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Can You Define Deception?

The church’s greatest threat has never been from the outside, but rather, from deception within.

The Bible is clear. Satan doesn’t show up at the foot of your bed with red horns and a pitch-fork claiming, “Here I am to distract and deceive you!” Neither do his false prophets. They are disguised in light; seeming to be workers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Our adversary’s deceptive strategy is to infiltrate our ranks. Like a Trojan horse entering through the city gates, darkness often hides in plain sight. Satan doesn’t fight fair and false teachers take no prisoners.

During the 1930’s and 40’s, millions of Jews were murdered as a result of the Holocaust. Museums like the Yad Vashemin Jerusalem have preserved the horrific evidence of how deceptionplayed a crucial role in the Nazi plans. The Germans used propaganda to appear as though they were caring for Jews, but millions were being brutally slaughtered. Nazi soldiers were trained to deceive Jews until their death. In one of the most inhumane acts in world history, countless Jews were told that the concentration camps they were being taken to were communities of safety and rest. Some were shown pictures of a beautiful paradise only to arrive at the sterile barracks confused. At the camp named Auschwitz, Jews worked to unknowingly lay the foundation for the very buildings that would be their own “death factories.”

Like the ruthless deception and false propaganda used by the Nazi’s to execute their evil plan, false teachers and the kingdom of darkness use lies to attempt to bring down the church and destroy the kingdom of God. Discernment is crucial to preventing spiritual casualties.

Can you say with absolutely certainty that you are not being deceived? Do you know if the church you’re a part of is a biblical church? How do you know that the ministry you follow is playing for the right team? How has your pastor’s pulpit ministry increased your prowess for studying your Bible? Are you confident in saying that you know when something is biblically true, or fatally false? Many Christians are sitting in churches and following ministries that are anything but biblical – yet they aren’t sure what the signs are.

To help you navigate the challenges we’re facing in the body of Christ today, here are 5 ways to define deception:

  1. The Gospel is Mishandled

One of the keys to defining deception within the church is how the Gospel is treated. If God is always in a good mood, sin is “too intense” for the pulpit, and the cross is a just revelation of our value, things are heading in the wrong direction. If sermons are preached so broadly that people aren’t told Jesus is the only way can to be saved (John 14:6), there is a problem. The Gospel is not inconvenient, it’s essential. A church (and its pastor) must be willing to offend people if it means pleasing God. Yes, there is the Good News! But, it’s only Good News because there was some bad news.

The Gospel is also mishandled when certain people dogmatically assert that without “signs and wonders” the Gospel has no power. This faulty view is common in Word of Faith theology and flies in the face of Romans 1:16 where Paul declares, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” The Gospel is not powerful because it accompanies signs and wonders. The Gospel is powerful because God authored the transformation of dead sinners into living saints.

  1. My Experience Informs My Truth

There is a massive wave of experience-driven theology sweeping over the church. If you find that your church or your favorite ministry uses “expert eye-witnesses” claims in order to propagate things that are contradictory to the Bible, the writing could be on the wall. As Christians, it’s great to have moments of awe in light of what God is doing in the church. But if those moments are built on the mystical experiences of someone like Jesus Culture’s Kim Walker-Smith claiming that Jesus appeared in a vision and behaved like “Stretch Armstrong,” or Bethel Church’s Seth Dahl (Redding, CA) explaining how Jesus appeared to him in a vision to ask him (yes, Seth) for forgiveness, things have stretched into dangerous territory.

Right now our culture is waging war on absolute truth by using subjective experience. People can identify as whatever gender they “feel like” they are, women can kill babies because they “feel like” it’s ok, and gay-marriage is ok in more churches than ever because pastors “feel like” we should just love people and not “judge.”

If our church or our pastor is building on the foundation of experience to define the truth, is that much different than the world? True Christians must be committed to trusting the Word of God as the authoritative and sufficient filter through which every experiences must pass through.

