Word of faith, or faith in His word?

This topic recently came up when someone was talking about a Word of Faith ministry. They explained faith as a force. It’s the source of power that God uses to accomplish His word. They defined it as ‘faith filled words’. It was then explained that our word of faith has the power to accomplish anything. Words are containers and if we fill our words with faith, then we will have power. There are varying degrees of how this belief system plays out, but in a nutshell, it is taught that faith is a substance and we harness that substance for our use.

 

This is not a belief system based on the truth of scripture. I know there are those who will disagree, but rather than picking apart the beliefs of others, let’s look at how God has explain this in the Bible and let everything either stand in agreement or stand against the word of the Lord. Then let us decide which word is truly of faith.

 

Let’s begin with Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

 

The Greek word translated into ‘substance’ is ‘hupostasis’, which means: strong confidence, substructure, firmness, assurance, or substance. Even if someone knows nothing about Greek, looking at the possible definitions gives a clear meaning. The words that are possible translations are not multiple meanings, but multiple word usages. Substance can be used as long as the usage conveys the idea of something that underpins or is a firm assurance. It’s substance in the sense that faith is substantive in its ability to uphold our confidence. This word is used several times in the Bible, and each time it is used to explain confidence. Here are some examples:

 

2 Corinthians 9:4 You should not be ashamed of this confident…

2 Cornithians 11:17 I speak foolishly…in this confident boasting…

Hebrews 3:14 …hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.

Here is a place where the word ‘substance’ is used in reference to actual substance. Luke 8:3

…and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

 

This is not the same Greek word as what is used in Hebrews 11. This is the word ‘huparchonta’, which means possessions, goods, or property. The misconception of faith being a substance is based on the misunderstanding of the English translation of a single word in a single verse. Out of context, this can be twisted into a wrong meaning, but it can’t be misunderstood if read in the context of the rest of the chapter. Read the entire chapter of Hebrews 11. Based on the ‘substance / assurance’ of faith, Abel pleased God and was murdered for his testimony by Cain. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelled in tents because they refused to settle into a city, but waited for the eternal promised city, whose maker is God.

 

We look at possessions, but these who walked by faith counted these as nothing. Look at a few more details in this chapter: Hebrews 11:13

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
36-40  36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.
37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–
38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

 

The Bible gives examples of those who saw the miraculous deliverance of God, and those who miraculously endured suffering. Both endured because of faith.

 

Now if faith is a force that gives us the power to speak our purposes into our world, why is it also used as the example of endurance of those who were mocked, beaten (scourged), sawn in two, slain by the sword, wandered in exile with nothing but animal skins for their possessions, and those who were afflicted and tormented?

 

The message of faith is not that we have the power to use a force for our will, but that we are so confident in God’s promises that we endure – whether we see part of that promise here, or we become the testimony of one of those who endured. I say part of the promise because even those who saw God’s blessings here didn’t count it as the fulfillment of the promise. In fact, they were willing to give up everything of this life because they had absolute assurance in the eternal promise to come.

 

How can a person sawn in two be an example of great faith, if faith is the power to proclaim your will and make your word fulfill what you desire to accomplish? If that’s the case, the people who were sawn in two were fools. The homeless saints of the past who had to make their own clothes as they wandered in the wilderness were also very foolish. Why would you use the substance of power to make yourself worse off? No, this passage can only make sense in light of its intended meaning. These were so sure of God’s promise that they were willing to wait with patience – even if every force of evil stood against them. They had the assurance of Job, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.”[1]

 

Job spoke these words during the darkest time of his life. Though circumstances looked hopeless, he stood on the hope of God’s promise.

Now that we’ve looked at what the substance of faith actually means, let’s look at a great example of faith in action. Abraham is called the father of faith. He was before the Law, and is the Old Testament example of New Testament faith. How does the Bible define faith in Abraham’s life? Abraham believed God, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness. Faith = belief in God’s word. Belief is not merely a passive belief that has no meaning. In James chapter 2, twice the Bible reiterates that faith without works is dead.[2] This passage goes on to call out those who say, “I believe in God.” Big deal. Even demons believe in God, but what effect does that have on their lives? We can also look around. Nearly 80 percent of people say they believe in God, yet He is far from the thoughts of most people, and farther from their actions.

 

James goes back to Abraham as the example of what true faith looks like. Many places in scripture we see that Abraham was accounted as righteous because he believed God, but James says to look at Abraham’s life to see the evidence of faith.

 

Abraham was in his late 90s when God promised him a son. God didn’t fulfill that promise until Abraham was 100. God gave Abraham the promise, “In Isaac shall your seed be called.”[3] Abraham took this promise to heart. This promise meant that Isaac had to grow into adulthood and have children who would then carry this promise to the next generation. At the heart of the promise was Christ. Through Abraham and his descendants, God would provide the promise of salvation in Christ.

 

Shortly after giving Abraham the promise, God put Abraham’s faith to the test. He called Abraham to slay his son as an offering for sin. We have the perspective of history and know that the only human sacrifice God ever received was when He became a man and offered Himself up for the sin of the whole world. And He did it on the same mountain that God called Abraham to use to offer Isaac. It was a foreshadow of what God would one day do. Abraham did not have the perspective we have. He only had the promise and the command to offer Isaac.

 

Since the promise of God was, “In Isaac shall your seed be called,” Abraham knew that there could never be a different son of promise. God would either intervene to provide a substitute for Isaac, or God would have to raise Isaac from the dead. Humanly speaking, it’s impossible for a dead son to be the fulfillment of God’s promise; therefore, Abraham believed the Lord fully capable of doing the impossible. Keep in mind that Isaac’s birth was the miracle of the impossible. The heart of Abraham’s faith is found in this statement from Genesis 22:5

And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

 

We will come back to you. Abraham’s faith in God’s promise gave him the firm assurance that regardless of what happened on the mountain, both he and Isaac would return. Now let’s go full circle and return to Hebrews 11. Look at Hebrews 11:17-19

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,”
19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

 

Faith was the substance that gave Abraham absolute confidence. Abraham had no power to change his circumstance. He didn’t rebuke the devil. He didn’t question God. He didn’t speak his way out of the trial he had to endure. What faith did do was give him absolute confidence that what God promised, he was able to perform. Abraham walked by faith, and though life demanded what Abraham was unwilling to lose, he trusted that God’s promise could not fail. He walked into the storm of emotions he had to be feeling. He laid his hopes and dreams on the altar. He laid down his own will. Then Abraham rested his confidence in God, who was able to give life to the dead and call things that are not as though they were. Let’s look at the passage I just recited from as well. It’s a long passage, but I encourage you to read all of Romans 4:16-25

16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations “) in the presence of Him whom he believed– God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

 

Faith gives glory to God as this passage states. The belief that we can harness power to speak our will into existence as God has done takes that glory and attempts to make it about ourselves. It is the call to seek independence from God, just as Adam and Eve attempted to do at the original sin.

 

Who gives life? Who speaks into existence that which does not yet exist? Not Abraham. Not the power of faith. It is the power of God. Abraham believed on God, who is able to do these things. Not only that, when there was no hope, Abraham held to hope because he was fully persuaded that God was able to perform His word.

 

And this is the meaning of faith. Faith is believing God. Those who believe God are compelled to obedience, for that is where God’s word is put to the test and His promises are birthed into our lives. Faith without works is dead because any who say they believe God, but are unwilling to trust Him, have nothing but a man-made faith. And anything of the flesh is already dead. Mustered up faith is dead. You can’t produce faith by human effort. Faith comes by hearing the word of God[4] because when we see the promise, that’s when the Spirit reveals these truths to our spirit. Then we have the opportunity to rest fully in confidence in God’s word and promises, or to put our confidence in the flesh and seek safety in either disobedience or apathy.

 

Faith itself is not a substance. Faith is not power. Faith is the revelation of God’s word and purposes to us, and then we are called to trust in what God has revealed. He reveals the promise, but not how that promise will be fulfilled.

 

Back in Hebrews 11, we see examples of those who saw God’s power in this life, and those who saw the reality of it beyond this life. Some saw God work in amazing ways. Some were confident without having to see God’s works in this life. But both examples are people who believed God regardless of what the flesh could see.

 

When you read about faith, keep these things in mind. Faith is not what you do, say, or have the power to accomplish. Faith is trusting in God’s word, His power, and walking where He leads. Faith is believing in God – true belief. The kind of belief that causes us to trust in Him whether going through the valley of the shadow of death, or on the mountain top of restoration. Faith is to trust fully in God and His power to keep His word.



[1] Job 19:25-26

[2] James 2:20, 2:26

[3] Genesis 21:12

[4] Romans 10:17

Understanding Church Vision (Part 4 of 4)

One World Religion

Over 300 evangelical Christians signed a response from ‘the Christian community’ and sent it to the Muslim Community agreeing to a partnership in religion. In October 2007 the Muslim community launched a website called www.acommonword.com. A letter was sent to the Christian community asking for an agreement among the religions on common grounds that we could agree on. In the letter, the Muslim writers offer a hand of partnership to Christians as long as we agree on the basic principles that unite us. While the open letter to Christians focuses on each person’s requirement to love God and love one’s neighbor, they also make it clear that loving God requires us to adhere to the following ‘Testimony of Faith’:

The central creed of Islam consists of the two testimonies of faith or Shahadahsi, which state that: There is no god but God [Allah], Muhammad is the messenger of God. These Two Testimonies are the sine qua non of Islam. He or she who testifies to them is a Muslim; he or she who denies them is not a Muslim.

 

The letter also states the following about Jesus Christ:

Muslims recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah, not in the same way Christians do (but Christians themselves anyway have never all agreed with each other on Jesus Christ’s nature), but in the following way: …. the Messiah Jesus son of Mary is a Messenger of God and His Word which he cast unto Mary and a Spirit from Him…. (Al-Nisa’, 4:171). We therefore invite Christians to consider Muslims not against and thus with them, in accordance with Jesus Christ’s words here.

 

Since the Muslim letter only quoted part of Al-Nisa’ 4:171, I decided to look up this reference in the Quran to see the remainder of the verse. Here is the entire passage in context:

People of the Book, do not exceed the limits of devotion in your religion or say anything about God which is not the Truth. Jesus, son of Mary, is only a Messenger of God, His Word, and a spirit from Him whom He conveyed to Mary. So have faith in God and His Messengers. Do not say that there are three gods. It is better for you to stop believing in the Trinity. There is only One God. He is too glorious to give birth to a son. To God belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. God alone is a Sufficient Guardian for all. (Al-Nisa’ 4:171)

 

Muhammad called Christians the ‘People of the Book’ because they believed in the scriptures. The call for unity requires us to directly reject the following scripture in 1 John 5:9-13  

9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.  10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.  11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

 

If you do not believe in Jesus Christ as He has been revealed in the scriptures, you do not, and cannot have eternal life for Jesus plainly warned that “if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Therefore, the Quran and the Bible are in direct conflict with each other and this foundational issue is irreconcilable. So in reality, the Muslim partnership extended to Christians has the following requirements in order to have common ground: accept the premise that “There is no god but God [which means Allah], Muhammad is the messenger of God”, do not be devoted solely to Christianity, and agree that Jesus is “only a messenger of God” but is not divine nor is God’s Son. According to Islam, Jesus was a messenger, but Muhammad is ‘the messenger’. Every Muslim will tell you that you must confess that ‘there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet’. They say that Jesus was a prophet, but they will never say that Muhammad is ‘a prophet’. Every Muslim will strictly adhere to the belief that ‘Muhammad is the prophet’. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophets and that in these last days Jesus was the final word (Hebrews 1:1-2), but Islam teaches that Muhammad is the true messenger and the one chosen by God.

 

While one-world religion proponents argue that we can agree on most issues and therefore should not bicker over the few that we don’t agree on, the truth is that certain beliefs cannot be compromised. Look at Philippians 2:5-8  

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

 

This is at the core of our Christian faith. You cannot compromise this truth and remain in the faith. Also consider 1 Timothy 3:16  

16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory..

 

John 1:1-3  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God2 He was in the beginning with God.  3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

John 1:10-14  10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

This wasn’t controversial among those who held to the word of God, but in this era where Christians do not seek the Lord through the word, this has become a point of contention. The world has always denied Jesus as the only way and in these last days, the church has forgotten the truth of salvation in Christ just as the Bible foretold. Look at 2 Peter 2:1  

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

 

Is this not exactly what the ‘open letter to Christians’ is asking us to do? I have quoted some of the most influential evangelical leaders and each one of them has denied that Jesus is the only way of salvation – which is a denial of the faith. On November 18, 2007, a response was posted to the acommonword.com website. The letter written was headed up by the seminary professors at Yale University and signed by over 300 evangelical Christian leaders and organizations. You can read the entire letter on the Common Word website, but I want to bring your attention to this excerpt:

We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians world-wide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors.

And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony.

 

The evangelical community received the letter and then implied that any who do not receive this are ‘those who relish conflict and destruction’. By stating that they receive the invitation, it is an acknowledgement and acceptance of the terms written in the letter as we examined above. Any who do not agree to this form of unity are identified as the cause of conflict. If you read the letter you will see that one of the overarching themes is the quest for world peace. It is not a jump in conclusion that those who do not agree with the plan for peace by compromising their faith in Christ are a threat to peace and will become the enemy of the world religions that are uniting.

 

Consider that Rick Warren has stated that those who refuse to change must die or leave. David Spangler stated in his writings that people who will not accept the new world spirituality (which he calls the Luciferic Initiation) will be removed from the world to an upper room to be retrained until they can be embodied and safely be returned to the social body; Leonard Sweet states that we must change or die and these each are endorsing each other. Leonard Sweet quotes David Spangler in his book ‘Soul Tsunami’. In this book, Sweet states:

I am grateful to David Spangler for his help in formulating this “new cell” understanding of New Light leadership.”

 

Rick Warren endorsed this very book and wrote the forward on the front and back cover. Ken Blanchard has been commissioned by Rick Warren to teach leaders who will teach evangelical churches and Blanchard spoke at the ‘Choices for the Future’ symposium with Barbara Marx Hubbard. In her book, Hubbard echoes the warnings of these evangelical leaders but adds chilling details that make it clear that the ultimate plan is to force the world into the New Age spirituality. Look at these excerpts from her writings found in ‘The Book of Co-Creation’:

Out of the full spectrum of human personality, one-fourth is electing to transcend… One-fourth is destructive…they are defective seeds. In the past they were permitted to die a ‘natural death’. …Now as we approach the quantum shift from the creature-human to the co-creative human – the human who is an inheritor of god-like powers – the destructive one-fourth must be eliminated from the social body. …Fortunately, you are not responsible for this act, we are. We are in charge of God’s selection process for the planet Earth. He selects, we destroy. We are the riders of the pale horse, Death”.

 

“This act is as horrible as killing a cancer cell. It must be done for the sake of the future of the whole. So be it; be prepared for the selection process which is now beginning. We, the elders, have been patiently waiting until the very last moment before the quantum transformation, to take action to cut out this corrupted and corrupting element in the body of humanity. It is like watching a cancer grow; something must be done before the whole body is destroyed…. The destructive one fourth must be eliminated from the social body.”

 

Is this not an exact fulfillment of John 16:2b-4?

…the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.  3 “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.  4 “But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. …

 

Notice that Barbara Marx Hubbard has declared that the selection process is already underway and who do you think the ‘destructive one-fourth’ is? Based on the testimony of Hubbard and our own evangelical leaders, those who refuse to change must die. Hubbard may sound like a New Age flake, but she has a lot of backing. She has worked with the White House under two presidents including our current administration; she was a vice president nominee in 1984, she was an American Citizen ambassador to the former Soviet Union; she has founded two major global organizations (the ‘Global Association for New Global Thought’ and the ‘World Future Society’); she has written 5 books and delivered over 80 keynote speeches to colleges, leadership conventions, political organizations, and has direct ties with our current evangelical leaders.

