Jesus didn’t die for those who make less than a dollar a day

Someone at my work recently left a bunch of booklets on my table for people to read. They were the Rhapsody of Realities, an 80 page daily devotional booklet based on the Ministry of Chris and Anita Oyakhilome, a married pastor and pastrix who are heavily involved in the African pentecostal movement. As I find anything to do with theology and religion intriguing, and being only nominally aware of who this man is, I took it home with me and gave it a read.  It didn’t take long to discover that this man is a word-faith, prosperity gospel heretic who essentially has created an empire of fleecing the flock.  To get some context, pastor Chris Oyakhilome makes his home base in Nigeria, a country of 170 million people and the 7th most populous country in the world. In Nigeria, over 100 million people live in crushing poverty, making less than 1 dollar a day. Conversely,  Pastor Chris himself is the second richest pastor in Nigeria and one of the richest pastors in the world, having  a personal net worth of over 50 million dollars. There are  many issues of finance that we could discuss, how he raises money off he poorest if the poor; trading coins for false hope, but I wanted to address something he said on page 40 of the December 2011 edition.

“The reason Jesus came is to give us another kind of life-eternal life, the God-life. When you’re born again, you become a partaker of this new and glorious life. This is the very life of God. It is the very essence of divinity. This is the life Jesus has given us in abundance. In 1 John 5:11, the Apostle John let us know that anyone who has received Jesus as Lord has this life. When you’re born again you have the same life that Jesus had in its fullness. This life is sickness-proof, disease-proof, poverty-proof and failure-proof. It is a life of glory, victory, success and excellence.

Religion would have us believe we can only receive this life when we get to heaven, but that’s not true. The Bible makes it clear that you received this life the moment you received Jesus as Lord of your life (John 1:12-13). Man in all his natural intelligence, goodness and kindness is nothing before the Lord, until he receives this glorious life in him. You can become a partaker of this glorious, supernatural life right now by asking Jesus to be the Lord of your life. When you receive this life, it doesn’t matter for how long you may have suffered with ulcers, cancer, paralysis, HIV or diabetes, you will be healed! Every wound in your body that has defied medication will close up! Nothing of the devil can stay in you once you embrace the transcendent life that’s in Christ Jesus”

There are a couple things of note here and a lot we could talk about, such as the elevation of mankind, the near deification of the saved, the distortion of man’s natural state, and the really bad use of scripture proof texts.  [go and read John 1;12-13, it is laughable how he uses it] But what I wanted to focus on is the equation of salvation with deliverance from physical travails. To be more precise, his conclusions which are  ‘If you are not wealthy and wealthy, you are not saved and your sins are not forgiven, as health and wealth is the evidence of true regeneration and faith.’

As it were, we are left to wonder, If “Nothing of the devil can stay in you once you embrace the transcendent life that’s in Christ Jesus”, and the things of the devil are defined as cancer, AIDS and poverty, is not the only logical, rational conclusion that those who are in poverty [all 100 million in Nigeria], anyone who is is HIV positive [3.4 million also in Nigeria] plus untold millions of people with other illness, have not embraced the life in Christ? Chris says “When you’re born again you have the same life that Jesus had in its fullness. This life is sickness-proof, disease-proof, poverty-proof and failure-proof. ” Is not the only logical, rational conclusion that can be reached is that if you are not sickness-proof or poverty-proof,  you are not born again? What a damnable thing to say! Poverty and disease have ravaged the southern continent, with some countries having up to 80% of their populations living in poverty [Burundi] or having a fifth of their population HIV positive [South Africa]. In the midst of this comes a man who preys on people’s fears, hope and emotions by directly connecting the gospel of Jesus Christ with their very will to live and and tells them “If you get saved you will have the God-life and will be rich and healthy.”

I don’t see any other way to understand what he is saying, and of course that naturally leads me to wonder how then should we view the apostles of Jesus who were martyred? How about Paul, who endured  hardships, sickness, thorns in the flesh, stonings, imprisonment, abandonment,  beatings, shipwrecks, and eventually had his head cut off? Is this the life Paul lived? Was Paul’s life one that was  “sickness-proof, disease-proof, poverty-proof and failure-proof”? Seeing as how Paul’s life was not one of health and wealth, aren’t we forced to conclude that he did not receive Jesus as Lord of his life?

And so what happens to those who hear this message, believe it, and then come to the tragic understanding that its not true? What happens to those who believe the message of the Gospel and then watch fellow believers around them die of their diseases? Instead of finding contentment and peace in their salvation and eternal security they are left to conclude that they were never saved, as they did not incur those blessings. What of the people struggling to scrape together enough to survive? The ones who are forced to conclude that their faith is not real- that  it is nothing but an illusion because Jesus didn’t die for those who make less than a dollar a day? How many people walk away from the faith because this man abused Christ and his gospel and whored him out to the highest bidder?

