biblical discernment, Biblical truth, Bill Johnson, Christian doctrine, Christianity, contemplative mysticism, deceiving spirits, Emergent church, false 'god' encounters, false anointing, false conversion, false gospel, false prophets, false teachers, mysticism, NAR, new age, New Apostolic Reformation, new spirituality, signs and wonders, social gospel, Word of Faith heresy
Here is another challenging, biblical article from the outstanding blog, Following Jesus Christ. Words of encouragement and biblical exhortations are thoughtfully included with sober warnings, from a brother who is well acquainted with the destructive impact of wolves in the ‘pulpits’ and of businesses disguised as churches.
“God is light. In him there is no darkness at all.” (1John 1:5b)
“See to it, then, that the light within you isn’t darkness.”(Luke 11:35)
“A wicked and adulterous generation seeks a sign. ” (Matthew 12:39)
“…I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:128b)
“…Do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)
In Acts 20:29-35, Paul warns believers that, after he departs, ravenous wolves will come among them, not sparing the flock. Even from amongst the brethren, evil men will arise speaking perverse things in order to draw disciples away from the truth, and toward themselves. Paul was so concerned about these false teachers that he says that he warned them, with tears, for 3 years. He then commended them to God and to the word, and reminded them that he was not greedy and coveted no man’s possessions …but simply labored to teach them all things about Jesus. And here we are 2,000 years later, and the ravenous wolves are here….
So few people have taken the time to really study the eternal scriptures for themselves. Most believers only know a few familiar passages of the Bible focused on by their pastor, friends, or family. All of us need to know for ourselves exactly what the unchanging, everlasting word of God says in full. The scriptures truly are the very words of God, and, as Paul says, they are living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Heaven and earth will pass away – as will men – but the words of God will never pass away (Matthew 24:35, 1 Peter 1:23-25). If we devote our time and energy to the scriptures, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things, will guide us into all truth and will remind us of everything that Jesus said (John 14:26, John 16:13, 1 John 2:27). Each of us should ask the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts each time we pick up the Bible so that when we read it and meditate on it, the word of truth will become more than just wise sayings or stories about men – but instead will be a sharp double-edged sword that pierces our hearts, minds, souls and spirits.
One of the most important reasons for learning the scriptures for ourselves is so that we are not blown “to and fro by every wind of teaching”, or by every new evangelical trend (Ephesians 4:14-15). Once we know the scriptures, Paul says that we will have the ability to test and approve God’s perfect will (Romans 12:2) and thus, we will know if what we are being taught actually lines up with the word, or instead are simply wise principles, traditions and philosophies which were invented by men to deceive (Colossians 2:8). So much of what is being taught these days seems to be motivated by greed, a desire for power/control, or for the love of fame and celebrity. Because of this, we must all demand that every single word being taught to us lines up perfectly with scripture.
Jesus Himself warns us several times to watch out for false prophets. He specifically points out that such men(and women) might not be obvious to most people. Instead, they are ferocious wolves…hiding in sheep’s clothing. By their fruit we will recognize them(Matthew 7:15-16) – if we know the word and exercise discernment by carefully testing every spirit( 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, and 1 John 4:1). Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that not everyone who uses His name will be saved, but only those who obey Him. Many will say to Jesus when he comes to take His children home that they prophesied, drove out demons, and performed miracles in His name. But He will say, “Away from me you evil doers! I never knew you.” (Mathew 7:21-23). Test the spirits against the word!! If it doesn’t line up, turn around and walk away from them, and never, ever go back – for what do temples of idols have in common with the temple of God? Come out from them and be separate! (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
For me to trust a teacher or self-proclaimed prophet or apostle, I need to see clear obedience to the words of Jesus Christ along with true Christ centered humility. If anyone calls themself a prophet, apostle, Seer or any other such name, I would argue that they have already failed the humility test. Every single teacher or leader in Christ needs to preach the Gospel message. This message says: believe that Jesus is who he said he is, repent, accept his mercy as a free gift, forgive everyone, obey the commands of Jesus and the Apostles, love, exercise self control, and be holy –for without holiness no one can see God. Every message that is not centered on scripture and the clear message contained therein must be ignored. Anyone who comes in the name of Christ, but has a spirit that is not in accord with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, must be rejected. Even the great Paul did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom. He resolved to know nothing while he was with the people of God, but Jesus Christ and him crucified. He came in weakness and fear and with much trembling. His message and preaching were not with wise and persuasive words so that the faith of his flock would not rest on men’s wisdom (his own) but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Why aren’t more teachers and preachers like that today? Shouldn’t we expect our teachers to have that same spirit? Shouldn’t those truly clothed in Christ understand that the message of Jesus isn’t about personality, appearance, temporal power, wealth, education or wisdom? So few seem to understand this – be it teachers or the flock. As a result we are all led astray by men, and are enraptured by the temporal. Paul made certain that no one made that mistake with him. In Christ’s kingdom, external appearances count for nothing. Love, obedience, and humility through Jesus Christ are everything.
