Tag Archives: false teachings

The Prosperity Gospel: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Modern day Christendom is under invasion by a false teaching. The teaching is very attractive to a society whose members want to call the shots, desiring to accumulate for themselves increasing wealth and material possessions; a society in which the primary focus is achieving happiness in this life.

“You have a Bible right when you plant a seed to expect the God of the universe to give you a harvest; to give you a debt-free home, debt-free cars, jobs; to give you financial interest, to make you a millionaire for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!” ~ Televangelist Todd Coontz as featured on bennyhinn.org.

Known commonly as the “Prosperity Gospel”, this teaching and those who promote it are deceiving Christians all over the world into believing that God exists to meet our physical and emotional needs and wants in this temporal life, most notably physical healing and the accumulation of wealth. They attempt to support their doctrine with Scripture, albeit via significantly errant interpretations of several key passages of Scripture.

Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary David W. Jones wrote a piece entitled 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel for The Gospel Coalition. Jones states that the prosperity gospel has its doctrinal roots in God’s covenant with Abraham discussed in the book of Genesis.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

According to Jones, Prosperity Gospel teachers misinterpret God’s covenant with Abraham to be about blessing him and his descendants with material wealth; that God’s blessing of Abraham and his descendants was simply that they would be rich! Both Orthodox Christianity and Prosperity Gospel proponents teach that all believers are children of God’s covenant with Abraham; thus, we all participate in the blessings that God promised in this covenant. Prosperity Gospel proponents err in their understanding of what construes a “blessing” in this context. This blessing is not about material wealth or personal happiness. The blessing is about our perfect rescue from the eternal consequence of sin; sin that each one of us commits daily. Sadly, teachers of the Prosperity Gospel have reduced God’s covenantal promise to nothing more than a large bank account. As a wise man once said, “you can’t take it with you.”

The Prosperity Gospel is a completely backwards understanding of God’s relationship with His creation. The “name it and claim it” ideal in Prosperity Gospel teaching says that one must have faith in order to receive the blessings of God – material wealth, physical health, and other temporal gifts. With enough faith, all one must do is “claim” or “expect” the blessings he desires and God will provide them. If the blessings don’t follow the claim, then the faith of the believer is said to be deficient – sort of like trying to buy a can of soda from a soda machine using a counterfeit coin. Since the coin is counterfeit, the machine won’t dispense the drink. Does that sound like the God of Scripture to you? God is not our cosmic granter of wishes. We exist to give praise, honor, and glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Prosperity Gospel preachers tend to be very skilled in presenting their message. They speak with authority and charisma, often accompanied by colorful light displays, booming sound systems and emotional music. Todd Coontz, in preaching the message quoted earlier to a roomful of screaming admirers, was accompanied by organ music under full vibrato, as if that somehow validates his message. The package is quite attractive and the message is compelling on its surface; thus these teachers draw huge crowds. Jesus warned us about such teachers:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15 ESV

Is calling Prosperity Gospel teachers “false prophets” and “ravenous wolves” a bit harsh? I don’t think so. In preparing this piece, I visited the websites of several known Prosperity Gospel teachers, including Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen and others. Each website I visited offers a link to the teacher’s statement of faith. In a quick read, everything they say in their statement of faith appears copasetic with an orthodox teaching, but digging a bit deeper reveals the falsehood of their gospel. Benny Hinn’s statement of faith, for example, includes this statement,

“…all believers are entitled to, and should ardently expect, and earnestly seek, the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (bold text added for emphasis)

Sound good? Sure, it does! We Americans are some of the most “entitled” people in the world! No wonder people are flocking to this message in droves! Tie this statement of Hinn’s to his featuring Todd Coontz screaming “You have a Bible right…” on his home page and you have the Prosperity Gospel in a nutshell.

I have been burdened for the Christian Church in America for quite some time. As I read and learn more about the Prosperity Gospel, my burden is increased. Paul’s words to Timothy come to mind:

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:3-10 ESV

Many good and decent people have been drawn into the falsehood of the Prosperity Gospel. My heart breaks for them, for the true promise of God – the promise that our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross and that we believers will spend eternity in His presence – is not the focal teaching in Prosperity Gospel churches today.

What is your church teaching you? Is it teaching you that God wants you to be rich, and that your faith entitles you to wealth? Is it teaching you that lack of wealth and lack of good health are the result of a deficiency of your faith? As Coontz stated in the quote above, is your church teaching that you can be “…a millionaire for the sake of the Gospel?” Friend, if your church is teaching these things, please hear me loudly and clearly: That is NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ! If this is the teaching of your church, run through the nearest exit and never look back.

