It should not surprise that this fallen world, whose ruler is the prince of the power of the air and the father of lies, perfectly resembles characteristics found in the prophecy given for the end time: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
Paul the apostle foretold a time, when Christ’s second coming approaches, that people who claim to be followers of Jesus will no longer seek to understand or follow true doctrine. They will ignore rules given by God to tell them how their creator and Lord wants them to live. As a matter of fact, Paul prophesied that these people will be seduced into believing fables–fairy tales—rather than truth. We can certainly see that happening today, in a general sense. That is, the general population of much of the western world, at least, prefers fable to God’s truth from His love letter to mankind, the Bible.
Consider the “Harry Potter” books and movies. We received reports, upon each release of the books, that the lines of people waiting to buy the latest releases wrapped, in some cases, around entire city blocks. The hunger for occult-type entertainment far surpassed any desire to appropriate Christian or even wholesome secular fare in literature and other entertainment/informational material.
It is true that religious publishing enjoyed great interest/popularity in the “Left Behind” series of novels, and the self-help, “inspirational” books such as The Prayer of Jabez, The Purpose-Driven Church, and The Purpose-Driven Life. And Mel Gibson's movie. “The Passion of the Christ,” surprised the Hollywood moguls in box office draw numbers. However, these religious offerings were modest compared to the worldwide frenzy over the “Harry Potter” books and films.
Preference for Fables
This sort of love for things of the world has, of course, been true throughout the ages. But, Paul’s prophecy foretells a time when such preference for fables from the dark side will rage within God’s own family–believers in Jesus Christ. The inhabitants of earth demonstrably seek magical formulas, potions, and curses/spells from the dark side, rather than spiritual truth from the heavenly realm. To be sure, the “Harry Potter” novels/movies have captured the hearts and minds of huge numbers of believers. But, the most troubling “turning to fables” are the “strange doctrines” Christians are following today –false teachings against which the writer of Hebrews warned in Hebrews 13:9.
We can find programs devoted to these sort of fables every day and night on the TV cable channels across America, and on satellite channels across the world. The false teachers –some of these themselves true believers who have been seduced by the siren song of promised riches—lead their audiences toward the deadly shores of luciferian inward-turning lust for the wealth of this fallen world. The siren songs to which the false teachers/preachers turn the eyes and ears of their followers, in actuality, aren’t that different from the seduction offered by the purveyors of pure occultism. Just as those wizard makers of the occult sort appeal to the lust of their audiences, promising influence, power, and the achievement of whatever one wants if they seek other-worldly powers, the pied pipers of the name-it-and-claim-it crowd in religious circles promise God-guaranteed powers, wealth, and influence if they will but look inward to their god-likeness. After all, they proclaim, we are made in the image of god.
Bad Spiritual Medicine
These “god-makers” can come cloaked in the most fundamentally sound Biblical teaching. I have no doubt that many, perhaps most, of these teachers and preachers really believe what they teach and preach. They consider themselves validated, because, indeed, they are shining examples of the considerable wealth their ministries have provided for them personally.
They promise, ”give your money to God, and He will give it back a hundredfold.” And they use Scripture to back up this claim to heavenly riches. Where the rub becomes abrasive is when they fail to give the whole prescription found in God’s words on the matter of prosperity. These fablers use Scripture passages like a wizard might use a magic wand. They mesmerize their audiences with the glitter of their words and the show business tinsel that hypnotizes. They appeal to the lusts and greeds, for the most part leaving out God’s truth that their Lord wants His people to use His promises for outward turning, not for self-aggrandizement and wealth accumulation. The fablers give Scriptures like the following: ”Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (Jn. 14:12-14)
Jesus Our Slave?
All the prosperity purveyors will reveal in their sleight-of-hand presentations are the words: “And, If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”
Jesus has just obligated himself to do whatever God’s children ask of Him. The one requirement is that they ask it in His name. He has just promised that the child of God who asks in His name will receive whatever the child wants from the Lord. Moreover, Jesus just promised they will do even greater works than Jesus Himself did while here in the flesh.
Really? My question, then, is: Why are the hospitals still full? Why are mortuaries busy each and every day, if the Lord promised the children of God will have perfect health, do magic, and, most of all, be full of material prosperity?
A Rather Spooky Fable
An illustration of a story I heard is in order. It was “taught” as part of a prosperity-type message (a thing that is taught continually on this particular channel).
The preacher/teacher is head of a regional TV Christian network, as well as pastor of one of the largest churches in the city where it is located. I have to say one thing before retelling the story I heard him relate on two separate occasions: this man can and does preach and teach the Gospel very accurately. He even is a strong adherent to the Pre-Trib view of the rapture of the church. That is what makes his turning to fables so astounding.
