Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:11-12a). In August of this year, the Southwest Believers’ Convention assembled in Forth Worth, Texas. The meeting was hosted by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and included an “all-star” lineup of various prosperity gospel preachers. Prosperity theology, also known as the word of faith movement, is a belief system that teaches that God provides material prosperity for those He favors. It is often used by its promoters to elicit donations, as was the case with the Southwest Believers’ Convention. It is not unusual for prosperity preachers to own large houses, expensive cars, airplanes, jewelry, boats, and a whole lot of other stuff. In fact, the whole system revolves around material possessions and good health. One thing you will never hear from a prosperity gospel preacher is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ—why Jesus came and what one must do to be saved.
The prosperity gospel is nothing new. Paul confronted it head-on in his first letter to Timothy: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Notice the Bible doesn’t condemn money. Money isn’t the problem. The problem is one of the heart—“those who want to get rich.” In other words, the desire for material wealth is far more dangerous than the wealth itself. Furthermore, the notion that God provides material prosperity for those He favors is deceptively deadly. It is deadly because having material wealth and good health doesn’t necessarily imply God’s favor. The opposite is also true. Being poor doesn’t necessarily imply godliness. There are numerous examples in the Bible of godly men who were unbelievably rich—Abraham, David, and Solomon. There are just as many, if not more, godly men who were materially poor—Lazarus from Jesus’ story about the rich man and Lazarus, as well as most of the disciples.
The true Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of suffering. In fact, Jesus bids us to leave all that we have and come follow Him (Mark 10:21). It is a call to a sold out faith and obedience to Christ. This is why Paul says to “flee” from the desire for riches and material possessions. Instead, we are to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” He describes this as “the good fight of faith,” and “[taking] hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” I recently witnessed this kind of faith and obedience firsthand. Allow me to introduce you to Brother Herman. Bro. Herman and his wife are from Europe. Following God’s call to missions nearly twenty years ago, they literally left all that they had—good jobs, good retirement, even medical and life insurance—and came to another land to establish Siloam, a home for orphaned, abandoned and terminally ill children. He seeks to provide a home for any needy child, no questions asked. And the amazing thing is he does it entirely on faith. He never asks anyone for anything other than prayer. When asked what donations he might need, he refuses to ask for a single item. Instead, he humbly asks, “If you have the time, pray for us—the most important gift you can give us is prayer.” There is no hint of prosperity theology here. Meeting Bro. Herman absolutely transformed my life. This guy oozes Jesus! He is fighting “the good fight of faith.” Nearly every testimony he shares about God’s faithfulness and provision is prefaced by the words, “To be very honest…” His simple faith in God is contagious.
The prosperity preachers are liars, cheats, and frauds who misuse God’s Word because they think it is an avenue to riches. When the Gospel is presented in this way, it makes followers who are completely unprepared for tough times and have no idea what true Christianity is. To be very honest, we need to see Christians who are more concerned with what glorifies God than with what benefits me. So which Gospel do you choose to believe—the one that promises health, wealth and prosperity and ends in hell or the one that requires faith, promises suffering, but ends in heaven with Christ and joys immeasurable?
“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins”(John 8:24). A radical change—the Emerging (or Emergent) Church—continues to sweep evangelicalism. We are told this change is necessary if we are to reach the post-modern generation. Unfortunately, this change has left many Christians starving for God’s Word in their churches and chapels. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for these change agents to label as judgmental and out of touch those who resist the movement away from Christ-centered preaching and Bible teaching. The utterly shameful fact is this movement proclaims a different gospel from that of the Apostles “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3), and is deceiving many with a false hope. For Emerging Church leaders, the Bible is more about doing good works, as God’s people, for the benefit of all people; it is not about revealed truth. A tragic result is they end up with a Jesus far removed from the one revealed in the Scriptures.