How can you be saved by grace and faith alone if your salvation is contingent on your accumulation of prosperity? On your body’s ability to produce immunities? With such a perversion of regeneration, justification and sanctification, how can this not be a land rife with hopelessness, disillusionment and despair for anyone believing this message? How can this be anything other than the careful, purposeful, systematic annihilation of the faith of millions of people?

That is not Christianity. That is not the Gospel.  This man is not a Pastor. This man is not a Christian.

And I say all that truth, in love.

Free Song from Matt Papa

Matt Papa has made the song “It is finished” from his album of the same name available for free. Building on the theme of “it is finished” it functions as a balm to the soul and a vivid reminder as we approach Good Friday and Easter.  It is quite excellent and definitely worth a listen.

Matt Papa – “It Is Finished” Lyrics

Once and for all
Once and for all
You offered up Your life
For one and all
For one and all
The perfect sacrifice
Atoning blood was shed
Love conquered when You said…

It is finished
It is done
To the world salvation comes
Hallelujah, we’re alive!
Hell was silenced when You cried:
It is finished
It is finished

Who is this king
Who is this king
So mighty and so strong
He is the one
He is the one
The earth has waited for
God’s remedy for sin
With mercy for all men

It is finished
It is done
To the world salvation comes
Hallelujah, we’re alive!
Hell was silenced when You cried:
It is finished
It is finished

Well the earth shook and trembled
The sun bowed it’s head
The veil of the temple was open for men
As Jesus went down in the cold of the grave
Defeated the darkness when He overcame
The keys of the Kingdom were placed into hands
Of children and priests and of fishers of men
Through all generations His voice will be heard
Creation resounds the victorious words!

It is finished
It is done
To the world salvation comes
Hallelujah, we’re alive!
Hell was silenced when you cried:
It is finished
It is done
Now completed, the work of Love
Hallelujah, He’s alive
Join the song of the ransomed Bride
It is finished
It is finished
It is finished!

Great RC Sproul Quote

 

When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and hopelessness. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. Our strength is futile in itself; we are spiritually impotent without the assistance of a merciful God. We may dislike giving our attention to God’s wrath and justice, but until we incline ourselves to these aspects of God’s nature, we will never appreciate what has been wrought for us by grace. Even Edwards’s sermon on sinners in God’s hands was not designed to stress the flames of hell. The resounding accent falls not on the fiery pit but on the hands of the God who holds us and rescues us from it. The hands of God are gracious hands. They alone have the power to rescue us from certain destruction.”
R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God

Modest is Hottest?

 

Sharon Hodde Miller wrote this article a few months ago and I’ve decided to reprint it here, as it is quite excellent. 

I remember the first time I heard the words chirped by an eager female college student as we discussed the topic of modesty. Her enthusiasm was mixed with perk and reprimand, producing a tone that landed somewhere between Emily Post and a cheerleader.

To be honest, my initial reaction to “modest is hottest” was amusement. I thought the rhyme was clever and lighthearted, a harmless way to promote the virtue described in 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3-4. No harm no foul.

Since then, I’ve heard this mantra of the pure proclaimed many times by young women, Christian artists (including, most famously, CCM singer Rebecca St James, and Christian leaders. In conversations the phrase always elicits chuckles, but my response has changed over time. I still wholly affirm modesty as a biblical practice for men and women, but now I hesitate to embrace the “modest is hottest” banner. Those three words carry a lot of baggage.

The Christian rhetoric of modesty, rather than offering believers an alternative to the sexual objectification of women, often continues the objectification, just in a different form.

As the Christian stance typically goes, women are to cover their bodies as a mark of spiritual integrity. Too much skin is seen as a distraction that garners inappropriate attention, causes our brothers to stumble, and overshadows our character. Consequently, the female body is perceived as both a temptation and a distraction to the Christian community. The female body is beautiful, but in a dangerous way.

This particular approach to modesty is effective because it is rooted in shame, and shame is a powerful motivator. That’s the first red flag. Additionally concerning about this approach is that it perpetuates the objectification of women in a pietistic form. It treats women’s bodies not as glorious reflections of the image of God, but as sources of temptation that must be hidden. It is the other side of the same objectifying coin: one side exploits the female body, while the other side seems to be ashamed of it. Both sides reduce the female body to a sexual object.

Of course, this language isn’t new. Consider how profoundly the female identity has been negatively linked to her body throughout church history. For several decades now, feminist theologians have critiqued the mind-body dualism by which Christians have equated men with the mind and women with the carnal body. Citing Eve as the original “gateway for the Devil,” thinkers such as Tertullian have peppered Christian tradition with hostility toward the wiles of femininity. Origen likened women to animals in their sexual lust. According to author Jane Billinghurst, “Early Christian men who had to greet women during church services by shaking their hands were advised to first wrap their hands in robes so as to shield their flesh against their seductive touch.”

