Is Suicide The Unforgivable Sin?

I love travel documentaries and one of my favourites has been, “Parts Unknown” on CNN hosted by Anthony Bourdain. You can imagine my surprise when I heard that Anthony was found dead by suicide this past Friday June 8th2018. According to his mother, Anthony had everything to live for. “He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this,” Gladys Bourdain told the New York Times.

Another celebrity, Kate Spade, sounded happy the night before her body was found in her New York City apartment last Tuesday morning. “There was no indication and no warning she would do this,” her husband Andy Spade said in a heart-wrenching statement published in the Times.

For more than four decades Antoon Leenaars has tried to construct a theory to explain why people kill themselves. Among his findings is that those who die by suicide are often tragically gifted at concealing their true intentions, even from themselves. “We find it in the suicide notes and in the psychological autopsies,” said Leenaars, a Windsor psychologist whose archive of more than 2,000 suicide notes is believed the largest collection of its kind in the world. “There’s both a conscious and unconscious intent to be deceptive, to hide, to mask,” he said.

I think that’s why, for the most part, we are often surprised when someone takes their own life. I haven’t personally experienced a close friend or family member commit suicide, yet I have been around many others who have had close friends or family take their lives, and I can tell you that it can be terribly confusing and heartbreaking. For the friends and family of that person who has taken their own lives, grief can be like a wild animal inside, thrashing to get out. There are times It won’t be contained, spilling out in sobs and screams, while at other times it turns inward, causing those left behind to desperately examine every interaction over the weeks and days preceding their loved one’s death, wondering what they could have done differently. It’s a terrible place to be.

Does the bible say anything about committing suicide?

Is suicide the unforgivable sin? Does the person who self kills go immediately to hell? Within the church community, this controversial topic has unfortunately often been addressed in emotional ways, not through biblical analysis. For example, for those who grew up Roman Catholic the prevailing view is that suicide is definitely a mortal sin, irretrievably sending people to hell. Influenced by the arguments of Augustine and Aquinas, this belief dominated through the Reformation. This of course causes much angst and problems for the survivor to process through. As a result, the approach is most often an emotional one. Besides this traditional position of the Catholic Church, we encounter three others:

1) A true Christian would never commit suicide since God wouldn’t allow it.

2) A Christian may commit suicide but would lose his salvation.

3) A Christian may commit suicide without losing his salvation.

As purposeful as those statements are, we still need to ask what the Bible, not tradition or opinion says. As much as we don’t have all the answers, let’s begin by talking about those truths we do know as revealed in God’s Word.

We know that humanity is totally depraved (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-18). Of course, we should understand that this doesn’t mean we’re as evil as we could be, but rather that every human capacity – intellect, heart, emotions, will – is tainted by sin. We also know that even after regeneration, a Christian is capable of committing any sin except the unforgiveable one. We see the unforgivable sin mentioned in Mark 3:25-32 and Matthew 12:32. A study of these passages leads us to the conclusion that they are referring to the continual rejection of the Holy Spirit in the work of conversion, ultimately referring to a committed unbeliever.

I think that it’s important to remember as well, that a believer is quite capable of taking the life of someone else, as David did in the case of Uriah, without this action invalidating his salvation. After all, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has forgiven all of our sin – past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:11-18). Still, suicide is a serious offense against God because it represents arrogant violation of the gift of life the Creator has given. However, if a genuine believer is theoretically capable of taking another’s life, why is it impossible to conceive he or she could ever take his or her own?

The truth is that the sin a Christian will commit tomorrow was forgiven at Calvary – where Jesus justified us, declaring us positionally righteous. He accomplished this work through one single offering that didn’t need to be repeated again. On the cross Jesus didn’t make us justifiable; he made us justified (Romans 3:23-26; 8:29-30).

Granted, some point out that Scripture contains no instance of a believer committing suicide, while it includes many cases of unbelievers doing so, thus coming to the conclusion that believers simply don’t (won’t) commit suicide. But this is an argument from silence. Scripture doesn’t explicitly mention many things in life. Moreover, some hold suicide robs a Christian of her salvation because it doesn’t provide an opportunity for repentance. But if you were to die right now, would there be any unconfessed sin in your life? I think that we could only say that yes, of course there would be.

