Discernment, False Doctrine

A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention

I’m taking a short summer break this week. I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives. The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is also taking place this week. Will you please pray that God will bring conviction of sin, repentance, and obedience to God’s Word?


Originally published April 6, 2018

Think back to your childhood. Remember the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Once upon an time, there lived an emperor. One day two swindlers came to his palace and told him they could weave cloth for his royal robes that was magical: to those who were foolish or unfit for their jobs, it would appear invisible. Only the wise and worthy would be able to see this fine fabric. The emperor hastily agreed to pay the “weavers” an exorbitant amount of money to make him such an amazing garment, thinking he would use it to weed out anyone unfit for royal service.

The weavers set about pretending to weave. From time to time, the emperor sent various folk to check on the progress the weavers were making, and – though in reality, none of them could see the non-existent fabric – all reported back that the garments were coming along nicely and the cloth was beautiful. But strangely enough, when the emperor himself looked in on the weavers, they held up the magnificent fabric, and he could not see it. Not wanting word to leak out that he was unfit to serve as emperor, he pretended to examine the cloth and complimented the weavers lavishly on their fine work.

Finally, the weavers informed the emperor that the garments were finished. They had the emperor strip down to his skivvies and pretended to help him on with his fine new “garments”. Word had spread among the emperor’s subjects about the magical properties of the fabric, and as the royal procession made its way through town, all shouted out praise for the emperor’s fine new clothes.

All. Except for one little boy.

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the boy shouted.

It took the innocent honesty of a simple child to shock the emperor’s subjects back to their senses. The truth spread like wildfire, and the crowd began to cry out: “The emperor is naked!” “The emperor has no clothes on!” “He’s not wearing anything!”

But did the emperor admit to his foolishness, return to the palace, and get dressed? No. Sadly the story ends this way:

“The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, ‘This procession has got to go on.’ So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.”¹

And so the “emperor” of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention and those who carry its train march proudly on, despite the cries of simple peasants and innocent little children crying at the top of our lungs, “The emperor is naked!” “There are issues that need to be addressed, here!” “Listen to us!”

You’ll note that the story doesn’t say that the emperor was a cruel man, that he overtaxed the people, oppressed them into slavery, was a warmonger, or was in any other way an evil leader. In fact, one could argue that he had good intentions of making sure the people who served at various posts in his empire were of the finest caliber.

And while there are many issues that need to be addressed in my denomination, I think this could generally be said of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention as well. Call me a Pollyanna, but I have no reason to believe our denominational leadership – as a whole – is evil or has anything less than the best of intentions for the SBC.

There are many good and praiseworthy things going on in SBC life. We have hundreds of doctrinally sound pastors faithfully preaching the gospel week in and week out. Discernment and biblical literacy among Southern Baptist church members is slowly but steadily growing. The SBC takes a public, biblical stand on abortion and homosexuality while many other denominations do not. Our organizational structure for funding and sending out missionaries, while sometimes flawed in its execution, is without peer. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the finest relief organizations in the world. And there’s so much more. Find a godly Kingdom effort going on somewhere, and you’ll probably find a Southern Baptist involved in it. By the grace of God, while we’re far from perfect, we’re getting a lot of things right.

But even benevolent emperors get things wrong sometimes, and, Southern Baptist leadership, your drawers are flapping in the breeze on this one²:

Sin. The public sin our leaders commit that we excuse and the public sin our leaders commit that we discipline, and the fact that there’s a discrepancy between the two.

Recently, Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (one of the top positions of SBC leadership at the national level) resigned his position due to “a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past,” which, we are left with little choice but to assume means “adultery”. (As an aside, Christians, when confessing sin, let’s knock off the the terminological hem-hawing and call a spade a spade. “I had a six month extra-marital romantic and sexual relationship with a married woman in my church,” or whatever. You don’t have to give all the gory details or name names, but, for crying out loud, if you’re going to confess, confess- don’t finesse.)

