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The Courageous Example of John MacArthur

It’s been impossible for me to miss the controversy that’s been brewing in Southern California between Governor Gavin Newsom and Sun Valley’s Grace Community Church as led by their pastor-teacher, John MacArthur.

As a former member of Grace (and custodian), and graduate of The Master’s Seminary, it’s been interesting for me to consider his recent refusal to comply with the governor’s unconstitutional (and therefore, illegal) order against gatherings in places of worship. His boldness and courage are a stark contrast to the myriad of evangelical leaders who kneeled at the feet of the social justice mob just a couple short months prior and are criticizing him for taking a stand on the lordship of Jesus over human government.

This entire situation has me curiously pondering: What is it that makes a “John MacArthur?” What keeps him from the mad rush to find the middle ground on every issue? What has caused him to take stand after stand over the past fifty years yet remain unmoved because “the Bible says so?” I remember him saying once that he’s never once cared about what people are going to think about him—how’s that even possible?

Examples in the Past

As I consider these questions, I am reminded of church history class and the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (1978). A beloved college professor of mine made us memorize paragraphs from that statement.  After he died in 2002, his wife gave me his audiocassettes of that council.  The names on those tapes are a “who’s who” of the glory days of 20th-century evangelicalism—men like J.I. Packer, Norman Geisler, Gleason Archer, Edwin Yamauchi, John Gerstner, R.C. Sproul, James Montgomery Boice, Francis Shaeffer, and almost 300 others.  Many of the signatories were giants in the church of their day.

As one of those who signed it, John MacArthur (at that time, a 39-year-old pastor) is in their rarified air. He is one of the last men standing of a fading generation who knew the truth, loved the truth, defended the truth, and were not at all afraid to contend for it either.

His life has made me wonder: Who is alive today that will take his place in evangelicalism? At over 80 years old, who will fill the leadership vacuum when he’s taken to heaven? Where are the leaders who are ready and happy to take the social media mob head-on, both inside and outside of the church, and refuse to back down? They do not exist, as far as I know. He is the last of a dying breed I’m sure many are happy to see go, but I’m terrified to lose. Far too many of our 21st century evangelical leaders are better at being politicians or motivational speakers than they are at being warriors, and this is at a cultural moment when we have a desperate need for warriors.

This, again, causes me to ask, why? I think it’s because those men grew up in an era before relativism had the cultural dominance it does now. They lived in a world where right was right, wrong was wrong, the truth was the truth, lies were lies, and sin was sin. These faithful men saw it on the horizon and warned Christians against its potential to undermine every single thing evangelicals believe.

Emptiness in the Present

That is not our world at all.  Evil is good; good is evil (Isa 5:20). Nothing is right or wrong except what our politically correct masters tell us is. The intent of an author is impossible to determine. Power is oppressive. Feelings determine our decisions. Truth is not objective; it is merely a personal or societal construct. Lies and hypocrisy are useful tools that help advance one’s agenda. The ends justify the means. In the church, we baptized the fear of man (also known as co-dependency or peer-pressure) and turned it into a ministry philosophy, assuming that, “If the non-Christian world likes us—thinks we’re helpful, cool and relevant—they’ll like Jesus too.”

Everything leftover is considered “gray area,” as if non-essential doctrines for salvation mean “unimportant” for the faithfulness and courage of a church leader. Where conviction was once found, we now found deflecting or straw-man sentiments like:

  • “There are good people on all sides.”
  • “They may be in error but they are such a nice person.”
  • “I want to be known by what I am for, not against.”
  • “It must be nice to have all the answers.”
  • “My truth is my truth. Your truth is your truth.”
  • “The Pharisees were good at pointing things out too.”

This is the cultural air that I’ve breathed since I was born.  Most adults my age (43) and younger consider relativism “just the way it is.”  As Allan Bloom once said, denying it is like trying to convince people that 2 + 2 isn’t 4 (which was embarrassingly attempted recently).

Emasculation in the Future

In a culture where relativism reigns, a culture without reality, without truth, without right and wrong answers, pastors will have a hard time going beyond, “Well, there are 4 views on that.”  Without doing the hard work of determining which views best match the Bible through exegesis and logical argumentation, pastors simply do not have the tools to do what MacArthur’s doing now. Instead, they’ve become convinced that the only stand they should take is not taking a stand (unless it’s a stand the culture approves of) and standing against anyone who does. So, I predict we’ll see more and more Christian leaders cave to the culture, call it heroic, get affirmation from their cheering section for being relevant or shrewd or loving or reasonable, all while assuring their deadened consciences that they’ll take a stand when it “really matters.”

No, they won’t! This is wishful thinking at best and self-delusion at worst for one overwhelming reason: John MacArthur can do what he’s doing because he has convictions, but relativism makes convictions impossible. In a world where there is no truth, there’s nothing to take a stand on. Oh, people will have convictions—don’t get me wrong—but instead of coming from the truth (John 17:17), they will come uncritically from their upbringing, a hierarchy they trust, heroes they admire, or the cultural overlords who are all too ready to choose their convictions for them.

Without convictions that are well thought out and deeply rooted in the bedrock of Scripture, pastors cannot have courage. We’ll never have the bravery we’re seeing in John MacArthur. Truth leads to convictions and convictions produce courage. Without convictions, the church will continue to be led by “men without chests” (C.S. Lewis) who genuflect before the mob, who won’t have the fortitude needed to stand in these dark days, but who will feign courage by passionately criticizing nobody but those who have it. Wavering and weak, many will seek to insulate themselves from ever being a target of the world’s hatred, something Jesus told His followers to expect and embrace (John 15:18-20). In Christ’s mind, it seems that we have a choice to make: we can be faithful or popular.  All of us, sooner or later, will be forced to choose and we can only choose one!

In the end, you may not agree with John MacArthur, but he doesn’t care, and neither should you. What you should be asking about John MacArthur is not, “Do I agree with what he’s doing?” Instead ask, “Will I have his courage when it’s my turn to stand?” Courage is the lesson young pastors (and a ton of older ones) should be learning from John MacArthur right now. Thank God for him.

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Jon Benzinger (@jonbenz) is the Lead Pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona (@rbcgilbert). He has a passion for teaching God’s word and has been doing so in both the local church and academia for nearly twenty years. He lives with his wife and three children in Queen Creek, Arizona.

NAR Recovery Roadmap

Through online communication channels like email and social media, I receive a large amount of questions and loathe the fact that I can’t keep up with them. While God doesn’t “need” anyone, and He is absolutely faithful in saving souls and guiding them to solid spiritual food, I often think back to how He used the kindness of Christians to point me to helpful resources when I needed them the most. Like many pastors, I want to be a faithful steward of opportunities and point people to truth as well — especially when they’re coming out of destructively confusing belief systems like the prosperity gospel and the New Apostolic Reformation.

To help field the continuous stream of requests in both the local church on online, this resource is a “New Apostolic Reformation Recovery Roadmap.” You could probably put “Prosperity Gospel” or “Word of Faith” movement in there too. If you or someone you know has questions pertaining to these movements and is seeking biblical truth, it’s more than likely that many questions will be answered once this roadmap is complete.

I’ve broken these resources down into categories to help you navigate through them and included two “church finder” links. When combined with regular daily prayer & reading, journaling thoughts and biblical reflections, pastoral counseling (as needed), and small group discussion, a healthy approximated timeline for completing the roadmap could be anywhere from 60-90 days depending on how much content you devour in one sitting. Depending on your situation, it could be better to take a much longer and slower approach as needed. For most people recovering from the NAR or prosperity theology, “breathers” may be necessary as you process the painful abuses and false doctrines you’ve endured.