The sacrifice that covers the unconfessed sins we have remaining until death is the same sacrifice that would cover a sin like suicide. Suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven anyways. If an unsaved person commits suicide, she has done nothing but “expedite” her journey to hell. However, that person who committed suicide will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ, not because she committed suicide. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:18

We should also point out, however, that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart the moment he died. Some people have “deathbed conversions” and accept Christ in the moments before death. It is possible that Anthony Bourdain could have had a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy, we don’t know, but if he did, we can know that God’s mercy would have reached him even there.

Back to our original question. Issuicide the unforgivable sin? If we’ve established that a Christian is capable of committing any sin, why can’t we conceive that someone could commit the sin of suicide? And if we believe Jesus’ blood is capable of forgiving any sin, wouldn’t his blood cover this sin too? The wonderful truth of the matter is that if Jesus’ sacrifice has made believers perfect forever (look up Hebrews 7:28-10:14), could any sin remove their salvation? Based on scripture, I’d have to say a resounding no – including suicide.

Further to this point, if someone like Moses (and Job, and Elijah, and Jeremiah) came to a point where he wished God would take his life, couldn’t a believer with schizophrenia or extreme depression, who lacks Moses’ strength of character, make this wish a reality? Martin Luther believed that a true believer could be oppressed by demonic powers and thus driven to the point of suicide. The suicide of a believer is evidence that anyone can struggle with despair and that our enemy, Satan, is “a murderer from the beginning” – John 8:44

Having said that, on the basis of Scripture, history, and the experience of God’s people – as well as the indwelling Spirit and the means of grace in the church – it’s most likely that suicides will be rare (though not impossible) for genuine believers.

How should we respond to a survivor?

Even still, when a suicide does occur, we should seek to comfort, not accuse. Instead of identifying the horrors we should seek to comfort the hurting. Our chief focus should be on that about which God has said much (salvation), not on that about which he’s said little (suicide).

Sometimes the best thing we can say to a survivor (friend or family member of someone who took their own life) is NOTHING! In fact, sometimes the best reaction is no words at all, but a hug. There is much comfort that comes with the caring presence of friends, and the assurance others are praying for them. Even still, if you do feel led to say anything, here are some examples you can use that I have found helpful as I have come along side those who are hurting.

“Tell me a favourite memory of…”

“I love you, and my prayers are with you.”

“How can I help you today?” (Following through with errands, grocery shopping, cleaning, going to church with them, etc.)

“I am so sorry for your loss. Words fail.”

“I’m here.”

The best advice to anyone who wants to comfort a suicide survivor is: “Show up, let them see you care, and respect the griever’s right to feel bad for a while (guilt, anger, sadness, etc.). Too many survivors reported “friends” who avoided them altogether after their loved ones’ suicides rather than to risk saying the wrong thing. Please don’t do that, because that hurts most of all.

What Is The Cure For Evil & Suffering?

Why does God allow evil? If God has the power to prevent evil and desires to prevent evil, why does he still allow evil? Why isn’t he doing something about it? If God created the world the way it is today; he wouldn’t be a God of love, but rather an evil God.

These are some of the questions posed, sincerely and not so sincere, by many people. Sometimes they are used to bolster arguments against God and sometimes are asked in a sincere quest to ‘understand’.

We might not have any easy answers (if any at all) about why God allows evil and suffering, but we can know the ultimate cure for evil, suffering and death – his name is Jesus. When asking questions of such importance, I believe that the best place to find answers is found in God’s word. That being the case, let’s look at five truths found in God’s word, that if embraced, will be a source of encouragement for the Jesus follower.

God didn’t create a fallen world

 The first truth to embrace is that God didn’t create the world in the state in which it is now, instead evil came as a result of the selfishness and sinful disobedience of human beings.

