Discernment, False Teachers

Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own

Originally published July 22, 2016

“What are your thoughts about  _____?
Is she doctrinally sound? Is she a false teacher?”

That’s probably the number one question I’m asked by readers. It gives me so much joy each time I receive that question because it’s encouraging to hear from Christian women who don’t want to be led astray and want to worship Christ in spirit and in truth.

I’m delighted to answer readers’ questions about various teachers (You can find information about many of today’s best known evangelical personalities and ministries under my “Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends” tab at the top of this page.) but, unfortunately, my answers often take a while. I’ve never heard of many of the teachers I’m asked about, and, even with the ones I’m familiar with, in order to give a fair and biblically accurate answer, I have to research each of them. That frequently takes at least several days of work. The less famous the teacher is, the less information there is out there about her, and the longer it takes. And that weighs on me because I know a lot of you, when you write to me about a certain teacher, need answers now.

It also weighs on me because I don’t want you to just take my word for things. I am a fallible, sinful human being. I get things wrong. I miss things. I make mistakes. Also, I’m not going to be around forever (well, not on this planet anyway!)

For these reasons, and because the ability to vet the personalities and teachers you follow is an important spiritual skill every Christian should hone and teach others, I want you to be able to research these people for yourself. “Teach a (wo)man to fish…” and all that, you know. Here are the seven steps I take to discover whether or not a teacher is doctrinally sound.

1. Know your Bible

This. is. not. optional. Get a trustworthy translation (read: not The Message, The Voice, a Joyce Meyer Study Bible, etc.) and study it forwards, backwards, and upside down if you have to. Find, join, and faithfully attend (also not optional) a doctrinally sound church that will immerse you in the depths of God’s Word through its preaching and teaching. Listen to good sermon podcasts or an audio Bible during the week. Memorize Scripture. Learn good hermeneutics. Every Christian should be doing these things by default anyway, and one by-product of knowing your Bible is that when you see or hear a statement by a teacher, you often won’t have to do a lick of research to determine whether or not you’re being taught biblical truth. The Scriptures will already be in your heart and mind for comparison.

2. Pray

One of the things I ask of God during my regular prayer time is that He would protect me from being deceived by false teachers, that He would continue to grow me in wisdom and discernment, and that He would develop the mind of Christ in me. It’s also a good idea to pray for wisdom and discernment, and for trustworthy information, before researching a teacher.

3. Know your criteria

One of the arguments I frequently hear when warning people away from a false teacher is “But every teacher makes mistakes!” (see #7 here) Of course every teacher makes mistakes in her teaching, and every teacher sins. A sin or a mistake doesn’t qualify someone as a false teacher. What you’re looking for is repentance and correction.

A trustworthy, biblical teacher teaches sound biblical doctrine and avoids known sin nearly without exception. When those exceptions occur and someone brings it to her attention, she listens, is teachable, repents, and corrects her error (Apollos is a great biblical example of this). False teachers, on the other hand, unrepentantly persist in sin or teaching false doctrine despite biblical correction. Often, they exhibit complete unteachability (as do their followers), deriding those biblically calling them to account as haters, divisive, slanderers, scoffers, jealous, etc.

When I research a teacher, I examine three fundamental areas of her life and teaching: a) Does she currently and unrepentantly preach to men? (Or, if the teacher is male: Does he allow women to preach to mixed audiences from his pulpit or in his stead? Is his wife co-pastor of the church? Are there any women on his church’s staff in pastoral positions?) b) Does she endorse and/or partner with known false teachers or ministries? c) Does the doctrine she teaches and practices line up with Scripture? These aren’t the only things that make someone a false teacher, but they’re three of the most prominent and important.

4. Criteria a: Women teaching men

This is a scriptural litmus test that can help give you a quick answer as to whether you should be following a certain teacher or not. The Bible tells us that women are not to preach to, teach the Bible to, or exercise authority over men in the gathered body of believers. Not in the four walls of a church, not on a simulcast, not at a Christian conference. Period. (Click here for more information.)

