Archive for the 'Faith' Category

Jan 09 2007

What is True Faith

Published by under Faith

Jesus for Sale: The Prosperity Doctrine Heresy

Have you ever noticed that when you undertake a project, regardless of what the project is, that your greatest opposition will often come from those that you are closest to? That same principle can be applied to God’s people when you begin to address issues that are a little too close to home. I have found that one of the issues that falls into this category is a topic that I refer to as “The Prosperity Doctrine Heresy.”

This heretical teaching, which is becoming increasingly popular in some of our churches, can be effectively broken down into a number of sub-topics that we will cover shortly. However, prosperity doctrine itself can be loosely defined as a style of teaching that would lead God’s people to believe that it is always God’s sovereign will for His people to have the best of everything and that God would never have any part in any difficulties that may arise in our Christian lives.

The idea that some of the difficulties that come into our lives may be a direct attempt by the Lord to train, teach, correct, and shape His people is completely rejected. It is always Satan that has robbed them and not God trying to train them. The catastrophic result of this theology is that no matter how hard the Lord might try to draw our attention to something, it will always be viewed as an attack by the enemy. This teaching usually goes on to explain that all the desires, or lusts, of our heart are ours for the taking if we simply hold to a few basic principles.

These principles almost always include two foundational concepts. These ridiculous concepts have been entitled, “Financial Seed Sowing” and “Positive Confession.”

Financial Seed Sowing is an increasingly popular theology that basically claims that blessings from God, whether material physical or emotional, are directly related to the giving of monetary funds to a particular pastor, group, or organization.

Submission to this lie promises health, wealth, and prosperity. Rejection of this blasphemy can incur unmentionable curses to the disobedient. It should also be noted that according to this theology our seed sowing establishes a covenant contract that our Sovereign Lord is mandated to keep. One of the favorite passages, if not the chief cornerstone in this scripture twisting mind game, is Malachi 3:8-11, which reads;

Malachi 3:8-11
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.

In short, according to the financial seed sowing advocates, this means that when we give money God has to pay us back. Now, exactly who is the master here and who is the servant? Even though we will discuss Malachi chapter 3, and some of the other verses that are used to support prosperity doctrine later on in this letter, it should be noted here that Malachi was not addressing financial giving.

Since the Levitical Priesthood had no land inheritance of their own, the Mosaic Law required the Israelites to bring a tenth of their crops to the storehouse so the Levite Priests would have food. This is the same Mosaic Law that mandated circumcision, clean and unclean foods, animal sacrifices, religious festivals etc.

Positive Confession is fairly self-explanatory. The general idea is to engage in verbal, vain repetition of confessing and thanking God for whatever desire, or need, we may have. Believers are instructed to “speak those things that are not as though they are.”

Now, it should be noted that positive confession inevitably follows on the heels of financial seed sowing for a very good reason. You see, once people have given financial support to these con artists the expected blessings do not materialize. So, the idea is to buy time. Here we can see that, once again, scripture twisting slides right in.

The passage in Hebrews 11:1 which reads, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” can be used to draw the duped believer’s false hope out indefinitely. If you’ve planted your financial seed and are “confessing the Word” God has to answer your prayer and pay you back. Now, I am sure that I am not the only one who sees how ridiculous this teaching is.

Before we go further into this study, let me take a couple of minutes to try and explain why I seem to come at some of the issues I address in here with an aggressive attitude. First of all, for those that know me it would be almost impossible for me to hide the fact that I have a strong personality. Now, as long as that part of me is continually subjected to the Lord it can be an attribute. Often times I have found that our greatest strengths can also be a weakness when not harnessed properly. For example, King David was a very passionate man. History reveals to us that this part of his character was also a liability when not properly maintained.

The second reason I tend to be aggressive has to do with the seriousness of the issues that I deal with. And when people get it in their mind that they wish to subscribe to some absurdity, it usually takes a pretty hard knock on the door to get their attention. Some would say; “What’s that to you?” “Is it any of your business?” Yes, it is and it’s your business too. Once you’ve been at the receiving end of doctrinal heresy and watched helplessly as God’s people fumble to pick up the broken pieces you’ll understand.

