If you treasure Jesus and long to follow him better, then can I make a blunt request? Avoid the teaching of Steven Furtick and Elevation Church.
Why so direct, today? This was in my feed over lunch break:
Besides the preaching of the local body of Christ, there are a lot of great resources out there for building our faith, extending our understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and disciple one another towards Jesus. There are simply too many good resources to take in even a snack-diet of Furtick’s brand of false teaching.
Maybe these words are just unfortunate. But I can’t wrap my head around a minister of the Gospel using the words “Following Jesus doesn’t change you…” This is the opposite of the gospel! Having a right understanding of how God sees us is absolutely essential. God loves us, that much is clear. But that doesn’t mean that the righteous judge doesn’t see us exactly as we are, as rebellious sinners in need of a savior.
From Jesus’ Lips
In my local body, we are currently in a series going through the Gospel of John. We will hit chapter 3 this coming Lord’s Day and I want to offer a preview of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in this context: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'” (John 3:3, 6-7)
Jesus calls for something beyond explanation, something more than having a better, “healthier” grasp of God’s thoughts toward us. He says that something truly marvelous must be done to make our trajectory compatible with the kingdom of God. Following Jesus certainly reveals who I’ve been all along, as the Spirit continually reveals how deeply implanted my desire for sin is, how manipulative and treasonous my flesh, and yet the depth of God’s love and mercy. If we saw ourselves through God’s eyes, apart from Christ, I think we would most likely be led to tears, rather than joyful self-assurance.
From Paul’s Pen
Paul says much the same in his “second” letter to the Corinthians:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (bold mine)
Paul tells us that we are new creations. We are not the same! Contrary to Furtick’s “help that is no help”, thank you, Jesus, we are changed into something else! What I have been is defeated and nailed to the cross. God’s work of reconciliation in Christ has powerfully made all things new. But with that, Paul reminds us that we are ambassadors. Jesus died to make us become something we were not, and could never be – the righteousness of God. His death and resurrection is transformational. It tells us not only how much God values us, but how much it cost to make us his own.
So, as a pastor, when I read Furtick’s words, I weep at what must be the outcome of such teaching: A weak gospel proclamation. A faith focused on personal fulfillment and emotional well-being but devoid of spiritual growth and dependence on the body of Christ. A worship that is self-congratulatory, neglecting to praise God for his justice in salvation.
With all that said, my prayer is, whether you have just chanced upon this blog or know me well, whether you are a long-time follower of Jesus or are simply wondering who Jesus is, that you would truly be a disciple of Jesus, changed by his limitless grace, by the power of God that raised Jesus from the grave and calls us to die that we might live.
And, find pastors and teachers who will faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus, rather than feel-good self-actualization. Steven Furtick simply doesn’t fit the bill.