False Teachers

We Are Not Picking Out a Flavor of Danish

The other day I was walking through Costco when I came upon a display of luscious looking danishes. There were three options available: Cheese, Cherry, and Almond. Almond didn’t really appeal to me but when I asked the lady arranging the display which was her favorite, lo and behold, she enthusiastically said “almond”. A few seconds later, another lady came up and said they were her favorite, too!

Well, by that point, I was curious. Would I like the almond danishes? Was it worth the $5 if I didn’t like them? Aah, well. Why not try them? It’s nice to try something new once in awhile. I grabbed a pack and took them home.

And guess what? They were delicious! If you ever have a chance to try them, I recommend them.

But, of course, I am not trying to sell danishes. So what is my point?

I believe many Christians approach their Christian lives the way I approached those danishes.

 

Christian yoga? Oh, that sounds fun!

Lectio Divina (and other mystical forms of prayer)? Why not give it a try?

The latest trendy “Christian” book? What do I have to lose?

 

I’d like to submit that you have a LOT to lose. You see, the latest, greatest Christian trends are not like danishes. They aren’t like trying a different type of food or choosing to go with Ford instead of Chevy.

The Bible tells us that Satan is specifically trying to trip us up (Ephesians 6:11; I Thessalonians 2:18) He is seeking to devour us (I Peter 5:8). He does these things by looking like an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). In other words, Satan isn’t a fool. He knows that darkness and evil things would never be accepted by believers. And so he transforms his occultic offerings to Christians in pleasantries and “almost rights”.

Dear readers, there is a reason that we are told in the Bible to “test all things” (I Thessalonians 5:21). There is a reason we are told to separate from those who stray from the doctrine written in scripture (Romans 16:17). There is a reason we are given the example to examine the scriptures daily and compare them to what we are hearing from preachers, authors, and others who claim to be “Christians” (Acts 17:10-11).

You see, God has told us in His Word that we are in a battle. We are not in a battle with humans but with the “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of [c]the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). If we are in a battle, fighting a supernatural enemy, doesn’t it seem that we should always be on the defense?

We can never be at ease. We are soldiers in a battle. We can never view the spiritual smorgasbord we are offered in this modern day the same way we’d view a smorgasbord of food. We don’t have that luxury.

Understanding our enemy and the commands given to defeat him go a long way in helping this concept make sense to us. Unless we are willing to see this as it is taught in scripture, we will view anything that comes along as innocent and worth trying.

May I encourage you to study the Word so that you can understand that the enemy desires to render you utterly ineffective in the Kingdom of God? He does this by things like distraction, anxiety, and busyness. But he also does this extremely effectively by turning undiscerning hearts towards doctrines of demons. If he can trip us up and get us caught up in practices that are not biblical, he has won a very important battle.

Oh, may we pray for discernment in this great time of deception. May we pray for God’s protection and guidance as we navigate all of the spiritual trends and modern-day marketing of all things “Christian” (most of which are NOT). He is faithful and He will answer that prayer.

 

But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

2 Thessalonians 3:3

 

 

 

What the Bible Says About Fixing the World

Is it the job of the Christian to make the world a better place? Is it our job to fix it? You may be surprised to know that this is a mainstream philosophy of many churches and Christians today. They believe we are here to improve the world. Many believe that Jesus won’t return until we do this. That somehow we have to prepare the world for His return.

Now you may be able to get that from a few verses that are twisted and pulled way out of context, but this is not the actual message of scripture.

If you look at both the Gospels and the Epistles, we see an acceptance of the world the way it is and instructions for living in it (I Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 5&6). More importantly, we see that the Christian is not to focus on this world but on eternal things (Colossians 3). And, most importantly, we read throughout the entire New Testament that the only way for true and lasting change in both the individual and in the culture is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are also told in scripture that the world will get worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:1-9; Jude). We should not expect to live in a fixed earth for there will be no such thing until Jesus returns.

This past week in Sunday School, our teacher pointed out a verse in Daniel 9 that I never noticed before–

O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.

As I read and then re-read that verse, it hit me! The main problem with the social justice/fix the world movement is PRIDE. Man actually thinks he has the power to fix the world. Think about that for a moment.

Now–keep in mind that I am not saying we aren’t to do good things. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we are. And I am not implying that cultures won’t be better sometimes because of Christians. I think those of us in America did have that experience (particularly if we are older).

But we have to recognize that without Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5). That any good that we accomplish is through God alone. And God does graciously choose to use us in this world to accomplish His purposes. He has clearly set out good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10) and we are to faithfully going about His business.

But to think we can fix the world is rather presumptuous, don’t you think?

Read that verse again. Do you see what Daniel said? He is asking for God to hear Him –not because of their righteous deeds but because of His great mercies.

Not because of their righteous deeds. It seems like this group of “Christians” are very much counting on their righteous deeds to ready the world for Christ. Ironically, this movement has little to do with the genuine Gospel in their efforts to attain utopia here on earth.

And don’t miss two facts about that this movement to bring in a better world–

First, this is the same old, same old that Satan has been trying to accomplish since the beginning of time. Man can be like God and bring in a utopian society. Sure, there are a few more Christian terms covering up the true agenda, but if you dig a little, you will see little reliance on God in this movement and much reliance on self.

Second, please note how this movement will play right into the system of the antichrist. These people who are crying out for a perfect world will be ripe to fall into the worship of the antichrist, as he promises to join them in fixing the world. This is not just a “movement” but a very intentional direction that Satan is taking the church.

Now, I want to be clear about one thing before I close today: I am sure there are many Christians who have been deceived in this area of making the world a better place. Just as we are all deceived about one thing or another.

We must pray diligently that the Lord will keep us from deception, for it is everywhere now. EVERYWHERE. We must persevere in finding out the truth in all areas of life or we will leave ourselves open to great deception. Trust NO MAN OR WOMAN more than you trust the Word of God.

If God said it and the true Church has believed it for over 2000 years then it is true–no matter what new-fangled way someone has of interpreting a verse or passage.

