“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body ofChrist;until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him” – Ephesians 4:11-15
These verses were written to the church in Ephesus, those who were already Christians. However, please note that Paul still felt that he had to warn them about being “carried about by every wind of doctrine,” and about the “trickery of men,” and about “craftiness in deceitful scheming.” If Paul warned the Ephesians in the first century Church, that warning has to be just as relevant for us today.
He is not warning them about what they face in the world, we would expect trickery of men and deceitful scheming there, but he is warning them about Christian teachers and those who would seek to affect God’s people within the Church. This is a serious matter and we need to have our eyes opened to examples of this that we will view in modern days.
First we will define the words from the Oxford English Dictionary.
Gimmick – tricky device esp. one adapted for the purpose of attracting attention or publicity
Fad – peculiar notion or rule of action; craze
Spoof – swindle, hoax; parody.
Tragically, we believe that these three words can be associated with various teachings and practices in the Church today. Each of these practices, to differing degrees and results, will have a detrimental affect on our growth in Christ.
More than ever today, we need to be vigilant and aware of what doctrines we accept. If it is not Biblical we must have nothing to do with it. If it has Biblical roots but the principles cannot be applied in every situation then we need to know when to accept the practice and when not. This especially goes for anything that comes under the heading of a “fad.” Am I just being caught up with it because everyone else is?
Peer pressure is a very strong motive but just because many people – even recognised leaders within the Christian scene – are doing a certain thing, this does not make it right. To stand out against this pressure can often be very difficult and we can be accused of quenching the spirit, or some other emotive phrase. We need, therefore, to be fully aware of our Biblical position and why we do, or indeed not do, certain things.
What also comes out from this is we need to know what phrases such as “quenching the Spirit” and “touching God’s anointed” actually mean. We can glibly use these charged phrases but not actually take time to set them in their Biblical context.
The most dangerous of the areas we will be looking at is the ‘spoof’, because this is just not true at all – if it works, it is by coincidence, as it will not be based on any true fundamental Biblical facts. Today, many people are damaged by the Christian spoofs that are going around.
When we look at the definition of this word and find the phrases, “attracting attention” and “publicity,” we realise that here we are dealing with “showmanship”. Unfortunately, today, many ‘big name’ preachers are caught up with showmanship. You would never see Jesus doing what they do and yet they add the name of Jesus to their antics and so implicate Him in the mind of the people. ‘Showmanship’ often makes up for the lack of the actual work of the Holy Spirit taking place.
People leave such meetings with a sense of what the man did; “isn’t he a great man of God,” they exclaim! Alternatively, they gossip to their friends, “did you see what happened…?” Actually, it is possible that because of the hype, that many people assume more happened than actually took place. Everything is talked up and made to be something it is not. This in turn gives the publicity and more people turn up next time just to see what is happening.
We believe there is evidence to show that one of the past masters of the gimmick has to be Benny Hinn. When you next see a video of the way he acts on ‘stage’ do ask yourself the question, “would Jesus ever do that?” How can picking a man up, simply to knock him down again, bring any glory to God?
Benny Hinn is a man that has been caught out in doctrinal error several times. A man that has been accused of telling lies and can bring no clear defence to these accusations, other than, it is all a conspiracy against him as a man of God. Hinn is a man that claims to have a very special anointing from God, but can show very little happening as a result of his ministry. Nevertheless, he is talked up as a man of God, pastoring a church of thousands; appearing regularly on television and held as one of the leading men of God today. Our conclusion from the facts would be that this is a gimmick and many people have been caught up with Benny Hinn and others just like him. Much of what they do is a myth and a smokescreen of showmanship but folks do not want to speak out or move away because others are saying he is a man of God.
For more details regarding Benny Hinn see this article.
This is a belief or practice that is not necessarily wrong in itself, but the user should not always jump to the conclusion and assume it is the answer to a problem. If this is the only answer that someone gives, then it is at this stage that it becomes dangerous and potentially harmful. For instance, we often hear today that a person who has a Freemason in their family line is automatically affected by demons and so that is the root of their problem. However, it could be many other things, but they are ignored because people want to use the latest fad they have read about and that ‘everyone’ else is using.
