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Yeshua Explored

The Upside-down Gospel

todayApril 11, 2016 37

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Christian satellite television should ideally come with a spiritual health warning! Some of it is perfectly safe, inspiring even, but there are certain times on certain channels when it is highly advisable to keep any non-believers well away. That is, unless you want to expose them to the upside-down Gospel, a peculiar variation of God’s Word that kicks in with these Christian stations for one purpose only … to aid them in their fund-raising.

It’s amazing really because much of this teaching seems to originate with just one man, Oral Roberts, who was rather obsessed by gardening, or rather the planting of seeds. He took this from the original garden, the Garden of Eden.

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

The context is an agricultural one. But Roberts decided to apply deeper spiritual interpretations from his own imagination, as we shall soon see. From this verse he makes a jump to Jesus’ teaching on seeds.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

This was a foundational verse for Roberts, who thought he had discovered a formula here, a miracle factory that could be harnessed. We plant a seed of faith and, because the Genesis verse seemed to imply a universal process that could apply spiritually as well as physically, then God is duty bound to deliver and will send us the miracle we need, even when we have a situation as impossible as the moving of mountains.

So Roberts thought he had found the mother-load, a path to prosperity that seemed to come from God’s Word.

Before we move on from here I want you to review the last two sentences and notice how many words have been italicized. Each word alludes to Robert’s own thinking processes, his agenda, his needs, his interpretations of God’s Word. That’s an important point, hold onto it.

Roberts then produced three Bible verses as keys to strengthen his central seed of faith formula. The first recognizes God as our source.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

This is fine. But then he gives us:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

And this is where Roberts’ interpretation starts to turn the Gospel upside down. He says that we must first plant a seed of faith so that God can multiply it back to meet our need. There is no way we can give to God without receiving something back from Him, multiplied!

Let’s think about this.

The right-way-up gospel is all about giving the very best of you back to God, without the expectation of reward. It’s about giving wholeheartedly … just for the joy of giving, of pleasing God, of helping others. It’s about dying to self.

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “ (Acts 20:35)

The upside-down gospel is to give of yourself with the expectation of personal rewards, even multiplied personal rewards. Let’s read the verse in Luke again:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

If Roberts’ interpretation is correct, that the more we give, the more we get back, surely basic human nature is going to ensure that – even if we consciously don’t admit it – we are only going to give much because we are expecting to get an awful lot more back!

So, is Luke trying to tempt us here into something less than godly? He is recording here a sequence of sayings from Jesus.

“Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven … Give and it will be given to you.”

The meaning is clear, as a sequence. The emphasis is on the first beat … do not judge … do not condemn … forgive … give. Otherwise, there are consequences, the gist of the second beat … you will be judged … you will be condemned … you won’t be forgiven … you won’t receive.

Jesus is showing us good conduct. Do you really think that the Jesus you and I love is supplying here a get-rich-quick formula that has somehow escaped the notice of theologians for centuries, until unearthed by an American living in the second half of the 20th Century?

Here is the final Bible verse furnished by Roberts to back up his new findings:

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)

So here’s the deal. You have planted your seed of faith, expecting it to multiply and produce a miracle. We must now believe that we have received that miracle, no matter how long we have to wait. Two points here. First, Roberts has provided an escape clause here. By not specifying when the miracle is to be provided, there’s no come back, as he can just demand that you show more patience!

Secondly, the quote in Mark seems to back up what he’s saying. It is interesting that the tense of the action varies according to what translation you receive. Most have the receiving to be in the present and the future, rather than in the past, which slightly changes the meaning. Also, the verse begins with a “therefore”, implying a link from the previous verse. As this verse talks about having faith to throw a mountain into the sea, it implies that the key principle is faith in prayer, rather than the result of the prayer.

For the previous article in this series, click here.

For the next article in this series, click here.

To find out about MY NEW BOOK, “Hope”, click here.

You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.

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Written by: Miriam Emenike

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Rolland Baker is a missionary to the poor in Mozambique. Along with his wife Heidi, Roland is the co-founder of mission charity, Iris Global. Roland and Heidi live in Pemba Mozambique but they are passionate about seeing revival in the spirit worldwide. 

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