“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” (2 Timothy 4:3).
One of the strongest signs that this is the last generation is the dramatic rise in apostasy within Christianity. The increasingly severe nature of this Christian apostasy indicates that the end of this age is rapidly approaching.
We are all by this point familiar with the prosperity gospel and it is a phenomena that is unique to our generation alone. It is a “seeker sensitive” model of church growth and leadership stating that only the things which appeal to Christians should be taught from the pulpit.
This means that only the things that appeal are included in church services, all spiritual needs or edification are omitted in favor of short term satisfaction and a general sense of “feeling good about ourselves.” Boring old songs—gone; long difficult sermons—gone; Bible study—gone; prayer—gone; sin—gone.
This erosion of God’s Word starts usually with young, dynamic and charismatic pastors going into the community to find out what people find most offensive about the church, and this cause of offense is simply removed from church services and replaced by things that congregations do want to hear about.
Great worship groups with catchy praise songs; short snappy twenty minute sermons more inclined to the psychology of nurturing positive self-perceptions and achieving success; no boring, difficult to understand exegesis of Scripture (this is outdated anyway), and definitely no teaching on or conviction of sin.
To preach on sin would send them away in droves.
The prosperity gospel is without question successful and boasts churches with some of the largest week by week congregations in the world. However, the reason why the prosperity gospel is so wildly successful is because it requires no conviction to believe in it. The prosperity gospel does not require any regeneration.
The churches with prosperity gospel preachers are packed week in, week out because they offer the people what they already desire in their flesh, so there is no challenge, there is no conviction or repentance. There is no regeneration or reconciliation to God. There is no new life.
The prosperity gospel fulfils and meets the desires and aspirations of this life, it does not meet the needs of the life to come. The prosperity gospel is about satisfying the needs of the flesh, not the spirit. It is about having, “Your best life now” not in setting sights on the world to come as Jesus taught. It is not about spiritual rebirth through the Holy Spirit.
I followed for one week on Twitter one of the most “successful” pastors on the planet and here is a selection of his tweets from just one short period;
• “Struggle and lack are not your destiny. That’s temporary. The rain of abundance is coming.”
• “You’re not inconveniencing God by believing big. He’s the one that put the dream in your heart.”
• “You have no excuse to give up on your dreams. You have what it takes to become all that you were created to be.”
• “Don’t get discouraged; there’s something better for you. Today declare by faith, ‘I’ll see an abundance of goodness.’”
• “This is your time. Your sorrow will turn to joy, loneliness into love, lack into plenty. You’ll get beauty for ashes.”
“I’ll see an abundance of goodness?” Really? What about those Christians being butchered at this very moment in the Middle East by ISIS? Is their “time” also right around the corner? What about the people scattered all over the world, ardent followers in Jesus who struggle just to put food on the table for their wives and families? Is it just that they aren’t “believing big” enough?
What about the multitudes sleeping on concrete floors because of poverty, losing jobs because of the economic depression, fighting through life-threatening illnesses themselves or with beloved family members? Is their lack of faith the cause of the blight in their lives? Of course not, and it grieves God that people would so misrepresent Him and His Word.
The prosperity gospel is all about the flesh. It is about achieving satisfaction now, getting exactly what you want and living as you desire with no concern for sin and no consideration of God. In the prosperity gospel Man in his own heart becomes God.
Jesus, by contrast could not be further away from this gospel. Jesus said:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13).
Folks look around you, if the aisles are packed and you are crammed in at the seams then you are probably entering through the wrong gate!
By contrast Jesus describes those who will find salvation, “…but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14).
These apostate churches mention Jesus in passing but he is not the Jesus of the gospels, he is “another Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:4). And as a consequence, the Son of God does not know them and the day they stand before Jesus they will petition the King:
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’” (Matthew 7:22).
Jesus points out that it won’t be a few who say this to him, but many.
One day (equally as terrifying), the pastors teaching this unbiblical gospel will be held accountable to God,
“Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman… whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand” (Ezekiel 13:17-18).
That this great falling away should happen in my lifetime fills me with conflicting emotions.
Hope, because it means that Jesus’ return for his Bride is close at hand and as commanded, “…when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near” (Luke 21:28). This far reaching apostasy is a clear indicator of how late the hour really is.
On the other hand, there is a feeling of hopelessness and genuine grief over the multitudes that will stand before Jesus only for Him to say, “… I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS’” (Matthew7:23).
Anathema to the prosperity gospel is the notion that living a life for Jesus is not just about taking him as Savior, but about dying to sin every day for His sake, too. It is about taking Jesus and then going with Him into that tomb and emerging from it a new creation made in the likeness of God’s own Son.
It is about dying to our own selfish desires and wants and putting Jesus first as the true King in our lives. It is about allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us, guide us and anoint us to His work, not to empower us to fulfill our own lusty, fleshy desires for wealth and success. This is what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 15:31 when he said that, “I die daily.” Paul means to die daily to self.
Where is the genuine conviction of sin to be found in any of these prosperity gospel mega- churches?
Without this conviction of sin how can there be forgiveness of sins and regeneration in Jesus Christ, our Lord? Jesus himself said “blessed are those who mourn,” talking about those who have a broken heart and are mourning over their own sin, realizing sin to be sin in their lives and then running to Him with that burden.
Jesus, in response tells those of us genuinely burdened by our own sin, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew11:28).
The “prosperity gospel,” the “word of faith” movement or “seeker sensitive” models of church leadership use God in unbiblical ways to achieve their desires. The Bible teaches us that it is in fact God who uses the believer to accomplish His good will. These models teach that the Holy Spirit is a power to be used and commanded to achieve whatever the believer wants.
The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is a unique person who enables the believer to fulfill God’s desires in their own lives, not the other way around.
Paul himself warned about corrupt preachers bringing corrupt influences into the early church. He also warned, very specifically, that the pursuit of money is dangerous for Christians;
“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 grief’s” (1 Timothy 6:10)
Jesus Himself warned:
“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” (Matthew 19:24).
In Hebrews Chapter 11 Paul describes the Bible’s “Hall of Famers,” men who… “were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated…” (Hebrews 11: 35-37)
Paul concludes, “…the world was not worthy of them…” (Hebrews 11:38) yet according to the standards of the prosperity gospel they were all failures.
These heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, “…did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
This is how we should be living, as strangers living in a foreign land because our citizenship lies not on earth, but in Heaven. Every day should be grasped for Jesus, not for ourselves.
We should be as these heroes were, “…longing for a better country—a heavenly one.” This attitude pleases God, “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16)
My aspiration and my hope also resides in that heavenly city. I want to stand before Jesus and have Him say to me, “‘well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
Jesus tells us that “He who overcomes will inherit all this; I will be his God and he will be my Son” (Revelation 21:7). And how do we overcome? Is it through wealth or success? Is it through pastoring a huge church or having vast international audiences on multiple Christian television stations? Is it through tithing huge amounts each month?
“Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5) “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
My hopes and desires for myself, for my family and for you if you read this is that your aspirations also reside in that time yet to come when we will see the Lord face to face:
“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).
Life is not about the accumulation of “stuff” and mankind was not meant to chase after these things. Man was created for one purpose, to have fellowship with the Creator God, and to worship Him. As a result of sin that relationship can only happen now through believing Jesus Christ, God’s Son—died in your place to pay the penalty for your own sins.
That is how your relationship with God starts and this is how you overcome the world, through this faith. That is how you have the most precious thing of all, peace with God.
“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 neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6: 19-20).