Here is the true Gospel: God created man in His image. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and has pervaded our existence ever since. Sin separates us from God, and because God is holy, righteous and just, He must punish all who are guilty of breaking His laws. But God is also loving, kind and merciful. Because He loves us so much, He sent His Son to die as the perfect atoning sacrifice for our sins. Only through faith in Jesus are we washed clean from the guilt of our sins, and only through Him are we given the hope of eternal life in God’s holy presence.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17 ESV

Jesus sacrificed Himself for you and for me, not so we can build wealth and gain earthly health, but so we can be saved for all eternity. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If this is the teaching of your church, you’re in the right place.

Ponder This: Which is truly the greater blessing: Health and wealth in this temporal life or life eternal in the presence our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your name is to be magnified through all the earth. Forgive our sins and grant us saving faith in the redemptive sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ. Open our eyes and our ears to Your Word. I pray for all who sit at the feet of those who preach a deceiving message. Give each of us discernment to recognize false teachings and lead those false teachers to true repentance. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Sources:

The Gospel Coalition

Got Questions.org

BibleStudyTools.com

Protection for the Godly ~ Jeremiah 14:1 – 15:21

“I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the Lord.” ~ Jeremiah 15:20

God continues to pour out His anger against Israel for rejecting Him and chasing after foreign gods. As He spells out the consequences for Israel’s sin, Jeremiah asks the Lord about prophecies being spoken – prophecies that contradict what God is saying through Jeremiah, “But I said, ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord! The prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.’” (14:13) I can only imagine the level of persecution Jeremiah was enduring. Here he is, rightfully prophesying God’s anger to Israel; certainly a prophesy that the people do not want to hear. In the other ear are false prophets reassuring the people that all is well.

What is God’s response? He assures Jeremiah that these prophets are not prophesying in God’s name; He did not send them. Their words are worthless. “Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.’” (14:14) God goes on to tell Jeremiah about the consequences that await such false prophets and the people who abide by their words.

Because he alone is standing on God’s Word, Jeremiah is a loner, rejected by the people and even threatened physically. In chapter 15, Jeremiah asks God “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.” (15:18) God reassures Jeremiah that He will restore him if he repents. God will protect him: “I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,’ declares the Lord.” (15:20) With a promise like that, surely Jeremiah was reassured and strengthened to continue standing firmly on God’s Word.

Our national discourse is rife with false prophets dispensing false teachings, and people within and outside the church are lapping them up like so many thirsty dogs. Christians who stand firmly on God’s Word are openly persecuted. The aim of the enemy, of course, is to silence us. As Jeremiah prophesied God’s Truth to Israel he was faced with a people that rejected God’s Word in exchange for the empty promises of false prophets speaking with no basis in Godly authority. His life was threatened, and here God promises to protect him.

Ponder this: Instead of giving in to persecution and being silenced, we too can stand firmly on God’s promise. Jesus said: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) That is good news indeed! Let us stand firmly upon God’s Word, faithfully resting in the knowledge and truth that this battle has already been won!

My Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, my heart aches for those who speak falsely and those who so eagerly lap up their false teachings. Awaken your church, Lord, and awaken our country. Strengthen those who speak the truth and lead us back to You through faithful preachers and teachers. Let me be a witness to Your eternal truth according to Your will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Trivialized Faith ~ Jeremiah 7:1 – 8:3

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” ~ Jeremiah 7:3-4

English: The lake you see in the picture is no...

English: The lake you see in the picture is not real. It is an inferior mirage that sometimes are seen in deserts. Photographed by Mila Zinkova in Primm, Nevada on April 4, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this passage, God spells out His wrath against Israel for having abandoned His ways in exchange for worship of foreign Gods. Israel is living a fearless and carefree life, and feels safe doing so as long as the temple is standing. They think they can do what they want, as long as they have the temple to go to and offer trivial praise to God at their convenience. They have bought into deceptive teachings and serve foreign gods to the point of putting God in the background.

God reminds Israel that He has already destroyed His first dwelling place in Shiloh and tells them He will also destroy the temple in Jerusalem – removing their security blanket sewn with words of deception and foreign gods of no truth. He will leave their bones exposed to the elements to rot. Unless Israel returns to the true God, she will not enjoy the benefits of the covenant carved out so many years ago.

As I read the book of Jeremiah I become increasingly aware of the inconsistencies in my own life. Have I trivialized my faith to the point at which I am a different person on Sunday morning than I am the rest of the week? And what about the church at large – have we become so enamored with society’s ways of thinking that we are crafting our doctrine around humanist “wisdom” rather than God’s eternal truth? Is the church becoming nothing more than a security blanket – something to turn to when the inevitable happens after we’ve abandoned God’s truth?

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

As we Christians ponder these questions, take heart: God still raises up faithful preachers and teachers of the Word! We must seek them out and stand with them on the rock-solid foundation of God’s Word. Let us lift them up in prayer, but let us also lift up in prayer those that are preaching and teaching deception and those who sit in their pews.