  1. You and I are the Same as Jesus

One of the best ways to define deception in a church or teaching, is to analyze what they do with the doctrine of Christ. When pastors with a global platform like Bill Johnson claim that Jesus did His miracles as a just a man in right relationship to God and not as God, that’s heresy. This is a historical heresy with a modern face. It is the springboard for today’s mystical-miracle movement which claims that if Jesus was just a man anointed by God when He was on earth, you can be just like Him too! If a teaching diminishes Christ in order to elevate man – that’s the mark of deception. Satan has always been a master of twisting Scripture to undermine God and shipwreck people’s faith. From the beginning the serpent has been whispering, Did God really say…? You surely shall not die!(Genesis 3:1-4)

  1. The Abundant Life Is Now

A church is off course if John 10:10 means that the “abundant life” of heaven guarantees health, wealth and happiness on earth. The idea that you should be experiencing job promotions, perfect medical reports, and an overflow of financial provision throws out James 1:2, 2 Timothy 3:12, and Luke 18:29 (at the very least). If your pastor gears his messages towards “hope” that is realized through material possessions and perfect relationships on earth – he’s not a pastor; he’s an imposter.

Jesus didn’t promise that life would be easy on earth for those who are His true disciples. An over-realized atonement that guarantees riches and health on earth has missed the entire point of trials, suffering, sovereignty and sanctification.

  1. Faith Is a Force You Can Unleash

Billionaire prosperity preacher Kenneth Copeland has built an empire on the false teaching that “faith is a force.” In other words, you can make things happen if you believe. If your pastor twists passages about confession of faith in Christ (Romans 10:9) to mean that confession is also the way to land a Bentley on your driveway – run to the nearest Biblical church. When a church has a culture of “making it happen with your mouth,” it is time to move on.

This theology defines deception by teaching that God is like a magic genie – you get what you want by rubbing Him right. Positive confessions are repeated in cult-like unison as crowds say, “I am promoted!”, “I am healed!” or “I am blessed!” They believe that faith does not lead one to merely confess their sin and turn to Christ in repentance but that faith is a force you can use to control all outcomes.

It is a War on Truth

All of the deception within the church can be disheartening. People are being used and spiritually abused. But there is hope.

First, we’ve been forewarned that false teachers would “secretly introduce” destructive heresies, and exploit people in their greed (2 Peter 2:1-3). We need not be surprised. We also know that even in the midst of spiritual warfare, victory has been won by Jesus Christ! Discerning Christians have no need to cower in fear if they are clad in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18). The believer equipped with the Word of God has everything needed to stand firm against enemy tactics. God has given us the ability to define deception and enjoy the security of walking in truth.

Take courage, Christian. Christ promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). Make sure you’re a part of a local body where He is actually building.


If you need help discerning what is true and what is false, order your copy of Defining Deception today!

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)

 

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 he 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.

Did a False Teacher Heal You?

A few years ago an excited woman in her 20’s ran up to me one Sunday at church – she was a newer attendee who had been kicking the tires on our church for a few weeks when my last name must have clicked. It’s not like we talk about it every Sunday at Mission Bible –  our members don’t really care. We have a lot of important ministry to do and I’m just another one of the pastors. But sometimes it comes out in conversations and you never know what you’re going to get. Angry ex-faith-healer-enthusiast who threatens a shake down if I don’t pay them back what my uncle stole from them?  Excited believer who came out of the jaws of deception like me? It’s hit or miss.

This particular Sunday it was a little more complicated. Here’s a paraphrase of what she exclaimed just outside the sanctuary doors:

Costi Hinn? Like as in Benny Hinn? Oh my goodness! Your uncle is part of my testimony – He totally healed me of scoliosis (curved spine). It was late one night when I was watching his program, “This is Your Day,” and he told everyone who is sick or in pain put their hands on the TV up against his hands and believe for a miracle. I did. Then, I felt this warmth go up my spine and I just knew I was healed! After that experience, my spine got better and I stand here today completely healed with a straightened spine. I know you don’t agree with all that he teaches but he’s a part of my story and God used him to heal me – I’ll always be grateful for your uncle.  

