It’s a pleasure to get to join you again as we complete our series celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I hope that rediscovering these central tenets of the Christian faith has been as meaningful for you as it has been for me. Today we are going to stop looking back at the history of the Reformation and begin looking forward, to its future. Anna and I recently took the plunge into home ownership. Submitting and re- submitting documents, it seemed like the process would never end. But two weeks ago we walked into our home for the first time… finally, we were done. For about five minutes. I won’t bore you with details, but suffice it to say that since then we have built up some serious sweat equity. At one point I remember thinking, “Surely everything is finished.” In the same way, the Protestant Church in the 21st century has come a long way. So much has been done. Surely the Reformation must be finished. Not so fast… Yes we have come a long way and I truly believe that the church more closely resembles God’s design now more than it did 500 years ago, but we aren’t done. I think when we evaluate the growth and change of the church, it’s analogous to the growth and change we experience in our faith journeys. Ten years ago I was a lost college student, bound by many sins. Today, I’m a pastor—bound by fewer! By the grace of God I’ve come a long way—and praise the Lord that he’s still changing me (Phil. 1:6; 1 John 3:1-3). None of us are finished in the process of becoming who God created us to be, and neither is the church. So where do we need to continue the reformation today?
 We must combat the rise of the “health and wealth,” or “prosperity gospel”. Without over-generalizing, those who teach this, pair your faith and obedience to material blessings from God. The message of the prosperity gospel is attractive; God wants me to have a comfortable, pleasurable life. Who wouldn’t want that? Almost 2 out of 3 Christians believe that God’s desire for them is to prosper and nearly 1 in 5 evangelical Christians openly identify with the health and wealth movement. But this teaching is in direct conflict with scripture (1 Tim. 6:6-10). Jesus was born poor, lived poor, and died poor. Jesus warned those who wish to follow Him that they are entering a life of poverty (Luke 9:23-25). Not only is it unbiblical, the prosperity gospel overlooks one of God’s greatest instruments of change and growth in our lives: pain. C.S. Lewis put it well: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Paul teaches this 2 Cor. 12:7-10). Or consider Job’s painful journey; at the end of it all, he knew God more intimately than ever before. Physical, emotional, and spiritual pain are not speed bumps on the way to prosperity. They are meaningful moments that God uses to transform us. Finally, we need to stand against the prosperity gospel because it takes advantage of marginalized communities. When the church teaches people that God will only bless them if they give more money, we might as well be back in the 1500’s selling indulgences.
 The other area of continuing reformation to highlight today is the study of knowledge (called “epistemology”). How do we determine what is true. The concept of truth is under attack. The prevailing concept that what’s true for me isn’t necessarily true for you. We have a difficult time discerning truth from opinion and feeling from fact. Conversations are dominated by, “I feel,” instead of, “I think.” But instead of asking how you determine what is true, the first step is to ask who determines what is true. God as “perfect in knowledge,” (Job 37:16), and never lies (Titus 1:2). So who decides what is true, you or God? The answer to that question has huge implications on your life and society as a whole. The debates on gender, sexuality, abortion, etc. are questions of epistemology. But before we ever get to issues of gender, marriage, and sexuality, we have to settle the issue of the gospel itself. In John 14:6 Jesus—without any qualifiers—says that no one comes to God except through him. We have reached a point in our culture where this statement is widely considered intolerant, narrow minded, and disrespectful. But when we affirm this, we don’t claim to be more enlightened or moral than anyone else, but only that God is our authority. We cannot soften it to “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life for me.” Actually it is the opposite of being narrow minded; no matter what you’ve done, you can have a relationship with God. All that it requires is coming to Jesus. When we change this statement to say that Jesus is the path to God for me, or Jesus is the way, the truth, and life for me. We aren’t making His claim more attractive. We are weakening and undermining it. When we give in to the relativistic, pluralistic, and universalistic impulses of today’s culture and allow the almighty God to become nothing more than one of several options on a menu, we are failing God, and we are failing our neighbors.
The 21st century church faces many challenges, but the prosperity gospel and the fight for objective truth are two of the most vital areas in which the church must return to biblical truth.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Don’t run away from painful experiences. Instead, hold on to God’s promise that all things work for the good of those who love him. Let God use your suffering make you more like Christ.
- Explore your epistemology; how did you come to believe what you do? Do you determine truth, or does God? Examine your understanding of the gospel and make sure that it’s the one found in Scripture.
- If you’ve not done so, place your trust in Christ as Savior today. If you check the box labeled “Trusting Jesus as Savior” on the CONNECT card, someone will follow up with you this week. OR, contact us here (connect.tcc.org) Scroll down to the Ministry Information Request section and mark the first or second checkbox. We look forward to helping!
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, identify and write down one, concrete step of obedience, small or large but doable, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)