A reader asked what I think about the recent activity of the “Let Us Worship” tour led by Bethel worship leader Sean Feucht (pronounced Foyt). Some are calling it “a revival.” Others are just excited to see ‘all those people worshiping’. What should we think about this?
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
We are introduced to satan early and his introduction contained an extremely negative assertion about his character. He’s crafty.
Satan is an angel. He is an unholy angel, as opposed to Gabriel or Michael who are holy angels. If you look at the angels’ activity you see just how powerful and intelligent they are. They administer judgment. (e.g. Revelation 8:6-13). They give the Law. (Acts 7:53, Hebrews 2:2, Galatians 3:19). They give the Gospel to the whole earth at once. (Revelation 14:6). They stand on the sun. (Revelation 19:7). They hold back the wind. (Revelation 7:1).
We’ll come back to that in a moment.
I’m enjoying the buzz around a couple of movies just out. Darkest Hour is the story of Winston Churchill’s early days as England’s Prime Minister. He was leading the United Kingdom through tough times as WWII rages on the continent and is about to hit home for Britain. Much of the focus of the movie is on Churchill’s oratory. It’s a movie largely without action and is tightly confined to the bunker tunnels and small rooms below the city. Churchill made several famous speeches which roused the populace, enabled changed minds and hearts to make decisions, and cemented the nation in unity to face the evil force that was soon to come upon them. It’s a movie about speeches.
Another movie just out is called The Post. It depicts the editor Ben Bradlee and owner/publisher Katherine Graham of the Washington Post during the critical years of the decisions about whether to release the Pentagon Papers, and leading up to their coverage of the Watergate Break-in, which eventually led to the downfall and resignation of American President Richard Nixon. It’s a movie about words.
Words, whether written or spoken have power. Where would we be without Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Kennedy’s ‘to the moon and back’, Reagan’s ‘tear down this wall’? We remember Chief Joseph’s surrender speech, ‘I will fight no more forever.’ Lou Gehrig’s farewell to baseball ‘luckiest man alive’ speech. President Reagan reassuring a shocked nation after the space shuttle Challenger exploded and the astronauts having ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’
Fireside chats is the term used to describe a series of 28 evening radio addresses given by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1944. Roosevelt spoke with familiarity to millions of Americans about the promulgation of the Emergency Banking Act in response to the banking crisis, the recession, New Deal initiatives, and the course of World War II. On radio, he was able to quell rumors and explain his policies. His tone and demeanor communicated self-assurance during times of despair and uncertainty. Roosevelt was a great communicator on radio, and the fireside chats kept him in high public regard throughout his presidency. Their introduction was later described as a “revolutionary experiment with a nascent media platform”.
I’m brought back to the early chapters of Genesis. The serpent. What was his mode of attack? Did he hold Eve hostage and force her to eat the fruit? Did he call for his legions of followers to surround them and attack? No. He did it with words. Satan attacks with words.
We should not pay attention to satan.
Of course we don’t pay attention to satan, you say. Of course not, silly! But we do. We come across a false teacher and we listen. We rationalize that we have the power to ‘eat the meat and spit out the bones’. We wail, ‘But he/she helped me so much!’ Of course false teachers are skilled at oratory. They can make fine speeches. They use words well. They’re crafty!
False doctrine is sin because false doctrine doesn’t originate from God. (John 7:16, Titus 1:2). God hates false doctrine. (Revelation 2:15). Several of the letters in the New Testament were written to address errors of false doctrine (Galatians 1:6–9; Colossians 2:20–23; Titus 1:10–11). Take false doctrine seriously. Why? Its words will affect you.
Why do we know that speeches, movies, newspapers, and advertising affect us, but mistakenly think that listening to false doctrine won’t?
The Bible says that those who listen to false teachers are heaping these teachers up so they can ‘suit their own passions.’ (2 Timothy 4:3). Don’t indulge your passions by falling into satan’s crafty trap of words.
A question was asked at our Bible Discussion Group on how to sensitively approach someone who is in a false religion in order to open discussion as to the truth. This same question has been asked of me personally regarding how to approach a friend whom you see carrying around a book by a false teacher.
