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Prosperity Gospel

Jesus heals a leper.
Image credit: LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading in Matthew chapter eight, we’re told several stories of faith. The words “faith” (noun) and “believe” (verb) are the same Greek word. They are used three times in the passage. Not all of the stories include the words faith/believe. But faith/believe is implied in the story.

For instance, in the first paragraph, Matthew tells us that a leper comes to Jesus, asking to be healed. The words don’t appear in the paragraph, but we know the paragraph is about faith/believe because why would a leper seek Jesus out unless he believed that Jesus could heal him? Jesus doesn’t tell him that his faith has healed him, but elsewhere when Jesus heals/delivers, He connects faith and healing/deliverance. (Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Mark 5:34, Mark 9:24, Mark 10:52, Luke 8:50, Luke 17:19, Luke 18:42 [this list is not exhaustive])

If you look up some of the verses above — as with Matthew 8:5-13 — you’ll see that in some cases the faith of the one healed isn’t even factored into the equation. Rather, the faith of the one requesting healing/deliverance is honored by Jesus. And although Jesus rebuked the Disciples’ “little faith”, He honored what little faith they had.

For a comment on “mustard faith”, see my posts here and here.

Application

Does this mean that if you have even a little bit of faith, all you need to do is ask Jesus and He’s obligated to answer your request? NO! It doesn’t work that way! Jesus isn’t your heavenly genie!

And that’s one reason we don’t get what we pray for: we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:3) Nowhere in the Bible are we given a blank check with the authority to command God to do anything. Remember Christian Life Rule #1: God is God. and Rule #2: You aren’t God. Always remember that your place is to submit to God’s authority, God’s sovereignty. He calls the shots. And the reason we pray isn’t to change God, but to change us.

If you are a Believer, you are an adopted child of God. And being one of His gives you incredible authority and privilege. But that authority and privilege must be a balanced with reverence and awe of the Great God Who created it all, owns it all, and rules it all.

And that requires a great deal of humility and killing of pride.

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There are no short-cuts to maturity

James doesn’t mince words about suffering. He begins his book urging his readers to rejoice whenever they experience trials. And he wraps up his book with today’s Bible reading, urging his readers to be patient in suffering. (James 5:7-11) He fills in the gaps about suffering in between. In fact, James never refers to suffering and trials as a remote possibility. He always refers to it as a given. One can only wonder how the Prosperity Gospel flourishes given the enormous weight of consistent Biblical teaching against it.

In Western Society, we don’t like to wait. The coming modern conveniences promoted on commercials in the 1950s only left us cramming more into our days rather than the promise they made that life would be easier and we would have more free time. I’m still waiting for that.

Take the microwave oven for example. With a microwave oven, you can boil water in a matter of a couple of minutes and make a nice glass of good Southern Sweet Iced Tea in half the time compared to boiling water and steeping your tea on a cooktop. But how often have you impatiently screamed at your microwave oven, “Hurry!”? Personally, I’d rather not answer that question!

Application

James seems to indicate that suffering produces patience. And you won’t gain patience without having to wait, oftentimes experiencing some level of discomfort or suffering. Is it any wonder why some Bible translations use the word longsuffering instead of patience.

The bottom line is that there are no short-cuts to maturity in the Christian life. Enduring hardship develops patience and other positive character qualities. So take James at his word when he tells you to rejoice whenever you encounter various trials. (James 1:2-4) Trust that God will use those trials for your good: That you would become more like Jesus. (Romans 8:28-29)

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contented

In today’s Bible reading we complete our reading through Hebrews. The writer of the book of Hebrews encourages his readers to avoid the love of money and be content with what you have. Then he reminds them that Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He adds, “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6 ESV)

Application

How much time do we spend worrying about tomorrow? What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Throughout Scripture, we hear that God promises to take care of His children. (Psalm 37:25) God withholds nothing from those who live righteously. (Psalm 84:11) Jesus plainly told his Disciples, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough worries for itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

I said yesterday that the primary lie of the Prosperity Gospel is that Jesus isn’t enough. The true Gospel says that Jesus is more than enough. If Jesus promises “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (the eight words) we can truly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”. (Hebrews 13:6; Psalm 118:6)

If God promises to provide for His children and then He promises to never leave us, what could we possibly need?! And what could we ever worry about?

