Why Worry About False Teachers?


I was browsing through Facebook this morning and came across one of my friends who had shared a recent quote from Joel Osteen’s page. Osteen’s post went like this:

     Philippians 1:28 says, “Do not be intimidated by your enemies.” You may be up against a giant obstacle now, but put your shoulders back and hold your head up high. You are not weak. Those for you are greater than those against you.

The Bible passage he quoted didn’t ring a bell, so I quickly got out my Bible and looked it up. Sure enough, the passage was taken grossly out of context in the worst way. Here is what the context says:

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (ESV)

In this passage, Paul is encouraging the Philippian Christians to stand firm in the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul knew there were false teachers (the “opponents” or “enemies” mentioned in the above passage) that were trying their best to lure them away from the true gospel and to win them over to their camp for personal gain. Paul also knew how easy it was to fall into false doctrine that sounds great, but will turn them away from the truth to their own destruction. He warned Timothy of the same thing.

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)

So what’s the big deal? After all, one might say, Joel Osteen’s teachings are very encouraging and inspiring.

True. And I might have even passed by this blatant misuse of Scripture with a simple roll of the eyes had I not seen a comment someone made to my friend’s post. This is what she said:

I love reading this man’s updates. I get more out of him than any church I’ve ever attended! His themes focus on loving and believing in yourself and treating others the same……

This comment is what hit me between the eyes like a brick. I knew then that as a minister, indeed, as a Christian, I couldn’t stand by and just let this go. What if you had a friend who was a doctor and he or she saw you about to consume something that she knew was poison to your physical body? Would she be acting in a loving and caring way if she simply sat back and let you consume it? No. Because of what she knew, she has a moral responsibility to say something. More than that, if she truly loved you, she would definitely say something to you about the danger you are faced with.

So what did Osteen say that was so wrong?

First, let me say that the above quote represents the norm for Osteen. The proverbial “pull yourself up from your boot straps” message pervades his teaching. People are encouraged to see themselves in a better light, to remember their strengths, to dig down deep to find the goodness within them. His books teach us how to “become a better you,” and that our “best life is now.” So what’s wrong with those messages?

What’s wrong, to begin with, is that they are completely opposite of what the Bible teaches. And the biggest thing that is wrong is what is missing. The gospel.

The Biblical gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, first tells us the truth about our condition. All of us are hopelessly and helplessly lost in sin.

None is righteous, no, not one;
11       no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12       All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)

I realize many may see this and say, “You see. Nothing but doom and gloom and telling me how bad I am. I’d much rather listen to Joel Osteen who is positive.” But wait a minute. There is good news, but we can’t appreciate the good news without first realizing the truth of our condition.

You see, because of sin, we are all separated from God. We are spiritually dead and the Bible says we are already condemned because of it. This is a condition that does not call for humanistic self-encouragement. This is a condition that does not call for teaching that tells us to pull ourselves up from the boot straps and hold your head up high. We don’t need to be told that we aren’t weak. We need the truth!

And the truth is, we all need Jesus Christ! God, the One who created the heavens and the earth and can do as He pleases, gave us a Remedy for our sinful, lost condition.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

It is through Christ alone that we are rescued! It is through His death and resurrection that we are set free and find hope and freedom from the sin that bound us, and it is through that same resurrection that we will one day be forever free from the sorrow, shame, sickness, and death that is a part of this present life we now live in.

So, my friends, if I seem to be overly passionate about false teaching, it is only because that false teaching is blinding people to the only truth that can truly set them free from their true sinful condition, and keeping them from the only One who gives them true hope for eternal life where the curse of sin will be no more.

So then, when determining who to listen to, remember this. If the message points you to trust in Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross, it is the true gospel. If it points you to yourself and becoming better by your own strength, run the other way! You might just be encountering a false teacher!

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No More Night – a poem for Easter

Sin cast its shadow upon the earth
And spread like a plague throughout all humanity
The darkness of night would fill the soul of
Every man, woman, and child ever to be born thereafter

The darkness of night
Filled with loneliness, fear, and shame
Its shackles bound to every heart
Its talons gripped every soul

The earth itself lay in ruin
Under the curse of man’s sin
What once was declared to be good
Now lay in the clutches of Evil’s reign

We searched and searched, groping in the dark
Searching desperately for hope
For fulfillment, for freedom
Only to find the shackles tightening
Even greater upon us

We were prisoners of our own lusts
Captives of our own rebellion
Without hope, and without God in the world
Our hopelessness had been sealed
The judgment of death upon our soul

Then from the midst of the night, that blackest of nights
From the midst of the world’s despair
A Light shown in the darkness
And behold, the darkness had to flee!