With love in my heart, I would like to expound just a little on some of the situations that I have observed concerning prosperity doctrine. The following issues can be directly related to the destructiveness of the prosperity doctrine philosophy.

Failed Relationships:
Myth: “Thank you Father God that I have a husband that is good looking, has a great career, and thinks I am the greatest thing since Chicago style pizza.” “After all, God does want me to be happy in my marriage.” “I’ll just keep sowing my seed and thanking God for my perfect husband.”

Reality: After several years of marriage to a man that expresses zero interest in the things of God and pays little or no attention to his wife, the wife continues to sow her greed seed and confess positively even though bitterness is eating her alive. Whatever happened to the idea of seeking the Lord for a man that, above all else, would fear and love God in his heart?

Failed Finances:
Myth: “I have been sowing my seed and thanking God for a material harvest.” “The scriptures say to give and it will be given to you, shaken together, pressed down, and running over.” “My God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” “It is His good pleasure to give me these things.”

Reality: Regardless of the years of financial struggle, credit card debt, having to rely on relatives to keep them afloat, and living in run down neighborhoods, these people still vehemently defend the very “pastors” that are taking advantage of them. Few of us are without financial struggle and there are times when the Lord will direct us to be sacrificial in a certain area and then reward us for it, but the Lord does not owe it to us. Nor is He obligated to pay us back for anything. God is a good God and He has always looked after His own, but the simple truth of the matter is that we are not even promised tomorrow. See James 4:13-16

Health Issues:
Myth: “I’m just confessing the Word that my body is healed.” “The scripture says that by His stripes we are healed.” “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” “I planted my seed and now I’m confessing His Word.” “If God’s lyin, then I’m dyin.”

Reality: Stick around for a while. Eventually, you will die. There will come a day when all the confessing in the world won’t keep you from leaving this world. The health issues I have seen in these people run the gamut from cancer and diabetes, to heart issues and the inability to have children. The love that my wife and I share for them is great, but when I begin to address the prosperity doctrine beliefs they hold to I find myself standing at the gallows. Exactly how long will it take for these people to realize that the hand of God is not ours to command?

Outside of the Great Commission that we all share to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world, each one of us has individual callings and ministries. Some of us are teachers; some are pastors, elders, deacons, etc. My particular area, one that which burns in my heart continually, is the long-term welfare of God’s people. And when I have sat and watched for months, and years, as some of God’s people are lured down a path that can be detrimental to their eternity I am compelled at some point to address it. Inevitably, I have found that it is usually those that get the most offended that will end up in our living room at some point crying their eyes out because of some misunderstanding they have had regarding the Word of God.

The blame for this usually falls onto one of two sides. On one side there are certain men who are in spiritual authority over God’s people that are only seeking to benefit themselves. These men are extremely dangerous and it is perfectly biblical to expose them. The scriptures in 1st Timothy are very true and read;

1st Timothy 6:3-10
3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

In this passage in 1st Timothy, Paul tells Timothy that men that teach that godliness is a means to financial gain are conceited and understand nothing. How contrary this scripture is to what these “faith teachers” are telling us.

At the other end of this calamity lies the blunt but simple fact that some people desire to be deceived. You see, the simple truth of the gospel is that it is centered on the cross and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t get anymore complicated than that, nor does it get anymore comfortable than that.

There are a lot of promises in the Word of God, but very few of them will apply to all situations. For example, the same God that said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”, John 14:14, also told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2nd Corinthians 12:9.

Now, here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Some people like to be duped because the simplicity of the cross is not comfortable enough for them. 2nd Timothy 4:1-4 reads;

2nd Timothy 4:1-4
4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men 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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Throughout my entire life, twenty plus years of being recommitted to God, and my continued study of His Word, the ONLY promise that I have found that can be categorically applied to all people for all time is salvation from our sin through faith in the Son of God. Whenever any preacher or pastor spends more time trying to indoctrinate you with anything else, he is a devil. Get away from him as quickly as you can. Walk out the door and don’t even look back.

