The New "How To" Christianity
"... the goal of Christian mission is not success, but faithful witness; not power, but proclamation; not technique, but truth; not method, but message." - Michael Horton, Power Religion, Moody Press, pg. 15
The apologetics premise I am using, indeed the apologetics premise all true believers in Christ use, is the Word of God, the Scriptures, sola Scriptura. The authority of Scriptures in the life of the believer cannot be superseded by anything else. Not by words of prophecy, not by signs and wonders, not by experience, and certainly not by pragmatic Christian "How To" manuals. Pragmatism is defined as: the doctrine that the meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences. One of the underlying beliefs of those who practice pragmatic Christianity is that the end justifies any means to get there. If the means is not getting you to the end, then the means are therefore not working and bad. C. Peter Wagner stated this in a book on Church Growth way back in 1976:
"... we ought to see clearly that the end DOES justify the means. What else possible could justify theYet we see by Biblical examples that the goal of the early church was not to grow huge churches but to be sure the Gospel and sound doctrine were preached. The Apostles were looking for quality, not quantity (Eph. 4). But the Church Growth movement that is being promoted by people like Rick Warren of Saddleback, Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral, Paul Yonggi Cho and others is teaching much of the Church today to be more concerned with an end result of big numbers than an end result of mature Christians (Heb. 5). So therefore the means used differ dramatically from the means of the Apostles in the first century church.
means? If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good
method. If, on the other hand, my method is not accomplishing the goal, how can I be justified in
continuing to use it?" (C. Peter Wagner, "Your Church Can Grow - Seven Vital Signs Of A Healthy
Church", 1976, pg. 137. - emphasis in original)
Just to let you know the character of these men, Yonggi Cho was just here at the HIM conference in February 2004 as one of the keynote speakers. Many people liked what he said but they were unaware that he lied. He said that in 45 years of ministry he has never had a vision or dream apart from the Bible. This is from a man who saw a vision of Jesus Christ who came to him in a fireman's hat and who told him later that he was to change his name from Paul to David Yonggi Cho, denoting that he was to be a king-like figure in Christianity. He has also promoted visions and dreams as far back as 25 years ago in his book "Fourth Dimension" which was endorsed by Robert Schuller and is a manual on the Word-Faith concept of the "force of faith" and creating reality with your words. Cho's entire church of 700,000+ members was built on a vision.
Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life" is making the rounds of practically every church, going through his "church growth" programs. But this is a man who, when interviewed by USA Today regarding his "Purpose Driven" seminars, made these statements:
Warren is part of the ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention, and all his senior staff sign on to the SBC's doctrines, such as the literal and infallible Bible and exclusion of women as senior pastors. Yet Warren's pastor-training programs welcome Catholics, Methodists, Mormons, Jews and ordained women. "I'm not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won't try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?" he asks, citing as his model Billy Graham, "a statesman for Christ ministering across barriers." ("This evangelist has a 'Purpose'", by Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY, 7/21/2003)So apparently Rick Warren's methods work just as well for cults and other religions, and he is happy to teach them how to build their organizations. Warren doesn't want to get into a debate over what they believe. I could give you many more examples, but suffice it to say that the churches are now taking the advice of liars and heretics over the word of God.
Christians are clearly commanded to follow the example of Paul and Apollos in not going beyond the written revelation of Scripture.
1 Cor. 4:6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.
The Word, who is Jesus Christ incarnate, is our authority in this age, as the prophets were in ages past.
Heb. 1:1-2 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
Jesus Himself is the Word.
Jn 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
Yet, as an example for us, Jesus Christ used the Scriptures to rebuke Satan three times when He was tempted in the wilderness, thereby dispelling any arguments against the authority of the written Word of God.
