A Call to Discernment

Take a minute and log into Facebook, and scroll through your news feed. There are so many people sharing so many things that are blatantly wrong. Like gargling Clorox to cure Coronavirus?! So many people are neglecting to check the validity of what they share — or of what they believe. This careless behavior often leads people into making bad decisions about their health and finances and relationships. And more devastating than all is that this is happening within Christianity, about matters of the soul.

So What?

“We can’t afford to get fundamental doctrines wrong. To worship the wrong God is idolatry. To preach the wrong gospel is heresy. To believe the wrong gospel is apostasy. That’s why the inerrancy of Scripture is so important. God’s self-disclosure about Himself, and how sinful men can be reconciled to Him, needs to be accurate—the stakes are simply too high for those of us who live under Adam’s curse.” – John MacArthur

While indiscriminately spreading political lies or COVID-19 misinformation is certainly dangerous…spreading heresy and false gospels is infinitely worse. It doesn’t just lead to physical issues. It can lead to spiritual death and eternal separation from God. 

1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We need to make sure we are not indiscriminately believing every teacher who pops up with a funny sermon or engaging service. We need to test the spirits, and make sure what we reading and believing lines up with God’s word.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

Knowing the Truth

My dad once told me that the best way to recognize a counterfeit dollar bill is to become familiar with an authentic dollar. Then when I see a counterfeit, I will know, because I know what a real one looks and feels like. The same principle can be applied to faith. If we become familiar with Biblical truths, it becomes easier to recognize the lies.

To set a solid foundation, here are 8 things the Bible teaches about God, mankind, and salvation. 

  1. The Bible is God’s completed revelation to man and is totally inerrant. Matthew 5:18, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Proverbs 30:5-6, Psalm 119:89 
  2. God is One in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 3:16-17,2 Corinthians 13:14, John 10:30, Matthew 28:19
  3. God alone is holy, all-powerful, and all-knowing. There is none like Him. Exodus 15:11, 1 Samuel 2:2, 1 Peter 1:16, Hebrews 7:26, Revelation 15:4
  4. Mankind is sinful, and no amount of good deeds can cancel out our sin. Romans 3:10-23, 1 Kings 8:46, 1 John 1:8, Ecclesiastes 7:20
  5. Sin demands a penalty of death and eternal separation from God in hell. Romans 6:23, Matthew 25:46, Romans 5:12, 2 Thessalonians 1:9
  6. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by sacrificing Himself on the cross. Romans 5:8, John 3:16, John 14:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18
  7. Salvation is by God’s grace on the basis of Jesus Christ’s redemption. Ephesians 2:8-9, John 1:12, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 3:20, Romans 3:26
  8. A sinner, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, repents and responds in faith. Roman 10:9, Luke 13:3-5, Acts 4:12, Romans 10:10, Acts 17:30, John 10:9

Galatians 1:8-9

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

Contrasting the Lie with the Truth

The most important thing is to always be firmly rooted in the Word of God. Then everything we hear and read can be compared to what God has said.

Here are some common (false) teachings out there. Take a look at what each doctrine teaches, and how it contradicts God’s Word:

