Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chapter 10.3 The Magic Genie Jesus

So coming off the heels of the last chapter, thank you Kris for the truth you so eloquently said, I plan to keep the to idea of "Materialistic Christianity". We have talked about one side of this type of Christianity, "Prosperity Gospel", now we will be talking about the "Name it and claim it Gospel". Unlike the "Prosperity Gospel" the "Name it and claim it Gospel" is less about reaping and sowing, even though that is Biblical it is twisted and mainly preached in the "Prosperity Gospel", this teaching is about speaking your blessings into your hands. I do want to give a disclaimer with this because I do believe we have life and death in our tongues but when that is twisted to be about getting worldly goods it just crosses the line.

Let me start with saying that I do believe that we should speak life into situations and people. I will stand by the idea of praying and speaking life over ministries, people, bad situations, marriages, children, etc. I just believe that when we cross the line into trying to say that something will be ours and not pray for the will of God first it tries to put us on the thrown and take God off. We must not be wrapped up in things of this world and our wants above what God wants us to have. The "Materialistic Gospel" goes beyond just being healthy and wealthy it tries to hold a knife to God's throat by using his principles in an improper way. There are many principles in the word of God that when used properly will bring wholeness to ones life but when we make it more about what we want on earth than what God wants we twist His words to fit our desires.

I want to do the rest of this chapter a little different. I want to do a small list of why this makes God look bad instead of just paragraph after paragraph about this subject. So lets just look at this subject.

1) We are not entitled to anything at all. Everything we get from God is because of grace through Christ.

Yes we do have a new life in Christ but that does not mean getting stuff. Yes we can speak things into life for us but we should also first seek the Kingdom of God. We are not entitled to everything we want instead we are meant to live a life sold out for God. He does want us to have life and life more abundant but that does not equal stuff it equals a life that is in the fullness of God.

2) Are the gifts more important than the gift giver?

Why have we made this Christian life more about what God can give to us than what we can give to God? The reason this bothers me is because if we are only in this relationship with God is to get stuff than we are in it for the wrong reason.

3) How does any of that stuff bring glory to God?

I know that our God is the God with cattle on a thousand hills but if he put you in charge of it how would that bring him glory? I do believe that he does put people in charge of things and also blesses people but if all of his people are rich how exactly will that bring Him glory? Some may argue that if his people are rich than it would draw more people to Him but I remember a scripture that says that if we lift Him up, not if he lifts us up, that he will draw all men to him.

4) Faithful with little?

So you are naming stuff for God to give you huh? Well are you faithful with what you have now? How dare us treat what God has already given us as not enough. Was his son's death on the cross not enough? Was that open invitation to salvation just not enough? What more do we need for it to be enough? We sound like spoiled brats to God when we make His gifts already in our lives so trivial. He has blessed us more than we already deserve by sending His son to die for our sins.

5) A promise is a promise?

Yes he has promised us many things, some of them I have cover in earlier chapters, but why do we simply hold on to the promises we like? He not only promised us good times but also hard times. He said He would give us what we asked for but He also said that if we asked it out of selfish desires we would not receive those things.

6) Principles put in proper use.

Just because a principle is in the Bible does not mean we can just go use it how ever we want, and if we did we look no better than how the world treats the Bible. God's principles are in the Bible to help make us better not to give us things that we want. If we misuse His principles it is like telling our parents we want something and they have to give it to us simply because they are our parents. Yes God is Abba Father but would you look at your parents and tell them that they have to give you things just because they care about you. When we do that we sound like that teenage boy who tries to tell a girl that she will sleep with him if she loves him. When we hear that we all think that is sick but in a way are we not doing that to God?

7) As in Heaven?

What would look wonderful is if people would say, "Let my life on this earth look like what God sees my life look like in heaven". We should be more worried about what God wants us to have and not so much what we want to have. Christ prayed that the will of the Father be done on earth as it is in heaven but are we as concerned about this matter as we should be? Instead of us naming things here on earth for the "glory of God" shouldn't we be speaking the will of God, as it is done in heaven, over everything.

