I want to tidy up some loose ends on this pursuit of happiness bit. Without a doubt, the notion that we are here on earth to pursue our desires, our fulfillment, our … anything, actually… is centered on “I” and “me”. Christians are called instead to be Christ-centered. Christ had compassion upon others to the extent that He gave His life for “the world”. He is our example. He gave His all to do His Father’s will, and so should we.
If we take our eyes off of Christ, then we will surely fall into idolatry. Why am I so critical of PCG? In part, it is because they have fallen into idolatry. At first, the focus was on Herbert W Armstrong. Once that was accomplished, Mystery of the Ages took the place of the Bible, and extra requirements were heaped upon prospective members (much like what the Pharisees of Jesus’ day did). Now, with a man as the focus, it was easier for Gerald Flurry to place the focus upon himself.
There are other ways we can take our eyes off of Christ, though. Any time we give the focus to the creation rather than the Creator, we immediately risk idolatry.
We would be prudent to remember Peter’s example. Remember when Jesus was walking upon the water in the Sea of Galilee?
25And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30But when he saw the wind boisterous [IOW, he took his eyes off of Jesus!], he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. (Matthew 14:25-32, King James Version)
We notice that:
- As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he could do the impossible.
- As soon as Peter began to look around at his physical surroundings instead of staying focused on Jesus, he began to sink.
- Jesus did not stop the wind and raging water when Peter began to sink. Instead, He reached down and pulled him up.
- The wind did not die down until Jesus entered the boat.
Are the boisterous winds and raging sea pounding against you? Take comfort in Our Savior. Do not take your eyes off of Him.
When we focus on physical circumstances, we begin to sink. The enemy is more than happy to take advantage of the situation. If he can drown you, he will.
This can happen in many ways. One way is to fall victim to the “prosperity gospel”, which is not really a gospel at all. It is simply crass materialism disguised in Christian language. In contrast, Jesus told us to not worry about the physical, but first seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness (many seem to leave that last bit out!), and the physical needs will take care of themselves.
24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24, King James Version)
Instead, the prosperity preachers would have you believe that by giving (usually to them, of course), God will “open the windows of heaven” and “pour out His blessing”. Many times, they use Malachi 3 to justify all of this.
8Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
12And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:8-12, King James Version)
The question is, “Does this verse apply to modern Christians?” I suggest you carefully weigh your answer.
The critics would rightly point out that this is the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant had many physical promises. The fact that “the devourer” would be rebuked is talking about crops. “The fruits of your ground” would also be important to an agricultural physical society. In addition, note that He is addressing “this whole nation”.
Does all this make this passage irrelevant, though? If an entire nation truly turned to God and obeyed Him wholeheartedly, do we really believe that God would not honor that and bless the entire nation? Numerous passages throughout the OT indicate otherwise. He even pardoned the pagan city of Nineveh for far less.
However, we must remember that all Scripture is inspired (2Ti 3:16). We must keep in mind that these passages are there for us to glean from their example (1Co 10:6; cf Heb 3:9, 15 – 4:2).
“Will a man rob God?” is singular. This is not a nation.
Those who believe in “once saved, always saved” are deceived into believing that we can do anything we want. However, God looks for righteousness. That means following His Laws, His ways and His desires. Stealing is breaking the commandments, and that is what God is comparing not tithing to.
Can a Christian become cursed?
24But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. (Ezekiel 18:24, King James Version)
The 2 covenants aren’t as different as most mainstream Christians would have you believe. The major difference is that the New Covenant is based upon better promises (Heb 8:6). The terms have not changed, except for some that have been explicitly replaced by something else.
To put it another way, we would call someone unjust if they signed a contract and then tried to change the terms later on. Neither is it just for God to require ancient Israel to follow the Law but allow modern Christians to do whatever they please.
So, yes. A Christian can be cursed. As Eze 18:24 points out, a righteous man can die for his sins. Ultimately, any unrepentant sin will kill eternally. In other words, you can lose your salvation if you become rebellious and develop the heart of the enemy.
Tithing is a law, like it or not. You can either obey it and work towards eternal life, or you can disregard God’s Law and lead down the path to destruction. It is that simple.
However, a Christian is not promised prosperity in this life. In fact, a Christian is promised quite the opposite.
9Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. (Matthew 24:9, King James Version)
2They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (John 16:2, King James Version)
Does this sound like God promises prosperity?
Finally, consider the example of Job. What did Satan, the Accuser, slander Job with?
9Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
10Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. (Job 1:9-11, King James Version)
Translation: Job only serves You because You have made him prosperous. Take away all of his possessions, and he will turn his back on You.
Why was Satan so confident of this? Could it be that this is the tactic that has worked on countless others before?
Job’s friends weren’t much help, either. They falsely accused Job of all sorts of sins.
Have you ever heard, “Well, if you had more faith, you would be healed”? How about, “You need to draw closer to God so He can protect you”? While we should always seek to draw nearer to God, the snide insinuation is that we are being afflicted because we weren’t close to Him in the first place.
Job’s dilemma was that he did not know why he was being afflicted. He did not know about the conversations between God and Satan. The good news is neither did his friends, although they certainly seemed so certain they knew the mind of God.
The problem is that all 4 of them were coming from the wrong viewpoint. They all believed that it works like an equation. You serve God, and He is required to bless you. Sometimes, you hear it in the converse that if you do not obey God, He is required to curse you. Of course, this is a limited view of what happens in this life and disregards the fact that true justice may not occur until the next.
Yet, even Job began to understand that this is not always the case.
7Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
8Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.
9Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.
10Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.
11They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.
12They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.
13They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
14Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
15What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him? (Job 21:7-15, King James Version)
Prosperity gospel? It’s a work of fiction. It is idolatry. It is an attempt to serve God and money, which Jesus said you cannot do.
Pursuit of happiness? It is self-centered and actually leads to lower happiness. It is also idolatry.
Selflessness and sharing? This has been proven to actually raise the level of happiness. It exercises the God-like quality of outgoing concern for others.
The way of Get, and the way of Give. Sound familiar? God’s way is always superior to the counterfeit.
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