Mt. 4:4,7,10 Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" ... Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" ... Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
Therefore we can conclude that all believers in Christ must submit to the absolute authority of the Word in all matters of faith and practice. Our final authority is the Scriptures and everything we believe and do must be laid down on the anvil of truth and hammered by God's Word and tested (Jer. 23:29). We are not to just make up doctrines and methods beyond the objectives and precepts of the written Word (1 Tim. 6:3-5) or bring strange fire before the Lord our God (Lev. 10:1), but are to abide by His commands (1 Jn. 2:3) and submit to Him in obedience (Heb. 5:8-10). The teaching and examples in Scripture, the Word and the Testimony (Is. 8:20), must be followed. Anything that adds to or takes away from Scripture (Rev. 22:18-19) must be abandoned because there are dire consequences from going beyond what is written. The Bible is our guard and guide. True believers do not twist or distort the Word of God for their own purposes.
2 Cor. 4:2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
This is the premise for this sermon. Every new pragmatic teaching mentioned, and there are countless others I could cite, will be compared to the Word of God. It will be demonstrated that the new Third Wave pragmatism is not only going beyond what is written, but has much in common with sorcery and witchcraft, which the Word of God expressly forbids.
"How To" Pray Deliverance Prayers - C. Peter Wagner, John Dawson, George Otis, Jr., et al
These kinds of prayers such as binding demons, wiping out past memories, instantaneously eliminating bondage to addictions, healing of memories, etc. have become popular in recent times. Entire seminars are built around teaching people how to pray some kind of "effective" prayer to get the desired result they want and think is appropriate for their lives. Of course, as luck would have it, seminars, books, and tapes raise tons of money too. There is nothing wrong with model prayers, as long as they remain biblical. Jesus Christ Himself gave us probably the ultimate model prayer in what is called the "Lord's Prayer" but should more properly be called the "Disciples Prayer".
Matt. 6: 9-13 "This, then, is how you should pray: "`Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'
There are also many types of prayers taught and demonstrated in the Word. Here is a list of some of them:
Pray for the people of your nation (Num 21:7)These are all Scriptural prayers. However, when prayers are given in books, seminars, articles and tapes that (1) guarantee a certain result (2) claim to empower the one who prays them to be able to create the reality of their request with their words (3) order God to fill a request by "commanding", "summoning" or invoking the names of God ... these types of prayers are not consistent with the Word of God. Guaranteeing a result based on commanding God by speaking certain words of power is clearly sorcery and not Christianity. This is the "force of faith" false doctrine of the Word-Faith Movement through people like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Paul Yonggi Cho and numerous others featured regularly on Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Pray for your city (Jer 29:7)
Pray for peace in Jerusalem (Ps 122:6)
Pray for your persecutors (Mat 5:43-44; Luke 6:28)
Pray for children (Mat 19:13)
Pray for escape from judgment (Luke 21:36)
Pray you will not fall into temptation (Luke 22:40)
Pray for Christians (Job 17:9; 1 Thes 5:25; Heb 13:18)
Pray for boldness in proclaiming the gospel and for God to do miracles in people's lives (Acts 4:29-31)
Pray all the time, be alert, pray for the saints (Eph 6:18)
Pray for fearless preaching (Eph 6:20)
Pray to be filled with the knowledge of His will (Col 1:9)
Pray for open doors for the gospel (Col 4:3)
Pray that the Word of God may be glorified (2 Thes 3:1)
Pray for deliverance from evil men (2 Thes 3:2)
Pray for everyone, kings, authorities, peace, quiet, godliness, holiness (1 Tim 2:1,2)
Pray for life for dead sinners (1 John 5:16)
But the Bible is clear that God Himself did not use some mythical "force of faith", as taught by people like Cho, to create the world but did so by His word (1 Pet. 3:5), His power (Is. 20:46), and by His will (Rev. 4:11). We do not command God but we may ask, seek and knock (Matt. 7:7) if we do so according to His will (1 Jn. 5:14) as long as His words remain in us (John 15:7). We do not believe in ordering God to do our bidding like Balaam attempted to do on behalf of Balak (Num. 22:8, 2 Pet. 2:15, Jude 1:11). That is sorcery, one of the sins for which Balaam was judged, and is something that God strictly forbids (Duet. 18:10, Gal. 5:19-21). We always pray "Thy will be done" just as Jesus, John, David, Peter, Paul, James and even the Holy Spirit did (Matt. 6;10,26:42; Luke 11:2; 1 John 2:17,5:14,15; Ps. 40:8; Heb. 10:7; Rom. 8;27; 1 Pet. 3:17; Col. 1:9; James 4:13-16).