At Discussion Group, I’d offered my process of how I deal with friends involved with false teachers, false doctrine, or false religion. I’d said that first, it depends on the relationship you have with them. If you don’t know the person or are only bare acquaintances, it won’t do to walk up to them and just say something brusque or out of the blue that in effect, amounts to saying “You’re doing it wrong.”
The Bible encourages and commands discipling relationships with one another. This is so we can keep each other accountable. We can carry each other’s burdens. Ultimately, close involvement with each other means can edify and grow one another and one way we do this is by helping sisters course-correct.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
We can’t build up a sister if we let them wallow in false doctrine. (Jude 1:23). Alternately, we won’t build them up if we are tactless and brusque. (2 Timothy 2:25, Galatians 6:1).
Assuming you are close enough with the sister to have established trust and are known to each other in a friendly way, then what I do is begin by asking questions. Perhaps the person is reading the book for research purposes. Maybe someone less discerning gave it to them and they haven’t thrown it out yet. Maybe they are getting ready to give it to someone else. Maybe a lot of things. Just ask. “Are you reading that book? What do you think of it?” “Let me know when you’re done, I’d love to get your take on it…” Etc.
Finally, I always have something else to offer the person in the books’ stead. It doesn’t help the person as much to just say that their book is a dangerous book, without having something in which to substitute. If they’d lacked discernment enough in the first place to get or read that book, then offering them material written by a credible author steers them into a better direction.
I was pleased when I’d come across this short discussion from 2016 where Noël Piper, Kathleen Nielson, and Gloria Furman discuss this very question. I was even more pleased when they shared that they do the same: ask, be gentle, discuss. Phew, at least I’m not off the deep end with this.
The women also discuss two other questions. If you can’t play back videos, here is a link to just listen.
One final thing. Their title mentions ‘a dangerous book.” Undoctrinal books ARE dangerous. Books like The Shack, Love Wins, The Circle Maker, any and all non-doctrinal, unorthodox books present a danger to the Christian. Adam and Eve only had to obey one command, and within a shockingly short time, satan easily managed to twist that command into a suggestion. Paul said to Titus that false doctrine upsets whole families (Titus 1:11). Paul warned Timothy that false doctrine undermines the faith. (2 Timothy 2:18). Make no mistake, (because satan isn’t making the same mistake), the false doctrine contained in books, movies, pamphlets, and Bible studies is a very present danger to the Christian mind and heart.
Here is the blurb for the short video:
Your friend is gushing about that book she’s been reading. It’s on the Christian Living bestseller list, but for whatever reason you suspect the book is more influenced by the spirit of the age than by a biblical worldview. … Nielson cautions against the overcorrection of reading only the Bible, since reading widely can actually enhance Bible reading, and Piper warns against becoming the kind of reader who only reads books from your own “tribe.”
Three years ago I published an essay discussing the new female-founded, social justice, discipling organization called “IF:Gathering”. Jennie Allen , founder, decided to start a discipling organization which Allen revealed was based on a command from a voice from the sky. Her words.
Allen, along with Lindsey Nobles and several other women, started this ‘movement,’ as they describe it, to gather women for purposes of discussing their feelings about the Bible. This is accomplished outside of the auspices of the local church. Several participating IF:Leaders admit they actually abandoned their own ongoing church ministries to do form this non-church organization and focus on the global movement they hoped to incite. Their intentions are full of self-stated hubris. They plan to ‘disciple a generation’. They intend to ‘heal the nations’. They will ‘reconcile the world’. They will ‘unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose’. And so on. You can read about my concerns with the IF movement here, and here.
IF was born from a direct revelation given by a voice in the sky to Jennie Allen sometime in 2007. The movement perpetuates twisted hermeneutics, unbiblical lifestyles, social justice, and a warped view of the Gospel that is based on doubt. That’s the synopsis of concerns regarding IF:Gathering. That it is unhealthy is to say the least. Please read the previous essays for scriptural foundations supporting these concerns.
Today I want to shift focus and show you in pictures just how quickly satan propagates his false doctrines and unbiblical lifestyles.