Positioning ourselves in a place where taking up our cross is no longer the primary desirable aspect of serving the Lord will effectively open up a plethora of opportunities for the enemy to draw us down the wrong path. My experience in this area of ministry has led me to make note of some of the most common results that accompany the abandonment of our primary goal, which should entail being broken, submissive, and humble before our Holy Lord.

The following is a short list of some of those results: Covetousness, Idolatry, Envy, Greed, Drunkenness, Sexual Misconduct, and Bitterness. A parallel passage for this can be found in 2nd Timothy 3:1-5.

2nd Timothy 3:1-5
3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with them.

Now apart from being human and making mistakes as all believers do, I think you will agree that the above listed items should not be a regular mainstay in our Christian lives. But when we drift away from the cross and begin to place our Christian focus on a self-serving God, whose primary purpose for existence has been reduced to fulfilling our every whim, the aforementioned sins are exactly where we end up.

That is why I come against certain issues with aggressiveness. It is an attempt to get believers to open their eyes and get back to where we all started, at the foot of the cross, hoping and trusting in our Lord for all things but expecting only salvation. That is where true faith lies.

Someone once asked, “How do you define confessing the Word?” Well, let me first tell you how I don’t define confessing the Word. Confessing the Word IS NOT defined as continuously spouting off vain repetitions for the purpose of obtaining our desires. The Word of God has never been a tool by which we can extract “things” from God. In the book of 2nd Timothy, Paul explains what the intended purpose of scripture is.

2nd Timothy 3:15-17
15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Paul is very clear here that the purpose of scripture is to make us wise for salvation and to line us up with God’s way of doing things, not vice versa. Unless I am mistaken, I have failed to see in the preceding verse, or any other verse for that matter, where it says that the Word of God was intended to be a tool that we can use to make God give us things. On the contrary, I do see on multiple occasions where the Bible explicitly states that God still rules in sovereignty over the affairs of men. Consider the following verses for example.

Ecclesiastes 7:13-14
13 Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? 14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.

Romans 9:14-21
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

James 4:13-16
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.

Exodus 4:11-12
11 The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Job 38:1-13
38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-
7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’? 12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, 13 that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?

Job 42:1-6
42:1 Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted. 3[You asked,] ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4[”You said,] ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Actually, the entire book of Job is a testament to the sovereignty of God and I could list more passages but I think the point is adequately made concerning this subject. So, what is faith and what does it mean to confess the Word?

The book of Hebrews does give us some interesting insight into biblical faith even though the prosperity doctrine advocates have taken Hebrews 11:1, along with several other passages, out of context. In order for us to gain an accurate explanation of biblical faith let’s take a closer look at the verses surrounding Hebrews 11:1.

For those that are unaware, the chapters and verses that are assigned to scripture were added in to aid us in our study of the Bible. The beginning or ending of a chapter does not necessarily mean the starting or stopping of a particular point that the writer is trying to make. With that in mind I would like to begin at the end of Hebrews chapter 10 and read though chapter 11 in its entirety.

Hebrews 10:32-11:40
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while,
“He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Hebrews 11
11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age-and Sarah herself was barren-was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated- 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

First of all, did you see anywhere in the preceding verses where these people were “believing” God for a big house on the hill, a bank full of money, or a fine luxury car? Secondly, please note that in verses 13 and 39 the writer of Hebrews belabors the point that many of these people never received their promise in this life? And yet he referred to them as people of faith.

Now, according to the “Greed Seed” religion and the “Positive Confession” doctrine that is being promoted by the “faith teachers”, how is this possible? It is possible because they were looking forward to something that God wanted to do, not what they wanted to do!