The false “gospel” being preached today says that Jesus came to save people from a lack of purpose, lack of happiness, or from living a stress filled and problem filled existence. The New Testament pattern is gospel preaching (which includes the person and work of Christ and the need to repent and believe) followed by nurturing the flock with the whole counsel of God. The gospel must answer four questions—who Jesus is, what He did, why we need Him, and what He expects us to do. Otherwise, Jesus said, “you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). This is a far cry from the “gospel” preached by Emergents. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—a lot of things in life we can get wrong, but not this. Eternity is at stake. So the question is, “Who is Jesus and Why does it Matter?”
Paul told the Philippians of Christ’s pre-existence with God and as God : “He existed in the form of God” (2:6). In his second letter to the Corinthian believers he wrote it is Satan who “has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (4:4). So, Jesus is God who became human without ceasing to be God. But what did He do? Paul wrote, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus died for yours’ and my sins, which answers the next question—why do we need Him? To the Roman believers Paul wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…For the wages of sin is death” (3:23; 6:23). We need Christ’s atoning death and subsequent resurrection because we need His righteousness over our own to be found blameless before a holy God. So, what are we to do? Exactly what He expects us to do: “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:9, 13). This is the gospel—but you won’t hear it in any “Emerging” congregation nor will you read it in any “Emergent” manifesto. For some strange reason, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not boldly preached, the message of the blood atonement is overlooked, and the verse-by-verse teaching of God’s Word is absent. Perhaps this is because it really is offensive to preach Christ Jesus and Him crucified.
So why does it matter? Because, “having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). The certainty of future judgment is the reason Paul laid before us the necessity of repentance. This is in keeping with Jesus’ words, “for unless you believe I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Like Jesus, Paul proclaimed that we must “repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20). In other words, it is not merely mental assent to certain facts about Jesus. It is belief that results in lives actually changed. Regardless of the radical change taking place around us, the gospel will always remain the same—that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). And it is faith in this crucified, risen, ascended Lord that is required of all who desire salvation. This is the message of the Apostles—“God is commanding all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). There are no exceptions.
“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). “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”(Proverbs 14:12). I have witnessed a lot of changes over the course of my lifetime. However, nothing has prepared me for the changes I have witnessed of late in the body of Christ. I am referring to ancient mystical practices and a mystical spirituality that have gained access to the church. Twenty years ago I think we would have recognized it for what it is – “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Today spiritual discernment seems to be a thing of the past. Methods have become more important than orthodoxy – the basic tenants of “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). Sometimes it comes under the guise of, “the message never changes but we must find new methods of reaching others.” My response to that often repeated assertion is, “says who?” Jim Wilson, in his book Future Church, suggests these “new methods” must have “appeal to believers and unbelievers alike” in order to “usher them into the presence of God.” The problem is these “new methods” are of a mystical-experiential flavor, one that the body of Christ would do well to avoid!
The Bible is overwhelmingly clear in its warning that in the days before Christ returns, truth will be exchanged for a wider spiritual road that originates with “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” I think we are beginning to see a slow subtle appearance of this end-time reality, one that is readying the masses for the Antichrist. Roger Oakland suggests a new form of Christianity has begun to emerge that will replace biblical faith with a faith that is driven by ancient mystical experiences, not to mention a system of works and rituals. I wholeheartedly agree. It seems that well educated, supposedly doctrinally sound and solid Christian leaders are throwing all discernment to the wind in favor of mystical experiences rather than simple belief or faith. We must remember, the Bible says, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Furthermore, the Scriptures assert that God is, “well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). So there you have it. The preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has worked well for nearly two-thousand years. It has continued to have the power to change lives. Continued, that is, until now. Now we are told we must abandon the “old” way of doing things for something newer and more relevant to this so called postmodern generation.
