Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Look out for false apostles (2)

Bible Readings

  • Luke 21:5-11
  • 2Timothy 3:1-9

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,

A friend of mine, then a new Christian, returned from morning worship where the sermon was about false prophets.  He settled for a cup of coffee with his wife when the doorbell rang.  His visitors asked if he would want to know more about the end times.  Of course, he was interested, especially him being new to the faith, wanting to know about the return of Christ.  But just to be sure, he asked them if they believe that Jesus Christ is God, the eternal Son of the Father who came into the world to atone for the sins of the lost.  They said they believed Christ was a mighty prophet but that they do not believe that He was God.  That alarmed my friend, who asked them to leave.

Joining his wife for the coffee, she asked what the visitors were on about.   He replied, “I suppose we’re certainly living in last days; the false prophet is already knocking on my door!” 

The purpose of this sermon today is to help you understand the danger of people, theologians and ministers, who present a new form of reformation, downgrading the authority of the Scriptures.

Open rebellion against God, his Son and the Bible

False religion is known by its message: the message is the words of man.  As such, they are just like the false prophets of the Old Testament.  

The coming of a radical reformation 

When you hear someone saying,  “We should give Jesus a demotion. It is no longer credible to think of Jesus as divine. Jesus’ divinity goes together with the old theistic way of thinking about God”, you know you have to do with a false prophet.

These are the words of Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar who wrote “The Coming Radical Reformation”.   The goal of the Jesus Seminar was to review each of the sayings and deeds attributed to Jesus in the gospels and determine which are authentic.  Here are a few of 21 theses by Funk:  

  • The God of the metaphysical age is dead. There is not a personal god out there external to human beings and the material world.  
  • The doctrine of the atonement—the claim that God killed his own son in order to satisfy his thirst for satisfaction—is sub-rational and sub-ethical. This monstrous doctrine is the stepchild of a primitive sacrificial system.  
  • The resurrection of Jesus did not involve the resuscitation of a corpse. Jesus did not rise from the dead, except perhaps in some metaphorical sense.  
  • The Bible does not contain fixed, objective standards of behaviour that should govern human behaviour for all time. This includes the ten commandments as well as the admonitions of Jesus.

One of the members of the Jesus Seminar, bishop Selby Spong joins in by stating,  

“The Bible has lost every major battle it has ever fought. The Bible was quoted to defend slavery and the Bible lost. The Bible was quoted to keep women silent, and the Bible lost. And the Bible is being quoted to deny homosexuals their equal rights, and the Bible will lose.”   

About the Bible he further says, 

“I could not believe that anyone who has read this book would be so foolish as to proclaim that the Bible in every literal word was the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God.”   

About the cross of Christ, he says, 

“The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.”

A fellow of the Jesus Seminar, Dr Francis MacNab, was an ordained minister of the Uniting Church at the time when he said:  The old faith is in large sections unbelievable. We want to make the new faith more believable, realistic and helpful in terms of the way people live.  So, he launched a $120,000 advertising campaign to propagate the new faith, and declared:  “The Ten Commandments, [is] one of the most negative documents ever written.” He described Moses as a mass murderer, Abraham as concocted and Jesus as a Jewish peasant who is certainly not God.  The Uniting Church strangely did not discipline MacNab because no formal complaint had been received; so, he remained minister till 2016 when he retired.  Dr MacNab became a member of the Order of Australia for his contributions to psychotherapy and religion.

Statements like these are not only shocking but also blasphemous.  Although it promised something new, a coming radical reformation, it presented nothing more than another idea.  It outright rejects the authority of the Bible.

A church-like movement

It is sometimes a bit harder to see the false prophet when it does not come so direct and upfront like the Jesus Seminar.  When a movement comes to you and says they are really set against stale traditional churches, with its absolute structure, style of worship and time-frozen culture where there are no personal relationships and a genuine expression of warm Christian care—or the word might be “authentic”—you would find it hard to disagree with them.  But it is sometimes just here where you need to ask about their strategies to change things.

Emergent Church

Another new thing on the religious scene is the Emergent church.  It is sometimes hard to distinguish between this and another, the Emerging church. 