Sermons and Conference Sessions (Watch All)

The Protestant Reformation vs. The New Apostolic Reformation

This sermon from a conference at our church helps quantify what exactly is so dangerous about the NAR and why it differs greatly from the faithful and biblical teachings triggered by the Protestant Reformation.

Spirit-Led Worship in a Self-Centered Culture 

This message from G3 addresses what Spirit-filled worship looks like and cautions against both excessive emotionalism and rigid rationalism. 

Defining Deception

This audio sermon from “Sundays in July” at Grace Community Church is a full summary of what the NAR teaches and the dangerous historical lineage it stems from. 

Rescuing Those Caught in Deception (Jude 17-23)

One of the most common questions I get is: “How do I reach friends, family, and love ones caught in these dangerous movements?” This sermon message from a conference at our church will equip you to understand people and reach them.

Truth & Transformation Series (w/ Justin Peters and Costi Hinn)

In this 7-part series Justin Peters and Costi Hinn unpack and explain the dangerous of prosperity theology, charismatic extremism, the Word of Faith movement, and more. They also answer key questions regarding healing, tongues, and how to study the Bible in context. 

Books & DVD (Choose at least 2)

Defining Deception by Costi W. Hinn and Anthony G. Wood

This book is a full handbook for understanding NAR theology and how to recover from it. In the newly revised and expanded version (Feb 2021), Anthony and I offer wisdom for how to find the right church, how to protect your own church, and much more. He and I have spent more than 5 years counseling churches and leaders through NAR recovery. 

God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel by Costi W. Hinn

This book provides the entire backstory of my conversion and has chapters breaking down prosperity theology and the dangers of it. It also explains how to reach people caught in these movements. Finally, the book explains the details regarding the lifestyle of prosperity preachers and how the gospel is twisted for monetary gain.  

Strange Fire by John MacArthur

If you’re looking for a bold and strong take on the extremes of the Charismatic Movement, this book holds little back. You may not agree with everything in it, but it is a healthy challenge to anyone coming out of the NAR and will bring clarity regarding numerous false teachings in the church today.

Clouds Without Water 

In my personal opinion, this DVD is the most needed resource for anyone questioning the NAR or coming out of false teaching. Justin Peters is loving, truthful, and downright surgical in his breakdown of this subject matter. Best of all, he proclaims the true gospel and uses actual video clips of false teachers so you can hear their outrageous claims directly, then he teaches from the Bible.

American Gospel: Christ Alone

In one of the most powerful Christian documentaries ever made, the gospel is put front and center for all to see. Pastors, theologians, and Christian leaders from all walks of life and denominations come together to stand boldly for Jesus, and refute dangerous teachings. (Watch on Amazon, Netflix, or order the DVD)

Podcast Q & A (Watch All)

What Does it Mean to Pray in Jesus’ Name? (John 14:14)

What Did Jesus Mean in Matthew 18:19? 

What Did Jesus Mean By “Greater Works” in John 14:12? 

What Did Jesus “Pay” For and When Do We Get It? (A Biblical View of the Atonement)

Is Tithing 10% Commanded for Believers Today? 

A Pastoral Response to Bethel’s Dead-Raising Charade

Convictions of a Biblical Church (Listen to episodes 31-38)

Articles (Read All)

7 Threats From a False Teacher

How to Heal from Theological Abuse

New Apostolic Reformation Kryptonite

How to View Claims About Dreams and Visions

Mythbuster: “Slain in the Spirit”

Did a False Teacher Heal You?

Is it Always God’s Will to Heal Now?

How Do I Know If I Am Really Saved?

Should Your Church Sing Jesus Culture & Bethel Music?

Will a Man Rob God? 5 Key Questions About Tithing 10%

A Biblical View of Signs, Wonders, & Miracles

Why Contend for the Faith?

Church Finder Resources

Disclaimer: Churches will vary in their music choice, style, methods, leadership structures, and ministry programs. However, a faithful church will be marked by things like expository preaching, prayer in submission to the will of God, discipleship ministry, evangelism (both locally, regionally, and globally), boldness to proclaim truth and refute error, biblical views on marriage, gender roles, and parenting as well as an emphasis on love, unity, and care between pastors and staff. No church is perfect, but a faithful church is progressing in truth and love together. For more, be sure to listen to our podcast episodes on the conviction of a biblical church.

TMS Church Finder (Insert your zip code to find a church led by a Master’s Seminary Graduate)

Michelle Lesley’s Blog has a page dedicated to helping people find faithful churches.

Shocking Videos (Watch All)

Bethel Children’s Pastor claims that he had a vision during which Jesus apologized to him and asked him for forgiveness. Yes, you read that correctly. “Jesus” apologized and asked the Bethel leader for forgiveness.

Todd White flips the gospel upside down and confuses what the cross was all about.

NAR hero, Kenneth Hagin, was about to preach but then began to act out in demonic manifestations including slithering his tongue like a snake. He was the mentor to Kenneth Copeland.

In one of the most disturbing “impartation” videos online, NAR teacher Heidi Baker lays hands on a young boy who begins to convulse and “roar” with animal (or demonic) sounds.

This excerpt from “American Gospel: Christ Alone” explains how false teachers like Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn are passing the torch to men like Todd White.

12 False Teachings from Bethel is a 15-minute illustrated video with helpful explanations of the dangerous teachings and practices of the well-known, Bethel Church in Redding, CA. When churches purchase their music, they are directly supporting this poison.

A former Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry (BSSM) student explains why she “defected” from Bethel and the cult-like atmosphere they create.

If you have found this roadmap to be helpful, feel free to share it with others in your church or online. Should you find helpful resources that can be added, send a link and a brief description to info@forthegospel.org. 

 

10 Commandments for Social Media

This article needs minimal introduction. Social media is ablaze right now and has been for some time. Rage is on the rise, wars are fought using words as ammunition, and aggressive debate takes its toll on even the most upbeat human souls.

How does a Christian resist the temptation to hurl verbal stones when it has become fashionable to do so? What stands in the way of us believing that launching insults and attacking others is akin to “fighting the good fight” of faith?

I find that the temptation to dive into the social media fray is ever-present, so during a recent vacation, I got off social media and prayed through some principles that I could use to redeem the use of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. While we all fail at using proper social media etiquette from time to time (I am guilty of this!), these “10 Commandments for Social Media” may prove especially helpful during turbulent days like the ones we are currently in. If anything, using them as a part of your regular posting protocols may keep you out of a few more kerfuffles and offer more peace of mind.

  1. Thou shalt post scripture passages

Whatever happened to the good ole’ fashioned days of “posting a Bible verse” on social media? Try this one out and consider posting daily from the word of God. You may even want to only post a Bible passage some days. Thankfully, several Christian leaders do this regularly.

  1. Thou shalt post biblically-rich articles

When is the last time you heard of someone changing the world with an angry tweet, slanderous tabloid fare, or trashy news? It doesn’t happen. But what does change hearts and minds? Biblically rich resources — even if they pack a bit of a (conviction-driven) punch from time to time. People need solid writing that is loaded with practical and biblical teaching. Nothing feeds hungry hearts better than God’s will from God’s word. Point people to Jesus in biblical ways and help them practically apply divine truths. That will change the world.