This is familiar ground for a lot of pastors and Christians who are approached often by people who claim that God is doing great things through a false teacher and/or that God used a false teacher to heal them. Some of these claims are even by well-meaning, truly converted Christians who no longer follow the false teacher but are adamant that God used the false teacher to heal them or provide them with some particularly meaningful mystical experience.

“The truth of a teacher’s words is determined not by the feats he can perform but by the orthodoxy of what he teaches. We are never to follow anyone who perverts the truth of God’s Word, no matter how gifted that person is, how large of an organization that person commands, or how amazing that person’s work seems to be.

– R.C. Sproul

So is there any credence to a claim of miraculous healing at the hands of a false teaching faith healer? How should a pastor or leader handle such claims when there is clearly a danger in any kind of endorsement of a false teacher? There is much more to be said on the topic than a mere blog entry can supply, so resources for further reading have been recommended at the end of this article.

For our purposes here, let’s look at four potential responses (or scenarios) that can be useful in helping people understand what they may (or may not) have experienced.

Response #1: You were mercifully healed by God; and He mercifully snatched you from a wolf.

This particular response would be applicable if an individual proved to be a true believer, was verifiably healed, and had been saved from following a false teacher’s ministry out of ignorance.

Since God is still a healer, it is certainly possible that He has healed this individual, but the biblical standard for healing must still apply as does the biblical standard for bearing the fruit of true faith in Christ.

First, throughout Scripture we see divine healing at the hands of God as: 1) immediate, 2) unquestionable, 3) irreversible, 4) not dependent on special healing services, 5) not solely dependent on faith, 6) much more than curing a cold, 7) accompanying a call to flee from sin 8) not dependent on continuous confessions 9) not solely dependent on proximity, 10) possible through prayer.

One could certainly add this to this list but if, generally speaking, the healing matches the biblical standard, then praise God! God heals in many different ways, but false teachers are not able to thwart the divine power it takes to match God’s criteria. Even if in the slightest way, they will fall short.

Second, throughout Scripture we see that true believers cannot and will not stay deceived, so even if someone appears to be have been healed, there may have been other powers at work if that individual has not come out from the clutches of false teachers. Sheep ultimately come to hear and follow the Shepherd’s voice (John 10:27), saved people grow in Christ-likeness (Philippians 1:6), children of God walk in the truth (1 John 3:18-19), true disciples – though not always perfect – will pursue obedience to God’s Word out of love for Christ (John 14:15).

Plainly, we can gather a short list of truths and offer these to genuinely saved people who have experienced healing, but mistakenly believe they were healed by a false teacher.

  1. Give God the credit for healing you if it fits the biblical criteria.
  2. Give God the credit for healing you through medical means if you’ve received treatment and were healed from it.
  3. God is sovereign in healing, and in saving. He has mercifully done both in your life.
  4. He spoke through a donkey (Number 22:28-30) in Scripture, turned a murderer into an Apostle (Acts 9), and healed a man’s ear who was teamed up with Judas the Betrayer and Pharisaic High Priests (Luke 22:49-51). He has graciously worked in your life, in spite of your prior ignorance and blindly following false teachers.
  5. Reject false teachers as agents of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), not as anointed vessels who “God uses despite some shortcomings.”
  6. Seek wise counsel for quantifying your testimony and explaining it biblically.

Maybe you know someone who fits nicely into this criteria – and that’s wonderful – but it’s likely you will eventually meet someone that needs help defining one of the subsequent categories.

Response #2: You were temporarily healed by the power of suggestion, hypnosis, or sleight of hand.

 Wouldn’t it have been nice to just have the first section on our list?

The sad reality is, this response is necessary and applicable for helping people understand that if their healing, relief from pain, or euphoric experience was temporary, then it was not cut short because of their own lack of faith or negative confession – it was because it was all part of the game. God doesn’t relapse when it comes to divine healing.

We need to get honest about facts that are much easier to kick under the rug.