This is why church history is so important. It gives context and a firm foundation of the true Christian Faith (this is the true Christian faith–and does not include the Catholic church, which is not a true Christian church and never has been.) Sorry, I got a little off of topic there, but I do believe that church history is critically important. Actually, history is critically important. We see many things happening today because people do not know history. Or they believe a faulty history. And so it repeats itself. Over and over again. But I digress.

Dear readers, we are not here to fix the world. Anyone who reads and studies their Bible must come to that conclusion, for there is no other conclusion to be drawn. We are here to share the Gospel and to make the Lord known in a rebellious and dark world. Most will turn away from the Gospel. but God, in His Providence, will lead us to some who are seeking after Him and longing to be part of His family. And so we continue to share the Gospel and to contend for the faith in the midst of the great apostasy that is taking place today.

 

 

A Warning: Phil Vischer

A week or so ago, my daughter, Jess (who wrote about The Chosen here on the blog, as well as false teachers, Steven Furtick and Bill Johnson), wrote something regarding Phil Vischer on her Facebook page. I believe this is information that would be helpful to you, my readers, and so, with her permission, I am sharing it here on the blog. 

After doing quite a bit of research, she felt it necessary to warn fellow believers of this man’s departure from orthodox Christian faith. Phil is probably best known to Christians as the creator of Veggie Tales. Recently, he has been quite vocal on social media and what he is saying is not good. 

I’d like to say right up front that I have never been a fan of Veggie Tales. I believe that they dumb down Bible stories and profane the sacred. They also train kids to relish the silly and ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with having fun but stupid is just..stupid. I recognize that not everyone will agree with me on this but I do think–no matter what your opinion about Veggie Tales– that it is important that we all take heed to what its creator believes. 

Here is what Jess wrote–

Today I’m beginning a new feature entitled Warning Wednesday. The purpose of this is to warn you of the red flags associated with a popular christian figure. My goal is to make you aware of the ways these men and women are straying from the truth of Scripture. Sometimes, it will be so that you can approach the person with caution and with your eyes of discernment wide open. Sometimes (like today) I will suggest you steer clear of them altogether. I am not going to attack the person, assume their motivation, or judge their position before God. I only want to tell you what they are saying or doing and compare it to the truth of Scripture.

Up first is Phil Vischer. You probably know him as the guy that created Veggie Tales. He most recently began a podcast called The Holy Post. And in that podcast, he has made some very concerning statements. His twitter feed also gives us a glimpse into just how far from Scripture he is moving.

Red Flag #1: Phil recently tweeted “I’ve been listening to stories of people who have left the Church or left their faith entirely, and so often it comes down to a point where they just wanted to be loved, but we couldn’t love them because…they asked the wrong question or doubted the wrong tenet of our faith or reconsidered their own gender or sexual identity and for us, it was a bridge too far. This child of God…was no longer us. They were now ‘them.’ And because they were ‘them,’ we now denied they were ever truly us.” He ends with “For fear that others of ‘us’ could become ‘them’ if we don’t take a stand against the ‘them-ness’ of the one that was once ‘us’…not saying doctrine doesn’t matter. Just saying love over all.”

This sounds great on the surface, right? We should love others! But dig a little deeper and you soon see that he’s taking any church to task who disciplines those openly defying God’s Word by “doubting the wrong tenet of our faith” or “reconsidering their own gender or sexual identity.” He is redefining love according to the standard of the world rather than the Word of God. It is not loving to allow someone to remain in their sin. It is loving to rebuke and urge them to repent. Titus 1:3 and Galatians 6:1 are good examples of this. 1 John 2:19 says “They went out from us, because they were not of us.” Sorry, Phil, but the concept of “us” and “them” is a Biblical one.

Red Flag #2: He calls those who believe in a literal 7 day creation “anti-intellectual” and responsible for the rejection of mainstream science. If you don’t know why it’s absolutely vital that we believe in a 7 day creation, check out Answers in Genesis.

Red Flag #3: He is an outspoken supporter of critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, and social justice within the church. I don’t have the time in this post to go into the danger behind these things. But let me just tell you this. He calls all white people to task for their unconscious bias and affirms that all structures within the United States are unjust. His solution sounds a whole lot like socialism. Really? Maybe the problem is sin (a problem that affects each person, regardless of race) and the only solution is the Gospel? He never thought about offering that as the solution? Especially considering Jesus lived during a time of incredible injustice and his only message for the world was the Gospel.

Red Flag #4: He bashes anyone who limits women’s roles within the church. He laughs at conservatives. He claims fundamentalists are the problem in the evangelical christian world. He suggests we need to dismantle the corruption of the church and deconstruct certain aspects of our faith such as white privilege and patriarchy. All that matters is love and unity.

And so I recommend you stay far, far away from Phil Vischer. What he says often sounds good but if it’s contrary to God’s Word, it’s wrong no matter how good it sounds. Be very careful with what he offers for children (Veggie Tales and his What’s in the Bible? series) as I’d imagine these beliefs will sneak their way into those as well. It brings me no joy in sharing this with you, but I do hope it saves you or someone you know from following Phil down a very dangerous path.

How Do I Know Who’s Telling Me the Truth?

There has been a lot of conversations about lies as compared to the truth over this past year. It is so difficult to work our way through all of the chaos and confusion. But do you know this has been going on for years? We just didn’t realize it.

It has been especially prevalent in the church over the past 50 or more years, where we have seen lies bound into the church (often splitting churches and causing genuine Christians to leave and start another church) or slither in so subtly they go completely unnoticed by almost all.

So two people asked me the same question last night: How do I know if the sermon or commentary or book I am reading is telling me the truth?

I answered off the top of my head then but have been giving it more thought since that time. It is a great question and some of you may have wondered this, as well. I thought maybe I’d try to tackle that question here this morning.

So you are reading a Study Bible or a commentary on a passage and you wonder: Is this guy interpreting this passage correctly? Or perhaps you are listening to a sermon and you think: Is this what the Bible is actually teaching here?

