Monday, August 7, 2006

Doctrines of Demons: Today's Prosperity Theology

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will
fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and
doctrines of demons

1 Timothy 4:1

Don't think I'm on a rant over Catholics because I used to be one. I'm not! I'm on a rant against un-Biblical teaching, which is leading people astray. Or worse yet, making them think they are saved when they aren't.

Take today's brand of prosperity theology as I call it. The likes of Joel Osteen - the foremost of such teachers/preachers. Too many nowadays are unfortunately following his lead, thinking it correct to preach that if you follow Jesus, you will have great blessings and prosperity and happiness. This is not what the Scriptures teach us. Jesus said in John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, buit take courage; I have overcome the world.". I have no doubt prosperity teachers mean well, but their sermons sound more like pep talks than theology. They either don't know or don't want to teach Bible in fear of losing their audience.

Prosperity theology has an added negative side-effect, it can make you act like Job's presuposes (to the weak Christian watching you suffer) that if you are suffering you are out of God's favor and must, therefore, be a "bad Christian" or have committed some great sin for which you are paying.

If this were true, what of Paul's life? He was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, tried 5 times and ultimately killed. Yet he was the foremost of God's "chosen instrument" (Acts 9:15) to take His Word to the rest of the world ("gentiles" in v. 15). Paul was a wretched man and persecutor of Christians (Philippians 3:5-6). Just as the depths of wickedness from which he rose to be the great Apostle of Christ which he became speaks to the changing power of salvation in Jesus Christ in our lives - so the suffering of the saint speaks to the power God's grace gives us to not merely overcome the hard things in this life, but indeed, God uses those very things to make us better soldiers for Christ. James 1:2-4 "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. " [emphasis mine]. Notice he did not say "if" but "when" you encounter trials.

If you read your Bible you will see that God's strongest and best examples, only became that way because they went through the fire. Just a few examples are:

  1. Beginning with His 12 disciples, all but one died a martyr's death, (the one who didn't was John who died imprisoned on the island of Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation).
  2. Daniel in the lion's den (Daniel 6:18-23). Notice when Daniel came out of the lion's den, the king himself was saved, (v. 26), and he decreed that everyone in his kingdom should worship Daniel's God.
  3. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego (literally in the fire in Daniel 3). When they were thrown into the fire a 4th man could be seen walking around it with them. That was the pre-incarnate Christ (v 25). You see, it's in the midst of our darkest hour, that we get closer to Christ!
  4. Joseph (sold into slavery by his jealous brothers to the end where in Genesis 50:20 he tells them "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive [and ultimately to save the entire Jewish race]. The entire story spans Genesis 37-50). Through God's sovereign hand a lowly, Jewish slave became the #2 man in Egypt (second only to Pharaoh) (Gen. 41:40), the Egyptians having to obey his words (Gen. 41:44).
  5. Paul, the Apostle of Christ. A perfect example of both how we may be called to suffer for Christ, and also how we should praise Him no matter what (as he did in the deepest darkest suffering in a dungeon: (Acts 16:22-30).
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11 "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am". A great verse and one of my favorites. It speaks to our God's ability to change how we feel and react toward the bad circumstances in life. Obviously, Paul wasn't talking about the good circumstances, after all, who needs to LEARN to be happy with their new car, fancy house or impressive title? But note also the verb he used "learn", it wasn't something Paul was just born knowing how to handle, but he learned it. He didn't say "I have come to be content"!

James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him".

God bless you, if you are in a trial right now, hang on to Jesus and to God's Word as hard as you can. Study it daily, it WILL bring you peace and it will be the ship which helps keep you afloat in the midst of your storm. If you're blessed enough right now to say you are in no trials, praise God and just hang on tight, because that wave will hit you sooner or later. When it does, only the Truth in God's Word will help you, not all the feel-good sermons you normally hear in church.

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