"How To" Heal - Happy Hunters, Charles Kraft, John Wimber, et al
There are so many seminars and materials out there on steps to take in healing people today. It is interesting that all these materials go well beyond the simple instructions of James.
Jas 5:14-15 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
Jesus also went out of His way to demonstrate a lack of pragmatism in the accounts of His healings. The fact of the matter is, He rarely healed anyone the same way twice! If there were some kind of magical formula, some format, some incantation we needed to use, surely Jesus would have done it over and over again so we could learn from Him. But Jesus did not. Let's look to see if there is any "method" Jesus used that will work for us today if we just parrot His actions, or say His exact words. We'll just examine one problem ... blindness.
Blind People Healed By Jesus
Matt. 9:27-30 Touched their eyes "According to your faith will it be done for you"
Matt. 15:30 Laid at Jesus feet None
Matt. 20:30-34 Touched their eyes No words recorded during or after healing
Matt. 8;22-26 Spat on eyes, touched eyes twice "Do you see anything?" - "Don't go into the village."
Mark 10:46-52 None "Go, your faith has healed you."
John 9:1-7 Spat on ground, made mud, put "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
it in the man's eyes, told him to
wash in Pool of Siloam
Is there any pragmatic method in the way Jesus healed blindness? Did Jesus repeat any magical secret incantations? Is there a pattern here we are supposed to follow as Christians, assuming the gift of healing is still active today? (God obviously heals people sovereignly, but I have my questions about "faith healers") If what Jesus did is supposed to be a manual for healing the blind, He sure made the method very obscure. Could this be because there is no method?
Jesus is God. He can heal anyone any way. Jesus needs no words or actions to heal. As a man He was simply living in obedience to the will of the Father. I do believe that His actions in healing the blind as well as all his other healings are clear on one point. There is no pragmatic method. Any healing from God is based purely on the will of God.
Today, as followers of Christ, we can anoint the sick with oil and pray for their healing. It is up to God whether He will choose to heal or allow sickness to continue for His own purposes. And lest you think that being sick cannot be in the will of God, consider that people in Galatia were saved because God allowed Paul to continue in sickness.
Gal. 4:13-14 As you know, it was because of
an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my
illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an
angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.
The Word of God is a complete manual on healing. It is also a complete manual on enduring trials.
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the
testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and
complete, not lacking anything.
Heb. 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his
Throw away your healing manuals, your Christian spell books, your conference tapes filled with the teachings of men and go back to the Word of God! Otherwise, be prepared to face the consequences of doing what you want to do and have to hear the rebuke of the Lord at the end.
Matt. 7:22-23 Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
"How To" Be Delivered - Cleansing Stream, etc.
Some excellent articles have been written showing the unbiblical teachings of the newest wind of doctrine to hit the "Church" called "Cleansing Stream". Read The Cleansing Stream - Warning! Contaminated Water! by Tom Launder, 8/00. Also please read Is Jesus Cleansing His Church With "Cleansing Stream"? by Mike Oppenheimer, 8/00 This program was mandated at New Hope churches on this island, and is being used all over the place. But what Cleansing Stream fails to deal with is the victory we already have over sin and death through Jesus Christ.
What I want to bring out about "Cleansing Stream" is that this course seems to be upstaging and even usurping the power of the Gospel message.
Rom. 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Everyone who truly believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is fully delivered from the law of sin when they believe.
Rom. 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
We then must continue in the faith, standing firm and putting on the armor of God against the devil's schemes.