This is rather like the Doctor who only ever prescribes a certain drug for whatever illness is presented by the patient. In ‘x’ cases out of 10 he is right and the patient improves, but in all the others the main root of the disease goes undetected and the patient might even get worse.
The defining of generational curses is an example of this today. A full discussion of this subject is available in a Reachout Trust Fact File, but here I quote two paragraphs to give one reason why I believe this is a ‘fad.’
“Another significant general observation I want to make is concerning Jesus’ ministry. More than anyone else Jesus dealt with demonic cases, and yet in all the records there is not one hint of ‘Generational Curses.’ Indeed, the one time that Jesus could have easily taught about the matter, in John 9:1-3, He made clear that the ‘curse’ had nothing to do with the past.
This leads me to ask the question as to whether the emphasis that has developed on ‘Generational Curses’ in the last few years is a real or an imagined one? Is it the latest fad of which we have had so many in the past years, or is there clear Biblical teaching that shows that we are experiencing today an unprecedented revival in these areas? Ten years ago you hardly heard about them, today just about everyone has a curse according to some Bible teachers.”
This is the most dangerous of the three categories we are looking at because it is not based on any fundamental Biblical ground, and although the person feels they are trusting God they are in fact trusting a man-made doctrine that can so easily fail. We need to be aware of such activities and move away from them completely.
We would put forward as an example of this, the teaching and the publicity of the John Avanzini Ministries. In a mass produced ‘Reader’s Digest’ style letter, that unfortunately a number of ‘Christians’ use today, he writes:
“The Lord directed me to get this letter to you as quickly as possible… This morning as I was praying… I sensed in my spirit that you or someone close to you is facing a financial crisis. Is this true?”
Surely, this sort of statement is more at home in clairvoyance than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed many mediums send out similar letters. Avanzini then begins to relate the story of the feeding of the 5000 and ends with this advice:
“When you take what you have… give it to God, and ask Him to bless it… you are taking your problem of insufficiency out of the natural realm and releasing it to the supernatural for a solution.”
We can see where this is leading and surely it does not come from the Lord. However, before he blatantly tells them to give the money to him, we read one more scripture:
“Just as I finishing this letter to you, I felt impressed of the Lord to look at Matthew 16:19: ‘…and whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.’ Right then, I saw that the word ‘whatsoever’ includes YOUR MONEY!”
Not only would the evangelical Christian say that he is taking words out of context, but he is saying that God says things He does not; this is nearer blasphemy than God’s ministry.
I wonder what Avanzini does with all the money sent to him from people who cannot afford it, and who end up further in debt because they are relying on a spoof rather than the Word of God.
This type of ministry is a spoof and brings God’s name into disrepute.
What are the safeguards?
These are the problems that we are facing today, but what has God given us in His word that helps us to be prepared for these areas and indeed overcome them? We will mention four areas out of many others we could look at.
Test the Spirits
1 John 4:1 – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”
We should not automatically believe every doctrine that is said to be the revelation of the Spirit of God, or every teacher who claims to speak under His anointing.
The testing is not by human reason, but by the word of God, which is the standard of all doctrine; whatever agrees with Scripture is to be received, and what does not should be rejected. See Acts 17:11 and Revelation 2:2. Every one of us should judge for themselves, but also respect the Body of Christ of which we are part. It is vital that we can trust our brothers and sisters.
Test the spirits – put them to the acid test of truth as the metallurgist does his metals. If it stands the test, like a coin, it is acceptable.
Cross of Christ
Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ… Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…”
What is my motivation – selfishness, success, attention, or to live the life that Christ wants me to live?
See Romans 6:6-11
“…knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 6:6-11
Sovereignty of Christ
1 Peter 3:15 – “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready…”
“But” indicates the opposite of the previous verses where the world affects us; He is to be first and set apart in our lives as Lord. In such a way, we are ready to deal with whatever intimidation or fear that man puts on us, and can walk on the narrow path and not just “go with the flow.”
Led by Holy Spirit
Romans 8:14 – “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”
Not by the spirit of this world; not by the devil; not by our own spirits. The act of leading described here is an allusion to the leading either of blind persons or to the leading of children and teaching them to go. Both show the need for trust and acceptance of the way being indicated.
The Spirit of God leads us from sin and from a dependence on our own righteousness, in paths we would not normally go in – paths of faith and truth, of righteousness and holiness.