And it’s not a so-called secondary issue, either. It’s a sin. A preacher or teacher who unrepentantly disobeys this Scripture is no different from one who disobeys Scripture by viewing pornography, embezzling church funds, or teaching that homosexuality or abortion are OK. Scripture is Scripture. It’s all inspired by God the Holy Spirit. There aren’t any instructions to the church that it’s OK with God if you twist their context, brush them aside, or disobey them. If a female teacher currently and unrepentantly preaches to men or a male teacher allows women to do so in his church or ministry, that’s not a teacher you should be following.

Furthermore, a woman preaching to men is itself false doctrine. When a woman preaches to men, her behavior is teaching the false doctrine that it’s perfectly fine to disobey Scripture if you want to. That if you don’t like a certain command of Scripture, it’s OK to just ignore it. If your pastor stepped into the pulpit Sunday morning and said in words that it’s OK to disobey or ignore Scripture’s commands, your church would run him out of town on a rail, and rightly so. There’s no difference between your pastor saying it in words and a woman acting it out with her behavior.

Finally, women teaching men and women teaching false doctrine are highly correlated. I have researched scores of women teachers. Every single one of them who unrepentantly teaches men also teaches false doctrine in some other aspect of her theology (usually progressivism, Word of Faith {prosperity gospel} or New Apostolic Reformation). In other words, if a woman teaches men, you can just about take it to the bank that she also teaches additional false doctrine.

How to find out if the teacher is disobeying Scripture in this area?

Check YouTube and Vimeo for videos of the female teacher speaking at various events. Are men clearly present in the audience?

Consider the events the female teacher speaks at. Does she speak exclusively at events for women, or does she also speak at co-ed events?

Examine the speaking engagement calendar on the female teacher’s web site. Is she scheduled to speak at Anytown Baptist Church at 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday? She’s probably giving the sermon that morning. (Some female teachers purposely leave these preaching engagements off their events calendars and social media to avoid biblical rebuke.)

For (male) preachers / pastors, check the sermon archives and the “meet our staff” sections of the church web site. Are women serving on staff as “pastors” or in positions of authority over men? Do the sermon archives feature female speakers who have preached to the whole congregation?

5. Criteria b: Partnering with false teachers

Scripture is abundantly clear that we are to have nothing to do with false teachers. Nothing. John tells us that even to greet them is to take part in their wicked works. To publicly praise, point people to, or partner with false teachers is even worse.

Finding out if the teacher you’re researching praises or partners with false teachers is another biblical litmus test that can help quickly determine whether you should be following her or not.

The easiest way to do this is with an internet search engine. Type the name of the teacher you’re researching into the search bar followed by the names of at least a few well known false teachers or ministries (for example: Jane Smith Joel Osteen). You may wish to try names like Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Andy Stanley, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Hillsong, Bethel, IF: Gathering, Proverbs 31 Ministries, etc.

Examine the results. Are there a lot of connections between the teacher you’re researching and known false teachers? Does she frequently and favorably quote, comment on, or re-post false teachers on her social media pages? Does she make a habit of sharing the stage with or appearing alongside false teachers at conferences and other events? Do false teachers praise her, invite her to speak at their churches and conferences, or write endorsements of her materials?

Birds of a feather flock together. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Bad company corrupts good morals. It’s all true. A teacher who frequently, favorably, and unrepentantly associates herself with false teachers should be avoided.

6. Criteria c: Biblical doctrine

If a teacher has failed criteria a and/or b, that’s sufficient. You should not be receiving teaching from that person. Those two criteria will quickly weed out about 90% of false teachers out there today. However, “passing” both criteria a & b, while a fair indicator that you’re probably dealing with a doctrinally sound teacher, is not sufficient. A teacher can operate biblically in those two areas and still teach or practice unbiblical doctrine. You must examine the doctrine and practices of the teacher you’re considering following to see if they’re biblical, and that can take some time and energy.

