Recently I was talking with a friend who was telling me about his church and the pastor there. It is a well known place, and I was astonished how many people attended. He talked about the ministry and mentioned some other well known ministers and how big their churches were. After listening I explained that many of the churches that have a huge following are taught what I call “prosperity gospel”. I went on to tell my friend that the problem is not that all of what is preached is not true, although some of it is, the problem is, it is unbalanced. If we teach only the parts of scripture we like, are we teaching others how to be holy? I told him I was a “hardliner” because I believe in teaching all of scripture and that when we continue to teach fluff each and every week, it produces very weak Christians. Put plainly, how we will deal with hardship, which will come, if all we ever hear is that we will have a blessed life now. Teaching prosperity alone is not only cornering what is easy and comfortable, it is dangerous. My friend did mention that one minister was no more than a motivational speaker. And he is right! How can we even call ourselves Christians when we are not willing to say what Jesus did? Jesus told his disciples that they would be persecuted. Jesus was not a cotton candy teacher – he proclaimed the truth.
I told my friend many people do not realize how great the need is for teaching the whole counsel of God. We live in America where we see all kinds of cultures and beliefs show up in one place. How are people supposed to know the truth if it is never taught? In the beginning of Vaughan Roberts book, God’s Big Picture, he writes about the ignorance of the Bible. He writes, “A few decades ago everyone would have known about Joshua and the walls of Jericho. A large proportion of children went to Sunday school, and the rest still received a grounding in the main stories of the Bible in class. But those days are gone.” If Roberts is right, then we have a serious problem! This means not only is there a great gap in knowledge of the Bible. It also means that people will not know when they are being led astray. Isn’t this what was happening just before the Reformation. Then, people did not know what the Bible said because they could not read it (it was in Latin), but now they can read it but choose not to. And to make matters worse many high profile preachers that are influencing many, many people are preaching false or at best incomplete theology. This is creating a dark age, where true knowledge is becoming scarce.
Listen to what the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel have to say:
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?
I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.
“Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23:16-18, 21-22, 30-32
Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the Lord has not sent them, they say, “The Lord declares,” and expect him to fulfill their words. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, “The Lord declares,” though I have not spoken?
“‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”
“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. Ezekiel 13:2-7,10-14
This last verse is Ezekiel is very important. God shows us that he will remove the whitewash and lay the foundation bare. While this seems frightening, it is a good thing. This means he will rebuild again on a solid foundation. As we think about the damage the prosperity gospel is doing in our culture, remember, God will remove the whitewash. And he will lay the foundation bare. If God is indeed going to strip us bare, it is so he can rebuild on a pure foundation, the foundation of Jesus Christ!
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:25-27