It was right and biblical for Dr. Page to publicly confess and express sorrow over his sin as well as to resign (it would also have been right and biblical for the SBC to remove him had he refused to resign, which, undoubtedly would have happened). He sinned against God, his family, the woman and her family, his church, his co-workers, and the entire denomination. He publicly embarrassed the Southern Baptist Convention and gave unbelievers fodder for scoffing when the report of his sin made the national news. This was a case of a well known Southern Baptist leader whose public, observable sin was handled biblically by SBC leadership. I am thankful for this witness to Christians and to the world that sin is not to be swept under the rug, but that sinners are to repent, be disciplined, and then be restored to fellowship (although, in cases like this, not leadership).

But we don’t handle all cases of public sin that way. Some public sin we reward by making the sinner into a wealthy, lauded celebrity.

“Impossible!” you say?

Check the shelves at LifeWay. Select twenty average SBC churches with women’s ministries and see whose books, DVDs, and simulcasts are being used again and again. Peruse the speakers at popular SBC conferences.

You’ll find names like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lysa TerKeurst, Christine Caine, Ann Voskamp, Sarah Young, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Rick Warren, and T.D. Jakes, just to name a few.

Have they committed adultery? Voiced approval of of homosexuality? Committed theft, abused their spouses, or promoted pornography? No. But those aren’t the only types of sins the Bible prohibits.

Every single one of them teaches false doctrine, from Sarah Young’s blasphemous “channeling” of Jesus, to T.D. Jakes’ denial of the Trinity, to Christine Caine’s Word of Faith heresy, to Lysa TerKeurst’s teaching of contemplative prayer.

All of these women who do speaking engagements unashamedly and unrepentantly preach to co-ed audiences. All of these men allow women to preach to co-ed audiences from their pulpits.

All of them who join in ministry with others have yoked or affiliated themselves with false teachers. Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer. Priscilla Shirer and T.D. Jakes. Steven Furtick and Joyce Meyer and T.D. Jakes. Rick Warren and the Pope.

Scripture plainly prohibits the teaching of false doctrine. It’s a major theme of the New Testament, for goodness sake. The Bible tells us that women are not to preach to men or exercise authority over them in the gathered body of Believers. And God’s Word makes very clear that we are to have nothing to do with false teachers, especially not partnering with them in “ministry”.

In the wake of Frank Page’s resignation, I asked this poll question on Twitter

followed by this one

Why are Southern Baptists leaders so quick to – rightly and biblically – oust Frank Page for, as far as we know, one isolated sin which he publicly confessed to and repented of, and yet overlook three major – and much more publicly observable and harmful to Southern Baptists – ongoing sins from pastors and teachers who have been rebuked and refuse to repent? Why, instead of disciplining them for their sin, do those in leadership give them fat book deals, invite them to speak at all the cool conferences, fawn over them on social media, and make them into celebrities?

How many sins will it take to disqualify and discipline these people? Four? Eleven? Ninety-six? Is there any amount of sin these pastors and teachers, and those like them, can commit that will cause those in SBC leadership to pull their materials off the shelves of LifeWay, deny them a seat at the table, and urge them to repent and step down from their positions?

I’ve been a Southern Baptist from the day I was born. I’ve been taught since the cradle roll that if God’s Word says not to do something and you do it anyway, that’s a sin. If God’s Word says to do something and you don’t do it, that’s a sin. And that sin is sin in the eyes of God.

Well is it, or isn’t it, Emperor?

If sin is sin in God’s eyes, why aren’t you treating Beth Moore’s sin like Frank Page’s sin? Why are you rewarding her for her sin and disciplining him for his?

The Bible says in James 3:1:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Those who teach and lead bear more responsibility to teach sound doctrine and walk worthy because they are teaching and leading us by example.

Why are all the aforementioned pastors and teachers better examples to us in their rebellion and unrepentant sin than Frank Page was in his repentance of sin?

Why?

Southern Baptist peasants and little children see right through your foolishness on parade on this issue and we want answers. Biblical answers.

