Allow me to set the stage. Several years back I was standing outside of a church after the service. The weather was cold, raw and damp. The preacher that day was compelling and dynamic. As people continued to file out, adjusting their coats and jackets to the inclement weather, out comes the preacher of the day, dressed in shirtsleeves. I casually remarked to him with a smile, ‘Hey my brother, you better run inside and grab your jacket, it’s kind of chilly out here.’ I will never forget his response. He replied bluntly and boldly, ‘It’s ok. Sickness is not for me.’ Really. Having heard him preach, I knew where he was coming from, but I was still dumbstruck. Sickness was not for him. Simply amazing.
The truth is, we live in a fallen world. There are germs everywhere and we are susceptible to them. Under the right conditions anyone can become sick. There are things lurking within our bodies that will make themselves known at some point in time. We age and this body begins its slow and persistent descent.
This preachers’ mindset is nothing new. His thinking is obviously steeped in the belief that sickness is of the devil and the child of God has no part in that. To be sick or become sick is due to a lack of faith on our part. What must be done to remedy the situation is to quote the right scripture or scriptures, and everything will be alright. Those who believe this way will quote Proverbs 23:7 out of context, which says in part,‘…As a man thinketh, so is he…’
How does this subtle scripture twisting take place? Why are so many Christians unable to detect and discern these erroneous teachings? On a broader note, why does it seem that much of the false teaching that permeates the church today comes from Charismatic and Pentecostal circles? The answer is quite simple. Any time an individual or group opts to move away from the truth of the Word of God, anything becomes possible. When people leave the Word behind, they begin to make up things as they go along. Securely embedded within these corrupt teachings are kernels of truth. That’s what makes them so believable. However, we must not be ready to flow with every wind of doctrine that blows our way. Just because they stand behind a pulpit, or just because they happen to be your pastor or bishop, or just because they preach on any particular network and have a worldwide following, does not make them right. If a teaching or message does not line up with scripture, it must be rejected. From the Word of Faith movement, to Kingdom Now or Dominion Theology, to the somewhat new Grace Revolution, gullible and biblically illiterate Christians have been and are being swept up in their seductive wave. The purveyors of these demonic doctrines, who themselves have been misled, promise their blinded followers money, health, power or whatever else they need. All they have to is ‘name it and claim it’ or ‘believe and receive it.’ They are told that we as Christians are to permeate every strata of society so that we can make the world ready for Jesus to return. To cap it off, Christians are now being told that there is no need to confess our sins to the Lord because that would make us sin conscious. Are they kidding? Unfortunately they are not. These are the dishes that are being served and received today in many of our churches. If everyone believes it, or it becomes popular, it must be from God right? Not at all. I assure you that there is death in the pot.
Why do so many leaders leave the Word behind? I believe one of the reasons this happens is because of the desire for ‘new’ revelation. We know that God still speaks to His children, but is God speaking anything that can be construed as ‘new’; that is, in addition to what He has already written in His Word? Once again, they will quote from Isaiah 43:19, which says in part, ‘See, I am doing a new thing!’ We need to be mindful of what it says in 2 Peter 1:3: ‘According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue…’ Although His divine power cannot be exhausted, one of the things eternally entwined within that power is His Word. According to Hebrews 1:3 He is ‘…upholding all things by the word of his power…,’ i.e., ‘the power of his word.’ Leaders are searching for something new that God is saying, when He has said everything that we need to know in His Word. Yes, He still leads, guides and directs, but all according to what He has already written. When people reach out and begin to look for something new, they are bound to leave the Word behind. This in turn gives the enemy the latitude he needs to work. He will seek to aid and abet them in their search by planting seeds of false doctrine in the heart and mind. A second reason why leaders leave the Word behind is because the people, i.e. congregations, want more. But is more actually better? A very telling scripture in 2 Timothy 4:3 says, ‘For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears…’ This verse says it all. We are living in a day when people don’t want to be told about sin and obedience, about life and godliness or about heaven and hell. People want to be tickled and coddled and told how they can ‘live their best life now.’ They don’t want to hear about the world to come, but they do want to know how to live more comfortably here. This verse says sound doctrine, which is truth, is not what they want. What they do want is for someone to tell them what they want to hear in accordance to their own desires. This is dangerous. Anytime we desire that which is not in accordance to His will and Word, we will inevitably leave the Word behind.
How can we stem the tide of this seemingly overwhelming barrage of false doctrine that has infiltrated the church? First of all, I believe that because of the hardness of men’s hearts, there will always be some degree of false doctrine in the church. However, on an individual level, it can be abated. Each person must do several things. First, they must be fully persuaded that God’s Word and not man’s, is truth (John 17:17). This truth will both keep us and sanctify us. Second, each person must test the spirits. 1 John 4:1 explicitly states: ‘Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.’ Discernment plays a key role in the life a Christian as it pertains to false teaching. If it does not look right, it probably is not. If it does not sound right, it probably is not. If it does not even feel right, it also, probably is not. Finally, each individual must become personally and intimately acquainted with the Word of God. Too many bibles sit on shelves gathering dust in between Sundays. False doctrine finds a resting place in the hearts of many a Christian because they simply don’t know any better. Time spent with the Word is time well spent indeed. I love the model of the Berean believers in Acts 17:11. It says: ‘These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.’ No one was going to pull the wool over the eyes of the Bereans! It will take both a consistent and carefully persistent study of scripture to combat the rampant spread of false teaching in the church that will come calling for each one. No one need be a victim of scriptural charlatanry. When this happens, you have in essence, left the Word behind.
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.