many Pharisees undertook.

  1. They Added to God’s Law

Pharisees enjoyed nothing more than adding their own powerless words, traditions, and methods to God’s basic commands. Where God had given enough instruction for the people’s good, the Pharisees added traditions and precepts that were established by their own ambition. Their agenda was centered on controlling people and making themselves look powerful. In Mark 7:6-9 Jesus calls out the Pharisees for their man-made system:

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophecy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”

Much like the Pharisees of yesterday, false teachers today add to God’s decrees with decrees of their own. They convince people that God has more to say, and He is using them to say it. These modern Pharisees toss aside what God has declared and in preference their own twisted version. As if the completed revelation breathed out by God Himself wasn’t enough (2 Timothy 3:16-17), they seek to elevate their own ideology as equal to God’s revealed word.

One famous mystic who has sold millions upon millions of books opens one of her best-sellers by saying, I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.” This is common place today. Hoards of people yawn over expository preaching from the pages of Scripture, but mystical (possibly even demonic) counterfeits and prophetic conferences draw millions of people who are seeking a “new” word from the Lord. How much more time and money could be spent on spreading the gospel and lives saved from deception if people would accept that God already has spoken?

Reliability is in short supply in many loose theological circles that claim new prophetic words from God. Perhaps going back to the sufficiency of God’s already revealed will in the Scriptures and leaving it at that would solve the insufficiency of old pharisaic habits.

  1. They Added Unlawful Burdens to People

This one carries over from #3 on this list because the “extras” that the Pharisees added to God’s law were things they couldn’t even keep themselves. Hypocrites! For example,  where God set the Sabbath in order for man, the Pharisees created a laundry list of ridiculous additions to define “work” how they saw fit. At one point Jesus looks at an expert of the law and said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers” (Luke 11:46).

Though they appeared to be righteous, the Pharisees were crooked benefactors of a system that burdened the people. image_large

The type of burdens the Pharisees used back then have a modern-day version that burdens Christians in similarly oppressive ways. For example, false teachers convince people that if they want to be healed, they should give money or just “have enough faith.” People are taught that they have to give a certain amount of money to be “blessed”, to get a “breakthrough” at their job or have relief from debt. Further, people are taught that certain men and women are especially anointed so they should give money to them.

These burdens are as powerless as the works-based salvation the Pharisees sold. This spiritual abuse results in confused Christians with deflated faith, and false teachers with inflated wallets. None of that sort of teaching is biblical. Sure, anyone can twist God’s word for capitalistic control over people. The Pharisees did it better than anyone.

  1. They Loved Their Own Honor

Nothing excites a Pharisee more than a system that will honor himself. These leaders love when people elevate them to unbiblical heights. This cultish hierarchy makes the shepherds of God’s people into anointed royal rulers worthy of glory and praise that only God deserves.

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees sat themselves in the best seats, received immaculate greetings in public, and ensured that everyone noticed how holy and powerful they were.

One day, Jesus gave them an ear full and told them what He thinks about their honor-system.

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it” (Luke 11:43-44).

Now there’s a divine indictment. These status seeking Pharisees were caught red-handed by Christ. He saw right through their fancy clothes, front row seats, long bios, and hidden hypocrisy. He knew of their self-indulgent pride, lust for power over people, and desire for possessions. They were like dead corpses lurking unnoticed below and spoiling their unsuspecting victims.

Like those who Jesus rebuked, false teachers in the church world today love to be called humble yet enjoy the spoils of a king. They use a culture of honor to protect themselves from accountability. Protecting the precious people of God is the last thing on their minds. In fact, they are the very wolves attacking the sheep from within the fold. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were too busy honoring themselves that they missed salvation from the Messiah when it was right in front of them. Today’s Pharisees take on the form of supposed “pastors” who spend a lifetime compiling a pension of riches from their powerless pulpits, only to find their lake front retirement plan is more of a lake of fire one. Christ is not in the building. He was never involved at all (Matthew 7:22-23).

Once we allow the bible to speak on this issue, it’s not so hard to spot a real Pharisee after all is it?