The truth of the matter is that God is a God of love and his desire was to create a person and eventually a race that would choose to love him. However genuine love can’t exist unless it’s freely given through free choice. Mankind was given the choice to accept God’s love or to reject it which made evil a very real possibility.

The thing is that if God hadn’t allowed for the possibility of evil, mankind would be serving God out of obligation, not choice. He created us as real human beings with the ability to love and follow him – or not. Unfortunately, we chose the “not,” and brought sin and evil into the picture.

If Adam and Eve had only obeyed God, then they may have lived on earth forever, walking with God, tending the garden, working together, no mosquitos. But after they sinned, they were just not on the same page with God anymore. That’s because God can’t tolerate sin, having no sin within himself.

Maybe we should just blame Adam and Eve for the evil in the world. After all, they blamed each other and the serpent; however, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23

I think that it’s safe to say that, had we been in the garden instead of Adam and Eve, we would have sinned in the same way. Now, because of the fall, the world is chaotic and abnormal. Things are not in the state that they should be in. Nature is not always kind and there is conflict between each other. Health issues, hunger issues, abuse issues… none of these conditions were true before the fall when God created it all good.

God knows what’s best

The arguments go something like this: If God is good, then maybe he isn’t powerful enough to deal with all the evil and injustice in the world since it is still going on. Or, if God is powerful enough to stop wrongdoing, yet all-knowing and so must know about the pain and suffering inflicted, then he must be evil since he’s not doing anything about it, even though he has the capability.

The truth is that God knows what’s best even when we don’t. Although the Bible informs us how and why evil came about, it does not tell us why God allowed it to happen. However, we do know that God is all-wise and all-knowing and that he has reasons for allowing things to happen that go way beyond our understanding.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

All one has to do is read Job to see that no one understands the depth of wisdom and knowledge possessed by God. We are not his counselor! He does as he pleases and we are left to praise him for what he does!

That would be a good lesson for us all to learn as we go through life. We need to stop trying to figure out the ‘why’ of everything and start simply learning to trust God by faith. He knows what he is doing, we don’t! He sees the future and knows what is best for now and then, we don’t!

God has a plan

In the middle of all the evil and suffering, one thing becomes abundantly clear. God has a plan to redeem fallen mankind. The salvation Jesus provides attests to his goodness and love, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

The Bible clearly reveals the devastating effects of sin and the hopelessness of man in solving his own sin problem. Because of this ‘sin situation’ we find ourselves in, a proper understanding of the doctrine of sin is essential to understanding God’s remedy for it.

Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world” – John 12:31, which means Satan has been allowed a certain amount of authority over this world. The blame for the evil in this world should be placed squarely upon Satan. Much is written about the devil – he comes only to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). He is a fierce enemy and a liar and a murderer.

By contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. God’s plan was to send his son to earth to die in our place because we could never hope to take care of our sin problem and defeat the devil on our strength, wisdom or terms. It had to be through God’s sinless son.

Though evil is here and it is real, it is temporary because of Jesus. Jesus is Goodness incarnate. Evil will eventually be destroyed. This is the hope that the believer has. After all, our God is the God of justice, and he will one day make all things right (Revelation 21:5). Because of Christ, we have the promise of Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

There is a new world coming in which there will be no more tears or pain because all things will be made new. Paradise lost will be paradise regained.

God is delaying for us

Some ask, “That’s all fine and good, but a truly good God would eliminate evil today.” My question is, “But then, are you ready to be eliminated, since you – like me – are to some degree evil?” The truth is that the total annihilation of evil is a part of the plan. There will one day come a time when God will judge the sin in this world and make all things new.

Great news if you are already counted among those who have repented of their sin, but what about those who haven’t yet made things right with God? The great news is the fourth truth to embrace, which is that God is purposely “delaying” in order to allow more time for people to repent so that he will not need to condemn them. God’s desire is that for all of our sakes we would obey him that it might be well with us.

 “Oh, that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” – Deuteronomy 5:29

Instead, what happens is that we choose our own way, and then we blame God for not doing anything about it. That’s the heart of sinful man.