Eph. 6:11-18 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Once we have placed our full trust and faith in Jesus Christ to save us by grace alone, we must stand firm in that faith because the enemy will continue to attack us. Satan can and does attack Christians and we will never be free of those attacks and his temptations as long as we are living in this body. But we are free from sin because of the imputed righteousness of Christ when we stand in faith. We need to "put on" or clothe ourselves in that faith, truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the Word, in prayer always. The issue is one of faith, not of binding Satan or getting rid of any possibility of demonization. Like it or not the enemy will be with us until he is bound by the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly millennial reign for a thousand years and finally done away with for good on judgment day.
Satan bothered Paul throughout his ministry (2 Cor. 2:7, 1 Thes. 2:18). He can bother believers and non-believers alike. The extent to which he can do so is a matter of debate, but consider these passages of Scripture that show that believers can be troubled in diverse ways by the enemy.
Job 1:8-9; 2:3; 2:7; 1 Sam. 16:14-16, 18:10, 19:9; Matt. 15:22-28; Matt. 16:22-23; Mark 1:23; Luke 9:52-56; Luke 13:11-16; John 6:70-71, 13:27; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 8:9-24; 1 Cor 5:1-5; 1 Cor. 10:12-14; 2 Cor 2:10-11; 2 Cor. 11:3-4; 2 Cor. 12:7; Gal. 3:1; Eph. 4:25-27; 1 Thes. 2:18; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 1 Tim. 3:6-7; 1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; 1 Pet. 5:8-9
The point is that, though a Christian can be attacked by the enemy, it does not mean he can be defeated if he stands in faith. Nothing can defeat those who stand in faith!
1 Pet. 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
We cannot bind Satan. Only Christ will do that when He returns for His millenial kingdom on earth. Demons can be cast out of people, but we can never be completely free from their attacks in this life. Temptations and trials are allowed by God to build us up in our faith, to develop perseverance.
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The issue is not some kind of permanent deliverance from the temptations and attacks of the enemy. Sometimes demonic attacks are tests of our faith and God can turn them around to our ultimate good in Christ! The bottom line issue is whether or not we will stand in faith. Some will and some will not. The only way to take oneself out from under the protection of God is to turn away and follow the enemy, to shrink back and be destroyed, to not hold on to faith and be shipwrecked.
1 Tim. 5:15 Some have in fact already turned
away to follow Satan.
Heb 10:39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
1Ti 1:19 holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.
Faith is the issue, not permanent deliverance from the schemes of the evil one. We can always pray for deliverance from evil (Mt. 6:13) but that does not guarantee that we will be delivered because sometimes God has an agenda for the deliverance of others through our sufferings, or perhaps our spiritual deliverance through persecution, or some other plan entirely through trials and attacks of the enemy (Job 1:21, 2 Cor. 12:7). Through it all we are simply called to place our faith and our fate in God's hands. Ultimately that kind of trust pays off because no one, not even the enemy, can snatch a person from the hand of God (John 10:28).
Again we find that we need no other manual than the Word of God with regard to salvation or deliverance from evil. Methods of deliverance, if not based on the Word and the Testimony, are not only useless, they can be dangerous faith destroyers.
"How To" Cast Out Demons - Bob Larson, et al
Casting out of demons is clearly not based on the exactitude of the words used, information gleaned from interviewing demonized individuals, or certain special techniques. It is true that demons only recognize one name under heaven. That name is Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:10). Even the angels do not dare rebuke the enemy, but rather say "The Lord rebuke you" (Jude 1:9). But it is not even the use of the name Jesus Christ that gets demons to quit demonizing an individual. The real power is in the relationship of the person to Jesus Christ who has all power to send demons where He wills, not in someone's use of the name(s) of the Lord.
Acts 19:15 One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?"
There are no methods, no human devices, no formulas that can substitute for a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The seven sons of Sceva found that out pretty quickly. Simon Magus also found that out when he wanted the "ability" to impart the Holy Spirit and do signs and wonders. His heart was not right with the Lord (Acts 8:21). He was lacking the relationship.
