Posts

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.

 

 

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.