But Jesus came to change our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, and he does this for those who will turn from evil and call on him to save them from their sin and its consequences.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Just picture the Sinless One who created everything, willfully hanging on a cross and spilling his blood for the sin of those who put their faith in him. Jesus proves God’s love. “Love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” – 1 John 4:7-8.

God has experienced suffering

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to evil, pain and death – yet God had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. He can demand nothing from man that he has not demanded from himself.

He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it absolutely worthwhile.

Yes, God suffered too. It’s easy to forget that the Holy God of the universe chose, out of love, to humble himself, become one of us, and ultimately to suffer in ways none of us every will (or ever could imagine) in order to purchase our redemption.

As a result, he can not only forgive our sins and freely give us salvation, but also sympathize with all we’re going through.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16

God does prevent and restrain some acts of evil. Thankfully so, because this world would be MUCH WORSE were not for God restraining evil. At the same time, God has given us the ability to choose good and evil, and when we choose evil, he allows us, and those around us, to suffer the consequences of evil.

So in the end, rather than blaming God and questioning him on why he doesn’t prevent or eliminate all evil, we should be about the business of proclaiming the cure for evil and its consequences – Jesus Christ!

Effective Prayer: 5 Perspectives For Disciples Of Christ

Isn’t prayer just something done to look good in front of grandma at the supper table, or something just before the message on a Sunday morning because that is just what we do? Have we ever really thought about the vital importance of prayer in the life of a believer?

I love reading the story of Nehemiah because it’s in his story where we have a great example of how crucial prayer is to the life of the believer.

“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” – Nehemiah 1:1-3

In 455 BC, the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were in a terrible condition. Over 140 years earlier, Nebuchadnezzar and the armies of Babylon had invaded Israel and had carried many of the people away as slaves. The walls had been destroyed and the gates had been burned.

Meanwhile, Nehemiah is serving as a high official, the cup-bearer to the King of Persia, at the capital city of Susa 800 miles away from Jerusalem. His role as cup-bearer is to sample the wine and the food of the king to make sure it’s not poisoned, among other roles. He is in a palace living in luxury, drinking the best wine on earth, not that little box of blush that you have in your refrigerator. He’s eating incredible food, wearing the best clothes and completely safe, no real threat to the Persian Empire at this point. I mean, this guy is living the life!

Yet, with no television to update him, no Twitter feed for him to watch pictures of his people suffering 800 hundred miles away, he’s knocked to his knees when he hears of the news back in Jerusalem. His guts turn, and he weeps before the Lord and begins to fast and pray.

By its very nature, fasting suggests that something is wrong. Eating is a normal part of human existence, so abstaining from eating implies a disruption in the very rhythm of life. When Nehemiah’s world crashed his first response was to get rid of all the distractions, food being a big one so that he could focus on the one place he would receive strength… God. He recognized that his strength and hope could only come from God and not from another piece of pie.

So, here’s a question for all of us. When our world crashes around us, when life becomes hard where do we turn? God or the refrigerator? God or sex? God or shopping? Or sports or more wine, or more of anything else but God? Nehemiah is an example of the pattern we should follow.

When the world shakes us up we should get down on our knees.

1) Prayer gives us a right perspective of others

Nehemiah was radically compassionate because he had a God sized compassion for the hurting even though he didn’t know them personally. Here’s a question for all of us to consider. Is God just telling us this is what Nehemiah felt, or is he setting before us what he wants out hearts to look like? If you look at the Bible’s expectation on us as believers in Christ, we are to feel and be bothered like our man Nehemiah was even for people we don’t even know.

What God has called you and me to, as the people of God, is to live out a type of radical compassion and empathy. As the community of faith, we are to model to the world outside of us what it looks like to be the people of God. It is being mindful of the hurts and hang-ups of others and entering into that in some very simple ways and some very complex ways and being the picture of Christ’s love and compassion for his church in our presence and in our interaction with those around us.

If our hearts are filled with compassion for the hurting, causing us to be more committed to the Lord’s commission than we are our own personal agenda, the potential is limitless of what God can & will do through us. But it won’t happen with any depth, longevity or visionary focus if we don’t learn to pray, because it’s when we fall to our knees that we are then able to have a right view of those in greatest need.

