Deception In the Church: Do You Know Who You’re Playing With?
Deception In the Church: Do You Know Who You’re Playing With?
False doctrine, false apostles, false christs, false teachers, and false prophets – if there is anywhere there could be falsehood and deception, it’s alive and well in the Church. It’s everywhere. The LORD strictly warned his own disciples of deception:
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you, (Matthew 24:3-4, KJV).
Christ never taught us to follow man. He taught us to follow Him. Yet deception is on a rampage in the Church today, and ever-increasing. It comes in many well-dressed packages. I’m going to brief you on some current examples:
• There are people such as Joel Osteen who have won the masses far and wide through a soft, comfortable, feel-good Gospel, and an affluent ministry, yet when poignantly asked if Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven, publicly denied Him. His wife, Victoria, has also spoken openly telling congregants that it’s not about God, but about us. Lakewood Church, where Osteen preaches, is the largest church in America, reaching a worldwide audience through televised sermons and books.
• There is a wave of religious/spiritual abuse that genuine believers suffer when they get caught in the throes of a ‘Christian cult’. There are several very large ones which have a significant global platform (IHOP and Bethel Redding are two of the largest). You are welcome read the testimonies of those who have come forward. Recently, people caught in its tentacles have boldly come forth to speak out (see CBS News Fall From Grace, Bruce Gerenscer, Hillsong Church Watch, Stephanie’s Testimony, Blaise Foret, Caris Adel, and Jo Pomeroy). I encourage you to do the research for yourself.
• There are the lone wolves out there who have self-proclaimed titles such as Prophet, Apostle, and Evangelist who speak foolish things that have absolutely no ground or validity in the Word of God whatsoever. Some are very slick. Others are just blatantly twisted and warped. You don’t have to look far to find them. They are all over social media. And sadly I’ve seen many of them propagated by the Elijah List. And although I’m not against the Elijah List, I do believe there is a lack of discretion at times in lieu of presenting what is purported as “prophetic”.
• And there are new age practices being accepted by naive and ignorant believers such as ‘grave-sucking’, where an individual lays over a grave for hours so as to obtain the anointing or mantle of the dead. Any spiritual involvement with the dead is declared to be an abomination to God according to scripture.
• The Theology of Sound is a new doctrine whereby people measure spiritual entities by sound waves. Such practices are founded upon witchcraft and esoteric knowledge, which again are an abomination to God.
• There are also doctrines that deny or resist godly marriage so they can become ‘wed’ to Jesus beneath a banner of a very strange and seducing ‘Bridegroom’ theology (heavily based upon the Song of Solomon). This is a gross perversion of the Bridegroom Christ truly is to the Body of Christ, and our marriage to Him is through faith in Him and His blood covenant — not a wedding ceremony that denies the holy matrimony between a man and woman. In all of Christ’s and the Apostles teaching or reference to Him as the Bridegroom, the Song of Solomon has not once been referenced in Scripture. Ask any Rabbi — the Song of Solomon is a poetic book on the covenant of marriage which has been traditionally reserved, due to its strong sexual content, within Jewish homes until the wedding.
• And finally, there is a merging of all religions among some very well-known ministers (there are several), who claim that we all serve the same God, and that salvation can be obtained regardless of which god is chosen. That is a denial of Christ Jesus and His redeeming work, and is motivated by an attempt to appease man and forego any persecution for the Gospel of Christ. There are also those making a move toward following the Pope because the Church needs to return to our “Father”. This teaching is heretical in the least. At the most it is blasphemous.
When deception goes this deep it becomes something different: It can actually border upon and even cross into the insane (yes, the insane), opening up the believer to demonic forces and influences that are very seductive and controlling. This may sound extreme, yet I’ve witnessed it firsthand. This is not just about discerning truth from error – somehow we’ve chucked our common sense as well. There are people who have required deliverance ministry, intense psychological therapy, Christian counseling, and mental rehabilitation to get free from such deception and its spiritual strongholds. And yet Christians flock to it. What’s worse is they believe it, follow it, practice it, promote it, and are led astray, becoming even more vulnerable to the seducing spirits at work behind it. As a result, the deception proliferates among individuals and churches worldwide.
This is a grave and serious problem.
THE ULTIMATE INTENT OF DECEPTION IS TO ACHIEVE APOSTASY.
I’m not here to bash so-called ‘ministries’. I’m here to expose darkness with light and truth, giving some clear examples of how deception works, and how to recognize and avoid it. I’m not against dreams, visions, and genuine moves of the Holy Spirit. I believe in the fulness of the Holy Spirit and attempt to live a humble Spirit-filled life. I believe in every gift of the Spirit. Yet the greatest evidence of a Spirit-filled life is the mature fruit from a soul that is abiding in Christ – not outward physical manifestations. Jesus Christ made that absolutely clear.