Studies have shown that the placebo effect is real, that hypnosis can cause people to do and feel things they’d otherwise never do or feel, and that the power of suggestion can cause people’s bodies to respond in temporary ways – without the lasting results. This reality is nothing new. Back in the late 1980’s, Tyndale published Dr. Normal Geisler’s, Signs and Wonders, and shed light on a very confusing era in evangelicalism. The Charismatic Renewal era (approx. 1960-1983) had given way to what was being called, “The Third Wave.” The Third Wave was taking Charismatic practices to new mainstream heights and Dr. Geisler’s book provided important answers. In his chapter, Psychological or Supernatural, he quotes Doctor Paul Brand’s original article in Christianity Today on the mind’s power to control or even heal the body,

In the placebo effect, faith in simple sugar pills stimulates the mind to control pain and even heal some disorders. In some experiments among those with terminal cancer, morphine was an effective painkiller in two-thirds of patients, but placebos were equally effective in half of those! The placebo tricks the mind into believing relief has come, and the body responds accordingly…In a false pregnancy, a woman believes so strongly in her pregnant condition that her mind directs an extraordinary sequence of activities: it increases hormone flow, enlarges breasts, suspends menstruation, induces morning sickness, and even prompts labor contractions. (Brand 1983,19)[i]

Furthering the evidence surrounding the power of the mind, Geisler writes,

Dr. William Nolen explains that “the patient who suddenly discovers…that he can now move an arm or a leg that was previously paralyzed had that paralysis as a result of an emotional, not a physical disturbance.” It is known that “neurotics and hysterics will frequently be relieved of their symptoms by the suggestions and ministrations of charismatic healers. It is in treating patients of this sort that healers claim their most dramatic triumphs” (Nolen 1974, 287). So “there is nothing miraculous about these cures. Psychiatrists, internists, G.P.’s, any M.D. who does psychiatric therapy, relive thousands of such patients of their symptoms every year.” But they do it by purely natural means, claiming no special supernatural powers.[ii]

Today, not only do we have many faithful Christian theologians who have put in countless hours of study to help us understand false faith healers in contrast to biblical truth, even unbelievers have been able to shed light on the deception. In his 2011 documentary, Miracles for Sale, a world-renowned hypnotist and illusionist goes undercover in one of the most jaw-dropping exposes ever recorded. maxresdefaultHe teaches and trains a man who had no prior experience with hypnotism or faith-healing to be a faith-healer. The facts prove that numerous modern faith-healers are little more than scam artists who use a false rendering of biblical truth to exploit the sick for monetary gain.

Unfortunately, many people – both Christians and non-Christians alike – have been duped by faith-healers who use hypnotic strategies and the power of suggestion to provide temporary relief from ailments. The real losers in this game of winner-take-all are the sick and hurting people who are left wondering what they’ve done to keep God from healing them completely.

Response #3: You’ve been deceived by a demonic, or counterfeit, sign.

This isn’t a popular one but the Word of God gives room for scenarios in which a power other than God is at work either to perform a legitimate sign or falsify one so well that it’s uncritically believed. Here some examples from Scripture that provide undeniable evidence that satanic and demonic power is allowed under the sovereignty of God and legitimate to some degree – whether falsified or not:

  1. Jesus doesn’t refer to “false” signs and wonders when He tells miraculous workers that He never “knew” them (Matthew 7:23). Those could be legitimate, demonic signs.
  2. Jesus is also clear that in the last days “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22).
  3. Paul points out that the man of lawlessness will come in accordance with the activity of Satan, with “all power and signs and false wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
  4. Paul also assures that false prophets will disguise themselves as workers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15).
  5. The Seven Sons of Sceva were completely overpowered by evil spirits who “leaped on them” via a man they possessed (Acts 19:14-16).
  6. Satan can bind people with sickness (Luke 13:16). If such an individual is converted, Satan and his oppressive force through disease would conceivably both be gone. In cases like these, salvation is primarily the miracle, the physical relief from satanic sickness is not – the person has simply gone back to his pre-possessed state of health.
  7. Satan could stop Paul from going forward in his missionary plans (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18).

No matter which side of the coin you land on, there’s no debating that Satan is the father of lies and has mastered the art of deception. It is very likely that many false teachers in the signs and wonders movement are “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13) by demonic means.