  1. Thou shalt post expository sermons

It might get more hits to share gossip, but what people need is the gospel and deep dives into the Scriptures. In the long run, the amount of encouragement and edification that occurs when we share gospel-centered sermons that walk people verse-by-verse through the Bible will long outlive anything else we share because the results are eternal. Share your favorite sermons, recommend faithful pastors, and watch God use your efforts to draw His people home.

  1. Thou shalt post edifying videos (or GIFs)

We are living in a “video” generation. Social media sites optimize posts that use video, people devour videos, and millions share videos. Believers who want to redeem social media can do so by posting biblically-rich videos that edify and encourage people. And remember, sometimes brevity is best. Not to be outdone, the GIF has been a revolutionary little tool for social media use. In my humble opinion, there is no one better at the “Christian” use of these than my Twitter friend, Garrett Kell (@pastorjgkell). He’s the GIF Pastor-Master and consistently edifies his followers by using videos (often funny) that illustrate serious and biblical truths.

  1. Thou shalt post God-glorifying quotes

Posting quotes is one of the best ways to share timeless truths and introduce people to influential theologians, pastors, and reliable sources. While you might think everyone will learn about Spurgeon by reading his pivotal 400+ page work, Lectures to My Students, it’s more likely that people will come to hear about him through Christian’s posting inspiring quotes. From voices of the past like J.C. Ryle, R.C. Sproul, G.K. Chesterton, Elisabeth Elliott, Corrie ten Boom, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Hudson Taylor, to faithful voices of today, quotes edify and educate.

  1. Thou shalt post doctrinally sound book recommendations

What an abundance of wisdom could be spread if we share what books have been impacting our growth? I think teaching people how to identify reliable books is akin like the old cliché that goes, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” You can share your opinion on a matter and trigger someone’s reaction, or you can share a book and change someone’s mind. Speaking of which, I’ve given you my opinion on this, so here are three books that will shape how you view and use social media: Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke, and The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch.

  1. Thou shalt post using gracious and mature speech (Colossians 4:5-6)

While there is nothing wrong with speaking the hard truth, the Bible is clear that a Christian must still use gracious speech even when hidden behind a screen. For all his “telling it like it is” to the Galatian and Corinthian Christians, the apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that love was essential in all his efforts (1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 1 Timothy 1:5). Far too often, people treat humans on the other side of social media debates as anything but human, and love is nowhere to be found. A simple question: would you speak and act the way you do online if you were in a group setting at church? With the way some of us operate, we would likely find our way into church discipline or out the door. Let Colossians 4:5-6 be a guiding lamp for the way you walk online.

  1. Thou shalt not engage in petty debate (Titus 3:9)

We’ve all done it. We’ve all regretted it. Petty debate is such an easy sinkhole to fall into online. Reject it, every time. Furthermore, let us never forget that many of the vain wranglers on Twitter and Facebook run monetized YouTube channels and websites. They have a machine — no, a monster — that they must feed. So, instead of making disciples in their local church, studying and teaching real people, and focusing on devotion to Christ and loving their family, they scour the online world looking for theological gnats to strain and molehills to turn into mountains. Back and forth they go, and they go, and they go. Ignore them. This isn’t to say that all “discernment bloggers” fit that picture or that you should never offer a gracious and explanatory response. Many people do a wonderful job equipping saints (Ephesians 4:12), speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:16), marking dangerous teachers (Romans 16:17-18), and refuting destructive doctrines (Titus 1:9). They expose evil deeds in very helpful ways (Ephesians 5:11). But consider putting a cap on how many responses you’ll offer before taking it offline with a phone call, or leaving it alone.

  1. Thou shalt not vent in haste on social media

Nothing good comes from online venting. Even if you’re frustrated, “prudence” is a trusted friend that helps even fools remain silent, and thus appear wise (Proverbs 17:28). If we made a dime for every time we should have kept our fingers holstered on social media but chose to vent in haste, we’d all be rich. Some basic tips here: 1) Don’t post late at night, 2) Don’t post when high on emotion, 3) Don’t post if you have second thoughts, and 4) Use #10.

  1. Thou shalt run questionable posts by accountability partners

On a “Top 5” list of temptations for social media users, you’d likely find the temptation to ignore a spouse, a pastor, a friend, or a co-worker who says, “Don’t post that!” or “Don’t say it like that.” Nearly every Tweet I ever regretted posting has been one that my wife or a mentor said, “You really should’ve held off on that one.” Pride says, “I’m fighting the fight here, people!” or “Someone’s got to say tell it like it is and that someone is me!” Unfortunately, pride is rarely (if ever) right. And perhaps someone does need to say “it.” But “it” probably needs an “edit” button.

I hope these help you in some way, shape, or form. Until Christ returns or Twitter gives us an edit button, may we all fight the “online” fight the right way — in a way that honors God.

3 Ways to Kill Gossip

You don’t tolerate gossip in the church. You slaughter it.

If you don’t, it’ll slaughter sheep.

There are few more sinister and Satanic assaults on the inside of the church than gossip. Like a parasitic demon, it often creeps in under the guise of victimhood; whispering to its host, “You really need to share your hurts and opinions with someone. It’s the Christian thing to do.”

Gossip also offers its wisdom like a warm blanket; surrounding the cold and hurting soul with warm and self-centered words saying, “You can’t go the person you’re talking about. Go to someone who will really understand you and who really needs to know.” 

And so, like a lamb being led to the slaughter, the gossiper falls under the alluring power of Lucifer’s minions and begins to cannibalize the flock. All the while, dehumanizing the target of conversation and adding horrific caricatures along the way. Whether through the seed of bitterness, emotional venting, or purposeful slander, gossip works tirelessly to sink its teeth into open hearts.

Gossip is a venomous imposter you’ve likely become all-too-familiar with in your local church. And it’s one we need to kill — quickly, and often.

Here’s how:

1. Tell the person you refuse to hear it. Seriously! Do their heart and your church a favor and shut it down. Walk away. Turn your head. Lose a friend. Guard purity. Protect Christ’s bride. When you entertain gossip under the “holy” banner of helping a fellow member of the flock, you become a party to the sin and enter the slaughter house alongside them. It can especially deadly when you don’t even know if what they’re saying is true. When deception and gossip get married, they birth something deadly that can only come from the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44).  God hates sowing discord, devising wicked plans, bearing false witness and lying, along with one who spreads strife among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19). It’s always wise to take heed when wearing the label of what God hates.

2. Tell the person they need to go to the person they are gossiping about, or you will. Once again, you’re not winning any popularity contests for this one but you will be pleasing Christ and doing the right thing. Sound hard? It is. But since when is doing right thing guaranteed to be easy? In the end, all sin can be repented of, and sinners restored! Go with the promise of 1 John 1:9 over people pleasing. It may sting a bit, but like treating a wound the right way, exhorting others to engage in a Biblical process and proper healing measures can reduce the likelihood of a nasty scar.

3. Enact church discipline directly at the source(s). Gossip is serious sin. It wants to ruin your marriage, your witness, your family, your friendships, your future, and your church. Matthew 18:15-17 is one of the best ways to send the sin of gossip back to where it came from. When truth reigns, sin must run! Over and over again, God’s word is clear when it comes to gossip. Paul exhorted the church on numerous occasions to speak “only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29). Proverbs 16:28 reminds us that only perverse people stir up conflict and that “gossip separates close friends.” Church discipline doesn’t always mean a full blown member meeting, but it does mean going to the source of gossip and beginning to deal with it from there. If it’s already spreading like venom through the veins of the church, paralysis — or even death — is a serious possibility. Only the power of the Holy Spirit working through the obedience of believers can change the situation. Do whatever it takes to bring everything into the light.