2) Prayer gives us a right perspective of God

The prophet Zephaniah describes God in a fantastic way. “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

The ‘mighty’ warrior who ‘delights’ in us… My dad was involved in prison ministry. I recall as a boy of 13 going into a maximum security prison on a family day once or twice with him as he took me along to see the other side of life.

During those visits, I recall the huge prisoners with muscles bulging, tattoos everywhere, shaved heads, chewing on rusty nails – sitting out in the communal area waiting to visit with their kids. And those were the women.

What fascinated me was that no matter how big and scary these prisoners were – their own kids would run up to them and fully embrace them. To me they were scary, but to these kids they were mom & dad.

To everyone else namely the enemy the devil, our father is a big, powerful warrior to be feared, but to me he is my dad and he absolutely delights in me. In fact, Jeremiah states, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” – Jeremiah 33:3

God wants us to call on him so that he can share with us incredible blessings that we might otherwise have missed had we not reached out to him through prayer. And it’s through communion with God in prayer where he begins to change our hearts to reflect his heart of compassion.

3) Prayer gives us a right perspective of circumstances

Nehemiah knew that life’s circumstances change on a daily basis. In fact, things can go from good too bad to worse in a very short time. Even still he knew that God remained in control. At the start of Nehemiah’s story there was no tangible evidence in that moment that God was being faithful and God was keeping his promises.

The Jewish nation is scattered like the wind all over the ancient world. They have lost the land flowing with milk and honey. But Nehemiah’s prayer in verse 5 was saying, “You are faithful. You are good. You are a covenant-keeping God. You have not abandoned us. You are here even in our hurt. You love us. You will keep your promise.”

As disciples of Christ, we know who is really in control. In our humbling of self, we are admitting that we are but mere humans that don’t have the ability to save the world, who do not have the strength to keep going, who do not have the staying power to keep on keeping on. We are saying to God, that while we do not have these abilities, we know that he does. God has the ability to change us and use us for his ultimate glory. Nothing happens without God knowing about it. God can’t help being sovereign over everything – every time… it’s who he is.

4) Prayer gives us a right perspective of self

Nehemiah begins to confess the sins of Israel. “We have not been faithful. We have not kept your commands. We have not lined ourselves up with how you’ve designed the universe to work.” – Nehemiah 1:6-7

Nehemiah recognizes the importance of being honest about who he is. The truth is that the more you have an elevated view of yourself, the more it will be impossible for you to show compassion for others.

If your kids are godly because you’re awesome and not because God is gracious, then you’ll be hard pressed to show compassion for anybody who has a wayward child, because if they would have just done what you did in all your awesomeness, then they could have had a godly kid too.

If you’re financially set and not (in your mind) because God has been gracious to you but because you’ve worked and you’ve earned and you’ve set yourself up nicely and not, instead, feeling indebted to God for his mercy and grace, how impossible will it be for you to show empathy toward someone who is impoverished?

The more you are the author and perfecter of all things, the more all the blessing on your life is because of you and not because of God that has put you, in turn, into his debt, the more it will be impossible to show empathy to others who are struggling. Why? Because you’re so freakin’ awesome!

That attitude will rot out the soul’s ability to be compassionate and merciful. It will breed in us an indifference that is unacceptable before God. It will also rot out the ability to walk in unity, love, and compassion with one another and instead create a judgemental harshness among us that God will have nothing to do with.

And it isn’t until you know who you are and have a compassionate view of others and begin to have an inkling of the amazing awesomeness of God that you or I can think to know what our place is in God’s plan.

5) Prayer gives us a right perspective of our place in God’s plan

The final statement of Nehemiah in verse 11 “I was the cup-bearer…” indicates that he knew that who he was and that where he was at that moment was no accident and in many ways, he was declaring his place in God’s plan. He was the cup-bearer for a reason. Think about that for a moment, he wasn’t a prophet, he wasn’t a priest, he wasn’t a king, he wasn’t anybody particularly special… he was the waiter.

