The Need For Sound Doctrine – Part 2

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!]

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What Teaching Are You Under?

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… 1Timothy 4:1

Did you notice that? The Swahili Bible says, “giving heed to deceiving spirits”.

That’s pretty strong, dangerous stuff there we are being warned against. It is not just your local trickster coming along and trying to pull a fast one on you. These are spirits, devils, demons! And these entities have power. And worse, they are after the Church.

My family and I love watching Disney’s animated stories like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty; and we can always tell when someone has been put under a spell. They become ‘not in their normal minds’. That is what is happening in churches today. God’s people are under a spell and they don’t know it. They are being robbed in broad daylight!

That is why the Apostle tells Timothy, in verse 16, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”

Paul is telling Timothy here: “There is danger ahead. Take heed!”

When I see what is happening in churches today, I realize how strong this deception that was prophesied by Paul is. Mind you, the Holy Spirit through Paul said this deception would take place “in the latter times”, meaning the last days. There are things that have crept into the Church within the last 2 decades alone, dangerous things; but they have grabbed God’s people with a power that can only be matched by the advancement of technology. In my country today there are churches doing the weirdest things – churches which teach questionable, non-scriptural doctrines and which operate with even more dubious MOs; and these are the churches you find the majority of Christians running to.

In one such church, they have employed guards with whips to clear the way when the man of God arrives! People are going to church to be whipped! This happens every Sunday, but the numbers keep increasing.

The sad thing is that it is not non-believers who are attending these kinds of churches, but it is born-again believers who have been deceived. These are believers whose eyes have been blinded by the god of this world and all they can see is the material and physical blessings. When a Christian’s eyes are on material or financial blessings he is on very dangerous ground. He is exposed to the devil. He could find himself under Satan’s spell in a second and he wouldn’t even know it. And he could live that life of spiritual deception the rest of his life firmly believing that he is serving God. Remember that Satan tried to deceive even the Lord Jesus using these same material ‘blessings’ (Matthew 4:9).

When I am sick and all I want is healing, then I am standing on very dangerous ground, particularly in these last days. There are Christians who have been taught that having a physical disability or an issue of health is a lack of faith. Jesus said it is far better to go to heaven hopping on one foot than to go to hell with both feet intact! I wonder what these preachers make of such scriptures.

Others have been taught that to live in financial or material poverty is sin! Preachers cite Abraham, et al. I wonder what they make of Lazarus – I mean the one who sat under the rich man’s table!… These kinds of teachings are unscriptural and they are destroying the Church.

When you see how people are being deceived and eventually being ripped off spiritually, financially, materially and even psychologically by preachers, you cannot doubt scripture. There are dark spiritual forces at work within the Body of Christ!

Even for those who are not preaching these extreme doctrines, for many the gospel has become something light – and cheap. There is no gravity to the things that people are hearing. It is no wonder, therefore, that many Christians are not growing spiritually.

It is time for the Church to wake up. The Bible says to take heed to the doctrine we are hearing. That is where everything lies. When you hear the right gospel your spiritual mind is balanced. When you listen to the wrong teaching, you get spiritually off-balance. This has nothing to do with your natural intelligence, your IQ; this is spiritual business.

I believe God is doing something new today. The Church must heed the gospel of the revelation of the Cross that God is bringing to light in these last days. The revelation of the Cross of Christ is not a strange or new gospel. It is the gospel the Early Church preached and lived. It is the gospel that the Apostle Paul preached. It is the gospel that fulfilled in their lives Christ’s words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” because through living this gospel, the Church was taught to lose their lives and to desire the life of Christ in them.

There was a time I did not understand the real gospel of Jesus Christ. I did not know the gravity of the Pauline revelation. If someone had insisted, I probably would have said, “That is a strange teaching!” But the revelation that Paul had of the Risen Christ – that is the power of God in the life of the Church. The Church needs to understand it in these last days.

A Spiritual Relationship – Part 1

And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel. Mark 5:18-20

I write so many posts in which I mention my wife and I know this gives my avowed detractors no small amount of  pleasure. At last they have something to pound me with: “Oh, he is obsessed with his wife!”

“Yeah, seems the fellow cannot do without her!”

And there are the dyed-in-the-wool tribal hardliners who must be holding council after council to determine whether my wife is not controlling me, which to them is an unforgivable sin.

May I assure my tribesmen, right here in this blog, that I am still king in my house and that there is therefore no need for them to raise their hackles. But for those who are gloating in their cubicles about me being obsessed with my wife I say, “Sure, I am obsessed with my wife.” As a matter of fact, I am madly so. That is the truth. My avowed aim in life is to please God and it is inconceivable that I could claim to be making any headway there without first making sure that things are in order in my house.

Not that it is that simple. It is a spiritual thing…

The Decapolians must have been pleasantly surprised to see the change in the man whom they all knew had been possessed with demons. These people’s joy resulted largely from the fact that this man had been set free from demonic possession. That was as it should be because Jesus was still operating under the old covenant.

For we people of the New Testament, though, it is not so much such a change as might have occurred in this man – the miracle of being set free from demonic powers – that is desirable; rather, it is the inner change of character. This is what matters in a person who professes to be a born-again Christian. Miracles and the supernatural works of Christ are important, of course, but for a born-again child of God they cannot compare to that inner working of the Spirit in a person’s heart.

And nowhere is this change more desirable or effective than with those whom we live with or those who have always known us. With me, it is my wife first, my children second; thirdly, the Church; and lastly, the world. I can firmly admit that the working needed to bring about this change is probably the most difficult thing for me to come to terms with. Here I am required to die to the flesh, to crucify the flesh on a consistent basis, every day. It is not an easy thing to do.

If I were to draw a pie-chart of my life to illustrate the seriousness of this situation, my wife would take about 75% of the pie! That single person – my wife – is so important in my relationship with God. It is like God gave me a wife as an ‘assignment’, saying, “Work on that!” I therefore have to have a right, spiritual relationship with my wife at any cost.