Faith is not defined as believing that God will do what you say. Faith is believing that God will accomplish His specific will in your life! If that means suffering for His sake then so be it. If that means getting to live in America where we have exuberant freedom to worship Him, so be it. If that means living in a country where that freedom does not exist, so be it. We hope, we pray, and we trust for all things. But the ONLY promise that can be categorically applied to all people for all time is salvation through the Son of God. That is what we place our faith and trust in and that is how I define confessing the Word of God. He will accomplish His specific plan for our lives if we allow Him to.

It is at this time that some may wonder why a loving God would allow his people to go through the kind of difficulties that are recorded in Hebrews chapter 11. Well, the answer to that can be found in chapter 12. Let’s take a look at the text.

Hebrews 12:1-17
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

The 12th chapter of Hebrews states very clearly that hardship can often times be an attempt by the Lord to discipline and train us so that holiness and righteousness may be produced in our lives. The writer goes on to encourage us to be holy and to be careful of bitterness. To give further support to this principle, Paul, in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, also touched on this issue. Let’s take a look.

2nd Corinthians 4:7-12
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

2nd Corinthians 12:7-10
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It is my hope that the preceding verses and topics may help give some of us a fresh perspective regarding true biblical faith and blessings. God does answer prayer and I am fully convinced that He desires good things for His people. However, His hand is not ours to manipulate. We are His to manipulate for His own good will and purpose. We would all do well to remember that when we come before Him with our needs and desires.

We have now come to a point where, for the sake of this letter, I would like to move onto some of the sub-topics that I made mention of at the beginning of this chapter. These topics have to do with some of the integral issues associated with the prosperity doctrine teaching.

SUB TOPICS
What is Tithing?
Who are the Beneficiaries?
What are the Dangers?
What is Biblical Prosperity?

What is Tithing? Tithing was part of the Mosaic Law that was given to the people of Israel in the Old Testament. As I stated before, this is the same Mosaic Law that mandated circumcision, clean and unclean foods, religious festivals, and animal sacrifices. There are a few items that need addressing with regards to the idea of a mandated tithe for New Testament believers. One of them is the fact that if you are going to require a tithe from New Testament Christians, you are going to have to reinstitute the rest of the Mosaic Law. You can’t require part of the law and then leave the rest behind. This would mean that we would not be able to eat certain foods, all male children would have to be circumcised, we would be required to observe all of the religious festivals, and we would need to purchase animals without spot or blemish for sacrificial purposes.

Another issue that we need to cover is the simple fact that the tithe was not related to money. The tithe had to do with the fruits of harvest. This food was brought to the Levitical Priests because they had no land inheritance. The tithe was their inheritance for working in the temple. For reference, please read Numbers 18:20-24.

There are a few scriptures that some have used to try and validate New Testament tithing. The most common one is found in Malachi 3:8-11. Since we have already reviewed this passage previously I will simply list it for reference. As we have just covered however, the passage in Malachi cannot be used as a required standard of giving for God’s people today. Nor did the Old Testament tithe relate to monetary giving. Another scripture that I have heard used to support tithing is found in Matthew 23:23. It reads;

Matthew 23:23
23″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

There are two important things that we need to understand about this passage. The first is that Jesus referred to the giving of food items, not money, which is in keeping with the Old Testament requirements. The second item that needs to be understood is that Jesus was addressing these Pharisees according to the covenant that they were operating in. The death and resurrection of Christ issued in the new covenant that we all enjoy today.

The New Testament has a lot to say regarding finances, the love of money, and financial giving for the believer. Howbeit, the giving is completely voluntary and not a requirement. With the intention of not getting too sidetracked in this letter, I am going to list some passages that you can review at your leisure. One comment I would like to make, in keeping with the focus of our main topic, is in regards to who the beneficiaries are when it comes to our giving. We will talk about that next. Here are the passages for your reference.

1st Corinthians 16:1-2
16:1 Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

2nd Corinthians 9:6-7
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2nd Corinthians 8:1-5
8:1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.

Luke 6:38
38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

1st Timothy 6:17-19
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Luke 18:23-25
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, 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.”

Luke 12:15
15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Matthew 6:24
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

2nd Timothy 3:1-5
3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with them.