This One who forgives sins, who raises the dead
Could this be Israel’s long-awaited Messiah?
Could this be the Savior of the world?
Might we, after all, have cause for…hope?

Look, as He walks the rocky soil of earth
Watch as He reaches down to the lowly, the helpless
Could this be the one to raise us out of darkness
And bring an end to the eternal night?

But why? Why upon a wooden cross
Is this Messiah nailed?
What of our hope? What of our hope?
Where shall we turn, when all hope is gone?

Oh despair, how can you reign once again?
Oh night, how black, how black can you be
When once a Light shown so bright
But now is snuffed out!

Shall we return again to the blackness of night?
Will the chains continue to bind us?
The talons sink deeper into our soul
Dooming us to everlasting darkness?

But wait, what piercing gleam of brightness
Now floods the earth!
It is He, Israel’s Messiah!
Could this really be?

See as the darkness flees!
See as the fetters fall!
The talons loose their grip
And hope springs forth once again!

This Jesus has become
The firstborn from among the dead!
The forerunner of God’s new creation
The Beginning of a new heaven and new earth!

God has raised this Jesus from the dead!
He has defeated sin and death!
He has triumphed over the grave!
And now He reigns as King of all kings!

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people,
And he will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain
For the old order of things has passed away!”

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When Caesar is in Power: Making (Christian) Sense of The Election

In reading some of the posts on Facebook today, anyone can tell just how personal this election was for many people. These are definitely serious times we live in with serious issues that carry very serious potential consequences. Most of the people I associate with are very disillusioned today, bordering on depressed. I must admit, I can relate. But I also want to try to bring some perspective to the situation for my readers in an attempt to make sense of things and how we can maybe handle ourselves in the wake of this situation.

First of all, I echo some of my friends when they say, “God is still on the throne.” This is definitely true and we need to keep that in mind. No matter how bad things get down here, God is neither surprised, nor impotent. He’s the same God the day after the election as he was the day before.

However, I do want to caution you about just throwing up your arms and saying, “Well, God is still on the throne,” as if to silently say, “and all those people are just going to hell.” This would be a very unfortunate attitude to take as Christians. So often we get stuck in the mindset that we want to fortify what we think life should be like according to our worldview so that we can feel like we’re victorious and somehow our faith is vindicated. First of all, our faith is vindicated not by someone winning an election, but by the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead! But that former mindset I was talking about  is the oft-times silent and maybe subconscious thinking behind our actions when it comes to politics. Then when things don’t turn out like we had hoped, we just say, “Well, God is still on the throne.” Well, yes and no.

You see, ultimately God is, indeed, on the throne and there is nothing anyone can do about it, no matter who is President. But in another sense, God is not on the throne of many people’s lives. This should be the issue that drives us as Christians and the lens through which we see the results of this election, as well as all of life.

For instance, we don’t just want to throw up our hands and say, “Oh well, God is still on the throne,” and leave it at that. There are some very real consequences that result from this election. First of all, no strides were made toward stopping the killing of innocent unborn babies. And make no mistake: Real people are being killed in the womb in America and our government is not doing its job to protect them. This should be an outrage to all followers of Christ. But not only does it affect babies here in America, but it also means that money will continue to be given to other nations to fund abortions there. My only comfort is in knowing that at the very least, each one of these precious unborn lives will be immediately ushered into the arms of our loving Heavenly Father. But that doesn’t change the fact that the taking of these lives is beyond tragic.

The issue of abortion is one of the most important issues for Christians, but it is just one. There are many more disturbing consequences to the outcome of this election and our disillusionment is understandable.

All of this should do one very important thing: drive us to pray. We are called to pray for our leaders, no matter who they are. It just so happens that when the need is so tangibly felt as it is now, our motivation to pray ought to be all the greater. We need to not only pray for our leaders, but also for the hearts and souls of the people of America. This is, indeed, the greatest need, and the reason why we can’t just throw our hands up and say, “Well, God is on the throne.” Such a response is incomplete by itself. The need plus the truth of God being on the throne should move us to see those who are without Christ and also those who are blinded to the truth as people who need our diligent prayer. After all, they are the ones who voted the way they did, and we as a nation will reap the consequences of that choice. Make no mistake, even though God is on the throne, we are accountable for what we do here in this life. Our hearts should be broken for the souls of our fellow Americans whose blindness keeps them from seeing the truth.

Lastly, this should force us as Christians to be less dependent on government and more dependent on God. Too often I see a fellow Christian whose only conversation seems to be lamenting the current government. This is truly a shame. Our conversation and our lives should be reflecting the true HOPE for a CHANGE of life that can only be found in Christ alone. Our lives and words should be ever pointing to the One who has set us free from our own sin and bondage and be a road sign for those who need to experience that freedom as well. And that’s something no President can ever hope to offer.

