But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." - Acts 9: 15-16 (ESV)
There is a Bible verse that says a little leaven ruins the whole lump. That it does not take much to go throughout the entire batch. That highlights the critical nature of being vigilant about our faith and guard our doctrine carefully. The Apostle Paul said our very lives depend upon it. I know many people who seemed profoundly rooted in solid doctrine only to fall away and into chasing all sorts of myths. Then there are others who follow heretical and false teachings without even realizing it. The great apostasy warned about in Scripture is well underway in the American church system today. While many of the false theologies are easy to spot and debunk biblically, there are also currents of leaven running through all teachings that threaten to ruin the whole batch if not recognized and dealt with. One of the most prevalent is the false notions of "blessing."
There is a Latin expression called quid pro quo, which means "something for something." This is what much of modern Christianity has devolved into. It is not just the prosperity hucksters like Mike Murdoch and Kenneth Copeland. It is not just the word faith heretics like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer. It is not just the sheep-abusing false tithing teachers like Robert Morris and Perry Noble. It is not just the purpose driven fanatics like Rick Warren and Andy Stanley, who recently preached that it really is not a big deal if you do not believe Christ was the Son of God. Even though people such as this are defrauding and deceiving millions, skipping merrily down the broad path that leads to destruction, they are also not alone when it comes to turning God into a genie in a bottle. I see it and hear from many good pastors as well. Far too often scripture and life circumstances seem to come back to the Christian common denominator - blessing. The problem is that this word has become synonymous with material increase. Consider the words of German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing from the prison where he would eventually be executed by the Nazi regime:
"Blessing means laying one's hand on something and saying: Despite everything, you belong to God."
That is a far cry from a new car or being promoted. Inevitably at this point someone will ask me if I believe God wants to prosper us. My answer has evolved over the years as I go deeper into His Word. Now I believe that if you are asking that question then the answer is no. If your focus is on what you get in return then my estimation is you have missed the true point of Christianity. You have already missed the true blessing:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5: 6-8 (ESV)
This is the blessing of God upon humanity. That He would sacrifice His only Son for our eternal blessings. Can't we have eternal blessings and temporal? Sure it is possible but that does not mean it is a guarantee beloved. Sometimes the promotion does not come. Sometimes the mortgage gets foreclosed on. Sometimes our dreams of extravagance end up in lives of moderate commonality. "Oh no preacher not me! My pastor says I am the head and not the tail! That I am more than a conqueror in Jesus name!" OK, let's see what those verses really mean:
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. - Romans 8: 31-37 (ESV)
You see it is a little more than simply saying we are more than conquerors. There is context that explains what God is actually saying and it has nothing to do with material prosperity. Even the stand alone verse starts with - "In all these things"" What things? In all the things trying to separate us from Christ! Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. In all of those things that try to separate us from Christ - we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ! Here is how Gill's Exposition of the Bible says it:
"we are more than conquerors; not only over sin and Satan, but the world, the reproaches, afflictions, and persecutions of it; which they cheerfully and courageously undergo, insomuch that they are not only conquerors, but "more than conquerors": they have above overcome, they have exceedingly the better of it; for they not only patiently bear afflictions and persecutions, but they glory in them; their experience, faith, and joy, are often increased by them; they have sometime solicited, and even wearied their persecutors; they have got the victory with ease, over Satan and his hellish emissaries, by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony: but this is not owing to themselves"
One of the easiest temptations Satan uses is greed beloved. It was even the final temptation he tried on Christ Himself! So ironically when pastors are selling earthly greed by using the "more than conquerors" verse they not only miss the mark but they are diametrically opposed to what God actually meant! What about the head and not the tail verse?
The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. - Deuteronomy 28: 12-14 (ESV)
These verses come from the end of the Torah. The end of the Mosaic Law. These are promises of material blessing for the nation of Israel but there is a caveat! They must keep the entire law. That means all 613 Mosaic laws if they are to "cash in" on those first 14 verses of blessings. What you friendly neighborhood false teacher won't tell you however is that the next 53 verses are the curses for disobedience! He also neglects to remind you that no one could keep this covenant, which is why God had to send His only Son to begin with! Christ is the real blessing! Is that what is celebrated though on Sundays across this land? The finished work of Calvary? Or are you hearing this:
"If you will stay in faith, God will rain down His favor, His healing, His blessing." - Joel Osteen
"God's blessings crown your head, O righteous one (see Prov 10:6)! His healing, bountiful provisions and protection are upon you and your household!" - Joseph Prince