How to Distinguish Genuine Christianity from False Teaching

Dan PhillipsBy Pastor Dan Phillips (original source cook, working as an investigator, hosting a talk show, IT education and support, and teaching in various institutions. He is a pastor, an author, and an international conference speaker. He has written two books: The World-Tilting Gospel (Kregel: 2011), and God’s Wisdom in Proverbs (Kress Biblical Resources: 2011). He was also one of the three contributors to the popular and influential blog, Pyromaniacs. He pastors Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, Texas, where he lives with his dear wife Valerie and two of their four children.)

Every Christian is called to contend earnestly for the faith delivered to the saints 2000 years ago (Jude 3) in Scripture alone (2 Timothy 3:15—4:4; Hebrews 2:1-4). There are various legitimate ways of doing this. Paul’s approach with the Colossian error is particularly instructive.

The Colossians had a sound beginning, learning the saving good news of Christ from Paul’s associate Epaphras (Col. 1:7). They had made a healthy start (Col. 1:4-6, 8).

But now a personable, dynamic individual had come with a strange mix-and-match set of doctrines. Like modern charismatics, he made much of his own experiences (2:18). He posed a real danger to these young believers (2:4, 8).

Paul’s way of responding is striking. He doesn’t name the man, or go into detail about his teachings. Instead, what Paul does is make a great deal about Christ and His salvation. He shows what a glorious Lord Jesus is, and what a great salvation Christ has accomplished (see all my online studies, starting here).

As promised last time, I want to do this same sort of thing in marking off genuine Christianity from false teachings. Get a hold of these points of distinction, and you’ll be prepared to resist error – or be delivered from the error that enslaves you.

1. Sound doctrine spotlights the person and work of Jesus Christ

This is a matter of emphasis. Christ saw all parts of the Old Testament as pointing to Him (Luke 24:27, 44) and said that the ministry of the Spirit would be to continue to glorify Him (John 16:14). Understood correctly, then, everything in the whole Bible tends to the glory of Jesus Christ, and to prompt us to center our lives around Him (Col. 2:6, 7, 10). False teaching always ends up focusing our attention elsewhere and has us chasing in a different direction.

2. Sound doctrine is based on the saving work of Christ, conveyed to us in the Gospel

It glories in every aspect of Christ’s work redeeming helpless, lost sinners (Romans 3—5; Ephesians 1—3; and on and on). Everything – whether issues of personal ethics, marriage, family, church life –is directly related to who Jesus is to us, and what Jesus has done for us (cf. Eph. 4:1—6:9). False teaching has little time for such matters, being obsessed instead with the esoteric, private experiences that only the false teacher and his movement has had or can provide.

3. Sound doctrine is really, really old

Age alone is no guarantee of truth. The germs of every heresy ever hatched were already prowling around in New Testament times. That said, two truths guide us: (1) our doctrine must be clearly taught in the Bible; and (2) someone must surely have seen something about it before today! The Bible contains every word we need from God. Believers have studied it closely for centuries. Is it possible that someone could catch something major that tradition blinded others to? Yes. But possible is not a synonym for likely! It is unlikely that an isolated, accountability-averse autodidact with his KJV will see what all his betters missed, despite their years of delving deep in the Hebrew and Greek texts. Spurgeon said a number of times, “There is nothing new in theology but that which is false.” The more I learn the Bible and history, the more I see this truth: every claim to a “new move of God” is probably neither new, nor of God. God said His last word to us long, long ago (Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:1-4). Continue reading

Protection from Deception

Text: Matthew 24:1-15

Deceived people, deceive people: Jesus made it clear that a key feature of the end times would be pervasive deception on a scale that if possible, would deceive even the elect. Thankfully, God has shown us how we can protect ourselves from this deception while remaining constantly vigilant as we pursue His truth.