I first heard him tell it in the 1992-1993 time frame. I know it was then, because I lost my father to cancer in October of 1992. So, the subjects of healing and death were heavily on my mind. The TV preacher was speaking on the Scripture above, or one similar, telling those of us watching/listening that whatever we said in Jesus’ name, we could do. We could have prosperity, perfect health, and even raise the dead. He told of an experience a friend told him about –a person with absolute integrity, of course. The friend told him that a man he knew (the story-teller’s friend) had died. The people were at the funeral home for visitation.
The TV pastor told how the friend related to him that a pastor they both knew walked into the funeral home viewing room. The man took a look at the coffin and the corpse it held. The pastor then announced to all of the people that the man was not supposed to be dead. The pastor reached in the coffin and pulled the dead person from the casket. He then sat the corpse up against a wall.
The pastor said, “In the name of Jesus, I say stand and walk!”
The corpse, according to the TV preacher, slumped over.
The pastor, undeterred, sat the body against the wall again. He repeated the command. The body slumped again.
The pastor repeated the procedure, this time shouting with increased vigor for the man to stand and walk.
The TV pastor said that his friend told him the corpse –still embalmed, one is left to suppose-- stood from his slumped position and walked from the room. There was no further information on where the corpse went, or what were the ramifications to the walking dead man’s family, friends, or society in general.
This was absolutely told as the truth, not as a joke.
I heard the same TV pastor retell the story at least 10 years later. Who could forget such a tale, coming from a well-respected TV minister? He used this and other stories as proof that his parishioners can be healthy, wealthy, and wise, if they will just have faith and open their bank accounts to fund God’s work. This was not a urban legend that required debunking by checking snopes.com. This was told by a Christian pastor who has a regional and satellite outreach of millions of viewers.
The World Scoffs–With Good Reason
When pastors of the Christian faith unabashedly engage in such fables, is it any wonder an on-looking world sees them telling about a man –who was also God—dying on a Roman cross to save them from their sin, then arising to life as just more myth-making?
Non-believers are quick to embrace stories of ghosts, goblins, witches, warlocks, and wizards. They will readily suspend disbelief to accept these lies from the pit of the nether regions. But, the world of lost people, all yearning –whether realizing it or not-- to fill the God-shaped void in their souls, turn in disgust –and rightfully so—from what their fallen senses correctly perceive as lies of a much more egregious nature.
Turning to fables is taking place today with a gusto that surely indicates it is the time of Paul's 2 Timothy chapter 4 prophecy. The world of lost people is reaching for occultic spiritual allurements, pushed in that direction to some extent by “Christian” ministries who are themselves putting forward the false teaching that God is obligated to make you healthy, wealthy and wise--if you will send the fable-makers your money.
God Doesn’t Need Help by Magicians
I’ve heard the same accusations many times when expressing my objections to the false teaching involved in the prosperity gospel so rampant today. Those who believe the "have faith in your faith –speak it into being" theology of selfism say that we who point out their false teaching and preaching are “putting God in a box.” By that, they mean we are limiting the Lord’s ability to perform miracles in today’s world.
No. That is not what we are doing. We believe that our Lord is not only not in a box; He made the box, owns the box, and needs not one of His human creations to perform His miracles. He did use his servants in apostolic times and before to perform miracles--always to perpetuate and put forth the Gospel in a mighty way.
If God performs miracles today in the same way, for example, He used Samson to slay 1,000 philistines with the jawbone of an ass, or used the apostles Peter and Paul to raise people from the dead, where is the credible documentation of the present-day miracles? Where is the legitimate, verifiable evidence?
In Jesus’ day and in the apostles’ day, thousands witnessed the miracles recorded in God’s Word –and even in some history antiquities. Today, there is not one such verifiable miracle. There are people who claim to see stigmata, or a statue crying here and there, or a picture of Jesus on a piece of toast. There are claims by the miracle-claiming TV ministries that there are healings of every sort, through their gifted hands. There are emotional stories, claims, and exultations over miraculous doings from around the world. But, not one piece of verifiable proof has been forthcoming.
As a matter of fact, one television network did a documentary investigation into the most famous of the TV healing ministries –Benny Hinn—and upon follow-up in seeking out those who were “healed” by Mr. Hinn laying on hands, or whatever, not one case proved legitimate. Not one!
Again, if these miracles were being done today, as they were performed by the apostles during their time, the hospitals would be empty and the morgues would have to shut down. Especially, the miracle workers, seems to me, would never die, nor would their followers, who believed, through their super-duper faith, in their miracles.
These pseudo- miracles and wonders of today are manifestations of Paul’s 2 Timothy prophecy. They are turning to fables and away from sound doctrine.
Does God perform miracles today? Yes! Absolutely! Does He perform them through men giving performances? No! Absolutely not!