Does the teacher have a statement of faith or “what I believe” section of her web site? Examine it. Are all of the tenets biblical and backed up with chapter and verse Scripture? Are the tenets specific, detailed, and clear cut as opposed to general and nebulous? A solid statement of faith can be helpful, but keep in mind that a significant number of churches and ministries have perfectly biblical statements of faith “on paper” yet do not faithfully adhere to to those principles in teaching and practice.

Ask doctrinally sound, trustworthy friends if they’re familiar with the teacher’s doctrine. There are also many theologically solid Facebook groups you can join and ask your fellow members their impressions of various teachers. There are a lot of Christians out there who have read a lot of books and listened to a lot of teaching. They can be very helpful resources.

What do reputable, doctrinally sound teachers and ministries have to say about the teacher, her teachings, or the Scripture or doctrine in question? I regularly use and highly recommend the following sites:

Fighting for the Faith (now on YouTube)
Justin Peters
Berean Research
Christian Answers for the New Age (Marcia publishes most actively on Facebook)
CARM
Wretched
Got Questions
Grace to You
Apprising Ministries (This site is now dormant, but the archives can be helpful, especially if you’re looking for older information.)

Here’s what you should be looking for in preaching and teaching. Read the person’s materials or listen to her teaching. Take notes. When the teacher makes an assertion, ask yourself, “Where, in context, does the Bible say that?” When the teacher cites a passage of Scripture, look it up and see if she’s using it in context. Does the teacher primarily use one reliable translation of the Bible when teaching, or does she skip around through various translations and paraphrases while teaching to make sure the verses use certain words that fit with the theme or idea she’s teaching? Does she engage in gimmickry or does she simply teach the Word? Is the centerpiece of her teaching a correctly exegeted passage of Scripture, or does her teaching revolve around a story, movie, prop, idea, theme, topic, or illustration that comes from outside of Scripture? Does she frequently allegorize Scripture? Does she make every Scripture about you, your hopes and dreams, your experiences? Does she spend more time correctly handling and teaching Scripture or telling stories, jokes, and illustrations? These are all things to watch and listen for. If a teacher consistently mishandles, misunderstands, or misapplies Scripture, she’s not a teacher you should be following.

7. Check the date

When you’re researching a teacher, check the date on the evidence you’re examining. Is it old or fairly current? We all grow and mature over the years in our walk with the Lord. Are you seeing red flags in the teacher’s older materials? Try to find out if she has repented and corrected those unbiblical teachings or behaviors. If so, and she’s currently teaching and behaving in a way that lines up with Scripture, forgive her. It is not fair or biblical to hold past sin against someone when she has repented and Christ has forgiven her. She, and her recent materials, should only be avoided if she is currently and unrepentantly teaching and/or practicing false doctrine.


Before receiving teaching from anyone, it’s important that we examine that teacher’s doctrine and practices in light of Scripture. God commends the Bereans for receiving Paul’s word with eagerness, yet examining the Scriptures to see if what he was teaching them lined up with the Bible. May we be as vigilant and noble as they in our quest to know Christ and His word.

Church, Discernment

Throwback Thursday ~ Build the Wall and Station a Guard: A Plea for Pastors to Protect 6 Areas of the Church Vulnerable to False Doctrine

Originally published August 5, 2016

The Great Wall of China

The Wailing Wall

The walls of Jericho

Walls. Sometimes they go up, and sometimes they come a tumblin’ down. When I was a kid it was, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Now it’s, “Elect me and I’ll build a wall between the United States and Mexico.”

There was a time in history when it was common practice for a city to have a wall built around its perimeter. Walls have historically been built for protection, to keep inhabitants safe from attacking marauders. When Israel returned to Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity, their first priority was to rebuild the altar – their focal point of worship. Next came the temple – to consecrate, or set apart, their worship. And, finally, the city wall – which protected everything, including their worship.

Today, when Christians plant a church, we start off with our focal point of worship, the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. He is the foundation of the church, the center of our worship, our rallying point.

As the church grows, we consecrate it, setting it apart from other organizations and gatherings by buying or constructing its own special building. It’s not a store or an office or a restaurant. It’s a church. It’s where believers gather to worship, fellowship, and be trained in God’s word.