When Jesus talks about the end times in Mathew 24, he states that many will turn away from the faith and betray and hate each other. Many false prophets will also appear and will deceive many people (Mathew 24:10-13). The statements of Jesus in both Matthew 7 and Matthew 24 regarding the fact that many who think that they know Him (and are allegedly performing all kinds of miraculous signs on his behalf) don’t actually know Him at all, and that many false prophets will appear deceiving many, is frightening really, and makes it even more clear that we need to stay away from the loud, charismatic, signs and wonder oriented teachers and churches. Instead, we need to allow the gentle and powerful Holy Spirit to teach us all things as we diligently study the scriptures and live in the world (John 14:26). As we seek fellowship in Christ, we need to find a church or body that strictly conforms to the teachings of Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, and James. That is the only way we can be sure that it is of God, since, as Peter said, “All men are like grass and their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade…but the word of the Lord endures forever.” 1Peter1:24-25. Jesus also said…“Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35.
In Romans 1:5, Paul teaches us that he received grace and apostleship, not to make everyone rich and happy through Christ, and not to perform healings or signs & wonders but… to call people from among the gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. That is the message that we all desperately need to hear. It doesn’t tickle our ears, but it speaks a deep truth from God to our hearts. Paul constantly preached the Gospel of Christ and emphasized love, holiness, obedience, and self-control. He told us to flee sin and he encouraged us to live – not for the things of this world – but for the unseen, everlasting kingdom of God. Paul encouraged the church by stating that the One who called us, God Himself, is faithful and will help us make it to the very end. As he finishes this letter, Paul, in Romans 16:17-20, warns the church in Rome to watch out for those who cause divisions and act in a manner that is not in agreement with Paul’s teaching. Such people are flatterers and smooth talkers who feed their own appetites and deceive the minds of the unsuspecting. This was a constant theme in Paul’s preaching.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul states that we should demolish every argument and pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we are to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. Paul is clearly demanding that we take an offensive approach in testing each and every message that we hear about our great God, to make sure that it clearly aligns with the eternal scriptures.
Paul, James, Peter, and John all warn us about false prophets and, like Jesus, Paul taught us that such men will be deceitful, hiding their true intentions. Like Satan, they will masquerade as angels of light. 2 Corinthians 11:3-15, states that, just as Eve was deceived by the serpents cunning, our minds too may be led astray from our sincere devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus that we preach, or if you receive a different Spirit than the one you received, or a different Gospel …be wary. Paul also noted in this passage that he preaches the Gospel free of charge, clearly implying that those who seem money centered (whether by coming out with a constant parade of books/dvd’s or by preaching give-to-prosper) almost certainly have bad motives – very bad motives. As 2 Corinthians says, false apostles are deceitful workmen pretending to be apostles of Christ, and no wonder for Satan himself pretends to be an Angel of Light. It is not surprising that his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness and their end will be what their actions deserve. As 1 John 4:1 says, tests the spirits. If the spirit is not clearly of Jesus Christ, then flee from it…. with no turning back, no matter what man says.
