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How to Heal from Theological Abuse

It’s not uncommon for me to receive communication from people who God has graciously saved out from extreme charismatic abuses, prosperity gospel exploiters, and cultish movements like the New Apostolic Reformation. I find myself both overjoyed and heart-broken at the same time because on one hand it’s the beginning of the rest of their new life in Christ. Sadly, on the other hand, it’s often the beginning of a very painful journey through loneliness, despair, and confusion.

People saved out of deception don’t know where to start. Imagine being in their shoes and having everything you ever believed and most everyone you ever trusted turn out to be predominantly false. Now, go even further. Your friends, social circles, and even family members ostracize you when you try to explain the truth to them. You get labeled as “rebellious” or “hateful,” are threatened with divine judgment, and anyone associating with you is warned not to join you in “touching the Lord’s anointed.” Few people understand what many theologically abused exiles say feels a lot like PTSD.

One of most common series of questions looks something like this: What can I do to heal and move on from the abusive theology and actions I have been a part of? What do you think my next step is? How to I get over this? How do I get stable after being so confused?

Before any of those questions can be answered effectively, it’s important we echo the words of Martin Luther when he was asked how the Reformation happened. He said, “The Word did it all.” Friend, whenever “reformation” happens in our lives it is a “word-centered” process. That is what the Holy Spirit uses to illuminate our dark souls.

I’ve put this list in emails to people time and time again so I thought it best to compile a blog in case this may help more people get answers. Think of this list as a “plagiarize and customize” kind of thing. Use what you think is helpful and toss out what you don’t.

If you have some helpful tips, add them in the comments here or on social media. My guess is that over time, we’ll continue to see people share their stories and provide practical steps towards recovery from their own experiences as well.

Here are several next steps:

1. Cling to a (BIBLICAL) church, your pastors, and wise mentors — In my case, I was fortunate to be saved at the same time that our church was shedding shallow methods (and some bad theology) and embracing sound doctrine. We received a lot of help from seminary professors, selfless pastor-theologians, and retired pastors. Our pastors and elders (thankfully) were open to learning and growing! They wanted truth. Had they not, my wife and I were ready to pack our bags. God was gracious — we didn’t need to leave and so we all grew together. Older, wiser, and spiritual balanced mentors will always be used by God to play a key role in helping abused and confused sheep recover. Overall, run from error and abuse, find a biblically minded church with leaders who shepherd people, then stick to it like velcro! That’s the takeaway here. Don’t go rogue. Don’t do “online church” because you refuse to trust anyone. Don’t wander aimlessly. Find a Biblical church and plant yourself there.

2. Get into counseling — Depending on your church size and pastor’s schedule, you may need to seek counseling outside your church. In order to keep progressing, I recommend seeing a biblical counselor. I remember a very fruitful season of growth because at various points over a period of three years I met with biblical counselors. I poured my heart out, told them everything I’d been through, asked questions, received wisdom from the word, and put truth into practice as soon as possible after each session. Counseling is huge for recovering. Don’t hold back. Get your trust issues out on the table.

3. Saturated your life with sound teaching — For all the time our society spends binging on Netflix, wounded sheep do well to put that energy into soaking up sound doctrine. I’ve heard story after story of people who were saved out of deception and subsequently spent Sundays under their pastor’s teaching, then spent 5 nights a week reading solid blog articles, devouring theological books, and watching John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Steven Lawson, and Paul Washer sermons — taking notes as though they were in the front row at church until their eyes couldn’t stay open. Get serious about sound doctrine. God will use it to strengthen you.

4. Journal what you’re learning —This may not be your first thought, but writing can be very useful for processing thoughts, emotions, and the wisdom you’re learning. Make T-charts of “true teachings vs. false ones,” write out verses that debunk your old beliefs, write your testimony in 500 words, 250 words, and a 50-word elevator speech. Consider making prayer lists and spending substantial amounts of time on your knees with the Lord. In short, putting things on paper helps bring clarity to otherwise sporadic thoughts and emotions.

5. Continue your education – Seminary education may not be your thing but continuing education should be. This could be an online learning program, or a Bible Certificate from a seminary or Christian University, or starting some classes at your local church’s bible institute. Doctrinal training puts “meat” on the bones of your new beliefs. Many churches have excellent (free) resources for training lay people (find one of those kind of churches). If you’re church isn’t there yet, consider an online learning tool like Ligonier Connect.

6. Wash, Rinse, Repeat – Never stop doing the steps listed above. Even if school ends, or you’re counseling is complete, continue saturating your life with the Word. Stay plugged into the local church, keep accountability close by, seek out wise counsel, and prioritize your devotion to Christ. What you’re experiencing now is the Christian life. We get saved, and then the fun begins — even if the “fun” takes hard work. Remember, God is the one working in you and through you, but your hands need to stay on the plow. The road to recovery is more like running a marathon, not using a microwave. Salvation is instant, sanctification is a process. Trust the Lord and stay the course.

Why Contend for the Faith?

Many Christians don’t contend for the faith because they don’t know why they should. Like a football team who hits the gridiron without a rally cry, the church can often be overtaken by naysayers who demand silence in the name of tolerance. This tends to rattle many passionate Christians who insist that we contend for the faith. It’s important to remember that we must know why we are contending sdo as to be properly motivated to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints! (Jude 1:4)

In this postmodern age of tolerance let’s be honest, contending is a word that denotes fighting, and fighting isn’t popular. More specifically within the church, the concept of fighting more often brings back ugly memories of a “worship war” or power struggle than it does standing up for truth. It’s about time for the church to redeem the biblical concept of contending for the faith. The truth about Christ must come back to the forefront of our battle cry. We must stand for the true gospel no matter what the cost!

So why contend for the faith?

I. BECAUSE CHRIST IS WORTH IT

No greater argument can be made than this.

Jesus Christ came down to earth, lived a sinless life, died a horrific death, and raised from the dead. He is the conquering King who calls hell-bound sinners to heavenly life! Jesus is the center of the Christian faith, and without Him, humanity is hopeless. Jesus is the only Way, the only Truth, and provides the only Life (John 14:6) that is worth living for, worth fighting for, and worth dying for.

Christ’s loving sacrifice was part of God’s perfect plan and redeemed man from the Fall. Even before sin had entered the world, Satan began his assault on truth and attempted to undermine the authority of God. In the Garden, he hissed to Eve, “You surely will not die! (Genesis 3:4-5) as he tried to convince her that God just didn’t her to be “just like Him.” Satan’s tricks have not changed for thousands of generations. He still seeks to undermine God’s Word through lies. At the core of his efforts is a motivation to divide people from the truth of the gospel, and conquer their soul. Contending for the faith pushes back against darkness with the weapons of warfare that Scripture commands we use (Ephesians 6:11-18).

Standing for the truth about Jesus Christ will cause conflict whether Christians like it or not. Jesus Himself explained why this conflict was going to be inevitable for His followers long before any modern apologist had contended for the faith:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:34-38).

Those are strong words from our Lord, but they undeniably affirm that He would be the center of controversy, conflict, and contention.

In all of this, He is worth fighting for and has called us to carry His message as ambassadors. Ambassadors act as an extension of the King and should anyone attempt to misrepresent the King or His message; an ambassador must fulfill his duty to the truth. In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul declared,

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

For the King and His kingdom, we must act as beacons of truth, and that means there will certainly be times when we must refute those who stand against our King.

