GOD WANTS YOU BUT DO YOU WANT HIM?
An Evaluation of the affects of the prosperity movement on our
2001 William R. Cunningham
I am amazed at how Christianity seems to be a religion where riches and glory are the primary objective. I hear teachings on prosperity. I hear preachers brag about their cars, boats, planes, homes, jewelry, and much more. The church services that these ministers attend or preside over are actually high profile pep rallies. What are they cheering for? They are cheering for riches and more wealth.
I heard a tape this week and I must admit that it was quite disturbing. What was disturbing was the reaction of the people to the great nothing that the minister was preaching. I don't mean to be judgmental but I have made a commitment in my ministry. God has given me a ministry where the pursuit of the truth is the primary objective. Therefore, I have to promote the pursuit of the truth and provide correction when I see otherwise, with wisdom of course. Therefore, I have to speak about these things for a number of reasons.
The problem with these types of ministries is the effect that they have on the people. These ministries that teach riches, wealth, and prosperity only result in the people pursuing riches and glory instead of God the Father. People are so excited about wealth that they have forgotten about God.
This brings us to the topic of our lesson today. Do you really want God or would you rather have prosperity? We already know what God has done in order to obtain and maintain fellowship with us. He gave his only begotten son for us. Christ died so that you would be reconciled to God. However, do you really want to be reconciled to Him? Do you really want to have fellowship with the LORD or would you rather be rich?
To many, God is a genie and/or grocery store. His purpose in our lives is to make us prosperous by an accumulation of things (stuff). The only time that we really go to Him is when we need something; want something, or when trouble comes. All you have to do is tithe, give your money to the preacher, speak it and you will have abundance according to the prosperity preachers.
When will people realize that the Bible doesn't paint such a picture? When will people really pursue God instead of what God can do for them? When will people realize that God is not found in the riches of the world or the pride of the heart? God is found in our hearts and God is seen in Jesus Christ.
So I ask you, which is the topic of this lesson. God wants you but do you want God? Evaluate your own heart and see the truth within.
Object of Affection
Consider the following scriptures.
Matthew 22:37-40 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Matthew 6:24 (NKJV) "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Matthew 6:21 (NKJV) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What are you really after? I have asked this question in one way or another over the past several weeks. Are you after riches and glory or are you after a personal and intimate relationship with God, which will last for all eternity. Remember that riches and glory are only treasures on this earth. However, an intimate relationship with God is treasure in heaven and therefore eternal.
The three verses above represent the plethora of scripture that reveals three major points.
Now really take inventory of yourself. What is your affection? The word affection means a tender feeling toward another; fondness; a disposition to feel, do, or say; a propensity (intimate inclination). What do you have feelings for? Do you have feelings for God or for riches?
You should also realize that what you say might have no meaning here because we can say anything we like. What is really important to you and what you really have affections for can be seen by what you ultimately pursue. If something is not important to you then you are not likely to pursue it. However, if you hold something as near and dear then you will pursue it.
If you really have affections for God and Christ is most important to you, then you will pursue Him. However, there are many that do not pursue God. Instead, they pursue the riches and glory that they think that God wants them to have.
The Innocent Ignorant
I will never forget the time when I was in a service where a guest preacher was speaking at a former church of mine. I was part of church administration so I was wandering around making sure everything was going smoothly as well as helping in the children's church area. Well, I had come into the main sanctuary and sat down for a little while. To my amazement, the preacher had the people repeating after him statements that, to me, were ungodly at best. I don't remember what was said exactly (though it had something to do with tithing), but I do remember being so disgusted that I walked out of the sanctuary. The statements had to do with money of course. If I remember correctly, the congregation was making a promise via declaration that they would tithe among other things.
In any case, what disgusted me was the fact that the people were following along with this minister. They were claiming riches and glory and tither rights. They had no idea what they were saying because their words were not scripturally sound nor were they consistent with basic Christian fundamentals. Those people were innocently ignorant. They had no idea what the truth of God's word was so they believed the preacher when he told them what they wanted to hear.