 

Just consider how many times death is endorsed by our major evangelical leaders. In Tim LaHaye’s left behind series, the tribulation force of God fought against the lost souls by killing them. This was justified since their souls were supposedly already lost anyway. This is the overarching theme in their Left Behind game where ‘Christians’ are encouraged to kill those who refuse to be evangelized. You can find ample information on this game by doing a search on ‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces’. In the evangelical letter to the muslims, our leaders state that those who refuse to compromise risk their eternal souls. Rick Warren calls church leaders that resist the purpose driven movement ‘leaders from hell’ and compared them to Sanballat. Sanballat tried to prevent Nehemiah from building the wall around Jerusalem. Ironically, Warren is attacking those who are trying to build a wall between the church and the world while claiming that the true wall builders are the ones attacking. For the first time in history, the evangelical community has joined forces with the world to stand against those who stand upon the word of God. Now the political, world religions, and evangelical church are all calling for the destruction of those who refuse to be evangelized into the New World Order.

 

Also consider that in 2003 the White House announced its plan to perform mental health screenings on every American through the program called ‘The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health’. A national health screening is the perfect opportunity to determine the values, beliefs and identify the individuals that are a threat to the ‘new thought’. To read up on this plan, go to the following websites:

http://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov/reports/reports.htm

http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/toc-2004.html

 

Do not overlook the connection between Hubbard and our evangelical leaders. Ken Blanchard was on stage with Barbara Marx Hubbard at the ‘Choices for the Future’ conference where this mindset is being instilled in the world leaders of today. Ken Blanchard is now the trainer for Rick Warren’s ‘PEACE Plan’ and instructing our evangelical leaders. Is anyone alarmed at these connections? Does it raise any red flags to hear each of our so-called evangelical leaders using similar terminology as Barbara Marx Hubbard as they warn that people must die or change? If you follow the relationships of any of our emergent church or church growth leaders, you will see that eventually all their connections cross paths and form a consistent partnership network. All these leaders echo each other, quote common sources and endorse each other and quote those who are completely opposed the Christianity – true biblical Christianity.

 

Finally, let’s look at the words of Erwin McManus. Erwin is a leader in the so-called Emergent Church movement which seeks to destroy biblical Christianity and replace it with a more tolerant, all inclusive world religion. Rather than starting a new religion, the Emergent Church seeks to transform the current church into a new entity. McManus is heavily promoted by the Church Growth movements and is highly praised by Rick Warren. He is introduced to the evangelical community through the endorsements of many evangelical teachers, preachers, conferences and also Saddleback’s pastors.com. McManus was a featured speaker at the Saddleback Worship Conference and David Jeremiah endorsed the book I am about to quote from as well. Warren gives him the platform in his podcast linked from http://blog.pastors.com/2007/05/31/how-to-stay-mentally-fresh-for-ministry/ or you can listen to Rick broadcast this joint message with McManus through this direct link to the podcast at

http://saddlebackfamily.com/MediaCenter/playmedia.aspx?site=WzE15n779Mw=&m=WfdzHHn8N9Y= .

 

By Erwin McManus’ own admission, he is an enemy of Christianity and seeks to destroy it. Look at the quote below:

My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ. (Christian Examiner, March 2005)

 

Notice how these leaders insulate themselves from criticism by name dropping Jesus Christ while at the same time stating that they want to destroy the very church that Jesus founded. It is foolish to think that a man or group of men can begin a new movement of God for the church did not come into existence by the will of man. Only the church of scripture is called the bride of Christ. Anything that attempts to usurp that position is not of God. Jesus said that He would build His church and warned that a house divided cannot stand. God will never fight against the body of Christ that He purchased with His own blood and founded upon His resurrection. Consider these telling quotes from his book, ‘The Barbarian Way’:

“The way of Jesus is far too savage for their sensibilities (those who are “civilized”)… Why a reckless call to awaken the barbarian faith within us at the risk of endangering this great civilization we have come to know as Christianity? … It is time to hear the barbarian call, to form a barbarian tribe, and to unleash the barbarian revolt. Let the invasion begin.”

 

“The greatest enemy to the movement of Jesus Christ is Christianity.”

 

“Two thousand years ago, God started a revolt against the religion He started. So don’t ever put it past God to cause a groundswell movement against churches and Christian institutions that bear His name.”

 

Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right. (from his book, ‘The Barbarian Way’)

 

It is ironic that the very people who claim that we should not question bad doctrine because our highest calling is unity are the ones beating the drums of war against the church. Those who believe the Bible are told that they should not stand up but quietly go along with the changes of the ‘new vision’, but those who are in agreement should fight to destroy the church Jesus established and invade it like hordes of barbarians. If you believe God’s word is the final authority, you are to be intimidated into silence while their followers are called to begin the invasion. Consider these two passages from Proverbs:

Proverbs 12:26 The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

 

If you want to know someone’s character, look at those he associates with. If you associate with the wicked, you will be led astray and if you are a companion of fools, you are headed for destruction. A fool is someone who turns from the truth and follows their own hearts or the heart of those who devise their own version of ‘truth’. If you look at those Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven movements call friends, the smoke screen of biblical Christianity fades away into a disturbing cult. If you follow any path that goes out from these leaders, the path goes straight into the ‘New World Order’ cults. If you follow the path through Leonard Sweet, you are led straight into the ‘Luciferic Initiation’ and hear the call of the destruction of those who will not submit. If you follow the path toward Ken Blanchard, you are led straight into the ‘Choices for the Future’ proponents who are calling for the death of the ‘defective seeds’ who will not submit to the New World Order. If you follow out through Erwin McManus, you end up in the ‘Emergent Church’ movement that calls for an invasion and destruction of historic biblical Christianity. Follow in any direction and see where you end up. I could go on about the anti-Christian connections of Bill Hybels, Robert Schuller, Fuller Institute, C. Peter Wagner, or any leader in connection with this movement. They all form a network of interconnected relationships that paint a disturbing picture as it leads directly into the anti-Christian world religion foretold in Bible prophecy.

 

As the new vision invades the church, the collective body will move away from scripture and begin following people rather than God. When the church leaders bring in ‘the new vision’, they are prepped before hand to prepare for conflict (See http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/default.asp?id=263&artid=4533&expand=1). The method follows a consistent pattern. Those introducing this begin by sounding orthodox as they drop terminology that points to the ‘new vision’ without explaining what these terms mean. For a time, they will continue to use scripture as they accustom the church to these terms. This mixed message can be confusing but it is necessary to build trust while building the bridge that will be used to usher in the ‘new vision’. The next step is to gain agreement. This is done by stressing the need for unity and portraying those who are alarmed or disturbed by the new vision as being unspiritual, being afraid of what God is doing, fearing change, or being ‘one of those’ who only want to stay in a comfort zone of tradition. The pastor or leader will then say, “I feel the spirit moving” and then ask the church to raise their hands if they feel it. This subtle interjection has a big impact through the power of suggestion. If you don’t feel the Spirit, you are made to feel like something is wrong with you. Everyone around you feels it and is agreeing; therefore the implication is that anyone who doesn’t is out of touch with the Spirit.

 

The next step of indoctrination is to set up a ‘straw man’ to kick around. The pastor or leader will describe a silly traditionalist and then mock that ‘hypothetical person’ and cause the congregation to laugh at such a man. Through mocking jokes and declarations that such a person is unspiritual, each person in the congregation is intimidated into silence without realizing that this is a carefully crafted method of bullying members into compliance. After setting the stage of intimidation, each person has been put into a position of being ‘the only one’ who disagrees. We then sit in the congregation and think, “How can these feelings be of God when I am the only one who sees a problem?” We are told that the discernment of the Holy Spirit is our own fear and that we should ignore and overcome it. Thus the congregation has been taught to reject the red flags of alarm and the warnings of the Holy Spirit in their heart. Through the methods of Group Think, many people turn away from God and follow the doctrines of man. Those who do not succumb to group think are ‘purpose driven’ from the church. Ironically, those who are driven away are the ones called the trouble makers.

 

Those who do not conform will find the church turning against them. Even though we have not moved or changed our doctrines, we will be called the ones who have turned from God. I have received many letters from people who have been driven from their churches when the pastor departed from the faith. The process follows a familiar pattern and usually starts with a pastor going to a conference. One person who was raised in a church and had been a member for over thirty years was vilified when the church made this shift. The pastor went to a conference and came back with a vision that he claimed was from God. This heartbreaking letter was mourning the loss of life long friends. A few weeks earlier, they were in the center of the church and had close relationships. When the shift began, they went to the pastor to raise concerns but were met with hostility. The pastor criticized them from the pulpit and friends began to turn on them for not following the new vision. The hostility from the leadership and the congregation grew to the point where they had no choice but to leave. Driving those who do not conform is taught by the ‘Purpose Driven’ movement and is highly encouraged by Rick Warren. In the Church Growth movements, unity is only for those who conform and the new vision is the highest priority. Anyone who does not buy into the Purpose Driven movement ‘are from hell’; therefore it is not considered a loss when Bible believing Christians are ‘encouraged to leave’. The Bible warns, “Woe to the shepherds who scatter the flock”, but the new vision pushes scripture aside. The warning of scripture is now irrelevant since the so-called new revelations replace the study of the word.

 

This should be no surprise for throughout history the masses have followed the leaders even when they are wrong – both in the church and in the secular culture. Rick Warren teaches that people like us “must either leave or die” (see the link four paragraphs back). Right now, the only option a church leader has is to make someone leave. You will be intimidated into leaving if you do not follow the ‘new move of God’, but the time will come when persecution will include the murder of those who will not go along with the New World Order. When political and religious power merges, persecution will be much more than words.

 

Each time that religion and political power have partnered together, God’s people have been persecuted. This happened to the apostles when religion controlled the Jewish government; when Constantine merged the Catholic church with the Roman Empire, the inquisitions killed millions of Christians who would not conform to the doctrines of men; even today, where religion controls political power, the church is persecuted. This will happen again when the one world church gains power in politics as foretold in scripture and is indeed in progress today. In 2006 Barack Obama was invited to and spoke from the pulpit of Saddleback church at their annual summit. In November 2007 Hillary Clinton was invited and spoke from the Saddleback church pulpit as well. The establishment of these partnerships is well underway and as Barbara Marx Hubbard stated, “We, the elders, have been patiently waiting” for that opportunity.

 

Jesus forewarned that the time will come when those who persecute and kill His disciples will believe that they are doing God a service. Now we see evangelical leaders openly declaring that they are preparing for a revolt against historic Christianity and plan to invade and destroy Christianity. Even while making this claim, they are telling you that God is the one starting this revolt. Perhaps the god starting this revolt is the god of this world and not the God of the Bible. Also take note that there is no biblical foundation for any of the statements used by these leaders. They claim to be spokesmen of God, but they do not point to scripture as the source of any of their new doctrines. The revolt is against the Bible, those who believe the Bible and the church that bears His name because they hold to His word – the Bible.

 

Anyone who believes in the Bible as the sole authority of God’s word is considered a cancer cell in the collective body of humanity which they erroneously call the ‘Christ’. You will be forced to choose which vision you will receive – the ‘New Vision’ of the New World Order, or the vision Jesus Christ gave to the church and each individual Christian. Your evangelical leaders have already made their choice. The partnership to the Muslim call for a common word has agreed to forfeit the claims that Jesus alone is our Divine Savior and they will not be solely devoted to ‘their form of religion’ but will ‘put aside differences that divide us’. The one difference that separates Christianity from all religions is the Lamb of God. Consider the warning of Jesus in Mark 8:

38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

 

You must choose His word or you reject Christ (John 14:24). The three main leaders of the church growth movements have signed this letter. These include:

Rick Warren

Bill Hybels

Robert Schuller

 

Here is a shortened list of evangelical organizations that have representatives that have signed this document:

David Yonggi Cho

Saddleback Church

Billy Graham Center at Wheaton

The Navigators, Colorado Springs, CO

Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL

Youth With A Mission

Christianity Today Media Group

National Association of Evangelicals

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Fuller Theological Seminary

Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding: An International Coalition,

Biola University

Protestant House Church Network, Istanbul Turkey

The Christian Century.

The Evangelical Alliance Mission, Wheaton, IL

World Evangelical Alliance

Evangelicals for Human Rights

Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

Missional International Church Network

Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

Evangelical Fellowship of Asia

 

Over 300 evangelical organizations or individuals have signed this open letter in response to the Muslim partnership. They have signed an acknowledgment that they have thankfully received and have agreed to the conditions set fort to move ahead in the unity between the religions. Some of those conditions are to deny the divinity of Christ, deny He is God’s Son and to deny that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone. These are the trainers and most influential leaders in Christendom today. By their own words and endorsements they have agreed to cast aside the fundamentals of the Christian faith and will divorce themselves from and even fight against those who refuse to change. If you are not serious about your faith, you should heed the words of Jesus in John 9:

4 “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.

 

Night is coming when the door will be closed and the culture will no longer tolerate those who truly hold to Jesus Christ and the word of God. Not only are we threatened by the world, but our primary threat at this time comes from within Christianity. Our sleeping congregations do not even recognize the storm that is already on the horizon.

 

Conclusion

We were given our vision at the birth of the New Testament church. Nothing should take our eyes off this vision for it is grounded in the perfect will of God as stated in Romans 12:2  

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

 

The plan of God and the vision of Jesus Christ is already perfect. If you add to or take away from perfection, it is no longer perfect. Do not be afraid to be called a traditionalist for any who desire to live godly and hold to the traditions handed down from Christ and the apostles will be mocked. Consider this quote from Rick Warren posted at pastors.com :

I’m saying some people are going to have to die or leave. Moses had to wander around the desert for 40 years while God killed off a million people before he let them go into the Promised Land. That may be brutally blunt, but it’s true. There may be people in your church who love God sincerely, but who will never, ever change.

 

Since Jesus stated that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, how can Warren condemn those who love God sincerely? In the new vision, following the vision is more important than the commandments that Jesus said is the first commandment we must strive for in order to fulfill the law (Matthew 22:40). Strive to be one of those people for those are the ones who hear only the voice of the Good Shepherd. Those who died in the desert were not those who refused to change, but those who did not believe the word of God. Consider 2 Thessalonians 2:

15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

 

This command is not referring to the type of church hymns or man-made denominational traditions that often become the objects of false worship. This command is referring to the scriptural truths that were handed down to the church. We think of traditions as our order of service, but this is not the case at all. There is nothing wrong with trying to reach out to our communities and even having programs sponsored by the church. The problem only occurs when we take our eyes off of the vision given to us as individuals and the church as a whole. Look again at the vision and mission of the church found in Matthew 28:19-20  

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

 

If you can bring an activity into the church without being distracted from this mission, scripturally this is permissible. There are many die-hard, fundamental, traditional churches that have lost sight of this scripture and have also succumbed to the belief that the pastor is the good shepherd. If you seek to fulfill this commission, you will be in God’s will regardless of your local traditions, style of music or other influences within the church. It is impossible to obey all things commanded and go astray. As long as Jesus’ commandment stays within the sights of the church or Christian, other things will be useful for ministry. It is when you have to turn away from the word of God and His commandments in order to fulfill your vision that you cease from being a follower of Christ and begin to be a follower of your man-made ministry or religion. Many claim to be ‘Christ followers’ but do not obey the word. Jesus made it clear that we can only abide in Him if we keep His word.