II. BECAUSE THE BIBLE COMMANDS IT

Numerous imperative commands and Apostolic advice direct Christians to contend for the faith in the New Testament. Paul is the source of these (under the control of the Spirit as he wrote).

Here’s a just a short list of “to do’s” when it comes to contending for the faith:

There are a lot of things Christians would rather do than fulfill the list above. It often said that we should emphasize what we’re for rather than what we’re against. Singing songs to the Lord, fellowship, encouragement, evangelism, rest, and discipleship are all uplifting and even energizing ways to live out our faith in a positive way. No conflict. No mental drain. No danger.

Jude thought the same thing and had hoped to write about the wonderful fith that he had in common with fellow believers. But he soon realized that a serious situation required him to act out of necessity. He writes:

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus (Jude 3-4).

False teachers are those who Jude was describing as trying to creep in “unnoticed, ” and their entire purpose is to turn God’s grace on its head, deny Christ, and smear His name. And they do all of this as deceitfully as possible! Much like how Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), his false agents do not show up exclaiming, “Here I am to deceive you!” but rather they introduce destructive teachings that lead men away from Christ with subtlety. The more biblically illiterate the sheep, the easier it is to fool them. The more passive the sheep and leaders who refuse to contend, the easier it is for wolves to pluck them.

For the gospel sake, Paul was willing to be beaten, shipwrecked, robbed, wronged, and even didn’t care when men preached Christ out of selfish ambition as long as Christ was being preached. But step on the toes of sound doctrine or lead sheep astray from the true gospel and he would contend for the faith (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 1:20, 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:17). He was never one to back down when the truth was on the line. No Christian ever should.

III. BECAUSE MARTYRS HAVE DIED FOR IT

The life of Christ and the Scriptures are more than enough to inspire a true Christian to walk in obedience, but there are other important historical considerations.

Over the centuries contending for the faith has been no glamorous endeavor. Historically speaking, it’s widely understood that all of the apostles but John were brutally martyred. Other devout New Testament followers like Stephen were stoned to death (Acts 7:58-59). Then outside of the biblical canon, millions were tortured and killed for standing upon the foundation of Christ. A disciple of John named Ignatius (108 AD) was thrown to lions. Polycarp (156 AD) was set on fire. Perpetua’s (203 AD) judge begged her to deny Christ and live to feed her breastfeeding baby, yet she refused and was run by a bull then finished with a sword. Julian of Cilicia (249 AD) was put into a sack with serpents. Later on in the timeline of Christian history hundreds of Reformers were burnt and brutally tortured for opposing the Catholic system. Men like William Tyndale (1536) were strangled and burned at the stake but not before translating the Bible into English.

Today, our brothers and sisters in Christ still die for their faith in the midst of great persecution. Surely we can be willing to lose popularity for a faith that many better men and women have shed blood for.

IV. BECAUSE THE LOST ARE WORTH IT

If there be any final consideration given to this topic, it’s this: that the lost sheep must be snatched from the wolves who prey upon them. If Christians have any semblance of evangelistic zeal, then they cannot sit silently while deception runs amok on the sanctity of sound doctrine. Contending is part of being a Christian.

Charles Spurgeon famously described the kind of perspective and the kind of effort that should mark Christian zeal. Even as the doctrine of election remained a pillar in his preaching, Spurgeon refused to lay aside his responsibility to obedience! He said:

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

Jude finished his letter on apostasy with a sobering reminder that there is work to do even while darkness is allowed to operate under the sovereignty of God’s purposes. He pleaded:

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh (Jude 1:20-22).

It’s clear that passivism is not to be the church’s strategy when false teaching is harming sheep. Christians must do all they can to proclaim truth and refute the errors that lead people to believe in a false Christ.

True saving faith is on the line. Eternity is on the line. Let’s do our part and trust God with the results.


Originally posted on www.servantsofgrace.org on April 18th, 2017.  

7 Habits of the Wise

In the previous post, we looked at 7 Habits of a Fool. It’s easy to pick on fools because they’re so blatantly…well, foolish! But not playing the fool doesn’t necessarily prove that you’re wise either. In fact, Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise…” So how do you know if you’re a truly wise or just a silent fool?

For that answer, we go to Scripture. The Bible consistently provides a measuring rod of truth that you can use to test if your faith is genuine, and certainly to test if your wisdom is genuine.

Grab your Bible again, turn to Proverbs, and let’s see how we measure up to the 7 Habits of the Wise.

  1. The Wise Can Discern What Wisdom Is (1:5-6; 4:5-7; 13:10; 13:20; 16:21-22; 17:24; 19:8; 19:20; 20:18; 21:11; 24:6)

A ministry mentor once told me, “Hear many, listen to few.” Getting perspective from others is a humble way to learn and can be very helpful, but when it finally comes to decision time, only your most trusted advisors should have a voice. There’s nothing worse for a family, a business, or a church, then when leaders who do not make well-informed decisions. This is why thing like the “podcast pastor” epidemic is so dangerous. Technology can be a blessing to our spiritual growth, but when we need wisdom to make the right decision, we need to be careful turning on our podcast pastor or only ever googling what John MacArthur thinks (guilty of this!) and go to our actual pastor who knows us, loves us, and can provide well-informed wisdom. Podcasts and faithful Bible teachers can be a huge blessing, but our local church must have a voice in our life. At our church, we tell people all the time, if you can’t trust us as church leaders, we’ll help you find a church where you can. Nobody should be left as an orphan in the body of Christ and every sheep should know their shepherd. In life, we’ll hear a lot of voices, but only the wise can discern which one is true wisdom for their personal decision.

  1. The Wise Work Hard For The Right Things (11:4; 11:24; 12:11; 13:11; 16:8; 16:16-17 ;20:13; 22:1; 23:1-5)

You’re not going to find a wise person trying to get rich quick because they’ll be too busy working hard for their increase. Wise people who happen to be wealthy know they’re blessed to be a blessing and they keep wealth in the right perspective. Wise people who aren’t wealthy live within their means, and trust the Lord with what they’ve been given. God has and always will honor those who work hard, remain faithful, and live generously no matter what their salary is. On a recent Sunday, our Sunday School taught the kids about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. One little boy asked the teacher, “Why is the rich man in Hades and the poor man is with Abraham? If he was rich, he must have a good life and should be with poor man in heaven!” The teacher explained that the rich man used his riches for all the wrong things. The Bible doesn’t speak against having a nice house or making a good honest wage, but it does make it clear that the wise work harder at building God’s kingdom, than their own castle.

  1. The Wise Lose the Argument Before Ever Losing Their Temper (12:18; 16:32; 17:14; 17:27; 19:11; 29:9; 29:11; 29:8)

Wise people know that no resolution can be found once tempers have been lost. Proverbs repeatedly offers wisdom to those who struggle with anger, and affirms those who consistently avoid a war of words – or worse. Notice that nowhere in these verses does it say conflict won’t happen. That’s because conflict in life is inevitable. The wise know how to handle their emotions, and practice keeping their tongue under control. So what’s it going to be when a quarrel breaks out? Fight or flight?

