John 8:31,32

As we continue to make our way through the Gospel of John, yesterday’s sermon was the second part of a two part series on the familiar verses of John 8:31,32.

I have to say that it has taken me decades to learn the content I was able to share and I trust they will be a blessing to you. Both sermons are now available to watch/listen to.

God bless,

Part 1: A Promise For True Disciples:

Part 2: And The Truth Will Set You Free:

God, Greed and the (Prosperity) Gospel – A Book Review

A Review of the book, “God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies” by Graeme Adams, Senior Pastor, Ballymoney Elim Pentecostal Church, Ballymoney, Northern Ireland:

What this book is not, is as important as what it is. It’s not a drive by hit job. It’s not a rant. It’s not a cold graceless cheap shot at an easy target, nor is it a snipers bullet fired from a safe distance. Costi is no spiritual trophy hunter. He is fully engaged in a very real spiritual battle to bring truth to those entangled in the deception of the Prosperity Gospel. 

Costi’s story is a disarmingly honest up close and personal account of a life lived within the household of Prosperity Gospel Royalty and his painful journey out of it. That’s what makes this book as heart rending as it is heart warming, as painful as it is persuasive, and as compassionate as it is convincing.

Starting with the Preface Costi wastes no time in clearly laying out his motivation and purpose for writing.  His passion for the Glory of God above all things is made clear early on, and it’s this guiding conviction that shapes the book. In the end we are left in no doubt that Costi Hinn has been transformed by the grace of God and longs for his beloved family and others to come to the life transforming knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

In the first chapter the reader is immediately plunged into the life of the young ‘royal’ as we see the nonchalant teen-age Costi almost missing out on his ‘prosperity gospel inheritance’ over a mess of Cheez-Its!  What follows is a fascinating insight into the Hinn familys’ rise from humble beginnings in war torn Israel in 1967 to lavish riches in what became their Promised Land, North America.

Life for the young prince of prosperity wasn’t all a bed of roses though; there were tough and testing times as a kid in the school environment where the Hinn name was more a burden than a blessing.  All of this was brought to a head, so to speak! (read the book) by a shocking incident involving a skateboard! However in that moment Costi encountered incredible kindness instead of the rejection he assumed was coming his way, prompting this from the confused kid… “What in the world is wrong with these people?”  Later he would reflect… “At the time, I believed I had a special anointing they most certainly didn’t have. Looking back, I can see they were the ones who possessed something I didn’t have. Grace.”

The story of uncle George and his illness in chapter 3 is heart-breaking and highlights some of the most callous abuses found in the Word of Faith movement.  If this were an isolated case it would be bad enough, but sadly as Costi and many others have documented, it is all too common within the sphere of influence of the Prosperity Gospel.  This account alone should be enough to wake up and motivate all right minded people to compassionate and concerted efforts to highlight these abuses and rescue those caught in this snare.

As Costi toured the world serving Uncle Benny he began to be awakened to see what was really going on around him and what he himself had now become a part of.  Following a particularly “slimy” appeal for financial offerings in Helsinki he felt very uncomfortable, he recalls, “I cringed. It was as though suddenly I had a conscience.”  Later, on a ministry trip to India the stark contrast between the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by Word Of Faith royalty and the grinding poverty and hopelessness he witnessed prompted him to have a further crisis of conscience.  These poor people would be among those called upon to give sacrificially ‘to God’ later at the huge ‘miracle mission’.  Costi, “I felt confused and angry.  What’s wrong with this picture? I wondered.”  By the grace of God it wouldn’t be too much longer till he found the answer to that question.

Costi’s account of what he refers to as his ‘grace awakening’ is simple and supernatural, yes the two very often go together without the need for razzmatazz, or background music.  Clearly the greatest miracle of all can and does still happen today…‘at Bethesda’!  I’ll not spoil the moment with a quote, get the book and read it for yourself; it’s worth it for this paragraph alone.

This is not the kind of book you can read and forget easily. I found it to be captivating, compelling and deeply challenging, it is a clarion call to action.

