“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:11)
One of the things that began to bother me about “Prosperity Theology”, when I used to be influenced by it and listen to its teachings, was the fact that Jesus Christ really has no part in the movement. Oh, sure, the name of Jesus is thrown around an awful lot, everything that is done is “in the name of Jesus.” In fact, the very words In the name of Jesus are kind of like a secret, magical mantra to be recited like the words to some ancient spell, words that will secure for the speaker anything from unblemished, perfect health to riches and fortunes beyond his wildest expectations.
You hear the name of Jesus coming from the lips of the Prosperity Teachers so often that it seems incomprehensible that the Lord Jesus Christ would not be at the very forefront of everything they teach and believe but, alas, He is not. While listening to yet another sermon one day about how the faith of the believer and, more specifically, the powerful words of faith spoken by the believer were the key to receiving anything one could want in life, a startling thought crossed my mind. If what these people are teaching is true, then what role does Jesus Christ really have in the Christian’s life? If God’s purpose is simply to give the Christian a “blank check”, if Jesus has just turned us all loose, armed with those mystical words on the tips of our tongues, words to be brandished and executed against everything that stands between the believer and his heart’s desire, then what use is prayer or fellowship with God? At the risk of sounding irreverent, if God has just turned everything over to us and has ceded His power to the believer, then what part in our lives does Jesus Christ even have?
A lot of years have passed since I had that frightening realization and I have come to discover that the Lord Jesus Christ is not only a Part of the Christian’s life, He is the Source and Object of our lives! I have learned that one of the biggest differences between what Prosperity, or Word of Faith, Theology teaches and what the Bible actually shows us is that, for the Prosperity Teachers, Jesus is a means to an end and, according to the Word of God, Jesus Christ is the End. God’s intention is not for the Christian to throw His name around in order to have their own desires fulfilled, but to trust in Him so that they would be empowered to fulfill His will. God has given the Christian all the power and authority needed to accomplish the things that He has called each of us to do but, we must make no mistake, He is still the One in control of all things.
As we come to the conclusion of this marvelous section of Romans 5 that lists these things that we have in Christ, we notice that the list begins and ends with Jesus Christ Himself. Verse 1 told us that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and Verse 11 comes full circle by showing us that we “joy” (or boast) in God through…ourselves?…our words of faith?…no, through Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus revealed Himself to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos as the “Alpha and Omega, the First and Last” (Revelation 1:8, 11). He is the Beginning and the End of all things and He is surely the Beginning and the End of the Christian’s walk with God.
All of the other wonderful gifts that we have in Christ, all of those excellent benefits of being Justified by faith in Jesus that we have considered in this series, peace with God, access to God, glory in tribulation, the love of God, the abiding Holy Spirit, safety from the wrath of God, these are all made possible through Christ. It is only when we find our rest in Him that we receive these other benefits. Jesus did not just hand His name, His power, and His authority over to us and tell us to make the best of it while He hid Himself away in Heaven. He never told His disciples “Lo, my name and my power is with you always, do whatever you like with it.” He said “Lo, I am with you always…” (Matthew 28:20, emphasis added).
“As the [deer] panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalms 42:1)
One of the biggest factors that began to eat away at me and eventually led me away from the Prosperity teachings was the realization that their agenda and mine were completely different. It wasn’t wealth that I was really interested in, it wasn’t prosperity, it wasn’t perfect health or comfort. I wanted the Lord and to experience Him to the fullest! I didn’t want a “Genie in the sky” whose magical name I could invoke in order to trade in my old car for a luxury model. I wanted Jesus. I didn’t want His power and authority so that all of my dreams could come true, my “dream” was to abide in His presence and worship Him.
When we come to faith in Christ, He puts a desire in our hearts that only He can fulfill. It is a desire for Him, for His presence, a desire to be with Him wherever He is. It is a yearning for Him to be the Beginning and the End of everything for us; the first Ray of Light we see at the rising of the Sun and the last Glimmer of Twilight as it sets. For the true Christian, Jesus Christ is our All in All, He is our Beloved, He is our Altogether Lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16). He is the Object of our heart’s desire, He is the Focus of our adoration.
The gifts that the Lord Jesus gives to those who love Him are glorious and wonderful, but we are reminded even in this passage from the Book of Romans, as one gift after another is enumerated, that the greatest Gift of God is Jesus Christ. Of all the things we have in Christ, none is more precious, none is more beautiful, than Christ Himself. All things begin and end with Him.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,