Dear Christian, God has given you the victory. You are no longer under obligation to the flesh. Now, keep in mind, you used to be. In Romans 6:12-14, the Spirit tells us through the Apostle Paul:
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Sin. Again, another word carries a lot of issues and controversy as to its definition. The prosperity gospel preachers believe that sin is not receiving the blessings God has for you. In a very sad comment by Joel Osteen, he tells his listeners, “You do your part, and God will do his part.” Later, he says, “If you will simply obey his commands, He will change things in your favor.”[i]
Let me share with you a quote from another group that sounds very similar:
Yea, come to Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in no wise deny the power of God.
Do you know where that’s found? In Moroni 10:32 in the Book of Mormon. “You do your part, and God will do His part.” Even with biblical language, if you get the phrases out of order, you take something that is of God’s grace and turn it into more law.
Some of you may agree with this. I humbly submit to you that this is not something that we must be saved to, but the very thing Christ saved us from! This is not the gospel, this is law. And outside of confession of sin and repentance away from trusting our righteousness and surrendering to His, we cannot obey (remember Romans 8:8?). We are under sin’s dominion unless Christ comes to set us free. Not only are our sins as filthy rags, but Isaiah 64:6 even says that our righteousness is as filthy rags.
We know from what we are saved, but do we know to what we are saved? Christians are saved from the dominion of the flesh (8:12-13) and are saved to the dominion of the Spirit (8:14). When we use the word ‘dominion,’ think “Lordship.” Christ is Lord of us—we are His servants. Christ as we shall see, secured our adoption. We are his children. But what does that mean?
Recently, I read something by Joel Osteen regarding being a kingdom kids. Why bring out Osteen? A number of years ago, Joel Osteen Ministries bought the Compaq Center for their Lakewood Church services. This was no small church building, but the place where the NBA’s Houston Rockets used to play. Each week, over 30,000 people come to hear Osteen and millions of others watch him on TV, buy his books, and visit his website. He’s popular, influential, and has a message: “All it takes is one touch of God’s favor and your situation will suddenly turn around. You are a child of the King. Expect and Declare God’s best for you today!”
What does this communicate to you? As a child of the king, if you say it, declare it, and expect it, it will come to you.
This is all part of the process, part of the formula for how so many get ensnared in this. And most of us have this happen because we want what God wants, and we want God’s best for us.
- So we hear people speaking from the Word of God, using verses and passages that talk about health, wealth and prosperity.
- We look at their lifestyles and think, “Well, they’ve surely been blessed. Designer suits, impressive worship centers, personal jets, mansions, and astonishing bank accounts.
- They preach that if you speak and declare what God has already given you, then He will bless you materially. If you do not, you do not have enough faith.
Let’s get back to the apostle Paul, shall we? Everything is sown up in verses 16-17:
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Make no mistake, you dear Christian, are a child of the King. And you are due an inheritance, for Scripture clearly states that you are heirs. But what inheritance? The Holy Spirit, who leads us and shows us that we are indeed sons of God, receiving the “Spirit of adoption.”
And besides, we must realize that the prosperity gospel being preached does harm to the soul, not healing. Consider two passages, one from Jesus and another from the apostle Paul.
In Mark 10:23-27, Jesus had just had a difficult exchange with the Rich Young Ruler. He felt he would be justified enough to have eternal life by his keeping of the commandments. But Jesus said, “One thing you lack—go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” His response? “Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Notice Jesus did not say, “You’re rich—God has shown you favor.” No, in fact it was his very possessions that kept him from eternal life, not helped him. So he responded.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,[b] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Even the disciples thought that riches were a sign of God’s favor. They were “exceedingly astonished…. ‘Then who can be saved?’”
Lastly, look at 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Please remember—just because the Apostle Paul said this, doesn’t make it any less inspired than if Jesus said it.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and[a] we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
The prosperity gospel does not permit being content with just food and clothing. Undergirding the prosperity gospel is this notion of being rich and healthy—that will bring happiness. But that’s no different than what the world says.
God loves His children and wants what’s best for them. Is giving us every material possession we want good for us? No! These things make it hard to enter the Kingdom! It brings more trials than triumph.
Let’s go back to the apostle Paul, shall we? How can you tell you are a child of God? Material possessions? Good health? Happy life? Not one—not one of those who were commended by Christ as being faithful were ones who had any of these situations! None!
You can tell you are a child of God if you are led by the Spirit of God. And getting back to Galatians 5: those not led by the Spirit are led by self—the flesh. And they love their sin.
John Piper preached this, and he’s spot on:
If you love your sin, and make peace with your sin, and settle in with your sin, and walk with your sin every day as friends, you got assurance issues bigtime, and I would never assure you that you are a child of God. . . . Are you being led by the Spirit to kill your sin?
It’s not material possessions or the inner man. God may choose to bless you, but it’s not an indicator of blessing—but to be used as an instrument to bless others. The suffering comes before the glory.
Joel Osteen Ministries, https://www.joelosteen.com/Pages/MonthlyOffer.aspx?keyvalue=193&sourcecode=1403JWAC.
Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential (New York: Warner, 2004), 119. Quoted in Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 69-70.