Jesus also did not cast out demons using any standard technique or mystical words. One time he asked for a name from a demonized person, not because He did not know the demon's name but because He was exposing that there was more than one demon in the man (Mark 3:9). He told another demon to come out and never to return (Mark 9:25). He told some to be quiet (Luke 4:35). The disciples never used techniques and methods but simply said "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out ..." (Acts 16:18). Again, this was not a function of the words but of their relationship to the One who has the power, Jesus Christ. There are dire consequences for those who think that words alone will protect them without a relationship to Jesus Christ (Acts 19:13-16). It is very dangerous to attempt to cast out demons based on the methods of people like Bob Larson. Pragmatism is no substitute for relationship, and relationship is the only thing that matters.
"How To" Claim Wealth And Health - Word-Faith Movement
Nothing is more despicable than the "name it and claim it" Prosperity doctrines that have made a home in many churches in this decade. The claims that Jesus Christ was rich, Judas was handling large sums of money, and that every Christian should therefore be well-to-do are simply not to be found in Scripture and are ludicrous beyond belief.
Excuse me while I lapse into a bit of sarcasm on this subject ...
Whatever happened to selling everything, whether materially or in some other way giving up what has become idolatry to us, and following Jesus? (Mark 10:21) Or was that just advice for one man and, if so, why him and not the rest of us? I guess it doesn't matter that the disciples were actually recorded as being poor (Mark 6:8) and that Jesus was poor and homeless (Matt. 8:20). Apparently today we need not worry that for a rich man it is, for all intents and purposes, impossible to enter the kingdom of heaven without a miracle of God (Matt. 19:24). We live in New Testament times so none of those nasty things Jesus said about choosing which master to serve apply to us. The thought that the Apostles were self-supporting, not making money from their ministry (no book sales, videos, expensive seminars) is just so archaic (2 Thes. 3:7-8). If those silly Apostles hadn't wasted their time making negative declarations like the kind they did they probably would never have been persecuted and martyred and the Church would have grown a lot faster. Good thing we have the new "super-apostles" to let us in on these better ways of doing things. I'm so glad we no longer need to worry about being the "servant of all" to be on top of the Christian food chain (Mark 9:35). Big hair accompanied by a huge ego works a lot better on TV. Times have changed. The old Gospel is out, the new gospel is in. Why read the Bible at all?Now that I am done with my tirade, there is the other demonic part of the "name it and claim it" that is basically outright sorcery. Taking a page directly from witchcraft books, Christians today are being told to just say what you want and if you believe it enough you can create reality with your words. "You are a little god" say people like Benny Hinn, so you too can use the force of faith to create just like God did when He created you. The problem with this new doctrine is that it runs smack dab into the problem of submission to the will of God (Matt. 6:10, 26:42). As previously discussed, we may ask, seek, knock but always in His will and as a result of His words remaining in us and our faith not wavering (James 4:3, 1 Jn. 5;14, Jn. 15:7, Mark 11:24). One of the major tenants of witchcraft for centuries has been the search for "secret knowledge" and the speaking of magical words which purport to create reality. This doctrine of "name it and claim it" is nothing more than white witchcraft in Christian garb. We can name it, but we only claim it if God wills. Don't you think that is actually a better arrangement anyway? How many times have you wanted something that turned out to not be what you really needed?
The new "How To" version of Christianity may be meeting people's "felt needs" but it is not meeting God's criteria of obedience to His Word. Remember, God is not looking for sacrifice but for obedience.
1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.Jesus Christ already paid the ultimate price in His sacrifice on the cross. He doesn't want our works, our sweat, our strength, our plans, our programs, our schemes. He wants our obedience. When you walk away from obedience to God's Word, the way some of those I have named are doing, John says you prove you do not love the Lord.
1 John 2:3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.My advice is to stay away from famous teachers on TBN and get deep into God's Word, for only by obedience to God's Word will we be saved from the apostacy that is already in the churches.
1 John 3:24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
1 John 5:3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,