Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Focus on the Blesser Not the Blessing

Today we continue our series on the trappings of the prosperity as taught by much of the church today.  Today we will talk about how these teachers, while claiming to focus on Jesus, turn the focus off of Jesus and onto prosperity.  Jesus, instead of Lord and Savior, become a means to a desired prosperous end.  It is taught that He is savior, but that salvation includes our bank accounts.  He is taught to be Lord, but never Lord of us, only Lord in what He can provide for us.  Today we will talk about that errant focus and wrong teaching of who Jesus Christ is to us. 
There is a case in the Bible where Jesus warns his disciples regarding the spiritual gifts they were about to receive.  While this passage is not specific to material prosperity, it is about focusing on the blessing and not on the One who gives the blessing.  Jesus warned them regarding focusing on their spiritual gifts, how much worse is it to focus on self serving gifts such as material prosperity.
"Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you." Luke 10:19 NKJV
That's quite a gift!  We all know that Satan and his minions can only do to us what God allows, but we rarely know exactly what is allowed.  In this case, Jesus tells them that neither Satan nor any of his minions nor anything else will be able to even hurt them.  We know this is not an ongoing gift as Jesus tells us that we will go through many persecutions and we have accounts in the Bible and in history of horrid things being done to Christians.  For now, though, Jesus is giving them an impenetrable shield from harm as they are sent out.  Not only that will Satan's minions not have permission to harm them, but they have authority over those same minions. That is quite a gift, I am sure they were excited.
"Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."  Luke 10:20 NKJV
Jesus warns them about being too excited about what they can do on earth, but rejoice in that you will be in Heaven.  Why is that?  What is wrong with rejoicing in what God gives us on earth?  The answer to that can be found later in Luke.
Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.  Luke 17:11-14 NKJV
Here we have a tribe of ten lepers asking Jesus to heal them.  Something to note here is that they cried from afar to Jesus to heal them.  Lepers were not allowed to approach anyone and in fact had to warn others coming near them by shouting "Unclean!"  They were shouting distance from Jesus, but had faith in what Jesus can do.  Jesus healed them and sent them to the priests to show themselves as clean so that they would be allowed back into society. 
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."  Luke 17:15-19 NKJV
Here we see why Jesus gave the warning He did in Luke 10.  All ten lepers had faith to be healed.  Only one returned to glorify God.  What were the other nine doing? The Bible does not say but I imagine they were back in society celebrating their return.  They were focused on the healing and not on the Healer.  Only the one who returned focused on the Healer and celebrated Him. 
This, along with the warning in Luke 10, illustrates another of the trappings of the prosperity Gospel.  The Gospel of prosperity focuses on prosperity and not on our Lord.   The gospel of prosperity denies the sufficiency of God's grace for salvation and teaches that we deserve more.  What more can we  ever need than our eternity in Heaven?  What riches can we possibly need on earth when we are merely travelers passing through on our way to eternity?   Focusing on what God can do for us in this world sets our heart on this world, and that is the heart of the problem.  I will share again today a warning I shared yesterday.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV
Where your treasure is, your heart will be also.  Where do you desire your treasure to be?  Do you really want it here on earth where we have so little time and nothing we have can come with us to eternity?  Or do you want your treasure in Heaven where it will be there waiting for you?  The latter is the far superior option.  Furthermore, why would you put your treasure on earth when there is no guarantee you can even keep it in this life?  There are many who were once wealthy who are now beggars.  In Heaven, our treasure is held safely in the treasuries of God waiting for our arrival.  If God were to lavish us with grand wealth here on earth how can our hearts possibly be on our treasures in Heaven?  If you care to be wealthy on earth how can you say your heart is with your treasures in Heaven?   But, no, we continue to ask God for what He tells us not to strive for.  We do not rejoice in our eternal treasures, rather we cry out for earthly riches. We do not heed the warning of Jesus and instead of rejoicing in what is eternal, we live in disappointment in what is temporary.  We are disappointed if we do not get riches and if we do get them we are never satisfied with how much we have. 
Like those nine lepers who did not return to thank Jesus, we also get so engrossed in our riches we forget about the Lord.  This was the heart of yesterday's message as part of forgetting on the Lord is forgetting that we rely upon Him.  Think about it, if you give a child a gift that child will thank you for about a minute before he runs off and plays with it.  Soon, the fact that you gave it to him is forgotten and only the joy he gets from the gift is important. Sure that child will tell others that mom or dad got it for him, but its only a statement of fact not a true gratitude.  We would most likely act the same towards our riches.  How soon does it become more about enjoying what God may have blessed you with then kneeling at His feet thanking Him for it?  All ten lepers have faith in Jesus, only one thought to glorify Him. 
May we not ever be so ungrateful for any gift the Lord has given us, including our salvation.  And that is my last point for today.  Whenever we believe we need more than salvation or even if we desire more than salvation, then what does that say about our gratitude for the Cross?  It is like saying "Thanks for being crucified for my sins, but I want to have a lot of money too."  How wickedly ungrateful it is to have a heart like that.  Rejoice in that we are written in the Book of Life.  Rejoice in that we are eternally secure. Rejoice in the treasures unimaginable waiting for us in our eternal home.  Rejoice that God so loved you that He sent His only begotten son to die for you.  Nothing else really matters, nothing else can matter when your heart is with your treasures in Heaven.  His grace is now, always has been, and forever will be sufficient for you. 
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 2:4-7 NKJV

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