Spiritual warfare is real.

Response #4: You are being used by darkness to deceive people.

There is one final category and it’s probably the last one on the list for a reason – use it sparingly. Simply put, it’s possible that a person is lying and being used to deceive others or are being deceived. They were never sick in the first place, or they had a minor ailment that was healed by their own body’s self-healing capabilities (built by God) and they see it as a way to get attention. Similar to little children who make millions of dollars off of false stories about going to heaven, people claiming healing can make a lot of money off of books and films but offer zero theological value to evangelicalism. Truth always produces fruit. Money doesn’t equal fruit.

Furthermore, even with the best of intentions, deception is deception. I have a former colleague in the faith-healing circuit who is fully convinced (and ok with it) that many of the healings claimed in his meetings are faked and claimed by people who want to be prayed for on the platform. Claiming you were healed is one of the best ways to make it on stage at a healing crusade – if not the only way.

His answer when I asked him why he doesn’t quit going along with the charade and just offer people truth? He says that it’s not his job to focus on who is or isn’t lying. He believes his job is to give people hope and increase their faith so they can activate their healing that Christ already paid for in the atonement. If he can do that by being optimistic about even the potentially false healings, then that is fulfilling his calling in his mind.

This category fits Paul’s exact words to Timothy about the contrast between those who will be faithful to the boundaries of God’s Word, and those who will irreverently or ignorantly do things as they please:

But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:13-17).

None of these scenarios negates that a sovereign God can will and work in the life of one of His sheep at any given time. If a person is in fact a genuine believer, he or she will not stay in a false church long-term, and he or she will be malleable to God’s word as it informs previous experiences under a false teacher.

There is nothing wrong with a Christian praising God for being healed by the Great Physician or his or her medical doctor, but there is something dangerous about an enthusiastic perspective that believes a false teacher is just a well-meaning (though somewhat mistaken) healer who did the healing. We cannot stand idle while sheep are left untaught.

Experience never defines our truth. Truth always defines our experience.


Recommended Reading for Further Study on This Topic: 

Desiring God: Satan’s Ten Strategies Against You

Grace to You: Demons and Magic

Grace to You: False Prophets and Lying Wonders

Ligonier Ministries: False Signs and Wonders


[i] Norman L Geisler, Signs And Wonders, 1st ed. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1988). 78-79. Geisler quotes from Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, “A Surgeon’s View Of Divine Healing”, Christianity Today, 1983. 19.

[ii] Ibid., 79-80. Geisler quotes from William Nolen, Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle. (New York: Random House, 1974). 287.

Are You Easy Prey for False Teachers?

Modern-day Christian culture is obsessed with experience. The Bible has become a footnote.

Truth, we say, is important, but it must come second to our experience. Modern mystics claim, “We owe the world an encounter!” They’re referring to their ability to help people experience a special anointing of God. One of the newest faith healers on the circuit states, “The cross, to me, isn’t a revelation of my sin, it’s a revelation of my value!” He’d prefer we don’t talk about sin.

God’s Word is being grossly misrepresented and instead of challenging the divorce of truth from experience, the church at large has embraced experience as the preeminent proof of spiritual maturity. He who says, “God told me…”, wins the crowd. Man-centered experience, and man-centered gospels are sweeping across the landscape of evangelicalism. People are loving it and false teachers are too.

It’s an uphill battle, and a marathon fight, but we must never stop contending for the faith by calling today’s world back to the timeless truth of God’s Word.

  • Do you know your Bible?
  • Do you use Scripture accurately and confidently?
  • Do you trust subjective “impressions” over the objective truth of God’s Word?
  • Do you offer sentiments like, “I think” and “I feel” to others or do you point them to God’s truth?
  • Do you find yourself able to discern false teaching because you know the truth of God’s Word?

The way you answer those questions provides you with an accurate gauge of how useful you are in fighting the good fight of faith right now. Simply put, knowing your Bible is one of the highest priorities of the Christian life. How else will you know God’s will for your life? God’s voice isn’t the “whisper” in your head or the wind blowing through your hair – it’s the Bible – and it’s knowledge you need to survive and thrive if you call yourself a Christian.

