Jesus doesn’t want disciples who seek him merely for what he can provide. He wants disciples who treasure him for who he is.
The prosperity gospel is alive and well. It seeps into American churches. It’s been called America’s theological export to Africa. And it has seeped into the American prison system, of all places. Even into Angola, the largest maximum-security prison in the US, a home to 6,300 prisoners, “only murderers, rapists, armed robbers, and habitual felons. The average sentence is 88 years, with 3,200 people in one place serving life sentences. Ninety percent of the inmates will die here” (Decision Magazine, “Violence to Peace”). Yes, the prosperity gospel reaches into even here.
John Piper traveled to Louisiana and preached in Angola’s chapel on November 20, 2009. About eight hundred prisoners packed in to hear a message on John 6, on Jesus’s feeding of the five thousand and his walk on water. “I preached with all my heart to those who could fit in the chapel,” Piper recounted later. “I pulled no punches.” Hundreds of other prisoners heard the sermon through closed-circuit television, including those on death row like Gerald Bordelon, a convicted rapist and child-murderer we met in episode 1445.
Piper pulled no punches. And the result is one of my all-time favorite sermons, with Pastor John at his most urgent. Here’s a clip from the Angola sermon.