Most of its members are unsatisfied with what they term “organised religion” and the “institutional” church and are trying to reinvent the church from within.  Biblical models for church discipline, church government, the sacraments, and church offices are being ignored which as a consequence allows for ongoing, unrepentant sin to exist within the church.  There is more often than not a blatant absence of the sacraments, which they describe as hangovers from the Roman Catholic Church.  

Because those in the emergent church movement are so heavily influenced by post-modernism, theologians of the Emergent church sometimes fail to nail down exclusive truth.  In some churches the inerrancy of the Word of God, the Bible, is not upheld.  The Emerging Church is a place where people have felt the freedom to explore questions and experiment with new forms of lifestyle and corporate practice.  The term “seeker-sensitive” can be applied to the emergent church, purely because absolute truth can offend people:  you cannot proclaim the truths of the Scripture as absolute truth, because it will offend those who do not know the background—they will just walk out again.  

Emerging Church members believe it is first of all necessary to establish relationships with people, going where they are, meeting them on their level, and only later presenting doctrinal truths after they have become part of their lives.  But the problem is that the gospel becomes stripped of the necessity of a Savior because it frequently fails to define sin, repentance, confession, church discipline, and fruits showing regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

The single greatest concern is their attitude towards doctrine. They don’t believe that truth itself is an objective propositional thing that has a yes and a no. Nothing is ever either/or, good or bad, right or wrong, ugly or beautiful. It’s all vague.  

Brian McLaren, one of the people associated with the Emergent Church writes,

“The church latched on to that old doctrine of original sin like a dog to a stick, and before you knew it, the whole gospel got twisted around it. Instead of being God’s big message of saving love for the whole world, the gospel became a little bit of secret information on how to solve the pesky legal problem of original sin.”

Once again we have poor and low esteem of the Bible as authoritative Word of God.  

A brand-new reformation like the world has not seen

When people come to you with an earnest desire to see the Kingdom of God grow to be seen in all human institutions; when they say that prayer is an effective weapon and strategy to achieve this goal; when they say we need to become more proactive in marches against abortion and other moral issues; things get all the harder to know if there might be some false prophet lurking behind the good sounding words and intentions.

New Apostolic Reformation

Leaders in the NAR believe that God has restored the offices of apostle and prophet, along with the others mentioned in Ephesians 4.  But the main offices are the apostles and the prophets.

Leaders teach that the proper church government—headed by living apostles and prophets has been restored.  Both prophets and apostles in the NAR movement can give new divine revelation. They receive new revelation and instruct their followers on how to properly respond to the new revelation.  What is interesting is that NAR prophets are not expected to be 100% accurate in their predictions. They still can be considered legitimate prophets even when they make errors!  

The task of the apostles and prophets is to implement dominion of the earth.  This is a redefined gospel in contrast to the gospel of salvation from sin.  Angus Buchan (known for his book “Faith Like Potatoes”) regularly attract hundreds of thousands of people to his rallies, with the main drive to recapture the political and social institutions into the kingdom of Christ.  His meetings consist more of binding demons, pronouncing curses, and the like—but of the old-time revival preaching, where people are called to repentance to Christ, not much happens.

Because the apostles and prophets claim that it is God’s desire for the church to take dominion of the earth in preparation for His return. This task will be accomplished with the help of miraculous powers wielded by the under the leadership of apostles and prophets.  They propagate a “seven mountain mandate”:  taking control of the seven most institutions in society—government, media, family, business/finance, education, church/religion, and arts/entertainment.  

This is not much different from the worldview of the Roman Church, with the Pope as the sole representative of Christ; the only difference being that apostles and prophets are in control.  Islam califs have the same thing in mind:  sharia law must rule every aspect of life.  If the NAR has this in mind it is surely a very dangerous pathway.

The Biblical understanding has never been that the church should take the place of governments, and never for governments to rule over the church.   

Once this is achieved before Christ returns, God will transfer control of the world’s wealth from the hands of the wicked to the hands of the NAR apostles. The church will then have the financial resources it will need to establish God’s earthly kingdom.  