God uses who he wants to use no matter the position in life once we submit to him. He uses common fishermen, tax collectors, kings as well as shepherds, rebels and murderers like Paul and yes, he uses waiters. Regardless of your position in life, whether at church, at work, at school, at home, etc., you need to know that it is no accident! God has placed you where he has for a purpose. He has placed you where you are for his purpose! There are no accidents or coincidences with God! God has never been caught off guard… he has never once said “oops, I didn’t see that one coming.”

If our hearts are right, and we are more committed to the Lord’s commission than we are our own personal agenda, the potential is absolutely limitless. But it won’t happen with any depth, longevity or visionary focus if we don’t learn to pray, because it’s when we fall to our knees that we are then able to have a right view of self, others, our position and most importantly of God.

5 Key Dangers That The Prosperity Gospel Presents To The Christian

I’m not a fan of the prosperity Gospel, and in fact I believe a lot of it is just plain false teaching. But I’m also not a fan of the idea that all Christians must be poor… that’s just poor theology.

God can bless his children, and I have the greatest respect for those who are wealthy and who still have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ, because I think it must be one of the hardest things to do in life.

Christians can be blessed with riches, but we must remember their limitations. Money can buy a bed, but it can’t buy you sleep. It can buy a house, but not a home; medicine, but not health; pleasure, but not peace; amusements, but not joy. Just remember its limitations!

There are many reasons I’m not a fan of the prosperity gospel, more than I am sharing on this blog post, however allow me to share 5 key dangers that the prosperity gospel presents to the Christian. I’m sure that you’ll agree that even only 5 reasons will be enough to keep us away from that false teaching.

1  The prosperity gospel presents the Holy Spirit more like a ‘Force’ to use than a ‘Person’ to love

A major problem I see with the prosperity gospel is that the Holy Spirit is seen more as a power to be put to use for whatever the believers heart desires – if of course you have enough faith. After all didn’t Jesus actually say that we would receive the desires of our hearts? The understanding is that the Holy Spirit’s pleasure is to fulfill the desires of our hearts immediately if you have enough faith. The problem with that process of thinking however, is that the Word of God does not teach anywhere that one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to act as a force that will fulfill the desires of my will and heart but is instead a ‘Person’ who empowers the believer to do God’s will.  “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has He wills”. – 1 Corinthians 12:11

2  The prosperity gospel becomes more a matter of what we say than in whom we trust

The prosperity gospel (Word of Faith) teaching presents us to a God who is not truly Lord of all, because in that teaching, he can’t work until we release him to do so. Faith, according to the Word of Faith doctrine, is not humble and submissive trust in God; rather it’s a watered down formula by which we may manipulate the spiritual laws that prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. As the name “Word of Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. Truth is though that our hope is in the Lord, not in our own words, not even in our own faith. “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” – Psalm 33:20-22

3  The prosperity gospel is about pursuing material wealth and health over of the presence of God

In Numbers 13 & 14 we are introduced to an intriguing drama regarding the children of Israel and their choice of a lifetime. When they were about to enter the promised land they faltered because they feared the giants in the land and so chose to run away. God punished them by denying them access into the land flowing with milk and honey because of their sin.

Here’s the question, what was their sin? Their sin was believing that the birthright was about the material goods – the land flowing with milk and honey. Think about the fact that the pagan nations who already inhabited the land weren’t enjoying the blessing of God and yet already possessed the land for many generations. enjoying it’s bounty.  Truth is that the Israelite people’s birthright wasn’t about the flowing milk, honey and olive trees – their birthright was about the Glory of God being manifested in their lives no matter what.

God had been with them throughout the Exodus and was going to be with them as they took possession of the land. but they forgot all about that and only saw giants guarding grapes. The prosperity gospel emphasises the gaining of money and possessions in this life, even going so far to declare that as children of the king it is a birthright. But if that was the case why would Jesus say, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” – Matthew 6:19

Also the Bible warns against pursuing wealth. Believers, especially leaders in the church, are to be free from the love of money. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” – Luke 12:15

Our lives need to be nothing less than the manifested presence of God in our lives so that the world who watches us may glorify our God in heaven, not our god in our wallet.