What are some steps you can take to make sure you aren’t deceived? There are a few important things you can do. Let’s take a look at them–

1. Pray for discernment. It is important that we are diligent in asking for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the Bible. Many have been the times I have heard something and it just didn’t “sit right” with me. This caused me to start digging deeper and finding out if that person was right or not. I’ve head many people share that they’ve had the same thing happen to them. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs in our lives is to help us understand and interpret the Word rightly (John 14:26) and He does faithfully do this.

2. Recognize that we can understand a lot of the Bible without help. God has designed His Word to be understood by the average lay person. Think about how many things are clear in the Bible when you just sit down to study it without helps. Sure, there are some things that are a bit confusing or hard to understand, but the majority of the Bible is pretty understandable overall. As we become more familiar with its theme, its context, and its content, dedicating ourselves to reading and studying the actual Bible, we will be able to spot things that are off much more quickly.

3. Value the truth of God’s Word and be willing to pay whatever it costs to follow it. If I have seen one thing that has caused people to stumble or even turn away from genuine Christianity, it is this. The loyalty to men runs deep and when someone is confronted with a favorite teacher who is teaching a false doctrine, they will often choose the teacher over the Bible. Or perhaps they are confronted with the truth that genuine Christianity requires sacrifice and self-denial. They don’t like that truth and so they go towards the false Christianity that promises health and wealth. The bottom line is that if we are not willing to follow the truth of God’s Word–no matter the cost–we will open ourselves up to being deceived. We must value the truth of God’s Word above all else as we grow as believers.

4. As you start studying the Word, you will start to become familiar with those you can trust. Many men who have died aren’t changing their messages, so I often start there. While I may not agree with everything, I do know I can trust them regarding the main doctrines of the faith. Men like Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J.C. Ryle, and many of the Puritans have so much to offer when it comes to the topics of salvation and sanctification. (I want to note here that many of these men followed the wrong eschatology of reformed theology. Augustine developed the idea of Replacement Theology out of his own hatred for the Jews and their doctrines and this wrong doctrine has been followed by so many since. But since many of these men have been alive, things have progressed and been made so much clearer in regards to a literal Revelation that I do wonder if some of them would be changing their minds about now…)

5. Ask someone you trust if you have a question about something you have read or heard. Now before you ask, do make sure this person is committed 100% to the truth of God’s Word over pleasing men. Make sure they will tell you the truth in answer to your question. There are many people out there who aren’t willing to do this because they don’t want to lose you as a friend or offend you. You want to find someone who is willing to tell you the truth, no matter the cost. If you have someone like this in your life, you are beyond blessed. Ask them your questions and be willing to hear their answers.

6. Research the person in question. Oftentimes when I have a question about something I have heard or read, it will be answered if I dig a little deeper into the person who said/wrote it. If people are seriously in error in one area, they are probably seriously wrong in others.

7. Look at the speaker/author’s friends. Psalm 1 says that a righteous man will not hang out with the ungodly. Romans 16:17 tells us we are to avoid those who teach things contrary to pure doctrine. If the person you are listening to or reading spends his time, unapologetically, with false teachers or proudly declares his connections with the unsaved (for instance, in his/her efforts to better this world), beware. This is a HUGE red flag. Mark and avoid any teacher that does this. The Bible makes it clear that this means the teacher is compromised.

8. Have much grace and a humble spirit when there are minor differences. We will never agree whole-heartedly with anyone on everything. This is just life. We can’t be so over-zealous that we turn away from someone simply because of a minor disagreement about a passage. And we must humbly recognize that we aren’t right about everything, either. No one is. So, in the little things, we have grace and humility, striving for unity among true believers. Oh, how many churches have been destroyed over minor disagreements.

9. Recognize that Satan wants to deceive you. We are told that he is like a roaring lion, who seeks to devour (I Peter 5:8) and that he often presents himself as an angel of light, as do his workers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Unless we are aware of Satan’s dedication to putting us off-course, we will be vulnerable in our naivete and ignorance. We must be aware of the spiritual battle that is raging for our souls. Satan would like nothing more than for us to be rendered ineffective for Christ and His Kingdom through deception and distraction.

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I hope this has been helpful. It is certainly not exhaustive and I’m sure I will think of other things as soon as I post this (that is usually what happens!) If you have other suggestions that have helped you, I would love to read them in the comments section.

Life continues to get crazier and truth is costing more and more. Both biblically, as well as in the real, everyday world. Many are not willing to pay the price.

But if we are to keep ourselves walking in the truth, we must dedicate ourselves to it. No matter the cost. We must submit ourselves to God and His Word (even if we don’t like what it says), and, when we do, God will honor this desire. He will keep us and guard us from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3; James 4:7).

So stay strong and value truth, my friends. In this time of great deception, ask the Lord to protect you. He is so faithful and He will!

 

 

False Teacher Friday: Bill Johnson and Bethel

The following is written by my oldest daughter, Jess, who is currently taking the time to do some in-depth research of popular false teachers. She compares what they teach to what the Bible says. This not only helps us understand just why they are considered a false teacher but also gives us a bit of knowledge when we are asked by fellow Christians about some of these teachers.

Today’s focus is on Bill Johnson, whom you may better know by the name of his ministry: Bethel. Jesus Culture Music and many other things stem from Bethel. Many of the worship songs sung in your churches are from Bethel. Let’s find out just what Bill and his ministry teach about God–

Bill Johnson could be called the modern day father of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) movement. He is the lead pastor of Bethel Church and founder of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Bethel has also created their own music label, mission organization, and an “apostolic network” that includes hundreds of churches and schools all around the world. Jesus Culture is another popular movement that has emerged from Bethel.

I think most of the people reading this would agree that Bethel is, at the very least, a little weird. Their “manifestations of the power of the Spirit” include things like grave sucking, prophetic cards, prophetic dancing, waking angels, wearing “destiny pants”, fire tunnels, and holy laughter. Since we can’t find even one of those “manifestations” in the Bible, that list alone should be a clear enough warning to stay far away. But my goal today isn’t to dive into that aspect of Bethel. Videos and articles abound online if you want to research that on your own.