But somehow we never get around to protecting our churches from enemy attack. Indeed, it hardly ever occurs to most pastors and church members that there’s a need for a wall.

But there is. A huge need. And for some churches, it’s already too late.

Pastor, I plead with you- it’s time to build a wall around your church. A “walls of Jericho”-high wall. A chariot races on top- thick wall. And an armed guard posted at the gate. Not to keep out visitors or people who might look or act differently from your congregation- God forbid! It’s to keep out the false doctrine that’s infiltrating and attacking the Body in so many ways. And some areas of your wall are going to need extra fortification because they’re protecting these six vulnerable areas.

1. The Preaching of the Word

Pastor, the buck starts and stops with you. Are you preaching the Word? In season and out of season? Are you rightly handling God’s word? Preaching sound doctrine and rebuking those who contradict it? Declaring the whole counsel of God? Or is your focus on preaching to entertain, to keep people happy, to encourage giving, or to keep from rocking the boat? Only you can answer these questions. Strong preaching is the first step in building a strong wall to protect your church.

2. The Teaching of the Word

How much do you know about how, and what, your Sunday School, Bible study, or other small group leaders teach? Have you ever observed, evaluated, or interviewed any of your teachers? Does your church have any formal qualifications for teachers? Are they required to go through any sort of training? Who are their spiritual influencers? Which celebrity pastors and authors are they recommending to their classes?

A teacher who is listening to or reading materials by false teachers during the week is going to have her theology shaped by those false teachers, and she’s going to bring that warped theology into the classroom where it will infect the students. A teacher whose main discussion questions are, “How do you feel about this verse?” or “What does this verse mean to you?” is not handling God’s word properly and, thus, not properly training her students. Find out what’s going on in your Sunday School classrooms, and strengthen your wall by strengthening your teachers.

3. Sunday School/Small Group Curricula

Because so few teachers are properly trained, churches tend to rely heavily on the Sunday School curricula to do the actual teaching. Have you examined your curricula lately? Are the lessons anchored in copious amounts of rightly exposited Scripture or are they mainly comprised of inspirational stories and illustrations? Are the discussion questions watered down pablum or do they challenge people to think and search the Scriptures for understanding? Does the curriculum recommend supplementary materials or music from doctrinally sound, or questionable, sources? Does the curriculum recommend “homework assignments” that include unbiblical practices such as contemplative prayer or yoga? Build a solid wall with solid curricula.

4. Women’s Bible Study

This is an area of your wall which needs major fortification. In many churches, it is the primary avenue through which false teaching infiltrates the Body. Is your women’s ministry using studies or materials by a best selling author like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Joyce Meyer, Lysa TerKeurst (Proverbs 31), Jen Hatmaker, Lisa Harper, Lisa Bevere, Victoria Osteen, Jennie Allen, Rachel Held Evans, Ann Voskamp, Sheila Walsh, or anyone with “Jakes” in her name? Are they attending conferences, retreats, or simulcasts headlined by any of these people? Then the women of your church are being taught false doctrine. Your men’s Bible study curriculum also needs to be examined, but women’s Bible study is a major foothold of false doctrine.

5. Music

If your church uses KLOVE’s playlist to formulate its worship set, you’re probably importing false doctrine right into your worship service. You’ve got to vet both the lyrics (hymns don’t get a pass on this, by the way) and the artists for sound theology. When it comes to contemporary worship music, the most popular and common sources of false doctrine are Hillsong, Elevation, and Bethel/Jesus Culture. Here’s another good resource.

6. Ecumenism

Is your church partnering or fellowshipping with other local churches outside your own denomination? Are you thoroughly familiar with their beliefs and practices? Are those beliefs and practices biblical? Where do they stand on female pastors, elders, and teachers? Homosexuals as church members or leaders? Abortion? The inerrancy, infallibility, and supremacy of Scripture? Extra-biblical revelation? Signs and wonders? Works righteousness? Do they have a biblical statement of faith “on paper” but stray from it in practice? Not every organization that calls itself a Christian church actually is one by biblical standards, and we are not to partner or fellowship with those whose beliefs and practices do not line up with Scripture.