Ponder this: Has my church succumbed to the whims of societal viewpoints? Do I live out my faith each and every day?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from the consequences of our sins. And thank you for faithful preachers and teachers of Your Word. Give us the gift of discernment, that we may recognize false and deceptive teachings when we hear them and instead seek preachers and teachers who stand firmly on Your good and perfect Word. We also pray for those who have succumbed to false teachings: show them their error and move them to seek Your truth as You’ve revealed it in Your Holy Word. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Remaining Steadfast ~ Acts 22:30-23:35

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” ~ Acts 23:11

The Roman government takes some rather extraordinary measures to protect Paul, a Roman citizen. Seeking an understanding of the charges of the Jews, the commander brings Paul before the Sanhedrin so they can explain the charges and question Paul. But before they ask their very first question, Paul declares, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” (23:1) The chief priest orders another to slap Paul in the mouth, and Paul rebukes the chief priest. Paul then artfully turns the group on itself, Pharisee versus Sadducee, declaring, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” (23:6) The session erupts into a “great uproar” with Pharisees declaring they find nothing wrong with Paul as a group of 40 form a conspiracy and take an oath not to eat or drink until they kill Paul.

Paul’s nephew learns of the conspiracy, reports it to Paul, and then at Paul’s request to the Roman commander. The commander sends Paul to Caesarea under cover of night with military protection to be tried by Governor Felix. The journey to Caesarea is successful, and Governor Felix places Paul in protective custody until his accusers arrive to present their case against him.

I continue to be struck by Paul’s steadfast faith. Standing before the Sanhedrin, he does not waiver. In the face of a conspiracy against his life, he does not waiver. Paul knows that God is with him, and he knows that the Gospel is worth dying for, should that be God’s will.

Christians today face pressure from a different source. Our society scorns the Gospel. Believers are expected to mute the message of Scripture in order to fit into a secular system of norms and values. Those who resist or refuse face persecution, sometimes intense persecution. There are Christian churches that have given in to this pressure to various degrees. Others, like Paul, remain steadfastly faithful to God and His good and perfect will as revealed through Scripture. The divisions within the Church on these matters concern me deeply. False and watered-down doctrine gives the enemy a foothold as many believers and would-be believers are led down a dangerous road of deceitful false teaching. Jesus warned about this when He said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

Christians, we must faithfully pray for the Church, for fellow Christians who have been led astray by false or watered-down doctrine, and for our nation. As we pray, we must seize opportunities to share God’s Truth – the Gospel – as the Lord presents such opportunities to us.

Ponder this: Although the battle is ongoing, Jesus Christ has already won the war. How is God calling me to serve?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I lift up Your church and those in leadership within it. I pray that Your Word would be the sole authority for preaching and teaching, and that false teaching would be exposed and removed. I pray specifically for my pastor, our staff, and our teachers. Guide, direct, and bless them so that the Gospel is always at the forefront of our teachings. Help us, Lord, to stand steadfast on Your Word when persecution comes our way. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Fully Committed ~ Acts 20:1-38

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.~ Acts 20:24

The Farewell

The Farewell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the uproar in Ephesus, Paul and several companions depart. Paul’s ultimate destination is Jerusalem, but he makes several stops along the way. During a stopover in Miletus, Paul sent word to Ephesus for the elders of the church to meet him in Miletus. When they arrive, Paul recounts his witness to them, warns them of opposition that will arise both from outside and from within the church, and tells them they will never see him again.

I am struck by the wisdom from God that Paul displays. Paul’s unwavering dedication to God’s service and those who believe, his insight into how his trials and tribulations are worth suffering for God’s good purposes, and his love for those with whom he served are all noteworthy. The degree to which Paul lives these traits is not of his own accord – we see here the power and influence that God can have over a life that is fully committed to Him and we see how God can use such a committed servant to win many for the Gospel.

We also see throughout Paul’s ministry the constant attacks Satan levies against the Gospel and those who believe. Paul’s warning here to the elders must be heeded today as well:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (verses 28-30)

My heart breaks when I consider the thousands who have been misled through false, incomplete, or watered-down teaching and preaching. The savage wolves about which Paul warned the elders from Ephesus are active in the church today, and many have unwittingly succumbed to their false teachings. Christians, we must be in the Word. We must be in prayer. And if we hear false teaching in the church, we must speak out as God leads us. Stand firmly and boldly upon the foundation of the Gospel and be richly blessed.

Ponder this: God doesn’t call all of us to a missionary ministry as He called Paul; to what is He calling me? Am I willing?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for faithful servants like Paul and the apostles. Let me learn from them and be inspired by them, but more than that, fill me with your Holy Spirit and guide my footsteps that I might be fully committed to doing Your will in my life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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