Charismatics and the Word of Faith Movement

globe_azOn Saturday, March 28, I traveled to Globe, Arizona to attend the 2015 Bible Conference at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church. The theme was the truth about the Word of Faith Movement / Pentecostalism / Prophecy / Tongues, and Healing on demand. The Guest speakers were Phil Johnson and Justin Peters. It was a rich time together in the word of God and a real privilege to meet host Pastor John Skaggs and the kind people of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church. The teaching sessions were excellent. I recommend them highly:

Session 1: Phil Johnson: Why I am a Cessationist

Session 2: Phil Johnson: Beware the Greed Mongers: An expose of the Prosperity Doctrine

Session 3: Justin Peters: Clouds Without Water (1)

Session 4: Justin Peters: Clouds Without Water (2)

Session 5: Justin Peters: Clouds Without Water (3)

Session 6: Justin Peters: Clouds Without Water (4)

Taking Error Seriously

EdenJohn J. Murray C. H. Spurgeon concluded: ‘Modern criticism, like modern theology, is like the sirocco that blasts and burns; it is without dew or suction, it proves itself to be unblest of God and unblessing to men’. What can be said of the situation today?

WHERE WE ARE TODAY

1. NO PLACE FOR TRUTH.

There was a day when men believed there was such a thing as objective truth and believed that the truth could be stated in propositions, using human language and comprehensible to human minds. A sea-change has taken place in Western intellectual life. It is now argued that we can no longer speak of objective truth. Truth and falsehood have been replaced by what is ‘true for me’ or ‘true for you’. This has infiltrated the church, as has shown in David Wells’ book No Place For Truth, a work which charts the demise of evangelical theology in the United States. He said: ‘The emptiness of evangelical faith without theology echoes the emptiness of modern life’.

2. NO FEAR OF ERROR.

How can we profess to love God without loving his truth? Truth is the revelation of his nature, character and works. Horatius Bonar warned in his day:

The spirit of the age which makes light of error, as if it were not sin. Even some who call themselves Christians, have lost their dread of error, and are hurrying on from opinion to opinion, exulting in their freedom from old fetters and trammels, reckoning themselves peculiarly honest and unprejudiced. Alas for truth in such a case! How can it be reached? Alas for the love of truth! How can it exist where there is no fear of error?

3. NO EXERCISE OF DISCIPLINE.

Ministers and elders can hold the most outrageous views and no action is taken against them. Trials for heresy seem to have become a thing of the past. We are living in a day when such matters have ceased to concern the evangelical church. Professor Thomas C. Oden has said: ‘The very thought about asking about heresy has itself become the new heresy. The archheresiarch is the one who hints that some distinction might be needed between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong’.

WHAT WE MUST DO

1. WE MUST BE INTOLERANT OF A FALSE GOSPEL. Continue reading

The Two Religions

If you survey the religious landscape of modern culture, you will encounter an astonishingly diverse range of views. But beneath the surface, these seemingly disparate spiritualities share a common worldview, one that is radically opposed to the Christian faith. In the final analysis, there can be only two religions—worship of the Creator or worship of creation.

On September 30, in a Google Hangout, Dr. Peter Jones, the Executive Director of truthXchange, discussed his new Ligonier teaching series, Only Two Religions. You can watch this below.

Calling Out False Teachers

John Piper on the so called “Prosperity Gospel”:

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.
Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.

Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23-27).

My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.

Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?

4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.

Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.

Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?

5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.

The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?

6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.

Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?

7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.

The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:11-14).

What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.

Pastor John Piper

Rick Henderson has written an article denouncing influential TV preachers Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen as false teachers. Its important to know the issues involved.

Astrology

Astrology teaches that the position of the planets and stars at the instant a person is born determines personality and even spiritual disposition. It teaches that everything that happens in a person’s life is caused by the position of the planets and stars and that God is not in control of what happens on earth — it is predestined by the position of the planets and stars.

The Bible condemns astrology in no uncertain terms:

Stand now with your enchantments and the multitude of your sorceries, in which you have labored from your youth; perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you will prevail. You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from what shall come upon you. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame. (Isaiah 47:12-14)

Some quotes:

?”The good Christian should be aware of astrologers, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the astrologers have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of hell.” – Augustine of Hippo

“Esau and Jacob were born of the same father and mother, at the same time, and under the same planets, but their nature was wholly different. You would persuade me that astrology is a true science?” – Martin Luther

A Cult or a False Church?

Is the Coptic Orthodox Church a cult?

This is a Reformed Blog and so obviously, you will find a Reformed position outlined here. In Evangelical and Reformed circles historically, the word “cult” has denoted groups, organizations and churches that deny the catholic (or universal) creeds of the church concerning the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity – there is one God, eternally existent in three Divine Persons who are co-equal and co-eternal; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Protestant Reformers would not use the word “cult” to refer to the Roman Catholic Church because unlike the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and groups like them, the RCC does indeed affirm orthodox doctrine on the essentials mentioned above.