4  The prosperity gospel does not prepare the saints for tough times

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” – 1 Peter 4:19

When a crisis strikes, as it always will in our flee bitten sin diseased, sin cursed world, how are we to handle those times of trouble? I’m not sure what the Word of Faith folks say to the fact that we are called upon to suffer not just persecution suffering, but body-wasting-away, and disease-type suffering, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16 

Sadly what happens however, is that Christians in prosperity churches are often unprepared for the day when a tragedy happens in their lives.

Our hope rather should be found in and through the gospel message of renewal and transformation. This damaged world will be made right one day. Jesus will return and make things new. Knowing this helps me to look to God when I have been diagnosed with cancer, when your spouse loses his or her job, or when bankruptcy is declared because of circumstances beyond our control.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” – 1 Peter 1:3-6

5  The prosperity gospel can only lead to discontent and unsatisfied hearts

The teaching of the prosperity gospel belittles the true gospel to earthly betterment such as material goods, better health or better relationships. This though only leads to discontent and unsatisfied hearts. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:5-6

The word ‘content’ here in verse 5 literally means ‘to be enough’, ‘to be sufficient’, ‘to be adequate’ on a continual basis. That means we come to Christ first and for Jesus’ sake alone. That means that Christ is enough even if the added things never get added.

Even if my marriage is terrible I can still find deep satisfaction because I find it in Jesus. If I am to remain single for the rest of my life I can find complete satisfaction because I find it in Jesus. If my job is a dead-end job or the boss treats me terribly, my satisfaction is complete because I find contentment in Jesus. Even if I never get that candy apple red Jaguar, or if I get sick or my child gets cancer and dies, or it seems that there’s always more month than pay-cheque. We must come to Jesus because of Jesus, Jesus is sufficient. God is enough.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” – Psalm 73:25-26

God absolutely does want his children to prosper and in fact we are promised prosperity. However the promise is made for the day we enter glory. So it’s a timing thing really. One day we will undeniably be healthy & wealthy – just not necessarily today.

In the end we must know and believe that though we rejoice in suffering now, there will be great joy in the prosperity of Christ’s coming. “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” – 1 Peter 4:13

Transgenderism – Identity Crisis Or Identity Lie?

Who would have suspected, even as short as 15-20 years ago, that the clear separation of the sexes would be questioned. Today, however it is not only questioned but the idea of transgenderism (or transsexualism) is being championed by many as a new normal.

If you haven’t seen on the news or heard about Bruce Jenner, now identifying as Caitlyn Jenner, then you must have been living on the moon.  Interestingly enough, the now Caitlyn (formally Bruce) was reported to be having second thoughts about  the transition from male to female according to author Ian Halperin. He says that the former Olympic decathlete may de-transition in the next few years and come out as Bruce once again. Apparently Caitlyn is still attracted to women and his transition has created problems for the former Olympian to meet the right woman to settle down with.

To be fair, I don’t know if Halperin’s claim is accurate or not, however the facts are that if someone is confused of their gender before hand, who’s to say they wouldn’t be confused after they transition? In many cases the identity crisis they are experiencing doesn’t come as a result of wrong gender, rather it comes as a result of not knowing who they are as an individual in their very being.

BTW… to be clear, I’m not addressing the world of a hermaphrodite, that is a whole other issue, rather I’m speaking to the issue of one clear gender self identifying that they are now, or wish to become, another gender.

I admit that the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism or describes anyone as having transgender feelings, however the Word does say plenty about sexuality. First off, we’re told that God created two (and only two) genders. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27. The current speculation about gender fluidity is foreign to the Bible.

The closest the Bible does come to mentioning transgenderism is in its criticisms of homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32) and transvestitism (Deuteronomy 22:5).  Add to that to the fact that the Greek word translated “homosexuality” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means “effeminate men.” So, while the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism, it does clearly speak to instances of gender “confusion,” and explicitly identifies them as sin.