What now for Costi Hinn? What now for us? What now for those who care passionately about the glory of God and the true life transforming Gospel? What now for those ensnared in deception and lost in darkness?  We surely cannot pass by on the other side and pretend that we don’t see what is happening, can we? We must know by now that this so called Prosperity Gospel is much more than a flash in the pan; it’s a wild and strange fire that is threatening to consume our house!

In this excellent book Costi has sounded an alarm and has succeeded in doing what too few of us even attempt to do, and that is to explicitly expose error by speaking out with courage, compassion, clarity and consistency.

As Costi so rightly says, we are all in some way part of the problem. “We’ve collectively played some role in the rise of prosperity theology at some point. Whether by passive silence or active participation, we allow false gospels to get a footing. We need to take responsibility together, whether we believe we should or not, to eradicate evils like the prosperity gospel. That begins with committing ourselves to defending the true gospel at all costs.” (157)

The ‘fall out’ from Costi’s ‘grace awakening’ clearly reminds us that Following Christ Costs!  Costi has, Like Moses before him … “…considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt…” (Hebrews 11:26)  Following Jesus has cost Costi Hinn in many ways, but that’s what he signed up for.  What did we ‘sign up’ for?… ‘anything for a quiet life’ is not a good answer.

(The book is due for release on July 9, 2019 and can be pre-ordered now)

The “Why” Behind Creation

by Steven Lawson

Why did God create? Certainly not because He needed someone to love. Throughout all eternity past, God enjoyed perfect love and intimate communion within His own being. The three persons of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Spirit—enjoyed perfect relationships and completely fulfilled one another. Thus, God was not inwardly lonely or personally empty; He was entirely self-satisfied, self-content, and self-contained. So God did not create because of some limitation within Himself. Instead, He created everything out of nothing in order to put His glory on display for the delight of His created beings and that they might declare His greatness. The book of Genesis records God’s extraordinary display of sovereignty in speaking creation into being—and in saving it.

In Genesis, Moses first recorded the stunning demonstration of God’s sovereignty in creation. God did not look down the tunnel of time and see the universe evolve out of nothing. He did not foresee a big bang and then adopt the chaotic results as His eternal plan. To the contrary, God intentionally spoke into being everything out of nothing. He was under no coercion to create. There was no external pressure upon Him. Rather, His act of creation magnificently displayed His imperial sovereignty. No outside restraints can be placed upon God’s supreme authority, not by Satan and his fallen angels, and certainly not by mere men.

A. W. Pink writes with thought-provoking wonder of the extraordinary sovereignty of God before creation:

In the great expanse of eternity, which stretches behind Genesis 1:1, the universe was unborn and creation existed only in the mind of the great Creator. In His sovereign majesty God dwelt all alone. We refer to that far distant period before the heavens and the earth were created. There were then no angels to hymn God’s praises, no creatures to occupy His notice, no rebels to be brought into subjection. The great God was all alone amid the awful silence of His own vast universe. But even at that time, if time it could be called, God was sovereign. He might create or not create according to His own good pleasure. He might create this way or that way; He might create one world or one million worlds, and who was there to resist His will? He might call into existence a million different creatures and place them on absolute equality, endowing them with the same faculties and placing them in the same environment; or, He might create a million creatures each differing from the others, and possessing nothing in common save their creaturehood, and who was there to challenge His right? If He so pleased, He might call into existence a world so immense that its dimensions were utterly beyond finite computation; and were He so disposed, He might create an organism so small that nothing but the most powerful microscope could reveal its existence to human eyes. It was His sovereign right to create, on the one hand, the exalted seraphim to burn around His throne, and on the other hand, the tiny insect which dies the same hour that it is born. If the mighty God chose to have one vast graduation in His universe, from loftiest seraph to creeping reptile, from revolving worlds to floating atoms, from macrocosm to microcosm, instead of making everything uniform, who was there to question His sovereign pleasure?