The apostles, the prophets and their followers will develop vast supernatural powers and will perform miracles that will surpass those performed by the biblical apostles and prophets and even those performed by Jesus during his earthly ministry.  These miracles will include healing every single person inside hospitals and mental institutions simply by laying their hands on the buildings and having command of the laws of nature, including gravity.  People who continue to receive the new revelation given by the apostles and prophets will gain more and more supernatural powers until they eventually become “manifest sons of God.”  

The NAR movement has its own global television network, called GOD TV which broadcasts to more than 200 nations. Trinity Broadcasting Network  (TBN)— the world’s largest religious television network — regularly features the teachings of NAR apostles and prophets.

And you may ask:  what’s false about it?  One short answer:  the low value they put on the authority of the Scriptures.  To succeed, the NAR needs to rely on revelations—something which is an addition to the Word of God, even if the prophets are sometimes wrong.  People are not saved from sin through miracles, but by the power of the Gospel through the Holy Spirit.  

It is further not for the church to take over governments and financial institutions.

The big problem is:  who gives these apostles and prophets authority?  Are they elected or self-appointed?  Are they under any form of accountability?  Can they be disciplined?  Can they be opposed?  Or will it just be another form of the papal system?  

If this is the case, run for your life.

Run to Christ, run to the Word, run for the grace of Christ who saves. Run the race till the end, even in the face of oppression.  That’s the calling of the Gospel.  

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 7 April 2019

 

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Watch our for false prophets (1)

Scripture Readings

  • Matthew 7:15-23
  • Matthew 24:1-14

Introduction

My dear friends in Christ,

On one of my mission trips into the outback of New South Wales, a pastor-friend tagged along for the experience.  Fortunately, shearing was on, so to a large extent, the shearing quarters were relatively clean and rid of spiders and snakes.

We took a shower, and I heard him say, “Man, o man, o man!”  I thought he just appreciated the hot water.  “If you should see the electrical connects above my head!”, he exclaimed.  “If any inspector saw this, he will close down the whole joint!”

Russel had been a trained and certified electrical engineer before entering the ministry. 

Our farmer friend got his electric supply going, but he was oblivious to the danger of his connections. It takes someone with knowledge to see the risks.

Some self-appointed prophets don’t have neither the knowledge nor the insight, to understand the danger of their teachings.  Others are plainly and deliberately on a mission to cause destruction, but the gullible Christian is easily trapped by good-sounding words, even sugar-coated Bible verses used to support their teachings. Of course, it makes the job of God-called, approved and appointed ministers very hard.  When the gullible Christian defends the position of the unskilled preacher by pointing to the glowing globe of ministry, true ministers of the Word warn against the connections.  And he himself then inevitably gets labelled as a false prophet because he stands in the way of those who preach so freely, seemingly with so much success.  But be warned,  Benny Hinn says, “Anyone who is attacking me is attacking the very presence of God!

Don’t fall for pragmatism.  Don’t be trapped by the argument that “it must be right because it works.”  Pragmatism looks at what it visible, often disregarding the truth (like the dangerous electrical connections of our farmer).  The fact that some preachers draw large numbers to their services does not necessarily mean it is right.  Large numbers in pubs do not make the pub the best place to hang out.  Overpopulated hospitals do not make a hospital the place of desire; overcrowded prisons are not a sign that the authorities are doing something right.

My friend, the Word of this morning warn against false prophets.  The words of our text come from the mouth of Christ.  

“Watch out that no one misleads you. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. (Matthew 24:4 11, NKJV)

A turning point

What was the background for these words of our Lord? 

All of Matthew 23 was aimed at the false teachings of the Pharisees.  Harsh words were in the mouth of Jesus Christ when He addressed them:  

Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, (Matthew 23:33–34, NKJV)

The end of chapter 23 ends with these words: 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” (Matthew 23:37–39, NKJV)

Chapter 24 continues with a jaw-dropping act of our Saviour:  Jesus left the temple.”  His disciples knew there was more behind Jesus just leaving the temple that day:  He would never return.  Somewhat embarrassed they then pointed to the beautiful stonework and architecture of the temple.  But Jesus answered: 

“Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2)

What a shocking statement.  Did Jesus not once clear the temple out of zeal for the house of God?  He did, but He then also said: 

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

John clarified this statement after Jesus was raised from the dead:  But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (John 2:21) 

Jesus was about to be crucified; He would leave them to proclaim his good news. 