That may be what a disciple of Jesus believes but that doesn’t stop the argument coming today from the mainstream media that those who disagree with and/or speak out against transgenderism are nothing short of hate criminals at the very worst, or uneducated bigots in the very least. After all, how can you not feel for someone who is ‘trapped’ in a gender that does not match their ‘true’ gender?

So am I bigot or a criminal because of my convictions? Personally, I feel for Caitlyn and for the thousands of others who are struggling with their gender identity. The question I think begs to be asked is just how do we respond to those struggling in this area? For that matter how do we respond to those who are in our families or places of work or friendship circles who may feel they are no longer struggling and seem to be quite happy following their transition?

If gender matters to God then it should certainly matter to me. If God calls something a sin then no matter my feelings about it I must accept it as a sin. However that doesn’t give me licence to be a hater or a bigot.

Our response as Christians should be nothing less than deeply felt compassion while becoming a people who prayerfully begin to reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them. And then to listen carefully with those whom God may place in your life who are transitioning or have transitioned as you build an authentic relationship with these very real people. It’s only then that we are in a good position to speak truth in love. Speaking “In love” means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means to love with action (such as hospitality), not just words as John speaks about, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18.

And I think that love means being slow to speak, especially on social media. If you do choose to speak, work hard to speak with an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Maybe unknown to you, someone you know is struggling with their gender identity and your words could possibly impact them one way or another, so always speak as you would to a friend.

We must lovingly point people to Jesus Christ because it is only through Christ where we discover that our identity is not in our gender, our colour, our jobs, or our societal roles, but rather it is found in being chosen by God for an amazing purpose.

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“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10

When we become a disciple of Jesus Christ we are now forever owned by him and no longer a part of the world, or for that matter ourselves. We’re set apart and now exist for God to make us into his holy people, to share his holy character – which is now our identity. These new identities mean that we now have an active role in the presence of this amazing, holy God. Our life is now about priestly service and so never out of the God’s presence as his royal priesthood, no longer in the neutral zone of life but always in the temple courts. This means then that if we act in an unholy way we are acting out of character and working against our true identities. We are either finding our identities in Christ or we are out of character if we’re not.

We were created to discover our identity through a renewed relationship with Jesus Christ but when we try to find it elsewhere, whether that be in other things, other people, or in what I do or who I am, well then, it never measures up. That’s because all these other measurements are temporary. I may get a face lift but eventually age catches up with me, I may change my gender but I am still the same person deep inside. We simply can’t find eternal satisfaction through the temporary.

Yet people still keep trying, believing the lie from Satan that we don’t need God. Lying is Satan’s primary weapon against the church, and he uses his tactic of deceit effectively to separate people from their heavenly Father and the truth. He tries to convince people that God is not the answer and that our identities are found in any other place rather than in Christ. He is passing on the same identity lie he began in Eden. The lie that we find our identities apart from God. And he continues to do so because his success depends on people believing his lies because quite frankly, the more the world hears these lies the more they believe it and Satan knows this. Adolph Hitler, a man who learned how to lie effectively, once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

But the damage caused by listening to Satan’s lies and by trying to discover our identities without Jesus can be seen in the pain and suffering evident in people’s lives. Just look no farther than the billboards on our streets or the ads on TV. Women driven to fulfill the western world’s ideal of beauty – the dream woman, sometimes to the point of eating disorders that destroy not just the body but also the soul. Women and men, caught up in a never ending cycle of disappointment and heartache day after day because they just don’t measure up to the world’s idea of beauty or satisfaction or identity. It is only when a man & woman, put their hope in God, will they become a deeply settled & strong person who knows who they are.

Out of all the things in this life I don’t know, here’s what I do know. We’re all “trapped” in bodies that we need deliverance from. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” – Romans 7:24. That’s why Jesus came: to deliver not just Caitlyn Jenner but also people like you and me from the hold of sin and failing disordered bodies, in order that we may be given glorious, powerful, confusion-free resurrection bodies.

“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.