Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?

The prosperity gospel is very popular today in America.  Everyone wants to be rich.  I am not advocating poverty or saying all Christians should take a vow of poverty.  But the test of prosperity is even harder than the test of poverty.

The prosperity preachers say that wealth is evidence of godliness.  Yet Jesus taught that we cannot serve God and wealth.  We have two 6:24 verses, which record His warnings about this in the gospels of Matthew and Luke:

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Mat 6:24)

"But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full." (Luk 6:24)

And Jesus [also] said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."  (Mat 19:23-24)

The eye of a needle was the gate into a city.  When camels returned from abroad, loaded with merchandise, they had to get down on their knees outside the city gate, so that all the merchandise could be unloaded from their backs, so they could enter through the narrow gate. 

Jesus said we must "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it." (Mat 7:13)

Jesus said riches are deceitful.  This deceitfulness and desire for other material things chokes the Word, making it unfruitful. He said, "but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." (Mar 4:19)

"So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions." (Luk 14:33)

The apostle Paul said, "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1Ti 6:10; cf., 1Ti. 3:3; Heb. 13:5).

Some of the prosperity preachers are living in luxury, in multimillion dollar homes, often flying in their own private jets.  I know of one Christian couple that run a non-profit Christian ministry, and own his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community.  I know of another preacher who built a three million dollar home for himself, paid for by the church he pastors.  Don't they read these same Scriptures?  What men value highly is detestable in God's sight (see Luke 16:15).  If you want to know where their heart is, then just look at where their treasure is.  "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Mat 6:21)

The Lord commanded us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (Mt 6:19). He gave this same command to the Hebrews regarding their future king, when He said, "He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold." (Dt 17:17b, NIV). We who have been made by Christ to be a kingdom and priests must be careful to heed this warning.

The psalmist said of the wicked, "Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth." (Ps 73: 9).  And at one point he envied the prosperity of the wicked.  But after the Lord revealed to him their final destiny, he said of himself, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (Ps 73:25).  Let me encouraged you to read the entire Psalm 73.

The apostle John put it like this: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1Jn 2:15)

The apostle Paul described himself and his ministry team as "poor, yet making many rich" (2 Co 6:10), just as our Lord Jesus Christ, who "though he was rich, yet for your sake He became poor" (2 Co 8:9b).

Paul said, "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed." (1Ti 6:17-19)

James said, "Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?" (Jas 2:5-6)

He said God chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith, which is A Biblical View of the Poor. And it is true that the poor are still more open to the gospel than the rich.  Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” (Luk 4:18) James said that it is the rich who oppress you and drag you into court.

James also said, "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! ...You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter." (Jas 5:1-3, 5)

I feel sorry for those Christians who live like this, especially the preachers, because they are storing up treasure on earth, which our Lord warned against.  And they seem to avoid the teachings in Scripture about The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer.

The spirit of the wealth lovers
I would like to show you from Scripture how the love of money causes people to harden their hearts to the gospel.

Luke 16:13-14 - The Pharisees were lovers of money, so they scoffed at Jesus teachings on wealth.  Out of envy they falsely accused Him and had Him crucified.

Luke 16:19-31 -  The rich man who lived in luxurious splendor every day did not care for Lazarus, the beggar at his gate, who lived in poverty and misery.  He hardened his heart to the needs of Lazarus, and only took care of himself.  The same way that he hardened his heart to the poor, he also hardened it to the Scriptures.  Just as he would not listen to the cry of the poor, he would not listen to the Law and the Prophets, so he ended up in hell. But the poor beggar was comforted after he died.

Acts 16:16-24 - The masters of the fortune-telling slave girl saw that their hope of making a profit was gone, due to Paul's actions, and they proceeded to have the apostles beaten and imprisoned.

Acts 19:23-34 - The silversmith Demetrius and workmen of similar trades felt that their prosperity from their business of making silver shrines of Diana was endangered by Paul's preaching against false gods.  So they reacted angrily and started a riot to oppose the apostles.

John 2:14-21 - The money changers were angry because Jesus took away their ability to earn money selling sacrifices in the temple, so they retorted to Him, asking who gave Him the right to do that to them.

Mt 8:28-34 - The herdsmen and all the people of their town, who heard about Jesus sending the legion of demons into their pigs, implored Jesus to leave their region.  They did so, probably because of the negative impact it had on their pig business, and the financial loss they took, when all the pigs drowned in the sea.

1 King 21:1-16 - Jezebel used spirituality (a fast) as a ruse to have Naboth falsely accused of evil, in order to get him executed, so that her husband could take his inheritance (assets), because Naboth would not give or sell his inheritance to her evil husband Ahab the king.

The same way these people hardened their hearts because of wealth, people today reject the gospel for it.  They may not even think they are rejecting the gospel.  Perhaps they think they already believe the gospel.  But if someone preaches the truth of God's Word to them, such as the verses I shared at the opening of this post, they may disregard it.  And if someone speaks to them about God's standard of righteousness and holiness, they might actually become angry with that person.  If a Christian becomes angry with another believer for proclaiming in Jesus name that we must live holy lives and seek God's righteousness, this reveals their spirit.

