And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
The Word of Faith Movement, also known as Prosperity Theology, is alive and well especially in American Christianity; with much of the credit(?) being given to TBN ( Trinity Broadcasting Network ) and its myriads of ( supposed ) preachers of the word and pastors of the flock. Word of Faith Theology is extremely hard to pin down as it does not have an official statement of faith, a creed or confession, and is not even a denomination, though many of its adherents would fall into various Pentecostal/Charismatic circles.
Never the less, one of its main controversial tenets is how those who follow it define faith. They most often use a definition akin to Positive Confession which states:
we are created in the image of God thus we have the ability to release faith-filled words creating reality.
Compared to E.W. Kenyon’s thoughts:
Man is a little god, created in ” God class “, and therefore can use the same faith that God has to speak things into existence.
Some of the most outspoken propenents of this doctinre today are Paul Crouch ( founder and president of TBN ), Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and Jesse Duplantis.
They have been quoted as saying the following:
Kenneth Copeland: God did not create the world out of nothing, He used the Force of His Faith. (Spirit, Soul and Body, #01-0601, Tape #1)
Benny Hinn: Sow a big seed, when you confess it, you are activating the supernatural forces of God. (Praise-a-thon (TBN), recorded November 1990)
Joyce Meyer: in her book, writes, “Words are containers for power” (The Name, The Word, The Blood, p. 37).
Creflo Dollar: Whatever you believe, you must speak.
Jesse Duplantis: “I said to Paul, you went through great persecution.” “Yes,” he answered, “but I kept the faith. I focused my life on faith. That’s how you get things done. . .Never change the message because of the hearers. Speak what God gives you”
This theology, naming it a claiming it, in nearly all of its permutations, can be traced to E.W. Kenyon and subsequently to Kenneth ” Pop ” Hagin.
Hagin is quoted as saying in one of his articles:
“You Can Have What You Say”:
“Often you create your own negative situations yourself with wrong thinking, wrong believing, and wrong speaking. So start believing according to God’s Word. Then begin making positive confessions of faith and victory over your life. … You will never receive anything from God beyond the words you speak. … If you don’t like what you have in life, then begin to change the way you are thinking, believing, and speaking. Instead of speaking according to natural circumstances out of your head, learn to speak God’s Word from your spirit. Begin to confess God’s promises of life and health and victory into your situation. Then you can begin to enjoy God’s abundant life as you have what you say!”
Kenyon’s introducton of New Thought into the Church and its viral spread throughout the 20th Century has lead to confusion on what Faith is in the Church and in the life of the Believer.
The following exchange between Kenneth Copeland and Paul Crouch is endemic to the problem:
Copeland: The Force of Faith is in the Spiritual Realm a great deal like certain forces in the natural realm. It is spiritual force, like gravity is a natural force, and electricity is a natural force of power.
Crouch: A measurable Natural Force.
Copeland: It’s a measurable force, its conductible, perceptible to the touch…
Crouch: ….Does God use faith??
Crouch:…The critics say God is God. He doesn’t have to use faith….He’s the object of faith.
Copeland:..waith a minute….what does that mean? Object of faith. I don’t know what that means.
The Reduction of God
There are more than a couple problems with that exchange but first and foremost it reduces the Infinite Creator of the Universe to using a natural force to create and reach His desired ends. Does God use natural Laws? Yes, He does and through Christ all things are sustained ( Colossians 1:16-17 ). It is through His sustaining power that these laws continue to function and through their temporary suspension ( miracles ) that He demostrates His power over them.
Does God give grace and faith to fallen men allowing them to come to Him? Yes, but God, who is the maker of all things is not subservient to Creation or a spiritual force akin to gravity.
By making God the user of an invisible force they are attempting to bring Him down to their level and raise themselves up to His. Now man has the same power that God does, we can create our reality, and the Giver of life is relegated to ” faith-force co-opt ” providing your faith needs since creation.