One method that has been suggested for reaching the postmodern crowd is the Prayer Labyrinth. It is a multi-sensory worship practice involving a maze-like structure used during times of contemplative prayer (contemplative prayer is the vehicle through which many churches are being assimilated into these ancient mystical practices). I say “maze-like” because it really isn’t a maze. There is one path in and one path out. It is often described as “an ancient-future prayer experience with postmodern appeal.” It usually includes prayer stations complete with candles, icons, pictures, etc. What its proponents fail to realize (or maybe they just don’t care) is that the labyrinth originated in early pagan societies. Furthermore, there is no evidence in the Bible that the disciples or the early church turned to such a mystical form of worship, especially one that needs candles, icons, pictures and other paraphernalia to feel more spiritual. Nowhere in Scripture is there even a hint of this. In fact, I would suggest it is an insult to the stable and eternal truths of the Bible – truths that although centuries old are still relevant today. I submit to the reader that the labyrinth isn’t a biblical way from the ancient past of experiencing the presence of Christ. Rather, it is an ancient and dangerous form of mysticism that most assuredly opens the practitioner up to a spiritual realm that is both spiritually deceptive and deadly. I genuinely believe prayer labyrinths and other contemplative practices are a slippery slope that will lead to spiritual deception, thereby rendering the message of the Cross unnecessary and the truth of the Gospel void. “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 Tim. 4:1).
A major publisher has announced a new Bible translation that is sure to be well received by many mainline protestant denominations and even in some Roman Catholic circles. The new translation will be called The Amillennial Replacement Theology Version of the Holy Bible. This new translation has been developed to better meet the needs of the many mainline denominations that hold to an Amillennial interpretation of the end-times and believe the promises of God to Israel have been reassigned to the Church. The translation committee was made up of several scholars and their work spanned several years. The first step in developing this new translation, according to one scholar, was determining once and for all that the word everlasting, used in five of the six covenants found in Scripture, did not really mean everlasting in the sense of eternal or endless. Rather, the word could be better translated as being provisional or passing. Furthermore, many of the scholars on the committee questioned whether the word everlasting actually appeared in the original documents, and if so, a more figurative interpretation was probably in order. Additionally, some on the committee suggested that these everlasting covenants, if they indeed are everlasting, ultimately applied to the Church.
Many passages, mostly from the Old Testament, were determined to be either not a part of the original manuscripts or irrelevant for today. In order to make this translation of the Bible read better and maintain its integrity to Amillennialism and Replacement Theology, the translators completely omitted these many passages. Those passages omitted are listed and categorized as follows:
(1) Those passages referring to a future re-gathering, restoration and Nationhood of Israel: Genesis 15:18; 28:10-15; 35:9-12; Deuteronomy 30:3-5; Isaiah 27:12-13; 35:1-2; 41:18-20; 43:5-6; 51:3; 66:7-8; Jeremiah 16:14-15; 23:3-6; 32:36-37, 44; Ezekiel 4:3-6; 11:17; 20:34; 34:13; 36:8-11, 24, 33-35; 37:10-22; Joel 2:22; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 7:8-11; Zechariah 8:7-8.
(2) Those passages referring to the preservation of Israel: Genesis 15:5; Leviticus 26:3, 7-8, 44; Isaiah 49:13-18; 66:22; Jeremiah 30:11; 31:10, 35-36; 32:36-37; 46:28; Zechariah 8:13.
(3) Those passages referring to the worldwide impact of the Jewish people: Genesis 12:2-3; 28:10-15; Deuteronomy 28:64; Isaiah 27:6; 42:1-9; 49:6; Matthew 24:14; Luke 21:13. It should be noted that Genesis 12:2-3 is found within the notes section suggesting this promise was possibly directed to the Church rather than Israel.
(4) Those passages referring to the Nation of Israel and the end-times were also omitted or explained in the notes section as applying to the Church. It should also be noted that a lengthy section of notes addressed the current presence of the Jewish nation in the Middle East. The conclusion reached was the modern Nation of Israel is nothing more than an “accident of history” and has no bearing on Old Testament prophecy, the Church and God’s plan for the ages.
