Is the life you love in this world, or is it in Christ?
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover feast told Philip that they wanted to see Jesus. Philip told Andrew, and they in turn told Jesus. Jesus answered them – “’The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.’” (John 12: 23b-26)
Jesus was speaking of His approaching crucifixion. He had come to die. He had come to pay the eternal price for our sins – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5: 21); “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’) that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal. 3: 13-14) Jesus would be glorified. He would accomplish His Father’s will. He would open the only door through which man could be reconciled to God. Jesus’ sacrifice would turn God’s throne of Judgment into a throne of grace for those who put their trust in Him – “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb. 10: 19-22)
What did Jesus mean when He said ‘He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life’? What does our life ‘in this world’ consist of? Consider how C.I. Scofield describes this ‘present world system’ – “the order or arrangement under which Satan has organized the world of unbelieving mankind upon his cosmic principles of force, greed, selfishness, ambition, and pleasure. This world system is imposing and powerful with military might; is often outwardly religious, scientific, cultured, and elegant; but, seething with national and commercial rivalries and ambitions, is upheld in any real crisis only by armed force, and is dominated by satanic principles.” (Scofield 1734) Jesus clearly declared that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18: 36). John wrote – “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 Jn. 2: 15-17)
One of Satan’s most beloved false gospels today is the prosperity gospel. It has been spread for many years; especially since televangelism became so popular. Oral Roberts, as a young pastor, claimed to have a revelation when his Bible fell open one day to the second verse in the third book of John. The verse read – “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” In response, he bought a Buick and said that he felt God told him to go heal people. Eventually he would become the leader of a religious empire drawing in 120 million dollars per year, employing 2,300 people.i Kenneth Copeland attended Oral Robert’s university, afterward becoming Robert’s pilot and chauffeur. Copeland’s ministry now employs over 500 people, and annually takes in tens of millions of dollars.ii Joel Osteen also attended Oral Robert’s university, and now rules his own religious empire; including a church with an attendance over 40,000, and an annual budget of 70 million dollars. His net worth is estimated to be over 56 million dollars. He and his wife live in a home worth over 10 million dollars.iii An independent commission has been formed to investigate the lack of accountability of tax-exempt religious groups. This was the result of Senator Chuck Grassley leading an investigation of six televangelist prosperity preachers including Kenneth Copeland, Bishop Eddie Long, Paula White, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyers, and Creflo Dollar. iv
Kate Bowler, a Duke professor and historian of the prosperity gospel says that the “prosperity gospel is the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith.” She has recently published a book entitled Blessed, after ten years of interviewing televangelists. She says that these prosperity preachers have “spiritual formulas for how to earn God’s miracle money.” v The prosperity gospel is affecting people around the world, especially in Africa and South Korea.vi In 2014, the attorney general of Kenya banned new churches from being established because of a “miracle faking” outbreak. Just this year, he proposed new reporting requirements including; minimum theological education requirements for pastors, church membership requirements, and umbrella organization administration for all churches. The Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, rejected the proposal after a backlash from Evangelicals, Muslims, and Catholics in Kenya. The Daily Nation, one of Kenya’s leading newspapers called the attorney general’s efforts “timely,” because “by trafficking in fake miracles and through sermons that promise prosperity for members, these dodgy church leaders have amassed a huge following and exploited their flock ruthlessly for their own material gain.”vii
Consider the counsel that Paul gave to the young pastor Timothy – “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6: 6-10) Considering the things of this present world , notice how Satan used them to tempt Jesus – “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’” (Matthew 4: 8-9) The true gospel of Jesus Christ and the prosperity gospel are not the same gospels. The prosperity gospel sounds more like the temptation that Satan offered to Jesus. Jesus did not promise that those who followed Him would be rich by the standards of this world; rather, He promised that those who followed Him would face hatred and persecution (John 15: 18-20). If Jesus asked today’s prosperity preachers to do what He asked the rich young ruler to do…would they do it? Would you?
Scofield, C.I., ed. The Scofield Study Bible. New York: Oxford Press, 2002.