NOTE: Please observe from the previous passages that even though God will bless us for our giving, the scriptures caution us against placing our hope in money and emphasize that our lives should not be centered around our possessions. How wonderful it would be if the prosperity doctrine teachers would take this to heart.

Let’s move on now to our 2nd sub-topic.

Who are the Beneficiaries? I think it is rather obvious that the prosperity doctrine teaching would never have gotten off the ground if it were not benefiting someone. From my perspective, it is certainly not those who are giving that are reaping the material harvest. It appears to me that it is only those that are passing the offering plate that are getting blessed. By taking advantage of the Lord’s beloved people these men are storing up judgment for themselves. Of them the scriptures state:

2nd Peter 2:1-3
2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

1st Timothy 6:3-5
3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

Jude 11-13
11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
12 These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm-shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted-twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

It seems to be getting more and more common these days for many of our churches to gradually shift their focus from the Cross of Calvary to a God of material blessings. I am not against having nice things and I hold to the belief that God is not against it either. But what is our focus? Exactly what are we placing our faith in? Are we placing our hope in the risen Christ or are we merely placing faith in what He can do for us?

When the apostle Paul made the statement, “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” Romans 3:31, he was not talking about matters of circumcision of the flesh or the paying of tithes that have no bearing on new covenant believers. He was talking about matters of righteousness.

“So, what are you getting at?” What I am getting at is that the laws of righteousness and holy living should still be alive and well in our hearts and lives. This idea of placing our hope in a God of material blessings is nothing more than idolatry. And the men that promote this sin among God’s people are simply playing on the natural lust of the flesh.

What are the Dangers?
Some of the dangers associated with this theology have already been touched on. Broken marriages, failed finances, health issues, unanswered prayer, and embitterment are all too common. But some of the other dangers, such as failing to abide in the grace of God, may not be so apparent.

Let me see if I can illustrate. Earlier in this letter I commented that when we allow our focus to drift away from the cross we open ourselves up to the wiles of the enemy. I am going to reiterate this position now by showing one of the major tools that Satan uses to accomplish this. Once the trap has been sprung and the Lord’s people have given ground to the titillating concept of serving a God that caters to us, instead of us catering to Him, it quickly becomes very logical to conclude that nothing could ever separate us from His grace.

It is at this point that Calvinism, or some refer to it as Unconditional Eternal Security, begins to find a comfortable niche in many of our churches. We now have a recipe for disaster. When you combine “Once Saved Always Saved” theology with Prosperity Doctrine and Positive Confession you have in effect become your own God. It is now you who will decide what is right and what is wrong. It is now you who decides what God will give you. It is now you who decides what direction is best for your life. And all the while we claim to be operating under the blessing of our Holy and Sovereign Lord.

This is absolute absurdity! I sincerely hope and pray that we will turn away from these teachings and begin to grow into mature Christians. “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:14-15

What is Biblical Prosperity?
In closing, I think it would be appropriate for us to review what the Bible regards as prosperity. However, I think we should first realize what is not listed as Biblical prosperity. Let’s look at a couple of quotes from Jesus himself.

Luke 12:15
15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Matthew 6:19-21
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Since the Lord went out of His way to explain that our lives do not consist in the abundance of material things, exactly what does God consider to be true wealth? I believe 1st Timothy provides a good answer.

1st Timothy 6:6-12
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In verse 6, Paul tells Timothy that godliness with contentment is great gain. With regards to material possessions, the apostle simply states that we should be content with food and clothing. He then goes onto to warn us once again about the love of money and redirects Timothy to pursue righteousness. I believe this passage provides an excellent illustration of true wealth, that being godliness with contentment. These verses also fit in very well with Matthew 6:19-21 where Jesus told us to store up treasure for ourselves in heaven.

In these last few lines I would like to reemphasize my desire for the prosperity doctrine proponents and their followers to go back to the beginning and do the first works over.

Revelation 2:4-5
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Revelation 2:7
7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

 

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