This phenomenon is similar to some that find themselves trapped in a cult. They didn't know the word of God so they believed what they were told. If you don't know the truth then you are more susceptible to believe a lie. In many cases you have no choice to believe the one that you hold to be in authority. What else could you do? You don't know what God said and you assume that your pastor or favorite TV evangelist know the word. Therefore you believe them-right or wrong! Now this is understandable in the beginning of your Christian walk. You have to rely on those whom you consider to be Christians and know the Way. This also implies a responsibility of those that are already Christians to properly promote the word of God.
Consider the following scripture.
Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
Malachi 2:7-8 (NKJV) "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have departed from the way; You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,"Says the Lord of hosts.
The people were destroyed because they lacked knowledge (of God's law). They lacked knowledge because the priests weren't teaching the people the word of God. Now of course today we have the Bible where we can see God's word for ourselves and therefore don't have to solely rely on the teachings of men and women. As a matter of fact, the Bible declares that the Holy Spirit is our teacher (See 1 John 2:27).
How could these people have been duped? How could they fall for the lies of the preacher? I think I know because I used to be in the same camp, though not sold out to it like some are. There was a time when I was counted as one of the word of faith people, though on a more conservative note. Here are the things that keep ignorance to the forefront and compel you to do whatever the preacher tells you.
1. Appropriate emotional environment conducive for suggestion (Example: good music, or appealing to your desire to have stuff)
2. Suggestion (filling your head with what the preacher wants so that you can do what he or she wants-usually to get your money)
Most people have bills to pay and desires for various things such as a new home, better clothes, things for their children, or to get out of financial trouble. These things are normal to humans. However, these very desires are what ministers use to prey on you so that they can get your money. Haven't you noticed that while you are giving and giving that the minister you are giving to is getting and getting (not applicable to true ministers of the LORD Jesus Christ)? As you give more of your money so that one day you will be blessed, the minister gets more stuff-a new home, new car, expensive clothes etc. Why can't we see that?
How long will it take before we realize that something isn't right? Of course it is usually blown off as not having enough faith or a secret sin that hinders the blessing of God. No! The reason that you are in the financial mess that you are in (at least part of the reason) is that you keep giving your money to the "man or woman of God." You keep giving your money to him or her because you want prosperity-at least that is what you were told and you believed it. God gives you so that you can be blessed and you keep giving it away! We can be so ignorant sometimes and these ministry quacks feed on that ignorance to get every ounce of financial resources that you have. They are left with a new car and you are left with more hopes for a financial breakthrough.
Wake up! The whole scenario is not consistent with what the Bible teaches as we saw above. Instead of these ministers purchasing Mercedes Benz and the like, they would spend more time, effort, and indeed money, to ensure that the members of their congregation were taken care of. No member of a particular church congregation should be struggling with food for the children, clothes, utilities (gas, electric, etc.) and at the same time the pastor is bragging about his new $500 or $1000 suit. That to me is ludicrous. Wake up! Read your Bible and seek the truth in God's word and you will indeed see that something is very wrong with the prosperity teaching. Sure it is prosperity but it is usually the prosperity of those in power, namely the pastor or evangelist doing the teaching. Again you believe it because they have appealed to your desire for things, which become your affection.
Haven't you noticed that over the years Christian ministries have become big multi-million dollar industries-AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PEOPLE! Don't you see it? The high profile ministers walk around in expensive suits and drive expensive cars claiming that God prospered them. No! In most cases they were prosperous because they took your money and money from a whole lot of other people like you. I should point out that some ministers have their own money so to speak. They have jobs, investments, and other normal sources of income and therefore can afford to get whatever they want without taxing the people. These ministers should not be confused with the charlatan ministers (quacks) that I have been referring to in this lesson. If a minister, or anyone for that matter, earns money then he or she has the right to do whatever he or she wants with it. My problem is when money is gained by deception at the expense of the financial well being of the people whom they claim to serve.
OK. That's enough of that. My only point here was to hopefully wake you up so that you would see what is actually going on and so that you would really pursue the truth that is in God's word and live according to it instead of the lies that you were told. Also, I hope to get you to see where your real treasure lies-God or wealth.
