Originally written in 2015, I felt once again to bring this article out. Having just written the article with Thomas Littleton’s “Betrayed: An Open Letter to the Church” I realized that more than ever before, many Christians have no chance to understand if they are sitting under heretical teaching.
We are in the middle of the “Great Falling Away” and no wonder. Corrupt leadership in many churches with congregations filled with people who do not read God’s Word, and therefore lack discernment. This is a dangerous combination.
When I think back to when I originally wrote this piece, I never would have imagined that the church would be in the condition it is in today.
As we observe the aberrant and mystical teachings in so many of our churches, my heart breaks for the members in these congregations who are either not yet born again, are babes in Christ – or are lacking discernment. They are prey for the evil one – they have no spiritual armor to defend themselves, and to distinguish between God’s Truth and counterfeit, satanic lies.
Discerning of spirits
Question: “What is the spiritual gift of discerning spirits?
Answer: The gift of discerning spirits, or “distinguishing” spirits, is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Like all these gifts, the gift of discerning spirits is given by the Holy Spirit, who disperses these gifts to believers for service in the body of Christ. Every believer has a spiritual enablement for a specific service, but there is no room for self-choosing. The Spirit distributes spiritual gifts according to the sovereignty of God and in accordance with His plan to edify the body of Christ. He gives His gifts “just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11). (Emphasis added)
When it comes to the gift of discerning spirits, every born-again believer has a certain amount of discernment, which increases as the believer matures in the Spirit. In Hebrews 5:13-14 we read that a believer who has matured beyond using the milk of the Word as a babe in Christ is able to discern both good and evil. The maturing believer is empowered by the Spirit of God through the Scriptures to tell the difference between good and evil, and, beyond that, he can also distinguish between what is good and what is better. In other words, any born-again believer who chooses to focus on the Word of God is spiritually discerning. (emphasis added)
There are certain believers, however, who have the spiritual gift of discerning spirits—that is, the God-given ability to distinguish between the truth of the Word and the deceptive doctrines propagated by demons. We are all exhorted to be spiritually discerning (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1), but some in the body of Christ have been given the unique ability to spot the doctrinal “forgeries” that have plagued the church since the first century. This discernment does not involve mystical, extra-biblical revelations or a voice from God. Rather, the spiritually discerning are so familiar with the Word of God that they instantly recognize what is contrary to it. They do not receive special messages from God; they use the Word of God to “test the spirits” to see which line up with God and which are in opposition to Him. The spiritually discerning are diligent to “rightly divide” (2 Timothy 2:15 ) the Word of God. (emphasis added) – source
I’ve heard it said that discernment is the ability to tell the difference between right and almost right.
We know that Satan takes a little bit of truth and then twists it with his lies. We read about this in Genesis when he deceived Eve into disobeying God. The devil’s tactics have not changed since the beginning.
Our Lord Jesus was tempted by Satan in the Wilderness:
Satan attempted to deceive our Lord Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus came back at him with Pure Scripture “It is written” He said, and the evil one finally departed. Jesus was teaching us to do the same. The Bereans did it, and it won them a mention in the Book of Acts:
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
We are admonished to study the Scriptures to keep us safe:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
“That we henceforth be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men and their cunning and craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
The Gift of Discerning of Spirits
I’ve been a believer since January of 1983. In 1984 I made a friend in our neighborhood who attended my church, and we would ride together to choir on Wednesday nights.
One of those nights she gave me a bunch of cassettes and told me “You will love this preacher.” I told her that I would give him a listen. The next day I put the first cassette in while I did dishes. The preacher was Kenneth Copeland. I listened to about ten minutes of this man and turned him off.
I was a babe in the Lord and no one told me that Copeland’s teaching was questionable. I just knew that God did not want me listening to that man. He talked about never being sick – NEVER. He said he never even got a cold. Then he made jokes about a man who was feeling blessed because God had allowed him to get a used Chevy that he had wanted. Copeland said, “I told that man that if that was truly from the Lord, he should have asked for a Cadillac – and a brand new one!” He laughed at his own lame joke.
That’s when I turned it off. That’s when I knew that Kenneth Copeland was not someone that my Lord Jesus would want me listening to. I should never get sick? I should be rich because I’m a Christian?
Was this true? Should Christians never be sick? Should we all be rich because we’re children of God? Something didn’t ring true. I had to go to the only place I knew would have the answer: my Bible. I knew that I had a bad feeling as I listened to Copeland, and I knew that God had urged me to turn him off. I wanted to know the truth.
I went to Acts in my Bible. I was sure I’d be able to see how the first Christians lived. I’d find out if they were prosperous and disease-free. What I found was what I suspected to be true. The Apostles were jailed, tortured and ultimately killed, except for John. And he had been boiled in oil, yet lived because of the Lord.
Then I went to the Gospel of John to see what Jesus said about our lives as His followers.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).
Revelation 21:4 says:
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
We Share in the Sufferings of Christ
Suffering, tribulations, bearing our own cross, pain, crying, and death – well, this was a far cry from what I had heard Kenneth Copeland preaching. That was my first experience with discernment from the Lord. It was overwhelming to me to know that my heavenly Father protected me from the heresy I heard when I was a little more than a year old in Him! Many years later I realized that He had given me the Gift of Discerning of Spirits.