The first IF:Gathering was held in February 2014. At this writing, exactly three years have passed since then. The movement has indeed caught on. Its activity is mostly hidden. If you haven’t heard about IF that’s because the gatherings are announced via social media and many of them are private. This activity is all going on out of sight for the most part (aside from the annual convention). Three years ago I’d posted a shocking map that showed how many of these public and private gatherings were taking place all around us. Here is the map showing IF:Gatherings three years ago when it began.
By 2017, the gathering’s teachings have spread worldwide. Look how many gatherings are held locally now:
Map from IF:Local, 2/2017
From Paraguay to Nova Scotia, from Rwanda to Thailand, From Australia to Denmark, there are IF:locals everywhere. It is a global force by now and it didn’t take satan long to do it.
This fact should primarily remind us that women are vulnerable to satan’s wiles. IF is a female movement through and through. The IF:Locals that are held are mainly held in homes, not churches. Many of them are private parties, so accountability and oversight is very much more difficult to ensure.
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, (2 Timothy 3:6)
The sad fact of the IF:map fact should also bring to mind the verse where Paul tells us how fast false doctrine spreads. Paul said that false teachings are like gangrene. Gangrene is a fast-spreading condition that occurs when healthy body tissue dies because the disease obstructs blood to it! How apt as a metaphor for the healthy body of the church and its lifeblood from Jesus obstructed and infected by false teachings and teachers!!
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:16-17a).
Do you see the progression? There IS a progression.
leads people into more and more ungodliness…
the talk spreads like gangrene…
gangrene infects even the healthy tissue.
As Barnes’ Notes explains of the effects of gangrene:
will spread over and consume the healthful parts. It will not merely destroy the parts immediately affected, but will extend into the surrounding healthy parts and destroy them also.
I know that some people find discernment work distasteful. They do not see the necessity of one of the important activities of how we defend the faith. I consider the importance of defending the faith by both exalting Jesus AND naming false doctrines and teachers. They do not like to name false teachers, they do not emphasize exercising the skill, or they simply overlook rooting it out, hoping it will go away. Many pastors never even preach on the importance of discernment from the pulpit, or if they do, they make aw shucks apologies. And sadly, many others do not practice it themselves.
I’ve seen many false doctrines and movements come and take root. I know you have too. However, in my experience, (which granted, isn’t lengthy, just 14 years in the faith), I have never seen a doctrine, movement, or pseudo-Christian ‘celebrity’ culture embed itself so fast. Whether that speaks to the low levels of discernment, the bloated pseudo-church, or the lateness of the times, the fact that it’s aimed at women, (or all of the above) I do not know. But this thing is wildfire and it is growing faster even than Charismania or prosperity Gospel. Its tentacles have gone deep.
Notably, in 2012, Pastor Jim Murphy of First Baptist Church of Johnson City, NY found to his dismay how quickly satan’s tentacles embedded themselves into his church when he overlooked some areas he knew he should address but simply hadn’t. Eventually he preached a powerful message to his congregation that took himself to task, and them too. He asked their forgiveness. Then he said,
Now is the time for clarity. No more messing around. No more experimentation. No more dabbling into these dangerous practices. Now is the time for clarity and that clarity comes through discernment: this ability to think Biblically. The ability to read a book and see what it is saying aside from the warm fuzzy you got from it. Discernment takes time and it takes work and shame on you for not taking the time and effort. Shame on you.
In that sermon, Pastor Murphy said that satan’s tentacles had spread so fast and deep, he was saddened and shocked. He took on the guilt himself, saying that he knew the Sunday School and the Church Library held some off-ideas but he didn’t address it because he was so busy and wrongly handed off total responsibility to underlings. He was wrong to do that he said, because false doctrine does not come in only at the pulpit. It comes in the small groups, the library, the women’s ministry. It takes vigilance to combat it.
We see by the map that false doctrine comes through the para-church groups, gatherings, and conventions/conferences your women are participating in. Men, satan targeted Eve. It spreads fast. Don’t think for a moment that satan isn’t working through every means he can to get to your people. Stay strong.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Romans 16:17)