God’s dazzling display of sovereignty in creation was a primer on His right to rule in matters of salvation. God, who commanded the light to appear on day one of creation, soon would order gospel light to shine into the darkened hearts of spiritually blind sinners. God, who separated the waters on day two, would cause an infinite chasm to separate Himself from sinners. God, who gathered the waters together on day three, would gather sinners to Himself. God, who created the sun, moon, and stars on day four, would omnipotently create saving faith. God, who began to create the animal kingdom on day five, would graciously send His Son to be the Lamb of God to take away sin. God, who created Adam and Eve on day six, would soon re-create sinners into His image. His free grace would perform the second Genesis in the salvation of lost men and women.

This excerpt is taken from Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson.

What’s Wrong with the New Apostolic Reformation?

Article: “New Apostolic Reformation Kryptonite” by Costi Hinn

Remember the one thing that could strip Superman of his unstoppable powers? If this thing was found in the vicinity of the “Man of Steel,” he’d be as helpless as a baby Giraffe on ice. That thing was Kryptonite. 

No matter your position on the continuation of gifts that produce signs and wonders, there are certain truths that orthodox Christians have stood together on for millennia. When taught faithfully and proactively, these truths are Kryptonite to destructive doctrines that creep into the church.

Throughout church history, subgroups of mystically-inclined movements have spun off the reservation and well into heretical theological territories by their overzealous seeking of signs and wonders. When this occurs, there is often a fog of confusion that sweeps over the Church. What are the grounds for calling someone a “heretic?” Should we, as some suggest, simply “chew the meat and spit out the bones?” Shouldn’t we avoid controversy and just love people? 

Regardless of varying position, people can’t follow a leader who isn’t clear. With that said, there are certain truths that every pulpit must be clear in presenting lest people be swept into doctrines that destroy. Perhaps there is not a more destructive force sweeping through the church today than the so-called, “New Apostolic Reformation.” This movement’s beliefs trample the deity of Christ, falsely guarantee healing for all who will follow their formula, and claim that their anointed leaders are a part of God’s reinstating of the Apostolic Era once again. Meanwhile, those leading the movement live like prosperity preachers and keep a tight grip on their positions of power. Don’t be deceived, this is a serious issue in the church today.

Here are five proactive truths that every pulpit should preach in order to protect those you serve from the winds of New Apostolic Reformation doctrine (Ephesians 4:14):

  1. Earthly healing is not guaranteed in the atonement.

This truth counters one of the more common lies that was birthed out of the early phases of the charismatic movement. Over the last several decades, it’s caught on like wildfire in the word faith movement, prosperity theology, and New Apostolic Reformation. The teaching goes something this:

Jesus paid for your sin and your sickness. He was wounded for your transgressions, and by His stripes you are healed! Isaiah 53:5 says so! Why are you holding on to that sickness if He already paid for your healing? Let go of that cancer. Release infirmity. Receive your healing by faith.

Some basic questions should be asked, and answered. Are the problems of sin, sickness, pain, tears, and death all solved because of the atoning work of Christ on the cross and His subsequent resurrection from the grave? Absolutely.

Does that mean that all of the benefits from the atonement are fully realized on earth? Absolutely not. We still have to die (Hebrews 9:27). We aren’t yet in our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). And God has not yet taken away all sadness, tears, and sorrow (Revelation 21:4). Further, I don’t experience the fullness of salvation until Christ is revealed (Colossians 3:4).

So, is salvation and healing a “package deal” as many faith healers claim? If so, what’s wrong with so many sick Christians? Is Joni Eareckson Tada sick because she’s simply not “tapping into” the atonement?

The answer is clearly and logically, no.

Teach your people how to praise God when He heals and even when He doesn’t. Say like Job, “He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

  1. Not all can heal and prophesy

This one isn’t hard to understand, but many “schools of signs and wonders” are charging people tuition under the illusion that they can learn to heal and prophesy. Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry does this in Redding, California. But, can we guarantee that everyone is going to operate in all of these gifts, move in signs and wonders, and heal people? Can you bundle gifts of the Spirit like you bundle home and auto insurance?

Let’s let Paul do the talking through the Holy Spirit’s direct and final revelation:

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? (1 Corinthians 12:29-30)

Those are rhetorical questions from Paul. Teach your flock to be discerning and steer them clear of schools and teachers who promise signs and wonders for students. You’ll save them money, and maybe even their soul.