Those are just a few things that come to mind when I think about "Materialistic Christianity". We can not and must not be driven by worldly desires in any way. We are meant to be followers of Christ and lay our lives down for the glory of the Gospel. Some people may be rich followers of Christ and some may not but over all we must be followers. I will leave you with a quote from John Piper that I believe sums up the thought of following Christ rightly and not driven by worldly desires. John Piper said, "God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him". He must be what satisfies us and nothing else. He is our goal and should be the only thing that drives our lives and how we live. He should be everything to us and anything else He chooses to give us is literally just icing on the cake. 

I have no questions to ask because I believe I have posed enough of them to you throughout this chapter so go back and read them. Answer them honestly and see if you are being a "Biblical Christian" or a "Materialistic Christian".

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Chapter 10.2 The Lottery Ticket Jesus

Materialistic Christianity a.k.a “The Prosperity Gospel” 

As I was asked by a very good friend, Eddie Barnes, to write a chapter for his blog on what is known as the “Prosperity” gospel, I thought long and hard about how to go about it. There are so many writings about this very subject, both in argument for and against it, so I wanted to go about it a little bit differently. Instead of doing a point-by-point, verse-by-verse, breakdown of this way of thinking, I actually want to talk about the danger of this belief, not from a theological level, but a philosophical one.

Why, you might ask? Well, at it’s core, the so-called “prosperity gospel” finds its deepest flaws in its philosophy of what God’s ultimate goal in a person’s life is, as well as how He measures
success. If you are looking for a Biblical breakdown on this matter, there are many articles you can read, either online or in book form. Now that the methodology of this treatise has been set, let us get started!

You may (or may not) have noticed that I have given the term “Materialistic Christianity” first billing in the title instead of it’s more common moniker, “The Prosperity Gospel”. This is for a few
reasons. First of all, I believe it is a more accurate name for the actual belief itself and what it produces. Secondly, to attach the term “gospel” to this belief is to give it a weighty legitimacy that it does not deserve, so “Materialistic Christianity” it is.

At the center of this belief is the use of the Greek term, εὐοδόω (yoo-od-o’-o), in the New Testament in verses such as 3 John 1:2. The term is actually the product of two words, εὖ (yoo), which means, “well done or to fare well,” and ὁδός (ho-dos), which means, literally, “the road or journey,” or metaphorically, “the way of thinking; the course of conduct.” εὐοδόω to the believer essentially meant that success or prosperity in life was measured by how well you accomplished your journey of life - Did you accomplish or fulfill all that you were called to be in this life?

For Paul, prospering meant that he had run his race fully (2 Tim. 4:7,8), with no bearing on how materially blessed he was. In fact, it was his belief that he was to be content whether he was poor or rich, full or hungry (Phil. 4:12). εὐοδόω can be summed up in this one phrase Jesus Himself used to end one of His parables: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Why is this distinction in the definition of this term so important? It simply comes down to this: the difference in philosophy between relief and freedom.

The danger of materialistic Christianity is that it makes the goal of Christ’s life in you to make your life better on this earth. It puts all of its eggs in the basket of THIS life - the temporal, flawed, corruptible one. It says that all of God’s promises are not just mine, they are mine RIGHT NOW. It is not God’s will for me to go through any adversity or material lack. So much of what you see from the proponents of such beliefs is not much different from the prodigal son, who demanded the fullness of his father’s inheritance and tried to make it his before it was his time. Materialistic Christianity is the church’s contribution to the development of the Entitlement Generation that exists today, the one that says, “It’s mine, and I want it right now!”

In the end, the flaw of Materialistic Christianity is that it puts the emphasis of Christ’s work as a means of relief instead of the power of freedom. We want Him to provide relief for us; when I don’t have money, He HAS TO give it to me. When I am sick, He HAS TO make me well. We become that child who begs his mother of father for the toy he wants, saying, “I NEED IT,” then breaking down into a fit in the middle of the store when he doesn't get it.