My goal is to give you a succinct overview of the heresies that are taught by Bill Johnson. It isn’t enough to simply say “they do weird things”. Their movement is a big one. Bill Johnson has said the main goal of Bethel is to “export their teaching” in music, conferences, books, sermons, schools, churches, livestreams, social media, and missions. They want to transform the church and the culture. We need to know why and how the teachings at Bethel contradict Scripture so we can warn others to avoid anything associated with them.

Today we will look at the 3 main tenants of Bill Johnson’s theology that should concern us. In Part 2 next Friday, we’ll see just how these theologies manifest themselves so dangerously in application and practice at Bethel’s churches and schools.

First, he teaches the theology of dominionism. He believes they are ushering in the kingdom of God or “heaven on earth.” They teach about a “7 mountain mandate” where each mountain represents a kingdom they need to take dominion over such as government, education, and media. How do they do that? By bringing revival. No, not by sharing the gospel but by bringing healing, eradicating poverty, reforming society, and undoing the works of the devil. He fails to see the only source of true revival: the truth of the gospel piercing and transforming the hearts of individuals. He ignores all passages about the last days being evil, the great falling away, judgement, and the way of Christ being narrow and unpopular.

Second, he teaches that we live in a second apostolic age. There are apostles on earth now that are equal to the apostles in Scripture that began the church and witnessed the life of Jesus. Bill Johnson claims to be one of them. They cannot be questioned and receive direct revelation, therefore he elevates his teachings to that of the apostle’s teaching in the Bible. He completely and totally denies the sufficiency of Scripture.

And finally, he teaches false theology about the person of Jesus Christ:

“He performed miracles, wonders, and signs as a man in a right relationship to God…not as God. If he performed miracles because He was God, then they would be unattainable for us. But if he performed them as a man, I am responsible to purse His lifestyle.” This is just one example of many of him teaching that Jesus emptied Himself of divinity when He came to earth. This is a massive heresy. Colossians 2:9 says “For in Him, the whole fullness of of deity dwells bodily” and if He was not God then His sacrifice on the cross would not have been a sufficient payment for our sins.

“Jesus bore stripes in His body through brutal beating as an atoning work to deal with the power of sickness and disease. Lord we give You thanks that You were willing to suffer the way you did to dis-empower disease, infirmity, and afflicting spirits” Bill teaches that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross gives us power over all sickness and disease. See 1 Peter 2:24, 1 John 3:5, and 1 Corinthians 15:3 to see why this is also heresy.

“God is in charge but not in control. He has left us in control.” Proverbs 19:1 and 21:1 are just two among many verses that refute that statement. He is absolutely in control of the entire universe including our lives.

He says that his “standard is Jesus” and that any interpretation of Scripture that doesn’t meet that standard is “theologically immoral”. There are “superior truths and inferior truths” such as ‘the judgement of God is true, the mercy of God is more true” and “anything you know about the nature of God that isn’t seen in the person of Jesus is an inferior truth”. 2 Timothy 3:16, John 17:17, and Psalm 119:160 are just a few among many verses that remind us that ALL Scripture is equally true. There are no inferior truths in Scripture.

We’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg, friends. Let’s remember that the three main problematic theologies of the Bethel movement are Dominionism, belief in a second apostolic age, and a warped idea of who Jesus is and why He came to earth. There are more but these are enough for now. It’s time to turn our attention to how these unbiblical ideas manifest themselves in practical belief and practice.

First, they believe in healing. They do not simply believe that God can still perform miracles of healing today. Of course He does, if it’s in accordance with His will. And there are, as most of us know, denominations that believe that people still have gifts like speaking in tongues and healing today. (I personally do not, but that’s a topic for another day!) But this isn’t what Bethel believes either. They take it much further than that. They believe that healing is central to the gospel. That Jesus died to heal everyone of their physical pain, sickness, and poverty here on earth.

Bill Johnson preached a sermon on Galatians 2 where Paul tells the church that anyone who preaches a different gospel is accursed. Bill goes on to say that anyone who preaches a gospel that doesn’t include physical healing is preaching a different gospel and is therefore accursed. “I refuse to create a theology that allows for sickness” he tells the audience. He believes if something exists in heaven, it should exist on earth. So because there’s no sickness, pain, or poverty in heaven, that is what we can expect on earth. “We’re coming into a day where the presence of the Lord is so pronounced that everyone walking into the building will be healed…[it will be] a sustained reality in the church” he said recently in an interview.

Let’s just quickly go over a few of the many errors with this type of belief. First, there’s no death in heaven, right? So if we could truly bring heaven to earth, then we also should be able to eliminate death. Something Bethel has yet to accomplish or even mention. Secondly, he totally ignores passage after passage in the Bible that talks about death, suffering, and trials. About eternity being our only hope for freedom from sickness, death, and sin. The verse in Matthew 26:11 where Jesus says “the poor will always be with you.” Someone asked him about the book of Job and he simply replied “Scripture can’t correct my understanding of Jesus.” Excuse me? What he’s really saying is “Scripture can’t correct my understanding of the idol I have created and call Jesus.”

Finally, this belief says that if you aren’t healed, then you don’t have enough faith. I have read testimony after testimony of men and women that have left this movement after they had very real physical pain or sickness that wasn’t being healed. They were only told over and over that they lacked faith. Even Bethel has classes entitled “keeping your healing” since apparently often people think they were “healed” during a meeting only to see their physical problem return. Scripture is clear: faith is never measured by whether we are healthy or sick, poor or rich. True faith, according to Hebrews 11, is trusting and obeying the Word of God even when we can’t see.