Prosperity: The Pursuit OF Things
Many ministers in the prosperity movement define prosperity as the accumulation of things such as jewelry, money, cars, clothes, etc. However, consider the following scripture.
1 Timothy 6:10 through 1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Notice what this scripture says and what it does not say. First, it says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Second, it did not say that money was the root of all evil. A person can love (have an affection for) money without having a lot of it. However, that love will do exactly what Paul said it would do in this letter to Timothy. It would cause the lover of money to basically stray away from the faith and pursue money. Accompanied with that love for money is many sorrows.
True prosperity in the Bible is not defined by the accumulation of stuff. Instead, it is seen as the progression of godly character in the life of a believer. This is not to say that obtaining a new house, new car, or the like are not blessings. They might be. However, those things do not define blessings and biblical prosperity. Instead, those things might only be particular instances of a kind of blessing that we receive from God.
My point here is that you should not consider blessings from God or prosperity as the accumulation of things. Since blessings imply acceptance by God then we are inclined to believe the lies of the prosperity preachers when they give us the five steps to prosperity or the ten steps to wealth for example, since we all want to be accepted by God. You do not have to give your money to the preacher in order to be blessed by God. In fact, the Bible teaches us to take care (love) each other. So while you are busy giving your money to your church so that your pastor can get a new Rolls Royce, there might be someone sitting right next to you that doesn't have heat in his or her house because of insufficient funds. Why don't you give your money to that person-since your church isn't? I would say that they could use heat more than your pastor driving a new luxury automobile.
So stop pursuing things and pursue God. He wants you so why not want Him too. I have made this point many times before. Certain "Christian" movements are in effect replacing God with material things. They present God as if His purpose is to provide us with wealth and riches. Don't fall for that trap because it appeals to our natural desires. Again I say to you, "pursue God!"
I said previously that certain "Christian" movements present God as if He is our personal genie. God's job is to lavish us with wealth and riches according to their doctrine. If you were to attend a typical church service of one of these movements you would find abundant hype, emotional highs, and much suggestion. There is one thing that is much missing in these services and teachings-Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him!
You rarely hear these preachers push a relationship with Christ and what salvation is all about. Instead, they appeal to your lusts by promising you wealth if you would bless the man of God or give to a particular ministry. However, consider the following verse of scripture.
Revelation 3:20 (NCV) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you will eat with me.
Here is a picture of Jesus standing on the outside of the church building knocking at the door so that He can get in. Some interpret this to mean that Jesus is knocking at the heart of the unsaved. However, the context of this scripture does not support that interpretation since this letter was for the church. Most likely, the letter addressed the situation where the church was busy doing its thing and Jesus was not invited. In other words, the church was busy "churching" but not in the name of Jesus.
The same is so true today. People are busy having church instead of being the church. Even that term, "having church" implies an emotional high. What does that mean anyway-"having church?"
Do you know Jesus Christ? I mean do you have an intimate relationship with Christ or is Jesus merely your provider for all of the stuff you want? Do you live your life according to the principles that God has revealed to us in the Bible or do you live with hopes of riches and glory based on the teachings of so many materialistic preachers? How much money have you given a ministry or minister because you had aspirations of getting rich?
The Love of God
Consider the following scripture very carefully.
John 3:16 (NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Do you realize the power of this statement and the significance of salvation? There are three very important things that this scripture reveals.
God's love or acceptance isn't based on whether you tithe or not. God's love for you isn't based on whether you support a particular ministry or pastor. God loved you before you gave a dime or supported anyone. God loves you now.
Now God loves you but do you love Him. God wants you and He proved it by sacrificing Jesus Christ. God wants you to be with Him for eternity but do you want Him? It is amazing how many people trade an eternal relationship with God for the temporal relationship with riches and glory.
The fact is that God loves you and wants you. Do you love Him and want Him? Which do you prefer, money or God? How does your life answer that question?
God or Prosperity
So which will it be? Will you pursue God or prosperity (the abundance of stuff). Would you rather prosper in the things of God or would you rather accumulate more things? Would you rather be rich toward God or just rich? The choice is yours. God has already revealed that He wants our fellowship but are you too busy pursuing stuff to notice His call? Consider the following parable of Jesus Christ.
