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Archive for September, 2013

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Proponents of the prosperity gospel use selected Bible verses to support their claim that if you follow a series of faith principles, Jesus Christ will bless you with financial wealth, health, and amazing success in all areas of life.

The problem is that these preachers and teachers often use verses such as Psalm 1:1-3 or John 10:10 out of context and twist them to build self-aggrandizing ministries that emphasize financial wealth and success, but neglect a more comprehensive range of Biblical teaching. They become rich through the financial support of gullible followers who blindly fund their ministries in the hope that they, the followers, will experience material and financial success.

Paul calls these people “false teachers” for whom “religion is just a way to get rich” (I Tim. 6:3, 5, NLT), and he warns that:

. . . people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (I Tim. 6:9,10, NLT)

Psalm 1: 1-3 describes the joy of people who delight in God’s Scripture and do his will:

They are like trees planted along the river bank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.” (NLT)

These false teachers interpret “prosper” to mean primarily material and financial prosperity. However, the real meaning of the passage is not that people who delight in God will be blessed with material prosperity—but that they, being deep-rooted in God’s Scripture and in obeying him, will have everything they’ll need to sustain their lives and bear fruit in all circumstances.

And what is this fruit? According to the Apostle Paul:

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

The prosperity preachers and teachers also use John 10:10 in which Jesus says,

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (NKJV).

While they interpret “abundantly” to primarily mean financial and material success, the context of this verse does not imply that. John 10:10 must be seen in the wider context of chapters 8, 9, and 10 in which the Pharisees are seeking to kill Jesus because he has been exposing them for what they are—blind leaders, thieves, and robbers who lead people astray with their false and burdensome teachings and requirements.

In contrast, Jesus describes himself as (a) the “Good Shepherd” (Jn. 10:14) who protects and cares for his true flock (his followers), and (b) the “gate” through which his sheep must enter the sheepfold and find protection and nourishment:

Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. Wherever they go, they will find green pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” (John 10: 9-10, NLT)

Here Jesus asserts that he is the only way to eternal life and salvation and that he alone can infuse in us a fullness and superabundance of life and vitality for our here-and-now.

Other passages provide additional expressions of our fruitfulness, prosperity, and abundance from God as expressed through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit:

• Answered prayers, fruitfulness, love, and overflowing joy—John 15:7, 8, 11, 12

• Godly lives that are rich in faith, moral excellence, knowledge of God, self-control, patient endurance, love for everyone, and productive living—2 Peter 1:3-9

• Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—Galatians 5:22-23

• Overflowing hope, happiness, and peace—Romans 15:13

• Wonderful divine peace beyond human understanding—Philippians 4:7

• Contentment in whatever state we’re in—Philippians 4:11

So, does faith in Jesus Christ lead to health, wealth, and success?

The answer is “Yes” and “No”—no, in the sense that faith in Jesus Christ does not guarantee material wealth, health, or success; but yes, in the far more important sense that all who are rooted in God through faith and love in Jesus Christ are blessed with spiritual fruitfulness and “filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

With such fullness of life and divine fruitfulness, we are indeed wealthy with God’s richest blessings—whether we are sick or healthy, rich or poor, absent in body or present with the Lord.

And yes, it is good for us to make plans about succeeding in our health, education, career, business, and making a profit, but it should always be with the attitude—“If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-16)

And may our journey with Christ reflect the prayer expressed in Proverbs 30:8-9:

. . . give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” (NLT)

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