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What’s The Message?

While watching the Olympics this summer, an advertisement for a new television show, Revolution, caught my attention and curiosity. The premise of the show seemed intriguing and interesting so I looked forward to checking it out.

The first episode went rather well and held my attention so as to want to watch the following week’s episode. Then it happened. I realized quickly while watching the second week’s episode that two things were unsettling to us, so much so that we turned it off and are now not going to watch any more. Those things were inordinate killing and gratuitous profanity.

Granted, the title of this series is “Revolution” and one can expect there to be a war in there somewhere. But the ease and frequency that the show featured the killing of people, coupled with the mindset of one of the main characters, took it to an unhealthy level in my opinion. This might seem odd coming from someone who thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games movie. But there is a huge difference.

In The Hunger Games, killing was actually seen as something that was bad in the eyes of the main characters as well as the citizens of the country. Katniss and Peeta loathed the very existence of the Games, let alone the expectation that they were to kill others. The message of the movie was clear. Killing is bad.

While one may, if you look really hard, be able to find that message in Revolution, to me it wasn’t nearly as clear, and could have been absent altogether. At the very least, the second episode gave the clear message that restraining from killing was a bad idea and shouldn’t be restrained henceforth.

I posted a message on Revolution’s Facebook page saying they lost a viewer because of the killing and profanity. One replier bemoaned my stance, asking if this was 1970? What’s that supposed to mean? Does the fact that we live in a day that is later than 1970 mean that violence and profanity is all of a sudden O.K? Who made that determination? Or is it that what most people call “progress” is actually desensitization to evil?

So where should we draw the line on violence in entertainment? Is a little bit O.K. but a lot not? Are there certain themes for movies/shows where it is expected? I suspect the answer to these questions will depend on who is being asked. But for me, it comes down to what message is coming through. Is violence and killing being done grudgingly in self-defense, or is it somehow embraced as just another accepted part of life? Is violence just the product of people saving the day (I’m thinking superhero movies) or is it being used specifically as  the focus to try to entertain? The answers to these questions, to me and my family, make all the difference in the world.

As for profanity, it’s just not needed. I can handle a little D-word slip here and there, but when a movie or TV show seems to be littered all throughout with the B-bombs and S-bombs or worse, it’s time to turn it off. Whatever you subject yourself to (hearing and watching) will become a part of you and your thinking, and eventually will come out in your actions. As Christians, we need to be separating ourselves from that.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing,  and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1)

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The Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil.

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The Church’s Response to Same-Sex Marriage

When we are talking about things that pertain to society and life in general, we cannot forget that God Himself is the author of law, indeed of all things moral and ethical. Where else would it come from? Our very laws that govern our nation are derived from God’s law, as much as many would love to deny that. And I’m not inferring that the US is in any way a “Christian” nation. But it is true, though, that morality and law in any society finds its ultimate beginning and end in God Himself. It’s just truth. Therefore, when we talk of things like homosexuality or gay marriage, we need to, indeed, we MUST look as such things in light of what God Himself has revealed to us about how He thinks about such things. And if we were to be honest before God and ourselves, we would see clearly that we are not dealing with a “civil rights” issue here, but one of a fundamental moral nature, one that happens to be a major fabric of one of the most basic and sacred institutions of all: marriage. Indeed, as Paul points out in Ephesians, marriage itself is far more than just a man and a woman being legally bound to each other. It is a picture of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Now that leads me to what our role as the church should be in all this. We (the church, the body of Christ), are commissioned, yes, commanded, to not only spread the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which, by the way, can set even homosexuals free from their bondage, as well as any other sinner from theirs), but we are called to defend the truth with our very lives, and in this way and others, we are salt in the earth and light in the world. This is our calling. And if no one else does it, our society, and especially those who don’t know Christ, will have no hope to be free from their sins and from God’s judgment. I say these things, not for political reasons, nor to be mean or bigotted. I say these things because we have good news to share with the world, and their eternal destinies are on the line. Therefore, if we know that a certain lifestyle is clearly a sin and we know that sin leads to death, how is it compassionate to support such a lifestyle by voting to allow the sin to continue? Do you not know that our laws uphold God’s order in society and are designed not only to keep order but to preserve society from corruption? Why do we support laws that make murder illegal? If we allowed murder in our society, society would be destroyed. Why do we support laws that make adultry illegal? Because if everyone was allowed to sleep with everyone else’s wife, society would be unbearable and the very nature of trust and fidelity would be nullified. So now we come back to the issue at hand. Why do we support laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman? Because if we didn’t, people would live to the contrary in greater and greater numbers and not only would the sacredness of marriage be nullified, but in embracing such a stand as allowing same sex marriage, we are actually saying that it’s O.K., and it is normal, and then the sin of homosexuality would spread in society until it had corrupted the very soul of the people. No. I cannot, will not, and we MUST NOT support such a thing, even in our laws. This is the only compassionate and loving response we can have as the people of God.