  1. The Wise Bring Joy to Family, Friends, and Even Foes (13:1; 14:26; 15:20; 16:7; 23:15; 23:24-25; 27:11; 29:2-3)

Wise people don’t frustrate others because of their foolish decisions! Parents, is there anything better than seeing your kids living for Christ, making the right choice even when it’s hard, marrying the right person, or honoring their commitments? Think about bosses who lead organization ethically and treat employees with fairness, dependable dad’s who work hard, love their wives, and consistently provide a good example to their kids. One more: church leaders who plan ahead, budget properly, spend only what God provides, and stand their ground on biblical truth rather than people pleasing. Even people who may not like you will respect you when they know clearly where you stand. The wise say what they mean, mean what they say, and what you see is what you get.

  1. The Wise Plan Ahead (6:6-8; 21:5; 24:21-22; 24:27; 27:23-27; )

In 2011 I ran the San Francisco marathon without any training to prove to my sister how “naturally” fit I was. I did it in 4 1/2 hours and have the medal to prove it. I also have the hotel receipt for the additional $300 I had to pay to stay in a local hotel for 2 extra days because I couldn’t walk afterwards. Humble pie was served for dessert that night. There’s a reason why people train for 6 months and plan ahead for marathons. If being a prudent planner was easy to do, everybody would be considered wise. Planning ahead is easy to think about but takes incredible discipline and practice to do. The disappointing thing about being a poor planner is that there’s rarely a good excuse. Churches in Illinois know they’re in Tornado Alley so they build a certain way, Alaskan fisherman know the weather so they dress a certain way, and people know April 15th is when the Tax-Man says pay! The wise don’t assume everything will just work itself out. Lastly, wise people are usually in control of their emotions so they are able to stay balanced and objective even when things do not go according to plan. They simply go back to the drawing board, learn from their mistakes, and trust the Lord.

  1. The Wise Avoid Debt and/or Pay Off Debt (6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 22:26-27)

Speaking of planning ahead, the wise know it’s good practice to pay their credit card off every 30 days or to avoid debt alltogether. In a day in age where school is required and not everyone can afford it, let’s leave the debate about student loans off the table for now and agree that in the very least, credit card spending with money we don’t actually have and balances we can’t actually pay off is living dangerously. Proverbs tells us to not make pledges we can’t pay, and if we have, then to run like a Gazelle (that’s really fast!) to pay it off. Is it time for you to get a side job for a few months or to stop spending what you don’t have? If we’re wise, we’ll take Solomon seriously on this one.

  1. The Wise Man Finds an Excellent Wife (12:4; 18:22; 19:13-15; Chapter 31)

A wise man who marries a wise woman for the right reasons has “power couple”written all over it. God honors men and women who work hard, live faithfully, listen carefully, and keep their eyes on the right things. If you have sons, teach them to marry the woman in chapter 31 and steer clear of a contentious woman no matter how dolled up she looks on Instagram. 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”If you have daughters, teach them to stay away from fools until a wise man comes.

We’ve all played the fool at one time or another. If you think it’s too late for your kids, yourself, or someone else you love, be encouraged.  God’s word is the best solution.

Pray for growth, and open up a chapter a day in the Proverbs – there’s thirty-one.

7 Habits of a Fool

Everybody’s played the fool at some point. That means that once in a while, we’re going to say and do things that aren’t very well informed. But that’s supposed to be the exception not the norm right? Unfortunately, human depravity can quickly turn foolish behavior into foolish habits that do a lot of damage.

The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of foolishness. More specifically, the book of Proverbs gives us time-tested truth about what a fool looks and sounds like. We would do well to spend more time learning from Solomon because as the old saying goes, “You must learn from the mistakes of others because you can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Grab your Bible, turn to Proverbs, and let’s look at 7 Habits of a Fool.

  1. A Fool is Arrogantly Unteachable (1:7; 12:1; 12:15; 13:1 26:12; 28:26)

Only a fool thinks he is always right. He constantly considers himself above the wisdom and instruction of others. There’s a hardened pride that takes over a person who refuses to listen to wise counsel, and by this the fool shows that he does not fear the Lord. Whatever you do, don’t be this person, don’t hire this person, don’t marry this person, and don’t do business with this person. Pray for this person.

  1. A Fool Goes Looking for Trouble (1:10-19; All of chapter 7)

My mother used to make me memorize Proverbs 1:10-19 when I would hang out with the wrong people at the wrong time. Times may have changed, but the Proverb still provides wisdom from parents to youngsters. But adults can learn too. All of Proverbs chapter 7 tells an all-too-familiar story about a man looking for adulterous sex, and a woman looking for just such a man. These two find exactly what they’re looking for and are fraught with consequences.

  1. A Fool Can’t Control His Mouth (10:14; 10:31-32; 13:3; 18:7-8; 18:13; 26:21; 29:20)

Is there anything more deadly that the human tongue? Nothing sets off a war of words quicker than a person who hurls insults. Verbal abuse, assault, murder, low self esteem, suicide, adultery, and divorce have something in common – vicious words that fatally pierce the heart of another. There might be no more an important lesson to learn than this one. May we all do better at controlling our mouths.

  1. A Fool Can’t Control His Temper (14:17; 19:3-4; 19:19; 21:7;25:28; 29:11)

This could easily go hand in hand with #3 but it still deserves its own rank in the list. Though hardly a theologian, it’s difficult to contend with Robert Frost when he said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence.”If education of oneself is some indication of learning to control emotions, this perfectly illustrates the fool’s ignorance and insecurity. When tensions rise and emotions boil over, the fool would do well to heed the advice of Martin Lloyd-Jones’ to preachers when he says, “Nothing is more important than that a man should get to know himself. I include that he should get to know himself physically as well as temperamentally and in other respects.” Slow down, learn what triggers you and why, then get help and educate yourself on how to handle emotions in a way that honors God.

  1. A Fool Refuses to Discipline His Children (13:18; 13:24; 19:18; 23:13-14; 29:15)

Some parents use a “switch” or wooden spoon, others use incentives, still others take away privileges and toys. There is one thing in common with all of these methods and it is that there are serious consequences for disobedient behavior – period. A person who does not have a structure of discipline in place in the home is playing with fire and playing the fool. Not to mention, raising one.

  1. A Fool Blows Paychecks to Party (20:1; 21:17; 23:20-21; 23:30-35; 31:3-5)

We can all relate to this either from personal experience or from someone close to us. A fool doesn’t plan for the future and spends most of his time thinking of instant gratification. How can I feel good now? Proverbs 31:3-5 provides specific instructions to leaders who do not practice some level of sobriety. No wonder employees loathe working for a lush. Hollywood movies may make it look fun and endearing, but the life of the party will drain your paycheck, and lead you to poverty one way or another.

  1. A Fool Never Learns His Lesson (26:7-9; 26:11; 27:22; 29:1)

I’ll let Spurgeon take this one home. He says: “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” There’s a very specific reason that Proverbs 26:11 compares a fool to a dog returning to it’s own vomit. It’s meant to paint the repulsive picture of our own lives when we do not learn from our mistakes.

Ultimately, even though the Proverbs speaks to many practical issues of life, it is not merely secular, prudential wisdom. Instead, all of wisdom is grounded in one’s relationship with God. Naturally, reverence and relationship are a good place to start.

So ask yourself, how often have you been playing the fool? Are you ready to increase your reverence for God, and be more intentional about cultivating your relationship with God.

There hopefully comes a time in every person’s life when this Proverbial truth hits home. Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient for your weakness, and you can always draw from the timeless practicality of the Proverbs.