Don’t just stand there shivering, suspecting we are right, but thinking, “This procession has got to go on,” and walking more proudly than ever. Go back to the palace. Repent. Clothe yourselves with humility and obedience to Scripture, and come back and lead us rightly. Biblically.

Because the Emperor of Southern Baptist leadership has been naked for far too long.


¹H.C. Andersen Centret (The Hans Christian Andersen Centre). The Emperor’s New ClothesAccessed April 5, 2018.

²I am well aware that this is not the only problem in the SBC that needs to be addressed. It would be impossible to address every issue in one article, so this time I’ve chosen to focus on this one particular issue.
Discernment, False Doctrine, False Teachers

Throwback Thursday ~ Clinging to the Golden Calf: 7 Godly Responses When Someone Says You’re Following a False Teacher

 Originally published January 16, 2015

false teacherEver heard of Jeroboam? If you’ve read your Old Testament, the name probably rings a bell, but, let’s face it, it’s hard to keep all those Jeroboams, Rehoboams, Ahinoams, and Abinoams straight, right? Well, let’s read a little bit about Jeroboam:

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. 1 Kings 12:26-32a

The Kingdom of Israel had just split into the southern kingdom of Judah and the Northern kingdom of Israel. Jerusalem, where the temple is located, is in Judah. Jeroboam (king of Israel) figures that if his people continue traveling to Jerusalem for feasts and sacrifices, they will eventually turn their loyalty back to the the kingly lineage of David (aka: Judah, 26-27) and he’ll lose both his kingdom and his head. So, in order to keep the people inside the borders of Israel and control them, he makes a couple of golden calves (which somebody should have remembered turned out badly the last time that was tried {Exodus 32}) for them to worship at either of two convenient locations, Bethel, in the southern part of Israel, and Dan in the northern part. Jeroboam, leading the way, had the Israelites simply transfer their feasts and sacrifices that they would have offered to God to these golden calves. It’s a fascinating story that you can read more about here if you’re interested.

So why am I going on and on about Jeroboam?

Because Jeroboam’s story is so similar to something that is happening in the visible church today. He was a well known personality who led God’s people to worship an idol which he told them was God. And God’s people went along with it, transferring their worship from the one true God to the golden calf called “God.”

There are a ton of Jeroboams out there today. Some of you reading this might be following one of them and worshiping the idol their false theology tells you is the God of the Bible. And in the same way that a man of God came along and rebuked Jeroboam for his blasphemy, a man or woman of God might come along and call out the Christian celebrity you’re following, or take you aside -out of love and concern- and let you know that person is a false teacher.

I hope you won’t respond like Jeroboam did. He was so angry, he tried to kill the prophet. But sadly, I have seen this type of response (at least verbally) many times, especially from women, when faced with the fact that their favorite Bible teacher or author is preaching a false gospel.

So, what’s a godly way to respond when someone tells you you’re following a false teacher?

1. Consider the source and Listen.

If you know the person who’s telling you this, think about her godliness and character. Is she generally a godly person? Does she know her Bible well? Does she show love and concern for others? Is she trustworthy? A godly person of good character has no reason to toss out wild and unfounded accusations, especially if you’re her friend and it might offend you. In fact, she’s probably scared to tell you.

But even if it’s a stranger on a blog saying Celebrity Bible Woman is a false teacher, hear her out and make sure you understand what the issues are. Remember, what she’s saying might be true, but you’ll never know if you immediately write her off.

2. Listen for content, not tone.

There are some discerning people out there who will bring you flowers and candy and hold your hand as they gently tell you the person you’re following is a false teacher, and then there are discerning people whose tone or manner might rub you the wrong way as they’re delivering the news. Don’t let the way something is said turn you off to the content of what is being said. Don’t sacrifice truth on the altar of tone.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

It’s tempting to let our feelings take charge when we’re receiving bad news, but you aren’t going to be able to evaluate the content of what the person is saying if you’re consumed by rage or hurt. It might help to remind yourself of your relationship to the teacher/author in question. Do you even know her personally? It’s not like someone is leveling accusations against your child, spouse, or best friend. Put your emotions aside and let reason and clear thinking rule the day.