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The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

I spent the first 36 years of my life in a charismatic environment. When you’re in it for so long, and especially since childhood, it’s so easy just to accept everything you’re used to seeing every week as the way things are supposed to be.
In the last 15 or so years, however, I began to search the Scriptures and see how what I believed lined up with God’s Word. I no longer just accepted things just because “we’ve always done ‘em that way.” You can imagine, being in that environment for so long, I’ve seen the gamut of stuff that the Holy Spirit has been credited/blamed for. Everything from the Word of Faith teaching (the first thing to get thrown out of my theology) to the renewal movement with all its laughing, falling, barking, and other weird manifestations. It was a journey for me. I didn’t (indeed couldn’t) tackle everything at once to compare it to the Word of God, but as God brought it up, I would scrutinize it. Some stuff stayed in my theology, some stuff stayed but received a different focus, and some stuff went.
Concerning the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I want to say a few things:

1. First, from the standpoint of a charismatic believer earlier in my life, I always noticed how the evangelical nay-sayers would totally miss the point whenever they preached against the Baptism. They always said that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit happens when you become a believer and that’s all the Holy Spirit you will get. They used Scripture to back it up, usually the in 1 Corinthians 12, but also the one in Ephesians where it says “one baptism…” My argument was, “They’re missing the whole point.” I never argued with the doctrine of being baptized into the Body of Christ. I understood that. And I never argued against being one Body. I knew that as well. To me, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a separate work…an anointing for service. It was to be seen as what it was…being immersed, not into the Body by the Holy Spirit, but into the very power of the Holy Spirit Himself. In other words, the use of the word “baptism” was being used in it’s general definition sense, not specific verbiage from Scripture. So in my mind, the arguments against the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” were all being argued from the wrong vantage point and in the wrong context. It was arguing about two completely different things altogether, and I felt like the “other side” never understood.

2. But later in life, I had an increased discomfort with the whole premise of the argument. I began to question what our version of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” was for. I never saw anybody actually do anything with it except “give” it to others who wanted it and seek to have entertainment in a Sunday service. I started to notice that my fellow charismatic friends and churches were focusing too much on the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit and less on Jesus Christ and the true mission of the church. For so long I thought the mission of the church was to move past the “elementary” fundamentals of salvation and get on with meatier stuff like being filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesying, seeing miracles and healing the sick, etc. To me, the definition of a good Sunday service was when the preacher never got to his message because the Holy Spirit broke out all over and people were falling down. But God began to deal with my heart in many different ways. This process was not the result of being swayed by someone else’s teaching. It was God dealing with my heart personally over a long period of time.

3. Today, I still believe in being continually filled with the Holy Spirit as it says in Ephesians. I still believe in healing and miracles. I still believe in speaking in tongues, although not in the same manner as what you might see in a typical charismatic church. But to me, those things are a byproduct of the ministry of the Holy Spirit given whenever He wills, and not something we can conjure up. I personally believe most of the true bona fide miracles and healings you would probably see today happen on the mission field in unreached countries. They are used to validate the message of the gospel, as they always were in the New Testament, and not for a Sunday morning circus.

But above all, I think the verbiage is the true demon here. I think if we get all hung up on the name “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” we’re only reinforcing division in the Body of Christ, which is completely contrary to the whole point of the Scriptures that talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the first place such as 1 Corinthians 12. I find it rather sad that charismatic churches throw 1 Corinthians 12 in people’s faces in order to prove their side about spiritual gifts when in fact the context was actually written to correct people just like them who were all out of balance and causing divisions in the church. Frankly, I think it’s important to distinguish the difference in verbiage according to Scripture, while still acknowledging that there are true subsequent encounters with the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. But they shouldn’t be named “the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
In conclusion, I think we are safer using Scriptural verbiage for unity’s sake and being careful to love one another in the process. Why else would God put 1 Corinthians 13 right in the middle between the two chapters that talk about spiritual gifts? Furthermore, I truly believe our focus should be on Jesus, for that’s Who the Bible says the Holy Spirit speaks of and glorifies. And if we truly do have the mind of Christ, our hearts would be broken for the lost, the widows and orphans, the poor, and making sure that the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit throughout the world. That’s why He came. That’s why He died. And that’s why he has given us the Holy Spirit in the first place.

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