 

The pastor must always realize that he is a sheep of the Lord’s pasture and so is the flock. Those who try to make the flock follow them or their vision fall into rebellion against Christ. These cease from being overseers and have knowingly or unknowingly made themselves rivals committing mutiny against Christ. Since every knee will bow before Christ, it is a foolish decision to rebel against the Lord. Ignorance of the Bible only shows that we have abandoned the great commission for part of obeying all that is commanded is to study to show yourself approved. All of God’s commandments must be obeyed or we are disobedient.

 

The false shepherd who refuses to follow Christ and seeks to force the sheep into his pasture is in sin and will be judged. To fall into sin affects the individual, but to attempt to turn others away from the commandments of God carries a harsh judgment. 2 Peter 2 describes the severe consequences to those who draw others away from the truth. When the sheep refuse to be led away from Christ, the false shepherd will attempt to devour and scatter them. We have already viewed some of the New Testament scriptures, now look at this passage in Jeremiah 23:1-2  

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the LORD.  2 Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the LORD.

 

God has allowed these wicked men to rise to power to test men to see if they will hold to His word (Deut 13:3) and to fulfill the prophecy foretold in His word. Even though God puts the wicked in power (see Romans 9:17, Romans 13:1, John 13:18, John 17:12, and Acts 1:16), the time will come when He will hold them accountable for their sin against His people. God will use each person to fulfill His will. The sinner will be used according to their heart and those who submit will be used for His victorious work. God does not force sinners into rebellion but He does put His purposes into their hearts (Revelation 17:12-17). The Bible warns that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. We do not want to stand against the Lord and force ourselves into His wrath. No where is the pastor told to make the sheep his own. Consider Jesus’ instruction to the apostle Peter in John 21:

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

 

Jesus addressed this question and answer to Peter three times but I have only included the end of the passage. Notice that Jesus said, ‘feed My sheep’. When giving instructions to the overseers of the church, God states that we are to ‘shepherd the flock of God’. When a pastor claims that the sheep are his, he has fallen into the condemnation of the false shepherd who attempts to draw disciples after himself. While many do this unknowingly because this is what the leadership training teaches, they are still without excuse for we are commanded to study the word and lead by example. If a pastor does not know the word, he has already failed in his calling. Look again at Acts 20:28-30  

28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  29 “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.  30 “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

 

Since vision casting is the belief that a pastor comes up with his own vision and tenaciously enforces that vision as he calls the church to follow him, isn’t this exactly what the Bible warns against. The vision caster is attempting to draw away disciples after themselves as they imagine their own vision and then formulate a church plan to follow their own vision. In most churches, when the follower of Jesus Christ cannot follow the false vision, the pastor has been conditioned to look at that person as rebellious against the church. In reality the Christian should be able to follow Christ and the church should be going in the same direction, but when the vision comes from the pastor, a conflict between the two is almost always inevitable.

 

The next time a pastor or a leader in the church growth ideology says that a pastor is the one who provides the vision for the church, ask which scripture supports this concept. You can search the entire Bible, but you will not find one scripture that supports this belief. You will find many scriptures that refute it. The closest reference you will find is the misused scripture of Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

 

This is one of the rare times when the seeker sensitive churches will acknowledge the KJV. Even so, the question we must ask is, how do you bridge the gap between no vision (revelation of truth) and the belief that the vision comes from a church leader? If they were truly trying to follow this passage of scripture, why don’t they acknowledge what is written in the second half of the verse? They zero in on the word ‘vision’, but they ignore the point of this verse. The message of this passage is: where there is no vision (literally divine communication or revelation of God’s word), the people fall away but those who keep the law (God’s word) will be happy. The church growth movements have rewritten this verse to mean: where there is no vision, the people perish but the pastor who casts his own vision will be successful. This is a great error.

 

The leaders of the new paradigm realize that the Bible does not support their vision and they are dependent on the ignorance of the word among God’s people. That is why they devalue doctrine. If you listen to them preach, they will say things like “it is important to study the Bible”, but then they follow up by teaching that doctrine is not important. Why would anyone want to take their valuable time to study the Bible to learn doctrine that has no value? This mixed message gives them the ability to squelch criticism by claiming that they teach people to study while at the same time undermining any reason why the average member would want to study the Bible. This is followed up by saying that to take the Bible literally is damaging, causes people to become mean-spirited or is evidence that the person is irrational as we saw from leaders quoted earlier in this study. When you tell people that taking the Bible literally and as the final authority is idolatry as Brennan Manning, J.P. Moreland and other evangelical leaders have stated, you have only reinforced apathy or even rejection toward the scriptures. The new church movements devalue the Bible while exalting their own visions. The erroneous conclusion that must be drawn when you put all this together is that the Bible is not trustworthy but we should trust the pastor who claims to have a vision given by God.

 

In the passage above in Proverbs, the vision is the focus on the law – or commandments of God. This agrees completely with Jesus’ great commission. The great commission of Jesus Christ is the vision and that vision is to reach the people with the gospel and to teach them to obey all that has been commanded. Or as Proverbs states: he that keeps the law (obeys the commandments), happy is he. Man is not called to follow his own vision, but to follow Christ and the vision He gave to the church in the scriptures.

 

The vision of Christ must always be the focus of the church and the sheep of His pasture. Tools and resources can be good as long as they do not take our sights off the vision God has given in His word. We can determine if a tool is God focused by where our focus lies. As long as our sights remain on the vision of Christ’s commission, we can utilize different methods and programs. If our sights which are focused on the vision of Christ moves to follow a program or vision, the program is not of God. If you have to compromise any of God’s commandments or compromise obedience in any way, it is not of God.

 

God has indeed ordained authority within the church but that authority is based on Ephesians 4:11-16  

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,  12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,  13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;  14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,  15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ —  16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

 

The purpose of church leadership is to equip the saints for ministry so that they understand doctrine and gain unity by growing into the head – Jesus Christ. When someone tries to become the head or equip the saints to fulfill the vision that came from their own heart, the church is no longer growing into the true Head. Any who refuse to detach from Christ to follow a new head will draw hostility. Pastors deceived by these movements do not like sheep that are not dependent on the pastor and will not turn and look to him as their shepherd. Biblical church authority is ordained by God but must remain within God’s design. God appoints pastors and elders in the church to oversee and insure that the church stays focused on its true vision given by Jesus Christ. This is why the Bible gives very specific requirements for church leaders (see Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3).

 

If a leader shows that he is filled and led by the Holy Spirit and has faithfulness to the word, he will have the right heart to lead the congregation of God’s flock in the way God has instructed. Without a biblical foundation and the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit (which shows the individual is walking in the truth and empowered by God to keep His word), there can be no true, God ordained leadership in the church. If the church is not following God, the church is not of God but is in rebellion against Him. The purpose of the overseer is to insure the church is following the word of God and insures the ways of God are kept by the church. A godly man put into authority will point to Christ and put the sheep in constant remembrance of the word of God as he points them to the vision given by the head of the church – Jesus Christ. Follow the true vision given by Jesus Christ and stay in the word. If you prayerfully seek God through the word and keep it, you cannot be deceived. In closing, look at John 14:21-24  

21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”  22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”  23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.  24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.

 

The Bible clearly says that Christ is not manifested to the world, but is manifested to those who keep the word. God only reveals Himself to those who know and keep the word of God found in our Holy Bible. Keep the word and hold to the Head – Jesus Christ.

Understanding Church Vision (Part 3 of 4)

Be Watchful

Revelation 3:1-3 And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘ These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  2 “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.  3 “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

 

Willow Creek recently published a book called ‘Reveal: Where are you?’ In this book two of Willow Creek’s executive pastors surveyed their congregation and found that their discipleship programs are not working. People have much less Bible knowledge than expected and the longer the members reside in the church, the more they acknowledge their lack of understanding and lack of personal discipleship. Bill Hybels called the findings ‘earthshaking and mind blowing’. Since the church growth models seek to give people what they want and have almost no emphasis on scripture, this isn’t surprising at all. What is surprising is that Willow Creek published these findings and acknowledged the failure of their church growth model. However, their conclusion likely tips their hand to the motivation behind this publication. In ‘Reveal: Where are you?’ they state the following:

Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.

 

Notice the subtle shift away from the great commission? The vision given to the church is not to transform the planet, but to make disciples, teach each disciple to obey all that has been commanded and trust in Jesus who will be with us until the end of the world. Also, don’t let their terminology fool you. Willow Creek made the exact same claim when launching the current church growth model that is now called a failure. They also claimed this is a move of God and is based on scripture when indeed it is not. The seeker sensitive movement was called a paradigm shift and as Rick Warren put it in the Purpose Driven Life, we find what God is doing and ride the wave. Now they are saying the same things in preparation for their new plan to ‘rethink old assumptions and replace it with new insights’. While the false shepherds are claiming that we need to rethink old assumptions and do things a new way, the call of God speaks differently. Look at Jeremiah 6:16-19  

16 Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’  17 Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’  18 Therefore hear, you nations, And know, O congregation, what is among them.  19 Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people — The fruit of their thoughts, Because they have not heeded My words, Nor My law, but rejected it.

 

The fruit of their thoughts (or visions) is calamity. Some claim that the Bible tells us not to remember the former way in reference to Isaiah 43:18, but in Isaiah 46:9 God’s people are commanded to remember the former things. If we take the time to read the entire book of Isaiah, it can clearly be understood that God is telling Israel not to remember the former things [sins] for God is offering forgiveness, but they are to remember the former things [ways of God] and return to obedience. The curse of the Lord was upon them while they were in sin and disobedience, but once they return to the right path and He has forgiven, there is no reason to remember their former guiltiness for they have been restored.

 

This message from scripture is different than what is being taught through the new vision. The ‘new visionaries’ are teaching others to turn from the old ways that God has established and teaches them to follow the new vision that departs from the word of God. The pastors of Willow Creek are preparing to bring about the next step of the new vision by pointing out failures among the people in order to bring about discontentment. Consider this excerpt from a Willow Creek seminar tape on implementing their old model:

“Change only occurs when there is significant disillusionment with the status quo. This is ‘Change Theory’ “So, that is what begins to happen. Tearing down subtly begins.”

Jim Dethmar gives a suggestion on how to do this when he says,

“…a simplified view of how to do change is to find something that is wrong, it might be a little one, and rub it raw, irritate it”. {Willow Creek Seminar Tape}

 

It appears that they are applying their own advice in preparation to make new changes and apply their ‘new insights’. Their publication identifies a failure in order to create disillusionment so that they can ‘tear down’ resistance to the new change about to be brought in. If I had to hazard a guess, I would expect that the ‘new insight’ will be related to contemplative prayer or something related to the ‘Christian’ mystical practices that is promoted by the church growth movements. Hybels’ church already teaches contemplative mystical practices to his congregation and promotes the New Age labyrinth so it is a small step to begin promoting these among the evangelical communities. Keep in mind that Bill Hybels was trained by Robert Schuller’s ‘Institute of Church Growth’. Robert Schuller is a big proponent of ‘Christianized’ transcendental meditation – aka contemplative prayer. Consider his statement in his book ‘Peace of Mind Through Possibility Thinking:

The most effective mantras employ the “M” sound. You can get the feel of it by repeating the words, “I am, I am,” many times over…. Transcendental Meditation or TM… is not a religion nor is it necessarily anti-Christian.

“Peace of Mind Through Possibility Thinking,” pp. 131-32

 

Like almost every major doctrine that these movements teach, the Bible expressly warns us against this type of practice. Jesus said that when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. In spite of this commandment of Jesus, these teachers instruct those who do not know the scriptures that repetitious phrases (i.e. contemplative prayer) is the way to connect with God. The Bible says, “do not use these practices” (Matthew 6:7) and the modern day false prophets instruct us to go against the scriptures. Who do you believe and whose word will you obey?

 

It is no accident that this New Age practice of meditation is employed by repeating the phrase “I am” since this is the title God gave to Himself. Shirley McLane (actress turned New Age guru) taught this principle when she became active in teaching New Age practices as she openly proclaimed, “I am, I am, I am God”. She taught others to believe that they are one with God. Most New Age beliefs teach that all is God and God is in all. Since the church growth movements have been widely accepted by almost all denominations and have even been taught to other religions (such as Mormonism and Judaism), the roadwork is already in place for the next step towards the one world church of apostasy foretold throughout the New Testament. Phase two will be much easier to press ahead than the initial work of gaining acceptance in the evangelical community throughout the last two decades. We must take heed to the scriptures so that we are not overtaken by these things. Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6  

4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.  5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.  6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

 

Apply this to 2 Timothy 4:3-5  

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;  4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

Those who are calling for yet another change are not pointing to the doctrine of scripture but are calling people to look for yet another ‘new move of God’. Your ministry has already been given and this time has been foretold long ago. Do not be caught up in new visions and the falling away from the truth but be watchful and fulfill your ministry – even if you are mocked as a traditionalist.

 

Replacing the Vision – the classic bait and switch.

Every false teacher and false prophet attempts to pass themselves off as conservative and to be supportive of the scriptures when they present their best face to the crowd; however, it isn’t someone’s claim that reveals who they are but their actions. The ‘Purpose Driven’ movement has taken the evangelical community by storm. Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven movement boasts that it has over 20,000 purpose driven churches world-wide and Bill Hybels claims that there are over 12,000 Willow Creek affiliate churches in over 90 countries. Over 32,000 evangelical churches have direct affiliations with these two church growth movement organizations. This does not include the churches that are influenced by church growth books, tapes, conferences and other resources but have never gone through the various affiliation programs.

 

The influence that these movements have on the evangelical community is undeniable. One other fact that is undeniable is that the underlying goal of these movements is to create the one world church foretold in prophecy. To back this up, we only need to look at the people who are introduced and called on to teach churches from these platforms provided by the church growth leaders. Rick Warren has promoted Brian McLaren, Henri Nouwen, Ken Blanchard, Leonard Sweet and many other New Age teachers. Consider first that Rick Warren announced in April 2005 that he was partnering with Ken Blanchard to teach his leaders that will teach others in his new ‘PEACE Plan”. Rick Warren has shared the platform with Ken Blanchard and Bill Hybels in several of the ‘Lead Like Jesus’ conference series. Look at these quotes from Ken Blanchard:

“Buddha points to the path and invites us to begin our journey to enlightenment. I … invite you to begin your journey to enlightened work.”

……

I look for inspirational messages from a variety of sources besides Jesus. Our folks get to hear words of wisdom from great prophets and spiritual leaders like Buddha, Mohammed … Yogananda and the Dalai Lama.”— Ken Blanchard, foreword What Would Buddha Do at Work?

 

During the 1990’s the media dubbed Bill Clinton as the Teflon president. Bill Clinton had such an ability to carefully craft his words so that he could communicate what he wanted to say in order to persuade those who were eagerly listening, but do it in such a way so that critics could not pin him down on any issue. He appeared on a news program to do an interview (I think it was 20/20). The interviewing reporter described his interview by saying that he asked Bill all the tough questions and left excitedly believing that he had a prize interview where Clinton committed himself on several controversial statements. He said that as he watched the video and prepared it for airing, he realized that he had nothing. At first glance Clinton appeared to be answering the question, but when you actually look at the content of what was said, he crafted his words in such a way that he could escape in either direction if his position was criticized.

 

Rick Warren is the Teflon prophet of the New Age. The three most influential church growth proponents today are Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren. Robert Schuller is the messenger to those who are already open to their plan to take the church in a new direction. Bill Hybels has appealed to the moderate churches which require a little more carefulness to receive the mystical message of this movement. Rick Warren took on the conservative churches. He began as a Southern Baptist church and currently has the largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention. Rick Warren is very well aware of the fact that he cannot do as Schuller and Hybels have done. If he were to put a pagan labyrinth in his church as Hybels did, it would cause a revolt among the conservative churches and squelch his chances to carry this message into the church. He indeed accomplishes the same shift away from Christianity, but he crafts his words in such a way that he does not commit himself and presents New Age philosophies through those he promotes so that he can dodge criticism and distance himself temporarily if necessary. An example is how he introduces the New Age philosopher Henri Nouwen.