4. Don’t blindly believe the messenger.

You don’t have to -nor should you- believe everything you hear just because it quotes a Bible verse or wraps itself in the label “Christian”. That applies to both the person who tells you you’re following a false teacher and the alleged false teacher herself. Listen carefully to what the person has to say, make sure you understand it, then get out your Bible and get to work. Are the issues the person has raised biblical? What does God’s word have to say about these issues? Is the person you’re following violating Scripture? If so, choose to stop following the false teacher because the Bible -not a person- tells you to do so. People are fallible. God’s word is not.

5. Don’t shoot the messenger.

It’s been my experience that women who are loyal devotees of false teachers can be some of the most vicious people in the world if you dare to question their idol. I have had women verbally rip me to shreds, threaten me, call me names, accuse me of “judging,” and tell me I’m what’s wrong with Christianity for politely pointing out from Scripture that someone is teaching false doctrine. Ladies, we give Christian women as a whole a bad name when we act like that. More importantly, that kind of behavior is a reproach to Christ, and never appropriate for someone who calls herself a Christian.

6. Defend from Scripture, not opinion, emotion, or personal preferences.

It is downright embarrassing when a person is shown that Celebrity Bible Woman is violating a certain Scripture, and her only argument is, “But I just LOVE her! She’s such a great teacher and helps me understand the Bible so well!” If it were really true that Celebrity Bible Woman is such a great Bible teacher, her followers ought to be able to  prove -from Scripture- that what Celebrity Bible Woman is doing and teaching isn’t unbiblical. The bottom line is that Scripture is our ultimate authority, not our opinions, not our personal preferences, not how much we love a certain teacher. For a Christian, if something comes up against the Bible, the Bible wins. Period. So, if you’re going to defend Celebrity Bible Woman, defend her from Scripture. And if you can’t, why are you still following her?

7. Love Christ more than you love your favorite teacher.

If someone shows you from Scripture that your favorite teacher, author, or pastor is teaching false doctrine and you ignore that warning because you are so enamored with that teacher, then what you’re saying is that you love that teacher more than you love Christ and His word. Jesus said:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:37

Your parents. Your children. They’re the people you love most in the world. If Jesus says you can’t love them more than you love Him, do you think it’s going to be OK with Him if you love your favorite Bible teacher more than you love Him? It’s not. Love Christ above all else, and cut that false teacher out of your life.

 

It can be difficult to hear that you’re following a false teacher. You like her. She makes you feel good. You think you’re doing great in your walk with the Lord. It’s hard to give all that up. But we must be careful that we never put our feelings for a person above Christ and His word. If someone tells you you’re following a false teacher, don’t brush her off or attack her. She’s most likely coming to you out of love and concern for you and for the body of Christ. Check out what she’s saying against the Bible. And if she turns out to be right, stop following that false teacher and thank her. Because a person who rescues you from an enemy of Christ is truly your friend.


Check out my friend Pamela’s great article on this same topic called The Christian Woman’s Guide to Conversing with Bereans.

Discernment, False Doctrine

Throwback Thursday ~ Touch Not My Anointed?

Originally published January 23, 2018

“Never challenge or speak out against God’s anointed,” I recently read in a book for Christian women.

Have you ever heard someone say this? Is it biblical? Who are “God’s anointed”? Why should we never challenge or speak out against them? What does it mean to be “anointed” anyway?

This is just one more of the many dangerous false teachings coming out of the Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation heresies. It is an adulteration of Psalm 105:15/1 Chronicles 16:22 (same text). The phrase “touch not My anointed” is lifted out of context and imbued with the meaning “never criticize, correct, or rebuke the pastor.” Unfortunately, churches that wield this false teaching like a weapon usually do so because they are pastored by a false teacher who needs to be (or is being) biblically criticized, corrected, or rebuked.