That’s a lot of vetting to do for a pastor who’s probably already overwhelmed and stretched thin. May I make a suggestion? Don’t try to do it alone. After all, those cities with protective walls hired soldiers to guard the gates. Is there an associate pastor who could take on vetting curricula and fellow churches and conference speakers? Is there a mature, discerning layman or woman you trust who would be willing to lend a hand with researching your music or women’s Bible study books? Do you have a “master teacher” capable of training your Sunday School and small group teachers? Ask your people for help. Use the able. Train the willing. Get that wall built to shut out false doctrine, and station your armed guards at the gates to check out everything that comes in.

The enemy is out there, dear pastor. Let’s make sure that’s where he stays.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: When is it OK to leave a church that’s begun embracing false doctrine?

Originally published September 12, 2016

The elders and pastor of my church have made it clear that they aren’t interested in my husband’s and my concerns about, among other problems, a new women’s study (by a false teacher) starting this month. He told me he would read the articles I sent him but that I was wrong. Is it OK to leave this church, and, if so, when? How long do we wait and not see change?

That’s a great question, and I’m afraid there’s no “one size fits all” answer. When a church begins slipping, biblically, and there’s a Christian in that church who’s wise and discerning enough to see it, God has put that Christian in that church to help biblically solve that problem, or at least to serve as a prophetic warning as to what God’s Word says about the issue and what will happen if the church does not correct its course.

Our very first priority in this situation is prayer. We must pray fervently for God to change the hearts of the pastors and other leaders, for wisdom to know how to best approach the problem scripturally, and for God to give us wisdom about how long to stay and when to leave. (For us married ladies, that decision ultimately falls to our husbands, so we need to be praying for them, too.)

When you’ve done what you can to help biblically solve the problem(s) and have consistently been rebuffed (and it sounds like that’s about where you and your husband are with this church), it may be time to leave. It is perfectly biblical to leave a church that is embracing false doctrine despite scriptural warnings (Titus 3:10-11, Romans 16:17-18, 2 John 9-11, 2 Corinthians 11:12-15, Mark 6:11, Matthew 7:6).

Sometimes, God will make it exceedingly clear as to when you should leave because the church will ask you to leave or, in some way, make it impossible for you to stay.

It sounds like you and your husband have tried to help this church. Just continue to pray for your church and its leadership, and for wisdom (especially for your husband) about staying or leaving. Then trust God to direct you (Proverbs 3:5-6).

If you do end up having to leave, make sure you immediately begin your search for a doctrinally sound church to attend. No church is perfect, but we need to obey God’s mandate to be faithful members of a local body of believers.

Additional Resources:

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

The Mailbag: How to Leave a Church

Searching for a new church?


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Sermon on the Mount Bible Study

The Sermon on the Mount ~ Lesson 12

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11,

Matthew 7:15-23

Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 7:15-23 in light of those passages.

2. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in today’s passage?

How do false teachers and false converts bland the saltiness of the church? (5:13-16) How do doctrinally sound teachers and genuinely regenerated Believers make the church saltier and brighter? Is it even possible for an individual false teacher or false convert to be true salt and light?

3. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.

Though they are not specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments (false teachers/prophets are addressed elsewhere in the law), which of the Ten Commandments could be connected to false teachers and false converts?

Despite having dropped the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” framing of His teaching in chapter 6, how is Jesus still shifting the people’s focus from outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? How must being a genuinely regenerated Believer and/or being a doctrinally sound teacher be at the heart of our obedience to God’s laws?

4. Think back to Jesus’ emphasis on hypocrisy in 7:1-5, and in the first part of chapter 6 (lesson 9, link above). How is being a false convert or a false teacher the ultimate hypocrisy? How does this demonstrate why hypocrisy is such a big deal to Jesus? Which attributes of God does hypocrisy contrast with?