  1. There are no more Apostles

This used to be an open and shut case. Few, if any, were arguing that the office of apostle was in operation today. However, this is now something preachers must be clear about time and time again.

Two distinctions should be made here.

First, in a sense, there is such a thing as being apóstolos (ἀπόστολος) today. This Greek word means “a delegate” and is synonymous with those who are commissioned to pioneer new gospel-work through planting, missionary work, or other frontier-like ministries. This is being a gospel-ambassador!

Second, there is no such thing as being an apostle in the sense of the New Testament office. This was restricted to a very specific group who met a specific criterion. When you survey the New Testament, you can gather that real apostles were:

  • Commissioned and appointed personally by Christ (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13 John 15:16; Romans 1:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7-9)
  • Personally with Christ from baptism to ascension (Acts 1:21-22; Acts 10:38)
  • Fulfilling prophecy when Mathias replaced Judas’ specific office (Acts 1:19)
  • Performing undeniable and instantaneous signs and wonders (Acts 5:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12)
  • Given direct revelation from God (John 16:13)
  • Operating as the initial foundation for the Church (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11)
  • Distinctly gifted for their uniquely foundational office (1 Corinthians 12:29)

While many people will be “apostolic” in their ministry in the sense that they are sent forth to do gospel work, based on what the Bible teaches about the requirements for being an apostle, it’s impossible for there to be any more apostles today.

  1. Jesus was always truly God and truly man while on earth

One foundational (and false) teaching proliferated by the New Apostolic Reformation is that Jesus did His miracles as a man in right relationship with God, and not as God. The idea is that since Jesus wasn’t God when He did signs and wonders, you can do them too. This very twisted interpretation of the kenosis takes the “emptying” or “humbling” of Christ in Philippians 2:3-8 beyond biblical boundaries. Bethel Church pastor, Bill Johnson, and Todd White (Lifestyle Christianity) are two of the leading voices for this heretical belief more formally known as ontological kenotic Christology. Space in this article does not allow for extensive treatment here, but we offer plenty of footnotes and direct quotes from their teachings and their books in Defining DeceptionOKC is essentially the belief that Jesus laid aside His deity and takes variants of kenotic theory much too far. Any claim that Jesus was ever “not God” is deceptive heresy. In fact, Jesus Himself makes the claim that His signs and wonders were displays of the “works of God” (John 9:3). He was, as R.C. Sproul put it, “Truly God and truly man” while fulfilling His purpose on earth.

Never once does the Bible ever teach that Jesus laid aside His deity and ceased to be God. He was in perfect balance as the God-man; humbly adding humanity to His divinity. This was subtraction by addition.

Many evangelical churches have become holding tanks for heretical teachings whether it be through inviting these false teachers to headline conferences, using their music and endorsing their worship bands, or by downplaying the seriousness of their errors.

Make no mistake about it, this is a tier one issue. Preaching a proper view of the kenosis is essential for equipping your church faithfully.

  1. Judge a teacher’s words against Scripture

Teaching this will be a valuable way to equip discerning Christians. People being deceived are taught never to question their anointed leader. Therefore, it will be a distinction of a biblical church and a faithful pulpit that people are taught to weigh every word taught in light of Scripture. This is the right kind of “judging” and believers are wise to exercise discernment.

Pro-active preachers who want their flock to be well guided and guarded do well to encourage them to weigh every word from any pulpit by the word of God.

More truths can certainly be added to this list, but if you’re looking for key ways to assess your own ministry or to be more proactive in shepherding the flock of God, this list of teachings is a great place to start.

***If this is your first time encountering this kind of doctrinal indictment on Bethel Church (and music), the New Apostolic Reformation, or leaders like Bill Johnson and Todd White, please refer to the following article and read the sources linked in it for further research.