False DoctrineWhat the Bible Says
Kenosis: Jesus was not God while on earth.Jesus, was, is, and always will be God: John 1:1, John 5:18, John 8:58, John 10:30, John 20:28, Colossians 1:19, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 13:8, Titus 2:13
Osteenism: Most often referred to as the Prosperity Gospel. Health, wealth, and prosperity are promises of salvation or obedience.Jesus died to save us from our sins, not so we can live our “best lives now.” Wealth is never promised, and in fact, the Bible condemns the pursuit of wealth. Matt. 6:19–24, Mark 10:17–25, Luke 12:13–15, Luke 12:16–21, 1 Tim. 6:5, 1 Tim. 6:9–11, Hebrews 13:5 
Prayer Circles: Based on Jewish legends from the Talmud and seen in Pagan rituals and mysticism, this teaches that if you draw a circle and pray inside it you will access special blessings from God. This is basically incorporating witchcraft into church.Scripture in no way teaches or encourages (or even references) prayer circles — but these types of circles have been widely used in Pagan and ancient witchcraft rituals. If you want to learn about these circles, ask a Wiccan, not a Christian.
Retanism: Jesus had to be born again.Jesus is God and therefore had no need to be, nor was He, born again: John 1:1, John 5:18, John 8:58, John 10:30, John 20:28, Colossians 1:19, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 13:8, Titus 2:13, Mark 1:24
Peccability: The teaching that Jesus sinned while on earth.Jesus is God and therefore perfect, and lead a completely sinless life: Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5, John 19:4, Isaiah 53:9, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Mark 1:24, Hebrews 7:26
Modalism: Denial of the Trinity, and therefore a denial of who God is.God is One, existing in three persons  — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: Genesis 1:1-2, 1 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 3:17, 2 Corinthians 13:14, John 1:14, John 10:30, John 14:16-17, 1 John 5:7-8, John 14:9-11, Luke 1:35, Matthew 3:16-17, Matthew 28:19, Romans 14:17-18, Luke 3:21-22, 1 Peter 1:1-2, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 4:4-6
Montanism: Scripture is incomplete and insufficient, and new prophecy is being given regularly. Montanists believed that true Christianity depends on a mystical experience rather than by what is revealed in God’s word.The Bible is complete, perfect, and sufficient. Truth for salvation and godliness are found in, and only in, Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Joshua 1:7-8, Proverbs 30:5-6, John 12:47-50, Revelation 22:18-29, Galatians 1:6-9, Romans 7:12, Matthew 5:18, Matthew 24:25, Psalm 119:89, 1 Peter 1:24-25  
Kenyonism: Also known as Word-Faith or Little God Theology, teaches that our words have supernatural power and we can speak things into existence like God did.There is no other God but the Lord Almighty. We are only humans saved by His grace. Hebrews 11:13, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 45:5, Ezekial 28:2, 1 Timothy 6:5, 1 Tim 6:6-10

Matthew 7:15

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

Avoiding the Wolves

False teachers do a great job drawing in the masses and appealing to our senses. They say a lot of the right things that can easily lull us into a false sense of security. In a lot of cases, their theology appears so close to the truth that it almost looks legitimate. However, a closer look shows they are preaching a gospel that doesn’t save.

Now, making a mistake or misunderstanding in the Bible doesn’t make someone a heretic. What we all need to watch out for is people willfully spreading false gospels. The ones that refuse to repent when they are confronted with the truth.

Here are a few widely-followed teachers that are spreading serious heresies despite being presented with the truth and having every opportunity to repent:

False TeacherTheir Church or MinistryTheir False Beliefs
Bill JohnsonBethel Church, Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.Kenosis 
Osteenism 
Retanism 
Kenyonism
Montanism
Brian HoustonHillsong ChurchOsteenism
Kenyonism
Joel OsteenLakewood ChurchOsteenism
Kenyonism
Joyce MeyerJoyce Meyer MinistriesKenosis
Retanism
Kenyonism
Montanism
Mark BattersonNational Community ChurchPrayer Circles 
Kenyonism
Montanism
Steven FurtickElevation ChurchModalism
Peccability
TD JakesThe Potter’s HouseModalism 
Osteenism
Kenyonism

2 Timothy 2:3-4

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Now What?

You don’t know what you don’t know…but now you know a few things to keep an eye out for.

Now, to reiterate, making a mistake or misunderstanding something in the Bible doesn’t make someone a heretic. Even the most godly pastor is bound to slip up at some point. That’s just a part of the human condition. The real difference is how they handle it when it when errors are brought to their attention. Do they repent and recant, or do they willfully continue to teach things that contradict God’s word?

I implore you to make sure that every teacher you follow is lining up with Scripture, and changing gears when they make mistakes and are exposed to the truth. Make sure the teachers you faithfully preaching God’s truth, and that what you are sharing will draw people closer to Christ and not be a stumbling block.

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