5. Review 7:1-5, recalling that some people believe this passage to mean no one is to judge anyone, ever. How would you explain 1-5 to someone in light of 15-20, and 15-20 in light of 1-5?

6. Recall that when Scripture was originally written, there were no chapter and verse markings. The whole text was one continuous flow. How does 7:13-14 flow into or introduce 15-23?

7. In 15-20, who or what are represented by the imagery of…

  • sheep
  • wolves
  • fruits
  • grapes
  • thorn bushes
  • figs
  • thistles
  • healthy trees
  • good fruit
  • diseased trees
  • bad fruit
  • fire

Explain the contrast between…

  • sheep and wolves
  • grapes and thorn bushes
  • figs and thistles
  • healthy trees with good fruit and diseased trees with bad fruit

8. Who or what is the fruit of a false teacher’s ministry? (16-20) Many of the Pharisees considered Jesus to be a false prophet. Think about Jesus’ ministry in light of what he is saying in this passage. What has been the fruit of Jesus’ ministry, from the beginning of His earthly ministry until now? What should be the fruit of a doctrinally sound teacher’s ministry?

Notice how Jesus says in 16 and 20 “you will recognize them by their fruits” and how that statement bookends this passage of instruction. Then, as now, teachers use repetition for emphasis- to stress the importance of what are they teaching. Why is it so important to Jesus that we recognize false teachers?

Also notice that he doesn’t say “sometimes you will recognize them,” or “you might be able to recognize them”. He says unequivocally, not once but twice, “you will recognize them”. How is this not only a statement of the clear recognizability of false teachers, but also an implicit command? (i.e. not just “you will be able to recognize them,“ but “you are to proactively look for, mark, and avoid them“.)

9. According to verse 19, what is the eternal destiny of a false teacher who does not repent? What does this tell us about the spiritual condition of unrepentant false teachers – are they saved, or lost?

Many evangelicals are reluctant to say that a false teacher who claims to be a Christian is lost. Explain how 15-20 gives us not only the right, but the responsibility, to treat a false teacher as an unbeliever and why this does not conflict with 7:1-5. Why is it important, for the sake of the false teacher’s own spiritual condition (19, 21-23) to regard him or her as an unbeliever?

10. What is the difference between “saying ‘Lord, Lord‘” and doing God’s will? (21)

How does 21-23 refute the common misconceptions that..

  • if someone says she’s a Christian, and even outwardly acts like a Christian, she is a Christian?
  • being a “good person” will get you to heaven?

What does Jesus call these people at the end of verse 23? Compare the phrase “workers of lawlessness” with the “many mighty works” in verse 22 and the Scriptures linked above (in the first sentence of question 10). Explore the concept of a slave of the devil working for her master, versus a slave of Christ working for her Master.

Reflect on the word “many” in verse 22 along with your previous thoughts about false teachers and false converts. Had you previously thought false teachers and false converts were rare?

What does it mean for Christ to “know” us? (23)


Homework

  • Are you hesitant to think of a false teacher as unsaved when she claims to be a Christian? Do we have to know whether or not a certain teacher is definitely a Christian before we can deal with her biblically (such as warning others against her)? Examine what the Scriptures say in my article Can a False Teacher Be a Christian?
  • A false convert is someone who either a) (rarely) knows she’s not saved but is trying to fool others, or b) (much more commonly) thinks she’s saved, but – you can tell by her “bad fruit” and/or the things she says she believes – isn’t. These people are just as lost as any other lost person. How do you witness to someone who thinks she’s already saved?
    • Be in constant prayer for her.
    • Make sure she has heard a clear presentation of the biblical gospel.
    • Discuss the biblical gospel with her if, and whenever, she’s willing.
    • If she isn’t willing, and she continues to bear bad fruit while claiming to be saved, continue to pray for her, and set a godly example.

Often, doing these things leaves us feeling like we’re not doing enough. We so desperately want that person to be saved that it can be tempting to try to nag or argue her into “making a decision” for Christ. That’s not how evangelism and salvation work. Our job is to pray, present the gospel, and trust God with the results. God’s job is to use that gospel we’ve presented in His timing and for His purposes.