“To live by impressions is oftentimes to live the life of a fool and even to fall into downright rebellion against the revealed Word of God. Not your impressions, but that which is in this Bible must always guide you. ‘To the Law and to the Testimony.’ If it is not according to this Word, the impression comes not from God — it may proceed from Satan, or from your own distempered brain! Our prayer must be, ‘Order my steps in Your Word.’ Now, that rule of life, the written Word of God, we ought to study and obey.”

– Charles Spurgeon

Some people think that knowing the Bible is about being a super-Christian who can thump everyone over the head with their jaw-dropping knowledge – but that’s just egotism. The Pharisees knew a lot about the Law. A lot of good that did them. Knowing the Bible is about knowing your God and therefore, enabling your life and worship to be rooted in who God is. The what is good to know; the why is equally as important.

In the spirit of knowing why you should take knowing your Bible seriously, here are 3 dangers of not knowing how to use your Bible in these experience-driven times:

  1. You Are Easy Prey for Predators

Have you ever watched one of those animal shows where the hungry lion creeps in the tall grass of the African Savanna while an Impala peacefully grazes? The lion has the perfect strategy in play as it blends into the grass and silently inches closer, and closer. When it seems like the Impala is done for, their head perks up, they somehow hear the lion, and they’re gone before the lion can hit full stride.

What saves the Impala’s life? Those big ears and a lighting quick leap that allows them to cover 30 feet in a single bound! A beautiful design by our Creator to level the playing field a bit – they can hear a pin drop in a hail storm and be from home plate to first base in 3 hops. That gives them a fighting chance against a roaring lion, and that’s the exact picture of what a Christian armed with God’s Word can do. An Impala without big ears is like you without a bible – lion lunch.  15325676887_3e8accd6a4_b

False teachers are banking on biblical illiteracy to exploit you with their greed (2 Peter 2:3), establish abusive power, and do Satan’s bidding. A Christian with a growing knowledge of the Word of God is able to discern when that Word is being twisted. If your mind is rooted in Scripture, it can’t be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). This starts with asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Bible’s truth to your ignorant eyes, finding trusted Bible resources to learn from, plugging into a trusted church to grow with, and following qualified pastors who take their role seriously (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Hebrews 13:17). Biblical literacy will be a challenge you will come to enjoy, and it will save you from the headache of heretics plundering your wallet.

  1. You Can’t Help Anyone Else

What do you call a person who can’t swim but jumps into a pool to save a drowning friend? Fill in the blank: ______________. I bet your word of choice wasn’t “useful” or “helpful.” So it is with the person who isn’t growing in their use of the Bible but is trying to help everyone with their opinions. If Christians do not continually devote themselves to internalizing the wisdom of God’s Word, what useful insight can they offer? They’re aimlessly dependent on wild stabs at “that one verse I think is in the Bible,” self-help books, and the odd nugget of wisdom that their granddaddy told them.

When answers to life’s toughest questions are needed, only the timeless wisdom of God’s Word will do. Divine wisdom is what people need. Biblically illiterate Christians can only attempt to sell desperately needy individuals their own empty palaver.

This has become increasingly problematic in church leadership as well. In a poor effort to make the gospel relevant, we’ve allowed the “cool factor” of a man to dictate his becoming a hired pastor. Pastors can get hired at a church because of how popular they are for things other than pastoring people. Never mind how faithful they’ve been to the Scriptures or how devoted they are to growing in doctrinal depth. It’s about how many followers they have on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Pastors can get hired at a church because they wrote some self-help books or look hip. Pastors can get hired at a church without ever knowing that their qualifications are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. If our leadership is biblically illiterate and unqualified, and evangelicalism at large supports that, we shouldn’t be surprised that so many who follow them are biblically illiterate.

The world doesn’t need any more celebrity Christian leaders who slosh around in the mushy-middle of evangelicalism with a pocket-knife in hand. The world needs men and women of God who can take up the sword of the Spirit and wield faithfully for Christ.