In response to this aspect of the Christian tradition, Rosemary Radford Ruether and other feminist theologians have over the past 50 years rightly challenged the mind-body dualism by which women were thought to be “modeled after the rejected part of the psyche,” and are “shallow, fickle-minded, irrational, carnal-minded, lacking all the true properties of knowing and willing and doing.”

All this negative talk about the female body may have created a vacuum for the “modest is hottest” approach to fill. Perhaps the phrase’s originator hoped to provide a more positive spin on modesty. I sympathize with that. However, “modest is hottest” also perpetuates (and complicates) this objectification of women by equating purity with sexual desire. The word “hot” is fraught with sexual undertones. It continues a tradition in which women are primarily objects of desire, but it does so in an acceptable Christian way.

Making modesty sexy is not the solution we need. Instead, the church needs to overhaul its theology of the female body. Women continue to be associated with their bodies in ways that men are not. And, as a result of this unique association, women’s identities are also uniquely tied to their bodies in a manner that men’s identities are not.

How do we discuss modesty in a manner that celebrates the female body without objectifying women, and still exhorts women to purity? The first solution is to dispense with body-shaming language. Shame is great at behavior modification, even when the shaming is not overt. But shame-based language is not the rhetoric of Jesus. It is the rhetoric of his Enemy.

Second, we must affirm the value of the female body. The value or meaning of a woman’s body is not the reason for modesty. Women’s bodies are not inherently distracting or tempting. On the contrary, women’s bodies glorify God. Dare I say that a woman’s breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord! Each womanly part honors Him. He created the female body, and it is good.

Finally, language about modesty should focus not on hiding the female body but on understanding the body’s created role. Immodesty is not the improper exposure of the body per se, but the improper orientation of the body. Men and women are urged to pursue a modesty by which our glory is minimized and God’s is maximized. The body, the spirit and the mind all have a created role that is inherently God-centered. When we make ourselves central instead of God, we display the height of immodesty.

That is not to say that godly women will not attract godly men with their modesty. They might. But that is not the purpose of modesty. If “modest is hottest” encapsulates the message we communicate to young women about modesty, then we have missed the mark. “Modest is hottest” is foundationally human-centered, whereas biblical modesty is first and foremost centered on God.

Rethink: John was NOT the disciple whom Jesus loved.

Continuing where we left off, we are brought to our next reference;

So the Roman cohort and the commander, and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, and led Him to Annas first; for he was father‑in‑law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people. [John 18:12-14]

And Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought in Peter.    [John 18:15-16]

The context for this is during the trial of Jesus. We see that Jesus was being followed by Peter, which everyone knows about, and our second mysterious disciple make another appearance. Peter would not have been able to gain access by himself, but rather it was the “other disciple” who was known to the High Priest and he was the one who got Peter in. If you read John 20 you will see that the “other disciple” is “the disciple whom Jesus loved:

And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” [John 20:2]

At this point we will build a case against the “beloved disciple” being John. When we contrast  John 18 to Acts 4 I think we will see that this “other disciple” could not be John. Acts 4:1-23 tells us what happened to Peter and John following the healing of a crippled man. Peter and John were seized and brought before the “rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas” in order to be questioned about this miracle.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. [Acts 4:13]

Here is where it gets interesting. Notice here what these Jewish leaders recognized. It was in that moment that they suddenly understood that these men had been with Jesus. The principal thing that we need to get out of this passage is that it was at that point that the high priest and the other rulers became acquainted with Peter and John for first time. But our text in John 18 tells us that the “other disciple” was known by the High Priest. This teaches us that the high priest did not know John [or Peter] before this incident. So the “other disciple” could not have been John!

Furthermore, and building upon this, we see in John 20 that this “other disciple” was the first to believe after the resurrection:

So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.    [John 20:8-9]

This happened early on the first day of the week “the other disciple saw and believed” but later that day notice what Mark tells us:

And afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.    [Mark 16:14]

When he is speaking of “eleven” he is speaking of the“twelve” minus Judas. These eleven did not believe but the “other disciple” had believed that morning.  This fits really well because while we are told that “the other disciple whom Jesus loved” believed, Peter did not believe, but would believe a little later, as we see in Mark 16. The other disciple was clearly not one of the eleven and could not have been John, because John was counted among the eleven who were rebuked for not believing, while the disciple whom Jesus loved, Lazarus, had already believed!

