I am reading and being greatly influenced by Michael Horton's new book CHRISTLESS CHRISTIANITY and am stunned to find aspects of the "prosperity gospel" theology creeping into what were previously considered "sound" churches via the preaching/teaching of men previously considered "rock solid" This is genuinely frightening.
I'm going to quote at length from the book here, particularly from a sub-chapter titled "From Riches to Rags: Losing the Gospel by Taking It for Granted" It seems more sensible to me just to quote his text rather than try to restate it in my own less succinct way.
"We got in by grace but now we need to stay in...by following various steps, lists, and practices. There was this brief and shining moment of grace, but now the rest of the Christian life is about our experience, feelings, committment, and obedience.
Across the entire spectrum from conservative to liberal, we are being told that we need to focus on our deeds, not creeds. Of course, Christ's person and work are important; but we already believe that, right? That's doctrine, we are told; not helping people where they live. Now, we have to save America and the world through our holy actions....
The worst thing that can happen to the Church is to confuse law and gospel. When we soften the Law, we never give up on our own attempts to offer our rags of "righteousness" to God. When we turn the Gospel into demands, it is no longer the saving Word of redemption in Jesus Christ alone....
No longer threatened with hell or comforted with heaven, the new legalism is the upbeat and cheerful hum playing in the background. It's still a form of works-righteousness, with its carrots and sticks. Follow my advice and you'll really "connect" with God's best for your life. If you are not happy, perhaps you have fallen out of God's favor and blessing. Only those who are "completely surrendered" can be confident that they are in God's Plan A. Now here are the steps to living the victorious Christian life. Are you following the steps? Do you have enough faith? Are you praying enough, reading the Bible enough, witnessing enough, serving in the church enough, loving enough? This diet of imperatives becomes just as burdensome and human-centered as the older legalism; it's just Legalism-Lite....
We need the Law and the Gospel, but each does different things. When we confuse law and gospel, we avoid both the trauma of God's holiness and the liberating power of His grace. We begin to speak about living the gospel, doing the gospel, even being the gospel, as if the Good News were a message about us and our works instead of about Jesus Christ and His works.
And since our faith in every moment is threatened by our natural tendency to be distracted from its object--Christ--we need the gospel to be placarded before us not just at the beginning but throughout the Christian life. The gospel is for Christians too. We need to be evangelized every week. It is not by following Christ's example but by actually being inserted into Christ, clothed with Christ, united to Christ--as the Spirit creates faith through the gospel--that we are not only justified but sanctified as well....
So there are really only two religions in the world: a religion of human striving to ascend to God through pious works, feelings, attitudes, and experiences, and the Good News of God's merciful descent to us in His Son."
(CHRISTLESS CHRISTIANITY by Michael Horton, c. 2008 by Michael Horton, published by Baker Books)
How often do we hear this formula?-- OK, now you're saved through the Gospel. It's time to start living like a Christian. You need to "move on" by means of proper behaviors and actions.
Matthew 6:33 is presented as a "moving on" message. "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" then, after you have so sought, work hard, be honest, and God will give you all those blessings!
What a travesty of the Gospel!.....what "another gospel, which is not the gospel."
"Seek first the Kingdom of God...." does not mean a one-time conversion experience after which we are blessed by God for our pious actions. We are to seek first the Kingdom with our every breath, every day, in every way. The Gospel is not a pill we swallow, then go on with our lives, getting the occasional "boost-up" from God's hand. The Gospel is Christ, the Way, the Destination, the Journey, now and for evermore.