(5) Some notable New Testament passages were either omitted or further explained in the notes section. For example, passages such as John 14:2-3; 1 Corinthians 1:51-53; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 were omitted and included an explanation in the notes section that these passages were either added by the early Church or self-proclaimed scholars in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s, who taught that all end-times prophecy should be read for its literal, plain-sense meaning.
(6) The Book of Revelation was included in its entirety. However, the introductory section as well as the notes section indicated much of the prophecy of the book has already been fulfilled, mostly in A.D. 70. The remaining parts of the book are best understood as allegorical and having no major prophetic significance for today.
The final assessment of the translation committee was that prophecy concerning the First Advent of Jesus should be interpreted as literally true. However, those prophecies dealing with the Second Coming are better interpreted in a more spiritualized symbolical understanding. In other words, Second Coming Prophecy does not literally mean what it says. Surely, this translation will help in providing the Church a better understanding of God’s plan for the ages.
Well, obviously there is no such translation in existence or in the works. My point has simply been to demonstrate what is at stake when we spiritualize scripture rather than letting it say what it means and mean what it says. God does not have a speech impediment. He has clearly revealed His plan for the ages, involving both Israel and the Church. It’s not hard to understand. It’s just hard to believe. However, if you will believe it, you will understand it. God’s Word is literally true and its prophecies will be literally fulfilled.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…those who mourn…the gentle…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers…those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness…those who are insulted, persecuted, and falsely accused because of Christ…” (Matthew 5:3-7). One of the most popular books of late is one entitled, Your Best Life Now, by “Pastor” Joel Osteen. In this book, Osteen offers seven “keys” to improving your life everyday. It is written, he says, “to help you fulfill the potential for your life. This book will help you live your best life now.” He goes on to say, “The good news is that your dreams, goals, and aspirations do not have to stay on tomorrow’s to do list, rather, through applying seven steps you can begin to live at your full potential.” I have a better title in mind for this book: Your Most Self-Centered Life Now.
I will be the first to admit, my assessment of “Pastor” Osteen’s book does sound a bit harsh. But think about it. Here is a guy who suggests the way to experience your best life now is by enlarging your vision, developing a healthy self-image, discovering the power of your thoughts and words, letting go of the past, finding strength through adversity, living to give, and choosing to be happy. I cannot think of a better way to describe those who are traveling down the broad way which leads to destruction that Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. Osteen’s seven “keys” go against everything Jesus taught in the Scriptures. If Jesus was writing a similar book, I’m sure it would be entitled, The Sermon on the Mount – The Key to Your Best Life Now and Forever. Notice I said, key. I believe the principles contained within that famous sermon are the singular key to experiencing your best life now and forever!
The world says enlarge your vision, develop a healthy self-image and discover the power of your thoughts and words. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Paul says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). He was also, "well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake" (2 Cor. 12:10). The world says let go of the past (unless it benefits you to hold on), find strength through adversity (prove to yourself that you are somebody), live to give (because it’ll make you feel good), and choose to be happy (don’t buy into this you are a sinner bit). But what does God’s word say? It certainly says to forget the past, particularly your successes (Phil. 3:6-8), which I am sure Osteen would encourage you to remember. It most definitely admonishes us to give, but not in order that we might feel good about ourselves, but so that we might be demonstrations of God’s gracious provision in our own lives (2 Cor. 9:6-8). Finally, rather than pursuing happiness, God’s word encourages us to, above all else, pursue Christ, even to the point of death. It’s an ironic thing indeed. When we choose death to self and pursuit of Christ, we find joy that goes deeper and farther than any choice of happiness could ever provide (Psalm 43:4; Phil. 2:17).