To pile it one, at Jesus’ trial there are only two disciples there with Him, Peter and the “other disciple”. Peter denies that he even knows Him. Then we go to the cross and none of the “twelve” are there. They were all afraid. But notice who was there:

Therefore the soldiers did these things. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household.    [John 19:25-27]

The Synoptics say all the twelve deserted Jesus once he was taken away for execution, even Peter, and record only women being at the cross. There is no contradiction here if the disciple whom Jesus loved is Lazarus rather than one of the Twelve.

The only man that we know of who was at the cross as Jesus died was “the disciple whom He loved”. Why? What gave Lazarus this boldness? Think about it. Why would Lazarus be afraid to die? He had already died and been raised from death. He had no fear of death he was loved by Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. We know too that this “other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved” was the first to believe, and was not one of  “the eleven”

Jesus loved Lazarus and he made him responsible to take care of His mother. The historical figure of Lazarus is more important than we may have previously imagined, due to his role in the life of Jesus and Jesus’ mother. Jesus must have trusted him implicitly to hand over his mother to him when he died.

 After the resurrection morning, the next mention of “the disciple whom Jesus loved” occurs in John 21:2-8.

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples.  Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out, and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.    [John 21:2-3]

Two of those who were present are not named–which is consistent with the author’s practice of not naming himself! In fact, If you read John 20:1-8, you see that the writer mentions “the other disciple” 4 times without giving him a name even as he gives everyone else involved in the action a name. But that’s alright because he is named in verse 7.

That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.    [John 21:7]

Since “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was present, look at the author’s list in John 21:2. We see that “the sons of Zebedee” are named one of which was John and we know that the unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved” is present at the same time! This is strong evidence that the author was not the Apostle John. At the end of the Fourth Gospel Jesus is talking to Peter and tells him what kind of death he would experience. In response to this:

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” [ John 21:20-21]

Jesus tells Peter how he is going to die and Peter’s response is, I would argue, “What about Lazarus”? As soon as the topic became death, who did Peter’s mind turn to? Lazarus!

Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”  [John 21:22-23]

We have this idea that “this man” is John because we read that back into the text from Church history, knowing that he is supposed to have died at an old age and not martyred unlike the rest of the apostles [though it is doubtful John was unique in him not being tortured.] We say “it must be John” because the popular belief is that his longevity qualified him for this task. And yet what do we see in the text? Something about this “other disciple” caused some or all of the disciples that were present at this event to jump to their erroneous conclusion – that Jesus’ words, “If I want him to remain until I come” meant “that disciple should not die”  The rumor “that disciple should not die” did not spring from a misunderstanding about what Jesus said. This error happened because of whom Jesus was speaking about!

I’m sure that Peter and the rest of these disciples knew that this individual was Lazarus who had already died and been brought back from the dead. In this case, a reason for one or more of those disciples jumping to the conclusion that they did, suddenly becomes evident. Since Jesus had already raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, those who knew that Lazarus was the subject of Jesus’ words in John 21:22-23 had mistakenly interpreted Jesus words to mean that Lazarus would be ‘exempted’ from having to undergo a second physical death.

I think we can  agree that the raising of Lazarus from the dead was a profound event in the life of Jesus. Yet this remarkable miracle is missing from three of the four gospels. The first three gospels don’t offer even a hint that this miracle occurred and they never mention that Jesus had a friend named Lazarus that he loved. Now consider that Matthew was probably an eyewitness to the raising of Lazarus. This was surely a powerful and unforgettable experience, yet Matthew left this out when he wrote his Gospel. Lazarus was big news! So why is it that the other Gospels fail to mention any of this?

Strangely enough it turns out that there is another prominent figure in the life of Jesus who is also nowhere to be found in the first three gospels. The person is “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Is this simply a coincidence?

As fas as how the Fourth Gospel ever come to be attributed to John, I would suggest that  a man named John, not the son of Zebedee, could very well have edited this book. Although the Beloved Disciple is claimed as the Source of the book, that does not necessarily mean that he is its actual Writer. Most scholars are in agreement that John 21 makes clear that while the Beloved Disciple is said to have written down some Gospel traditions, he is no longer alive when at least the end of this chapter was written. This would also mesh well with the early Christian traditions attributing it to John.

This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true. [John 21:24]

The “we know his witness is true” is a dead give away that someone other than the Disciple whom Jesus loved put this Gospel into its final form and added this appendix. This also explains something else. Whoever put the memoirs of the Disciple whom Jesus loved together is probably the one who insisted on calling him that. In other words, the Disciple whom Jesus loved is called such by his final editor, and this is not a self designation. If the Writer was a close colleague and follower of the Source, it is quite understandable that he would refer to his master by using the honorific title “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

Well what say you? Are you convinced? Unconvinced? I would love your thoughts. And also, if you want more evidence, click on the link to David’s blog, as he offers more things that I’ve chosen to delete for the sake of brevity and space.