An Ordinary Pastor’s Week

Article: A Week in the Life of an Ordinary Pastor by Chris Griggs, lead pastor of Denver Baptist Church in Denver, North Carolina (original source here –

On Tuesday afternoon, the pastor is pulling into the church parking lot after a long lunch meeting with a member when his phone rings. “Hello pastor. As you know, my wife is still recovering from surgery. It’s been a really hard couple of weeks, and I just wanted you to know that nobody has cared for us. Well, a little, but not like we expected. I appreciate you coming to the hospital to pray with us, but we won’t be coming back to your church.” The pastor offers an apology and hangs up the phone—discouraged.

An hour later, he makes a call to check on a sick member. “Pastor, thank you so much for the call. We’ve been so overwhelmed and blessed by the way the church has loved and cared for us during this crisis. Thank you for everything.” After praying with them, he hangs up the phone—grateful.

As he prepares to leave the office for the day, a deacon drops by unannounced. “Hey pastor, do you have a minute? Listen, some folks are really struggling with what happened in that last business meeting. They don’t feel they had much of a voice in the decision, and they’re pretty upset. Just thought you should know.” The pastor leans back in his chair—fearful.

That evening, at a local restaurant, another deacon stops by his table on the way out. “Good to see you, pastor. Listen, I want you to know that we are thankful for your leadership. We support you and the other leaders. Let me know if there’s anything I can help with.” He finishes his meal—encouraged.


The next morning, he takes a break from preparing for Wednesday Bible study and checks his email. “Good morning, pastor. I was hoping to meet up, but everyone’s busy. Anyway, I wanted to let you know that we’re going to start visiting other churches. Just looking for something different.” He hangs his head and lets out a deep sigh.

Later in the day, he opens a card that came in the mail. “Pastor, thank you for preaching the Word each week. My family has grown so much in the Lord, and we appreciate your hard work to carefully teach us the Bible.” He tucks the card in his Bible so that he can read it often.

That evening, his phone rings at 10:20 p.m., which is unusual. “Hey pastor, Mom isn’t doing well. The hospice nurse says it won’t be too much longer.”

“Okay, I’ll be right over.” He gets out of bed and gets dressed.


After returning home in the middle of the night, a notification on his phone wakes him at 8:45 a.m. It was a long night, but he grabs his phone and plays the voicemail. “Pastor, I came by to see you at the office . . . again. Where are you? I need to talk to someone and nobody is ever around. Call me.” He hangs up the phone—exhausted.


Early Saturday morning he sits at his kitchen table, working on the sermon he tried all week to finish by Thursday. He types out the next sentence feeling disappointed in himself—yet another Saturday where he still has sermon work to do.

Saturday evening, around 10:30 p.m., after a full and fun day with his family, he kisses his wife goodnight and makes his way back to the kitchen table to finish up his sermon. Finally done hours later, he quietly crawls into bed and falls asleep praying.


The alarm goes off early on Sunday morning. The pastor prepares for the day. He gathers with the saints to worship Jesus, enjoy the fellowship of believers, and preach about the grace and comfort of Christ.

He walks among the flock, shaking hands, listening to prayer requests, and welcoming new faces. After lunch, he grabs a quick nap in his recliner before it’s time to head back for evening activities. His heart is thankful for the call to be an undershepherd of Christ’s flock.

Awesome and Awful

Every pastor can relate—at least on some level—to such a week. Some weeks, being a pastor feels like riding an emotional roller coaster. Like the apostle Paul, we have days when our concern for the church is a daily pressure (2 Cor. 11:28). But also like Paul, we have moments when we’re on our knees praying with others, weeping together on account of the gospel’s blessings (Acts 20:36–37).

The mature pastor knows three things.

This is what it’s like when we “shepherd the flock of God among us” (1 Pet. 5:2). The mature pastor knows three things. First, Jesus is the chief shepherd who has called him to be an undershepherd of the flock. Second, shepherds look and smell like sheep, because that’s what they are. And third, all sheep have a way of making the ministry both awesome and awful.

We must remember that what the sheep really need is a heart so full of love for Jesus that it spills out in ways that look and sound like Jesus. That’s why you are their pastor, to preach the good news of Jesus to them, to be among them to teach them to trust Jesus, and to help them get to the end of their race with joy in Jesus.