Second, they believe in a very heretical type of prophesy. Bethel’s students are encouraged to “say anything” and soon they will be prophesying. Bill asked a group to tell him something they thought Jesus would say if He was sitting in the room with them. After each student answered, he applauded them for their prophesies. Their only qualification for prophesy is that it must be edifying and encouraging. They can’t say anything negative. (nevermind that there are plenty of negative prophesies in the pages of Scripture) Their head prophet, Kris Vallatton, boasts that about 80% of their prophesy is wrong and 20% is right. They conveniently ignore the passages where God says that no true prophet is ever wrong. Their version of prophesy sounds very similar to Jeremiah 23:16: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.”

Third and finally, they blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Their websites states that the “The Holy Spirit gives every believer the supernatural power to witness and release miracles, signs, and wonders.” These signs and wonders include things like holy laughter, grave sucking, communicating with angels, convulsing, and seeing the presence of God at their services in gold dust, holy clouds, and falling feathers. No scripture exists that tells us the Holy Spirit gives us supernatural power to “witness and release” signs and wonders or anything even slightly similar.

I could go on and on about how Bill thinks people can’t believe the gospel without signs and wonders. About fake, manipulated healing and “supernatural” events. About the way they treat people who aren’t healed and question their theology. About the demonic influence in their strange practices. About how Bill tells people to claim the promise of financial blessing. About how students left someone injured lie at the bottom of a cliff for hours while they tried to pray for his healing instead of call for help. We’ve only scratched the surface.

But the bottom line is this: Bill Johnson has created a counterfeit faith that is based on feelings and self instead of Scripture. This faith is all about what God can do for them. They tell God what they think is best instead of the other way around. This faith says that signs and wonders are how God manifests His love towards us instead of the cross. It creates an idol out of the Jesus they want instead of the Jesus that is revealed in Scripture. Bill Johnson purposefully manipulates and tricks and destroys. He picks and chooses which passages of the Bible he likes and twists them to say what he wants. He blasphemes the Holy Spirit. This faith he preaches, without a doubt, denies the truth of the gospel. And so, in conclusion, I recommend we all stay far away from him and his “faith.”

 

 

Please note: You can follow Jess on Instagram at anchor.for.the.soul and on Facebook at An Anchor for the Soul

False Teacher Friday: Steven Furtick

So I do realize that it is Saturday, contrary to what the photo says above. So let me explain. Many of you will remember that my daughter, Jess, wrote a guest post a couple of weeks ago about the series “The Chosen” (you can find that post here.) She has started Facebook and Instagram pages dedicated to the topic of discernment (I’ll put links to her pages below). Her goal is to hold popular teachers, authors, songs, and movements up to the light of the Word and to do so in a succinct way that makes sense to the average layperson.

Many of you have seen Jess’s posts on Facebook because I have been sharing them to the Growing4Life page. However, I was thinking about the fact that many of you are not on Facebook. And I was also thinking about how hard it can be to find posts on Facebook once they’ve been replaced by more current posts. It was with that in mind, that I asked her if she would mind if I re-posted what she writes here at Growing4Life. She kindly said yes.

I didn’t have time to do this yesterday so we are going to have a “False Teacher Friday” on a Saturday. :) This week, Jess examines Steven Furtick. Some of us may not have realized that Furtick and Elevation church are clearly unbiblical, while others of us do realize this but aren’t quite sure what exactly is wrong. I think this short post will be beneficial to all of you–

Steven Furtick is the pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina. His multi-site church is one of the fastest growing churches in America with over 27,000 attendees. He claims God gave him a vision to start the church. His charismatic, emotion-driven speaking style has made him popular among many. You won’t find any glaring errors in the church’s statement of faith and he has the ability to mix in just enough truth with heresy so that it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where he gets it wrong. So let’s dig a little deeper and explore 4 reasons why I think we can classify him as a false teacher.

1: MAN-CENTERED PREACHING

Steven Furtick makes the Bible about you. Every Old and New Testament passage is about YOU. He ignores the context and jumps right to a meaning that is completely false. (fancy term for this is Narcigesis) Here are just a few examples of this:

David & Goliath– you are David, Goliath is your fears and insecurities. You have to defeat those fears and insecurities for God to bless your life.

Moses in Exodus 3:14– Steven writes “Perhaps God was sending Moses—and each of us—a message: don’t skip over the I am….when you go to church, usually you’re given a lot of handles on who God is….but often we don’t know who we are. See, it’s one thing to know who God is to you, but who are you to you? Maybe you can describe and define God, but does that sync up with how you describe and define yourself?”

The wall of Jericho– you need to get into God’s presence for perspective to see over the high walls in your life. And once you have an elevated perspective you will be “able to see past your problems and you will see that the enemy that you were intimidated by, was actually intimidated by you all along.”

The healing of the woman in Mark 5:25– she was consumed by her issue just as you are consumed by your issues or addictions. She didn’t wait for a touch from God, she went and touched God. If you need to feel God, you need to touch Him. She was healed by a thought, so too you can overcome your issues with “just a thought” about God.

I’m not making this stuff up. Not only does he misinterpret and misapply every single passage (I failed to find even one text interpreted and applied correctly in all the clips I watched), he doesn’t even come close to pulling out a Biblical application at all. There is no mention of sin (instead he uses words like problems, issues, addictions) or repentance. He uses the word blessing a lot but fails to explain that God’s blessing doesn’t come in the form of health, wealth, and worldly happiness. He completely fails to understand that the Scripture, from beginning to end, is about CHRIST. He never encourages his listeners to seek answers in the Bible. John 3:30 says that “I must decrease, He must increase” and all of Steven Furtick’s messages do the exact opposite of that.

2: UNBIBLICAL TEACHING IN HIS BOOK “UNQUALIFIED”

It is a book in response to a comment made about him being unqualified as a pastor. Instead of proving that he is Biblically qualified (he doesn’t talk about biblical standards of a pastor even once), he seeks to “find the answer within himself.” In a nutshell, the book suggests that all negative perceptions of ourselves are negative and “hinder our discovery of the self-esteem God wants for us.” He encourages us to figure out who we are, complete with an “I am” self-evaluation that includes 12 categories for sexuality and 6 categories for religion with no further explanation or evaluation of the answer you choose. “God believes in you, He loves everything there is to know about you.” Oh really? How about God loves us despite of who we are? He doesn’t love everything about us or He would love sin. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says that His power is made perfect in our weakness. The first stepping stone of the gospel includes a negative perception of ourself – our weakness, sinfulness, and unworthiness. If he doesn’t understand that, he doesn’t understand the gospel.