In the next post, we’ll look at 7 Habits of the Wise.

Top 3 Questions Defining Deception’s Readers are Asking

Over the past 3 months our latest book, Defining Deception, has ended up in the hands of nearly 3000 people. Reviews are pouring in from people who claim a variety of denominational alliances and most (including Pentecostals and Charismatics) are calling the book a timely work with a balanced argument. So, for all the potential controversy the book could have caused, it seems to be clear that Christians from all walks of life are tired of the deception; they want the truth.

In light of phone calls, emails, and personal correspondence with pastors and people who’ve read the book, here are the top 3 questions people are asking. Keep in mind, these are brief answers that should spark your own thoughts in light of Scripture. Much more can be said here.

#1 Does your church sing Bethel songs?

Both Pastor Anthony and I serve the same church so our answer is the same. Absolutely not. To be blunt, we’d be hypocrites if we wrote Defining Deception and offered the evangelical community advice on something we weren’t implementing ourselves. The book was originally written for our church, so much of it had already been taught there.

Our plurality of leaders – which includes pastoral staff and lay elders – are completely aligned on the convictions of Mission Bible Church. More importantly, we’re aligned on the clarity of the Scriptures regarding false teachers and doctrines that damage the bride of Christ. Our structure is such that a worship pastor at MBC must be theologically astute and capable of building a ministry team of worshippers who are guided by biblical convictions on worship. There is no room for compromise.

There isn’t a singer, guitarist, drummer, or tech volunteer who isn’t theologically aligned with what we call, “Tier 1” doctrinal beliefs. This includes Christology, which Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, and Bill Johnson specialize in butchering.

Dr. Steve Lawson was with us at Mission Bible recently when he squared up nearly 100 local church leaders and declared with unwavering boldness:  “The preacher is the worship leader!” That’s how we feel about the importance of preaching the truth in a church. There is no split between the pulpit and the piano. What is preached will be sung. What is sung will be preached.

#2 Why is the book so Short?

Because we wanted people to read it and use it quickly. Most readers don’t want a historical textbook that takes them down every rabbit hole of every sub group of every movement. Besides, better men have written those textbooks already. For now, Defining Deception was written with pastors and laymen (laywomen) in mind who are in the local church trenches. The book needed to be clear and concise so it could be consumed. Things were broken down into the most basic form so people could see the errors, identify with the illustrations, and convey the truth to others in a portable way.

Still, if you’re looking for a longer version then you will find it useful to go through the footnotes. There are literally countless videos, articles, and other books that you can put to use and further your research just like we did. Just make sure your kids aren’t around when you watch the Kenneth Hagin videos. They’re literally demonic.

#3 How do we get our church to change?

This is a loaded question – but a very serious one. I’ve spoken to multiple pastors with churches that have split over the “Bethel Music” issue. I know other churches with pastors who refuse to read the book, endorse the book, or to involve themselves in the issue because they’re scared of what they’ll lose if they stand for truth. Whatever the situation, here are several helpful things to keep in mind when trying to change the direction of your church on this issue. These may depend on whether your a member of the church or a pastor of the church:

Be respectful of church leadership. Sometimes they are busy doing funerals, hospice care, discipleship, evangelism, preaching prep for multiple sermons, counseling, meeting with elders, balancing the budget, leading the staff, and loving their family…(deep breath)…so they haven’t had the chance to get up to speed on the latest hot-button issues. This isn’t an excuse for their lack of protecting the flock, but it is a reason for people to be understanding of the speed with which a pastor catches up on all issues. Bethel may not be on your pastor’s radar yet. Help him by providing the book and telling him, “Pastor, I’m with you all the way if you have to take on these issues in our church.”

God hates when people spread strife among the brethren (Proverbs 6:19). Steer clear of divisive behavior, developing factions and pushing your weight around. Starting a theological gang to overthrow the leadership or start a worship war is not how to go about changing a church.

Your pastor may be an imposter who is not a real pastor. This one may rub some people the wrong way but it’s clear in Scripture that Satan likes to use deception to infiltrate the ranks of the church (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). There may be a “pastor” in your church who the elders need to remove because he’s not fulfilling his mandate to shepherd the flock faithfully. Keep in mind, the elders need to do it. Stay calm and trust leadership to do their God-given job. Even the best of men are men at best. Give leadership the chance to make things right.

It may be best to leave your church. This is not the first choice for anybody who loves the bride of Christ. I know of people who have stayed in a church for years; praying the pastor out before they ever dreamed about leaving. Still, there may come a time when it’s just too divisive to stay. It also may be that your church leadership is unified on going a dangerous direction. Whatever the case, people should seriously pray about going somewhere safe; somewhere that the pulpit is fearsomely devoted to truth. Find a church that loves God’s people enough to protect them.

Start a Sunday school class or mid-week study addressing these issues. What Bethel and it’s leaders are teaching is Christological heresy and many people likely don’t know that because they don’t know much about the doctrine of Christ to begin with. Take several weeks and teach people in your church about the truth. Use the errors as illustrations of deception and preface the class by explaining that you’re going to name names at some point (Romans 16:17-18). Maybe even include a session called, “Paul Named Names…So Should We,” before calling out certain people. Some Christians have been so malnourished they need to be helped with just the basics about Jesus. Whatever you decide, equipping God’s people is the best way to help lead change. He designed us that way!

As the months carry on and Defining Deception makes its way overseas and into churches across America, one thing is for sure: people are desperate for the truth. May God continue to use the book to bring much needed nourishment to starving souls. Best of all, we’re praying that the Lord use it to save people from the clutches of darkness – no matter how good it looks…or sounds.


 

Defining Deception can be ordered via Amazon by clicking here.

For bulk orders, distribution, or other inquiries email chinn@missionbible.org.

 

 

Does Experience Make it True?

Experience is never a good excuse for ignoring the truth. In fact, when we choose to use our own experience as the ultimate evidence for our view of truth, we end up believing in things and defending things that may be set on sinking sand.

We’ve all heard someone say it. “I am an expert because I’ve experienced it!”

It’s the subtlety of pride that creeps up from our heart to dogmatically declare that our experience is the judge and jury on the truth. Ah, how human we truly are.

Have you ever responded to someone’s objective argument with the words, “Well, I’ve personally experienced it so that’s how I know it’s truth”? This sort of argument works wonderfully with your opinion about the quality of restaurant food, the beauty of exotic travel destinations, and knowing how your wife responds to spiders in the house, but it doesn’t make a great deal of sense with how we practice Christianity. The Bible isn’t subjective…it is objective. Experience doesn’t shape it – experience bows to it.

Anything and everything that the Christian experiences needs to be filtered through the text of Scripture.

It is a slippery slope to build your theological positions and opinions on experience – no matter how real the experience seems to be. For example, someone could claim that Jesus was a woman because he appeared to them in a vision and told them so, but the experience is shattered in light of biblical truth. He was a man – definitely, a man. The bible says that Mary bore “a son” (Luke 1:31), that He was the “Son of the Most High” (1:32) and that He was the “Son of God” (1:35). What part of His gender is unclear in the Bible? When my experience contradicts what the Bible says, I am under obligation to place my experience in a category far below the God-breathed, infinite, wisdom of the Almighty (Isaiah 40:8; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12). Right now our culture is waging war on truth because of experience. The world is doing it with gender, abortion, marriage – and, Christians do it too – with our sacred cow beliefs.