The context of Psalm 105/1 Chronicles 16 makes it obvious that this is not what this verse means, even in the Old Testament, as anyone who takes the trouble to read the whole chapter can clearly see. This verse is about God protecting the Israelites from oppression by foreign kings when they were wandering in the wilderness. “Touch not My anointed oneS” and “do my prophets no harm” is a warning to pagan nations to leave God’s people – all of them, the common people as well as the prophets – alone during the Exodus.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with New Testament churches and the idea that one should never challenge or speak out against a pastor. Pastors are only “anointed” today in the same sense that every believer is “anointed.”

In the Bible, “anoint” simply means to apply oil or another substance (Luke 7:38, John 9:6) to a body part (your own or someone else’s). In the Old Testament, one of the occasions for applying oil was in ceremonies to consecrate – set apart – someone (or something: Genesis 31:13, Exodus 29:36) for a particular purpose. For example, David was anointed with oil when God set him apart as king. All Old Testament priests were anointed with oil. Elisha the prophet was anointed with oil.

But we do not see this in the New Testament. No one is anointed with oil as part of a consecration ceremony. In the New Testament, the verses containing the word “anoint” fall into one of three categories: medicinal/hygienic application of oil and other substances, references to Jesus as the “Anointed One” (Messiah), and two passages (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 1 John 2:20,27) speaking of all Christians as being allegorically “anointed”: set apart as God’s special people (the same way Psalm 105/1 Chronicles 16 talk about the Israelites as God’s special, set apart people).

The only individual in the New Testament who was anointed – literally or allegorically – in the Old Testament, ceremonial, consecrated sense is Jesus. Why? Because He fulfills all three of those Old Testament “anointed” positions: prophet, priest, and king. He is the final prophet, the Great High Priest, and the eternal King.

Therefore, no New Testament believers are “anointed” to any position but we are all spiritually anointed – set apart to and for Christ as His special possession. We are to submit to our pastors and elders (Hebrews 13:17) insofar as they teach and obey God’s written Word (1 Timothy 5:19-20, Acts 5:29), but “never challenge or speak out against God’s anointed”? Only if the Anointed One you’re talking about is Jesus.

False Doctrine, False Teachers

Throwback Thursday ~ Can a False Teacher be a Christian?

Originally published December 4, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to read a fascinating and thought provoking Twitter discussion among some brothers in Christ about what constitutes a false teacher, and whether or not some false teachers might actually be genuinely regenerated Christians.

My working definition of a false teacher is someone who unrepentantly, despite biblical correction, consistently teaches, either implicitly, explicitly, or via his or her behavior, doctrine that is in direct conflict with clear cut Scripture.

It’s not a perfect definition, and I’m sure we can all think of exceptions, but that’s the general guideline I follow before referring to someone as a false teacher. But could someone who, despite correction, persists in teaching things and behaving in ways that contradict Scripture truly be a born again Christian?

Let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say:

Galatians 1:8-9

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

This passage is in reference to the Judaizers, who were preaching a false soteriology. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says twice, of such a teacher, “let him be accursed.” The Greek word anathema, translated “accursed,” means “devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell.”¹ Is this something the Holy Spirit would say about someone who is a Christian?

1 Timothy 4:1-3

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Verse 2 as well as the phrase “teachings of demons” would seem to indicate that at least some false teachers are not saved. I think it’s fair to say that someone who is a Christian would not be marked by the Holy Spirit as a liar, or someone whose conscience is seared, or someone whose teaching is demonic.

Also notice the false teachings mentioned in verse 3: the forbidding of marriage and the requirement to abstain from certain foods. Some would say that only deviant soteriology qualifies a person as a false teacher, but here the Holy Spirit says false teachings on marriage and food (what most would probably call secondary or even tertiary theological issues) are leading peple to “depart from the faith.” How can someone whose teachings lead people away from the faith not be considered a false teacher? Would someone who is genuinely born again knowingly teach things that lead people away from Christ?