The Object of Our Faith
Also, we should realize that Christ, the God-man, is the object of our faith. He is the objective reality, embodied in the story of the Gospel, which declares Him to be the Christ, our sinless and Risen Lord, who purchased a people for Himself by the shedding of His precious blood. The Person of Jesus Christ, who He is and what He has accomplished, is the object of our faith…our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and Righteousness. He has secured the new birth, justification, sanctification, and ultimately glorification for those who believe in Him. Without the Objective reality of Christ, the Cross, and the Empty Tomb there is no Gospel and our faith is in vain.
Not only is our faith in Him, He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith ( Hebrews 12:2 ). It is by grace throught faith, not of ourselves, ( Ephesians 2:8-9 ) that we can come into a relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is not the mystical manifestation of a spiritual ” force ” that operates indepedently of God Almighty…..faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen ( Hebrews 11:1 ). Our Great Hope ( 2 Corinthians 3 ) is the resurrection of these frail bodies into our glorified state ( 1 Corinthians 15 )….and it is only because of Christ that we have this hope.
It ( faith ) is not only the substance of our hope, but it is also the evidence of things not seen. Remember what the Risen Christ told Thomas
28And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.
29Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
We have evidence, but this evidence means nothing without eyes to see and ears to hear ( Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 6:10, Jeremiah 5:21, Matthew 13:15, Romans 11:8 ). It is only through the working of the Holy Spirit in one’s life and the drawing of the Father to the Son that life and faith is even possible.
WE cannot create new worlds by speaking them into existence. WE cannot produce wealth and health by naming it and claiming it. Though our tongues are dangerous ( James 3 ) they are not divine. Faith is not a force that is wielded by those skilled in the arts of Prosperity, it is not activated by the speaking of the right words but is rather, the knowledge of, and trust in, the giver of all life, Jesus Christ. I pray that by the working of the Holy Spirit that you will be lead into all Truth and have the faith that saves.
What do you think?
Walking through the woods as a pre-teen and teen, I was often in awe of the majestic splendor of the world I was encountering: the abundance of life teeming around me was incredible….from the smallest of ants, mosses, and fungi……to the swiftest of deer, sly foxes, and the tallest of trees soaring towards Heaven spreading their limbs in praise of their Creator. It was and is an amazing world to behold….full of wonder and grandeur: Full of life lessons waiting to be learned to a proud and arrogant young man. I soon learned that Looks Can be Deceiving in the mountains and valleys that I roamed as a kid.
Looks Can be Deceiving
When walking the hills with my Grandpa we would stop and take the time to learn which tree was which by both the type of bark and the particular leaves each tree produced. This was important to us for two reasons…..a wood stove heated my Grandparent’s house during the cold Appalachian winters and while hunting I would need to know which trees produced food for the various species of varmints that would hopefully hit the table.
Out of all the trees in those woods….the ash, the maple, hickories, dogwoods, poplars, beech, and others…..the Mighty Oak enthralled me the most. They would grow to epic sizes…both in heighth and girth all the while producing the acorns that turkeys, deers, and squirrels so loved to eat. Their branches were home to a plethora of species and they looked so solid and secure in their place among the pantheon of woodland trees that I doubted that any ill could befall them.
There was one in particular, of grand size, that was just below the trail leading around the mountain we so often traversed that I looked to as the king of the woods. I loved to gaze at it…..thinking that this tree would last forever….it seemed to have always been there and surely it would always be. Can you imagine my surprise when one day I looked down the hill and it was toppled…this giant was laying on its side…dead and lifeless.
I walked down to the shattered base of the behemoth and found out that looks can be deceiving….from the outside the Giant Oak was solid, firm, the picture of health and stability….but on the inside it was rotten….decaying….and had been dying for years. The deception that had played upon my eyes was now open for all to see….and I learned a valuable lesson that would not come to full fruition until years later.
Appearance are Deceptive
Appearances…..that is looks can be deceiving. Things are not always as they seem and that applies to the people we associate with, those we live with, and especially those we worship with. Many of us so often only have a thin veneer of being civilized…when the time comes, when our feathers are ruffled, when the winds blow contrary to our course….that veneer may quickly vanish. We ( I ) can lose all sense of decorum and tact all the while making fools out of ourselves in the name of pride.