Materialistic Christianity breeds weak believers, ones who are embolden in their faith when things are well, but fall apart and cry out, “Why have you forsaken me!” when God should dare have the audacity to have them walk through the fire of adversity or tribulation for our own growth. Even worse, we will make immature, pleasure-based decisions, then “claim” our "inheritance” when we are forced to face the consequences!

God’s aim is not to give you relief; He wants you to be free! Materialistic Christianity teaches you that joy & peace comes when God removes all adversity from your life and blesses with money, wealth, and health in every area, but the true gospel teaches that joy & peace comes when those things no longer have mastery over you.

So what is real? Is true life about this temporal existence or the eternal one? Which is more real? Isn't it time we stop attempting to hold God hostage to an idea of “prosperity” that isn't actually prosperous?

Prosperity, εὐοδόω, in a believer’s life is not measured by what you can gain materially, but by how well you complete your journey. That is the TRUE philosophy of Biblical prosperity. THAT is the real Prosperity Gospel.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chapter 10.1: The American Jesus

So who is the "American Jesus"? Well that is a broad question. See, on this subject we will be looking at Jesus as a cultural figure and how we have tried to make him something he is not here in America. There are many subcultures within the idea of the "American Jesus" and we will be touching on many of them throughout this miniseries. The first part I will be talking about is how we have tried to fit Jesus into our culture instead of making our culture conform to Jesus.

Now, there are many people who say that at the birth of America our forefathers tried to make our country a Christian nation with God, Jesus, and the Bible being our bedrock of morals. I really do not plan to make an argument other wise I am just going to point out that just as much as we are a very different country from what we once were, we also have a very different culture than what our forefathers had dreamed for us. Even if we at one time were a "Christian nation" we are most definitely not one now. So here is my big problem with that, we can not simply say that what we do as a culture is anywhere close to lining up with the Bible let alone claim that Jesus is cool with this culture.

I do want to move on because I do not want to simply point out that as a whole country we are not Christian. What I do want to talk about is how we as Christians have tried to fit Jesus into our view point and call it Godly. I have a personal term for what goes on in American Christianity, someone else may have called it this too I just have not heard, but I call it "cultural Christianity". So what is "cultural Christianity"? Well to be honest, as a whole, it is religiosity, legalism, and at worst very much like the pharisees in the times of Jesus. We have made Jesus and the Bible simply a rule book to live by and not the Gospel and the truth. The flip side to this, in "cultural Christianity", is that if Jesus and the Bible are not the rule book, Jesus and the Bible are too harsh and we should take everything that was said as just a suggestion at best. So in this chapter I will be looking at both of them briefly and trying to shed some light on how both of these view points are making God look bad.

On the rougher side of the "American Jesus" people will be like, "If we do not like this or that than Jesus wouldn't either, so we are right". Now do not get me wrong there are things that the "world" is trying to say is right when it most definitely is not but I am not talking about that I am talking about things inside of the Body of Christ. "Cultural Christianity" has made God, Jesus, and the Bible something that it was never meant to be, a list of don'ts. Now again do not get me wrong there are a lot of things that we should not do but when we make it just about that we are really missing the message. See in "cultural Christianity" if you simply don't do a certain list of things, and that list will vary depending on who you follow, then praise the "American Jesus" you are a Christian. That could not be further from the truth though. Jesus did not die and raise again simply for you to not be able to do things. Jesus came so we could have life and life more abundant. When we make Christianity simply a list of don'ts and leave out what is desired for us to do than we make impotent and ignorant followers of Christ. I like how Jesus himself put it, "a form of Godliness with no power". If you follow the "American Jesus" then you will become someone who might not do bad things but also has no works to show that your faith even exists. It would be like telling someone if they simply eat right they will be healthy. That is not true either because if someone eats right but just lays around all day then they are really no more healthy than the person who may eat wrong but still goes to the gym to work out, neither person is truly healthy. Not only does this teaching raise up powerless Christians but it also raises up people who "know" what God does not want so much so that they will rally behind something that is not even Biblical. What I mean by that is twenty years ago there where people who would protest against biracial marriage, sadly there are still people who think that it is wrong, and what is worst is that these people thought they were doing the will of God. This kind of "cultural Christianity" will bring about people who do not know how to show the love and grace of Christ while at the same time thinking that they are justified by being that way. This kind of "American Jesus" will raise up radical, not in the good way, kind of followers that will be loud and think that they are talking for God all at the same time causing people to turn away from the true Jesus.