The argument from the magician miracle workers and their followers is that they are done through the “gift” to prove Jesus saves. No. Jesus said that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after signs. The only sign of proof that the Lord Jesus was and is who He said He is, is God’s Word, who IS Jesus. His Word tells the gospel message –the Holy Spirit draws the individual who is lost, most often using the words of men to point to God’s Word. That men, women and children are saved–now THAT’s the miracle!
Truth About Jesus’ Wonderful Name
What, then, is the truth about Jesus’ words, about giving His followers the desires of their hearts, if they ask anything in His name? Indeed, the Lord did not speak in fables, but only in absolute truth. He did promise, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do…”
First, and foremost, the totality of God’s Word must be considered, when thinking on something that seemingly just doesn’t ring true. By that, I mean that we can look around us today and know with absolute certainty that the dead are not being raised, and the terminally ill are dying. More to the point in the matter of name-it-and-claim-it “theology,” the vast majority of those who believe they can be materially wealthy if they have enough faith are far from wealthy. In fact they are poorer than ever because they have sent their hard-earned money to the fable-makers, who indeed are wealthy!
Accidents and bad things happen even to great Christian men, and women, and even to little children, still in their innocence, so far as the age of accountability is concerned. Therefore, when Jesus says that He will grant us anything in His name, and today’s “miracle” workers” are not producing even one verifiable “miracle,” there is a serious disconnect --Jesus’ promises, from the contemporary “miracle workers’” inability to get things done through their miracle-and-wonders ministry efforts.
And, what about the worried but faithful Christian mother and father who pray with all their hearts, in Jesus’ Holy Name, that their terribly sick baby live, only to have the baby taken from them by death? Has Jesus reneged on His Promise: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do…”? Again, to find truth, we must look at the matter at hand in its scriptural context, not just take a single phrase, sentence, or even several paragraphs, and invent a doctrine out of whole cloth, and say it is from God’s Holy Word.
In the case of the name-it-and-claim-it prosperity/miracle-working doctrines of these days that are filled with fables, for brevity’s sake, we will look at a specific statement by Jesus that sums and encapsulates the entire context of the matters involved: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:33).
The Lord had just spent time explaining how God takes care of even things of nature. That God’s children should be anxious for nothing. God knows how to take care of His creation, especially His creation called man. God will, Jesus said, provide all things necessary for journeying through this life. Nowhere in this great principle does Jesus say He promises great material wealth, freedom from health problems, or miracle cures of an ecstatic nature, through some miracle healer.
God will add to the lives of all people who seek first His kingdom and righteousness, the necessities to sustain life, for as long as He decides to grant life, which is a thing, at any rate, predetermined –by Him. (Jesus holds the key to death and hell, the Scripture says.)
God’s Word says elsewhere that there is a time to be born, to love, to laugh, to cry, and to die. Our job is to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. This is what brings His blessings. They include the basic necessities until we die, when we honor those requirements. What, then, are God’s "kingdom" and "righteousness"? This gets to the heart of what Jesus promises in saying, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do…”
God’s entire economy for humankind is built upon seeking to save out of fallen mankind a people to be His family for all eternity. He is presently redeeming those who accept the once-and-for-all sacrifice Christ made on the cross for the sins of the human race. It is only through Jesus Christ that God the Father sees anyone as reconciled to himself, thus worthy to enter the heavenly realm at the rapture, or at death.
His kingdom, then, is heaven. All creation is His, because He made everything. But, Scripture indicates that for a time He awaits taking full control of this fallen planet. But, take control He will!
The great drama written by Him through His omniscience must run its course. But there is no doubt about who stands victorious in the last act: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).
God’s kingdom is where He will rule and reign forever. His righteousness is Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son –the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
When God’s children pray in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ, that child is indeed promised the desires of his or her heart. But, praying in Jesus’ name means you are submitting to His will and turning your own wants over to Him. You are saying, “You know what is best, Lord." Like when Jesus surrendered to becoming that sin sacrifice on the cross, you are –if you truly pray in the name of your Lord—saying, "not my will, but thine be done.”
Asking for things in the name of God’s Son means that we want Him to rule and reign in our lives. We seek no self-aggrandizement. We seek only to lift the name of Christ before a lost and dying world. By asking in the name of Jesus, we are asking that He make our desires come into conformance with His desires.
Any other view of God’s dealing with His children is pure fable –fiction of the most deceptive sort. To leave this profound truth out of sermons or lessons as they are preached and taught, replacing the truth with fables that God wants to bless by giving us the desires of our own thoughts, and all one has to do is have faith that He will bless, is a horrendous lie to perpetrate upon vulnerable children of God who already struggle mightily to overcome the lusts with which they are confronted by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The prescription to avoid turning to fables during this treacherous end-time era is to first look upward, then turn outward, not inward. At every point in life, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.