The prosperity gospel has taken a strong root in our country and is being exported to the nations of the world. Jesus told us, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-16). This message examines the “fruits” of this “gospel” and the churches and preachers who proclaim it.
No Other Gospel Part 3
The Gospel of Christ vs. the Prosperity Gospel
Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Aug. 6th, 2017
- So far in this short series, we have looked at Jesus’ message to the Church in Laodicea and we have talked about the reasons why this subject is important and what our response should be to false gospels and false prophets according to scripture: Watch out for them (Matt 7:15-16), Be alert for them (Acts 20:29-31), Avoid them (Rom 16:17-19), Have nothing to do with them (2 Tim 3:1-5), Do not partner with them (Eph 5:5-7), Expose them (Eph 5:8-12).
- We have defined the prosperity gospel and looked at 5 significant theological errors the prosperity gospel is built upon 1. The Abrahamic covenant is a means to material entitlement. Jesus’s atonement extends to the “sin” of material poverty and promises physical healing. 3. Christians give in order to gain material compensation from God.
4. Faith is a self-generated spiritual force that leads to prosperity. 5. Prayer is a tool to force God to grant prosperity.
- We also talked about the philosophy and leadership style of “theocracy” used to shield themselves from questions and critics.
- Let’s again examine what Jesus told us:
Matt 7:15-20 ESV
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
- Today, we are going to examine the “fruit” of the prosperity gospel, the type of people this theology creates, and the results of this “gospel”.
The fruit of the prosperity gospel
When I use the word “Christian” here, I use is loosely.
- Christians who are almost Christian
- Moralistic therapeutic deism (Click here for article) (Book: Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church by Kenda Creasy Dean)
- Moral liberalism
- Nice people vs. godly people
- Rapid societal decay
- Christians who misrepresent and marginalize God
- Take the glory of God for themselves and make mankind the center of the gospel vs Christ. They twist the very word of God to serve their own passions and desires.
- Keep people away from the real gospel
- Christians who are entitled, self-centered and shallow
- They think they deserve everything for nothing
- Parable of the seeds
Luke 8:13-14 ESV
And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.
- Christians who commit spiritual suicide
- 1 Tim 6:7-10 ESV
for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 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. 10 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.
- Christians who believe suffering is an intrusion instead of an instrument
- The Christian, of all people, should know that suffering is part of the Christian life (Jn. 15:20; Phil 1:29). We follow a Savior who was crucified after all! The prosperity thinking has shaped our thinking to see that suffering is an intrusion in our lives. “Why is this happening? How could God let this happen?” These are questions that operate from a position of privilege and biblical ignorance. It is happening because we live in a fallen, broken world. But, it is also happening because God uses suffering to strengthen and sanctify his people. He makes us more like Jesus through our suffering (Jam. 1:2-4; Rom. 5:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:6-9; Heb. 5.7; etc.). Far from an intrusion, suffering is an instrument from God for our good and his glory. How do you view suffering? https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/erikraymond/2015/10/01/the-prosperity-gospel-has-gone-viral/
- Imagine you’re driving to church on a cold, rainy Sunday morning. To your dismay, you get a flat tire. What is your immediate thought? “God, really? I’m going to church. Isn’t there some drug dealer or abusive husband you could have afflicted with a flat tire?” That’s the prosperity gospel.
- Or maybe you don’t get that promotion at work, your child gets sick, or you’re unfairly criticized at church. The result? You get mad at God because you were overlooked, troubled, or disparaged. That’s the prosperity gospel.
- The very thought that God owes us a relatively trouble-free life, and the anger we feel when God doesn’t act the way we believe he is supposed to act, betrays a heart that expects God to prosper us because of our good works. That’s the prosperity gospel.
- Christians who are unwilling to serve and suffer
- Weak and self-gratifying churches
- Convenient Christianity – or things that feel good – there are always more people at a party than a prayer meeting . . .
- People look for a church that is the perfect place for us rather than the faithful place to God . . .
- Weak and self-gratifying churches
- Christians who are unwilling to complete the great commission
- The Millennial Missionaries Video (John Crist)
- Prosperity preaching inhibits people from reaching those who are the hardest to reach. Places that people are butchered and killed, raped and burned – who is going to go there? The product of prosperity preachers? The people who are going to go are those who have been taught that to follow Christ is to love Him, obey him, love what He loves, hate what He hates and to suffer for greater good
- Damnation of the lost
- Christians who victimize the poor and glorify the rich
- They rob the poorest of the poor around the world – get on their private jet – gather a stadium of desperately poor leave with their pockets full.
- Stories of India / Africa / Latin America . . . it is wicked.
- Like a pyramid scheme, the health-and-wealth gospel feeds on the down and out. Vallerian Mganga tells that in Kenya, the health-and-wealth message is the only version of Christianity most people ever hear. People who mentor prisoners run into this teaching routinely in the prison system. Why? Because the health-and-wealth gospel preys on people desperate for relief.
- Missiologist Paul Borthwick tells of a trip to Ghana, where he witnessed a 300-pound preacher appeal to his body as proof that God had blessed him, and would bless his listener’s seed-money as well. “When you live in poverty” the missionary with Borthwick said, “you don’t want to feel loved. You want God’s power to make you prosper. . . . [T]hey have been taught [that] money is the way to release the power.” The prosperity gospel isn’t just bad theology. It’s a form of oppression. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-the-prosperity-gospel-is-the-worst-pyramid-scheme-ever
- Glorifies and justifies overabundance and waste . . .