The other kind of "American Jesus" is the one who allows all kinds of sin in the name of love and peace. The people who follow this kind of Jesus are the ones who will change what the Bible says to fit it into the culture today. "American Jesus" will be okay with what ever is the hot topic subject that is at hand no matter if it is something that can be perfectly spelled out in the Bible as wrong. In this "cultural Christianity" Jesus changes his mind as much as we do. It is okay for whatever as long as the majority, sometimes the minority, says it is. This "American Jesus" has no back bone and all his words are either suggestions or at worst just not literal at all. This other part of "cultural Christianity" will say that everything is okay just to say that Jesus is love and would not have a problem with anything cause he loves everyone so much. Where this may be true to people coming to know Christ it is not true once someone has become a new creation in Him. The culture of this Jesus is that if it offends anyone it can not be God. God to this "cultural Christianity" has no hell or judgement. He is just a loving "sky daddy" who even if you have done wrong your punishment will only be for a little bit then you get to be with him forever. This contradicts what the Bible says about God being the perfect judge and that his judgement is final. This "cultural Christianity" will also not hold back on throwing stones at the other side and call them intolerant because they do not show love well enough to people.

So over all who is the "American Jesus"? Well he is a bipolar guy who either hates the culture today or is completely fine with it. He is either all judgement or all love. He either will send everyone, except the ones who stand up and shout about his "laws", to hell or everyone to heaven. Both of these "American Jesuses" are sold to people all over America and it makes me shutter to my core. Nether side has the fullness of the Gospel in mind when they try and paint Jesus in this way. As I have said before God is perfect love and perfect justice. Even though it may hurt peoples feelings hell is real and awaits people who do not call on the name of Jesus for salvation. On the flip side he does not take pleasure in doing this. Jesus is waiting, arms wide open, to bring anyone who calls on Him into relationship with Him. Yes there are rules to following Jesus but those are things that by the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the Bible we will find out are truth. There may be some gray areas in there but to become a new creation is to lay aside your culture and take hold of the culture of the Kingdom of God. We really make God look bad when we try to superimpose our own culture or world view on him instead of being transformed in our mind to the way He wants things done and the view He has for this world.

We as true followers of Christ can no longer sit on the fence when it comes to this subject. The "American Jesus" is not the one of the Bible. We can not just be silent when it comes to either side of this subject. We must stand up with boldness and love to these kinds of things while at the same time trying to reveal the truth of who Jesus really is. If you are wondering who the real Jesus is then like always go and study it for yourself. We have not "cornered the market" on Jesus or the Gospel. We must change our culture, first inside the body of Christ and then the world, to conform to what God says it should look like. We can only do this by preaching the fullness of the Gospel and not just with the parts that we like.

Like always let me ask you some questions. In what way have you tried to make Jesus American? Do you believe that Jesus would be pleased with the way the "Church of America" looks right now? In what way can we stand up against these things to hopefully bring about change?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Chapter 10: Lets Look At Jesus

Okay so we have covered many things on a wide verity of subjects but now it is time to talk about the most important subject of all, JESUS CHRIST!!! This is a subject my brothers and I have touched on in many ways but now it is time to take a closer look at just Jesus. This chapter will not be broken down in to just two parts, oh no this chapter will be a ten part miniseries. Now I know that it can be much longer but I really just want to cover the many misconceptions of our Lord and savoir Jesus Christ. In this miniseries I will have help from many people all leading up to a super chapter with thoughts on Jesus from every coauthor that has written so far. So strap in, listen up, enjoy, and hopefully we all learn something during the next ten weeks.