In Galatians 1:3-10, Paul begins his address to the Galatians by reminding them of the true Gospel – that Jesus gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of God the Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. He then states that the Galatians are so quickly abandoning the One who called them and are instead are turning to a different gospel – which is not really a gospel at all. Some imposters were throwing them into confusion and were trying to pervert the Gospel. Paul then says that, if he or even an Angel from Heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached (meaning the initial straight Gospel Paul preached) let him be eternally condemned. He then makes the same statement again, emphasizing that anyone who preaches a false gospel, be it human or an angel, should be condemned to hell forever. Paul then says that he is not trying to win the approval of men by bringing this message. Instead, as a servant of Christ, he is trying to please God. Clearly, he knew, even back then, that the pure gospel message was not popular and would offend many, especially those who profit from their preaching. This certainly seems to be the case today as well, where the church, in large part, seems to be chasing unbiblical spiritual experiences along with material prosperity, rather than seeking the glorious face of the living God as perfectly and beautifully revealed in his everlasting word.
In Ephesians 4:11-15, Paul states that God made some to be apostles, some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists in order to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ might be built up until we all reach unity and maturity, obtaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men and their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love we will, in all things, grow up into Him who is the head, which is Christ. This scripture indicates that God raises up leaders to prepare us for good works in Christ so that we might be encouraged until we reach maturity. Unfortunately, this is not what I am seeing in most of our churches today. Instead, our church leaders seem to be ignoring the Gospel message of love and repentance through Jesus Christ, and instead are drawing people in with signs and wonders, trendy worship bands, a charismatic pastor, a false message of inclusiveness, prosperity preaching, bestselling self-help books or with a large, fancy building with great amenities. All of these things will burn to ashes when Jesus comes. But the word of the Lord endures forever….
Colossians 2:6-8 tells us that, just as we received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue in him, built up in strength and overflowing with thankfulness. Verse 8 tells us that we need to see to it that no one takes us captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than Christ. Our teachers should be building us up in Jesus Christ, teaching us to continue in what we received: mercy, love, repentance, and peace. Is that what we are hearing from the teachers we respect or are we simply hearing the worldly principles and philosophies of success, happiness and wealth cloaked in Christian language, while actual scripture and the gospel message of the cross of Jesus Christ, is minimized, manipulated, or ignored?
Colossians 2:18 warns us not to let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels, to disqualify us from the prize. Paul says that such a person goes into much detail about what he has seen and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. That is a highly relevant scripture, because today many “teachers/prophets/apostles” are bragging about their unverifiable and highly unbiblical encounters with angels and spirits despite the fact that Jesus specifically commands his disciples not to rejoice in the fact that spirits are subject to them. Instead Jesus wants them to simply and humbly rejoice in the fact that their names are written in the book of life (Luke 10:20). Countless verses also warn us to avoid all communication and contact with “familiar spirits” aka demons disguised as angels or spirit guides.
Anyone who brags about encounters with angels or the bizarre miracles they have witnessed should be ignored and discredited as teachers. Teachers are held to a very high standard according to Paul and James. It is a high yet humble calling. Paul himself said that the only thing he bragged about was the cross of Christ, through which he was crucified to the world and the world to him. Unfortunately, people – leaders – who are doing exactly what Paul warned against in Colossians 2 – are taking root and are flourishing all over America, and America is drinking in and spreading this sickness throughout the world. People are hurting and hungry, but they are eating the wrong food. Instead, we must lift up the true, pure message of Jesus Christ as illustrated in the gospels, along with the teachings set forth in the epistles…and from everything else we must flee.
2 Thessalonians 2:7-12, states that the secret power of lawlessness is already at work in the world. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the works of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but who have delighted in wickedness. I strongly believe that, in this present age, many, many “Christians” are delighting in the wickedness of these false and demonic teachers and the feelings they get from the false signs and wonders…rather than loving the simple truth of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I believe that counterfeit miracles are allowed by God to test our hearts. Are we in love with the supernatural phenomenon that we are seeing and experiencing, or are we in love with the one who was from the beginning, Jesus Christ, and his commands to repent, forgive, love, obey, flee from sin, suffer for truth, persevere, and be holy? 2 Thessalonians 2 goes on to encourage the body of believers to stand firm in the faith, to continue to believe in the truth and to hold on to the teachings that Paul gave us.
