Christmas, of course, celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. But you know what? Jesus did not come down here to set up a luxury resort, as some seem to believe. Rather, He came to suffer and die for everyone's sins and to enroll them by faith in His Kingdom bootcamp to spiritually save, inform, strengthen, and toughen His followers for their battle with their greatest enemy, the Devil.
As Apostle Paul said in Eph.6, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
And Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 5, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour."
I believe there is a plague that has come to Christianity in our nation loosely called "The Prosperity Gospel" that basically says that if you give your life to Jesus, He will help you be rich and successful and live the good life.
Meanwhile, Jesus said "In the world you shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). And "Do not store up treasures on earth...But store up treasures in heaven...for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt 6:19-21). And "You cannot serve God and money" (v. 24).
And Apostle Paul said "But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim.6:6). And "and having food and clothing let us be content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare...For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith...."(v.8-10).
It has been my experience, and I believe it is the same for all true witnessing Christians, that believing in and following Jesus brings its own problems with some family, friends, and fellow workers, and others because they don't like it.
True Christianity has never been and never will be popular with the general public...and everybody knows it. That's why we all have trouble sometime talking about Jesus to unbelievers.
While there are some Bible verses that prosperity people use to support their teaching, some are misused (such as Jeremiah 29:11 which was only meant for the Jews who would come back from Babylon to Jerusalem 2500 years ago), and all verses need to be understood in light of all the Bible, such as the verses quoted above.
If God intended all of Jesus' followers to enjoy the good life, surely His apostles would have done so and set an example for us. But they never did and all, but John were killed because of their faith, and John was exiled to the island of Patmos. Plus, many of the early Christians were hunted down and killed outright or fed to the lions (and there are more Christians being killed today in other countries because they are Christians than at any other time in history).
The great Apostle Paul perhaps suffered the most...and kept on going until he was crucified in Rome, as was Peter. In 2 Cor.5 Paul said "Five times I received from the Jews 40 lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I suffered shipwreck..." and he goes on about many "perils."
At the same time, Paul also said "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess.5:16-18) and "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us" Rom.8:28).
Stop and think about this a minute. Did they all not understand the prosperity message and miss out? Or is Satan appealing to people's sinful nature today in our rich nation? Or? While Jesus did promise to take care of us if we give ourselves to Him (Matt.6:31-34) He did not promise to give us everything we want, and even warned against storing up too much money and stuff.
I don't believe that Jesus and Paul are saying that it is wrong to make a lot of money, but just in keeping too much of it for our kingdom instead of building up treasures in Heaven by giving it to further the Kingdom of God and help others (Mr. Woolworth gave 90 percent, and some today give 50 percent or more).
I also don't believe that they are saying we cannot have a good time in this life as long as we keep in mind that the Kingdom of God and following Jesus are the most important.
May you and I look to God through faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord for guidance.
Pastor Norman Heironimus
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