Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why "GOD'S WONDERFUL PLAN" causes shame and cruelty


Consider the typical gospel presentation:

1. God LOVES you and has a wonderful PLAN for your life. 
2. Man is SINFUL and SEPARATED from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life. 
3. Jesus Christ is God's ONLY provision for man's sin. Through Him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life. 
4. We must individually RECEIVE Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives.

That sounds like what it commonly taught by churches, student groups, and missionary groups. But is this a true explanation of the gospel, or even of how Christians actually live?

(roll intro)

So what’s wrong with saying that God has a Wonderful Plan for your life?
Obviously, The message is man-centred:
If you were to go around asking people what their idea of God’s wonderful plan for their life was, most of the answers you would receive would be very carnal in nature, referring to today secular, materialistic culture. The drawcard this method uses is one of life enhancement; If you accept Jesus into your life, your life will get better as a result of following God's plan.
   But by what standard exactly are we defining wonderful? When we look at the lives of the 12 Disciples and what they went through - hardships, persecutions, imprisonments, shipwrecks, ostracism, physical assault, martyrdom - as recorded in the book of Acts in addition to the plights of missionaries today who have experienced horrifying situations of persecution for sharing the gospel in areas that are hostile towards it, how can we reconcile a message of life enhancement with the truth of the adversity Christians suffer from for practicing their faith? How can anyone faithfully read Acts from cover to cover then look a non-Christian in the eye and joyfully say "God has a wonderful plan your life!"
   It's just not being honest. 

But what about the believers within the church – what does such a message ultimately say to those who already profess to be Christians?
If you’ve been in church long enough that you are able to be aware of what those in your immediate fellowship go through each week, you know all too well that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. You know that there are genuine Christians going through health problems, relationship issues, financial difficulties, tragedies.
But isn’t the gospel that says “God has a Wonderful Plan for your life” supposed to make Christians rise up and above such things? If the gospel is “Believe in Jesus, he will make life fulfilling, abundant and prosperous” but yet you have people inside the church going through the things I just mentioned, then either:
a) Such people are not Christians because their lives don’t line up with the message
b) That’s just not the true gospel.

If a church wants to be true to such a message, than obviously the worse thing you can do is have people going through difficulties talking about it openly to unbelievers.
 The false gospel of “God has a Wonderful plan for Your Life” has only served to produce multitudes of people who perpetually wear these emotionless smiles out of fear that by being honest and upfront about the realities of life, Christianity will seem empty and lifeless. Don’t talk about health problems. Don’t discuss relationship breakdowns. Don’t discuss relatives disowning you because your newfound faith conflicts with their own beliefs. Don’t say or do anything that would make the gospel seem like a killjoy for people’s lives. 

When believers undergoing trials and hardships are told to bring what was preached from the pulpit into the harvest field, they become the unwilling victims of accusations of hypocrisy on the part of those who are against Christianity. The authenticity of our testimony is immediately put under scrutiny. Who is going to believe the validity of our personal witness if our circumstances are not visibly better than those without Christ?

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Likewise, James 5:13-14 tells us

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Both of these texts refer to the church supporting believers who are undergoing suffering. But in all honesty, when you have a message that says that becoming a Christian is supposed to make life better, how is such compassion to expressed? Is it done in the open, is part of the Sunday worship gathering devoted to congregants praying for each other as well as meeting up during the week;  or is it done quietly in private behind closed doors lest unbelievers get the wrong impression? If the latter, then like it or not, what you have done is thrust upon people a culture of shame that the Bible gives no support for.

Whenever I hear a preacher say “God has a wonderful plan for your life”, "God wants you to be Prosperous", or “God wants you to Live your Best Life”, I can't help but automatically think of the Christians who are daily being murdered by groups like ISIS in the Middle East and Boko Haram in Africa; I think of parents who have to empty their bank accounts when one of their children suffers a serious illness that requires special treatment; I think about those I know within the church who struggle daily with depression and anxiety. 
I wonder how and why people can tolerate such preaching on one hand while and weep for the other at the same time - and yet not see any disconnect between the two. And it does beg the question: during the week, the pastor who is a faithful sheperd to those entrusted to his care will either do visitations or open his own door to listen to those who are struggling, and offer prayer and support. If there is anyone in the church who should understand the reality of Christian suffering, it should be the pastor, right? So what exactly goes through their mind when they meet with such people during the week, yet on Sundays they get behind the pulpit to deliver a life-enhancement message with the hopes that it will get people saved? Does that part of their psyche which lets them understand and empathise with others just get turned off, or do they just not really care at all?

If you’re a pastor, an evangelist or a missionary, you’re probably watching thid vid, and right now you’re upset, you’re irritated, you’re angry. You’re thinking of either leaving a nasty anonymous comment or hitting the dislike button. Well that’s good because it shows the understand the gravity of your responsibility. Hopefully you are considering that you need to rethink your message, take your church through some much needed evaluation, and take the necessary steps to reconcile with those whose lives have been seriously hurt by the kind of preaching im talking about.
If on the other hand, you’re not sure and your going to keep this on the shelf until it blows over, let me warn you: as a pastor of a local church, you may be currently dealing with what may seem like private trials that can be kept behind closed doors in secret. But it is inevitable that one day you will ghave to address an issue of such great tradegy within your church that everyone both within the congregation and outside the community will be aware of. The onus is going to be upon you to say and do what is right before the parties involved, as well as the Lord Jesus himself. And that will be the true test of whether you really are a true shepard or whether you are a hirling who runs away when the times get tough.

Now I’m assuming that the vast majority of people watching this vid are not iordained pastors or evangelists, but everyday church members, just as I am. If you understand what I’m saying, you’re wondering where can I go to learn more or how can I get the word out – I recommend you listen to the sermon “Hell’s best Kept Secret” by Ray Comfort. This message changed my Christian walk, it changed the way I share the gospel, how I view salvation, everything. But have a listen, forward it to others in your church, to your pastor, your evangelism team. Share it with them and meet up later to talk about it.
I say this with urgency because there will come a time when those who are ministers of the gospel, the pastors and evangelists, those on television, the authors of the books you read – they will have to face God on judgment day, not on the basis of whether they go to heaven or hell, but what did as stewards of the gospel. No doubt there will be many who will step forward expecting jesus to say “well done, good and faithful servant” but insterad he will say “how could you be so cruel to the ones I placed in your care?”

Church, we cannot keep ignoring the reality of Christians who suffer as a consequence of their faith – both abroad as well as in our immediate fellowship. Let’s stop pretending. Let’s end the shame. Let’s end the silence. Thankyou for watching.