In 1 Timothy 1:3-7, Paul commanded certain men not to teach false doctrines, nor to dedicate themselves to myths or genealogies, which promote controversies rather than God’s work, which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. Paul then states that some have wandered away from the faith and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers but don’t know what they talk about or what they so confidently affirm. 1 Timothy 4:6-10 says essentially the same thing. I see many, many teachers these days who do exactly what this passage warns against. They don’t know the word at all, but simply pull verses out of context to fit their corrupt theology which brings in the masses(who also don’t know the word) and builds their bank accounts.
I love that Paul says that the goal of stopping false doctrine is love. It is not love to allow destructive lies to flourish in the body and possibly drag the ignorant or foolish to an eternity in hell where the worm doesn’t die and the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:48). As 1 Timothy 4:16 says, watch your life doctrine closely. Persevere in them, for doing so you may save both yourself and your hearers. Also, Romans 14:22b states that we should be careful about the things which we approve, lest they condemn us. We are all called to watch our lives and doctrines closely. We are told to be careful about what we approve so that we don’t lead other people astray. We are instructed to do these things not only for our own salvation, but also for the salvation of those who hear us and trust us.
2 Timothy 4:2-8, instructs us to preach the word, and to be prepared to correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For a time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires they will gather around themselves a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn away from truth and turn aside to myths. But we are to keep our heads clear and are to discharge all the duties of an evangelist. This passage then goes on to say that, at the end, when Jesus comes to judge the world, we, like Paul, should all be able to say…I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Peter 2:1-10, affirms what Paul said in Acts 20, that there will be false prophets among the believers. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, with some even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them. Many will be deceived by them and will follow their shameful ways bringing the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit us with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has been hanging over them and their destruction has not been sleeping. If God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, then the Lord also knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the Day of Judgment.
I believe that the above scripture captures what is going on today in many popular churches. So many of these false apostles, prophets and teachers are making hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars through offerings, conferences, creating prophetic teaching centers, by claiming false revelations allegedly coming directly from God, and by selling book after book after book. They are, without a doubt, bringing the way of truth into disrepute by ignoring the Gospel of Christ and the teachings of the apostles, and instead are focusing on their “power” as manifested in unbiblical signs, revelations and wonders (where is insane laughter, barking like a dog, flailing on the ground when not possessed by a demon, fortune telling, shaking uncontrollably, calling the Holy Spirit sneaky and silly (Jen Johnson, Bethel),receiving gold fillings, having out of body experiences, being caught up in a glory cloud, etc. etc. etc. in the Bible?? Nowhere, but it is in Hindu India, and at many of your favorite “churches”. Watch Youtube videos on the Kundalini Spirit and you will see exactly what is going on in the American charismatic movement). These wicked men and women, unlike Paul, do not preach Jesus Christ, but instead preach themselves and for dishonest gain( 2 Corinthians 4:5).
In 1 John 4:1, we are told not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 John 1:7-11, also states that many deceivers have gone out into the world, many of whom do not acknowledge Jesus’ coming in the flesh. We are then instructed to watch out that we do not lose what we have worked for by following such people. John states that anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God. But whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to us and does not have the true teaching of Christ, we should not take him into our house. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. I also love how, in 2 John 1:4, the apostle states that it gives him great joy to find that some of his children are walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. Apparently, the number of those who were seeking the truth, even back then, was not very large, so he expressed great joy when he found some who did remain faithful.