But aren’t we called to be different than the world?

God’s word is alive. Therefore, it is still the all-sufficient, life changing rule for faith and practice. No Christian reserves the right to change what God has said because they had an experience – that’s blasphemous at worst, arrogant at best. The facts of God’s word don’t care about your feelings, they inform your feelings. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to submit to God’s word as sinners saved by grace, but since when do Christians simply give up when things get hard? We’ve got the Ultimate Helper! Marriage is hard, but we look to the Holy Spirit for help. Controlling the tongue is hard, but we look to the Holy Spirit for help. Life is hard…and you get the point. Where we can’t reach the bar of obedience in relation to what the Bible says, grace fills in the gap and enables us to do so. You can trust the Scriptures even when it’s hard. You can submit to Scripture even when it’s hard. And you can leave behind old beliefs even when it’s hard.

The Holy Spirit is there to help us do what we cannot do on our own.

FACING THE TRUTH

When Defining Deception comes out on February 9th, Christians will have a decision to make. Many defenders of Third Wave/Charismatic chaos will use a variety of tactics for skirting around the truth. Some will avoid the truth. Some will butcher it. Others will diminish it. But what will you do?

We can argue with the research based on subjective feelings and personal experiences, or analyze the research based on the objective word of God. People may not agree on everything in the book, and that’s expected, but every Christian is responsible for viewing history, heresy, and emotional attachments to certain modern-day belief systems through the lens of Scripture. No matter how much the truth stings, the balm of unity comes through finding common ground in contending for the faith. Charismatics, Calvinists, and everyone in between need to get the essentials right at the very least – and that means bonding together to call certain movements and teachers what they are. It also means praying for their hearts to change if they’re still alive.

Admitting that a movement or a teacher is false doesn’t have to put them on our hate list. It should put them on our prayer list. We can protect ourselves from wolves, while disagreeing in a God-honoring way.

To help you grow in your ability to discern truth and error, numerous footnotes have been provided in the book. Every reader is encouraged to follow those footnotes to do further research, or whenever statements are made that contradict their own experience.

The following questions (in any variation) will guide those who desire to learn and be challenged in their growth by Defining Deception. You may even consider printing them out and keeping them handy while reading the book:

  1. Does the evidence seem to provide a clear basis for the claim?
  2. Do the facts surrounding the claim make me feel angry, insecure, or uncomfortable because it contradicts my own beliefs? Why do I think the author made such a claim? Has the author provide any reasoning for this?
  3. Is my attachment to such a belief founded in a proper interpretation of the Scriptures? Have I adapted any portion of such a belief because I love and trust the teacher whom I learned from? Is that teacher accused of false teaching? What evidence is there to back this claim?
  4. In what ways can this evidenced claim help me better understand the issues I am reading about? If something is true, and backed up by evidence, what is the next logical step?
  5. Am I willing to sacrifice my own emotional attachments and insecurities in order to submit to what the Bible says? Who are the friends, family, and/or teachers who I can reach out to for help?

“…and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

 (1 Peter 5:5-7)

 

Embracing Evangelism

Whenever the word “evangelism” comes up, it’s not uncommon for Christians to experience some sort of emotional response that is less than pleasant. Eye rolling, ear plugging, or even church hopping are all strategies that some will employ just to avoid the topic altogether.

To be fair, many Christians just don’t know, or have never been properly taught what evangelism actually is. Worse, far too many pastors do not teach or expect their church to boldly live out the life-changing power of the Gospel. As long as the people show up, give their money, and keep the lights on, everybody goes home happy. Those are all necessary things, but is that really all that the church is supposed to do while we wait for the King to return? Hardly.

This type of common Christianity I’ve just described is barely Christianity at all. It’s maintenance mode, possibly even lukewarm! If a church won’t challenge its cruise-control Christianity it’s bound to become the church of the frozen few [no matter how many thousands fill the seats].

Most people view evangelism as a programmatic, door-to-door effort that that people are forced to engage in. It’s as though somewhere along the way church leaders thought it would actually showcase the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:8-10) to make evangelism a “drive by” activity like handing out tracks to strangers at the beach, or giving away free turkeys in poor neighborhoods. Are either of those bad things? Certainly not. But even the world can hand out marketing material and free food to the needy during the holidays. So what can the church do that no other thing on this earth can do?

The church can be the church! 

That’s exactly how Christ intended it to be. Think about the way that the apostles laid the foundation with preaching the truth and living according to the truth. Peter didn’t dish out papyrus tracks or free pita bread to people and then invite them to come check out the weekend “experience” so that he could cross off “evangelism” on his to do list. The apostles and the early church lived lives that showcased truth, transformation, restoration, obedience, love, and sacrifice! That’s the life changing power of the Gospel in action.

The church has long since been established but the process of evangelism remains the same. The church lives the truth because it loves the truth, then people are attracted to the truth. For 2000 years people have been miraculously saved by this process and brought into right relationship with the Father under the Lordship of Christ.

This world doesn’t need any more clever evangelism programs or Christian gimmicks. What this world needs is for the church to be the church.

Do you want to spend less time being a one hit wonder on Sundays and more time being the church all week long?

If so, start by changing your mind about evangelism. Real evangelism isn’t a program, it’s a people! It’s you. It happens in your decisions, in your relationships, at work, at family functions, at weddings, at funerals, and even when you think nobody is watching. It’s not just the pastor’s job, it’s everybody‘s job. The body of Christ in the local church is responsible to be His ambassadors in every way possible and each member will stand accountable for how they represented the Lord one day.

Will you be standing before Him with your head bowed in repentant regret or will you fall at His feet with humble adoration claiming, “Master! Thank you for using this clay pot as a vessel for Your glory!”?

In his book, Marks of the Messenger, J. Mack Stiles offers some practical ways for every Christian to become a healthier evangelist.

Here are 10 based on his list:

Disclaimer: These are counter-cultural ideas. Be ready for pushback from people who say you take this “church” thing too seriously.

  1. Attend a church that takes the gospel seriously (Hebrews 10:25). Treat form as secondary, the gospel as primary. Incense and candles, rock band worship, liturgy, Gregorian chants, a pastor with tattoos…these are “form” and therefore secondary. Clear Gospel presentation from the leadership is primary.

  2. Become an actual member of a church. I’m serious; membership shows your loving commitment to one another. This is truly radical. Go against the grain and show that you are really crazy in love with Jesus and join a church. And just think, the less cool the church the more opportunity to demonstrate real love!

  3. Turn down jobs that might take you away from church even if they pay more.

  4. Arrange family vacations around your church’s schedule. Or better yet, take your family on a short-term mission trip with other members instead of a family vacation. This will blow people’s minds.

  5. Move to a house closer to the church and use your house as a place of hospitality (Romans 12:13).

  6. Practice church discipline. It’s biblical (Matthew 18:15-17). This is truly off the charts-radical. Church discipline is not usually what people think it is; the goal of church discipline is always to restore, not to punish. You may offend people, but then again you may save some people from living a hell on earth – or for eternity.

  7. Respect the authority in the church when leaders are biblically qualified (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:17). Think about it. How many church people fall into the bad habit of bad mouthing their leaders over every little thing? So the sermon went 10 minutes too long? Thank God you got 10 extra minutes of truth from your faithful pastor.

