Do You Have the Right Christ?

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Using Jesus For Personal Gain
Televangelists - the worst of the worst, right?  They stand up there at their pulpits and they preach prosperity to millions around the world and they tell everyone they too can have all of the financial benefits that they have, if they have enough faith!  They wear their expensive Italian custom-made suits, fly everywhere on their private jets or drive around in their Rolls Royce or Mercedes SUV and they stay in the most expensive hotels when traveling.  Then you see the picture(s) of their expensive mansions on sprawling lush acres and you think "how can they justify living so large off of parishioners donations?!" 

Unfortunately there are millions of Christians who adore them and hang on their every word and follow them religiously, and then there are the rest of us who know these televangelists are deceived or are deceiving others on purpose. 

But I wonder how free are we really from their deceptions?
Did you know there are Christians right now sitting in prisons all over the world, that are cold, hungry, lonely and beaten for declaring their faith in Christ?  There may even be rats chewing on their toes at night in their cells or they have medical issues that are not attended to such as medicines for diabetes.  There are also Christians around the world who are without father, mother, sister or brother because they were slain by someone who hates Christians.  There are Christians in 3rd world countries who have been chased out of their homes and live in crowded, filthy refugee camps, not knowing where their next provision of food, water or a needed blanket will come from.    And there are children who have been kidnapped by Islamic radicals and forced to work as slaves or be indoctrinated to become suicide bombers or have babies for their captors. 

Quite the contrast from the way televangelists preach, right?  So, who is the real Jesus Christ and what is the real Christian faith about?  Can it be both extremes at the same time?  I declare to you that no, it can not, because God is not schizophrenic - He is not about prospering one group of believers to live like kings while allowing others to suffer worst than dogs do in our country.  No, it's that American Christians refuse to see the Gospel for what it truly is and maybe that is because we don't want to see it for what it really is - a call to forsake all to follow Christ.  We don't want to take seriously Jesus' words of "count the cost of following Him". (Luke 14: 27 - 35)  It's scary and it's inconvenient, I mean we all have bills to pay and children to raise and/or ministries or charities to run.  And then there is the horrible feelings that comes with not "winning" in life.  We are around people all day at work who "have it all" and everything goes smooth for them, and we just want to be like them.

But can I suggest this runs deeper?  Can I suggest that the heart is desperately wicked, just like the Bible teaches?  (Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?)  Can I suggest that if we don't begin to see our depraved nature, to the degree that it truly is, that we run the risk of living out our Christian lives just using Jesus by our profession of faith in Him? 

I am writing this piece because I realize that my whole life I have been okay with acknowledging with my whole heart and mind that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord and that I need Him to not go to hell, but I have also always wanted my life to go well, to have my dreams come true and be successful and happy.  You may say, well there is nothing wrong with that, but I will tell you that if you frame this in the right perspective, that Jesus gave His life to purchase you from a hell you deserved, and you are holding out on Him in your life, not giving Him your all, so you can have the gain you want here in this world, then I think you will begin to see that you have evil in your heart and mind.  As do I, which is why I am writing this!  Even after years of trying to be a good Christian, I am still at the place of realizing I have a greedy heart! 

And this is by far the hardest piece I have ever written because I will be honest with you, I don't know what plan God has for my life and I am afraid of the suffering that may come.  And that is because I have already suffered more than I ever thought I would have to as a Christian and I have come to the sobering reality that I may never have the material things I always thought I would have by this age.  And the sobering reality of knowing older people who make less and less money as they get older and eventually have to live off of social security and in low-income nursing homes, which could happen to me.  And also because as of the last few years I have seen middle-aged Christians who are ministers in the Gospel (here in America) that I have cared about who got suddenly sick with terminal diseases and died, which could be my fate.  All of this has really shaken my faith and it has made me want to run into the world and have the things I see others have that are not suffering.

You see, I wasn't prepared for all of this when I accepted Jesus as my Savior, nor even after my super natural experience at 35.  I mean I tried to get ready for persecution by studying about it and getting involved to help Christians over-seas who are suffering so intensely, but I just never was honest with myself that my life my go in the opposite direction than I wanted it to.  I always told myself that the times of trouble I was going through as a Christian were temporary and that someday soon, once I was done being tested, I would then live the blessed life! 
But now, I am starting to see that my understanding of things is flawed, there is no promise that things will be easier in the future, in fact it looks like things will get worse because at least now I have the ability to hold down a job that pays a decent wage, but what if I am not healthy enough later when I am older?  What if there is no social security left when I get old?  What will I live off of?  I am not worrying, (though it may sound like it), but I am being honest that I don't have a guarantee that "prosperity" is coming if I am faithful to God.  And this is something I need to see or else I will live deceitfully in a fantasy world, rather than realizing I will have to live, no matter what the circumstances are, by faith that God will be there to help me.

I am beginning to see that for the most part life is a mixture of good and bad happening simultaneously.  Of course, there are times when we happily are "on the mountain top" but as the saying goes, "what goes up must come down" because we all know that mountain top experiences often lead to valley experiences.  This too has been hard on me as I have been a Christian.  And that is because there have been times God has used me to share the Gospel with someone who gets saved and I feel so good about myself and my life and think that now I will enter into a stage where I am used consistently by God in good ways, only to have something terrible happen to me right afterward, that is so bad, it seems to wipe away all of the good feelings I had, and even take me lower than I was before the mountain top high!  Because of some of these valley experiences, there have been times I have wanted to quit being a Christian and one time I literally told Jesus "I think you and I need to take a break", (divorce starts with separation), which of course I then repent for because I don't want to be someone who leaves Jesus.  