In Jude 1:3-4 we are commanded to contend for the faith. Jude then specifically states that certain men, whose condemnation was written about long ago, have secretly slipped in among the believers. They are godless men who have changed the grace of our God into a license for immorality. In verses 18-21, Jude states that, in the last days, there will be scoffers who follow their own ungodly desires. They are men who divide us, who follow mere natural instincts and who do not have the Spirit. But we are told to build ourselves up in a most holy faith and to pray in the Holy Spirit and to keep ourselves in God’s love as we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring us eternal life. We are told to be merciful to those who doubt and to snatch others from the fire and save them. We are instructed to avoid even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
How do we do all of this? How do we keep the faith? How do we test the spirits? How do we keep from getting manipulated? We learn the eternal word of God for ourselves, without relying upon men to teach us. We pray that, through the Holy Spirit, the eternal truths of the scriptures will burn into our hearts, minds, and souls so that false teaching will never, ever pull us away from God. Jesus promises, in John 14:26, that the Spirit will teach us all things and will remind us of everything Jesus said. The teachings of Jesus Christ, Paul, John, Peter, Jude and James are more than adequate to instruct us forever. Anything that does not clearly align with the teachings contained in the Holy Scriptures must be ignored. And by the grace of God, we will have the confidence and love to walk in humility, peace, and strength, pulling those we know and love out of the flames, so that perhaps we can help set them on the path to eternity with the one and only God.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning it’s shame and sat down at the right hand of God the Father.” Hebrews
Additional verses on false prophets and teachers:
Deuteronomy 18:9-22 , states that if a prophecy is truly from God, then it is true 100% of the time. The Holy Spirit doesn’t make mistakes. It also says that, in Old Testament times, death was the punishment for false prophecies. I bet prophecy was taken a lot more seriously back then! This long passage also forbids all kinds of wicked spiritual practices which are seen in the occult, and in a few very influential churches today. Revelation 19:10b also says that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Are the prophecies you are hearing the testimony of Jesus…or more like what was going on in the passages from Jeremiah and Ezekiel below.
Jeremiah 23:9-45 and Ezekiel 13 speak of lying prophets who only speak vain, happy things that they make up because the people want to hear them. That sounds like what is going on today. Revelation 19:10b says, very clearly, that the spirit of prophecy is the “testimony of Jesus,” not silly, happy positive thoughts made up by our own vanity to please ourselves and the flesh of others.
2 Corinthians 4:5 states, For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and us as your servants for Jesus’ sake. This is quite the opposite of the current move amongst many evangelical teachers to label themselves apostles, prophets and healers. They preach themselves…with just a little hint of Jesus Christ, and then write best-selling books and jet across the world. Paul rejected himself, and preached Jesus Christ as Lord.
1 Timothy 5:22 says not to lay hands on anyone suddenly. I believe the point of this verse is, that men, in their pride, often think they have a great gift to impart to us by the laying on of their hands. No one should touch you unless YOU know that they are good men of Godly character, lest they put something in you that is not of God. I have seen video of a woman lay hands on someone at Bethel church, and that person immediately fell to the floor writhing in what looked like bondage and physical pain. Jesus did’t put those things in to people…he cast them out and sent them to hell!!
1 Timothy 6:1-6 states that we should not listen to corrupt men who teach that financial success equals godliness. Contentment is all things, as we love and quietly await our eternal reward is true godliness.
Titus 1:10-11,16 talks about how men will teach false doctrines intentionally knowing that it will lead to riches. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny him.
2 Peter 1:21 says that all true prophecies come not from the will of man, but from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, prophecy can’t be taught and it isn’t just some positive or encouraging thoughts that we speak to someone. It is a lie unless the Holy Spirit speaks God’s words through you – not your positive thoughts or my positive thoughts with prophetic lingo surrounding it.
2 Peter 3:17-18 says that we should not be led astray by the deception of the wicked but should grow in the grace of the Lord.
Jude 1:3-4 says that we are to contend for the faith against those liars who preach that God’s grace is a license for immorality. Any one who preaches that we are free to sin because of God’s grace needs to read the verses I set forth in the Grace and Obedience writing.
Republished at The Narrowing Path with kind permission from the author, a brother in Christ in Florida, USA.