Next Wednesday, I’ll be flying to Trinidad & Tobago to lead a conference on the prosperity gospel. Here’s a portion of how it will begin on Friday, September 5 at the Mt. Beulah Evangelical Baptist Church in Point Fortin, Trinidad. Please pray that the Spirit would move to help all understand the true trajectory of the gospel!
I’m so thankful to be with you here today. This stands as my tenth time to Trinidad and Tobago—the first in 1995-6 over a Christmas break during seminary when we spent two weeks teaching music. I then came back when I pastored Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington, KY back in 2004. Then came 2005 (construction), 2006 (leader conference), 2007 (more construction), 2009, 2011, 2012 (Pastor Roddie’s 25th), 2013 (marriage conference), and now this time—preaching and teaching on the most controversial topic thus far.
I find myself ashamed at some of the things that my country that I love has exported around the world. I turn on the television here and I see the filth of the programming you have from Hollywood—be it TV programming or movies. I feel the need to apologize to all of you, but I’m just one person.
Part of the television programming that is troublesome does not simply come from secular Hollywood. This programming comes with all the language and practices that make what they say seem very Christian—but in reality, it’s just very American, very human, but with all the earmarks of Christianity. It sounds like the gospel—but is it?
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he opens not with a word of commendation but one of exasperation.
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7).
Some in Galatia felt there was another ‘good news’–a better good news–than the one Paul gave them—one grounded by God’s calling “in the grace of Christ.” Was Paul being arrogant—was his gospel the only gospel? No, read this again: they were deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ. This gospel was not only given by Christ, but was certainly Christ himself (see Mark 1:1). He was sufficient and still is! They preached that there existed another legitimate way to be right with the Father and fit for heaven. These Judaizers’ ‘gospel’ was Christ-plus. In this case, it was Christ-plus-law of Moses, that is, counting on one’s own works of righteousness.
I submit to you that there moves a gospel among us that many hold dear as a way to the Father, a way that not only brings righteousness, but serves as an indicator of our righteousness and the blessings of God therein. It is a ‘gospel’ that’s a Christ-plus–but the plus is that of health, wealth, and prosperity, also known as the prosperity gospel.
The prosperity gospel says that in your obedience to him, he will bless you and favor you with good health, an abundance of finances, and prosperity here in this life. The converse follows: if you are not blessed materially, physically, and prosperously, then that means there is a lack of faith somewhere. So, you need more faith, more trust, and God will bring a corresponding blessing.
Did I say God will? Let me use another verb: God must.
The problem could be in how you think, in what you speak, or a number of other different levels.
At the core of this problem is the issue of whether Jesus–His promises, His person, His pathway–is sufficient. Is He really enough? In the biblical record, all the people of God were promised were His presence, and that he would supply their needs (spiritually and, yes, physically). But for Westerners, that’s not enough–He should supply what we want, in abundance, and in our timing. Else, God isn’t faithful. Has Christ supplied us enough? Do we see him as enough?