All of this, as I have recently had to look at in a real honest and humbling way, has all been a problem for me because deep down inside I have always wanted the prosperity gospel to be true!  I wanted it more than
I realized it!  After my experience with God at age 35 and the influence from my Pentecostal church and Christian television, I wanted to be the famous evangelist who won tons of souls for Jesus, I wanted to be the well put-together leader who people could trust and learn from and that got the praise and adoration from those who read my books or listened to my sermons.  I wanted these things immensely during my years as a Pentecostal Christian and I must confess they have died hard and slow in me as I have over the years renounced and walked away from my Pentecostal ways.  Most likely my many tests and trials have been through are so that God could show me how insincere my heart has been in my Christian life.  I now see when I look back how I was working on how great a Christian I was, how great my Christian life was, how great my Christian legacy would be here on earth!.  Yet in my ignorance of how greedy my heart was, I was saying, I was doing all of this for Jesus!  Sure, there was a lot of me that started out wanting to do what was pleasing to God (after my experience at age 35), but most of it got perverted by the worldliness I experienced as a Pentecostal and I have had to fight to get back to the sincere heart of living to please God.

But if I was to be really honest, I can't blame the Pentecostal denomination or Charismania, or Christian television for my greedy heart, because I remember being a 6th grader who accepted Christ enough to stay out of hell but promised Him no loyalty what-so-ever!  And then I got invested in the New Age at age 23 and went on to learn and believe how "we are our own gods" and then there is even my greedy heart at age 27 underneath my sinner's prayer, that had me still bargaining with God".  You see, I continued to sleep with my boyfriend, not using protection, and would daily ask God to not let me get pregnant and that if He let me get pregnant, He would be forcing me to have an abortion again, which I did not want to do.   This amounts to a threat actually and shows how manipulative I was with my new found faith in Christ!  I had spent almost a year before getting saved grieving the abortion I had had, and repenting to God for it, and yet, here I was after getting saved, telling God that if He let me get pregnant, I would do it again!  That is a hard heart if ever I heard of one! 

I am writing all of this because if I am NOT honest with myself and with others about the layers of greed in my heart and in yours, (it's in every ones but just in different ways/depths). then I run the risk of believing the lie that suffering for Christ is something I can opt out of.  And that I should not have to be going through it because I am a good Christian doing the right things that prove it!  I then begin to see God as unjust and cruel for the suffering I am going through and I begin to nurture my desire to live like the world, focusing on the sensational things such as movies, social life, material things and human accomplishments that make me feel good about myself.  I soon then forget Jesus Christ or worse begin to dislike Him (even hate Him) because He is a deterrent to my "good life".  I have been there in this struggle of my heart already and it is only by the grace of God that I am still in the race of being a Christian!  I will tell you though that the only way I have been able to fight the good fight is to stay in the Bible!  I listen to it all night long on CD and I read it as much as possible.  God has been able to show me not only my many guilty things against Him but also the many self-destructive things I have in my heart.

A really important thing I have recently learned is God showed me during a really troubling test and trial (by letting me hear my own deep subconscious thoughts one morning after hearing the Bible all night long) how I was determined to be famous even to the point of dying for it!  On the sad side, this was rooted in my not feeling loved for who I was as a little girl and the thought that I needed to re-create myself in Hollywood, (like all of the celebrities seem to do), and that my hope for a good life rested in me succeeding in this plan.  Now for some this might seem something of the past to not worry about, but God was showing me that I had not only had self-hatred at the root of my  life (which was still there), but I also had made an idol of fame that I was still addicted to even to the point of dying for it!  And worse yet, that really ultimately in my celebrity (my desired goal of being the remade person who would be a celebrity), that subconsciously I still desired, I had internally made myself into the idea of a god that competes with Jesus.  So, all of this equated to IDOL WORSHIP!!!  This made a lot of sense to me since I had seen myself become a New Ager and later a Pentecostal who struggled to make worship about Jesus rather than "how anointed I was".  I was able to pray to God that morning and renounce all of this and repent for it and ask the Holy Spirit to take over where I had given over ground to the devil and my own greed.  I instantly felt a lot better and I understood my need for the test and trial I had been going through, and am still in the midst of as I write this.  But at least now I see why God has allowed me to suffer, it was not to kill me as it has felt like He is trying to do, but it was to help me to stop trying to kill myself!  First and foremost He cares that I don't blaspheme His Son through idol worship of myself and my goals and then He also cares that I know how I am destroying my faith and my life by being invested in the world's system.  God looks at the inward heart (i Samuel 16:7) and He cares that we get that right with Him.

If I can close with something that I have had the pleasure and necessity to learn from God lately:  The things the world promises you are only temporary and they do end badly.  It may not look like prosperity preachers will ever have the financial bad times that you do, or that celebrity may never be sick like you are, or that gregarious worldly Christian that everyone, both sinner and Christian alike, love to be around are ever going to have to face their sinful ways . . . . . . but if they are in the world, enjoying the fruit of the world, they will see an end to their good times and the longer it goes on, the more of a fall they will experience.  If they are truly Christian, they will want to repent earlier rather than later to avoid an enhanced crash because having to come down from great heights can be very painful!  If they are not really saved, then they will face judgement from God when they hear Jesus say,  "Go away, I knew you not".  So, don't let them sway you, not with envy nor with their greed and recognize these traits in yourself and repent for them quickly and thoroughly when you see them in yourself. 

Thomas Shermon wrote:  The wicked have their heaven here -  and their hell hereafter.  But the righteous have their hell here - and their heaven hereafter.  I will not, therefore, envy the prosperity of the wicked, nor be cast down at the afflictions of the righteous; seeing the one is drawn in pomp to hell - while the other swims in tears to heaven!