Do you know someone who’s a false convert? Apply the above to that person (especially praying for her) this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

We’ve got to stop meeting like this…only once or twice a year, that is. When I first started 4R, I kind of envisioned it as a four or five times a year feature, and now we’re at about once a year. Well, life happens, I guess.

It’s time for some Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources! Ready, set, go!

#FreeJamesCoates

Have you been following the story of James Coates, Pastor of GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada? He was recently arrested and imprisoned for obeying God rather than men by refusing to stop holding church services and refusing to bar those who desperately wanted to attend from coming in to worship, among other official Covid-related reasons that were given. The restrictions on gathering in that particular are are so strict they have effectively shuttered churches. (No, they cannot hold services outside {Have you ever been to Canada in February? I haven’t, and even I know that’s a ridiculous suggestion.} No, “online church” is not the same as gathering in person and it is not a biblical long-term substitute for gathering in person.)

I’m not alerting you to this situation in order to debate whether or not James and GLC should have given in to the draconian demands of their local government. (Frankly, I was shocked and downright embarrassed at some of the cruel and critical comments that were made about James and GLC- by people who profess to be Christians – on my social media platforms Wednesday when I posted about this. And after everything I’ve seen in ministry, it takes a lot to shock and embarrass me. Those folks ought to be ashamed of themselves. No such comments will be allowed on this article or my social media platforms. They will be deleted and you will be blocked.)

I’m asking you to pray.

Pray for James, his wife, Erin, and their children, and GLC. (If the name Erin Coates sounds familiar it might be because she was one of my sister speakers at the Open Hearts in a Closed World online conference last summer, and coming up again this summer.)

The elders of GLC have suggested these prayer points:

Erin’s Instagram handle is @erincoates80 if you’d like to follow her. Here is her most recent update as of the time I’m writing this:

What is something tangible you can do? Open your churches. Worship Christ. Practice the one anothers, sing your hearts out, let your pastor see your eyes as he preaches the word of God to you. Don’t underestimate this task in your life. Obey Christ with all you have.”

Erin says it better than I ever could.

Fakes and Frauds

If you haven’t already subscribed to Justin Peters’ YouTube channel, what are you waiting for? I know it’s super-duper long, but you’ve got to watch one of his most recent videos: 2020 The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Year For The Prophets, especially if you’re unfamiliar with New Apostolic Reformation heresy as it relates to false prophets / prophecy. This will get you up to speed. Also included is an excellent interview with Nathan Busenitz on what Scripture says about false prophets.

Hymn and Hymn, but Not Hymn

You’ve heard that old joke, right? One Sunday morning, the minister of music announced from the pulpit, “In honor of Miss Doretha’s 80th birthday, we’re going to let her choose three hymns today.” Miss Doretha jumped breathlessly to her feet, scanned the room, and began pointing: “I’ll take him, him, and him!”

Well some young whippersnapper took it upon herself (a few years ago, but I only saw it recently) to pick 10 Christian Hymns That Need to Be Put to Rest. At least I’m inferring from the tone of the article that the author, Jennifer, is a young whippersnapper, because – I’m sorry, I’m honestly not trying to be mean here, but to me she comes off as a bit immature and shallow.

Or maybe I’m just old and curmudgeonly, having reached the “GET OFF MY LAWN!” stage of life.

Jennifer’s argument for putting several of these hymns out to pasture seems to be, “This hymn is too hard for people to understand,” or “People don’t understand what these words mean”.

By her logic, we should ditch the King James Version of the Bible, the Puritans (certainly Jonathan Edwards – my stars, have you ever tried to read his stuff?), the Reformers, and the early church fathers.

Schools should stop teaching Shakespeare, Beowulf, and Chaucer. And we should probably get rid of some of our patriotic songs too (I mean who knows what a “rampart” is, anyway?)

It’s just further reflective of the worldly attitude of dumbing things down to the level of people’s sloth (excuse me – “laziness” – since some may not know what “sloth” means).