On Pastors.com Rick stated,

“My wife, Kay, recommends this book! In it, Nouwen divides the life of ministry into five categories: teaching, preaching, pastoral care, organizing, and celebrating”.

 

In this simple statement, he has introduced the writings of Henri Nouwen to the evangelical community without committing himself. He has endorsed Nouwen and even praised his writings and encouraged pastors to read it; however, what do you think he will say if someone criticizes him? “It wasn’t me, it was my wife. I didn’t realize he held those views.” Yet what influential Christian leader would endorse a teacher without knowing what he teaches. Obviously Rick has read Nouwen since he is familiar with how Nouwen breaks down the life of ministry. Here is an excerpt of Henri Nouwen’s beliefs:

“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God” (Henri Nouwen p.51, Sabbatical Journey Crossroad publishing Co., New York,1998

 

So while Jesus warns that He is the only way to God (John 14:6) and that unless you believe this truth you will die in your sins (John 8:24), Nouwen states that everyone is saved whether they acknowledge Jesus or not and that it is his mission to help people find their own ways to God. Don’t forget the passage we read earlier from Proverbs 14:

12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

 

The way that seems right leads to death and those who follow their own way will die in their sins, but Jesus alone is the door to eternal life. Warren uses this same method of deception to present false teachers into the church in every area of his influence. He carefully lays the groundwork and builds trust and then he introduces false teachers to deliver the message. He has made claims that he doesn’t believe all that these teachers believe, but he does not identify which beliefs he disagrees with and he continues to actively promote them and gives them a platform to deliver their message to the churches he has built bridges to.

 

Many times it is not what Warren teaches that is causing damage, but who he puts into a position to teach and who he endorses. Satan will give you any amount of truth in order to get you to receive a lie. The devil does not fight against religion and most religions have some things that are true; however, they all take our focus away from the cross of Jesus Christ and the vision He gave to the church. The book, ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ is not blatantly unbiblical – in fact, many of the things in the book are inspiring and some things (but not all) have roots in scripture. The problem is that this book is a ‘Trojan Horse’ that has been received into the evangelical church. It was given as a deceptive gift given with the hope that this will lead to a reception of the other teachers he has endorsed and presented to the church. Through the trust gained by the ‘Purpose Driven’ books, Warren has successfully introduced anti-Christian teachers such as Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Thomas Merton and others. Since many will not be familiar with these leaders, I will give brief quotes for each of them that are not already quoted in this study.

Thomas Merton

“And I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own traditions, because they have gone, from the natural point of view, so much deeper into this than we have.”

“I want to become as good a Buddhist as I can.
(Steindl-Rast, 1969)

 

Asia, Zen, Islam, etc., all these things come together in my life. It would be madness for me to attempt to create a monastic life for myself by excluding all these. I would be less a monk

 

Brennan Manning

“I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word—bibliolatry. God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.”—Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus, pp. 188-189

 

“Contemplative prayer is nothing other than coming into consciousness of what is already there.” – Signature of Jesus [Manning believes the Buddhist concept of god in all and all in god]

 

Richard Foster shares his out of body experience:

“[I]n your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. Look back so that you can see yourself lying in the grass and reassure your body that you will return momentarily … Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in His presence.”

If you want to discover where Foster learned this doctrine, do an Internet search for ‘out of body experience’ and see how many New Age sites teach the same thing. Foster bases his book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ on Eastern meditative practices and he teaches prayer as saying mantras and using the same meditative practices as Transcendental Meditation. Foster is a major proponent of Contemplative Prayer (so-called Christian Meditation). In Richard Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home he warns about the possibility of demonic possession using Contemplative prayer:

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance…. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.

“At the outset I need to give a word of warning, a little like the warning labels on medicine bottles. Contemplative prayer is not for the novice. I do not say this about any other form of prayer…”

 

Why would prayer subject you to dangers and warnings? As you can see, Rick Warren is actively promoting people whose practices are, by their own admission, subjecting the disciple to spiritual beings that are not in cooperation with God – i.e. demons. By admission, these teachers promoted by Warren are fulfilling the warning of 1 Timothy 4:1  

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…

 

Like all deception, the Purpose Driven movement is presented with persuasion and even a portion of truth up front in order to introduce false teaching to the churches that allow this bridge of deception to be built. 2 Peter 2:1 puts it this way:

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…

 

While the most influential evangelical leaders pass themselves off as Bible believing Christians, they are in fact promoting a one-world religion. At the end of this section, I will share a letter that these leaders signed calling for unity within the world religions. Rick Warren is very cautious about what he says knowing that if he directly teaches acceptance of world religions it will harm his ability to gain ground in the evangelical community; however, he gladly introduces and promotes those who deny the faith and who also teach others to look outside of Christianity for ‘secret knowledge’. It is necessary for you to watch and be on guard against those who pass themselves off as prophets of light. The Bible forewarns of these things. Look at these two passages:

Matthew 24:  11 “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  13 “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

 

2 Corinthians 11:  13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.  14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.  15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

 

At the end of the end times description in Matthew 24, Jesus concludes by saying, “Watch.” Throughout the Bible we are continuously commanded to watch and be on guard against these deceptions but when a leader is widely accepted, people are unwilling to look at the fruit of their ministries. We have already seen that, by their own admission, the fruit of Willow Creek is a massive congregation that has no knowledge of the word and no heart to seek the Lord. While they attempt to make you believe that their fruit is good, the scripture refutes this. You can get a glimpse of a leaders belief by the people they surround themselves with and who they endorse. Consider this endorsement by Rick Warren’s pastors.com website found at http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/article.asp?ArtID=4150

“The 2003 Innovative Church Conference will feature Brian McLaren, founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in the Washington, D.C. area. Brian is a prominent voice on postmodern thinking and church growth. He is also the author of several books including The Church on the Other Side and the revolutionary book, A New Kind of Christian”.

 

Why would a Christian leader promote someone who teaches Buddhism? Even more alarming is a Christian leader who promotes Hinduism, Buddhism and even claims that Jesus had a secret plan to unite all religions in order to give birth to a new world order. Look at some of the anti-biblical quotes by Brian McLaren:

“The Christian faith, I am proposing, should become (in the name of Jesus Christ) a welcome friend to other religions of the world, not a threat” –Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy McLaren, p.254

 

Why is Brian McLaren introducing a new Christian faith? It is Jesus Christ alone that holds the authority to determine truth, faith and our mission. He has revealed this truth to us through the Holy Scriptures. Consider this warning from scripture found in Galatians 1:8-9  

8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

 

Brian McLaren explains his vision of the birth of the New World order in ‘The Secret Message of Jesus’:

“…many Hindus are willing to consider Jesus as a legitimate manifestation of the divine… many Buddhists see Jesus as one of humanity’s most enlightened people…. A shared reappraisal of Jesus’ message could provide a unique space or common ground for urgently needed religious dialogue—and it doesn’t seem an exaggeration to say that the future of our planet may depend on such dialogue. This reappraisal of Jesus’ message may be the only project capable of saving a number of religions.” ––Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 7

 

What if Jesus’ secret message reveals a secret plan?“…. What if he didn’t come to start a new religion–but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?” ––Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 4

 

Each of these teachers promotes eastern religious practices which have been given the title of ‘New Age’ in our western culture. As the church receives these eastern practices and begin to put them into practice, they are following the exact same path Israel followed before judgment fell from God. One of the most quoted books in the evangelical community is Brennan Manning’s book, ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’. Beth Moore calls this book ‘a remarkable book’ and ‘a gift without parallel’. Rick Warren’s pastors.com website endorses this book and endorses Brennan Manning at least 5 times. Manning acknowledges that he received his beliefs on contemplative prayer from a New Age guru named Basil Pennington. Pennington acknowledges that his beliefs do not come from the scripture, but from eastern religions. Look at this quote from Basil Pennington:

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible. Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM (Transcendental Meditation) and similar practices.

 

Don’t believe the lie that mind-altering meditation is prayer. If you want to see how the Bible describes prayer, look at Luke 11:1-4. It is no accident that none of these mystical practices are accredited to scripture. Not once will you hear these teachers say, “I learned this from the Bible”. Those who do not seek the word of God will become dry and susceptible to these false promises of ‘deeper spirituality’. In truth, you cannot follow New Age or eastern beliefs and follow Christ. Israel claimed to serve God while capturing the eastern religious practices before God cast them away in His wrath. Look at how God views these eastern religions as described in Ezekiel 8:15-16  

15 Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.”  16 So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east.

 

Rick Warren has built a bridge between the evangelical church and the New Age. Through his books, broadcasts, conferences and his pastors.com website, he is introducing a slow trickle of New Age philosophers into the church for the sole purpose of tearing down the barriers between the church and the world in order to use the Christian influence to be the carrier of the new, one-world church. While the Bible continuously warns us not to have fellowship with these religions and has even stated that to be a friend of the world is to make ourselves an enemy of God (James 4:4), these teachers introduced by Warren are directly challenging the scriptures and calling for the church to abandon their faith and join the mass of humanity seeking the new world order. Rick Warren’s ministry toolbox also introduces Spencer Burke through an article posted at http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/article.asp?ID=186&ArtID=6420 and introduces him again again in the quotes and notes section of http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/printerfriendly.asp?issue=214&wholething=1. Spencer Burke wrote a book called, ‘A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity’ in which he writes the following about John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”:

“So how do I interpret this particular Scripture? First, Christianity as a religion didn’t exist when Jesus spoke these words.  Compounding this point are two additional facts: no one actually recorded Jesus’ words at the time he spoke them, so we have no proof that they are indeed his words, and what he did say, he said in Aramaic, which means that nothing in the Bible as translated into an other language can be taken literally anyway.”

 

So what the ‘new reformers’ are claiming is that the apostles who wrote the scriptures that God revealed to them as the Holy Spirit moved them (2 Peter 1:21) are unreliable, but what they are conjuring up 2000 years later is reliable. Burke also makes it clear that he believes the church should endorse other religions in his book, ‘Making Sense of Church’:

The second tenet of Progressive Christianity is: We are Christians who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the gateway to God’s realm. p129

 

The new drum beat of the church leaders claim that salvation is through their organization that unites all religions and acknowledges all spiritual gateways without the need of a Savior. Keep in mind that these one world proponents all believe that they will establish God’s kingdom on earth. They are not looking for Jesus to return to a world in disarray as the Bible foretells; they look upon themselves to bring salvation to the world. They do not look at Jesus as the savior of mankind, but the PEACE plan they will implement. Even as we speak, Saddleback is actively engaging in mission trips to convert people to the Purpose Driven movement through his own books, but does not use scripture. The P.E.A.C.E. plan missions point people away from the word of God and to the material that only agrees with this new movement. I have also linked a video produced by Saddleback showing their mission trip to Argentina. Not once will you see the Bible or anything scriptural in this video, but you will see multiple times where the ‘Warren Missionaries’ are sharing the Purpose Driven book with the new converts. Click Here to view this video. Rick Warren is walking on the same path as many of the ‘Emerging’ church leaders who also either point to something other than Christ and the word, or blatantly seek to turn people away from salvation in Christ. Consider this quote from Alan Jones in his book, ‘Reimaging Christianity’:

“The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.” Alan Jones, p. 132

 

The ‘new vision’ is based on the wisdom of the world. This comment by Alan Jones fits perfectly into the explanation of 1 Corinthians 1:18-21  

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”  20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

 

You cannot be saved without the message of the cross. Those who believe this is unnecessary will be lost in their sins. Those who believe this is a vile doctrine have rejected Christ regardless of how they justify it. Consider this pointed warning in Psalm 119:155  

Salvation is far from the wicked, For they do not seek Your statutes.

 

Salvation is far from those who do not receive the word and submit to Christ according to the scriptures. Those who reject the commandments and statutes of God cannot walk through the narrow gate that few will find according to Matthew 7:13-14. The New World Order and the churches seeking it believe that salvation is through the organization and that you can only experience God through the collective body. Look at this quote from pastors.com:

 

We need to say, ‘There is a new order, a new Kingdom, and if you want to know what that looks like … come see this community of the Kingdom. See peace and love and righteousness and joy and self-control. And you cannot see them as individuals, you can only see them working together in community. Jeff Robinson (Posted on Warren’s ministry toolbox at http://www.pastors.com/rwmt/article.asp?ArtID=8155).

 

These are part of the dominionist movements. They believe that we will set up God’s kingdom and it is commonly taught that Jesus cannot come back to a fractured body and He cannot return until the church first sets up the ‘kingdom of God’. The Bible describes a different scenario. Read through the New Testament and see if we are ever told that God is dependent on man. See if there is any scripture that remotely implies that unity is the catalyst for Jesus’ return. We are told that the political and religious world will be unified under the Beast of Revelation (commonly called the antichrist). We are told that the signs that precede Jesus’ return is wars, the departing of the faith and the persecution of the saints.

 

In the Q&A section at the end of the chapter of ‘Heretic’s Guide to Eternity’ we looked at above, Burke presents an adversarial opinion to his teachings and then follows up by presenting what he believes to be an ally to his argument supposedly proving what he says is true. He uses these mock dialogs to refute the scripture’s mandate to be separate from the world:

Adversary: I believe it is important to come out and be separate.
Ally: I believe it is important to journey together and focus on things we have in common. p138

 

The ‘new vision’ boldly refutes scripture and declares that what they think is important is greater than the word of God. As we can see, the church growth movement endorses several ‘one world’ proponents. One of the most influential of these leaders is Leonard Sweet. Sweet is listed as one of the 10 most influential evangelical leaders in the world today. Leonard Sweet is known by two of his most popular books, ‘Soul Tsunami’ and ‘Quantum Spirituality’. Sweet makes no pretense about his desire to see Christianity merge with all world religions and boldly proclaims his New Age beliefs. Consider these quotes from Sweet:

“The first of these five untheorized observations is that New Light embodiment means to be “in connection” and ‘in-formation’ with other Christians. Deeper feeling and higher relating go together. The church is fundamentally one being, one person, a comm-union whose cells are connected to one another within the information network called the Christ consciousness.” —Quantum Spirituality, P. 122

 

The power of small groups is in their ability to develop the discipline to get people “in-phase” with the Christ consciousness and connected with one another. P. 147

 

New Light embodiment means to be “in connection” and “information” with other faiths.… One can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without denying the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna.”-Leonard Sweet

 

In order to have the ‘New Light’, you must be in connection with other faiths. If you have any knowledge of the New Age movement you will recognize the term ‘Christ consciousness’. Leonard Sweet also lists Rowan Williams in the forward of his book as a theologian that has helped shape his beliefs. Rowan Williams became the Archbishop of Canterbury who took part in a pagan Druid ceremony at Stonehenge. Sweet also lists Matthew Fox as one of his influences. Fox wrote the book called ‘The Coming of the Cosmic Christ’. Matthew Fox calls for ‘A Great Divorce’ between Christians who hold to literal biblical beliefs and those who embrace the new ‘creation spirituality’ that reveals the ‘Cosmic Christ’ of the New Age.