But brethren, don’t forget that every true child of God has some discernment, and as God’s child studies the Word of God diligently, he/she becomes more discerning.
I look around today and I am shocked at the lack of discernment in many Christians. How could someone who was drawn by the Holy Spirit and born-again in Him listen to a motivational speaker like Joel Osteen, and then rave about him as an amazing preacher? Really? Which part of “Your Best Life Now” would not be a big red flag that this man is NOT preaching the gospel of Christ?
How can a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ not know that the Emergent churches and now the New Apostolic Reformation churches/cults (NAR) are not God’s will? There are many reasons why millions have been drawn to these heretical teachers. But I think that the main reason that people are duped so quickly is that they are NOT reading their Bibles.
My Honesty is now called “Hate speech”
People who know me know that I’ll be honest with them, even if that means they might not like what I am saying. When I hear someone talk about Benny Hinn and how much they enjoyed his crusade and how many people were healed, I tell them the truth about him. I tell them that he is a fraud, that he talks to the dead, that he believes we are little gods, and that he says that God takes over his mind at times before he preaches, and doesn’t remember one word he has said. Our God is a God of order – not confusion. We know who is the author of confusion!
Should preachers live like kings in mansions? The only mansions I have read about in the Word are the ones Jesus is preparing for those who love Him. Christians have no problem seeing their favorite “preacher” living in a $10-million-dollar estate. I am not saying that a pastor of a large church should live like a pauper. I am saying that a pastor who is living large is not the kind of shepherd I would ever want to be my pastor.
1 Timothy 6:10 says:
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Not “money” itself, but the Love of money. Money can be used in wonderful ways in the body of Christ. It’s when money becomes an idol – that is when it becomes the root of all evil.
The Mine Fields Called Christian Bookstores
Christian bookstores can be a nightmare for someone who lacks discernment. These stores are in business for the same reason anyone goes into business—to make money. One would hope that if one of these stores is owned by a blood-bought, born-again Christian, that they would have a conviction about what is sold in their establishment. I have yet to find one like that.
I remember when The Shack came out. I was in a Christian bookstore and picked up the book and scanned through it. I had the urge to hurl it across the store! I resisted that thought and put it down hard. The clerk gave me a strange look. I walked over and asked if she had read The Shack. The girl said, “Oh yes, it’s great, isn’t it?” OY. God give me patience.
If you have not read The Shack, you are blessed. If you, because of my article, decide to look for it, I do hope that you will see it as garbage. I think more people need to be vocal. If you have discernment from God and you see a brother or sister lacking in discernment, help them!
I have discerned that the “prosperity” preachers are frauds. I have discerned that “name it and claim it” is not Scriptural. I have discerned that we will never be little gods. All of these teachings could be easily detected as heresy by simply looking in the Word.
Again, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
People with itching ears like to hear what makes them feel good. The Bible is not a smorgasbord; pick what you like and leave the rest. The Bible is God’s Word to us. Everything we need to know about Him and about life is found within its pages. How amazing is that? The Creator of the Universe is our Father, and wants us to know what is good for us and what is not!
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
All Scripture is God-breathed and we must trust it – ALL OF IT – regardless of teachers such as Andy Stanley who teaches that the inerrancy of the Word is “selective.” Brethren, this is devilish. If we go down that path, who is to say which Scriptures are inerrant and which are not? That is a very slippery slope and a lie from the pit of hell.
Perhaps you have placed yourself under false teaching, and have not repented and trusted Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sin. There are many preachers who love to tickle itching ears. Does your preacher speak about sin, and how it separates us from God? Does he preach repentance – agreeing with God that you are a sinner, and to turn away from it?
If he does not, then you are playing church. You sign up to help for every event. You may even teach Sunday School. You are a helper at every Vacation Bible School and, of course, you are on the clean-up team. These are all good things!
But if you think that doing these good deeds will get you into heaven, you have missed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How many good deeds are enough to gain entry into heaven when you die? Have you never seen this Scripture?
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Bible says that God is sending “strong delusion” in these end times. The Bible makes it very clear why God is sending this delusion.
“They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
So if you think you lack discernment, could it be that you have neglected the reading of God’s Word? Perhaps after you study His Word, you will begin to apply what you’ve learned to your life. You may see that the preachers you have been relying on to impart wisdom from God’s Word have actually been preaching a different gospel.
That’s a scary thought, but isn’t it scarier to continue listening to empty and deceitful words?
Get right with God! He sent Jesus to die for you so that you could be reconciled to Him.
For anyone who did not read the letter by Thomas Littleton – please do yourself a favor and make time to read this. YOU may be sitting in a church where the leadership has traded the truth of the Word of God for the lies of the enemy. Actually, YOU may have fallen for his lies as well. The devil is Evil but he is also crafty:
Many hymns are like mini-sermons. Look at the words you sing in “Jesus Paid it All”:
“I hear the Savior say,
‘Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.’”
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
Trust Jesus for your salvation. Then pray for discernment as you read His Word.
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