A Warning for Contenders

In the case of my former congregation, our pre-supposed love of the Word of God, along with our ignorance of and opposition to nearly every scriptural warning about false doctrine and seducing spirits in the church, left us open to bizarre teachings and practices. As we embraced mysticism, our biblical parameters melted away. Yes, we were sincere, but what we were wanting was diametrically opposed to our relationship with Jesus Christ.

One of our program guests, Kevin Reeves, is the author of The Other Side of the River. It tells the story of his experience in the “Latter Rain” signs and wonders movement, and what happened when his eyes were opened to the heretical teachings. How did his pastor and elders (and he was an elder), react when Kevin lovingly shared truth with them? You’ll want to hear his incredible story from our archives.

Kevin has just penned an article over at Lighthouse Trails Blog about the challenge contenders have in a Church environment that has become increasingly compromised:

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Those Who Resist (Lighthousetrailsresearch.com)    By Kevin Reeves

These are critical days for the body of Christ. We are in the epoch of church history spoken of by the apostle Paul as “perilous times” (II Timothy 3:1). What makes the danger all the more imminent is that not much of the church believes it. Many of us have owned the glorious but erroneous vision of an end-times remnant walking in unconquerable power, transforming entire societies. The result has been nothing short of catastrophic. How soon we forget. Every cult in the world has sprouted from the fertile soil of deception, always initiated by a drastic move away from the primacy of the Word of God into the nebulous, self-defining atmosphere of experience. At New Covenant, our desire to accumulate otherworldly wealth (i.e., supernatural power) had ushered us into a contrived system of personal spiritual elevation much like such active cults as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In the case of my former congregation, our pre-supposed love of the Word of God, along with our ignorance of and opposition to nearly every scriptural warning about false doctrine and seducing spirits in the church, left us open to bizarre teachings and practices. As we embraced mysticism, our biblical parameters melted away. Yes, we were sincere, but what we were wanting was diametrically opposed to our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Like physical signs of pain, there were signs in our church that something was terribly wrong. But just like the person who ignores the pain and avoids going to the doctor, we too ignored what should have been so obvious. That is, until it got so bad that avoidance was no longer an option.

Why do people ignore warning signs? It’s like a motorist painting over his oil pressure gauge so he won’t notice the depleting measure. But the reality of the situation will become evident enough when his engine seizes up, and the car comes to a sudden halt. I’ve discovered that in the spiritual arena most people will do exactly this: they take pains to look the other way when something bumps up against their doctrine. As a Christian, there’s no quicker way to start a fight with a friend than to tell him that some of his most fervent beliefs are wrong. I know. I’ve lost my share of friendships that way. The problem comes when folks aren’t willing to deal with the uncomfortable. And the horror of it is that in spiritual matters, we’re dealing with eternal things. While the person who ruins his vehicle can at least purchase another, the human soul is irreplaceable….

In my own case, association with a cutting-edge group offered me security and personal power, and for years, the paranoia of offending God kept me from asking too many unsettling questions. It’s ironic that, in a fellowship that taught a watered-down version of the fear of the Lord, it was fear that motivated me to stay put.

Many other Christians find themselves in this same predicament, especially those with a genuine heart for the truth. When some doctrine foreign to biblical Christianity is introduced into the congregation, they want to inquire about its origin and validity, but fear holds them in check. If it comes from the pastor, who surely must be more spiritual than the rest of the group, then God must simply have approved it. Therefore, questioning or opposing the pastor or church leadership is seen as opposing the Lord Himself.

But God doesn’t work that way. Throughout the Bible are examples of those who love the Lord who questioned authority when it was wrong. And what’s more, “prove all things” is clearly God’s instruction to the believer (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

This manipulative pastoral attitude of squelching sincere inquiries was recently brought home in a frightening way. A friend of mine attended a local church service, knowing that the pastor was fully in support of the so-called Brownsville revival. She was nonetheless unprepared for the chilling threat from the pulpit. After reminding the congregation of the judgment deaths of Ananias and Sapphira for opposing the Holy Spirit, the pastor looked directly at the congregation and said, “If you think about questioning anything that goes on in this service … well, you just be careful!”

Two plus two still equals four. His meaning was quite plain. If you want to end up like that evil-hearted couple, just go ahead and do some serious inquiry into the teachings or manifestations of this group.

Brothers and sisters, something is seriously wrong here. Brutalizing the saints with a threat from an angry heart is not the Bible way. But it is becoming quite a fashionable pastime for leadership to silence even well-intentioned criticism with threats and ridicule. It has been going on from both the Toronto and Brownsville pulpits for years and has spilled over into many other groups in the church today. Name calling and ostracizing are common methods to silence critics. Names like hypocrites, Sanhedrin, and God mockers are merely a sampling of the invective aimed at Christians who are concerned about doctrinal error. Nobody wants to be labeled a Pharisee or heresy hunter. But that is often the penalty for daring to step out and ask for a public, biblical accounting of doctrine and practice.

I know the feeling first hand. I have more than once been called legalistic and have been accused of “going down a hard path”–one of my own making, of course. I had been told repeatedly that I was spiritually immature and had not understood the importance of such works as Rick Joyner’s The Final Quest –despite its un-biblical concepts and many outright contradictions to Scripture.

A current river is flowing, which many believe to be of God. Removed from its proper setting in the 47th chapter of Ezekiel, which speaks of a stream gushing out from the Temple of God, this passage in Scripture is today used to promote a last days vision for the church. In its proper context in Ezekiel, this wonderful prophecy is an encouragement that God has not forgotten His covenant people of Israel. But overstepping the sanctity of scriptural boundaries, this passage has been reshaped into the comfortable doctrines of the easy believism and sensual manifestations that mark a massive shift in the church. As believers, we have taken a hairpin turn from the preeminence of the Word of God to a relative, experiential, and terribly apostate faith.