 

As you can see, it is not difficult to identify the New Age philosophies of Leonard Sweet; however, Rick Warren has enlisted Sweet as one of the key note speakers at his upcoming ‘WIRED: 2008 Saddleback Small Groups Conference’. You can view the flier on the Purpose Driven Website at http://pddocs.purposedriven.com:8088/docs/small_groups/web_spread.pdf. You will see a picture and bio of Leonard Sweet on the list of main speakers on page 5 of this document. Rick Warren has invited Leonard Sweet to the Saddleback conference to teach churches how to implement their ‘successful’ small group program in their local churches. Leonard Sweet states that his vision of small groups is to teach people how to tap into the New Age Christ Consciousness and also acknowledges that he received his beliefs on small groups from David Spangler. David Spangler openly proclaims that Lucifer is the light everyone should submit to. Consider this quote from Spangler:

“The true light of this great being can only be recognized when one’s own eyes can see with the light of the Christ, the light of the inner sun. Lucifer works within each of us to bring us to wholeness, and as we move into the New Age, which is the age of man’s wholeness, each of us is brought to that point which I term the Luciferic Initiation, the particular doorway through which the individual must pass if he is to come fully into the presence of his light and his wholeness.

Lucifer comes to give us the final gift of wholeness. If we accept it, then he is free and we are free, that is the Luciferic Initiation. It is one that many people now, and in the days ahead, will be facing, for it is an initiation into the New Age. (David Spangler, Reflections on the Christ, Findhorn Lecture Series, 3rd ed., 1981; p. 45)

Warren passes himself off as an evangelical by saying evangelical things, but when you look at the very people he endorses and places on stage at Saddleback church (the largest Southern Baptist Church in America), it is impossible to draw any other conclusion than that he has a hidden agenda and fulfills the Bible’s warning that wolves in sheep’s clothing will come in and secretly introduce destructive heresies. Even so, we have the promise that even though the deception will be almost irresistible, the elect – those who hold to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus will not be deceived. Those who choose the man or the ‘new vision’ over the word of God will be deceived.

Understanding Church Vision (Part 2 of 4)

False Shepherds

A false shepherd is someone who tries to either lead others away from the vision of Jesus Christ or tries to place themselves into the position of Christ. Most of the modern leadership training teaches pastors that they are the shepherd and that they are the ones who create the vision for the church. As we have seen earlier, the vision for the church was given by Jesus after His resurrection. Even if they are sincere, anyone who attempts to lead the flock away from the vision of Christ is a false shepherd. The purpose of church leadership is to equip the saints for ministry by teaching them to observe the doctrine of scripture and grow into the head (Jesus Christ) so that the church body can come to the unity of the faith. Those who execute the office God has given faithfully will inherit the promise of 1 Peter 5:1-4:  

1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:  2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;  3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;  4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

 

The option God has given us is to lead God’s people away from truth and be judged, or to lead God’s people into the ways of Christ and receive the reward. Jesus alone is the Chief Shepherd – not the pastor. The Bible only uses the word ‘pastor’ once in the New Testament (Eph. 4:11). When appointing a leader in the church, the Bible refers to deacons, elders and bishops. A deacon is a servant in the church. The deacon is never given authority over the church though many traditions have altered deacon to mean officer. This has caused problems in many churches. Elders are spiritual leaders that are appointed in the church to ensure doctrine is consistent with scripture and to preside over the church. A pastor or bishop is also considered an elder in scripture (See Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 5:17). A bishop or pastor has the role as an overseer in the church. The word ‘bishop’ comes from the Greek word, ‘episkopos’ which means, “an overseer or a man charged with a duty of seeing that everything is done rightly”.

 

Whether the pastor realizes it or not, he is part of the flock and if he belongs to Christ, he also is a sheep in the flock of Christ. Having leadership does not change who we are. Our role in leadership is to communicate what the Chief Shepherd has instructed through the word. As we follow the word we lead by example and teach others to follow the word. The overseer stands as a feeder of God’s flock, not the possessor of the flock. Pastors, your congregation is the flock of the Lord, not the flock of your pasture. Do not allow yourself to be lifted up with pride and begin to look at yourself as the good shepherd or the church as your flock. The passage above clearly states that you are not lords over those entrusted to you, but rather you are to be one who follows Christ as an example for others to see.

 

There are three areas that the Bible identifies as characteristics of a false shepherd: They come in their own name; they try to make the sheep their own; they shift the focus to their own vision or undermine the word of God. First look at John 5:43-44  

43 “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.  44 “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?

 

A false shepherd will come in his own name and will attempt to draw disciples after themselves. This was foretold in Acts 20:29-30  

29 “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.  30 “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

 

A false shepherd is called a wolf in sheep’s clothing throughout the New Testament. These will arise from within the church and seek to draw disciples after themselves. They will have visions, claim to be one who gives revelations directly from God and they will exalt themselves over the word. The false shepherd will exalt their own vision and personal revelations over the true revelation given through the word of God. The false shepherd will defy Hebrews 1:1-2  

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,  2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

 

The apostles revealed what Jesus taught them and according to scripture, the Holy Spirit brought all things to their remembrance and taught them how these things apply (John 14:26). If you read the epistles of the apostle Paul who was called after Jesus’ resurrection did not receive new revelations; his revelations was the application of the Old Testament and how all the old revelations by the prophets pointed to Christ. Paul’s writings do not give us new doctrines, but instead he points out how the old doctrine applies to the Christian’s life. He took the mysteries of the Old Testament and showed how they pointed to Christ and how they apply to the lives of those born into the New Testament Kingdom of God. According to scripture, the revelations ended when they were brought to completion through Jesus Christ. Even the book of Revelation is a gathering of all the Old Testament prophecies and sets our focus on the fact that they indeed are the revelation of Jesus Christ. Any revelation that does not enlighten our understanding of what has already been revealed is not of God.

 

The primary mission of the leadership God has established within the church is to instruct the church in sound doctrine so that they fulfill the great commission, but these wolves who pass themselves off as sheep will provide another vision that takes the eyes of the flock away from its mission. They will sound like a sheep by religious sounding speech, but you will know them by the fruit of their teaching. Do they teach others to obey all that has been commanded so that they can be imitators of Christ who will receive a full reward? Or do they build their own kingdoms and claim it is a move of God?

 

A false shepherd is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The false shepherd will attempt to make the local congregation loyal to himself and his own vision. As we have seen earlier, the true sheep will hear the voice of Christ and will not follow the voice of a stranger so this will create an immediate conflict. Anyone who will not show loyalty to the false shepherd will be scorned, criticized, subjected to intimidation or driven away. Jesus said the wolf will come in and catch the sheep and scatter them. Those who are vulnerable will be captured and those who will not follow the stranger’s voice will be scattered. God will allow this to infiltrate the church in the last days as He has foretold, but He also gives a warning in Jeremiah 23:1  

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the LORD.

 

True leadership will teach people how to listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, but the false shepherd will persecute any who listen to the voice of Christ over his own voice. One of the great deceptions in the church is that pastors are being taught to place themselves up as idols by usurping the position that Christ has reserved for Himself. No wonder the seminaries and leadership training programs are propogating these false beliefs for the biggest names in the church culture today have been trained by institutes that believe the scripture is dangerous and should not be taught. If the trainers are trained by those who do not believe, how can we expect truth to remain in the center of the church’s mission? Look for yourself and you will see that every leadership conference teaches two main principles: the pastor is the shepherd and that the pastor creates the vision for the church. Add to that the fact that the scripture is spurned and we have a church that fulfills the last days church foretold in the Bible.

 

History repeats itself for before the judgment and destruction of Israel, they followed the exact same paths. Look at Jeremiah 23:14-16  

14 Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.  15 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: ‘Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, And make them drink the water of gall; For from the prophets of Jerusalem Profaneness has gone out into all the land.’ ”  16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD.

 

Is this not exactly what we see in the church’s new vision being communicated today? In the first part of this study we looked at quotes from the founder of the church growth movement who indeed strengthens the hands of the evildoers and insures that no one turns back from their wickedness. Our leaders now focus on making people feel good about themselves regardless of their actions or lifestyles while at the same time hiding them from the scriptures that communicate God’s call to repentance. As we will explore shortly, they all speak about visions that come from themselves or from those they have trained. Like the last days of Israel before being destroyed by Babylon, the prophets spoke good, prophesied prosperity and rebuked any who dared mention the truth of scripture.

 

When God brought judgment on Israel, He commanded that judgment begin at His sanctuary (Ezekiel 9:6). In 1 Peter 4:17 the Lord foretold that when the time came for judgment, it would begin at His own house. Why? When God’s people reject the truth and follow after false shepherds, they are corrupting what God has set apart for Himself. Israel was a people taken out of the nations and set apart for the Lord to be a people who carried His name (2 Chronicles 6:6). The church is a people called out of the world and we are called by His name. God has a right to purge wickedness from what has been set apart to represent His name and indeed He will. God first gives space to repent but as the Bible states, “God will not always strive with man” (Gen 6:3). When the church has lost its power to shine God’s glory to the nations, judgment will begin and indeed we are seeing the warning signs of this already.

 

Our church leaders use subtlety to deceive and even boast about this. When Rick Warren did an interview for PBS in September 2006, he boasted that he employs a ‘stealth strategy’ to influence churches. He tries to stay beneath the radar while training pastors with his philosophy. This should not be surprising for his pastors.com website encourages pastors to conceal the source of their sermons and allow the congregations to believe these messages originate from their study of the scripture. As the trainers have strayed from the truth, those who are trained are losing the vision that God has already given us. The modern Christian leadership training conferences and institutes teach that we must form a vision in our hearts, cast that vision and then follow our own vision while at the same time calling it God’s work. It is falsely taught that the vision begins in our hearts. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Earlier in this study we looked at the scripture’s warning that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked and that only God can search the hearts and reveal the truth (Jeremiah 17). This is reaffirmed in Proverbs 28:

26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.

 

Wisdom comes from God and we find wisdom through keeping God’s word (2 Timothy 3:15, Psalm 119:98, Proverbs 2:1-9). If we believe the scriptures then we must conclude that those who teach others to ‘vision cast’ are teaching them to be fools. The vision does not begin in our hearts but begins in scripture.

 

False Vision

Almost every modern instruction on leadership follows the same general path. The mantra begins by declaring that leaders should ‘dream big’. The dreaming leadership model finds its roots in creative visualization which teaches that the mind’s eye has the power to see a vision, create that vision and then speak that vision. This has been introduced into Christianity by adopting various terms that sound Christianized. Now instead of using our ‘mind’s eye’, Christian leaders are told to dream and even taught that dreamers in the Bible created their own paths by following their dreams. In truth, at times God used dreams to communicate His plan to individuals. Not every plan of God was revealed in dreams and not every dream was the plan of God as we can see through the numerous scriptures that warn us against following the dreams of men.

 

While the Bible warns that those who follow their own hearts are fools, modern leadership philosophies teach men to dream big, visualize the dreams they devised from their own hearts into a vision, proclaim that vision so that it will come to pass and then follow their own visions as they draw disciples to follow them. As they proclaim their own visions, they claim that following the vision is following God. Anyone who hesitates is intimidated by being warned that they should leave the church or it is implied that they are resisting the move of God. They will say that people who won’t follow their visions are stuck in a comfort zone or are fearful of what God is doing.

 

Pastors are told to visualize (or dream) large majestic sanctuaries and big buildings. They are taught to see retirement homes, schools, gyms, conference centers and big, big plans. It is ironic that the Bible teaches that God speaks to us through His small quiet voice, but everything about the false vision is loud, earthshaking and leaves little room to stop and listen as we seek the voice of God and His word. Never do you see pastors come back from training with the ‘vision’ to make disciples and teach their congregations to obey all that the Bible commands. The focus is not on the individual lives God has called us to disciple, it is always on things that bring glory to the pastor or shared glory with the church.

 

It all sounds so good but there is one basic flaw in this entire way of thinking – the vision is dependent on the man. The Bible says that God chose the small, humble, base, despised and weak things to accomplish His will so that no flesh will glory in God’s work. Very rarely will God use the mighty man and big things to accomplish His will. This is clearly taught in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. The Bible does not say that God will never do big things, but it does teach that rarely God uses these things. The Bible teaches that God alone opens the door and accomplishes His will, but the modern movements teach that we are the source of power. Consider this quote from the ‘The Cellular Church’ (http://www.gladwell.com/2005/2005_09_12_a_warren.html):

‘The best of the evangelical tradition is that you don’t plan your way forward — you prophecy your way forward,’ the theologian Leonard Sweet says. ‘Rick [Warren is] prophesying his way forward.'” (Malcolm Gladwell, “The Cellular Church,”

 

Now compare this philosophy to Jesus’ words to the church of Philadelphia in Revelation 3:  

8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

 

It is God alone that opens doors and He opens the door to those who keep His word and  glorify His name – not to those who prophesy their own visions. If the vision is not from God, it is not of God. We know that through the scriptures God has given us a clear vision to keep the word and teach the true disciples of Christ how to obey all the commandments He has given. True disciples are those who hear and follow the voice of Christ – which is the word of the scriptures. A church organization can grow without the move of God. If you have the right programs and messages that appeal to the world, a social club will evolve, but this is not the move of God. If a church is not making disciples as instructed by Jesus – those who die to their lives in this world and live in the Spirit – if a church is not focused on this basic command given by God, it is merely an organization and is not of God. Just because someone says, “God has sent me” does not mean they are sent by God – unless it is to test God’s people for faithfulness (see Deut 13:3).

 

The Bible repeatedly foretells of deceivers who will rise up and draw away the masses after themselves. Let’s take a moment to examine the scriptures that warn us of these things. First let us look at 2 Timothy 3:12-17  

12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,  15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

If the members of the church took the time to read the word of God, they would see that the situations we are facing are foretold of and warned against in great detail. This passage is filled with information that if we heed, will assist in our efforts to fulfill the vision Christ gave and avoid being a part of the deception of the last days. If you follow the flow of this passage you will see that the instruction begins first with the warning that if you truly desire to live godly and follow the truth, you will suffer persecution. The last days church will despise the sheep of Christ because those who live godly will not follow their false shepherds.

 

Take note of the fact that the wicked leaders of this era are not only deceivers, but they are also being deceived. This is exactly what we see in the new ‘vision casting’ movement in the church. The church leaders are being deceived into buying into this New Age practice and then they replicate the deception to their congregations. They may be sincere, but they still are deceived and have become deceivers. All of this could be avoided if our church leaders would follow the instructions of scripture for it is not possible to deceive the ones who are examining and following the word of God. Consider Matthew 24:24-25  

24 “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  25 “See, I have told you beforehand.

 

The deception will be persuasive and very compelling. Jesus forewarned that if it is possible, it would deceived even the very elect of God. Who are the elect? Remember that Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen. Twice Jesus specifically stated that those who are truly blessed by God are those who “hear the word and do it”. In Luke, Jesus said that those who hear and do the word of God are His brethren. These are the elect. Many feel the call of God, but only those who obey God by keeping His word are chosen to become God’s elect. It is not possible to deceive the elect of God because they will not turn from the word of God. We may be inspired by the persuasive presentations of the deception, but when we recognize the conflict, we hold on to the word knowing that we “must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them”. We know the word of God is true; therefore, the burden of proof is upon everything else to prove itself to be consistent with the word which we know is true.

 

Unfortunately, the leadership training of the Christian church no longer believes in the authority of God’s word. One of America’s most distinguished seminary professors, J.P. Moreland has joined the ranks of those who claim that Bible believing Christians are guilty of ‘Bibliolatry’. Bibliolatry is the belief that looking at the word of God as the final authority is idolatry. The magazine ‘Christianity Today’ published an article on ‘Bibliolatry’ and wrote about a lecture Moreland delivered to the Evangelical Theological Society a few weeks ago. His lecture was titled “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It”. J.P. Moreland stated:

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,” he [Moreland] said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.” The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.”

 

When I read this, the scripture that came to mind is Psalm 50:16-17  

16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, Or take My covenant in your mouth,  17 Seeing you hate instruction And cast My words behind you?

