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The prosperity gospel presents a small and false god

In this series of four articles, Revd. Ken Mbugua writes on the prosperity gospel. Mbugua argues that this false gospel presents four distortions of the true, biblical gospel.

In part 1, Mbugua argues from the BIble how the prosperity gospel presents a fundamentally small God.

What do you long for the most? The answer to this question will help you identify your god. Preachers of the prosperity gospel call people to turn to Jesus. But the motivation they give people is health, wealth, husbands, wives, jobs, promotions etc. In this version of the gospel, Jesus is not what is truly desired, pursued, and treasured. Jesus is the means to the things that the individual truly wants, he is merely the way to receive the material things that our worldly hearts hunger for. And what your heart wants more than God has become your god.

Scripture is clear that the goal of our salvation is God. Knowing him, being united to him and being reconciled with him are the purposes to which scripture points us. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). Take note of the word that in this verse; it helps us understand why Christ suffered and died. He suffered and died in order that he might bring us to God.

Jesus Christ himself perfectly summed up the heart and purpose of our salvation in his prayer to the Father: “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). When Paul taught the Colossians about the glory of God’s work in us, he centred on our union with Christ. “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

The gospel is about an infinitely great God who offers us the best gift imaginable: himself. That is the incredible beauty of the gospel – sinners can know God and enjoy him forever. The people of God through the ages have understood that there is nothing better, they have confessed with Paul in Phil 3:7 that indeed all things are dung compared to the knowledge of Christ. But the prosperity gospel reduces God to a sugar daddy by treating material benefits as the purpose of the gospel. Fleeting benefits are not what Jesus died to win for us.

Jesus died in order to bring us back to God. The heart of the salvation he bought for us is that we are enabled to know God in a deep and personal way. Can you see why a message that exchanges God in these statements with wealth, health and prosperity is offering us a little God who is no God at all? These things are not the glory of the gospel, they are not the purpose for which Christ died and they are inferior gifts compared to fellowship with Almighty God. These are the very things the world pursues; they are false gods. To preach that temporary and material blessings are the purpose of our salvation turns Christianity into idolatry and trades in the glory of God for a cheap substitute.

Ken Mbugua is senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Nairobi, Kenya. He is married to Arlette and they have a little girl. He was trained in Zambia, has done short term mission in South Sudan and undertook an internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington DC, USA. Ken is passionate about the true biblical gospel and the growth of healthy reformed churches of different traditions which guard this precious gospel.

This article was originally published in 'Conversation Magazine', a publication of iServe Africa on sale in major outlets across Kenya and Uganda, and is an excerpt of a book by Michael Otieno Maura, Ken Mbugua, Conrad Mbewe, Wayne Grudem and John Piper - 'Prosperity? Seeking the True Gospel'

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