The disciples followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives and asked Him in private:

“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3, NKJV)

They wanted a sign, and Jesus did give them a sign.  What was it?  Look out for false prophets!  The prime concern for the church living up to the end of times should be to watch out for false prophets.  

Marks of a false prophet

Self-appointed

Let’s just back-track into Matthew 23:34.  Our Lord says He sends prophets and wise men and teachers.  They are the men who make fools of the diviners and overthrows the learning of the wise, turning it into nonsense.  The words of God’s prophets, according to Isaiah 44:25-26, are carried by God, who fulfils the predictions of his messengers. Jeremiah 7:25 states the same principle. 

On the other hand, self-appointed, false prophets twist the truth of God’s Word and so deceive God’s people.  Jeremiah 8:8 says, 

“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. (Jeremiah 8:8, ESV)

Of these false prophets God says:  

They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect Him to fulfil their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?” (Ezekiel 13:6–7)

A false prophet speaks when God does not speak.  Of them our God says:  

Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:32, ESV)

The Lord told me

How many times have I heard preachers use this phrase, “the Lord told me”; this apparently gives them license to say whatever they like, or to interpret the Word as they see fit.  Where does this phrase come from?  Can I take you on a bit of a journey?  

It originates in the New Thought philosophy, which was inspired by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby in the mid-nineteenth century.  He studied mesmerism, which he believed is the power behind mind-over-matter.  He believed that to know the truth about life is the remedy for all ills. This is, according to Quimby, the truth Jesus came to declare; and Quimby claimed to practice the same great truth.  In 1862, Mary Baker Eddy received treatment from Quimby and was cured quickly.  She went on to become the founder of the Christian Science movement.

Another disciple of Quimby was E.W. Kenyon who became the father of “positive confession” theology.  He, in turn, influenced the theology of Kennith Hagin, who is considered to be the Father of the Word/Faith Movement.  On August 8, 1934, he says he was raised from his deathbed by a revelation of “faith in God’s Word” after reading Mark 11:24.  This verse reads, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:23–24, ESV).  Hagin, a charismatic Pentecostal preacher, was ordained as a minister of the Assemblies of God.  He founded the Rhema Bible Training College (the Rhema FM radio has no direct connection with Kennith Hagin).   He once said, “Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith. You can have what you say.  Hagin had a problem with the message of the cross, “When you preach the cross, you’re preaching death, and you leave people in death. 

Hagin later joined his ministry efforts with Oral Roberts, a strong representative of the “seed-faith” idea.  This teaches that the things received by faith start with a seed:  investment of money in faith will necessarily produce financial gain.  Benny Hinn said, “Sow a big seed, when you confess it, you are activating the supernatural forces of God.  Because, “When you don’t give money, it shows that you have the devil’s nature.”  The whole idea is probably to support his ministry.

This movement (sometimes referred to as Word of Faith movement) also teaches that Christians can access the power of faith or fear through speech. A “positive confession” (a so-called “prophetic word”) of God’s promise stirs the power of resurrection which raised Christ from the dead and brings that promise to fulfilment.  This movement rejects poverty, suffering, and defeat as necessary to a godly life and glorifying Jesus Christ. It teaches that the salvation won by Jesus included health and prosperity for believers. Hagin said, “God is glorified through healing and deliverance, not through sickness and suffering.  Robert Hilton joins in, “Being poor is a sin.  Therefore, “Do not say ‘Lord if it be thy will’”; that is a sign of unbelief.  Fred Price affirms by saying, “God has displeasure in poverty. 

Where do you find any of this in the Bible, or is a “revelation knowledge”?

Preachers claim to have “revelation knowledge” (i.e. special revelations from God:  God told me…”) This “revelation knowledge” is often placed alongside, and sometimes above Scripture. Some believe they can use words to manipulate the “faith-force”, and as such, actually create what they believe the Scriptures or the “revelation” promise.  

A local minister in Hervey Bay also used this phrase the other day:  We just need to speak into it!  Poor me was in the dark, I must admit.