I believe God blesses His children and prospers us.  I don't believe He wants us to live in lack of anything.  In fact, in Christ, we possess all things.  But in my opinion, the so-called "prosperity gospel" that is being preached today is not the true gospel.  It causes people to wander from the truth.  And in the end they pierce themselves with many griefs.

The Secret of Contentment
We must be content, as Paul was, whether living in plenty or in want.  He said, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil 4:12).  He not only knew what it was to have plenty, he knew what it was to be in need.  They key was that he had learned the secret of contentment in any and every situation.  He said that godliness is great gain, when it is accompanied with contentment (see 1 Tim 6:6).

The Pattern
The prosperity preachers are preaching self-ism, the fastest growing religion, which they have disguised to look as if it is Christian.  Their teachings make it seem as if God existed for us and not the other way around. They talk as if God is our trained seal who has to jump through our hoops. They speak only of blessings and not about the need to suffer.  In fact, they don't believe in martyrdom. As Leonard Ravenhill once said, “The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”

Being Rich Yet Very Poor in God
Unfortunately the Church of the western world in these last days has become like the wealthy Laodicean church. Jesus said to the messenger of that church, "Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see." (Rev 3:17-18)

The messenger of that church said, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing." But the Lord said, "you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." They were not cold toward God!  They considered themselves disciples.  But they were not hot either.  The Lord said they were lukewarm. "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. o because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth." (Rev 3:15-16)

They thought they were wealthy, but in God's sight they were not.  Rather, they were just the opposite.

Howard Pittman's Testimony
On August 3, 1979, Howard Pittman, a Baptist minister for 35 years, died while on the operating table during surgery.  He appeared at the gates of heaven, and believed that he had served God faithfully for many years.

Howard said, "God proceeded to tell me just what kind of life I had really lived. He told me what He really thought of me and even others who did as I had. He pointed out that my faith was DEAD, that my works were NOT ACCEPTABLE, and that I had labored in VAIN. He told me that it was an abomination for me to live such a life and then dare call it a life of worship. Furthermore, He said to those who do it, they are in danger of experiencing His everlasting wrath."

He continued, "I could not believe He was talking to me in this manner! I had served Him for years! I thought I had lived a life pleasing to Him! As He was enumerating my wrongs, I was sure He had me confused with someone else. There was no strength left in me to even move, let alone protest, yet I was panicking within myself. No way He could be talking about me! All of these years I thought I was doing those works for God! Now He was telling me that what I did, I did for myself."

"God told me that He would not accept this kind of worship in the day of the Pharisees and He certainly was not about to accept it now in this the Laodicean Church Age. He put it to me as plain as words and actions could make it."  

In the end, Howard was given another chance to live for the Lord. He went all over the world, testifying about this experience. He said, "For those who call themselves Christians, this is the Laodicean Church Age in which we live. A high majority of so-called Christians are, in fact, living a deceived life. They talk Jesus and play church, but do not live it. They claim to be Christians and then live like the devil. They have bought the great lie from Satan who tells them that they are alright. He tells them that it is alright to go to church on Sunday and attend mid-week services but as far as the rest of the time is concerned, they are to get all they can out of life. As far as their Christian life is concerned, they believe they are comfortable and have need of nothing and as a result, they are only lukewarm Christians if Christians at all."

I encourage you to listen to his entire testimony on the video below or read Howard Pittman's testimony here.



Prosperity Preachers Headed for Hell
As I wrote in my article Ibrahim's Experience in Hell, brother Ibrahim saw the present condition of lost ministers who are going down to destruction.  I recommend reading that article about his experience, in which many of the lost ministers he saw were prosperity preachers, including Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, and T.B. Joshua, as well as Joel Osteen, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Rod Parsley, Myles Munroe, Mike Murdock, Paula White, Donnie McClurkin, Duncan Williams, and many others!

Putting it All Together 
As we have just seen in God's Word, you cannot serve God and wealth. We are commanded not to love this world or the things of this world. It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, and the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil. Therefore, to be a disciple of Jesus, a man must first give up all his own possessions.  You need to learn the secret of contentment in any and every situation.

Jesus and Paul both became poor, and were not like the prosperity preachers of today.  God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom. Truly the kingdom of God belongs to the poor (Luk 6:20). Sadly, miseries are going to come upon the rich in these last days.

Beware of "people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain" (1 Timothy 6:5).  If you are caught up in the teachings of the "prosperity gospel," please consider what you have just read in God's Word today, and amend your ways.

Take care, brethren, that you are not like the Laodicean church.  And if you are, then buy from the Lord gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  The Lord said, 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent." (Rev 3:19)

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev 3:13)

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other passages taken from the Holy Bible New International Version (NIV).

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading my articles, A Biblical View of the Poor, Wisdom for Wealthy Preachers and Prosperity TeachersIbrahim's Experience in Hell, Exposing Heresy, The Top Ten Things Jesus Taught, Better a Little, All Things Handed Over to Jesus Christ, The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer, Holy Fire BaptismAvoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, and Godly Attire & Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations. I also recommend Kenneth Hagin’s Forgotten Warning by J. Lee Grady.  You may access more of my articles on the Main Directory of this blog, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tradition vs. Truth

I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, which I came out of when Jesus Christ came into my heart and set me free from sin.  The Roman Catholic Church places a great deal of emphasis on traditions.  In fact, their own catechism teaches that equal devotion and reverence must be given to tradition and Scripture.