  1. You Are Sinking

Christians who don’t know their Bible are on a sinking ship. That is, either their church, their own life, or both, are sinking. You can try pull a “Jonah” and toss things overboard, bail out water one bucket at time, or pray your heart out, but that ship is going down and only all-out devotion to the sufficiency of the Bible can save it. This is not a new problem for the church.

A mega-church was on the cutting edge of Christianity for decades. They were packing out the seats with tens of thousands, drawing people in from all walks of life, and writing best-selling books on church growth and leadership. There was just one glaring problem they didn’t yet realize. When the congregation was surveyed, it turns out the ship had a hole in the hull.

By the time they caught on, it was too late. The congregation was surveyed on their spiritual growth and the results were sobering to say the least. The church was amazing at getting people in the door, but once in the door, they were spiritually inept – that is, they didn’t have deep roots in Christ let alone have a handle on His Word. The sheep are most often the ones who become causalities of spiritual war when a pastor won’t demand that the people devote themselves to the Word of God, and this was no exception.

After some soul-searching, one of the pastors said,

We should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self-feeders…We should have taught people how to read their Bibles between services, how to do the spiritual practices…What’s happening to these people [is that] the older they get, the more they’re expecting the church to feed them, when, in fact, the more mature a Christian becomes, a Christian should become more of a self-feeder…We’re going to up the level of responsibility we put on the people themselves so that they can grow even if the church doesn’t meet all their needs.

Now that’s more like it.

The Bible speaks to the kind of earthly wisdom that doesn’t produce lasting spiritual fruit.

  • Isaiah said that the Word of our God endures forever (Isiah 40:8).
  • Isaiah also prophesied, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes…” (Isaiah 5:21).
  • Jeremiah declared that a man shouldn’t boast in his own wisdom but know God (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
  • Paul called the wisdom of this world “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 3:19).
  • Jesus said those who hear His words and don’t do them are building on sinking sand (Matthew 7:26).

It’s not a bad idea to go with Scripture when it comes to pouring the spiritual foundation of wisdom in your life. In fact, it’s the best idea.

Many Christians are at different places when it comes to Bible knowledge, but every Christian is supposed to be enjoying the same process when it comes to Bible knowledge – progression!

And let’s be honest, nobody gets it right every time. There is no one pastor who has mastered the art of interpretive perfection. Still, every Christian is called to continuous growth in handling God’s Word. There are no good excuses for biblical illiteracy.

The Psalmist declared, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). You don’t have to live under the cover of darkness. Pick up your Bible and let the light of God’s Word pour in.


Recommended Resources:

Our forthcoming book, Defining Deception, will challenge today’s mystical-miracle movements who hold objective truth as secondary to “experience.” We hope that people will look to the sufficiency of Christ and His Word over the latest false fads. 

Other specific tools from proven Christian leaders are listed below:

How to Study God’s Word – John MacArthur

Searching the Scriptures – Chuck Swindoll

The Origin of the Bible – FF. Bruce, J.I. Packer, Philip Comfort, Carl F.H. Henry

Women of the Word – Jen Wilkin

Deadly Doctrine: Divorcing Spirit & Truth

The following post is from Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood’s forthcoming book, Defining Deception. This particular section is part of a chapter outlining the doctrinal errors of popular mystical-miracle movements today…

Joel Beeke, in his article about Calvin’s knowledge and piety, summarizes his view of Calvin’s teaching about the work of the Holy Spirit and the written Word this way: “The work of the Spirit does not supplement or supersede the revelation of Scripture, but authenticates it.” [1]

The 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XVII, reads, “We affirm that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures…We deny that this witness of the Holy Spirit operates in isolation from or against Scripture.”

For nearly 100 years, American evangelicals have assented that God’s Word is the chosen method through which the Holy Spirit chose to speak. Sadly, this isn’t what one of the most famous modern movements is teaching millions of millennials around the world. Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, and their band Jesus Culture have a tagline they’ve made a ministry mantra: “Don’t keep God in a box.” For Bill Johnson, the primary teacher overseeing this global ministry, this means that God likes to talk outside of His sufficient word.