However, it must be said that no true Christianity can exist without the Gospel. The entire New Testament book of Galatians affirms this. Therefore, despite their orthodoxy on the doctrine of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Reformers would declare Rome to be a “false church” because of its strong denial and pronouncement of an anathema (eternal curse) on anyone who believes sola fide (justification by faith alone), which is of course, the very heart of the gospel of grace – justification being “the article upon which the church stands or falls” (Luther).

Let me therefore answer your question with a question – what is the official position of the Coptic Orthodox Church concerning the doctrines of the full humanity and full deity of Christ, the Trinity and justification by faith alone? Answer this clearly from their official documents, affirmations and declarations and you will have your answer. More than that, what is true concerning the Coptic Orthodox Church is true for any group or Church?

The Strategy of the Cults

Deceived people, or people you know and love. Every Jehovah’s Witness receives training for multiple hours each week on how to convert professing Christians into their fold.

Phil Johnson at the pyromaniac blog writes: Here’s a set of talking points the Jehovah’s Witnesses hand to their door-to-door teams to instruct them on how to foment doubt about the deity of Christ. Some lazy JW saw an article I wrote on the deity of Christ and as a kind of shorthand reply, he e-mailed me a copy of the handout he was given by his church.

I wonder how many evangelicals would be prepared to give an answer.

*The misspellings and typos in the document are all exactly as they appear in the original.

Good Points For Field Service

IF JESUS IS GOD

1. Why is he called the “firstborn” of all creation? Col. 1:15, Rev.3:14
2. Why did he say that he did not come of his “own initiative” but was sent? John 8:42, 1 John 4:9
3. Why did Jesus not know the “day and the hour” of the Great Tribulation but God did? Matt. 24:36
4. Who did Jesus speak to in prayer?
5. How did he “appear before the person of God for us”? Heb. 9.24
6. Why did Jesus say “the Father is greater than I am”? John 14:28, Php. 2:5, 6
7. Who spoke to Jesus at the time of his baptism saying “this is my son”? Matt. 3:17
8. How could he be exalted to a superior position? Php. 2:9, 10
9. How can he be the “mediator between God and man”? 1Tim. 2:5
10. Why did Paul say the “the head of Christ is God”? lCor. 11:30
11. Why did Jesus “hand over the Kingdom to his God” and “subject himself to God”? 1 Cor. 15:24, 28
12. Who does he refer to as “my God and your God”? John 20:17
13. How does he sit at God’s right hand? Ps. 110:1, Heb. 10:12, 13
14. Why does John say “no man has seen God at any time”? John 1:18
15. Why did not people die when they saw Jesus? Ex. 30:20
16. How was Jesus dead and God alive at the same time? Acts 2:24
17. Why did he need someone to save him? Heb. 5:7
18. Who is reffered to prophetically at Prov. 8:22-31?
19. Why did Jesus say “that all authority has been GIVEN to me in heaven and on earth”? Matt. 28.18, Dan. 7:13, 14 (similar)
20. Why did he have godly fear? Heb. 5:7
21. How could he learn obedience and be made perfect? Heb. 5:8-9
22. Why would an angel be able to strengthen him or angels minister to him? Luke 22:43, Matt. 4:11
23. Why would Satan try to tempt him if he KNEW that he was GOD? Matt. 4:1-11
24. Jesus when sent to the earth was made to “be Lower” than the angels. Heb. 2:7. How could any part of a God Head EVER be lower than the angels?
25. Then if Jesus was the sameas God, who was he being tempted to rebel against? could God be tempted to rebel against himself? Matt. 4:1
26. Near the end of his earthly life, Jesus cried out “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46 Can God desert or forsake himself?
27. Heb. 5:8 says that Jesus learned obedience! To whom would he obey if he was GOD? And Does God need to LEARN anything?
28. God’s justice is strickly perfect. Ex. 21:23-25 for example. The ransom price was one perfect human for another. An imperfect man’s life would be too low. Ps. 49:7 If Jesus was the same as God, the ransom price paid by a God would have been too high. Adam was a perfect MAN and the ransome price was a perfect MAN, not higher nor lower.

“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..” – 1 Peter 3:15