  8. Turn heads by really practicing the biblical teachings on giving an receiving forgiveness. Be quick to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32). Be quick to say you’re sorry (Matthew 5:23-24). Forgiveness may be one of the most radical ways to express love and unity in a congregation, and it’s rarely practiced.

  9. Pray for each other (Ephesians 6:18). Don’t just say you’ll pray. Actually put into place some ways to pray for each and every member.

  10. Focus on caring for one another spiritually by discipling one another (Galatians 6:1-2). Though discipling only looks like having lunch, it’s secretly and subversively radical. Over a Caesar salad ask the dangerous question: “How are things spiritually?”

Do you have any idea how many questions people will ask you over the years if you live out just half the things on this list?  Every single time you answer them with the truth you will expose them to the life-changing power of the gospel.

If a church will live, love, and labor like this, the results will be an evangelistic overhaul in the community around them. The power of the gospel is unstoppable and every Christian is an ambassador armed with that power when they walk in the truth.

Remember, evangelism is not a program, it’s a people!

__________________________________________________________

Recommended reading:
Evangelism by J. Mack Stiles
Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles
The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever

The Holy Spirit: Triumph or Tragedy?

There is a member of the Holy Trinity that is most neglected, misunderstood, and misrepresented, yet, He is an integral and equal part of the Godhead. Many of His works go unnoticed, while many foolish and outlandish practices are credited to Him. The feeble attempts to “reveal” Him by well-meaning believers, or preying “prophets”, do nothing to thwart the powerful truth that He is God – the Holy Spirit.

You must know Him intimately, you must understand Him accurately, and you must have Him assuredly. The world’s response to Him, and how believer’s know and treat Christ and the Father’s equal, can mean triumph or tragedy.

So how do you sift through the YouTube madness, the gold-plated TBN version of the so-called Holy Spirit, and come to truly know Him and His role in your life? Study the Scriptures for yourself and refuse to be spoon-fed by cheap imitation and misinterpretation. God has given you the ability to go to His word concerning everything.

Here’s some biblical starting lines to put you in the race of truth for the Holy Spirit:

1. The Holy Spirit is a Person

He’s not an “it”, a mystical blue mist, a white-sheet covered ghost, or like “the force” from Star Wars. Read John 16:5-15 and circle the masculine pronouns used to describe the Holy Spirit. If you’ve counted 13, you’ve now done your own study on the fact that He is a person!

2. The Holy Spirit Gives Believers the Advantage

unnamedJesus Himself said to His disciples, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). That alone should perk your ears up. Isn’t Christ the ultimate? Why would He say there was an advantage to Him leaving His disciples to go back to the Father? Many say this is because we now will have power to do signs, wonders, and live in total victory over our health, finances, and relationships…Really? That’s the best we can do with this verse? Three truths prove the Holy Spirit’s advantages will point us to Christ more than ever, and have nothing to do with exalting ourselves:

a. The Advantage of Regeneration

Regeneration happens when a sinner turns into a saint in the eyes of God! They receive a new nature that begins to take over their life. The desire to sin turns, their heart turns to God, real change occurs and it lasts! (2 Corinthians 5:17). You can fake being saved by saying all the right things, but a truly regenerated person will prove to be truly saved by bearing fruit. When the Holy Spirit hits the lights, you’ll know it because darkness dies, sin begins to decay, and the new you begins to live (Titus 3:5).

b. The Advantage of Sanctification

Sanctification is the transformation process that begins and continues after a person is regenerated (saved). Have you ever heard someone say, “God accepts you just the way you are, but loves you too much to leave you the same?” That just means that a follower of Christ is always growing – even if times are tough (James 1:2). The Holy Spirit causes your moral and spiritual character to do a 180, and your life’s trajectory is a slow, upward growth pattern. This isn’t perfectionism, it’s continual progression. Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and ask yourself, “Have a changed from a care-free habitual sinner, to a saint who cares deeply about dealing with sin?” If you’re answer is yes, you’ve been enjoying the Holy Spirit’s residence in your life.

c. The Advantage of Illumination

Illumination is when the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the believer to the truth of Scripture. Some falsely assume that this process is like a Holy-Spirit jump drive that He automatically downloaded into your brain because you’re a Christian. No, but He’s right there with you when you put on your Bible work-boots and work diligently to study the Scriptures. Like a loving parent, He rewards His children who exercise discipline in study and keeps the desire for truth burning brightly inside of their hearts. If you’re not experiencing a deep love for the Scriptures, pray a prayer like Paul for the Ephesian church in Ephesians 1:17-18.

3. The Holy Spirit Gives Sinners the Truth

The triumphant and tragic results stemming from the Holy Spirit’s ministry mainly relate to Jesus’ explanation of the primaries concerning the Holy Spirit’s role (of course, not limited to only these things), in John 16:8-11. Christ said, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgement” (16:8). We could easily boil this down to three statements that are either accepted or rejected:

a. You’re a Sinner!

“…because they do not believe in Me” – John 16:9

He convicts the world concerning sin because it’s a sin not to believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:18). Unbelief rejected Christ, unbelief crucified Christ, therefore unbelief is sin against Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their guilt saying, “You crucified Him!” The realization of our sin leads to triumph through repentance, yet the rejection of the Holy Spirit’s conviction is tragedy for those who refuse to admit their sin. This is the basic foundation of the Gospel. Do you admit your sin accepting “guilty” as the verdict on your life without Christ?

b. Christ is Righteous! 

“…because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me” – John 16:10

He convicts the world concerning righteousness saying, “This man you condemned and crucified as a villain will be welcomed to the right hand of the Father!” How can anyone enter the presence of a holy God unless they are perfect and holy? The Holy Spirit’s arrival declares triumphantly that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ because He was, and is, righteous. Tragic for those who refuse to confess sin, and to accept His righteousness by faith (1 John 1:9).

c. Satan is Condemned!

“…because the ruler of this world has been judged” – John 16:11

The Holy Spirit’s arrival confirms that Satan is the one who stands judged and condemned, and He pleads with sinful men declaring, “The accuser of the brethren has been found guilty!” This is triumph for believers who are victorious over death, and tragedy for those who choose the fleeting pleasures and ways of this world (Revelation 12:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

4. The Holy Spirit Gives Christ the Glory

Perhaps the most important fact concerning the Holy Spirit is that His primary role is tounnamed (1) glorify Christ. His work points to Christ, His conviction is on behalf of Christ, and He is most evident when believers exalt Christ! Jesus said, “He shall glorify Me…” (John 16:14a). Christ didn’t say He would elevate men, be a slave to the believer’s beckon call, or be an entertaining sensationalist. That which does not glorify Christ is not the work of the Holy Spirit.

It is important to note that even though the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available only to believers, they are bi-products of His primary work of applying the saving work of Christ to our hearts. One would never assess their salvation by whether or not they have a spiritual gift, but rather, whether or not they are regenerate, being sanctified, and illuminated to Scripture. Therefore, gifts need to be held in their proper place of importance as a wonderful outworking of the Holy Spirit in our lives for the common good, and the edification of the body (1 Corinthians 12:7). Christ’s description of the Holy Spirit holds salvation, and His (Christ’s) glory above all else.

Ask yourself these 7 questions and spend some time praying and analyzing your current habits, lifestyle, and core beliefs.