The very nature of deception is that you don’t know you’re deceived. If you know you’re deceived, then you are no longer deceived. When truth and light comes, deception loses its power. Deception works primarily through lies, seduction, darkness, and manipulation/control (which operates through fear and intimidation).
However, when there is darkness, you don’t expose it by inspecting and digging into what is dark. People who make that mistake inevitably get sucked in. It’s a trap. That’s a very dangerous practice, and it’s part of the seduction by which darkness operates. When you do that, you’re erroneously opening yourself to the seducing spirits which then gain an advantage over you. The only way to truly expose darkness is to turn on the light. And that is what we’re going to do in this post.
The Way, the Truth, and the Life
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me, (John 14:6, KJV).
Many well-intentioned, sincere, and spiritually hungry people are deceived every day by the messages that swarm within the Christian sphere due to a vulnerability that comes through ignorance.
JESUS CHRIST NEVER TAUGHT US TO FOLLOW MAN.
HE TAUGHT US TO FOLLOW HIM.
Jesus Christ taught us to make disciples in His name. But the church is making disciples of men instead.
Christ never taught us to follow men. He taught us to follow Him. What is sad is that most Christians rely upon men to satisfy their spiritual hunger – and that is precisely the problem. Many Christians do not understand the fundamental necessity for their own intimate relationship with God through His Word. Instead, their biblical knowledge and the tenets of their faith are many times second-hand. It’s merely what they were taught. People who are genuinely hungry for Jesus Christ often seek ministries that claim to have the answer to what they want, or what they think they’re looking for. This is very alluring to the naive, ignorant, yet sincere Christian – as well as those who are mature and well-armed with biblical knowledge. No one is immune to deception. It comes in every flavor. Everyday people are sucked into sly deception in an attempt to connect with God, obtain a greater anointing, and to find Jesus Christ.
YOU DON’T SEEK OR FOLLOW MAN TO FIND WHO CHRIST HAS ALREADY DEPOSITED WITHIN YOU:
THE BELOVED HOLY SPIRIT
I’m a true believer in the indwelling Holy Spirit, the power of an intimate relationship with Him, and maintaining a healthy biblical diet by which you remain fed, nourished and skillfully armed. But to develop this kind of walk with Christ takes a great amount of discipline, an investment of time, patience, and a willingness to grow. Because a relationship with God isn’t on our terms – it’s on His. And we must learn to relate to Him according to His ways. This requires a humble spirit, the fear of the LORD, great patience, perseverance, and a genuine spiritual fidelity that refuses anything contrary to Christ and His word. Not many believers live like that. Instead we’ve crafted our Christian lives after our western culture, which says, “I want it all now, and I want it handed to me with ease according to my terms and my timing. Skip the development and the discipline.” As a result, a deep, abiding and intimate relationship with Christ suffers grave shortcuts to what He truly offers us – because it doesn’t come from man. It comes directly from Him. And there’s only one way to get it.
The Diligent Search
Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word, (Isaiah 66:1-2, KJV).
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD…, (Jeremiah 29:12-14a, KJV).
Every single one of us must take individual responsibility for our relationship with the LORD and our spiritual well-being. No one else can do that – not your pastor, your parents, your mentor, or your friends. No one. If your Christianity is based upon your relationship to a church, ministry, or any particular man, then you are inherently vulnerable.
THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT,
THE UNADULTERATED TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD,
AND AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST.
When we choose man over the Holy Spirit, and when we fail to read, study, pray and fellowship with God through His word, we insult Him and we become vulnerable to whomever we choose to put in His place. Never take anything at face value.
Test the Spirits
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world, (1 John 4:1, KJV).
The very nature of a test speaks to the mastery of the one administering it. It requires what Paul said to Timothy:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that neededth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).
Prove all things; hold fast that which good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:21-23, KJV).
On the contrary, people are listening to whatever falls into their head, and readily submitting themselves to whatever is told them. And there is much tickling of the ears. Very little, if anything at all, is appropriately tested. If it makes us feel good, then it must be true. If there was a dream, well then it must be God. If there as a word, then He must have said it. If there was a vision, He must have shown us. Such assumptions are both ridiculous and dangerous.
There is a desperate necessity within the Body of Christ today for biblical literacy and accuracy. That does not come by listening to men, but by a diligent and disciplined reading and studying of God’s word, and a humble and contrite heart that is fully submitted to it in prayer through an intimate relationship with the One who authored it. Such requires patience, diligence, and discipline – and the boldness to stand for truth in the face of opposition.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free, (John 8:31-32, KJV).
One of the very last prayers Jesus prayed was witnessed and penned by John:
And now I come to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou has sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth, (John 17:13-19, KJV).