For a resource that offers biblical and practical wisdom for dealing gossip, read Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue.

Your Prosperity Is Too Small

There was a rich young ruler who once had the opportunity to sit face-to-face with God. Like a child humbly seated at the feet of his father, this ruler had a question and knew where to go for the answer. Surely God Himself could provide an adequate solution to his longing soul. In an instant, a weighty inquiry burst forth. He asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” On the outside, this rich ruler appeared to be a cut above everyone else. He was wealthy, powerful, and seemed to be a model of morality. Eternal security was all but guaranteed, right? But there, concerning the state of the ruler’s soul, Jesus brought the sobering reality of heaven down to earth.

Jesus said, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me” (Luke 18:22). The ruler’s response? “But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked him and said, ‘How difficult it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!’” (Luke 18:24).

Wealth is not a sin, but chasing it can cloud even the sharpest of minds. That is why in God’s economy, it is not the balance in your bank account that matters; it is the affections of your heart. God is not partial to those who are rich with pride and presumption; it is the poor in spirit that move Him.

This ancient temptation still rears its head today. There is not a more blinding, arrogant, and myopically presumptuous belief system than the “prosperity gospel.” While it promises a long list of earthly treasures to those who will succumb to its lusts, it leaves its victims spiritually bankrupt. Like the rich young ruler, the prosperity gospel appears big and bold on the outside, but when compared to the true gospel, its bleak return on investment is suddenly revealed. Those who adhere to the prosperity gospel possess a view on prosperity that is too small.

A Vicious Cycle

The wake of devastation the prosperity gospel leaves behind stems from selling a version of Jesus that overpromises and underdelivers. Instead of rightfully putting their primary emphasis on lavish spiritual blessings unlocked in Christ (Eph. 1:3-12), prosperity preachers twist Scripture to put the emphasis on temporary pleasure, promising that Jesus is a Heavenly Banker who wants everyone to be healthy and wealthy on earth. According to the prosperity gospel, Christ’s goal is your comfort. Sadly, there is no comfort to be found. Many people who make donations in exchange for the “American Dream” only end up broke. They are told to sow a seed of faith into the fertile soil of a prosperity preacher’s ministry on the grounds that it will produce a hundredfold return! The painful reality is the only people getting rich are the prosperity preachers themselves. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Is this the picture of the gospel that we see in the Bible?

There Will Be Suffering

When a prosperity preacher and a faithful preacher stand in front of Christ on Judgment Day, two very different outcomes will occur. For these two preachers, suffering will be inevitable. For the faithful preacher, he would have likely suffered on earth and will be rejoicing as Christ welcomes him into the eternal rewards and riches of heaven! In stark contrast, the prosperity preacher will have lived his best life on earth—free of suffering and peril. Yet, there in front of Christ’s throne, his knee will bow and his tongue will confess Jesus as Lord, then he will enter into eternal suffering.

Each of these preachers will suffer. When they suffer and for how long they will suffer depends on their faithfulness to the gospel here on earth. Temporal suffering on earth is but a molecular moment in comparison to infinite ages of heavenly glory. For those who trample the gospel in seeking temporal gain, the suffering that awaits them in eternity is insurmountably greater than all the royal comforts of earth combined.

Infinite Promises and Eternal Glory

The Bible repeatedly turns our perspective upward into the vast expanse of eternity. The prosperity gospel calls us into a downward spiral that leads to a desolate perspective. Jesus promised that treasure in heaven could not be destroyed (Matt. 6:19-20). Jesus promised suffering saints eternal crowns and glory in His kingdom (Rev. 2:9-10; 3:10-12). Jesus promised that anyone who sacrificed something for His sake would receive many times as much and inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:29).

In Christ’s kingdom, the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Matt. 19:30). To the poor in spirit belongs the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). The infinite promise of Christ is that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33), but He has overcome it and prepares a place for us that is beyond anything the prosperity gospel can deliver (John 14:12). When suffering comes upon us, we can find comfort in the arms of the Prince of Peace (Phil. 4:6-9). Blessings, joy, riches, and comfort are now and will always be found in Christ — but not always in the ways we imagine. These treasures will not always be realized on earth, but for those who choose Christ no matter the cost, these things will be enjoyed for all eternity in heaven.

When I was living the dream as a prosperity gospel benefactor, my confidence soared. I was a “big success.” It was only when Christ opened my eyes to the one true gospel that I was set free from the chains that held my soul. It was then that I realized how bankrupt I truly was. Compared to the eternal riches found in Jesus Christ, the biggest earthy promises of the prosperity gospel will forever be too small.

***This article was originally featured in the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s inaugural issue of “Permanent Things: The Annual Journal From The Center for Public Theology.” The entire issue can be downloaded for free.

New Apostolic Reformation Kryptonite

Remember the one thing that could strip Superman of his unstoppable powers? If this thing was found in the vicinity of the “Man of Steel,” he’d be as helpless as a baby Giraffe on ice. That thing was Kryptonite. 

No matter your position on the continuation of gifts that produce signs and wonders, there are certain truths that orthodox Christians have stood together on for millennia. When taught faithfully and proactively, these truths are Kryptonite to destructive doctrines that creep into the church.

Throughout church history, subgroups of mystically-inclined movements have spun off the reservation and well into heretical theological territories by their overzealous seeking of signs and wonders. When this occurs, there is often a fog of confusion that sweeps over the Church. What are the grounds for calling someone a “heretic?” Should we, as some suggest, simply “chew the meat and spit out the bones?” Shouldn’t we avoid controversy and just love people? 

Regardless of varying position, people can’t follow a leader who isn’t clear. With that said, there are certain truths that every pulpit must be clear in presenting lest people be swept into doctrines that destroy. Perhaps there is not a more destructive force sweeping through the church today than the so-called, “New Apostolic Reformation.” This movement’s beliefs trample the deity of Christ, falsely guarantee healing for all who will follow their formula, and claim that their anointed leaders are a part of God’s reinstating of the Apostolic Era once again. Meanwhile, those leading the movement live like prosperity preachers and keep a tight grip on their positions of power. Don’t be deceived, this is a serious issue in the church today.

Here are five proactive truths that every pulpit should preach in order to protect those you serve from the winds of New Apostolic Reformation doctrine (Ephesians 4:14):

  1. Earthly healing is not guaranteed in the atonement.

This truth counters one of the more common lies that was birthed out of the early phases of the charismatic movement. Over the last several decades, it’s caught on like wildfire in the word faith movement, prosperity theology, and New Apostolic Reformation. The teaching goes something this:

Jesus paid for your sin and your sickness. He was wounded for your transgressions, and by His stripes you are healed! Isaiah 53:5 says so! Why are you holding on to that sickness if He already paid for your healing? Let go of that cancer. Release infirmity. Receive your healing by faith. 

Some basic questions should be asked, and answered. Are the problems of sin, sickness, pain, tears, and death all solved because of the atoning work of Christ on the cross and His subsequent resurrection from the grave? Absolutely.