Herein lies one of the gravest errors misleading young people today. An entire movement is misinterpreting God’s word.

The most obvious and deceptive example of this is the dichotomy Johnson attempts to create between the Bible and the Holy Spirit, as if the Holy Spirit would ever say something different, apart from, or over and above what He provided in the written Word. Repeatedly Johnson pits the Holy Spirit against the Bible by writing that Scripture is insufficient to discern the voice of God:

Jesus did not say, ‘My sheep will know my book.’ It is His voice that we are to know. Why the distinction? Because anyone can know the Bible as a book – the devil himself knows and quotes the Scriptures. But only those whose lives are dependent on the person of the Holy Spirit will consistently recognize His voice. This is not to say that the Bible has little or no importance. Quite the opposite is true. The Bible is the Word of God, and scripture will always confirm His voice. That voice gives impact to what is in print…[2]

It is important to see what Johnson says here: “The voice gives impact…” Johnson has daringly separated God’s supposed voice from God’s Word as if God will be speaking new information outside of what He has already promised is “adequate” (2 Timothy 3:17) for man to be grow unto maturity.

Johnson does this to give authority to personal revelation outside of, and over the written Scriptures; a demonic plot dating back 1800 years to a heretical false prophet named Montanus.[3] In subsequent pages Johnson quips, “to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map – to go beyond what we know.”[4] He goes on, “We’ve gone as far as we can with our present understanding of Scripture. It’s time to let signs have their place.”[5] Time and again Johnson points to the authority of signs over Scripture.

Is the Bible really just a road sign to the real voice of the Holy Spirit? Clearly, Jesus did not think so. When Jesus was on earth He taught His disciples through the Scriptures: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). Paul also taught this way when he wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). In fact, orthodox Christianity has always taught that the Holy Spirit chose to speak through the objective word of God; the Holy Spirit drives men by conscience and conviction back to those Scriptures for faith and practice. The Scriptures are the Holy Spirit’s voice. In John 17:17, Jesus Himself said, “Thy Word is truth.” The noun, “truth,” is acting as the predicate nominative and linked with the present tense verb which emphasizes that God’s word is truth.

Like Jesus and like Paul, two thousand years’ worth of saints have agreed in the power of God’s word alone.

One little verse, Romans 13:13, converted the immoral St. Augustine.

The miserable monk Martin Luther was forever changed by Romans 1:17.

For the American revivalist, Jonathan Edwards, it was 1 Timothy 1:17. Edwards said his first instance of inward delight was upon reading, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Scripture as God’s actual word was taught by Peter in 2 Peter 1:20-21 when he wrote, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In verse 19 Peter says that a prophetic word has been made “more sure” to him by (or than) his time with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. He continues, in verses 20–21, to undergird the authority of this prophetic word by saying it is part of Scripture when he declared, “No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” Peter is not saying that only prophetic parts of Scripture are inspired by God, He is saying we know the prophetic word is inspired, precisely because it is a “prophecy of Scripture.” Peter’s assumption is that whatever stands in Scripture is from God, written by men, carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter teaches precisely what Paul taught in 2 Timothy 3:16 in that, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The point is that Scripture is the means by which the Holy Spirit speaks. The Holy Spirit is not relative, bifurcated, or schizophrenic in His appeals. A regenerated life surrendered to the Holy Spirit will always point back to Scripture for faith and practice.

Christianity has held this truth for 2,000 years.


[1] Joel Beeke, “Calvin’s Piety,” Mid-America Journal of Theology 15 (2004): 40, http://www.midamerica.edu/uploads/files/pdf/journal/15-beekepiety.pdf.

[2] Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth (Shippensburg, PA: Treasure House, 2003). 84

[3] For study on the heretical sect stemming from Montanus, begin with: Bruce L Shelley, Church History In Plain Language, 4th ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013). 71-74.

[4] Johnson, 76.

[5] Ibid., 129.