It may seem foolish to disagree theologically with a man who “pastors” the largest congregation in the country. Nevertheless, if you want to read a book in which discontentment is encouraged, one that shows God to be powerless apart from your positive-filled thoughts and words, where sin is minimized (this is my favorite) and renamed in every possible way, and one that gives only a passing mention to Jesus Christ, then Your Best Life Now is for you. However, if being blessed (Matt. 5:3-7) with Christ is your goal, if knowing Him through the pains and trials of life is something you desire above all else, if seeing Him exalted in your life as you follow His pattern of humility and self-denial, and if you believe a Christian’s greatest hunger and desire should be for righteousness (not for money, health or easy living), then you would do well to look elsewhere—the Bible is a good place to start! When we experience the struggles of life and we choose to deny self and believe and pursue Christ, He says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (Matt. 5:12). In other words, it’s not your life now that is so much the focus, but your life in eternity.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it”(Matthew 7:13-14). Why is the Gospel so hard to believe? There are probably a myriad of answers to that question. However, the truth of the matter is, it is probably human pride and spiritual blindness that prevent most people from believing the true Gospel. Jesus said it plainly: “The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction. The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life.” His point was that when it comes down to believing the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, far more people will reject it than believe and far more people will believe they have believed it when in reality they have not. They have been spoon fed the devil’s disinformation which leads to false assurance, and unless they truly believe, will one day lead to empty words.
Disinformation: it is the deliberate dissemination of false information in order to mislead. False assurance: it is believing you have something when in reality you do not. Empty words: they are just that, empty words. So the question is do you want to be forgiven of your sins, given the gift of eternal life, and have the settled and sure hope of glory when you die? Do you want to be freed from the power of sin and blessed with every spiritual blessing Christ has to offer? Most people would answer yes! However, know this: Many people who say yes will never realize salvation. Jesus made this clear. You can want all the blessings salvation offers and never receive a single one. How so? It’s simple, really. Most have believed a lie, which has led to false assurance and will one day result in empty words…unless they fix it this side of eternity.
I have absolutely no use for the so called “seeker-sensitive movement” that seems to be sweeping the land these days. There are several reasons why, but two are always at the forefront. First of all, the Bible is clear that there is only one seeker and His name is Jesus. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear no one seeks after God: “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). Secondly, the seeker-sensitive movement is nothing but a watered down, let’s all get happy and feel good about ourselves, version of the Gospel, which is really no Gospel at all. For the most part, I believe it is the devil’s disinformation program. It sounds good. It looks good. But it’s not good! It’s no wonder, when speaking of salvation, Jesus said, “There are few who find it.” This movement, I believe, has given false assurance to hundreds of thousands of people. They think they are on their way to heaven, when in reality; they are traveling fast down the wide and broad way that leads to destruction. And one day, they will utter empty words, the words, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” (Matthew 7:22). Tragedy of tragedies, Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
There are a lot of things in this life we can get wrong, but not this. Either we get it right in this life or we miss out on the eternal blessings of eternal life with Christ. The alternative is eternal separation from God and everything that is good. The Bible further describes the alternative as eternal torment from which there is no escape. So there are no second chances after death. We get it right this side of eternity, or we do not get it right at all. The true Gospel is a call to self-denial. It is not a call to self-fulfillment or higher self-esteem. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). That’s pretty clear cut. If you want to be a follower of Jesus and enter the kingdom of God—if you want to be a Christian—then you must face three commands: You must deny yourself, take up your cross daily (death to self), and follow Christ. This does not sound too seeker-sensitive to me. However, it is the truth that Jesus taught consistently and repeatedly.
So who then is saved? Who will spend eternity with Jesus in heaven? The answer is obvious: only those who have believed the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible gives us markers that help identify who these people are. First of all, check the list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. If you are on it, you are not saved and will not be spending eternity with Jesus, unless you are willing to repent and believe the Gospel. A second marker that is used to identify those who are truly saved, is found in Matthew 7:21: “He who does the will of My Father in heaven,” will enter the kingdom. This is the Word of the Lord! Therefore, these are true words. But most will not believe. Perhaps it is because most people “loved the darkness rather than the Light” (John 3:19). Therefore, they readily grasp onto disinformation, they cling to false assurance, and will one day utter empty words.
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
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