Does that mean that all of the benefits from the atonement are fully realized on earth? Absolutely not. We still have to die (Hebrews 9:27). We aren’t yet in our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). And God has not yet taken away all sadness, tears, and sorrow (Revelation 21:4). Further, I don’t experience the fullness of salvation until Christ is revealed (Colossians 3:4).

So, is salvation and healing a “package deal” as many faith healers claim? If so, what’s wrong with so many sick Christians? Is Joni Eareckson Tada sick because she’s simply not “tapping into” the atonement?

The answer is clearly and logically, no.

Teach your people how to praise God when He heals and even when He doesn’t. Say like Job, “He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

  1. Not all can heal and prophesy

This one isn’t hard to understand, but many “schools of signs and wonders” are charging people tuition under the illusion that they can learn to heal and prophecy. Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry does this in Redding, California. But, can we guarantee that everyone is going to operate in all of these gifts, move in signs and wonders, and heal people? Can you bundle gifts of the Spirit like you bundle home and auto insurance?

Let’s let Paul do the talking through the Holy Spirit’s direct and final revelation:

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? (1 Corinthians 12:29-30)

Those are rhetorical questions from Paul. Teach your flock to be discerning and steer them clear of schools and teachers who promise signs and wonders for students. You’ll save them money, and maybe even their soul.

  1. There are no more Apostles

This used to be an open and shut case. Few, if any, were arguing that the office of apostle was in operation today. However, this is now something preachers must be clear about time and time again.

Two distinctions should be made here.

First, in a sense, there is such a thing as being apóstolos (ἀπόστολος) today. This Greek word means “a delegate” and is synonymous with those who are commissioned to pioneer new gospel-work through planting, missionary work, or other frontier-like ministries. This is being a gospel-ambassador!

Second, there is no such thing as being an apostle in the sense of the New Testament office. This was restricted to a very specific group who met a specific criterion. When you survey the New Testament, you can gather that real apostles were:

  • Commissioned and appointed personally by Christ (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13 John 15:16; Romans 1:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7-9)
  • Personally with Christ from baptism to ascension (Acts 1:21-22; Acts 10:38)
  • Fulfilling prophecy when Mathias replaced Judas’ specific office (Acts 1:19)
  • Performing undeniable and instantaneous signs and wonders (Acts 5:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12)
  • Given direct revelation from God (John 16:13)
  • Operating as the initial foundation for the Church (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11)
  • Distinctly gifted for their uniquely foundational office (1 Corinthians 12:29)

While many people will be “apostolic” in their ministry in the sense that they are sent forth to do gospel work, based on what the Bible teaches about the requirements for being an apostle, it’s impossible for there to be any more apostles today.

  1. Jesus was always truly God and truly man while on earth

One foundational (and false) teaching proliferated by the New Apostolic Reformation is that Jesus did His miracles as a man in right relationship with God, and not as God. The idea is that since Jesus wasn’t God when He did signs and wonders, you can do them too. This very twisted interpretation of the kenosis takes the “emptying” or “humbling” of Christ in Philippians 2:3-8 beyond biblical boundaries. Bethel Church pastor, Bill Johnson, and Todd White (Lifestyle Christianity) are two of the leading voices for this heretical belief more formally known as ontological kenotic Christology. Space in this article does not allow for extensive treatment here, but we offer plenty of footnotes and direct quotes from their teachings and their books in Defining Deception. OKC is essentially the belief that Jesus laid aside His deity and takes variants of kenotic theory much too far. Any claim that Jesus was ever “not God” is deceptive heresy. In fact, Jesus Himself makes the claim that His signs and wonders were displays of the “works of God” (John 9:3). He was, as R.C. Sproul put it, “Truly God and truly man” while fulfilling His purpose on earth.

Never once does the Bible ever teach that Jesus laid aside His deity and ceased to be God. He was in perfect balance as the God-man; humbly adding humanity to His divinity. This was subtraction by addition.

Many evangelical churches have become holding tanks for heretical teachings whether it be through inviting these false teachers to headline conferences, using their music and endorsing their worship bands, or by downplaying the seriousness of their errors.

Make no mistake about it, this is a tier one issue. Preaching a proper view of the kenosis is essential for equipping your church faithfully.

  1. Judge a teacher’s words against Scripture

Teaching this will be a valuable way to equip discerning Christians. People being deceived are taught never to question their anointed leader. Therefore, it will be a distinction of a biblical church and a faithful pulpit that people are taught to weigh every word taught in light of Scripture. This is the right kind of “judging” and believers are wise to exercise discernment.

Pro-active preachers who want their flock to be well guided and guarded do well to encourage them to weigh every word from any pulpit by the word of God.

More truths can certainly be added to this list, but if you’re looking for key ways to assess your own ministry or to be more proactive in shepherding the flock of God, this list of teachings is a great place to start.

***If this is your first time encountering this kind of doctrinal indictment on Bethel Church (and music), the New Apostolic Reformation, or leaders like Bill Johnson and Todd White, please refer to the following article and read the sources linked in it for further research.

7 Threats From a False Teacher

False teachers and abusive leaders need to maintain their power. Therefore, they use a series of threats to keep people quiet and in line. Get out of line? You might hear one of the seven statements I’ve listed below.

Some people who aren’t false teachers or abusers do use some of these from time to time. For example, someone may be accused of behaving like a “Pharisee” because they’re relying on legalism to achieve their righteousness. That isn’t in the context here. This particular post is in the context of a pastor or church leader who is approached by a well-meaning church member concerning teachings that are not faithful to Scripture and are twisted for a desired end.

Don’t Put God in a Box

This phrase is usually directed at those who are trying to convince their church leader to keep his or her teaching in line with Scripture. You may hear this kind of statement after congregants push back against a pastor who gets up one Sunday and starts tossing out random prophecies that don’t come true (or make sense). Another example would be a concerned church member who says, “Pastor, that’s not exactly what God said He would do in His word.” The pastor would respond, “Don’t put in a box.” The pastor may even tag on one of these other statements to beef up his domneering response.

Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed

This threat tends to be used when venerated leaders are opposed for their false and abusive teachings. Their defense? They claim to be “anointed” by God and immune from any accountability and that if you criticize them God will bring judgment upon you. Those who blindly follow them will usually echo this phrase as well as they warn a whistle-blower to keep quiet. Should you ever hear this threat you have nothing to fear. Instead, find yourself a whistleblower lawyer and be brave. When you “mark” someone who is teaching false things, you are not touching the Lord’s anointed. You are obeying the Lord Himself (Romans 16:17:18).

Don’t Be a Pharisee

The Pharisees were not necessarily the best example of what true worship looks like. Even though they were very devout, they were legalistic, twisted God’s word, and burdened people with manipulative teachings that were not a part of God’s Law. They were known to control people with their spiritual arrogance and elitist mentality. Without question, they were a questionable group. Therefore, it’s not surprising when the term “Pharisee” is used in a pejorative manner. This threat from a false teacher gets used when someone holds them accountable for Scripture twisting or loose living. The false teacher will respond claiming, “Don’t be a Pharisee!” Ironically, it is false teachers and abusers who are pharisaic. They add to God’s word, they use their authority to exploit people, and are hypocrites.

