The Fine Print of the Prosperity Gospel (The Victorious Christian Life? – Part 1)

contract-587273_1920Winning.  Somehow Charlie Sheen made that word famous just by just saying it (not by actually winning anything himself).  Legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”  And as one of my friends used to jokingly tell the youth at our church, “2nd place is the 1st loser.”

The victorious Christian life – what is it? In what way is the Christian life to be conceived of as “victorious”? (Just as importantly, in what ways should it not?) What does the victorious Christian life look like? Does it mean a life of ease? A carefree life? Living the so-called good life?

When you think about the so-called “victorious Christian life”, chances are that pretty good that you do not think about the lives of the apostles as depicted in the book of Acts (or, for that matter, in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs).  After all, they always seemed to be getting tossed into prison, beaten, or worse.

There are some in the church today who teach a twisted version of the “victorious Christian life” that bears no resemblance to the teaching and examples that we find in Scripture. They teach that the believer in Jesus Christ should know health, wealth, and prosperity. And they would say that if we do not experience those things, then there is something terribly wrong. You can probably see why such a message would prove to be quite attractive. You can see why those teachers sell so many books. They preach and teach that believers should have the very best of both worlds, both this life and the one to come.  Who wouldn’t want that?

But that is a far cry from the biblical picture of the Christian life.  It is not the example that we see in the earthly life & ministry of Christ.  Jesus Himself said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).  And, as far as earthly comforts go, the disciples in the book of Acts did not fare much better than Jesus did.   They were constantly being arrested for preaching the gospel.  They were threatened, imprisoned, beaten, and even killed.

Not only that, but the Scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms that such an idea is not only wrong-headed, but actually contrary to the faith itself!   In 1 Timothy 6:6-10 the Apostle Paul writes,

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 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. 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.”

So far from being a worthy goal for believers, Paul warns us that such a worldly version of the gospel is actually the road toward ruin and the path away from the faith altogether.  And there Paul exposes the fine print (so to speak) of the prosperity  gospel – not only is it not the way to have the best of both worlds (as it claims), but it is actually the way away from the faith, and the way of “ruin and destruction.”

Paul speaks of the real victorious Christian life in the closing verses of Romans 8, where he writes,

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39, ESV)

So according to Scripture, our real & lasting victory is in the Cross of Jesus Christ, in His death in our place to pay for our sins, His resurrection, His ascension, and His intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.

As strange as it may sound, our victory is not to be found in avoiding hardships, persecution, or even martyrdom, but in the fact that we are in Jesus Christ by faith and that none of those things can ever change that.  Our victory is that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!

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