How about, instead of getting rid of hymns and words people don’t understand, pastors and ministers of music take a second and teach the congregation what those words and hymns mean? Or the congregation could pull their phones out and Google it. We do that with everything else – why not do it with hard words and build our vocabularies and our knowledge base?

But there are some hymns that need to go due to theological issues with their lyrics. I’ve got two picks and then I’ll let you get in on the game. Click on the titles for lyrics. (Please note, I don’t really know anything about the people performing these songs, but I’m guessing I wouldn’t recommend them since it’s pretty hard to find doctrinally sound Christians singing songs that aren’t.)

The Savior is Waiting

It pains me to list this hymn as one that needs to be put to rest because I’ve been singing it all my life and have a deep sentimental attachment to it. Also the music is lovely, and I really do think the hymnist’s heart was in the right place when he wrote it. But…

The entire tenor of the first verse reminds me of a mom nagging her reluctant child to befriend the snaggle-toothed, bespectacled, nerdy little kid on the playground who’s running around offering his entire Hot Wheels collection if somebody – anybody – will just please, pleeeeeeeeeze, be his friend. Jesus is not some pitiful little weirdo whose day would be made if you would do Him the honor of sitting at His lunch table. He is loving and kind, yes, but He is also King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and we humbly bow the knee to Him.

And don’t even get me started on verse two. People who are dead in their sins can’t “take one step toward the Savior,” my friend. Christ has to raise us from the dead to new life in Christ.

Pass It On

This was the (depending on your age) Shout to the Lord, or Oceans, or Way Maker of my day, kiddies, and I have lots of fond memories attached to it, too. It was the song you sang at youth camp, and sometimes – if your minister of youth and music was cool, like ours was – during Sunday night church. (Some of my contemporaries will remember that we used to yell out, “Praise God!” after the phrase, “I’ll shout it from the mountaintop.”).

Whether or not the composer intended to base the opening words of this song – “It only takes a spark to get a fire going” – in Scripture, it evokes James 3:5b, which, in the most popular modern translation around the time this song was written said:

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

Which would be all well and good except for context, context, context. Because James 3:3-6 says:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Scripture out of context…fires of hell…yeah, as peace, love, and “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” as this song is, I think it could be put to rest.

What do you think? Are there any hymns you think could be mothballed because of their unbiblical lyrics? Comment below and share. But play by the rules:

  • It has to be a non-contemporary hymn. Let’s say anything written between the first century and 1980.
  • None of this, “Everything from Bethel, Hillsong, and Elevation!” stuff. Everybody knows that already. This is about hymns.
  • “Because of their unbiblical lyrics.” Not because the hymnist him/herself apostatized, fell into sin, etc.
  • I get that all of this could be avoided if every church only sang the psalms. That’s beside the point.

OK, get out those hymnals and let’s hear it!

Faith Works

A few thoughts on Hebrews 11:8-19:

The original audience of Hebrews was first century Christians from Jewish backgrounds. Slavery to Law-keeping was so ingrained that the Holy Spirit gave them a chapter of “Old Testament Survey” (let the seminarian understand).

In this portion of the chapter, He demonstrates to them that the central figure of their faith, the one in whom they had their biological, tribal, and spiritual inheritance – Abraham – left them a legacy, not of Law-keeping, but of faith. Abraham believed God, and that is what was credited to him as righteousness, not any good deeds that he might have done. And, indeed that is the preeminent truth of the entire Old Testament: faith in God and in the Christ to come, not good works.

We are part of that same spiritual legacy of faith today. No amount of good works will save you: being a nice person will not save you, going to church, giving offerings, and serving at church will not save you, being baptized will not save you, praying to saints and other religious rituals will not save you, parroting a “sinner’s prayer” will not save you.

Only repenting of your sin and trusting that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection paid the penalty for your sin of an eternity in hell will save you.

If you’ve never placed your faith in Jesus and been completely changed into a new creature in Christ with Christlike desires and a hatred for sin, how about doing that today? Check out the What Must I Do to Be Saved? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page for more information.