Be Careful, Religion Put Jesus on a Cross

I remember seeing an outlandish service take place. There were false prophecies flying everywhere, people being “slain in the spirit,” manifestations of people’s bodies that included: gyrations, roaring, foaming at the mouth, and slithering like snakes. These manifestations appeared demonic but were claimed to be angelic. Some onlookers were very disturbed by the excessive actions taking place in the service and let it be known to the leaders. They were told, “Be careful. It was religion put Jesus on a cross.” This threat means one thing: don’t question anything or you’ll be labeled an “anointing killer.” It’s the perfect way to keep people in the dark; causing them to cower in fear that they’re like those who crucified Christ.

God Told Me I Could

When self-proclaimed prophet Todd Bentley beats on people as he prays for them, he says God tells him to. In one service, he bragged about kicking people in the face and beating on old ladies (we wrote about this in Defining Deception so you can check out the footnotes there). Another false teacher I grew up very close to used to do whatever he wanted with the offering money and explain that God gave him permission to. Never trust a leader who justifies sin by saying God commanded it.

Donate or God Will Curse You

The famous “give or die” threat has raised a few dollars over the years. Some, like Oral Roberts, have even used the “give or I will die!” fundraising ploy. Is there some biblical truth to principles of giving, receiving, and living a generous life? Of course. It is a good thing to donate to those in need, or indeed to your church – find more information at https://www.gofundme.com/c/fundraising-ideas/church. However, no one should ever trust a leader who says to give money or God will curse (or kill) someone. Back in my BC days (before Christ) I was in the crowd during a fundraiser in which a family was told if they didn’t give money to the building campaign that God would not give the baren mother a baby. Greed makes false teachers say whatever they can to get the mighty dollar.

If You’re Divisive, Expect a Disease

When I was 18 there was a family in our church who was leaving because they no longer trusted the leaders. The track record of the church told the story. Mishandling of funds was common. Upon leaving the church they encouraged a few others to leave because it was no longer a healthy place to be. I vividly remember the threat: If you divide the body of Christ then disease will come upon your body. This was common. A pastor within our church once had several leaders invest money into a deal guaranteeing a huge (and quick) return. It sounded too good to be true because it was. A businessman who was near 80 years old simply wanted to be paid back after his money was stolen but was told to keep quiet or else…

When people wonder why publically calling out false teachers is a big deal, simply ask: Would you point out a known sex offender in a neighboorhood full of children? Would you warn others if an active shooter were present in a shopping mall? Would you not pick up your infant if a pitbull entered the nursery? Of course. Then why wouldn’t we be faithful to point out dangers and protect the precious children of God?

Keep standing for the truth and holding fast to sound doctrine. Preach the truth. Refute error. Expose evil deeds.

There is a coming King who is building His church (Matthew 16:18). His reward will be great for those who stay faithful.

3 Principles on Spiritual Conflict

Spiritual conflict (or “warfare”) is a subject that often succumbs to two extremes. First, there are people who blame the devil for everything — even things that are their fault. Second, there are those who dismiss demonic activity altogether; lumping it into a mystical-mindset best relegated to the extreme corners of fringe charismatic groups. Both of these views are anemic. The fact is, spiritual conflict is real and leaders do well to maintain a balanced understanding of this subject for the purpose of their own lives and counseling those they serve. The first chapter of Mark’s Gospel provides a splendid backdrop for valuable principles on spiritual conflict. These can be used to walk people through the delicate balance of discerning what spiritual warfare is, and isn’t.

The Devil is in the Business of Temptation

Right of the bat, Mark records Jesus’ encounter with the Devil in the wilderness (Mark 1:13) in which Satan tempts the Lord. Even Jesus was tempted! Spiritual conflict is very often synonymous with temptation. Think about your own life for a moment. Have you ever noticed that whenever you commit to walking in obedience, temptation comes knocking on your door? Plenty of longtime Christians will tell you that their greatest moments of weakness come after making big commitments to the Lord. Jesus modeled perfection in the face of temptation (Hebrews 4:15) and dealt with it by sticking to the word of God (Luke 4:4,8,12). And remember, Satan doesn’t show up at the foot of your bed with a red tail and pitchfork claiming, “Here I am to tempt and deceive you!” We often think spiritual warfare looks like a Hollywood scene. It doesn’t. Temptation is part of “enemy tactics” so don’t be blind. Turn to God’s word and remember that God has given us a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). Win the battle by first refusing to live denial. Admit that temptation is real. You are not immune. Then, turn to God’s word and resist the Devil and he will flee (James 4:7).

Christ Has Power Over Demons

Mark records a powerful moment in which an evil spirit that was possessing a man (could have been many evil spirits because they say “us”) declares that Jesus is the Holy Son of God! (Mark 1:24). Jesus, with a mere command, takes authority over the unclean spirit and casts it out instantly. No sweat, no screaming repetitious phrases, no three-hour exorcism. There are numerous people claiming power of demons today who go around putting olive oil on people and shouting superstitious — mostly repetitious — phrases. But is this the model for modern ministry? Even the archangel Michael did not take “authority” over the Devil in Jude by saying, “I rebuke you, Satan!” Michael, knowing where true power came from said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 9). Our best bet in spiritual conflict is to stick close to Christ. Where He reigns, demons cannot. Where He resides, demons cannot. If someone believes they are experiencing demonization of any kind, the first thing we ought to encourage them to do is to get on their knees, confess their sin, and surrender their will to Christ.

Truth Transforms

In Mark 1:38 Jesus leaves one region and goes elsewhere saying his purpose was “…so that I may preach there also, for that is what I came for.” Jesus did not come to put on an endless show of exorcisms and mystical wonderings. His primary goal was to preach His kingdom come! The truth transforms so we must proclaim the truth. It also stirs up and drives out evil.

I once had a counseling session with a man I knew very well. He was in charge of an area of our ministry. Within ten minutes of our session, his eyes were moving in different directions and his face was contorting in disturbing fashion. I could see something was off so I chose to counsel him by reading a certain passage of Scripture out loud. Suddenly, I looked up and realized he was staring intensely at me. Then, without warning, he attacked me physically. His eyes grew large, his voice changed, and he tried to subdue me. After sitting on him and eventually getting him over to our main office I called other pastors in to pray. It became very obvious that this man was experiencing some level of demonization. He was cursing at us, calling us false prophets, and calling the church pulpit “weak.” At one point he looked at me, claiming to be the Devil himself, and said, “I own your uncle and I own you! You’re ours!” I remember wondering how someone who was sitting under the faithful preaching of God’s word each week could experience such bondage. Turns out, he wasn’t. One of our elders discovered that this man had stopped coming into the sanctuary and was hiding in the corner of the courtyard avoiding the preaching portion of service every week. Whatever was at the root of this man’s oppression did not want him hearing the preaching of the word. The truth always cuts through the core of people’s hearts. Want to know the best way to stay spiritual safe in the midst of spiritual war? If you’re a pastor, preach the word. Saturate your life with it. If you’re a church member, cement yourself under sound preaching and supporting the ministry of the word. Saturate your life with it. Truth is the best antidote in spiritual conflict.

In just one chapter of Mark, we quickly see a framework for spiritual conflict and can apply it to our lives. Spiritual warfare is real. Jesus is victorious. His truth protects our lives.

Ten Theological Topics for Parents of Modern Teens

I get dozens of emails each month from parents whose teens are leaving the church or being swept away by a false version of Jesus and the gospel. Most of these parents seem to be well-intentioned believers who are baffled at the outcome of their teenager’s faith. In many cases, their teen was a standout church kid–complete with AWANA pins and VBS nametags from years of outstanding work!

So What Happens?