The River Revival movement–encompassing the Toronto Blessing, Brownsville Revival (or Pensacola Outpouring), Dominion, Latter Rain, Word of Faith, Rodney Howard-Browne’s laughing revival, the Kansas City prophets, and an arbitrary mix of all or some of the aforementioned–is flowing into congregations worldwide. Given impetus by these major doctrinal tributaries, this movement’s teachings have led multitudes away from the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into a dangerous realm of subjective experiences, mysticism, and blatant heresy. Closely follow the curves of this river and you’ll find spiritual deviations at first overlooked. After all the hype, the wild manifestations, the wonderful testimonies, the flamboyant prophecies, and the earth-shaking visions, the discerning eye will gaze upon a farther shore, where an entirely different, frightening story unfolds–a story of broken lives and shattered faith, of rebellion and of merchandising a substitute “anointing.”

There is another side to all the fanfare, a glaring something that for the most part remains unspoken or deliberately avoided. There is indeed another side to the River. As believers, it is time we cross over and take a long, hard look.

(To read more about this, read The Other Side of the River by Kevin Reeves)

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5 Responses to A Warning for Contenders

  1. Arletha Detrick says:

    I believe that among some of the false prophets are Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, and others. Any time I mention this, I am accused of being judgmental. Your opinions?

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    • Amy Spreeman says:

      Yes, you will be accused for standing up.
      One thing you could do is be prepared to show how their specific teachings differ from Scripture, and let people come to the correct conclusion on their own. For instance, Joyce has stated that Jesus did NOT accomplish everything on the cross; that when he died He had to wrestle the keys to the Kingdom away from Satan. Specific examples allow people to see clearly that there is a huge difference, and they can then draw their own conclusions about whether these teachers are true or not.

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    • zandra says:

      I too feel the same way. The Word of GOD is our final authority, not man's teachings. Check and see what these people believe and teach.

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  2. Dan says:

    First off contending for the faith is something that should be the heart of every believer. However, we have such a weak understanding of the Gospel, complete with a low view of God, which, we have carried in from our man centered culture. Likewise we have such a low view of sin, so much so, murder is supported by the professing church as a state sanctioned activity and should be tax supported, again carried in from our man centered culture. Christ has become something to add to our lives instead of very life of very life. In short, there is nothing in us compelling us to sanctify the Lord our God in our hearts. We say we have faith, but, in what, a God of our own imaginings? We say we repent, of what exactly have we repented, are we any less selfish, any less man centered? If we say yes do we lie against the truth? Are we fooling ourselves caught in our own delusions?
    When the Church in Jerusalem was persecuted it was like God blowing on tinder to ignite a larger fire. Everywhere they fled these lively sparks testified of sin, they testified of the coming judgment of God, they cried repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, repent and believe in the righteousness of God revealed from Heaven in Christ Jesus, who has been given all authority to judge the living and the dead in whom we have redemption by His blood even forgiveness of sins. They had love for their captors, love for those who persecuted them, love for those who tortured them, they had love for each other. They would gladly lay down their lives for one another, such was their understanding of God, such was their faith. Such was their gift from God, and He was being glorified in them for in their evident weakness, it was plain to all He was the one working in and through them.

    Today we feign weakness and humility even love; this is evident in that even if we preach God’s word from the pulpit but do not do as He says. But to speak against such falsehood is seen as persecution by those promoting this man centered religion which in practice denies the God of Heaven, in whose image man is made. Since the majority view of the one behind the pulpit holds that man as the authority or head, the pulpit then, becomes a means, a tool, to lord over man and govern their actions and enforce discipline. This method of coercion has been handed down over the centuries and is not of the bible. Unfortunately this use of the pulpit carries through all denominations even in so called non denominational fellowships. I do not see that changing anytime soon. Men love themselves to much to give up such a platform of authority and power. Then there is the congregation who wants their ears tickled who do not want their lives, their very hearts exposed to the fellowship, who will support the man behind the pulpit in order to avoid it in order to present a pleasant painted facade.

    We will not have the opportunity to point at anyone when we stand before Christ Jesus maker of heaven and earth and all that is in them at the end of time. We will all have to answer for our deeds we did in our mortal bodies and Christ is no respector of persons that we could seek His favor. We have God’s word and the Spirit of Christ by which each and every believer has the power to walk in newness of life. How then can we excuse ourselves in our disobedience instead of repenting and returning to the practice of the truth and the righteousness of God as revealed in the scriptures God breathed through His holy ones? When will we see the law of the Lord is perfect and act accordingly?

    For a truth there is none righteous no not one.

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    • Sharon W. says:

      Amen! Dan….like the part that you mentioned about the pulpit. Kind of reminiscent of the First Covenant/Old Testament priesthood when Ezra stood on a pulpit made of wood, (which was likened to a tower). Nehemiah 8:4

      Sure, we need leaders, [pastor-teachers/elders, deacons etc..]. I've learned much about the things of God from many ministries, mainly radio or internet. I'm grateful! The apostle Paul speaks about the many gifts in 1COR Ch.12, but he also went on to state that "love" was the most excellent way. CHRIST set a different example of what LEADERSHIP was all about. We're to follow Christ's example. 1Corinthians 11:1. As New Covenant believers, we are all now a "chosen generation, a royal priesthood", one body, many parts.

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