Sometimes I see the preachers of faith and or, health and wealth, take mockery over the fact they say things like, “I speak positive things, not negative things,” or “I focus on grace of Jesus and not His wrath”. I have been listening to some of them the last few months and although they are wrong on some points of theology (like God’s sovereignty (etc.), they are not wrong on this point. I remember Joseph Prince saying something to the effect of (as I paraphrase), “When Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2, in Luke 4, Jesus did not read the last part of verse 2 when it reads, “and the day of vengeance.” Jesus stopped there, and so I will to. Vengeance is for another day, however, today is still the day to proclaim God’s goodness, to set free, to liberate and to heal.”
He is not wrong in saying this, in the context of saying it.
Context has a big part to play. For example, I remember Joel Osteen being asked about hell on national TV. He dodged the question by saying he only speaks on positive things. The context demanded a straight answer on the truth, but he bowed to cowardness. Jesus told us to teach everything He commanded and taught. Speaking on this broadly. There is a place to do a straight teaching on systematic theology where you cover (at least the basics) on all doctrines; however, context is important as well. Are you speaking to a mixed audience? Are you speaking to mainly a Christian audience, that you know has a decent understanding of God’s word and are doing acts of love and healings? If the latter, then there is nothing wrong in saying, I mostly speak about positive things; I focus on God rewarding and giving; I mainly speak about rewards; I mainly focus on unmerited grace: I speak mostly on all the goodies we get from our Father.
Consider the letters Paul wrote to the Corinthians. There were some serious sinful issues. One man was sleeping with his stepmother. Paul excommunicated him, and by God’s grace he repented. There was some trampling on the body and blood of Christ during the Lord’s supper, so that God killed some of them. In addition, they were acting like children and mere mortals, by playing favorites. In their responsibility of using God’s power of the Spirit, they were using this power in an unloving manner. However, in this context, of gross sins, Paul message is still mainly positive; it is mostly about rewards; it is mostly about God giving; it is mostly about God enriching them; it is mostly about God lavishing the whole world to them. Paul says God gives so much, He has given them the past and future; God has given the world to them! When talking about day of Judgement Paul uses the word for “rewards (bema 2 Cor.5),”. For them God is not judging and taking away; rather He is giving and rewarding. In the same chapter Paul says that they who are reconciled to God in Christ have been so categorically declared, as the righteousness of Christ, that he does not regard them as humans anymore; rather, Paul sees them as new creations, different from humans. What about a church that is not dealing with such overwhelming sins? Imagine, how fanatically positive it would have been then.
Back to the Letter. Paul says, why are you playing favorites, God has given you the whole world. God has given you the past and the future. You are thinking to small. Enlarge your vision for all of God’s goodies. Because God is a giver, and has given you so much, there is no need for fear to cause you to grab small things and hold on to them tightly. Paul also tells them that only God’s Spirit knows God, but God has given them His Spirit. Paul then categorically says, You have the Mind of Christ. Paul then qualifies what specifically the Spirit of God is telling them about God; He is telling them all the goodies God has and will give to them (ch.2). That is the teaching is positive. In their abuse of the gifts of the Spirit Paul’s teaching is mainly positive, Keep doing what you are doing, just do it correctly, and do in it in love. Oh, and do it even more, not less: Enthusiastically seek the gifts even more.” Again, it is a positive message of God giving and rewarding. Then, the one issue of a broad negative about judgment (ch. 5-6) is not even about God Himself taking things from them in judgment; rather, it is that they should judge themselves, not about God judging them. God has given judging over to the church. And again, it is a positive teaching. You will one day judge angels, and so, start with judging yourselves. If all this positive teaching of God giving is in context of a sinful church, then how much more in a church with maturity?
Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him 3 times. Have not people lost their souls for less? Yet, Jesus (John 14) tells Peter an overly positive message. Jesus says do not fear, but believe. Then in the next statement tells him, He is going to heaven to prepare a room in Yahweh’s Penthouse, for Peter and the disciples. In light of such wicked sin, Jesus’ message is a message so positive it reaches into the highest heavens, literally. In light of Peter’s sin, God’s message is not one of God taking, but of God giving and then giving more, and even more, and even more than we can imagine. Seriously, how much more positive can it get?
To the Jewish leaders, Jesus had some negative (even harsh and cruel) things to say, because the context of their doubt to believe demanded such a response. However, to those who came to Jesus wanting to receive His message and power it was all grace and positive. In fact, this is precisely how Jesus summed up this message to the messengers to John the Baptist, “Healing, Healing, Healing, Healing, resurrection, truth proclaimed.”
Luke :7:20-23 NLT John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’”
At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”
I do not wish to stay long here but only wish to make a quick point. Some might point out “the last sentence sounds a little negative.” You truly are blind, are you not? Jesus is not talking about people being offended at His negative news, but positive news. Jesus is not talking about people getting offended and falling away from His teaching on hell. Rather, the context is a total positive teaching of all God’s goodies. God is healing, healing, restoring, setting prisoners free, unchaining people from sin, resurrecting women’s children out of their coffins, making leapers leap, making blind to see their family for the first time and proclaiming the acceptable year of Yahweh. Jesus says if this offends you, then you fall away, and remove yourself from God’s blessing. That is, the negative message comes in, because you reject God’s positive message and compassionate power. As Paul says in Romans 10, don’t you dare say I will go down, and I will go up, so as to save and bless myself. You do not give to God. God gives to you. God is fanatical with giving to those with faith.
Vincent Cheung’s article has again reminded me of this. He says,
“The Bible says that, without faith, it is impossible to please God. We must have faith that God exists, and that God exists as a rewarder. This second part is usually neglected, but it is integral to true faith. We believe that there is a God, but what do we believe about this God? He is a rewarder of those who seek him. To those who have faith, God is not a punisher, he is not a taker, but he is a rewarder and a giver. Why is it that Christian teachers often present God as a punisher, taker, and withholder even to his own people? It is because they have no faith. It is because their religion is fundamentally different from a religion of faith. And God is not pleased with them. Since the Bible says that faith sees God as a rewarder, this means that if someone teaches God as a taker and withholder, then it must mean that this person has no faith, and that he is a false teacher. What rewards does God give? The Bible also tells us in the same context. It says that God rewards with victories that subdued entire nations, healing miracles that created new life in the wombs and raised the dead, miracles that shielded men from fires, lions, and swords, and things like these. Even when God grants the honor of martyrdom to a person of faith, it is the death of a hero, not the defeat of a spiritual loser who never truly believed God’s promises.”