There are so many variables when teenage faith gets shipwrecked (ultimately, God knows the one in each case) but overall, the parents I talk to all say the same thing: We were definitely “doing” church, but I’m not sure my teen was ready to stand for Christ on their own two feet. It happens in the church like it happens in the car all those years. Kids ride in the backseat of the car while parents drive them around, and, the same goes for their faith. They follow mom and dad, obey all the rules, but don’t end up developed much further. Once the teen is on their own with decision-making, the parents find out the hard way that their beloved son or daughter has little clue about how to make it theologically on their own. Sure, they know enough Sunday school answers to get by, but they don’t know how to put theology into practice. Like a lioness who never teaches her cubs how to hunt for themselves, many parents spoon-feed their teens for six years without ever challenging them to skin their own meat–theologically, of course.

So Where Do I Start?

In this list I’ve compiled ten critical topics for the modern teen. It presumes you will address essentials, including (but not limited to) the gospel, so don’t miss that. Also, here’s fair warning that reading is required if you want to gain wisdom here. I’ll have recommended resources at the end of each listed topic. Do your family a favor and start a theological library if you haven’t already.

  1. How to identify a biblical church?

Does your teen know how what a biblical ecclesiology looks like? You may be thinking, “too many big words…” Well those are words you need to know about. Ecclesiology is basically how the church is supposed to structured according to the Bible. Like shopping for a used car, if your teenager doesn’t know what to look for, they’re likely to get swindled by some deceptive salesmanship. Choose either 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever or The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur. Challenge your teen by asking them: Can you name at least five priorities of a biblical church?

  1. How to identify a biblical church leader?

Abusive leaders are everywhere–that’s obvious today. Study 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and discuss it at the dinner table for the week. Ask questions like why does it matter for a pastor to be those things? What are some dangers things that can occur if a pastor doesn’t match that list?Both books above will nail this one for you, but just in case, try Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch. Read Part One (the first six chapters). It could save your teenager’s life.

  1. Christological heresies & other dangers in modern music movements

Music isn’t just about music these days. It’s a gateway to the famous teachers and personalities who lead movements. Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, and other Third Wave celebrity bands are all teaching things that no biblically-minded parent would want their teens to believe. These bands started under (and continue to submit to) the leadership and influence of false teachers such as Bill Johnson, Kris Valloton, Lou Engle, Shawn Bolz, Heidi Baker, and many others. They teach kenotic theology which holds diminished views on the deity of Christ. This includes the belief that Jesus did His miracles as just a man in right relationship to God…not as God. Based on that, they teach a long list of other dangerous doctrines. They also charge a hefty tuition to their schools that “teach” people how to work the gift of miracles. This movement makes itself sound amazing and attractive, but it’s theological poison. Try a short book called, Defining Deception by myself and Anthony Wood. It has enough truth to arm you for the battle ahead and enough footnotes to keep you up at night watching the dangerous practices these teachers will put your teenager through if they get their hands on them.

  1. False gospels to avoid

It’s important to major in what is true, but sharpening for the growing teen to know why other gospels are false. Kids like to ask “why” when they’re young. I think we still do as adults. Get your teen educated on why the prosperity gospel is a sham even if it looks like the way to live like LeBron James in the church-world. Show them why other “versions” of Christianity are not actually Christian. Analyze the basic beliefs of Word of Faith, New Apostolic Reformation, Mormonism, and Catholicism. Watch the DVD, Clouds Without Water II by Justin Peters. Also, James White should be helpful here. Listening to his shows or messages that center on apologetics is good for training.

  1. The assault on marriage, gender, and biblical manhood and womanhood

Every parent wants their teen to marry the right person but too many are not well-versed on what that looks like. Teens should be provided with a roadmap for understanding why gender is binary and why we can be firm in our theology while still flexible with people. Loving them doesn’t mean we sacrifice truth. For parents serious about gaining wisdom to guide their teen, this may mean that instead of watching Netflix you’re reading books five nights a week for two years. Small price to pay for a lifelong investment. Teach them about gender roles and God’s design for husbands and wives. Many adults are confused because they were not taught at teens. You get one chance to guide them. Try any of these: Recovering Biblical Manhood and Woman by Wayne Grudem and John Piper; The Grand Design by Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock; Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating; Disciplines of a Godly Young Man by Kent Hughes and W. Carey Hughes; Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes; Ethics for a Brave New World by John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg.

  1. The sufficiency of Scripture

Teens are in a process of discovery and questioning things. They may hear a friend or famous teacher say things like, “God spoke to me” or “God spoke to my heart” or “I feel like God said.” This can be confusing for a teen. Help them know confidently that if God told someone something, they wouldn’t “feel” like He did, they’d know He did. Teenagers need help to understand why the Bible is enough for knowing God’s voice. They must be equipped to know God’s word is God’s will. Those who learn this at a younger age are ahead of the curve in today’s church world. Read Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung; Found: God’s Will (short book) by John MacArthur; Our Sufficiency in Christ by John MacArthur.

  1. The holiness of God

God is holy, not a homeboy. He isn’t some “it” in the sky or a casual deity who lets everybody into heaven because they donated to the Salvation Army at Christmas. Teenagers should be taught why God is holy, what that means, and how they should live in light of that truth. Study The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. That will give you talking points.

  1. The sovereignty of God

Rebel hearts need training. Learning and applying truths about the sovereignty of God teaches that I am not in control, the world is not in control, and even parents are not in ultimate control! God is. Calm and assertive Christian teens are that way because they know God is sovereign. They go about their business, trusting and obeying. When fears come, they know who hold the future. Choose a book like The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink or The Invisible Hand by R.C. Sproul.

  1. The depravity of man

When our hearts get help on this topic, a humility comes over us that crushes pride and creates a dependency on God. Help your teen understand their sin and inability to satisfy the wrath of God outside of Christ. They are a sinner and hopeless without Him. Teach them how to admit deficiency and declare dependency! Make sure you’re doing this yourself too. Read A Small Book About a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch; The Vanishing Conscience by John MacArthur.

  1. Cultivating an eternal perspective

A 5-inch screen is all the perspective most teens end up with by age 15. Most don’t know a lot about biblical money management, missions, or making their lives count. If you want your teenager to have the tools they need to live with an eternal perspective, nurture their perspective on eternal things! They need to be taught about things like global missions, local church ministry, generosity, taking risks for God, and the importance of carrying on what faithful men and women started long before us. Several books can be helpful here such as Don’t Waste Your Life by John PiperManaging God’s Money by Randy Alcorn; The Daring Mission of William Tyndale by Steven J. Lawson.

What is the most essential ingredient not on the list? Your life. Teenagers can smell a fake from 100 miles away. It may be wise to tackle this list yourself while you’re at it. And remember, a list like this doesn’t guarantee your teen will not struggle in the world today or even go prodigal. Prayer will always be your #1 weapon. When paired with your own faithful witness, you can trust God knowing you’ve done your best.

Domenick Nati, Lauren Daigle, & Homosexuality

Lauren Daigle recently made headlines for an interview with Domenick Nati. Right near the end of his clip with her, he said he wanted to ask about her stance, as a Christian, on homosexuality and whether it’s a sin. Her response:

“I can’t honestly answer on that, in the sense of I have too many people that I love and they are homosexuals. I can’t say one way or the other, I’m not God. When people ask questions like that, I just say, ‘Read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know because I’m learning too.'”

Domenick’s response to her was, “Wow, you’re a pro already!”