2 Peter 2

Here, Peter gives us a twenty-two verse description of false teachers, their characteristics and their fate. He uses words like destruction, sensuality, greed, condemnation, willful, and blasphemous. Can you think of any passages of Scripture which describe believers with these sorts of words? Read 2 Peter 2 with Galatians 5:22-23, and the character and eternal destiny of believers in mind. Does it sound like Peter is talking about Christians or non-Christians?

1 John

The book of 1 John is practically a checklist for determining whether a person is saved or not. Does the teacher you’re listening to deny her sin (for example, preaching to men) and continue in it, or confess it and repent? (1:8-10) Does she keep God’s commands or walk in disobedience? (2:3-6) Does she hold to apostolic teaching (4:1-6) or leave it behind (2:19)? John draws a very clear line as to who is genuinely saved and who is not.

Jude 4, 18-19

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…[The apostles] said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

The whole book of Jude deals with false teachers, and can be read and compared with what we know to be true of believers as we did with 2 Peter 2. The false teachers described in Jude do not sound like they bear the characteristics of believers.

Verse 4 seems to deal with those who teach a false soteriology (“pervert the grace of our God” and “deny our only Master…) and says they are ungodly and designated for condemnation. Christians do not fall under condemnation. Verses 18-19, however, describe people who are scoffers, have ungodly passions, cause division in the church, and are worldly (all of which can fall under the umbrella of non-soteriological false teaching). Verse 19 says such people are “devoid of the Spirit.” Notice that “Spirit” is capitalized, which indicates the Holy Spirit. All born again believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Only non-Christians can properly be described as “devoid of the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 11:12-15

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

This passage describes false teachers who disguise themselves as “apostles of Christ” and “servants of righteousness.”  Verse 15 describes false teachers as servants of Satan. Their end (their eternity) will correspond to the fact that they serve Satan. Christians are defined as servants of Christ, not Satan, and they spend their eternities in Heaven, not hell.

Romans 16:17-18

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

While this passage does not specifically use the term “false teachers” it is clear that people who cause division, create obstacles contrary to sound doctrine, and deceive the naive, “do not serve our Lord Christ.” Christians, by the Bible’s own definition, are servants of Christ, and do not willfully or habitually deceive people, cause division, or create obstacles to sound doctrine.

2 John 9

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Does the teacher you’re listening to “abide” – live in, stay in, walk in – the teaching of Christ, or does she habitually deviate from, or “go on ahead” of it? This verse describes those who do not abide in the teaching of Christ as not having God. Christians are those who abide in the teaching of Christ.

Matthew 7:15-23

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

In the first section of this passage, Jesus says we will be able to recognize false teachers by their fruits. Does the teacher you’re following bear fruit in keeping with repentance? What about the trajectory of her life and teaching? Are her teachings, hermeneutics, affiliations, and behavior getting better and more biblical over time, or is she on a downhill slide? What about the fruit of her ministry? Is she producing genuine converts who grow to spiritual maturity, correctly handle and understand God’s word, share the gospel, and disciple others? Jesus says that diseased trees that don’t bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. That’s not imagery the Bible applies to Christians.

The second section of the passage makes it clear that there will be people in hell (non-Christians by definition) who looked every bit like Christian teachers to us on earth. They will do lots of Christiany looking things “in Jesus’ name,” but only those who do “the will of my [Jesus’] Father” are known by Christ (Christians). Are teachers who knowingly twist God’s word, even on secondary and tertiary theological issues, doing the will of the Father? What about those who deliberately walk in disobedience to His word in their own behavior or by their affiliation with those who teach another gospel? Christians are characterized by obedience to Christ and submission to His word.

Acts 18:24-28

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Aha! Here’s a false teacher who was a Christian! Or was he? Apollos is actually a great example of someone who was not a false teacher, yet was wrong, initially, in what he was teaching.

