Friday, June 29, 2012

What is all this "favor of God" talk really about?

Do we really have as much favor from God as some preachers say we do? What is all this "favor" anyway?
Interview with Joel Osteen:
Q. You talk about God’s favor a lot. What is God's favor?

A. "There are so many people who don’t expect anything good in life. They don’t expect to get breaks, they don’t expect to get promoted, they don’t expect anything positive. So I just try to get people to say, I believe if we expect God’s favor, if we declare it, if we thank him when we do see good things happening, then we’re going to see more of that." ~Joel Osteen

No it's not. Favor of God is His grace upon us, unmerited. "Grace is free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving.” -Benjamin B. Warfield

It all depends on what one means by "good things." I certainly don't expect good things in life from God on the basis of my sparkling personality or because of the supposed favor I did Him by becoming a believer. Not this life...compared to the next. And yet, I DO expect good things. The Holy Spirit has already deposited Himself in me as a guarantee of my inheritance. That's a good thing! Then He dispensed spiritual gifts as He willed. That's a good thing! He has been growing me in sanctification in ever more Christ-likeness. That's a good thing!

Mr Osteen makes the implication, both overtly and covertly, that your Christianity isn't doing you any good unless you are receiving earthly, material things, and getting "breaks".

In this painful but uplifting story out of Egypt, we learn the hopes and fears of the Christians there in the face of increasing violence and hatred toward them. "The service ends with the Lord's Prayer and instructions for members to exit through the church's back entrance--tear gas is in the air in front. A short time later, a wailing ambulance arrives, delivering six young men. One clutches his wrist; another reveals a back peppered with birdshot. Another will probably lose his eye. The following night, the violence touches the church family. A KDEC teenager is shot near Tahrir. News spreads that someone kidnapped the daughter of a church member. Another member is found dead, murdered on his way home from the airport."

Where are their breaks??  Yet they already know they have their "good things." And they act accordingly. The article continues: "We [converts] could be the first people to be killed," said the activist, who asked for anonymity. "We are the rust in Islam that is corroding the walls. We are the threat." But rather than seeking the first opportunity to leave Egypt, he and others like him choose to stay and exert influence behind the scenes. "Doctors stay in medicine; politicians stay in politics; advocates stay in advocacy," he said. "The salt put in warehouses will just go stale. The salt needs to be in the food."

It all depends on what a person expects is a "good thing." The Egyptian Christians are hoping that if it is appointed for them to die, that they die for His name being uplifted and that hope enter the hearts of the killers. In Mr Osteen's theology, Christians should hope to get a good parking space at the mall. Is the 'good thing' Christ oriented, or me-oriented? The way 'favor' is being used by the prosperity Gospelites are that the things we receive are an identifying confirmation that we who possess many earthly riches have more favor with God than the next person, who doesn't possess as many.

For Mr Jentezen, his definition is: "Favor means God has called u to the front of the line! It's your turn. Your [sic] next!" ~ Jentezen Franklin- Twitter

Favor means that I cut ahead of other, sanctified, holy saints to the front of the line? Why would I want to do that? And what line? There's a line? What happens when I get there? Anyway, didn't God say, "So the last will be first, and the first last" ? (Matthew 20:16a). Maybe the head of the line is not good, ha ha. Also, doesn't He love us equally, without favor? As He said to the man in the parable who complained of the ones coming into the vineyard at the last hour, who received the same pay, "I wish to give to this last man the same as to you."

Sort of along the same lines at the man in the parable complaining he'd worked all day and the last guy got the same pay, is this question asked and answered at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry:

"Why does God hear and answer prayers for some and not others even though they live for Him?" At the end of the good essay (I recommend reading it at their site)

"What is the point of doing good then, if not to gain God’s favor? There is every reason in the world to do good! We do get God’s favor, not because He owes it to us, but because when we do good, we are operating according to God’s design for us, and we benefit from this in more lasting ways. We actually get more of God Himself when we follow Him. He is the source of all good."

Therefore, why do I need 'breaks,' when I already possess the universe's greatest break of all? Why isn't that good enough for the positive confession, name it claim it, blab it and grab it people?

An acrostic!
The grace of God IS the favor (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). "That is to say those of us who know God through faith in Jesus Christ are the recipients of the out-pouring of God's continual blessing and favor." MacArthur

But what of passages like this in the bible, you say:

"And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with men." (1 Samuel 2:26). Barnes notes explains, "The child Samuel advanced and grew and was good (or acceptable), both with the Lord, and also with men." The word 'favor' translated means 'good, acceptable'. Not that you receive extra special things according to your works.

What of Naphtali's favor? "Naphtali is abounding with the favor of the LORD and is full of his blessing; he will inherit southward to the lake." (Deuteronomy 33:23).
Though it is a different Hebrew word than used in the Samuel verse it means the same thing, "acceptable to the Lord, pleasing, good."

What about Mary? Wasn't she 'highly favored'? "And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (Luke 1:26-28). J. Vernon McGee wrote, "There is a tendency among Protestants to play down the role of Mary, but this tells us that she was highly favored. In the same breath, however, let me say that she was blessed among women, not above women. She is not lifted above women; she lifted up womanhood."

"One thing is clear: while Americans universally want God’s favor, as a whole, they do not want God." (source, John MacArthur above)

What are really asking when we say we "want God's favor"? Is it that we crave His blessings upon us spiritually, as we continually repent of our sins and seek His face, walking in His statutes? No. It is favor upon us personally, as Osteen said, to get breaks, a good parking space at the mall, and a promotion. These kinds of favors are man-sized favors, temporal and earthly, desired by people who live in the flesh. (Mt 6:19)

We should desire the God-sized favor, which means grace on earth and, stored up in heaven. (Mt. 6:20). "Do not exhaust your strength and spend your days in providing for the life here, but let your chief anxiety be to be prepared for eternity...To regulate the heart, it is therefore important that the treasure, or object of attachment, should be right." (Barnes Notes). [Illustration, "On hoarding treasures." Artist unknown. 1593.]

"Freedom, as expressed in Galatians, refers to freedom from the frustrating struggle to keep the law to gain God's favor. It is the freedom of knowing you are accepted by God because of what Christ has done. Such freedom is a tremendous kind of freedom, but it is more than just a deliverance from the oppression of legalism; it is also a positive endowment. When a Christian lives in the flesh, he forfeits the blessing he would receive if he were living in the Spirit. A Christian can live in the flesh, hoping to earn God's favor, but that only cuts him off from the flow of daily blessing." (source)

Maybe the positive confession, favor-seeking pastors and teachers should just read Colossians!

"Positionally, you cannot increase or decrease in the favor of God. As a genuine Christian, nothing you do, or  fail to do, can change to the slightest degree your perfect standing before God--for "in Him you have been made complete" (Colossians 2:10). (source)

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