3: CORRUPTION OF THE GOSPEL

One of his messages is entitled “God broke the law for love” where he attempts to prove that the law was ineffective at redeeming mankind, so God broke it to save us. God did NOT break the law. The law isn’t ineffective at anything. It is holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12). It is our complete depravity that renders us incapable of keeping it. This is why God sent His Son, in love, to fulfill the law. Otherwise there would be no justice. Again, this proves he has no understanding of the true gospel.

4: STAGED BAPTISMS AND EXAGGERATED NUMBERS

I came across his guide book that explains “how to prepare the way for God to show up” in their spontaneous baptismal services. This includes planting 15 people in the audience to get up and walk toward the front with the “highest visibility and longest walk,” creating an atmosphere of excitement and celebration, having a live feed on twitter, and keeping the baptisms to less than 45 seconds. Does this sound like the biblical version of baptism to you? He also admits that his church leaders often exaggerate their baptismal and conversion numbers.

__________________________

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He downplays the need for Bible study, saying “you don’t need all that fancy, special knowledge” and making fun of people who want to “stuff your face until you’re so obese spiritually that you can’t even move.” He openly proclaims that his church is for the unbeliever, which is in direct contradiction to John 21:17 and 1 Peter 5:2-3. He preached that the one thing Jesus can’t do is rise above your unbelief (see Daniel 4:35). His wife preaches sermons at his church. He teaches Modalism*. He says that nobody can believe Jesus is Lord “without a doubt.” He associates himself with many false teachers and speaks at conferences about using “God’s power to get wealth.”

Please keep in mind, this is not a judgement of him or his heart or his motivation. I am judging only what he has publicly said and comparing it to Scripture so that you can avoid what is contrary to the Word of God. It’s important that we don’t just know whose teaching is false but why it is false and I hope this helps you with that. If you’d like proof of what I said above, I’ll gladly provide the links if you contact me directly.

 

Guest Post by Jessica F
Anchor for the Soul

Find her Facebook page here
and her Instagram account here

 

*Modalism denies the Trinity and instead states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes or forms. Find more about this heresy here.

 

Fighting Germs

The other week we flew down south to see our new granddaughter. On the way home, we had a stop in Atlanta and then we were finally on the last leg of our journey. On that final flight home, my husband and I looked around and noticed that we were surrounded by people that took virus protection very seriously. Three women scattered around us wore both face masks and face shields.

As we made our way off the plane an hour or two later, we stopped at the restroom. As I waited beside our luggage for my husband, I was quite amused (and a little concerned) to watch one of those women pull out disinfectant spray and spray it all over her husband, front and back. He then proceeded to do the same for her. Ummm…I don’t think that is what the spray is intended for.

It was funny but it was also sad. While protecting ourselves sensibly is smart, some people are so scared to die that they will go to great lengths to fight off and keep away from GERMS.

But while you have those extremes, you also have the rest of us. From those who wear face masks inside and outside of their homes 24/7 to those who are just using hand sanitizer a bit more, almost everyone is just a little more aware and concerned about germs.

I believe there is a spiritual parallel here that we shouldn’t ignore.

A few months ago a friend sent me an idea for a post. I had it at the back of my mind all summer as I’ve watched people obsess over their health. But the couple at the airport brought his idea front and center. He said this and I quote:

I was considering all that we have done to mitigate our exposure to a germ that is deemed dangerous to us. This germ is not unlike other germs that have been out there yet we have never gone to such lengths in our society. Even in the church we have gone to great lengths to limit our exposure to this germ. So while the church has went to such great lengths to mitigate its exposure to this germ that can harm our bodies, we constantly expose ourselves to “germs” of false teaching that can harm our faith. Even little issues (small germ) can cause great harm. Yet much of the church does little to warn people or even limit its own exposure.

Amen and amen!

Oh, how churches are spiritual germ-infested places. There is little concern for these spiritual germs that are infecting and killing off their sheep. One by one, many become sick as they read the books and listen to the sermons of false teachers and follow after false doctrines. And not a word is spoken. If someone dares to speak up to protect the sheep, they are viewed as divisive and unkind.

It is especially sad and concerning, given the lengths churches are going to protect the physical lives of their congregations. Don’t they realize that the spiritual health of the sheep is even more important than physical health?

But it isn’t only churches. It is true for us on an individual level, as well.

Are we as concerned about our spiritual health as we are our physical health? It is quite understandable to see those who have no idea what is happening to them after they die to be overly concerned about dying. That makes sense. But to see believers be more concerned about their physical health than they are about their spiritual health makes no sense at all.

Paul reminds us of what our priorities should be in I Timothy 4:7-8–

But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with giving effort to keeping our bodies healthy and protected from germs, our concern should be far greater for our spiritual health.

Is this what you are seeing in the lives of believers around you? Is this what you are demonstrating in your own life to those who are watching you?

These are questions worthy of reflection.

Satan is eating Christians alive because they are literally unconcerned about spiritual germs. He even has Christians believing that to point out those germs and to say anything negative about a false teacher is sinful. So now we have demonized watchmen in a crowd of earthly-minded believers.

Oh, dear readers, may we not be part of that “crowd”. May we pay attention to the watchmen and heed their warnings. May we be far more concerned about heavenly things and our spiritual health than we are about this life and our temporary, physical body.

For this is what scripture teaches us to do.

Colossians 3:1-3  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

Romans 16:17-20  Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord [d]Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and [e]simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

 

Revival: What It Is and What It Isn’t

The word “revival” has always been tossed about freely by Christians. It is our hope for this temporal world, it would solve what ails the culture, it would fix so many problems.