The Word of Faith movement urges believers to speak what they desire, in agreement with the promises and provisions of the Bible, as an affirmation of God’s plans and purposes. Kenneth Copeland states: “God did not create the world out of nothing, He used the Force of His Faith.” He goes on to say, “Jesus existed only as an image in the heart of God until such time as the prophets of the Old Testament could positively confess Jesus into existence through their constant prophecies.  All of God’s attributes and abilities were invested in Adam.  Therefore:  God and Adam looked exactly alike.  When Adam fell in sin, “God could not intervene since He had made Adam the god of the earth. God was left on the outside looking in. 

The phrase “God told me” is common amongst Word of Faith preachers.  It places members of their congregations in an untenable situation to differ from them.  It is tied to the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy described in 1 Corinthians 12 as if they are the same thing, and as if it always means a “positive revelation”.  Joyce Meyer once declared:

“Do you know something? A large majority of the church really doesn’t even know. Honestly and truly they really don’t even know. Well you are going to know when this night is over.”

Copeland comes to this conclusion:  When we use the spiritual laws that God has set up, God must obey what we request.” Why?  His colleague Paul Crouch answers, “God draws no distinction between Himself and us.  God opens up the union of the very godhead (Trinity), and brings us into it.” We are actually little gods.  Kenneth Hagin has asserted, “man…was created on terms of equality with God, and he could stand in God’s presence without any consciousness of inferiority…. He [God] made us the same class of being that He is Himself…. He [man] lived on terms equal with God…. The believer is called Christ, that’s who we are; we’re Christ”. Copeland adds, “God’s reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself…He was not a little like God. He was not almost like God. He was not subordinate to God even”.

Last week I warned against the teachings of one of the prominent prophets in the Word of Faith Movement.  Some of you afterwards asked me to give more clarity.  

Mrs Joyce Meyers declared confidently:  

“All I was ever taught to say was I a poor miserable sinner. I am not poor, I am not miserable, and I am not a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of hell. That is what I were and if I still was then Jesus died in vain. I am going to tell you something folks I didn’t stop sinning until I finally got it through my thick head I wasn’t a sinner anymore and the religious world thinks that is heresy and they want to hang you for it. But the Bible says that I am righteous and I can’t be righteous and be a sinner at the same time.”

Although Mrs Meyers holds three doctorate degrees, she somehow missed the instruction of the Bible on not allowing women in the ministry of the Word (1Timothy 2:12-14).  

What does Mrs Meyers teach about the atonement of Christ?  I quote:

“The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this. Not really that is why you have got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I am telling you. I have got to just trust God that he is putting it into your spirit like he put it into mine.”

“There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth I am presenting. You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell.”

Here’s her theology of Christ’s atonement:

“During that time he entered hell where you and I deserved to go because of our sin. He paid the price there. No plan was too extreme. Jesus paid on the cross and in hell.”

“Well here comes Jesus into hell. Now I don’t know what hell looks like but God gave me a few ideas. It is hot, fire hot but at the same time it is cold and clammy. That is kind of different isn’t it? Fire hot, but cold and clammy.”

The Devil thought he had it, the devil thought he had won. Oh they were having the biggest party that has ever been had. They had my Jesus on the floor and they were standing on his back jumping up and down laughing and he had become sin. Don’t you think that God was pacing wanting to put a stop to what was going on. All the hosts of hell were up on him, up on him, up on him. The angels are in agony, all the creation is groaning. All the hosts of hell was up on him, up on him, they got on him. They got him down in the floor and got on him and they were laughing and mocking, ‘haha you trusted God and look where you ended up. You thought he would save you and get you off that cross – he didn’t haha.’”

“Sunday morning here comes the sun. Sunday morning God gets himself together. Justice has been met somehow everything has been taken care of and oh God gets his voice together and he hummers up three words and they go roaring through the universe and entering the gates of hell. He said it is enough. It is enough.”

“God rose up from his throne and said to the demon powers tormenting the sinless Son of God let him go. Then the resurrection power of the almighty God went through hell and filled Jesus. He was resurrected from the dead the first born again man.”

This is heresy!  And yet, people support her ministry.  It is projected that her ministry has an income of just under $100,000,000 per annum.  Anyone who buys a book or a recording of Joyce Meyers supports her heresy.  

Don’t be gullible.  Watch out for false prophets.

Amen.  

Sermon preached by Rec D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 31 March 2019