It’s sad but true.
In most of our churches today the common belief isn’t found in a historical creed or confession, or even an agreed upon statement of faith. No, though we may say these things are what we believe on the surface they do not form the substance of what most Christians believe. To me, the most popular belief among Christians in churches today is this: God does not give quick enough results, change happens to slowly.
Rather than ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2) or ‘waiting for the God who labors for us’ (Isaiah 64:4) or ‘eagerly awaiting our hope from heaven’ (1 Thessalonians 1:10) the language I hear too often from Christians is that we want ‘God’s blessings’ on our own terms and in our own time.
How does this desire show itself? Two ways:
The Me-Centered gospel of Prosperity
Whether focusing on peace, happiness, or wealth this fake and phony gospel peddled by famous frauds sends out a message that can be summarized like this: ‘Did you know that you can have all that you’ve ever desired? Really. God doesn’t want you to be defeated in this life, He wants your best, He wants you to live a victorious life. But He can’t give it to you if you don’t let Him. So buy my books and watch me on TV so I can tell you the secret of using God to get your own gain.’
This so called gospel makes God a means to an end rather than the end itself. It portrays God to be a kind of divine butler who only comes when he’s beckoned to grant us another pillow in the den to make our lives more comfortable. This message is one result of refusing to wait on God. This is more of a personal way we twist the gospel, the other way we do it is more communal.
The Us-Centered gospel of Socialism
What is the antidote? While the prosperity message focuses on God serving individuals and bringing our personal desires when we want Him to, the socialism gospel focuses on God serving ‘us’ or mankind as a whole bringing to ‘us’ what we think is good for as a society. God doesn’t serve the personal wish lists of each person in this message, He serves the personal wish list of whole communities, such that the desires of a certain group become the desires of the god they worship, or those desires become the god-like center of hope and peace.
This so called gospel also makes God a means to an end rather than the end itself. It portrays God as a higher power who aids mankind to become the best version of themselves they want to be. The only trouble with this view is that it has every pleasant quality about it except that of being useful. I say this because in every generation ‘what we think we should be’ as a whole changes. But to the socialist, that doesn’t matter. Since so much change happens with mankind over the centuries, change has to be a part of God’s makeup too, right? Wrong.
The God-Centered Gospel of Future Hope
Both of these gospels are false. They focus on needs here in this life rather than the life to come. And this is precisely where we see the true Gospel come into focus. We will only be of much use to our common man here in this life when we focus on the life to come. Love to God becomes central and when love to God becomes central, pleasing God becomes our primary desire in life. And when pleasing God and living a life that glorifies and makes much of Him becomes our primary desire in life we begin to care for and extend love to our common man. This horizontal love toward our fellow man can only come from our vertical love for God, or else the so-called ‘love’ we give to our fellow man will always come with strings attached. We will always love others for other ends we desire, or for personal gain.
But with the Gospel of God-centered future hope we can truly love our neighbors with no strings attached. How so? Because that is how God loved and still loves us in Christ. Christ did not come to save ‘squeaky clean’ religious people but sinners who don’t have their ducks in a row. He gave us what we didn’t deserve by taking on Himself the penalty He didn’t deserve. He died and rose again to make up for us doing what we shouldn’t in order to change us into a different kind of people. A people devoted to God first and others second. Upward love to God and outward love to others.
In our ‘I want it now’ society we ultimately must remember that God will one day right all the wrongs we see on this earth. We don’t need to change the things we see around us by taking matters into our own hands and changing the gospel message into a personal gain message (me-centered prosperity nonsense) or a communal gain (us-centered socialistic nonsense) message. No, both of those messages more reflect our own individual anxieties rather than a passion for personal or communal gain.
We must wait on God, trusting Him to do what only He can do. It is precisely our waiting on God, our future hope in Him, and the knowledge that He will one day right all wrongs that makes us of real value to our neighbors here. Only love to God first causes genuine love to neighbor.
(Image courtesy of Gilbert Lennox Photography)