Aside from a brain chemical imbalance, I suggest that if you’re consumed with worry and anxiety, you might need to go back and revisit the verses in this devotional from time to time. Memorize these precious promises from God in His Word.

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God disciplines His children.

Today’s Bible reading is in direct contrast to the message of the Prosperity Gospel. The Prosperity Gospel can be summed up with, “Name it. Claim it. Blab it. Grab it. Believe it. Achieve it and receive it. Or live in doubt and do without.” “God wants you to live a prosperous, healthy and wealthy life.” “You can live your best life now!”

The message of the Prosperity Gospel preachers is that if you have enough faith, you too can drive a Bently and fly in your own private jet. OK, they may not spell it out that blatantly, but if you take their message to its logical conclusion, you can control your destiny. The Prosperity Gospel preachers will tell you that if you have any type of illness or if you have financial problems, you just lack faith.

The world is filled with Prosperity Gospel rejects. They’re the ones who sent their “seed money” to the TV Preacher, trusting that God would make good on the promise of the preacher. It is essentially a transactional religion. If you do this, God is obligated to do that. If you’ve ever bought a candy bar from a vending machine, you know that if you put the money in, the machine will give you what you want. The Prosperity Gospel ignores the plain teachings of Scripture that you will have trouble in this life. (John 16:33)

Application

The problem with the Prosperity Gospel and transactional religion is that God never makes the promises the Prosperity Gospel peddlers do. God never obligates Himself to anything or anyone. The bottom line is that God is God. And you aren’t.

Hebrews 12 says that God disciplines His children. The writer urges his readers to take heart when they experience God’s discipline because God disciplines His children. One of the proofs that you are a child of God is that God disciplines you. The flip side of that has tremendous ramifications: if you aren’t disciplined by God, you may not be a legitimate child of God. (Hebrews 12:5-8)

The next time you encounter God’s discipline, take heart! You’re one of His! And He loves you too much to leave you where you are. He wants the best for you. He wants you to look like Jesus. And to do that, He has to break off everything that doesn’t look like Jesus.

Sometimes He may discipline you as you read His Word. Sometimes He may discipline you as you listen to a sermon. Sometimes He may discipline you as you listen to Christian music. Regardless of how He does it, press into Him and ask Him to use this to make you more like Jesus. Ask Him to draw you closer to His heart during this time.

The primary lie of the Prosperity Gospel is that Jesus isn’t enough to satisfy you. It appeals to your pride. The truth of the true Gospel is that Jesus is more than enough to satisfy you. And the true Gospel requires humility.

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In today’s Bible reading, three angels appear, proclaiming a different message.

“Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:7 CSB)

“It has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen. She made all the nations drink the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath.” (Revelation 14:8 CSB)

“If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is poured full strength into the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or anyone who receives the mark of its name. This calls for endurance from the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:9-12 CSB)

Each message is different, but all convey the same essence: Glorify God, for His wrath is poured out on those who are not His own.

Application

The Gospel is a very simple message. But we tend to complicate it. Unfortunately, in our complicating the simple message, we water down what the Gospel message actually is. “It’s social justice.” Or “It’s prosperity gospel.” Or “It’s God’s love for us”.

According to the angel who has the eternal Gospel to preach to the world’s inhabitants, (Revelation 14:6), it’s “Glorify God, for His wrath is poured out on those who are not His own.”

When you’re telling people about the Gospel — and when you preach it to yourself — don’t leave out the very important message of God’s wrath. The Gospel is good news (literally, that’s what the word means). The goodness of the good news is highlighted when it’s contrasted to the badness of the bad news. When you understand the reality of God’s wrath, the goodness of the Gospel message becomes even more attractive than imaginable.

The gospel message isn’t, “Clean up!”, but rather, “Repent!” and “Turn!”. Without turning to Jesus, there really is no cleaning up that any of us can do. Part of the bad news is that we don’t have the capacity to clean up! Lost people need Jesus to clean them up.

Don’t shy away from telling the bad news, so the good news can be heard for what it is: Good News!

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