  1. Am I experiencing the biblical advantages that come from being indwell by the Holy Spirit? Am I evidently saved, changing/growing (old sins dying slowly but surely), and does Scripture make more sense the more I read it?
  2. Do I joyfully affirm that I am a sinner, made righteous by Christ, and do I believe the patterns of this world to be fleeting, flawed, and false?
  3. If married, do I and my spouse affirm that there is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work through improving patterns of love, conflict resolution, fidelity, and mutual submission?
  4. Do I enjoy being held accountable and understand my need to consistently confess sin?
  5. Do I find myself responding to biblical preaching with a hunger for truth like those who responded to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:37-42 saying, “What must I do?”
  6. Is my view of the Holy Spirit based on teachings that I have never weighed against Scripture?
  7. Am I more interested in the gifts of the Holy Spirit than Christ? Do I have a relationship with God based only on what I can get from Him?

May you experience the great triumph of mourning sin, receiving Christ’s righteousness by faith, and trading satanic sorrow for eternal victory through the power of the Holy Spirit!

God, Greed, & the Prosperity Gospel

Beamers, Benz’s, and Bentleys. Mansions, maids, and millions. These terms are synonymous with the prosperity gospel. If you’re new to planet earth or haven’t watched television during the past ten years, here’s a simple definition of the “prosperity gospel” to get you up to speed: Jesus Christ minors in saving sinners, but majors in making you healthy, wealthy, and happy!

With a gospel centered on what Jesus Christ can add to your bank roll, prosperity preachers are infecting the minds of desperate people, and cashing in more than ever. The results? Millions of people have the wrong idea about Christianity and money.

This issue used to be just a few big name preachers but simple internet search will reveal that it’s no longer just the likes of Creflo Dollars, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, or Joyce Meyer who are raking in millions by exploiting people. TV networks have launched shows like, Preachers of L.A., and countries like Nigeria have their very own Top 10 Richest Nigerian Pastors list. The globalization of the prosperity gospel has people in third world countries rushing to fill stadiums in hopes of receiving a “breakthrough” from a self-anointed false teacher.

pastor-chris-benny-hinn-lagos-1

The third world has become a favorite target for prosperity preachers. They fly in on private planes, stay in presidential suites at the finest hotels, and then grace the stage at crusades claiming, “Healing is yours, health is yours, money is yours! Give to ‘Jesus’ and He’ll do for you what He has done for me” (obviously a paraphrase but hardly an inaccurate one).

Just a cursory glance at men like Benny Hinn’s ministry calendar  will show that he can no longer pack American hockey arenas with 20,000 people, but he can draw 150,000 to his crusades in places like Indonesia and Brazil. This massive global impact means that thousands of international pastors, government leaders, and desperate people, will potentially buy into the theology or buy one of the overpriced gimmicks on Benny Hinn’s website like special Israeli anointing oil for the low price of just $45. This theology and it’s ancillary products are a deadly poison of deception that point away from Christ!

bennyhinn

There was a time when a small group of holy-water selling, Bentley-driving “pastors” were the laughing stock of the real gospel ministers and regarded as fringe scam artists. But now, even political figures know how to tap the evangelical vote.

Donald Trump knew that the best way rally evangelicals was to get forty of the richest pastors in a room to support him. Enter Paula White, Joel Osteen, and countless others who were said to have represented “the mainstream evangelical” voter.

Clearly there are no limits on just how far prosperity preachers will go to cast up their shameful foam (Jude 13).

So what does Jesus have to say on the subject? Does real faith have anything to do with getting rich?

There are plenty of passages in the Bible that talk about money, but Luke records a conversation between Jesus and His disciples that puts the prosperity gospel to shame.

Let’s take a deeper look.

In Luke 12:15-21 Jesus teaches.

And He said to them, “Beware, and be on guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable saying, “The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ “And he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take up your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool!’ This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

When God calls someone a “fool”, it’s best to do the exact opposite of whatever that “fool” was doing.

In the following verses (Luke 12:22-34) Christ sets the record straight.

1. DON’T WORRY ABOUT EARTHLY NEEDS

Luke 12:22 Jesus said, “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.”

This is downright counter-intuitive but it’s the best way to live! Prosperity preachers will tell you to give big to them and receive big for you; to give $777.77 if you want God to give you your “breakthrough”, and to order their anointing oil and rub it on your monthly donation if you want God to bless you! These bold faced lies are backed by greed.0

Jesus says an anxiety-filled rich man built some barns for security and right as they were completed God took his life and he never got to enjoy them. Because treasures on earth are fleeting, because only treasures in heaven last, because you don’t know how long you’ll live…don’t worry!

Seven times in the gospels Jesus commands, “Don’t worry!” Don’t be anxious, solicitous, over-occupied, concerned about earthly things. Paul hits this hard in Philippians 4:6-7 saying, “Be anxious for nothing!” Now, that’s a statement to stew on, don’t be over-occupied by any earthly thing…

Jesus says not to be worried about your life, what you will eat, or what you will wear. He’s mentioned three common areas of worry: 1) Stomach 2) Strength 3) Style. Imagine in history how much money has been spent attempting to better those three things! How many new year’s resolutions have been set around those three things! How much counseling, medication, and stress mgmt. books have been taken over those three things! How many gym memberships, insurance policies, teeth whiteners, diet plans, compression pants, all for those three things!

Does that sound remotely supportive of the prosperity gospel? It’s not even close.

2. LIFE IS MORE THAN EARTHLY NEEDS

Luke 12:23-26 “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?” 

Jesus says to get beyond trivial pursuits and realize that you could starve to death but your life would still continue on in eternity. Jesus expanded on this in Matthew 10:28 when He said, Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Who cares about the body if your soul goes on to eternal torment? You’ve wasted your life on bad theology.

Picture Jesus pointing over to some birds explaining that if God provides for an end-of-the-food-chain animal, which has a pea-size brain, with a purpose unto His glory, how much more so does He have a plan for you, a person made in His own image!?

If you believe in God, and have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then life becomes far more than earthly pursuits and more stuff.

Worrying about things can’t extend your life one hour so fretting over every menial matter is a waste of time and energy. You came to earth with nothing and you’ll leave with nothing no matter nice your casket clothes are, or how hard you try to stop it with anti-aging creams, cosmetic surgery, valiant exercise, and your Paleo diet. God has numbered your days and that’s that.

So can a “faith-seed” or special offerings buy you another minute of life or less anxiety? No. But on the flip side to that, this doesn’t mean that a vow of poverty, quitting your job, ceasing from advancements, and hiding from all riches will give you peace either. God is not interested in how much money you make or how much money you give…. He wants your heart!

3. GOD KNOWS YOUR EARTHLY NEEDS

Luke 12:27-28Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothes himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will he clothe you?

If lilies don’t sweat, and they don’t sew, yet they’re more splendid than earth’s greatest king, can’t God handle your needs? Those wild flowers would be burnt with manure in the clay kilns yet God created them with a purpose. And, if God puts that much energy into something with an inferior purpose, imagine what He thinks of you…

Then Jesus explains his whole point:

Luke 12:29-30 “O men of little faith! And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.

This isn’t a simple worry issue, it’s a serious faith issue, because worry means that I don’t trust that God is who He says He is, or that He can do what He says He can do. When I don’t trust God, it’s an assault on His person and power! That’s why Jesus points out the difference between the faithful follower and the pagan in this passage. Jesus is contrasting two different hearts:

The heart that trusts God vs. the heart that trusts itself.