 

Those who reject the authority of scripture have no right to proclaim what they believe is the statutes of God. Any who follow those who cast aside the word are just as guilty. Since the authority of scriptures is affirmed repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments, to reject the authority of the Bible is to disbelieve the word of God and step outside of Christianity. Our current leaders are casting the word of God behind them while at the same time claiming to declare God’s statutes. According to Moreland, Christians who believe that God’s word is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness and is the final authority as God has repeatedly emphasized throughout scripture, these Christians are ‘mean-spirited, irrational, harmful to Christ, grotesque and ignorant’.

 

J.P. Moreland is not a radical, left-wing liberal theologian. He has delivered lectures to over 200 colleges and seminaries, taught at Liberty University, Campus Crusade for Christ’s Institute of Biblical Studies, and is currently a professor at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology. This school claims to be a conservative, Bible based seminary that claims to believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and states, “At Talbot, you can be assured that the Bible will be treated as the authoritative Word of God”. Unfortunately a church, ministry or seminaries statement of belief may appear sound on the surface, but it is often refuted by the teachings of the organization once you get beyond their statements of faith.  

 

The very leaders who are training the leaders of the church have departed from the scriptures and have turned to world philosophies and worldly wisdom. The deception in the last days was foretold to be great, but the elect will endure to the end. The vision of these leaders do not come from the scriptures. They will use scriptures and orthodox sounding terms to gain the trust of those who do not seek the Lord through the word, but once trust has been gained, they switch to their own visions. We are called to know the word so we can clearly see deception. Consider this warning from 2 Peter 2:1-3  

1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.  3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words;

 

Do you see the fulfillment of this prophecy being fulfilled before your eyes? Is not the way of truth being blasphemed when trusting in the scriptures is called idolatry? Many will follow their destructive ways and unfortunately the masses will reap the consequences. We should not be surprised when the truth is spoken evil of. If the truth is hated, those who hold to the truth will also be hated. The word will be attacked and any who hold to the truth will be persecuted by both the world and the last days church. The deception will be brought in secretly and indeed has come in. It will sound good, be presented with persuasive words and will be followed by the masses. The only way to identify the false vision is by knowing the word of God through personal study. Not by reading books, but by each individual Christian reading and studying the word.

 

Just because someone says that the Lord has given them a vision and says, “Thus saith the Lord”, does not mean the Lord has spoken to them. The scriptures give many examples where false prophets have come and spoken in the name of the Lord but spoke lies. Job’s friends claimed to have had a revelation of the Lord but God rebuked them for speaking falsely; the 400 prophets spoke prosperity to King Ahab while being influenced by a lying spirit; the prophet Hannaniah proclaimed the words of the Lord but was lying and the false prophets of the last days will do the same. The false claim to have a ‘vision of God’ was used as a deception even back in Jeremiah’s day. Look at Jeremiah 14:14-15  

14 And the LORD said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart15 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in My name, whom I did not send, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not be in this land’ — ‘By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed!

 

The New Testaments give an identical warning in 1 Thessalonians 5:3-4  

3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.  4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.

 

Peace and prosperity are only to those who fear the Lord. Those in rebellion try to proclaim their own prosperity in order to avoid accountability to the Lord. If you read the book of Jeremiah, the events and warnings are identical to what is happening in the church today. In Jeremiah’s day, there were thousands of false prophets but only a handful of true prophets. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, and Amos were prophets sent to Israel to proclaim the truth while thousands of false prophets proclaimed their own visions. The true prophets were consistent with the word that was already known to be true, but they were still not believed because the false teachers appealed to what the people wanted. Whose word proved true? Not one book in the Bible was written by any of the false prophets and not one of these prosperity teachers was proven true. All of God’s word was proven to be true and continues to be fulfilled today. The same word that spoke against the false prophets stands against the false visionaries of our day. Look at Jeremiah 23:31-32  

31 “Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the LORD, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’  32 “Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the LORD, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the LORD.

 

The modern visionaries are against the sheep of Christ and those who follow the vision Jesus gave, but the word of God is against these prophets whom the Lord did not send. While they claim to have a vision from God, they contradict the word of God and in the end they will be judged along with those who follow the dreams they fashioned out of their own hearts.

 

Since the church leaders who are mentoring pastors were mentored by Schuller’s Church Growth Institute and modern seminaries that deny the authority of God’s word, it should be no surprise that the seeker sensitive movement employs the same strategies that grow numbers while decreasing disciples. The members may be disciples of the church leader who has drawn disciples after himself, but they are not disciples of Christ. The requirements for discipleship that Jesus gave will not build a mega church, but it will build our hope in heaven. Look at Luke 14:26-27 and 33  

26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.  27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

33 “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

 

Luke 9: 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  24 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  25 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?  26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.

 

If you want to prophesy your own way, invest your life in wealth, health and prosperity or follow your own visions to gain the things of the world, you will not find much comfort in Jesus’ call for discipleship. If you are ashamed of the word and are afraid to be called idolatrous for believing the word, you will not gain much comfort in this doctrine. However, if your treasures are in heaven and you set your heart on a pilgrimage as the Bible teaches, this will both convict and inspire you. Those who reject this teaching are not His sheep for Jesus Himself said that those who cannot receive the word are not His.

 

Do not follow any other shepherd for none is your shepherd but Christ. Do not seek to become a shepherd for you will be challenging Christ. Do not fall into the deception of creating your own vision for this is never taught in scripture and it is expressly forbidden in scripture. The entire church culture is turning from the word and following their own visions as the Bible foretold, but you must follow the truth of scripture if you belong to Christ. Almost all of the seminaries, pastoral training, and leadership institutes have become their own gods, trust their own visions and revelations and are teaching you to do the same. These are not the fringe liberal organizations that are leading this charge into error, but mainstream, well respected training institutions and leaders. Consider this claim from Rick Warren’s pastors.com website:

These 14 lessons will help you understand your own vision for your church and help you communicate that vision to your congregation. First taught by Rick Warren to the leadership team at Saddleback Church, these lessons will both improve your own vision casting and help you train your church members to cast vision as well. – pastors.com (http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/article.asp?ArtID=9562)

 

Find one scripture where you are told to conjure up YOUR OWN VISION. Vision casting is a New Age religious practice and the Purpose Driven movement has placed a deep wedge between the church and the ways of God. While this movement begins its instruction by saying “It’s not about you”, the entire purpose centers around you. Like the false vision statements that sound orthodox but are followed up with contradictions and the rejection of scripture, the purpose driven, seeker sensitive, vision casting, and church growth movements begin by claiming that it is not about you but is about God, and then they contradict this by everything they teach after the opening statements. The sole purpose of these statements of faith is to get you to lower your guard by bait and switch tactics.

 

The vision casting principle is almost universally accepted across denominational lines and is taught by most evangelical leaders. It is taught by the popular ‘Lead Like Jesus’ leadership training, Robert Schuller’s Church Growth Institute, The Purpose Driven Church, Willow Creek and most Christian seminaries. Andy Stanley’s book ‘Making Vision Stick’ boast the following:

Noted author and pastor Andy Stanley points out that if followers don’t get the vision, it’s because the leaders haven’t delivered it. He reveals the three reasons vision doesn’t stick. And then he delivers three ways to make vision stick, to make you a leader worth following:

  • Cast vision strategically: defining your vision
  • Celebrate vision systematically: regularly rejoicing in the successes
  • Live your vision continuously: putting your vision into practice in your own life

Rarely will you see a vision advertisement that puts the focus on anyone but you. Christ is pushed aside, the scriptures are misrepresented, ignored or rejected and you become the driving force behind your own vision. Vision casting is the latest hot trend to take the church by storm. Almost every single pastor’s seminar, church leadership conference and church growth lecture uses terms such as ‘vision casting, creative vision, visionary leadership’ and so on. Almost every message on vision begins with this passage from Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

 

Let’s take a moment to examine this verse in detail The word ‘vision’ used in this passage is the Hebrew word ‘chazown’ which means ‘divine communication or revelation from God’. The word ‘perish’ in this passage comes from the word ‘para’ (pronounced paw-rah’) which means ‘to loosen restraints’. This word is quite different from the word translated into perish found in Proverbs 19:9

A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.

 

The word perish here is the word ‘abad’ (pronounced aw-bad’) which means ‘to be exterminated, lost or destroyed’. I have broken down this passage because it is badly misused by those who are ignorant of its meaning. Some teachers are aware of this misuse but are dependent on the ignorance of the congregation because this scripture can be manipulated out of its intended meaning in order to gain power and influence over those who do not commit themselves to the study of God’s word.

 

The phrase ‘vision casting’ that is being taught in almost every denomination has its origin in occultic religions. Listen to how John Lash defines this term in the occultic dictionary ‘The Seekers Handbook’:

Creative Visualization: the process of using mental images in order to acquire what one desires or produce changes in one’s attitude, thus creating one’s own reality.

 

If the name John Lash does not ring a bell with you, here is a partial list of some of the other writings by John Lash:

  • Alien Dreaming: The Enigma of the Archons (the term Archon to refer to several servants of the Demiurge, the “creator god”, that stood between the human race and a transcendent God that could only be reached through gnosis.)
  • Alphabetic List of Nag Hammadi Library in English (Gnostic writings found in 1945. The most famous of these is the gnostic ‘gospel of Thomas’)
  • Approaching Gnosticism (Gnosticism is the belief that humans are divine souls trapped in a material body. In order to free oneself from the inferior material world, one needs gnosis, or esoteric spiritual knowledge available only to a learned elite.)
  • Background to Metahistory
  • Basic Reading in Metahistory
  • Celebrating the Magdalene Connection (The Magdalene Connection is the belief that Mary Magdalene is a mythical story intended to communicate the embodiment of the Goddess Sophia and the restoration of the divinity of our minds.)
  • Children of the Damned
  • Christianity – Extraterrestrial Religion
  • A Close Look at Reflex Belief (New Age Reflexology)
  • The Chthonian Romance (based on Shamanism and New Age religions)
  • Coco de Mer, One: The Human Role in Gaia’s Dreaming (Based on the goddess worship of Gaia. Coco de Mere is a fruit that worshipped as an image of the vulva of the Goddess.)
  • Coco de Mer, Two: The Shock of the Beautiful
  • The Consciousness of Nature
  • Gaia or God? (article written to promote goddess worship)
  • A Gnostic Catechism
  • Gnostic Folk Medicine (in The Cache)*
  • The Gnostic Theory of Alien Intrusion
  • Grail Magic and the Paternal Lie
  • Kundalini and the Alien Force (Kundalini is a yoga term that means ‘coiled up’. It is the belief that we can release the ‘serpent energy’ within us by yoga meditation and other New Age practices. See my study on Contemplative Prayer for more information on Kundalini and the warnings by yoga masters of demonic possession called Kundalini arousal.)
  • Tree-Nymphs and Tree-Hung Shamans

 

As you can see, John Lash is not an evangelical nor does he even remotely claim to be a Christian. He is an open occultic worshipper of the New Age religions. One of the New Age practices he teaches is vision casting and creative visualization. The church has adopted this practice through the various church growth movements and have done little to alter this practice from its New Age origin. It stands under many banners such as ‘vision casting’, ‘creative vision’, ‘visionary leadership’ and many similar titles. Even though the title may be altered, if you examine how the vision is cast, you will find that the church’s practice of vision casting is identical to the New Age practice and the only difference is that Christian jargon is added and a few out of context scriptures are thrown in to insulate this occultic practice from criticism. Some may argue that even if the world religions use this practice, it still works and is therefore good. Consider this passage from Isaiah 55:8-9  

8 ” For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.  9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

 

Ultimately it does not matter what I say or what others say. God’s word is the final authority and the church must take its direction from scripture. Where scripture is silent, we do not apply new revelations, but where the Bible speaks out, we must listen. The church no longer studies the word so few people realize how much the Bible speaks on this topic. The Bible gives clear, easy to understand instructions and then we must choose to follow the word of God or follow those who the Bible calls ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’.

 

Just as the false shepherd calls the sheep to follow him as he attempts to draw disciples after himself, the false vision calls for the people to turn away from the word and follow the ‘new revelation’. While the current deception claims that ‘God is doing something new’, in reality there is nothing new about the so-called new revelation. The only thing new is that the church has received as truth what it once recognized as error.

Understanding Church Vision (Part 1 of 4)

Vision is the buzz word that you will hear in almost every modern church. What about being a visionary is biblical and how does the Bible teach this concept? There is a difference between being a visionary to accomplish God’s call and being a visionary based on selfish ambitions and man-centered philosophies. There are false prophets and true prophets; there are false teachers and true teachers; there are false christs and one true Christ; there are false apostles and true apostles – so it shouldn’t be surprising that there are false visions and a true vision.

Throughout the scriptures we are given multiple examples how that man thought his ways pleased the Lord but God rejected this work and even judged these men. King Saul performed sacrifices contrary to the law and God sent Samuel to rebuke him. Even though he was sincere, he was wrong because he followed his own heart and did what seemed right in his own eyes. King David ignored God’s instructions for transporting the Ark of the Covenant and even though he danced and praised God, the Lord was displeased and judgment fell (2 Samuel 6). The Bible warns us in Proverbs 14:

12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

This passage is important enough for God to repeat the exact same words in Proverbs 16:25. Jeremiah 17:9 warns us that our hearts are deceitful above ALL things and desperately wicked. Only the Lord has the power to search our hearts, test our minds and lead us in the right way. As much as we would like to believe that we know what is right, the truth is that our hearts easily go astray and we can pursue what is wicked in God’s eyes even while we are convincing ourselves that we are doing what is right. Since the warning is that our heart is deceitful above all things, we should take heed and realize that there must be something other than our own intellect to determine right and wrong. Deception, by definition is to make someone think that a lie is the truth. Our emotions are easily confused with the stirring of the Spirit and our self-centered views easily sway us to believe we are right even if we are not.

James 1:26 warns us that many who view themselves as religious are deceiving their own hearts. Proverbs 30 warns of a generation that is pure in its own eyes but is unclean because of their own sins. 2 Peter 3 warns that in the last days that people will walk according to their own desires while 2 Timothy 3 warns that in the last days people will be self-righteous and even have an appearance of godliness but without power from the Holy Spirit. Since this theme is echoed continuously throughout the Bible, it should be self-evident that there has to be a standard given to us that we must use to evaluate against our hearts and determine if what seems right is indeed right. This standard is the unchanging word of God. Consider 2 Timothy 3:16-17  

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

A few years back a very popular Christian singer had an affair, left her husband and married the man she had an adulterous relationship with when he divorced his wife. Shortly after this marriage she made a statement that she believed this relationship was of God because it made her feel happy. In our current church culture where the Bible has been excluded from our daily lives, the church has become dependent on ‘doing what is right in our own eyes’ and acting according to the emotions of the moment because feelings alone are believed to be the affirmation of the Holy Spirit – even though the Bible warns us against this. Decisions within the church are approved solely based on how the proposal manipulates our emotions. False teaching gains acceptance by energizing people’s emotions in order to manipulate Christians into rejecting discernment. False church visions are introduced in the same way. Everyone wants to see their church grow and when numbers increase, this is presented as a reason to be excited and is provided as evidence that God is moving even if He is being rejected by rebelling against His word.

The masses have almost always been led astray throughout history. If you read our biblical history, you will see that the masses almost always followed false prophets and pagan leaders. In modern history, the masses often have gone astray. Hitler had few who resisted his emotional speeches. In 1933 at a pastor’s convention, Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke to a group of Berlin pastors against the injustice Hitler was committing against the Jews. Every pastor left the room in protest and by the end of his speech, he was preaching to an empty room. Rarely will you see the masses acting upon godly discernment.