Each Sunday you walk them down the aisle to Jesus. You remind them of his grace, you seek to stir up hope, and you encourage them that this life is a vapor (James 4:14), that soon they will joyfully bow before their King in glory. On that day, he will wipe away every tear. The emotional roller coaster will come to an eternal end.

One of a Thousand

In The Pilgrim’s Progress, there is a picture of a pastor displayed in a room of the Interpreter’s House. He has “his eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth written upon his lips, the world behind his back, ready to plead with men, and a crown of gold did hang over his head.”

Christian asks for an explanation. The Interpreter replies:

The man whose picture this is, is one of a thousand: he can beget children; travail in birth with children; and nurse them himself when they are born. . . . He is sure in the world that comes next to have glory for his reward.

This is you, pastor. One in a thousand, with glory to come. You have been called to a noble task. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Run well and serve in the strength of the Lord, so that on the day of accounting you can joyfully present the bride to Jesus as you hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Tethered to the Text

Article: The Expositor’s Distinction: Tethered to the Text by Steve Lawson – original source –

Walter Kaiser, a leading evangelical scholar, issued a simple but striking statement in his commencement address at Dallas Theological Seminary in April 2000 – a stirring challenge that should grip the hearts of all who are called to the ministry of biblical preaching and teaching. Those who enter the pulpit to preach, Kaiser admonished, should always be pointing to a text of Scripture.

When a man preaches, he should never remove his finger from the Scriptures, Kaiser charged. If he is gesturing with his right hand, he should keep his left hand’s finger on the text. If he reverses hands for gesturing, then he should also reverse hands for holding his spot in the text.

He should always be pointing to the Scriptures.

This is sound advice. Both literally and figuratively, the preacher should always be pointing to a biblical text. This Word-centered focus in the pulpit is the defining mark of all true expositors. Those who preach and teach the Word are to be so deeply rooted and grounded in the Scriptures that they never depart from them, ever directing themselves as well as their listeners to its truths.

Biblical preaching should be just that – biblical – and all who stand in the pulpit must show an unwavering, even relentless, commitment to the Scripture itself. As a practicing physician knows and prescribes medicine, so every preacher should be ever studying, learning, and dispensing heavy doses of the healing balm of God’s Word to all patients. Whatever the ailment, there is but one cure for the soul – the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God to the human heart.


But this biblical prescription is an unknown remedy for many preachers today.

In their zeal to lead popular and successful ministries, many are becoming less concerned with pointing to the biblical text. Their use of the Bible is much like the singing of the national anthem before a ball game – something merely heard at the beginning, but never referenced again, a necessary preliminary that becomes an awkward intrusion into the real event. In their attempt to be contemporary and relevant, many pastors talk about the Scriptures, but, sadly, they rarely speak from them. Instead, they rush headlong to the next personal illustration, humorous anecdote, sociological quote, or cultural reference, rarely to return to the biblical text. How can pastors expect dying souls to become spiritually healthy if they never give them the prescribed remedy? How can pastors expect sinners to be converted and Christians to be sanctified if they fail to expound God’s Word (1 Pet. 1:23-25John 17:17)?

Writing almost a half century ago, Merrill Unger saw this dangerous departure from biblical preaching already at hand and threatening the vitality of the church.

Sounding a warning, he wrote,

To an alarming extent the glory is departing from the pulpit of the twentieth century. The basic reason for this gloomy condition is obvious. That which imparts the glory has been taken away from the center of so much of our modern preaching and placed on the periphery. The Word of God has been denied the throne and given a subordinate place.

What Unger saw looming on the horizon – the dearth of expository preaching – is now fully upon the church. ‘Where such exposition and authoritative declaration of the Word of God are abandoned,’ Unger wrote, ‘Ichabod, the glory is departed, must be written over the preacher and over the pulpit from which he preaches.’

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the renowned expository preacher James Boice reinforced Unger’s words. Writing shortly before his death, Boice warned, ‘These are not good days for the evangelical church, and anyone who takes a moment to evaluate the life and outlook of evangelical churches will understand that.’

Now, more than ever, pastors must come back to the centrality of the Word of God and preach it in the power of the Holy Spirit if the church is to be put back on the right course.