Humans everywhere will put on the false faces of the theatre to fit in, to play act with the crowd….to reduce the chance of being scorned and ridiculed by our peers. It is our nature…it is who we are….but there is an even more insidious form of deception that plagues us…hypocrisy of religion.
Hypocrisy and Religion
Jesus Christ reserved the harshest of criticism for the Pharisees…those who appeared holy, those who loved the praise of men, but were far away from the God they claimed to serve:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
Just like the giant oaks of my youth, Jesus knew that there where those whose looks can be deceiving. Alive on the outside, following the rules ( or so it appears ), and having every appearance of Godliness, but on the inside they are full of dead men’s bones and unclean.
These Pharisees of old were the blind leading the blind ( Luke 6:39 ) and a broad of vipers who spoke out of the abundance of their hearts the corruption that was found there ( Matthew 12:34 ). The Pharisees that Jesus spoke to in this manner were tied to an external righteousness apart from the faith of Abraham.
The sad thing is that they have survived unto this day.
Legalist and Deceivers
Our world is full of them…our churches swarm with legalist who would hinder the Christian Liberty found in Christ. They so want to….from their heart of hearts….to place burdens upon true believers that they themselves cannot bear. They demand perfection from others while they are rotten to the core. That looks can be deceiving is a hard lesson learned among the pews of the faithful.
The modern Pharisees often look the best, play the part, sing the loudest, and quote Scripture the most….but the love of God and the Truth is not in them. They bind phylacteries upon their foreheads and hands all the while not having the Word found in their hearts….their words are bitter-sweet and their venom is toxic.
The Hollow Ring of Deception
Many years after seeing that majestic ol’ oak tree fall from internal rot this life lesson was reinforced upon me once again. Working for a utility company I am required to climbs poles using a set of gaff hooks….those things that resemble rooster spurs and allow us to climb poles like a squirrel…in theory at least.
When preparing to climb we must sound the pole by taking a line hammer and tapping all around the pole in an effort to determine shell rot….if the outside is stable enough to climb. The bad thing is that sounding it at the bottom does not determine the suitability further on up….and rotteness is not always apparent at first glance….and one day I came down the pole I was climbing after ” cutting-out ” with my gaffs. It was not a pleasurable experience I can assure you.
A few splinters, some scrapes, and gobs on Neosporin and bandages later I was all healed up…but many in the Church suffer much worse at the hands of those whose looks can be deceiving. The WhiteWashed tombs try with vigor to lead others down the primrose path of destruction and legalism. Do this and you will be saved not ever heading the call of Scripture that He has done all that is required for salvation. The liberty we have in Christ is never to be confused with Antinomiansim…..that is no law, for Christ gave us commands and the NT prescribes behaviors that are fitting of a Christian to persue….but those behaviors apart from Christ are nothing but a dead and dangerous moralism.
Looks can be Deceiving so what to do?
We cannot cut down every ( even any? ) tree that we suspect to be rotten for most of these tree look sound from the outside. Jesus Himself said that the tares would have to grow with the wheat until the end, but though looks can be deceiving there are some things that we can do:
We can look to the fruit they are producing-Matthew 7:17 since good fruit comes from good trees and bad fruit from bad trees
Learn the Scriptures and set under sound teachers for all Scripture is given for reproof, correction, and training in righteousness 2 Timothy 3:16
Rest in the Finished Work of Christ and the Faith He has given you. John 19:13, Hebrews 12:2, Ephesians 2:8-10
Know that you can add nothing to your salvation and no one can take it from you. Romans 5:17,Romans 6:23, Romans 8:35-39
Don’t Be Deceived by Appearances
Appearances can be deceiving…..life is full of deception and misdirection so we must be wary….wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Do a little ” sounding ” before building your house in a tree that may be rotten to the core.u
Remember….looks can be deceiving.
God bless and keep the Faith