Prosperity Gospel and spiritual self-esteem books are currently very popular in Christian circles and small study groups, but are these really Gospel and actually Christian?
Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Yesterday, I was having a conversation with one of my pastor friends. We were talking about best selling Christian authors and speakers. At one point in the conversation I said this, “Americans are fiercely independent but sometimes so spiritually gullible.” I was commenting on the fact that a lot of what sells as Christian study material and small group books are really about prosperity gospel and self-esteem. Young Christians are being duped into believing that ‘victorious living’ in Christ is all about having a happy family, wonderful marriage, terrific career, and lots of money. Nothing could be farther from the truth of the Gospel and sadly a whole generation of men and women are getting caught up in the “what’s in it for me now” heresy without realizing it.
Sometimes what is popular in Christian circles is not faithful to Christ’s cause or God’s Word. If Christians were all meant to be successful, wealthy, and influential people, then Chinese jails would not be full of arrested Christians, Iranian courts would not be forcing Christian women to deny Christ, and Guatemalan Christian schools would not be under siege by local gangsters. There’s a false assumption by Christians in America that Christ’s mission and the American Dream go hand in hand. They do not. After all, what came first: Christ’s message to take up our crosses and deny ourselves in order to follow Him or Ben Franklin’s “God helps those who help themselves”?
The only goal and prize that we should care about as Christians is to be called heavenward. If we concentrate too much on having our happiness and success here on earth, then as Christ said about the hypocrites of His time, “they will have had their reward;’ in other words, there will be nothing for them in heaven. And why do we think that Christ ever said these cautionary words:
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
It’s time to put our prosperity gospel and self-esteem books down; it’s time to pick up the Bible and get the message straight from our Savior and God.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, life is not about us, it’s about You. Keep us from being attracted and distracted by worldly charms and people who want to capitalize on our fears, anxieties, and inadequacies. Teach us the valuable gift of true spiritual discernment and save us from those who preach, teach, and write about prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.