Salvation is not the same as sanctification. There are many saved people who are deceived and unsanctified. Christ washes and cleanses His bride by the water of His word, which has the ability to sanctify her, (see Ephesians 5:26). We all have a personal responsibility and obligation to a sanctification by the word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. This can only happen through a submission to Christ’s word by His Spirit.
THE WORD OF GOD IS THE ONLY LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY
BY WHICH ALL OTHER ESTABLISHED AUTHORITIES ARE PROVEN.
Knowing Them by Their Fruit
Too many in ministry today are motivated by the prestige, power, and position it grants them. This is a perversion of the Gospel of Christ. As a result many ministries and churches are driven by dollars, numbers, and religious political goals that are completely contrary to the Gospel. This is the same spirit by which Judas Isacariot became the son of perdition and was led astray, being motivated by personal profit and the desire for notoriety among the religious elite. When Simon sought Peter for the Holy Ghost, he offered him money. Peter utterly condemned him, revealing the motive of his heart:
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity, (Acts 8:20-23, KJV).
It is one thing to try to buy the anointing – it’s another to try to sell it. Such individuals abound in the Church in our generation. I believe the same judgment will rest upon them. Unless they repent they will not escape the condemnation of the LORD. Peter addresses these individuals in 2 Peter 2:1-22, giving no room for their error.
Jesus Christ is the perfect example to us of what the Gospel looks like. His humility, love, grace, and power were fueled by an intimacy with His Father and a total abandonment to His Father’s will and purpose. There was no selfish agenda. Christ Jesus taught us that those who are his disciples will be “like him” (see Matthew 10:24-25).
Christ made it clear that we will know them by their fruit.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringteth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity, (Matthew 7:15-23, KJV).
This is a sobering word. In John 15, Jesus explains how we can bear His fruit:
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love, (John 15:3-5 & 10, KJV).
FRUIT IS THE EVIDENCE IN A BELIEVER’S LIFE OF AN AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST AND THE SANCTIFICATION THAT ACCOMPANIES IT.
The Excellent Way
Abiding in Christ’s love and His word is something the Church has sorely missed. Instead there is a great prophetic movement that has turned the ears of believers away from the unadulterated truth of God’s word, through a selfish agenda that has destroyed many lives.
Paul’s dissertation about prophecy being the greatest of all gifts has been capitalized upon by many in an attempt to give credence to their prophetic ministries. Prophecy is the testimony of Jesus (see Revelation 19:10). It is the word of God, as spoken and revealed by the Spirit of Jesus Christ Himself. The prophet is the one who merely gives utterance to that, but it comes only by the Holy Spirit as He speaks. This is indeed a genuine gift and a very powerful one for those who steward it appropriately. However, it the most abused and misused gift of any, and is responsible for the derailing and destruction of many lives who choose to feast at such a table.
Christ taught us to love, and told us plainly that we will be known by our love. He also told us to pursue His truth and remain in it. This commandment to love is the one we are obligated to both pursue and obey. Paul taught us clearly that apart from love, no other gift or service has any reward. Peter taught us to pursue godliness, love, and the fruits by which a Christian life is truly known, proven, and authenticated.
According to his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, (2 Peter 1:3-11, KJV).
Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing… And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity, (1 Corinthians 12:29 – 13:3 & 13, KJV).
Within this dissertation, it is understood that the greatest gift is to love. It is the excellent way. It holds the trump card. Period. And when Christians begin to exalt what Christ does not, we will end up deceived, misled, and in dangerous spiritual territory.
LOVE IS THE GREATEST GIFT.
WE ARE COMMANDED BOTH TO PURSUE IT AND ABIDE IN IT.
LOVE IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW.
GOD IS LOVE.
WITHOUT IT WE HAVE NOTHING AND ARE NOTHING.
You are ultimately accountable to God for your personal walk with Him. As for mentors, pastors, and other spiritual authorities, you have the divine right to choose whom you serve and will submit to. And when someone is in error — you have a biblical responsibility to follow the LORD. Do not ever subvert the LORD’s authority over your life for that of any man. You belong to Him alone, and to Him you stand or fall, and to Him you are accountable.
When we understand how to walk with Christ and in Him, we will manifest His fruit, and save ourselves from the deception that is so rampant today. Be ready to stand boldly for the truth, and to be persecuted, falsely accused, and even rejected.
If you’re going to walk with Christ, you must understand that your relationship with Him comes first — whatever the cost of following Him. You have nothing to fear in following and obeying the One who gave His life for you; who holds all power and authority in His almighty hand.
You don’t have to be a prey. And you don’t have to play.
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credit: Pixabay
Post Updated: 11.5.2017