I hear this word more than ever now, as the culture grows darker and darker. “There could still be revival,” is heard often by those whose fervent hope is to get back to some type of normalcy. Whose hope is to start the culture in a more positive direction.

But what exactly is revival? And is it something we can and should expect? These are the questions I’d like to take a look at today as our world grows increasingly darker and our hope for this world teeters on the brink of extinction.

Merriam-Webster gives this definition of Revival as it relates to religion–

(1) : a period of renewed religious interest

 
Dictionary.com gives this definition–

an awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion.
 
So we can see that Revival, as it relates to religion, means an awakening in matters of personal religion. In fact, one of the most famous revivals of all was called “The Great Awakening”. It happened in the mid-1700s and the two most famous men connected to it are Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, although there were many lesser-known men (and women) used by God during that great time.

What brought about such revival? Many years ago I read Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards (which I highly recommend, by the way). As I recall, there were three very important keys to that famous Revival: 1) Prayer and 2) Repentance of sin and 3) Separation from the world.

Fervent, frequent prayer was the fuel of the revival and the people’s repentance of sin and separation from the world was the result of that prayer.

The church in that day was much like the church of this day, in that many people went to church to ease their consciences but there was little true religion.

I remember thinking as I was reading: This sounds so much like today.

We always think we are so much worse, but there really is nothing new under the sun.

So, given the definition of revival and the three important components of revival, should we expect revival?

I think it is important to say, first, that none of us knows what is ahead. We never have known but, now more than ever, the future is unsettled and uncertain. As you read anything I say below, please keep this in mind. We can only guess where we are at on God’s timeline by reading the signs. None of us can know definitively or specifically.

What I do know from reading scripture is that in the last days (which I strongly believe we are in because of the signs given to us in the Bible), times will wax worse and worse (Read 2 Timothy 3 and Jude). People will not truly turn to the Lord but they will pretend to be godly while loving their sin and this world.

From these passages, I don’t believe we should expect revival on any large scale, although there may be scattered pockets throughout the world.

But, of course, I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know:

Much of the talk of Revival these days is not true revival.

How do I know this?

It is because, while there may be talk of a vague repentance, there is rarely talk of repenting of specific, personal sins and never talk of turning from the world.

Most Christians who declare revival as this world’s solution rarely, if ever, encourage people to turn from not only their sin, but also from their fascination with and love for this world.

And, yet, can there be true revival without it? I think not.

James makes this extremely clear in chapter 4, verse 7–

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

We cannot be in right relationship with God if we are in love with the world. And when we hear calls for revival, we never hear anything about this.

Christians are quite comfortable in this world. They live their married lives like the world (Dad is not the head of the home, moms leave their children to go to work); They parent like the world (they don’t discipline, they ignore what the Bible teaches); They watch, listen to, and read the same things as the world. They wear the same things as the world, letting even their precious teen girls dress in such a way to draw sexual attention to themselves so that they are accepted by their friends (I am shocked and dismayed at the many Christian parents who allow this. I cannot even believe it. And I see no conviction about this. From any direction. I’ll climb down off my soap box now. This has been puzzling me for years now.)

Christians look like the world. It is hard to see any difference, really.

And I am convinced more than ever that Revival cannot come while we Christians are steeped in this world.

If we want to bring true revival, we must wean ourselves from this world.

So how much do we actually want revival? How concerned are we for souls? Or are we more concerned about getting back to our comfortable, convenient lives and the world we believed we lived in? These are questions worth our consideration.

If true revival means fervent prayer (by true believers) and turning from sin and from this world, what is all this talk about revival among false teachers (and those who we thought were true teachers that are joining with false teachers)?

I think that is a great question.

You see, there is such a thing as fake revival. And it will be characterized by many people coming together with worldly music and raised hands, powerfully moved by emotion. The truth of God’s Word in these meetings means nothing. Personal repentance of sin and commitment to separate from the world are never a part of these kinds of meetings. It is an ecumenical unity based on feelings.

I believe there will be many fake revivals. In fact, there will be a last, great fake revival when people take the mark of the beast as an act of worship. People will bow at the feet of the Antichrist, believing he IS the Christ (Revelation 13).

It is so important that we carefully examine any rumors of revival by these standards. What is driving it? Is it fueled by prayer? Is there a focus on repentance? On turning from this world?

As we ponder these things, I think we must also realize that true revival starts with individuals. You and me. While we may not expect a wave of revival to overtake this nation or the world, we can perhaps start mini-revivals in our own homes and churches and communities. This can happen through much prayer and our own personal turning away from sin and this world. It is a painful process and we can expect much marginalization and ridicule, but it will yield fruit. Perhaps not as much as we’d hope for, but God will always use a life dedicated to Him for His purposes and His glory.

So pray for Revival. But make sure you are praying for the right kind of Revival and for the right reasons.

I want to leave you with these words by David Cloud on this topic of Revival–

The heart of the tree is being eaten away even as the watchers are pleased at keeping a few leaves alive. Some type of revival could happen if individual Christians and individual churches would repent of an adulterous love for this God-hating world, repent of setting the affections more on things below than things above, and earnestly beseech God’s help. Who knows how far the forces of evil could be driven back? God has never needed a majority. Gideon’s vigilant few are enough. But so many churches are like Sardis; they have a name that they live, but they are dead. They are comfortable in the world, not pilgrims but dwellers, mighty for pot luck but weak for spiritual warfare, zealous for video games and sports and consuming fleeting hours on social media vanity, but not zealous students of God’s Word, passionate for parties but not for prayer. (From Friday News, Nov 13, 2020)

 

Loving a Lie

Lies are told all the time and everywhere. Children to their parents. Employees to their bosses. Citizens to their tax collectors. Reporters to their readers. Politicians to their hearers.

Lying seems to be very normal and rather frequent in this world. And we should expect this, given that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).

But I never really thought too much before about how our lives may be affected if we choose to love the lie we are being told. And then I read this verse yesterday in Revelation 22 (v 15) about who won’t be in heaven–

But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

Now, we know that these people aren’t in heaven because they have never repented of their sin. Jesus’s blood covers all of the sins listed above, so that there will be former murderers, sexually immoral, and all other kinds of wicked sinners walking those streets of gold with us. And, in fact, may we remember that we, too, were part of that group listed above.