Look back at the Scripture reference: Acts 18. Apollos came along during the transition time between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, which was in its infancy. The New Testament Scriptures, as we know them, didn’t exist for Apollos to study. There were no Christian seminaries to train him in the full gospel. What Apollos knew and taught was correct, but it was incomplete due to the era and circumstances in which he lived.

So, while Apollos taught inaccurate doctrine at first, he was categorized as a believer (as evidenced by verses 27-28 in which the brothers and disciples endorsed and encouraged him, and he was considered a great help to the church). Why? Because when Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained things to him accurately, he readily received correction and immediately began teaching the complete gospel correctly. Receiving correction and upholding and proclaiming the truth of the gospel are hallmarks of a Christian.

These are just a few of the Scriptures that deal with false teachers and false doctrine. All of them seem to at least lean toward calling unrepentant false teachers unbelievers. So the verdict is in, right? People who teach false doctrine are unsaved. Period. Case closed.

Nope. You and I don’t get to make that pronouncement (except in cases in which the person openly denies an imperative soteriological doctrine, such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, etc. Then, we can agree with God’s word that the person is not saved). We sit on the jury. We look at the preponderance of the evidence. In certain cases we might even believe there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular false teacher is an unbeliever. But, ultimately, it’s not our job to render the verdict or hand down the sentence. In this court system, that’s the job of the judge- God – the only One who can see into the person’s heart and know beyond a shadow of a doubt if he or she is saved.

Our job is to evaluate what we can see – the person’s behavior, writings, sermons, teachings, and conversation – and determine whether or not it aligns with Scripture. If it doesn’t – even if we personally believe the person is actually saved – those teachings, and the person who teaches them, have no place in our churches or personal study materials.

A large portion of the New Testament is dedicated to instructing us to stay away from false doctrine and those who teach it. Second Timothy 3:5 and Romans 16:17 say we are to “avoid such people.” First Corinthians 5:9-13, speaking about unrepentant sinners who call themselves believers, says that we are to judge those in the church, and we are “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty…not even to eat with such a one.” Second John 10-11 goes so far as to say, “do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

The bottom line is, it’s up to God to say whether or not someone is saved. It’s up to us to prayerfully and biblically determine whether or not her teachings match up with Scripture – regardless of our opinion about her salvation – and, if not, remove those teachings from our churches and our study of God’s word.


1. MacArthur Study Bible, ESV translation, notes on Galatians 1:8, p. 1741.
False Doctrine, False Teachers, Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ Band-Aids vs. Chemotherapy: Why Suffering Women are Drawn to False Doctrine and 7 Things We Can do to Help

Originally published October 7, 2016suffering-women-false-doctrine

 

Joyce Meyer. Beth Moore. Paula White. Lysa TerKeurst. Christine Caine. Lisa Harper. What do all of these women have in common?

Yes, they’re all false teachers, but they’re also all victims of sexual abuse.

I haven’t conducted a scientific poll, survey, or longitudinal study, so my observations could be way off base, but I’ve been noticing lately – from hearing these women’s testimonies, reading comments on their blog articles, and talking to women who follow them – that women who have been sexually abused seem to be particularly vulnerable to “feel good” false doctrine.

And it’s not just victims of sexual abuse. It’s women who are suffering from the death of a child or spouse, divorce, infertility, illness, spousal abuse- all of those agonies that strike right at the core of women’s hearts. You’ll find them in droves at the conferences, book signings, and blogs of false teachers.

Why is that?

Because those things hurt. I mean, “I want to crawl under the covers and die,” hurt. “My life is over,” hurt. “An elephant is sitting on my chest and I can’t breathe,” hurt. These precious, beautiful souls God created for joy are walking through something no human being should ever have to experience.

And Satan, that evil beast, is right there to exploit their pain and make things worse by molesting them spiritually. He sends false teachers to whisper sweetly in their ears, “It hurts, doesn’t it? But I can make all that pain go away, now.

