Problems with the Prosperity Gospel #8

September 26, 2011 at 10:48 am | Posted in False teaching, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I recently posted an article called Seven Problems with the Prosperity Gospel, but decided to add another point to those thoughts here.  It’s odd that I didn’t think of this when I wrote that article, because this has been one of my major complaints against Prosperity Preacher’s and their message.  So anyway here’s problem number eight:

The Prosperity Gospel causes us, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to focus on the temporal rather than the eternal.  It is a teaching that implies the most important things are what happen next in this world.  It’s a perspective that plays directly into the hands of the secular humanist philosophy.  Jesus’ words are plain: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt 6:19-20 NIV)  That’s a pretty simple command that tells us to focus on riches that last forever.  The Prosperity Preachers tell us to focus – also in some cases, entirely in others – on this world, on riches that are temporal.  But Jesus doesn’t leave it there; he adds, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v.21)  We will put our hearts in the temporal if we focus on riches that are temporal.  The implication of this last phrase is that we will be just like the secular humanists, whose message says this world is all that matters.  Paul would later add this thought, “set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  (Col 3:1-2)  “So,” Paul adds, “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18)

See also my article titled Following Jesus with Selfish Motives

A Better Country, A Heavenly One

September 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology | 2 Comments

While one a sabbath weekend in Estes Park, I reread some of the passages in the last chapters of Hebrews that I’d marked for further reflection the week before.  It occurred to me that we’ve lost our perspective on eternity.  After reading these passages, I was trying to think of songs about heaven, and I couldn’t come up with any newer songs, only old hymns.  Now I love some of those old hymns, but the fact that I could come up with no new songs indicates that we don’t think or preach about heaven much anymore.  Yet the biblical perspective is to let thoughts of heaven control many of our thoughts and actions.  Indeed it should be a big reason we do works of faith.

Here are some thoughts from those chapters.  Notice how the eternal perspective of heaven permeates much of this section on faith.  “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.  For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.  Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:34-36 ESV)

In the “faith chapter,” we are told that Abraham lived for years out of a tent without a permanent home, because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (11:10)  Later, the chapter says that these great men and women of faith were aliens and strangers in the world, because “they were seeking a homeland,” and “they desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one,” and “God has prepared for them a city.” (11:14-16)  Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (11:27)  Those who were tortured refused release, “so that they might rise again to a better life.” (11:35)

The conclusion of the great faith chapter is found in the early verses of chapter 12.  We should “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:1-2)  Later that same chapter reminds us that all things made will be shaken and removed, so only those things which cannot be shaken remain.  The conclusion and application for us: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (12:28-29)

Let’s make more of an effort to focus on the eternal reward in heaven.   Maybe then we can be just a little more like the great men and women of faith we are reminded of in these chapters.  “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (13:14)

Our Hope Is in the Real Event

September 13, 2011 at 11:07 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching | 1 Comment

I recently attended a funeral of a friend’s mother.  It was a Roman Catholic mass.  I am making no judgment on the woman’s faith or on that of anyone else attending, but the service did raise some questions.  The priest who spoke gave a confusing message.  Often he spoke of the woman’s salvation because she had faith in Jesus.  But then, sometimes in the next breath, he spoke of her salvation because she had been baptized and had received the Eucharist.  I wanted to ask, “Well, which is it? her faith or her baptism and sacrament?”  If her faith saved her, then why did he refer to the sacraments so often?  But if the sacraments saved her, why did he quote scriptures about faith?  This confusion got worse near the end of the service when the mass was served.  I sat there listening to the priest bless the elements, knowing they teach that those elements actually become the body and blood of Jesus.  I couldn’t partake with that understanding, and choose to remain seated when people were invited to the altar to participate.  As I sat there I was saddened by the people going forward.  I wondered how many of them really believed that they were receiving Jesus in those elements, and that was their salvation.

To believe that a piece of bread, properly blessed by a priest, can save seems so hopeless.  I’m glad, as a pastor, I don’t have that responsibility and authority.  What if I blessed it wrong?  What if someone was lost because I used the wrong formula or had a bad day or a particularly sinful week?  That’s scary!  But mostly I’m glad that our hope is not in blessed bread or wine but in the thing pictured by that bread and wine.  I believe the elements of the Lord’s Supper are simply reminders or pictures of what Jesus did for us.  Our hope is in Jesus’ death on the cross.  Our hope is in his shed blood for our sins.  We have assurance not based on a man’s blessing or on a blessed element that supposedly becomes something special.  We have assurance because the bread and wine remind us of something truly special – a real historical event.  Jesus died for our sins.

A NOTE ADDED LATER:  By the way, the next day, I read the following in my devotions, and though it speaks of Jewish priests, the principles apply here  as well:

Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.   And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.  (Hebrews 9:24-28 ESV)

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  (Hebrews 10:12-14 ESV)

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