Sometimes the problem is not the mega-church and all it entails. Paul also told Timothy:
“1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (1 Tim. 4:1-3)
Sometimes the problem is “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”. Imagine… God’s people literally being led by demonic forces! And when you hear the devil, don’t expect to see him in horns. Oh, no. What you will see is a priest or pastor or preacher who has probably even been to Bible school. And, actually, when you read this particular scripture, you will realize that the Bible is talking about mainstream denominations!
Take, for example, a ‘church’ that forbids people to marry, or one that forbids people to eat certain foods. The Bible here states that both these doctrines are doctrines of devils. And yet… false denominations and cults use these same teachings to deceive their members.
The Bible calls these doctrines of devils because they aim to found people’s faith on something else other than the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ.
The second thing – which is the subject of the second part of this series – is that you would think, as I had always thought, that the culprits in these modern-day charades are the greedy, worldly (and sometimes demon-possessed) preachers. We love talking about how these preachers are ripping off God’s people and how they are leading them into error. But lo and behold… the Bible has news for us! According to 2 Timothy 4:3-4, the real culprits are not these preachers. The real culprits are the people themselves, who have given these preachers the platform to deceive them. That is what the Bible says right here:
“…after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers”.
The whodunnit in this crime are the believers who attend churches where the cross of Christ has been stripped of its power (1 Cor. 1:17)!
False preachers’ tentacles reach far and wide. I have a brother right here whom I one day found letters in his office from a famous American preacher directing the brother to send to that preacher’s ministry a large sum of money in exchange for an upgrading of his status in the ministry’s roll of honor. He was told he would be sent a gold-edged certificate.
The letters had come in thick and fast. With each succeeding letter the demands got more strident. The last letter was an actual threat. Luckily, our man got to hear the gospel of the grace of God just in time, and he and his family were saved from an impending catastrophe.
Countless other people have not been so lucky.
Now, when we see or hear of these people being deceived and fleeced by these mega-preachers and other demon-possessed cultists, we are prone to sympathise with them. But God’s outlook is radically different. God’s outlook is that a blind man who accepts to be led by another blind man will fall into the same pit that his blind leader fell into. In other words, they shall both perish. It is not a matter of God pitying them or not. God has given them the freedom to choose the path they wish to follow.
And when you come to look at it in light of scripture, there is really no excuse for a person who has been born again by the Word of God to be deceived. God’s Word has the power to hold and to keep! We get deceived when we reject the truth of the cross.
That is why Paul charges Timothy to:
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
There is nothing ‘good’ about God’s Word. Notice the words Paul uses here:
“reprove, rebuke, exhort…”
The word “exhort” here means “warn”. There is nothing good about being reproved, rebuked or warned. They are all hard, difficult things to bear. But these are the things that constitute the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ. That is exactly what the cross comes to do in our lives!
When you accept to listen to a different gospel than this, it means you have changed course and you have begun chasing after other things. When you hear a gospel that does not lead you to deny yourself and to take up your cross and follow Christ, you are being deceived and you ought to ask yourself how you arrived there in the first place.
[In a homestead deep in central Tanzania, dinner is served!]