Entering the local Koorong Christian bookstore yesterday, I immediately noticed a book with an attractive looking young Asian man on the cover. The picture was of Joseph Prince, the title of the book, “Destined to Reign”, and the subtitle went as follows: “The secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living “The secret to effortless success, wholeness .”
Wow! Effortless Success! Amazing! And this young man can teach me the secret to this! Folks, there’s one born every minute. Even the front cover of this book should tell you that something is wrong.
The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 4 the following, and I used it for the biblical basis of why I would take the time to write an article like this:
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5) (NKJV)
The apostle Paul tells us here to convince, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering and teaching. So by the grace of God we will do that.
Now, Joseph Prince uses the writings of the apostle Paul, in particular verses like Romans 5:17 and other verses about God’s mercy and grace to establish his position. If Joseph Prince and his followers wish to quote the apostle Paul as a source of true inspiration, they should be willing to listen to everything he said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and not just construct something pleasing to the ear out of selected portions of the Scripture. If Prince is a lover of truth, he has to deal with all the New Testament Scriptures and not just some favorite ones.
The warning here is a prophecy given by God. It says that the time will come when God’s people will begin to heap for themselves teachers who will speak to them according to their desires, according to what their itching ears want to hear. Now I don’t know about you, but the idea of “effortless success” kind of appeals to me. And before I learned to love righteousness and hate wickedness, the idea of unconditional forgiveness and acceptance from God while I serve my own desires was also kind of appealing. It was something I could believe in, because I wanted to, and so did many of the people I knew. If you read my testimony, you will know that I thought I was a Christian because I believed certain doctrines about God’s forgiveness being available to me through the cross of Christ – and I thought I could live for myself while still receiving these benefits. The idea of needing to REPENT of sin seemed way to narrow for us. We would have called it “legalistic”.
If you and I can have “effortless success”, then why did Jesus Christ make the following statement?
Luke 13:24: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to“. (NIV). In the New King James: the“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will anseek to enter d will not be able.”
Jesus, if I can have “effortless success”( Joseph Prince tells me in a top selling book in a respected Christian bookstore and around the world) then why do you tell me to “make every effort” to enter salvation, or even worse, to “strive”?
And Jesus, if you were so keen to do away with the moral requirements of the law, why did you seem to make it even tougher when you said:
Mat 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.’
Mat 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Mat 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Mat 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Jesus, is that teaching really for us today, or were you just being a bit tough on the Jewish people of the time because they were under the law anyway, and you wanted to rub it in until your servant Paul could come and change the message for you?
There are hundreds of passages which don’t fit in nicely with the idea of effortless success or salvation without repentance, but we live in a biblically illiterate age, where church people are too busy pursuing wealth and material success to have time to study the Bible. [emphasis mine] So for this reason, people flock to charismatic pastors like Joseph Prince whose theological education is limited to get their feel good message for the week to keep them motivated and upbeat about the week ahead. I understand that, but I see it as idolatrous nonetheless. We MUST study God’s Word for ourselves at some stage in our lives, and heavily, if we are going to avoid being pulled into the Last Day’s Deception which the Bible promises us and which in fact seems to be upon us now also in the charismatic, full gospel church scene.
I first heard about Joseph Prince from my pastor at the time on the Gold Coast who heard him speak at a Hillsong Conference. This pastor told me he considered Joseph Prince to be a false teacher, that he teaches salvation without the need for repentance or godly living, and that to preach the Ten Commandments at all makes you a “preacher of death”. Hearing this report made me lose more respect for Brian Houston, the leader of the Hillsong Megachurch. For you see, Brian Houston must be very appreciative of the teachings of Joseph Prince. This is evidenced firstly by the repeated invitations to minister at the huge Hillsong Conferences, and secondly by the glowing endorsement Houston wrote on the back of the book I just referred to. But rather than focus at this stage on names, I would like to look at the actual ideas that Joseph Prince is promoting, and compare them with Scripture. In the end it will be for my readers to decide which doctrine they will believe, and which doctrine conforms most to the spirit and intent of the Scriptures as they are written.
I hope to write more on this subject later and soon, because the situation can’t be properly addressed in a short blog post like this one. But it should be addressed as it relates to the very core of what our faith is about, and the issue of what God requires for those who wish to be reconciled to Him and saved. And because there is a real dearth of courageous pastors in the Pentecostal movement who are willing to rebuke false teachers, I, even I, will have a go. If the Lord should reveal further truth to myself or others in this process, may His Name be praised. We need a love of the truth to even make it into Christ’s Eternal Kingdom these days. The love of the truth is going to cost us something. Its NOT going to be effortless. Yes, Christ’s grace DOES empower us in the fight, and without Christ’s grace we would be utterly inadequate. It is to the true grace of God I look in order to be saved in these last days.
Let us remember the words of Jesus Christ:
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven”.
Matthew 7:22 “ Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”
Matthew 7:23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;’ depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”