Luke 12:16 through Luke 12:21 (NKJV) Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
What is this parable telling us? The primary lesson is that you are a fool if you are intent on storing for yourself material things and not heavenly things or treasures. We can see that the act of storing up earthly treasures for lustful and selfish reasons is not of God. In this parable, Jesus condemns hoarding what we have for selfish reasons.
So what will it be? Will you continue to give what God has given you to a man or woman that is deceiving you with false teachings? Will you be confident in the fact that God loves you now and does not need your money (however, we should honor God with what we have)? Will you really pursue God instead of wealth and material prosperity?
It is not God's job to make you wealthy. It is not God's purpose to lavish you with great and expensive gifts. Those things are of the world. God is trying to get you to be heavenly minded because that is how things will be in eternity. If you are born again now, then you are in eternal life now. Don't get caught up in the lustful teachings of men and women who really only want your money so that they can have more things.
God wants you but do you want Him? Are you striving to receive riches or are you striving to have a rich relationship with Jesus? What if those prosperity preachers preached the prospering of your spirit in the things of God? What if they talked about prospering in love, forgiveness, gentleness, goodness, etc.? You don't hear these things because to a materialistic mind spiritual things are unimportant and for the most part not real. Again consider the following scripture.
Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV) "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Do you consider your relationship with Christ a treasure or are your treasures measured in dollars and cents? Where is your heart? Do you really want God or do you want what He can offer you, namely prosperity of the materialistic kind. Please understand that I am in no way saying that you should not desire things. What I am pointing out is that you should avoid allowing the desire for those things to dictate the path that you are on, i.e., run your life. Strive for and intimate and personal relationship with God above all else. I have said this so many times in so many lessons. However, time and time again I am reminded of how people are pulled away from God for religious dedication, riches, prosperity, and earthly possessions.
God loves you and wants you. He has demonstrated this by giving Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for the remission of our sins. God has shown His love for us by providing a way for us, even in our sinful state, to be with Him for all eternity.
Romans 5:8 (NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
What is the object of your affection-God or money? Many people are pulled away from the truth that is Christ because they are ignorant of what God said. Their ignorance is founded upon the fact that most Christians do not read and study their Bible. How can you know the truth if you don't read the Bible, which God gave as a testimony for us to know His will and His Way?
There are so many ministers and people busy feeding off of and promoting prosperity that Jesus isn't even a concern. We are so intent on having more stuff that we have forgotten to want more Christ. Expensive cars, houses, clothes, and jewelry are the main concerns. Who cares about having a personal and intimate relationship with God? As long as I have an abundance of things then all is well, so they think. You fool! You are just like the man in the parable given earlier.
You give your money consistently and the men and women you give it to consistently get richer. When will you wake up? Be free. Free yourself from the bondage of those that oppress you with poverty in the hopes of getting rich. They will get rich not you! God loves you now. Christ died for you already. All you have to do is believe and then live a life in Christ. Don't concern yourself with the doctrines of men and women who only want more stuff for themselves. Sure, if your church is truly ministering the word of God to people and people's lives are changed by the Spirit of God and the Word of God then support it. Finances are required to operate any church organization. However, don't allow the support of that church to become a means of acceptance by God. At that point you are deceived.
God loves you and wants you. He has shown us that already. However, do you really love Him and want Him. Are your prayers the "gimme this and gimme that?" Do you really spend time in communion with the Father and in prayer? Do you really desire to have a close relationship with Christ or are you only concerned with the blessings of the Lord. Again, God wants you but do you want God. Examine your own heart. Consider what Paul said.
2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV) Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you are disqualified.
Return love to a loving heavenly Father. Convert your life into a life of Christ and not a life of this world and worldly possessions. Let your greatest possessions be the love of God and for God along with the many spiritual gifts pertaining to the Kingdom of God. Seek God and His kingdom first. Pursue God above all else. Want God as He wants you. Love God as He already loves you. Don't be deceived by men and women that want your money and appeal to your own fleshly lust for more things. Again, want God as He wants you. Amen
|© <%= year(date) %> Pursuing the Truth Ministries|