However, in that religion, tradition is actually placed above the Word of God.  In other words, if there is a question about something in the Bible, they follow tradition, rather than the Bible.  Some examples include the veneration of Mary, her "immaculate conception" and her bodily "assumption into heaven." There is also the apocrypha, transubstantiation, praying to saints, the confessional, penance, purgatory, and more. This is not to single out the Catholic Church, but it serves as an example of what many of the traditional religions do.

Yet Jesus taught that the commandments of God take precedence over man-made tradition.  Any religion that does not put God's Word above tradition is in direct contradiction to the words of our Lord Jesus.

The Pharisees and teachers of the Law were concerned about His disciples breaking their tradition.  They kept many traditions, which you can read about in the Mishnah, the Talmud, and the Midrash. These were oral traditions that were written down.  They asked Jesus about it, saying: "Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." (Mat 15:2)

But Jesus responded by asking them why they broke the command of God for the sake of their tradition.  In order to follow their traditions, they had to break God's commands.

Here is a chart showing the difference between how these people viewed themselves and how God viewed them:

Their perspective God’s perspective
They were teachers of God’s Law, experts in it. They were teachers of mere man-made rules and traditions (Mt 15:9)
They worshipped God They worshipped God in vain, in other words, to no purpose (Mt 15:9)
They honored God with their lips Their hearts were far from God. They were a great way off and kept themselves distant from him (Mt 15:8)
They were sincerely devoted to God They were hypocrites or mere stage players (Mt 15:7)
They kept the traditions of the elders They broke God’s commands (Mt 15:3)
They ceremonially washed their hands before eating and only ate with clean hands, so that nothing unclean ever went into their mouths.  They were undefiled. Their hearts were full of unclean things like evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slanders. They uttered these things from their mouths and defiled themselves.  Washing their hands did nothing to keep them from being defiled (Mt 15:10, 17-20)
They taught people the path of righteousness They were blind guides, leading the blind into a pit (Mt 15:14)

This was like another conversation Jesus had with a group of Jews, which is recorded in John 8.  Once again, there was a sharp contrast between how they viewed themselves and how God viewed them.  The following chart shows the differences:

Their perspective God’s perspective
They were children of God (Jn 8:41) They were children of the devil (Jn 8:41, 44)
They heard God’s Word They did not hear God’s Word spoken by His Son (Jn 8:43)
They honored God They dishonored the Son of God, who honored the Father (Jn 8:49)
They were of God They were not of God (Jn 8:47)
They were Abraham’s descendants (Jn 8:33) They were not children of Abraham (Jn 8:39-41)
They were free (Jn 8:33) They were slaves (Jn 8:34-36)
They believed in Jesus (Jn 8:30-31) They would only be His true disciples if they continued in His Word (Jn 8:31)

Likewise, many religious people today see themselves as children of God.  They consider themselves free and feel like they honor God.  They think they worship God, and with their lips they do so.  They consider themselves sincerely devoted to God.  They avoid eating things that would defile them. They teach the importance of their religious traditions and they also teach from the Bible. They feel like they are teaching the path of righteousness.

Multitudes of people in so-called Christian religions, as well as non-Christian religions see themselves this way.  Yet God calls them hypocrites, those who honor Him with their lips, but whose hearts are far from Him.  He says they worship Him in vain.  He says they teach mere, man-made rules, yet break God’s commands.  He says their hearts are still full of evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slanders. He calls them blind guides, who are leading blind people into the pit.  He says they are slaves and still children of the devil.

The Lord has warned those practicing the traditions of men.  Those who attend festivals in the name of worshiping idols or in remembrance of anything, He shall crush them and cast them into the lake of fire (Mt 15:1-28).  In fact, to those worshiping idols in any way, especially the Roman Catholics, the Lord says you should stop doing that or else He will crush you and cast you from His sight into the lake of fire, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and their smoke shall rise forever.

My friend, please check yourself to see if that is you.  Are you following after religious traditions, yet breaking God’s commands?  Be sure these things are not true of you.  Make sure that your perspective of yourself is consistent with God's perspective of you.  And if God's perspective of you is one of those listed above in the right-hand column of these charts, then please repent and make it right with God.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man comes to the Father except by Him (Jn 14:6).  Your traditions are not what matters to God.  Jesus said that if you continue in His Word, then you would truly be His disciple.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

References: Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 77, 88, 82, and 97.

Attribution notice: Scripture quotation taken from the NASB. The "I Am the Way" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note You may also see Roman Catholicism, the Bible and Tradition, by Matt Slick, as as well my own article, Unbiblical Practices of the Catholic Church. Don't miss Angelica Zambrano's First Visit to Hell and Angelica Zambrano's Second Visit to Hell. I also suggest visiting Jack Chick's page on Catholicism. . You may access more of my articles on the Main Directory of this blog, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master. Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.