Domenick Nati’s Latest Statement

Christians far and wide reacted to the interview in a variety of ways. Mostly, expressing frustration that Lauren failed to speak the truth in love about homosexuality being a sin. I believe that she has become a very popular Christian singer because of the integrity and reliability of her music, so people were genuinely rooting for her to answer it a certain way.

Excellent articles and books have been written dealing head on with the issue of homosexuality and whether or not it’s sin. We can be certain that it is sin and I recommend you search those out. This piece has a specific purpose.

The producer for the Domenick Nati Show reached out to me asking if I would be willing to post some or all of his statement concerning the backlash that Lauren Daigle received over her recent interview. I thanked him for reaching out and promised to review the statement closely and, if I felt it to be helpful, I’d interact with it in a spirit of fairness to Domenick’s effort. After reviewing the statement, I believe it’s important to clarify some truths for professing Christians. Anyone claiming to be a follower of Christ has a responsibility to be faithful to His Word, the Bible. Therefore, if someone is asked a question about the Bible and they “don’t know,” that’s fine to admit, but that doesn’t change the truth about the Bible.

Here is the statement from Domenick Nati, and my responses underneath. His words are in bold, mine are in italics:

“The backlash Lauren Daigle received from our interview has been very disappointing to witness. I was shocked by the amount of attack and assumption there was on someone simply saying “I don’t know”. The truth is YOU don’t know. You don’t know if she was being honest, you don’t know if she was dodging the question, and you don’t know if she was lying… and neither do I.”

In general, this is fair. There is nothing wrong with a person saying, “I don’t know.” In fact, it’s advisable if you don’t know something. It’s better than lying. Truth is, we don’t know what Lauren’s motive was, whether or not she lied, or what the state of her heart is before the Lord. For the most part, if we just take Domenick’s words at face value, there isn’t much to disagree with here.

“I know that Moses thought it was a sin and I know Paul thought it was a sin, but Jesus didn’t speak on it. And Paul and Moses didn’t always get things right in their writings nor was it always recorded, copied, and translated correctly. John 16:8-9 says “When the Holy Spirit comes He will expose the world concerning sin, concerning righteousness, and concerning judging. Of sin that they are not believing in Me.” Jesus identifies sin as not believing in Himself. Not our sexual preference, or wrongdoings, but rather our unbelief. So it’s possible that someone doesn’t know what is considered a sin and what isn’t, and neither does anyone else. Not Moses, Paul, you, me or Lauren Daigle because they’re “not God”.”

Here is where I do take exception to his statement. To be blunt, he’s flat out wrong from a historically orthodox Christian point of view. In other words, Christians for thousands of years would disagree with him, proper teaching for thousands of years disagrees with him, and only those who abandon the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture could do with Scripture what Domenick did here. I am not saying he is evil or malicious, but I am saying that this response is from a position that we, as Bible-believing Christians, reject.

Jesus didn’t speak directly about a lot of things including racism, child-abuse, or vandalism, yet that doesn’t make those “not sin.” Also, to pit the words of Moses and Paul against what Jesus did or didn’t teach is foolish. Jesus quoted from 24 books in the Old Testament, including all of Moses’ writings. Think they don’t matter or aren’t reliable? God Himself quoted from them. As for Paul, Jesus appeared to him, converted him, then commissioned him to be an Apostle (Acts 9). Countless scholars agree that he wrote nearly 50% of the New Testament letters. Further more, N.T. writers were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21) and guided “into truth” by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Finally, to take one little verse and say that it defines all of sin is what we call proof-texting or eisegesis. It’s basically taking something way out of its context. In John 16:8-9 Jesus is explaining that the Holy Spirit is going to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and “judgment” (not judging, as Domenick wrote). This means that the Holy Spirit is going to tug on people’s hearts and make it clear that they are sinners who need to repent, trust in Christ’s righteousness, and that He is going to judge them if they don’t. This is not a nullification of what is or isn’t sin. This is not a “get out of jail free” card for homosexuals. This is clear teaching that if you don’t repent of what the Law says is sin, you can never be made righteous in Christ. The Law says homosexuality and many other things are sin. That’s why we need Christ. We cannot keep the Law and therefore, are damned in our sin without trusting Him in faith. Therefore, we need to admit what is sin and turn to Him.

To true Christians, Scripture is not flawed or false. We believe it’s the literal “God-breathed” word to us and for us. We believe that Moses, Paul, and Jesus do not disagree with each other. We believe that even though time has passed God’s word will not (Isaiah 40:8). We believe that God has preserved His Word. It teaches us about Him, how to be saved from our sin, and how to live for His glory.

Lastly, for everyone that is accusing me of “setting a trap” for Lauren. I want to clarify two things. Number one, I have had a relationship with Jesus for eighteen years, however The Domenick Nati Show is not a “Christian” show, it is a pop culture/entertainment show that happens to be hosted by a Christian. The tagline for the show is, and always has been, “Maximum Exposure, Minimum Censorship”. Every celebrity guest knows that I always ask tough, provocative, and sometimes invasive questions that produce shocking content and news headlines. That is the show and it was not a secret before Lauren was our guest. Lauren was the first Christian artist we’ve ever had on the show and she does not deserve the backlash that she received.”

I don’t know Domenick and I want to believe the best about him. Let’s say he didn’t try to trap her, it still looks like he did. Beyond that, he achieved his goal of asking a tough question and producing shocking content and news headlines. Since his show aims for that, perhaps he should stick to dialogue with celebrities or artists about their work and lifestyle, rather than their theology or ethics (or lacktherof). If talking theology and ethics is his goal, then it’s pointless to dialogue with people who can’t answer his questions the way more knowledgeable Christians would. For example, if you want to talk basketball, call LeBron. If you want to talk Christianity, call a theologian or a proven Christian with a working knowledge of the Bible. If art is your aim, stick to art. I can see why people have a hard time ignoring that the question seemed to be a pre-mediated trap designed to drive “clicks.”

As for why Christians are upset with her, it’s important to be fair to their point of view, Domenick. People are upset with Lauren because she didn’t uphold biblical truths yet she claims to be a Christian. She represents “us” on platforms around the world. If she fails to tell the truth, she fails to uphold our collective witness. People are upset with Lauren because they expected better from a well-known Christian artist. People are upset with Lauren because they are tired of “celebrity” Christians misrepresenting our orthodox beliefs.

Compromising Christianity

As frustrating as it is to see Lauren miss the chance to suffer public backlash for proclaiming the truth, my heart goes out to her, and to you, Domenick. I don’t know your story, but so many professing Christians in celebrity culture, like you and Lauren, need to be encouraged and reminded that capitulating to the world’s pressure is not respectable. They’re owning you when you bow to their agenda. You’re not the influencer, you’re the influenced. To be a Christian is to stand upon convictions that transcend fans, fame, and followers. Being a Christian is about allegiance to Jesus Christ and His unchanging Word (Hebrews 13:8).

When thrown into the deep waters of mainstream media a Christian must determine to swim. What Lauren did was drown, and you helped. I don’t know if Lauren Daigle was lying, but I do know that as a professing Christian you lied to her. She’s not “a pro already.” She’s compromised the convictions that the Bible teaches and you’ve comprised your claim to be a follower of Christ. I hope you’ll give serious thought to that and consider what it means to follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-35)

The Bible is clear. Take God at His whole Word or take nothing at all.

Recommended Reading:

What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality– Kevin DeYoung