The masses only follow God when the culture is led by an influential leader who truly follows the Lord. According to surveys, approximately 87% of Americans claim to be Christians, yet the movement of the culture contradicts this. Look again at Biblical history. If you read the book of Judges, you will see that the culture turned from the Lord continuously. God would allow enemies to rise against them and when they cried out to the Lord, He delivered them by the hand of judges. As long as the judge was alive, the masses continued on the right path, but when he died, they again followed what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6, Judges 21:25). The most prosperous time in Israel’s history was during the leadership of King David and the beginning of King Solomon before he turned from the Lord. Because David followed God with all his heart and had the influence over Israel, the masses followed what was right; however, when those who exercised influenced turned from the word of the Lord, the masses fell into sin.

Our culture is no different. When the persuasive voices of the men who sought the Lord had an influence on this nation, the cultural Christian stayed consistent with the word of God. Within our church culture most of the pastors are led by the influence of the culture itself. Most pastors and church leaders draw their doctrine from the Christian culture and not from the study of the scriptures. The majority of Christian leaders I have met use books and sermon helps to provide doctrine rather than personal study of the Bible without outside influences. While the Christian culture respected the Bible and followed those who held closely to scripture, the pastors and vision of the churches did the same.

As the tide has changed and the church culture has begun to follow influential leaders who have little or no respect for the Bible, cultural Christianity has shifted to follow the ‘new vision’ and pastors have shifted with the culture. Everyone echoed the orthodox belief system when the church culture held to it. Now that the culture has shifted, the majority of pastors and churches have shifted with it and will continue to do so. Only those whose foundation is on the unchanging word of God will not drift with the culture. As the culture shifts, those who are truly following God will remain firm. As the church moves away from the scriptures, those who remain rooted in scripture will be isolated and will find themselves outside of the group. God will honor those who stand firm on His word, but the Christian culture of the last days will not.

When the winds of change blow through the culture, the masses have always been carried by the current. This holds true for the secular culture as well as the church culture. If you look at the track record of man you will see that the masses have always followed the current of the culture whether it is right or wrong. This has held true for the layman and the leaders alike. In fact, the teachers, preachers, and leaders are usually the first to succumb to the currents of the culture as they lead the congregations to follow. When the unstable culture begins to follow what is wrong, only those who are anchored on the truth of God’s word will remain firmly planted. The Bible instructs us that sound doctrine (the teachings of scripture) is the anchor that keeps us from being tossed with the culture. Look at Ephesians 4:

14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

We are also forewarned that those who do not adhere to the doctrine of scripture are the causes of division within the church (Romans 16:17-18). When the church shifts away from the truth, those who do not move are left standing alone and it is falsely taught that these are the ones causing division for not moving with the group. Those who are anchored in the word are not the divisive ones, those who follow the current of the so-called ‘new vision’ are actually the cause of division. Anyone anchored on the foundation of scripture cannot be moved unless they willingly break from that foundation. I have been in this situation where new visions were introduced that blatantly rebelled against the Bible. As the church was carried by the ‘new move’, the few individuals who were true to the word found themselves standing alone and being accused of being the ones who moved away from God. The hostility came from those wanting to follow New Age doctrines, not from those who held to the word of God.

When our heart says something is right and the scripture contradicts this, we must put our faith in the word rather than our feelings, intellect or any other influence. If we use the scripture as our standard, we will be corrected when we go astray, instructed in the right way and will be equipped for every good work produced by the Holy Spirit within us. The word of God prevents us from going astray and veering off course. From time to time, everyone begins to drift off course but those who are rooted in the word God has given have the promise that the word rebukes what is wrong and steers us back to the way that is truly right. It is vital that we put our trust in the firm, unchanging standard God has delivered to us through His word and not the deception of our hearts that seems right but has deadly consequences. When the culture pulls us, we must either turn away from the scriptures or allow the word to lead us back into the truth and against the current of the culture.

Since the word is our guide, measuring stick, compass for our journey and the truth that corrects our way, we must look to the word to evaluate our vision. The best way to examine the true vision of God is to begin with the scriptures so that we see what is true and then we can clearly understand what is scriptural and what is not. So let’s begin by examining the vision of Jesus Christ.

Vision of Christ

This is actually a very simple concept that only becomes complicated when the vision Jesus gave is blocked by human philosophies and convoluted formulas. Most people do not realize that Jesus has given us the vision for the church in clear, concise, and in an easy to understand format. Look at Jesus’ vision for the church in Matthew 28:18-20  

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

The vision of the church was given in 5 easy steps:

  1. Jesus is the authority of the church.
  2. Go into the world to make disciples.
  3. Baptize them according to scripture.
  4. Teach all to observe and obey everything that has been commanded.
  5. The Lord is with us and guiding His true church every step of the way.

 

If this is not your church’s vision, you have a problem. The vision of Christ is not to have hundreds of church plants with hundreds of members. The vision of Christ is not to have the largest church with the most programs. The vision of Christ is not to have huge auditoriums with thousands of members. The vision of Christ is not to have a church that comforts seekers and avoids scriptures that challenge us to die to ourselves or convicts us of sin. The primary purpose of the church is to make disciples that will obey all that Jesus has commanded. If we are fulfilling this vision and the church grows into thousands, be thankful and remain faithful to His call. If a church only has a handful of people but these are followers of Christ, the church is successful in God’s commission to fulfill His vision. The size of the congregation is not the model of success; obedience and spiritual maturity is the measure of success.

The vision of the commission of Jesus Christ is the vision of the church. Methods, tools and outreach programs are good as long as they do not become the vision or take our eyes off Jesus’ vision. Think of the great commission as the target that each Christian and church aims for. As long as a practice, method or tool can be brought into the line of sight of our focus on the goal of the great commission, it is permissible and beneficial to the church. However, when we must take our eyes off the great commission in order to implement anything or any practice, it is not of God and is indeed a false vision.

When someone offers a new insight in reaching the culture around us, look at the five points of the great commission Jesus gave as our vision and ask two questions:

  1. Does it fulfill the great commission?
  2. Does it take our focus away from the great commission?

 

This is the acid test. Apply the test of Jesus’ great commission to the seeker sensitive movement. In a radio broadcast a caller questioned Robert Schuller about his teaching on avoiding sin or what he calls ‘negative self-image’. His response was telling. First let us look at the doctrine in question. In Schuller’s book, ‘Self-Esteem: The New Reformation’ he makes the following statement:

“The core of original sin, then is LOT — Lack of Trust. Or, it could be considered an innate inability to adequately value ourselves. Label it a ‘negative self-image,’ but do not say that the central core of the human soul is wickedness. … positive Christianity does not hold to human depravity, but to human inability” (p. 67).

He enforced this thought process in this statement quoted from Time magazine:

I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition. (Time, March 18, 1985)

In the seeker sensitive movements, rather than preaching the word that changes our lives, the seeker is taught to be blinded to their own sin. The individual’s spiritual condition remains unchanged, they are just told not to recognize this fact. When questioned on air about these doctrines the man questioning quoted several scriptures that contradicted these teachings. Robert Schuller’s response illustrates the problem with the seeker sensitive movements:

I hope you don’t [preach this] because you could do a lot of damage to a lot of beautiful people. … if you preach that text, oh man, I sure hope you give it the kind of interpretation that I do or, I’ll tell you, you’ll drive them farther away and they’ll be madder than hell at you and they’ll turn the Bible off, and they’ll switch you off, and they’ll turn on the rock music and Madonna. Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean you should preach it.

Schuller went on to emphasize how damaging it is to quote scriptures that harm the self-esteem of those who live contrary to the Bible. In truth, all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable – not damaging to the individual. Schuller is not alone for this thought process is at the core of the seeker sensitive and church growth movements. Robert Schuller boasts that he is the founder of the seeker sensitive and church growth movements – and indeed he is. Schuller mentored Rick Warren and several other big names in this movement. His ‘Hour of Power’ website states:

We are the home of the world’s first Church Growth Institute, -launching the mega-church movement in the 20th century. Tens of thousands of pastors, including famous graduates Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Bishop Blake, Walt Kallestad, and Sundo Kim of Korea, were mentored here. (http://www.hourofpower.org/Jubilee/who_are_we.cfm)  

I underlined two statements in the quote above taken from the radio that are at the root of the problem in the purpose driven perspective. First, it is not our purpose to keep the church environment cozy so that those who are rebelling against scripture are not driven away. Second, we are commanded to preach the whole counsel of God and not just the things people want to hear. Consider this pointed passage from 2 Timothy 4:2-5  

2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;  4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

The Bible warns that in the last days people will not endure sound doctrine but will gather under teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. We are now living in that time. The seeker sensitive churches are led by the very teachers the scriptures foretold would lead the church into the falling away in the last days. Notice the commands given – Preach the word; convince, rebuke, exhort and endure with patience continuing to teach. You are also commanded to watch so that you recognize the falling away and endure, evangelize and fulfill your ministry. You will be criticized and challenged by those promoting the man-centered gospel. You may not build a megachurch, but you will build a faithful church that will be honored by Christ Himself.

A pastor who is faithful to the call of Christ will have a vision that is a strategic plan to fulfill the vision Jesus gave to the church. Throughout the New Testament, the Christian life is compared to being a warrior. In war, the entire military has one main goal and each officer in the military is commissioned to uphold the mission given and to come up with a strategic plan for the area they have been given responsibility. Think for a moment about World War II. What would have happened if each general in the military came up with their own vision and determined a purpose out of their own heart? The military would have been divided and the overall objective would have been impossible. Each branch of service, each general, and each soldier took their direction from one head and even though they were scattered throughout the world, they all worked together to defeat the enemy by completing their orders to fulfill the mission already determined. The church is the same way. The mission or vision of the church was given at the birth of the church and each faithful pastor and elder will seek out ways to fulfill that objective while staying focused on the mission of the church. Any who depart from that vision and call others to follow their own vision has committed mutiny and will be judged accordingly; however, the faithful pastor who follows and upholds the vision of Jesus Christ has the promise of 1 Peter 5:4  

when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

Do not fear losing those in rebellion against God for we are called to make disciples, not gather members. Those whose sights are focused on building the organization have the wrong target in their sights. If your goal is to build the local membership or create a megachurch, you have failed the acid test because the methods of your efforts do not align with the line of sight vision of fulfilling the great commission. If you must take your eyes off the vision Jesus gave, you are following a different vision and are no longer serving God. If you are preaching to keep the tithers happy, you are not fulfilling your ministry. People often serve themselves or serve an organization while falsely assuming that they are serving God. Any method, practice, tool or goal that takes your sights off the vision of fulfilling the great commission is sin and rebellion against God.

You cannot build your kingdom and the Kingdom of Heaven at the same time. Either God adds to the church or you add to the organization falsely called the church. God adds those He is calling and these will respond to the truth if you will preach the word. If you ignore God’s call in order to please those you are calling, you have lost sight of the true vision of Christ. God calls disciples to the church and then commissions us to bring them into spiritual maturity by teaching them the word and teaching them to observe and obey all that has been commanded.

The seeker sensitive movements assumes that we are issuing the call and forgets that no one can come to God unless he is drawn (John 6:44). If you are looking to your own methods or vision to add to the church, the result will be a people that care nothing about the things of God and you will not fulfill your ministry because the members added require you to amuse their interest. As long as you keep the entertainment flowing and gratify their self-centered desires, the so-called seeker will keep coming. God doesn’t call us to build numbers but disciples. This can only be accomplished through study and application of the whole counsel of God.

So there is a true vision of God and there is nothing wrong with applying methods that can relate to the current time in which we live. We can use music, programs, methods and many tools and resources. As long as our sights can remain on the target of fulfilling the God given vision of fulfilling ALL of the great commission, we are effectively serving the Lord in our ministries. Anything that can be brought into the line of sight while we remain focused on the command given to the church by Jesus without drifting from our goal of hitting the target is most likely beneficial to the church. Jesus is the one who gave the church the vision and He alone is our Shepherd. If the pastor and congregation are following Him, we will fulfill our ministry.

The Good Shepherd

The Bible warns of false shepherds that will not spare the flock; however, we who belong to Christ can avoid being trapped in this error by looking to our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. One thing every Christian must realize is that there is only one Good Shepherd. The pastor is not your good shepherd, Jesus alone holds this role. Look at John 10:

14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

Many will come in their own name and try to lure away the sheep after themselves as we will examine in the next section, but those who belong to Christ will hear His voice and follow His word. Those who belong to Christ will hear His voice and those who have never received Christ cannot hear His voice. Consider this passage from John 8:43-47  

43 “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.  44 “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  45 “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.  46 “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  47 “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

Why is it that so few people can understand the plain teaching of scripture? While the interpretation of scripture can be plainly understood by even the novice, understanding the spiritual application of scripture is hidden from anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit. When you present the truth of scripture and someone cannot recognize the difference between the truth of scripture and the error of those teaching a man-centered doctrine, the reason is because the Holy Spirit is missing and they are unable to comprehend the difference between truth and error. This is explained in 1 Corinthians 2:

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

When someone cannot receive the scripture and believes that worldly philosophies are good and scripture is damaging, this reveals that the Holy Spirit is not present and that the natural man is evaluating the application of the word. When the natural man of the flesh sees the scriptures, he will call it foolishness and indeed it is foolishness to the flesh for the focus of the natural man is on personal comfort, self-gratification and a life founded on this temporal world with no true faith in the hope of God’s promises. The Bible straightly tells us that the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world and the wisdom of  this world is foolishness to God (1 Corinthians 1:18-24 and 1 Corinthians 3:18-20). The wisdom of God and the wisdom of this age are incompatible for one is grounded in this present world and the other is grounded in the eternal promises of God. The flesh and the Spirit can have no unity for they are opposed to each other (Galatians 5:17). Where you invest your life will determine from where you draw wisdom.

Do not be surprised if people reject the scriptures for this will become more and more common as we enter the last days. The one sign given that the last days has indeed arrived is the falling away of the church (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The falling away does indeed separate the true disciple from the follower of religion itself. Consider this passage from John 10:

5 “Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Jesus said that His sheep will NOT follow the voice of a stranger but will flee from him. Many who claim to be Christians flee from the word, but the sheep of His pasture follow the Good Shepherd wherever He goes – even if it does not bring immediate comfort. So if we build our churches around insulating the seeker from hearing the scriptures that may offend them, we are starving the sheep that are His and preventing those who would come from hearing the message that will call them to come to Jesus Christ. If we preach the word and people do not receive it, we know these are not His sheep. Look at John 10:25-27  

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.  26 “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.  27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

The reason someone does not believe is because they are not His sheep. In the passage we read a few minutes ago, Jesus asked, “Why can’t you understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.” Why couldn’t they listen? God was not their father because they did not receive His word and were not born into His kingdom. Jesus made it clear that unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God. While the false prophets are saying that they will ‘teach you how to become a better you’ and that salvation is found in loving yourself, the Bible teaches that you must first die and then be born again. God does not reform the old man corrupted by sin. God crucifies the old man and puts our old nature to death with its sinful passions (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:3-9). The gift of salvation is a new you. You become a new creation that was created for eternal life.

There is nothing to gain from self-esteem for Jesus said that we must hate our own life in this world (Luke 14:26). The greatest boost in self-esteem you can ever have is dying to your flesh and then living in the confidence that God has created within you a new creation that has the power to conform to the image of Christ. We can have absolute confidence when we know that Jesus is with us until the end leading us into the way He has equipped us to serve and accomplishing His work through us by the Holy Spirit. The old man cannot be transformed; our old nature must be killed and God raises us up in the newness of life. Only when we are a new creation will we have the power to hear His voice and understand His speech.