This first part is not going to be like any of my other chapters because I plan to lay some ground work for the subjects we are going to touch on and that is all. I will let everyone know what the next ten weeks will hold and will try to give brief explanations of what will be talked about and why I feel lead to talk about these subjects. To be completely honest I am very excited to go into this subject matter and have been waiting on this from the start, if you do not already know I have planned out this blog all the way to the end of the year. God has laid on my heart everything from the start and there has been many nights that I have been woken up or not been able to sleep due to what God was telling me He wanted me to talk about. So with out further ado lets look at Jesus.

I will start by covering the idea of the "American Jesus". In that part we will look at how we as Americans have twisted Jesus into our culture. I am not talking about the early founders and their beliefs but instead how American cultural Christianity have made Jesus something he is not to fit our world view. The next part of this series will be "The Lottery Ticket Jesus". I have been promising to talk about the problems with the "prosperity gospel" for a while and now I will finally do it. I do not really have a problem with believing that God wants to take care of his children but when you cross the line into the idea of God being some kind of money pyramid scheme that is when I have to say something. I personally believe that we should want to know the gift giver more than the gifts that can be given and when it comes to this subject we look a lot like the practical son than anything else. The next part, "The Magic Genie Jesus", will tie into the same matter because along with the "prosperity gospel" there is the "name it and claim it" kind of people that make it seem that God is just some kind of magic genie that we can appeal to and then we can get what we want. If we scratch God's back he will have to scratch ours and well plainly that is not really how it works.

After the first three parts we will go back to the normal format of two sides of the same idea, just like all the chapters that have been posted so far. We will look at the "Mean Jesus" and the "Careless Jesus". We will be going over things like the Westboro Baptist and people who try to use Jesus as some kind of person who loves but also hates people if they do not agree with their theology. Then we will look at the idea of the "hyper-grace gospel" and how this teaching makes Jesus look like someone who is okay with sin somehow. The next two parts are going to be the "Non-charismatic Jesus" and the "Charismatic Jesus". We will be looking at a feud inside the church that has been going on since the start of the 1900's. We will look at both sides and see why fighting over this is Making God look bad.

The final two part split up of this series will be a little more controversial because we will be dealing with race. We will be looking at the "White Jesus" and the "Black Jesus". Now some people may think that this is bad but as a follower of Christ I think it is time to air out some of our problems with this. We will be looking at how we as people try to make Jesus fit into our own little personal ideas. We will look at the culture of these two things and how we try to call what we see as our own is right. Just as a side note Jesus was not white nor black but a Jew who was born and raised in the middle east. I am very much against racism. I think that the church being broken up due to race or culture because of race is something that really makes God look bad.

The last part, as I said in the start of this chapter, will be a mash up of everyone who has helped write so far. We will be taking a look at the "Real Jesus". We will be taking a paragraph or two to look at what the Bible says about Jesus. There may be some overlap but that would be great because then you will be able to see that when we focus on what the Bible has to say about Jesus we should be seeing the same things. This miniseries will be a challenging one but also hopefully fun and eye opening to all. Please be praying for all the authors that have agreed to help me and me also that we will seek God for what he wants to say on these matters. We only want to bring truth and not opinions when it comes to the matter of our Lord.

There everything is in a nutshell and I really hope everyone will check it out. Tell others about what is about to happen and give us your feed back. The only reason everyone and myself are doing this is to try to shed some light on the most important matter, Jesus Christ. I am not promising you any great revelation nor some truth that you might not already know but what I am promising is people willing to seek out the truth and bring it to you. I look forward to what is to come and hope you do to. Let me ask you just one thing.