Let’s just be honest for a minute. That’s what we all want. I don’t care how doctrinally sound and spiritually mature you are- when excruciating pain explodes into your life, you don’t skip through the tulips to meet it with a smile on your face and a giddy tune on your lips. You just want it to go away. And like a confidence man with a wagon full of snake oil, false teachers are at the ready to offer a magic elixir that will miraculously cure what ails you. Instantly.

“You’re God’s masterpiece- His princess!”

“It’s never God’s will for you to suffer.”

“Just declare the things that are not as though they are!”

“God will give you back what you lost a hundredfold.”

“Sow a seed into my ministry and God will open up the windows of heaven and pour out His blessings!”

“Your words create reality. Just speak out what you want and you can have it!”

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper!”

“God wants to do the impossible in your life, so dream big dreams!”

In other words, “Just do or believe X. You’ll feel better and your situation will turn around. I suffered just like you did, and look what God did for me!” The only problem with that kind of teaching is…well…the Bible. The Bible doesn’t make that sort of promise to anyone, in fact it says just the opposite. Jesus promised us tribulationJames, various trialsPaul, persecutionPeter, suffering.

The truth is, since the Fall, we live in a broken, sinful world. We’re going to suffer. It’s often going to be long, painful, and messy. Sometimes, there won’t be a cure this side of Glory. God’s promise to followers of Christ is not that He will eradicate our suffering, but that He will walk through it with us.

So how do we provide chemotherapy for the soul to an anguished woman who just wants a pretty Hello Kitty Band-Aid for her emotions or life circumstances? How do we impart hard, healing truth when she’s being seduced by an easy, deadly lie?

1. Be honest.
Don’t be tempted to “compete” with false teachers by telling her God’s going to fix everything the way she wants it. She might die from the cancer she was just diagnosed with. She might never be able to get pregnant. Her estranged husband might not come back. Things might not get better. They might get worse.

2. Walk with her.
Joyce Meyer isn’t going to be there at three in the morning when she can’t stop crying. Beth Moore isn’t going to go to court with her and hold her hand when the verdict is handed down. Christine Caine isn’t going to pull her hair back when she’s vomiting from chemo. You be there. You comfort her. That’s why God put you in her life.

3. Set her mind on things above, not on earthly things.
Help her keep her eyes focused on Christ, not her situation. Pray with her. Sing songs of praise with her. Remind her of the gospel. Lead her to be thankful. Take her to church. Recite Scripture together.

4. Shut up.
Some of us are fixers. We want to make people feel better or fix their situation by doing something, saying something, teaching something. And a lot of times that’s not what a suffering woman needs. She just needs a hug. Someone to sit and cry with. Someone to eat raw cookie dough with. Hush. We don’t have to talk things to death all the time, and we’re probably not going to be able to fix the situation anyway.

5. Rehearse God’s real promises.
The false teachers are throwing sparkly fake promises at her. You give her the real ones. They’re so much better.

6. Suffer well.
Suffering is going to come your way, too, or maybe it already has. Set an example by being real about your own struggles and failures, yet testifying to God’s faithfulness during tribulation. What did you learn from your suffering? How did it build your trust in God and draw you closer to Him?

7. Pray.
Ask God to give you wisdom about what to say or do to help and comfort her. And intercede for her and her situation, as well, because, ultimately, regardless of your words or actions, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to comfort her heart and give her peace and trust in God. (Hmmm…maybe that’s why He’s called the Comforter?)

The desire to escape from suffering is normal and in no way an indication of a lack of faith. Even Jesus prayed in the garden that if there were some other way than the cross, God would “let this cup pass” from Him. But sometimes, as difficult as it is to understand, suffering is part of God’s plan for our lives. It’s not His desire that we escape it but that we depend on Him, rest in Him, trust Him, and obey Him as He carries us through it. When we love our sisters in Christ, this is the truth we will impart to them, not the heal-all salve of improved life circumstances and feel good-ism the used car salesmen of evangelicalism are hawking.