Walking in the Spirit

All that we have studied up to this point has been intended to help lay the biblical foundation for your walk in the Spirit. The Bible promises us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. I have found that this little passage in the scripture (from Galatians 5:16) is one of the most important principles you will need in order to overcome the sin in your life. The Bible gives many comparisons to the Christian walk including running the race that is set before us, setting our hearts on a pilgrimage to our heavenly home and fighting the good fight as a soldier of Jesus Christ. All of these are based on one principle, walking in the Spirit. Though we are a soldier, our weapons are not carnal (or of the flesh), but our weapons are of the Spirit. Our pilgrimage is not to a physical earthly place, but a spiritual journey of living according to the scripture in a culture that constantly seeks to turn us away from scripture. We run the race by setting our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith – who is Jesus Christ. Look at Hebrews 12:1-2  

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

All of these terms relating to the Christian walk are word pictures to communicate the same principle – how to walk in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit there must be a spiritual focus. In this passage from Hebrews, we are instructed to keep our eyes on the finisher of our faith (which is Jesus who also is the beginning of our faith). Most try to live the Christian life by focusing in on works, church service and ‘Christian things’, but the ONLY focus of our race is Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that Jesus is the word of God (John 1:1, 1:14). Everything in your life must center around the word of God as you look unto God as the focus of your life.

 

Temptations are the things that attempt to draw our eyes off our focus on Jesus. Consider this passage from Proverbs 4:19-27  

19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble.  20 My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings.  21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart;  22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.  23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.  24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you.  25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.  26 Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.  27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.

 

This passage starts by saying that the wicked do not know what makes the stumble. Those who fall into temptation often struggle to find out why they keep falling. I have been in this state. I once asked myself what makes me fall into temptation over and over again. All I knew is that I suddenly found myself in the midst of a temptation that was overwhelming and did not know how to escape. Today I know what makes me come into temptation – it is taking my eyes off of the finish line. You may struggle with sins that easily entangle you, but you also have been given the power to cast it off if you submit yourself to Christ.

 

Most people struggle to walk in the Spirit because they look at the things of God as something we do on Sunday, but we do not obey God’s command to build ourselves upon our most holy faith. In the book of Jude, the Bible describes sensual persons that follow the flesh and are marked for judgment. After this, the Bible teaches how that we avoid falling under the same condemnation. Look at Jude 1:20-21  

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,  21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

 

We overcome by building ourselves upon our most holy faith. Faith comes from God (See Romans 12:3, Galatians 5:22, 1 Corinthians 12:9). You are not the author of your own faith nor can you increase your own faith. God has already given you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The only thing lacking is your willingness to follow the biblical principles that teach you how to live within God’s perfect will. God has given you the faith to overcome and you must choose to build your life upon your faith in God. Walking in faith is walking in the Spirit for faith is a spiritual gift that God has given to every person. You cannot walk by faith without walking in the Spirit. The focus of your life is the key.

 

Those who fall into various temptations and are controlled by the flesh do so because they live according to their own desires and human nature. When temptation arises or trouble comes upon us, we look around and say, “Where is God?” Those who walk in the Spirit have placed God always before their eyes and the instruction of God always before their eyes; therefore, they do not have to find God for they are already walking with Him. When you walk in the Spirit with your eyes on the spiritual things and are actively building your life upon faith, temptation has to first draw away your focus and then you have to stop your pursuit of the finish line and turn aside toward temptation. So rather than finding yourself in temptation and not knowing how you got there, you have to make a conscious choice to turn away from God (who is the focus of your life) and toward temptation. No longer will temptation appear to be a surprise attack, but you still must choose to turn away from it.

 

I realize that I am repeating several things we have previously studied, but it is important to reiterate the important principles that enable us to overcome and walk in the spirit. The secret to being an overcomer is obeying the words of scripture, “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart”. If you do these things, you will keep yourself in the love of God and His perfect will. This is where we find life. You must first apply your heart to hear the word of God and study His word with diligence so that you are seeking the truth of God as if it were silver and gold – for indeed it truly is more valuable than earthly riches. This is how we begin this race toward eternity, but it is equally important to obey Proverbs 4:27, “Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” Temptation attempts to draw your focus away from your goal, but you have the power to refuse to turn. Where your eyes are looking is where you will begin to drift.

 

A man cannot look at swimsuit models and not have his heart drawn away from God. A woman cannot read romance novels and not be drawn away from God. You cannot labor to be rich and not be drawn away from God. You can’t spend hours in front on the TV without being drawn away from your pursuit of God. There are two temptations you will fight with all your life: the lure to commit sin and the lure into apathy. If we allow our lives to become crowded so that the word is choked and we lose our focus on the will of God for our life, we are just as distant from God as if we actively sin. In Revelation 3:16 God states that the lukewarm (or apathetic) Christian is so repulsive that God will vomit them away. In Ezekiel 9 when God began to execute judgment against the sins of Israel, God judged not only those who sinned, but also those who were apathetic to sin. Do not fall into apathy for not caring about the spiritual reason we were made is just as dangerous as actively sinning. Both are rebellion against God.

 

Let’s look again at the passage from Proverbs 4 we read above. There are twelve principles given to you so that you will not slip:

  1. Give attention to the word
  2. Incline our ears to hear
  3. Do not let them be forgotten
  4. Keep them actively in your heart
  5. They give life to those who apply them
  6. Keep your heart with all diligence
  7. Put away a deceitful mouth
  8. Put perverse lips far from you
  9. Look ahead to your goal
  10. Ponder your path and be established
  11. do not turn to the right or left
  12. Remove your foot from evil

 

If you actively apply these principles to your daily life, you will begin to understand what it means to walk in the Spirit. Keep in mind the reason why you are applying these to your life. You are not trying to be religious or keep rules to make yourself holy. You are holy because God makes you holy. You are righteous because God makes you righteous in Christ by faith. Doing these things do not merit righteousness, holiness or spiritual perfection. The purpose of the principles of God are so that you have a guide that teaches you how to keep your heart in the love of God. God has already expressed His love for you. When we see the love of God, we either value that love or we care nothing for it. If we care nothing for it, we will let it slip away because our pleasure is in unrighteousness. If we value the love of God, we will apply the spiritual principles of God so that we learn to walk in the Spirit so that we are actively partaking of God’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

 

These principles we discussed above will not make you a Christian and will not merit salvation. Before you are given these things you must first receive the free gift of salvation that is given to us through Jesus Christ. Those who are in Christ have the Spirit of God and it is now essential that we discipline our lives so that we keep our focus on the things of God for our inheritance has been promised to those who walk by faith in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit means that we are walking in communion and fellowship with God each moment of our lives. Walking in the Spirit is abiding in Christ as we live according to His word.

 

In our passage from Proverbs we can see that our focus is first brought to the instruction of the word of God. If you do not study to show yourself approved, you cannot be one who rightly divides the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). As you learn the word of truth, you must then be diligent to keep them always before you and in the midst of your heart. A forgetful hearer does not profit from the word. You are then commanded to guard your heart for out of it come the issues of life. You are also warned to put a deceitful and perverted mouth far from you. If you surround yourself with those who are wicked, you will be influenced by them. The Bible also says that the one who walks with wise men will be wise but the companion of fools will be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20). In this life you will be exposed to people who are foolish and wicked, but you do not have to be a companion of them. If you abide in fellowship with those who pursue sin, you cannot live holy. There is a balance to life. We want to reach out to those who are in bondage and call them into fellowship with Christ, but we cannot join their fellowship.

 

Over the years I have met many who came to Christ out of drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other sinful lifestyles. Those who did not leave their friends behind always fell back into temptation. I have heard people say that they are going to their old friends in order to be an influence on them and soon they were back into the same lifestyle they departed from. We do indeed want to reach out to those who remain in bondage, but we cannot be their companion unless they are willing to change. We cannot hang around with those who live in temptation if we want to remain holy. This is why the Bible warns you to put them far from you.

 

Proverbs again reiterates the importance of letting your eyes look ahead and do not turn to the right or left. This is the same message from Hebrews 12:1-2, put aside the weights that easily ensnare us and look ahead to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Finally, we are told to remove our foot from evil. If you find yourself in temptation, you must immediately remove yourself from that temptation. I believe that failing to do this is the most common mistake people make when fighting to overcome temptation. This is also why we must walk in the Spirit before we can overcome temptation. When people see something that tempts them, they often ponder it or allow themselves to give into curiosity with the false assumption that they will withdraw themselves before actually committing the sinful act. The root of the problem is that in their heart they still desire to sin and their mind begins to contemplate the temptation as it presents itself. If you are walking in the Spirit and your focus is on the things of God, your desires will begin to change as you see the value of your fellowship with God. When you value your life in the Spirit more than the appeal of sin, you will willingly turn your eyes away from temptation.

 

Walking in the Spirit also means that our life’s focus is on the spiritual things revealed in scripture and as we constantly affirm the word in our lives and see God speak to us through the word, it becomes increasingly more valuable. We can still be drawn away if we explore temptation, but when we no longer value temptation, we will be less likely to explore it. The Bible tells us not to pass by the road of sin, do not look down it but turn away and pass on. Christians fall because they begin to feel like they deserve a reward of sin or that they are invincible to temptation and throw caution to the wind. In order to walk in the Spirit, you must make the word the focus and love of your life.

 

Also consider this passage we looked at earlier in Proverbs 22:  

3 A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished.

 

This is a simple passage but rich with meaning. This is important enough to reiterate in Proverbs 27:12. This is important in our pursuit of godliness in the Spirit. You must look ahead and recognize evil before it becomes temptation. Those who are wise hearted will look ahead and see that evil is coming and will remove themselves from that path. Those who are foolish and simple minded will continue on and suffer the consequences of sin. Let’s put this in real world terms. If you know a television show is going to present an ungodly message or sensual images, if you are wise you will avoid it. The same holds true for any temptation. If you struggle with alcohol, you are wise to recognize what may lead to temptation and turn away from going places or being around people who will influence you to drink.

 

Every person has temptations that draw them away from God and every person should wisely avoid the situations that will cause temptation or turn away immediately if they find themselves near temptation. The average person will find themselves near temptation and will ‘look to see’ if it is really a temptation. Wisdom calls for us to deny our curiosity and assume that it is temptation and avoid it like the plague – and indeed it is a plague. Don’t even look. As you deny your flesh’s desire to be gratified, you will also break its grip to drive your life.

 

Walking in the Spirit is not a mystical experience or secret knowledge, but rather is the lifestyle of obedience through. You do not walk in the Spirit by becoming more religious, but by submitting yourself to God. Walking with God and walking in the Spirit go hand-in-hand. The Bible warns us not to quench the Spirit. The Spirit is quenched by sin and disobedience to God. The opposite is true for walking in the Spirit. You walk in the Spirit by obeying the precepts of God by faith. You cannot walk in the Spirit without faith and obedience – or should I say obedience through faith. Obedience without faith is worthless. Many people follow rules and regulations without ever experiencing the deeper things of God. Faith cannot exist without obedience for the Bible teaches that “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Both must be active in our lives. By faith we obey God. As you obey God, you align yourself with the will of God and God reveals the Holy Spirit through us. Rather than trying to find the Spirit through any mystical practices, the Spirit shapes us into the image of Christ as He is revealed in us.

 

Faith and obedience by knowledge is what is necessary to walk in the Spirit. If walking in the Spirit was a difficult endeavor or required a great ‘enlightenment’, the Bible would not keep reiterating to the common believer the necessity of walking in the Spirit. We have turned it into a mystical process and made it complicated, but in reality it is quite simple to understand but difficult to put into practice. The only difficulty is overcoming our human nature. I also stated that knowledge is essential; this is knowledge of the word of God. If you do not know the principles of God as revealed in scripture, you cannot submit to them and cannot walk in obedience.

 

Spiritual Discipline

Spiritual discipline is the preparation of our hearts to seek God. Disciplines are not works, but the preparation for works. A student does not reap immediate benefits for studying to learn. Instead, they learn so that they are prepared with the education needed for a career that will be rewarding. An athlete prepares for an event by discipline and preparation. The discipline is not the reward; the ability to compete and the success of their efforts is their reward. The Bible compares our Christian walk to a marathon race. Consider this passage from 1 Corinthians 9:24-25  

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 

 

Notice the statement, “Everyone who competes…is temperate in all things”. This is discipline. Temperance is discipline based on self-control. If you wish to run and obtain an imperishable crown (or the rewards God has promised), you must prepare with self-control and run according to the rules (or the commands found in the word of God).

 

There is nothing unusual about drifting away from our spiritual focus, but when we recognize the shift is occurring, we take action to bring our focus back to the things of God. Since we live in a world where temptations and godless distractions are continuously drawing our heart away from the Spirit, spiritual discipline must be a daily part of the Christian life. If it is not, you will find yourself wondering why you keep getting so distant from God.

 

If you feed the flesh, it will quickly grow and seek to rule over your life. Each sin revives the beast of the flesh. The flesh cannot be nurtured, it must be starved and brought under subjection. Look at 1 Corinthians 9:

27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

 

For those who struggle with sinful habits such as sexual sins or pornography, you must realize that these tendencies will always be present in the flesh. You can bring them under subjection and make them dormant in your flesh, but you can never give them another opportunity without dangerous consequences. It is like having a beast trapped. If you release the trap, the beast retakes its place of dominance and will seek to bring you under subjection. Sometimes we approach sin as though we can control it and think that one time of giving in won’t hurt anything. This is false. Once that temptation that has once ruled your life is set free, it can quickly regain a stronghold and take over your life again. I have seen alcoholics who had victory return to its control because they thought it would be OK to take just one drink. The same is true for all sins and habits. Don’t give an inch or even consider looking upon anything you recognize as a temptation. Apply the principle of Job. To avoid lust, he stated, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look upon a woman”. Apply this same principle to all temptation and you will do well.

 

Final Words

Let me conclude this study by reiterating what I said at the beginning. There is not a teacher, preacher, or any spiritual leader that can teach you how to walk in the Spirit. As I worked through this study I realized how inadequate words are to describe the spiritual principles I have learned and even the truth that I have experienced in my own life and understand in my heart seems to fall short in these words. I realize that the same overlaying principles hold true in each person’s life – if you seek God with all your heart through prayer and the word and live by faith, God will open your eyes to see. While the principles taught here only scratch the surface of what is to be learned, it is enough for anyone to walk in the Spirit if they apply their heart to seek God and walk in obedience by faith.

 

One final thought that I believe we must always bear in mind is that seeking must be a consistent lifestyle. King David was a man after God’s heart and he lived life victorious because he lived by the testimony “I have set the LORD always before me”. Proverbs tells us to lay hold of instruction and do not let go and to keep it continuously before you. You seek until you find and then you must set your heart to seek all the days of your life. The foreshadowing of this principle was the manna God gave His people in the desert. They were not allowed to collect more than one day of manna because it would not carry over until the next day. We too have been promised that God will give us the hidden manna if we overcome. Jesus Christ is the manna (or bread from heaven) and He is the Word of God. He has promised that we would have the power of God and what we asked in His will if we abide in Him and His words abide in us. To abide is to be in continuous fellowship. If you allow yourself to cease from seeking the things of God, you will drift away. You MUST seek Him daily and never cease.

 

Pray continuously that God would give you a heart to seek Him. Pray continuously that God will reveal Himself to you through the word. Pray continuously that God would give you the faith, knowledge, and understanding of His word and ways. Continue in the spirit of these two passages:

Psalm 27: 8 When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”

Psalm 105:  4 Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore!

 

If you obey these principles, you will overcome and God will reveal Himself to you in ways that you never thought possible. Spiritual giants are not giants at all. They are men and women who walk in faith so that God is revealed through them. The same power is available to all and no one will be denied a deep understanding of the word if they seek. Seek His face for evermore!

Eddie Snipes
2007