Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Make sure you have a Prosperity Gospel
The Old Covenant had its promises of material blessings for obedient Israelites, Why not for Christians today, too? We are heirs of God’s gracious covenant; so are we heirs of material prosperity, too. Aren’t we? Calvin speaks into this:
“The point of our quarrel with men of this sort is this: they teach that the Israelites deemed the possession of the land of Canaan their ultimate and highest blessedness, and that after the revelation of Christ it typified for us the heavenly inheritance. We contend, on the contrary, that, in the earthly possession they enjoyed, they looked, as in a mirror, upon the future inheritance they believed to have been prepared for them in heaven.” (Institutes II, XI, 1, 449, quoted in Lillback, p.151)
Recently I had a passionate conversation (that is not code for an argument, by the way!) with a Christian man who was sure that God’s blessings for him are essentially material. Yes, he trusts in Christ for salvation; but now he’s looking for the material wealth which he thinks his faith will bring. After all, they were promised prosperity at the borders of Canaan in the Old Testament, so why shouldn’t he expect them same as a New Testament Christian?
The New Testament has a two-fold emphasis: firstly, in Jesus we have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1.3). Yes, Christians know that verse, but we don’t allow its truth to sink in. We really do already have the riches of God’s grace. To be made a new person in Jesus Christ, filled with His Spirit, forgiven of all of our sins, right with God, claimed for His purposes, absolutely certain of a Heaven won for us by Christ’s death and resurrection – these are astonishing blessings. We are the richest of people. No wealth, no earthly success or status, can ever compare with what has been given to us.
The second New Testament emphasis is that the best is yet to come. We live in a world of tears, and this world is not our true home. We’re going there, to the Father’s house where all will be well, forever. There we will really know Eden restored, true riches which those promised in Canaan are only a foreshadowing of.
Until then, God continues His purposes of making us more like His Son, Jesus Christ. He wants to change us, weaning us off life’s fleeting pleasures, and strengthening our hearts to long for God, and to give our lives in service to others, as Christ did. Only a life where God is at work with those purposes is truly alive, and truly worth living.
So think of my friend, and of yourself. God, in His love, might just want to make us poorer, rather than richer. That might be in health, wealth, reputations, comforts or anything else. If He sovereignly chooses to do that it is in order that we lay hold of lasting riches with more confidence and commitment, the riches of knowing Christ.