- Christians who are spiritually abused
- Thinking they are a faithless Christian and something is wrong with them
- Christians who live in an “alternative reality”
- The facts don’t matter – just the faith. In the faith teaching, what you believe is true, not what the facts show. They run into all types of problems with reality, credibility, relationships and integrity.
- Christians who think they are above questioning
- If you question them, you question faith and God (pride vs. humility)
- Hopefully now you can see most of the reasons why I am so strongly against this. The prosperity gospel is a wicked abomination that must be exposed and resisted for what it is.
The messengers of the prosperity gospel
6 Signs of a prosperity church
- The absence of a doctrine of suffering.
- The absence of a serious doctrine of the biblical necessity and normalcy of suffering. This is what Paul taught in his missionary journeys: Acts 14:22-23 ESV strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. Is this basic doctrinal teaching in the Church? Tribulations are necessary – there are many and you must walk through them. John 15:20. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. Is there a strong note that a faithful Christian will be persecuted? Hebrews 12 and 2 Corinthians 1.
- The absence of a clear and prominent doctrine of self-denial
- This is a tip off that something is amiss: an absence of a clear and prominent doctrine of self-denial. Jesus said: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Paul said, Romans 8:13, if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Philippians 3:8. I count everything as loss, because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. In other words, normal progress in the Christian life comes by saying no to lesser values and yes to Christ and many of those lesser values are the kinds of pleasures that prosperity preachers don’t like to say no to. So is there a good doctrine of self-denial?
- The absence of serious exposition of Scripture
- Does the preaching take the Bible seriously by explaining what is really there in texts? Does it work through passages of Scripture, explaining the flow of the thought? Or does it feel like the pastor has his favorite topics, circles around them over and over making a few texts serve his purpose? Watch for careful and continuous handling of the Scriptures in an expository way and be suspicious if all you ever get is topical preaching with a few pastors’ favorite topics that lean towards prosperity.
- The absence of dealing with tensions in Scripture
- Does the preacher bring up passages that seem like problems with the ones he is dealing with and then give careful explanations to show how they really fit together? Or is he content just to say what seems to be in one text and never even raise the question. There may be 10 other texts that seem to say something else. It is call proof texting.
- Do the church leaders have exorbitant lifestyles?
- Do they drive cars, live in houses, wear clothes, travel to places that only the very wealthy can go or only the very wealthy can possess? Is the pastor living above the average person in his church? Why is he so concerned with the clothes he wears, the car he drives, the neighborhood he lives in, the way he travels and the types of accommodations he stays in? Is this what we see Jesus and the apostles doing?
- Is there an exaltation of self and a marginalization of the greatness of God?
- Is man at the center of the preaching or is God? Does the preacher seem to parade himself? Does he figure into the talk too much? Is the greatness and majesty and glory of God the centerpiece of all he says and does? Is the preacher in love with the glory of God in the gospel? Is he broken hearted for his sin? Is he contrite and humble? Is he publicly self-effacing? Is the majesty of grace marginalized while he exalts himself?
- Well-known preachers
- On a continuum – most radical – God wants you rich – so partner with him for this. Light – minimize sin and pain and only talk about how well things will go for you if you follow Christ
- Did a sampling of TBN . . . almost everyone who is on TBN is a prosperity preacher.
- Oral Roberts, Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Charles Capps, Kenneth Hagin, Jessy Dupantis, Jerry Savelle, Paula White, Jim Baker, John Gray, Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn, John Haggee, Paul Crouch, Rod Parsley, Fred Price, Joseph Prince, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and T.D. Jakes.
- Here are some preachers that I would recommend: Matt Chandler, John Piper, Francis Chan, David Platt, Ravi Zacharias
Mark 8:34-36 ESV
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
Real Promises of Jesus
I believe the good news of Jesus is far better than the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel climbs over people; Jesus descends to pick us up. The prosperity gospel oppresses the poor; Jesus identifies with the destitute. The prosperity gospel fuels our idol factories; Jesus smashes them with a vision of his glory.
The truly good news is this: Jesus’s dreams for us are weightier than the pursuit of health, wealth, and personal success. Jesus doesn’t offer self-esteem; he offers the esteem of God when we give up self-estimation (Matt. 5:3). He doesn’t offer positivity; he offers God’s profound comfort when we’re brokenhearted by sin (Matt. 5:4). He doesn’t offer the nicest house in the neighborhood; he offers hope in the resurrection when we forego personal power (Matt. 5:5). And he doesn’t offer “supernatural favor” from others, but instead offers God’s eternal favor when we’re despised on his account (Matt. 5:10-12).
In short: Jesus is a better God, a weightier God. He’s not a huckster standing on the top of the pile promising us worldly wealth. He’s a God who climbs down to the bottom of the pyramid. He lays himself flat in the dust and stretches out his arms at the cross, where health, wealth, and abundance are nowhere in sight, and he offers us his riches.
Questions for the Ride Home
- Which “fruit” of the prosperity gospel stuck out to you the most?
- Where is prosperity gospel thinking evident in your life?
- What are you going to do remove and replace this influence in your life?