4. SET YOUR ATTENTION ON ETERNAL NEEDS

Luke 12:31-32 But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Instead of “seeking” earthly things, instead of wanting what the pagans do, instead of building a reservoir of belongings, instead of security in stomach, strength, and style, seek earnestly heavenly things and all the other stuff will take care of itself!

Make it your all consuming charge to trust Christ, to know Christ, to obey Christ, and to share Christ.

Christians are different from everyone else. Christians don’t let fear reign any more because God the Father has chosen gladly (delights in, pleasures in) giving you the kingdom. Isn’t that great? God made you, and He’ll provide for you. God purposed you, and He’ll gift you. God knows your end, so you aren’t leaving planet earth until you finish your work for Him.

Luke 12:34 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

You see, there it is. Your heart and subsequent trust is either in earthly things or heavenly things. If you’ve ever privately questioned your faith in God, simply reflect on your attitude towards giving. Do you love to store up on earth or do you love to give towards heaven?

Jesus never promised that this life would be perfect, and that you would be healthy and wealthy – no matter how much you give.

What He did teach is that if you’ll trust Him with your heart, and invest in His true kingdom, heaven’s treasures are your eternal inheritance.

 Any belief system based on temporal blessings is absolute foolishness.


Portions of this post are from the sermon manuscript of Pastor Anthony Wood. Sermon Series: Treasures. Sermon Title: The Treasure of Trust : Luke 12:22-34. Originally preached on Sunday January 15th, 2017. To listen to the sermon in its entirety, click the link below:

Sermon Link: http://subsplash.com/missionbiblechurch/v/erzudyd

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If You Can’t Heal ‘Em, Beat ‘Em?

The following post is a modified portion of a chapter from “Defining Deception.”

Why in the world does church history matter? That’s a question more Christians should be able to answer – and a highly important one at that.

In his phenomenal work, Why Church History Matters, Robert F. Rea defines history as “the study of the past in order to understand the present and improve the future.”[1] History teaches us valuable lessons about the good, the bad, and the ugly. It teaches us about the nature of the way things have been and how they came to be. These are certainly lessons we do well to learn because they remind us that even the best of men are still men at best. Furthermore, lessons from history provide us with the motivation to change the future, even when it’s painful to face the facts.

Unfortunately, and far too often, we tend to idealize past figures because death is the great equalizer and it’s considered poor form to talk ill of the dead.  But where does that refusal of the facts leave us? Are we to simply brush over swaths of historical mayhem by saying, “Well, nobody’s perfect”? Is it prudent, or even Christian, to turn a blind eye to those who call violent abusers and scripture-twisting manipulators heroic? Denial is never an option when seeking the truth – in fact, it’s downright impossible.

At the risk of tearing down the sacred cows of the past we must be committed to giving our children a hopeful future – a future founded on biblical truth. Nobody is perfect, but Christians who proudly find their roots in certain erroneous theologies are in desperate need of a reality check regarding those who introduced those belief systems. Such beliefs and practices are found nowhere in the Bible.

If “history is the endeavor to provide accountability to the present in light of the past,”[2] proper understanding of history is an imperative need. In light of that need, here is a historical faith healer who is still revered as a general of the Christian faith but need be known for what he always was.

Smith Wigglesworth (1859–1947)

Wigglesworth was one of the first to take faith healing to violent new heights. He is considered Pentecostal and Charismatic royalty these days, but that’s mostly because people are ignorant of his aberrant and unbiblical ministry tactics. For nearly two decades of my own life, Wigglesworth was one of my heroes because he represented audacious faith without any regard for the confines of religiosity and tradition. He was a reckless rebel and, just like Peter, was willing to jump over the side of the boat to walk on water and follow Jesus. That’s the kind of risk-taking that God always blesses, I often thought. That’s who I wanted to be! wigglesworth

Born before both Charles Parham and William Seymour, Wigglesworth outlived them both. Due to his long life span, he was perfectly positioned to almost single handedly impact the UK in the same way Parham and Seymour impacted America.

Wigglesworth focused the core of his ministry on signs and wonders like healing, miracles, and tongues. He taught that believers should refuse medical treatment for any illness. If not the first, he was one of the first in history to conduct his faith healing using methods other than laying on of hands—though he still touched them. According to Wigglesworth, sickness was demonic activity so he would physically attack the person as though they were the devil! Ignoring biblical teaching that spiritual warfare has nothing to do with flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), Wigglesworth would punch, slap, or hit people in the place where they were afflicted. Wigglesworth explains his reason for assaulting sick people:

There are some times when you pray for the sick and you are apparently rough. But you are not dealing with a person, you are dealing with the satanic forces that are binding that person. Your heart is full of love and compassion to all, but you are moved to a holy anger as you see the place the devil has taken position in the body of the sick one, and you deal with his position with a real forcefulness.[3]

If people didn’t get healed, he was sure to place the blame on the sick. Wigglesworth taught that everyone should be able to control their own healing. He blamed those who couldn’t rid themselves of sickness on their own sin and lack of faith. He declared, “Is healing for all? It is for all who press right in and get their portions.”[4] To one sick woman he barked, “If you’ll get rid of your self-righteousness, God will do something for you. Drop the idea that you are so holy that God has got to afflict you. Sin is the cause of your sickness.”[5] He also states, “There is a close relationship between sin and sickness . . . but if you will obey God and repent of your sin and quit it, God will meet you, and neither your sickness nor your sin will remain.”[6] With no regard for biblical teaching on praying and trusting God’s will, God’s purposes through physical trials, and sanctification from unhealed sickness (Gal. 4:13-14; James 1:2-3), Wigglesworth confused and spiritually abused those who were sick and desperate by telling them they were the problem and he was the solution. He was especially aggressive toward anyone who approached him for prayer more than once. One poor man experienced public humiliation when Wigglesworth came to the altar and asked the faith healer to pray for him a second time because he wasn’t yet healed. Wigglesworth yelled, “Didn’t I pray for you last night? You are full of unbelief, get off this platform.”[7] His method of placing the blame on innocent people for his own failed healing attempts, and his violent antics for trying to heal people, are still practiced today by many false teachers. Later on in the book, we’ll get an up close look a modern day preacher who, like Wigglesworth, assaults people when praying for their healing.

People merely searching for hope were devastated when men like Wigglesworth humiliated them with his shameful practices. Still, countless modern day Pentecostal and Charismatic preachers ignore the hard facts of history and consider Wigglesworth a hero of the faith. Regardless of modern sentiment, Wigglesworth was a charlatan who exploited the sick by teaching falsely about salvation, sin, and sickness. His legacy does not represent true Christianity nor the character of biblical leadership.

Those who wish to faithfully represent Christ must arm themselves with truth. The dark history of abusive false teachers is not where Christians should ever find their truth, or claim their heritage.  Look to God’s word for timeless guidance – it will never disappoint.

[1] Robert F. Rea, Why Church History Matters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 23.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Smith Wigglesworth, Ever Increasing Faith (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1924), 135–36.

[4] Ibid., 37.

[5] Ibid., 38.

[6] Wigglesworth, Ever Increasing Faith, 41.

[7] Julian Wilson, Wigglesworth: The Complete Story (Tyrone, GA: Authentic Media, 2004), 82–83.