But that last phrase caught my eye: Whoever loves a lie.

I am amazed at how Satan inspires vain and humanistic philosophies as well as twists and perverts scripture to confuse and lead people astray when it comes to their eternal destiny. For this is the lie that really matters, is it not? The Gospel, if not presented as the Bible teaches, can be twisted beyond recognition. And it often is.

Think with me, if you will, about some of the more common lies the world believes about salvation and how to get to heaven–

I believe I just need to be a good person and/or follow a certain set of rules. (Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and just about anyone you meet anywhere in the world.)

I believe that Jesus and my good works/following a certain set of rules will save me. (Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Legalism)

I believe that a prayer I said at camp when I was a kid is enough to guarantee my salvation and I can then go on to live my life however I want, fulfilling my own dreams and pursuing what I want. I’m not convicted of sin, because I know God will forgive me for my sleeping with my girlfriend or cheating on my taxes. (Mainstream Christianity).

I believe that God exists to please and bless me. (Prosperity Gospel).

I believe Jesus died for everyone and all people are going to heaven. (Universalism)

These are lies that most of the world believes in one form or another. Satan is extremely deceptive and so he offers a smorgasbord of options–some that are far off from the real Gospel and some that are just a teeny tiny bit off from it. He doesn’t care which lie people believe, as long as they believe, love, and practice the lie.

The very sobering fact is that loving a lie about how we get to heaven is damning.

But let’s take it a step further, shall we? Loving a lie is always harmful, even if that lie is about our child or spouse or anyone else. When we refuse to face the truth, that lie has the potential of doing great damage.

God hates lies. I wonder if this is because He knows how much damage it causes in the lives of us humans.

This is why it is incredibly important that, instead of loving lies (at worst) or being careless and apathetic (at best), we passionately search for truth. There is no more important way to do this than through knowing and studying God’s Word. This must be our grid through which we run every single story, personal experience, philosophy, or religious demand we are ever told. We run every blog post, book, sermon, news article, TV show, and every single conversation we have with family, friends, co-workers, and even mentors and church leaders, through this grid.

You see, because the Bible is the inerrant (meaning without error), absolute true Word of God, this is the only protection we have from any lie but, most importantly, it’s the only protection we have from the eternally damning lie of a false Gospel.

So don’t love a lie! Know the Word so that you can compare anything you hear to it. Know the Word so that the lies show themselves to be what they really are. And then pray. Pray that God will reveal the truth to you through his Holy Spirit.

As believers, we desire to LOVE the TRUTH. We desire to love the truth of God’s Word more than we love our families, our friends, our churches, our jobs, our homes. As we grow in our understanding and comprehension of the awesomeness of God and His Word, we will grow in this love for truth.

If you don’t have it yet, don’t despair. Dig into the Word without preconceived notions and, as you do this, you will love it more and more deeply. You will find yourself recognizing the lies and being less and less willing to compromise on biblical issues. You will find the lies less and less appealing and your love for truth deepening as you grow in your knowledge of the Word.

So let’s not be like the rest of the world or even the mainstream church.

Instead, may we love the truth and hate the lies!

 

If I Shout Louder Than You, Does That Mean I’m Right?

Friday night we sat down to watch a very forgettable movie. It was based on a true story but it was disjointed, hard to follow, and, if I’m honest, pretty boring.

But sometime during that couple of hours, one of the main characters was having an argument with someone. As they loudly bickered, he finally stopped and said something very profound: “If I shout louder than you, does that mean I’m right?”

Don’t you feel like that’s what is going on? The people who are shouting the loudest are demanding they are right. They are ripping down statues and destroying property and demanding name changes and all others sorts of nonsense, in their quest to be acknowledged as “RIGHT”.

But they aren’t right.

It doesn’t matter how loud someone screams or how much ruckus they make or what kind of tantrum they throw. These things are irrelevant to what is right.

Interestingly enough, if we’d just stop and think for a moment and do our own research, we’d see that those who are shouting the loudest are, as a rule, against what is right.

Of course, we first have to know what is right. This can only happen through our knowledge of God’s Word. There is no other way.

Once we have a good handle on what the Word teaches, we then can discern if the latest, greatest movement or trend is a godly one. If it’s a right one or a wrong one.

But most people get stuck at the first thing. They don’t know what is right, nor do most care.

Do YOU care about what is right?

If you do, then you have a responsibility to dig in and see what’s really going on beneath the obvious before you choose where to stand on any issue–whether it be current events, a popular Christian author or speaker, or the latest trend.

Look past all that the media is spewing forth; look past the “Christian noise” (the deafening insistence of the many who are deceived and following the world); look past what you always thought was true. And then ask yourself “What is really right here, according to scripture?”

Over the weekend, one of my daughters told me of a conversation she had recently. The woman she was talking to told her the advice her father gave her when she was a girl: If everyone is going one way, you probably want to go the other. At the very least you need to investigate what’s going on before following the crowd.

What great advice. So few parents are teaching their kids this important principle. I, too, was taught that if it’s popular, it’s probably not right. If we understand this basic principle of the world, it will make discerning what’s right a whole lot easier.

Of course, what makes this so much more troublesome for us is our desire to be liked by others. We want to fit in, join the group, follow the crowd. To stand out is difficult and often painful.

Are you willing to pay this price? This is a question I have asked myself often. If we can honestly answer yes, then God will open our eyes to the truth and give us strength to bear up under the name-calling, antagonism, and loneliness. It’s not fun but it is so worth it.

I don’t know all that much about this world. But I do know the One who knows everything. And I choose to stand quietly with Him in the midst of all this noise, taking opportunities to defend what is right as He provides them. In the midst of all the compromise, in the midst of all the chaos, I don’t need to shout the loudest because God will fight for me. I don’t need to shout the loudest because I know how this ends.

 

 

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