33. Beware 'leaders' who promise 'Wealth and Health?'
The worldwide Church of God (Armstrongism) is now apparently undergoing reform, but the leaders still refuse to accept the way in which they were duped. At their worst they taught that God required two (sometimes three) tenths of every church member's income as well as regular 'free-will' offerings. Many members lived in poverty and even acquired debts rather than risk 'robbing God' of His tithe money, only to discover years later that the money they supposedly gave 'to God' was spent by the leading ministers on luxurious homes, private airplanes and exotic pleasure trips (cf. the Word-Faith leaders)! Their financial sacrifices had been required to 'help meet the expenses of the ministry' or to contribute toward 'a unique opportunity to witness to world leaders'! The Moonies work a similar scam!
It is always a telling commentary on any religious organisation if the ministers get richer and the congregation poorer! Go to a Word-Faith meeting and watch the followers drive away in their poor to middle-of-the-road cars. And then watch the leaders drive away in their luxury cars or fly off in their private jets! Of course, this is because the leaders are practicing what they preach and have the faith to talk to their 'fat wallets' and 'healthy bodies' while the followers are weak in the faith. This is what they would tell you - but the truth is that the followers are like the duped in the Emperors Clothes 'fairy-tale' of Hans Christian Andersen. It was only when the young child shouted, 'The Emperor has no clothes!' that the scales fell from their eyes! We need to ask why Jesus did not live like the wealthy Word-Faith preachers:
"Jesus said "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head'" (Matthew 8:20)
Why did He allow himself to suffer when the Word-Faith wimps don't even have head-aches - or so they claim. But many have secret medical treatment, just like one of their founders, the 'Christian Science' cult-leader, Mary Baker Eddy. Of Christ Jesus it is written:
'He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.' (Isaiah 53:3)
Why did Paul work as a tent-maker ['Because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working; for by trade they were tent-makers (Acts 18:3)] and not live in luxury? Was he really weaker in the faith than the Word-Faith money men of today? Why did Paul suffer, travel so cheaply and in such bad company that he was ship-wrecked, had to suffer beatings and deprivations and, humiliatingly, had to escape in a basket, when he could simply ordered His Heavenly Father to organise things better (according to the Word-Faith preachers!):
1 I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. 3 But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. 5 For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. 6 But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things. 7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to serve you; 9 and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia, they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia. 11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 But what I am doing, I will continue to do, that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds. 16 Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little. 17 That which I am speaking, I am not speaking as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. 19 For you, being so wise, bear with the foolish gladly. 20 For you bear with anyone if he enslaves you, if he devours you, if he takes advantage of you, if he exalts himself, if he hits you in the face. 21 To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold (I speak in foolishness), I am just as bold myself. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? 30 If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33 and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:1-33)
Why does Paul boast of weakness and humility? Why did he suffer so much? Was it because God was not with him? No - the very opposite! The Word-Faith teachers would like to emphasise the prosperity in this verse, but Paul makes it clear that the prosperity he speaks of is having a full stomach as opposed to being hungry (Philippians 4:12): I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Why were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3:12-30) cast into a roaring furnace? Because they were out of God's favour? No! Because they were exactly right in His favour. Who was in the furnace with them? Christ himself! This Christophony was such a powerful witness to King Nebuchadnezzar that we read (Daniel 3:28-30):
Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 "Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way." 30 Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.
These men were willing to sacrifice all for the sake of pure worship of their God. This was the witness to the king. And the result? Then they prospered! Does Arch-heretic George Carey honour God in this way - or does he meet with and march with pagans, acknowledging their gods? Who is the anti-Christ Pope John Paul II worshipping when he kisses the satanic book, the Qu'ran (Koran) and how could he call the Dalai Lama - who denies belief in God but allows people to worship him - 'a great spiritual leader'? Do the Word-Faith preachers suffer loss for the sake of witness to the gospel? The Word of God gives a clear answer. What are you going to do? Stay in these ecumenical, 'churches together, but without Christ, and without witness groups', or be like the Bereans and check whether these things are so (Acts 17:11)?
Why was Paul given 'a thorn in the flesh'?:
7 And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me--to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
What was the result? What was he 'well content' with - and what did it make him - 'well content'? The Bible turns the lies of men on their head! Paul's words perfectly illustrate the deceivers:
13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Peter declared, 'In their greed they will exploit you with false words' (2 Peter 2:3). Observe the Roman Catholic Church - how many of the countries in which they hold sway boast of a rich economy and affluent people? Why have they all struggled to survive for centuries? Then consider the wealth spent on the paraphernalia of their Popery and their false Priesthood. Truly this is the 'Whore of Babylon', risen again and striving to bring a United Europe in which the Pope (a Vicar of Christ, which translates straight from the Greek as 'an anti-Christ' - i.e. 'In place of Christ) reigns over 'Christianity'!
34. Beware 'the prophet' who is 'sometimes' right
Misinterpretation of prophecy can have very serious consequences. Today many are acting upon the words of men & women who have visions or who give 'prophetic words.' As an excuse they say the vision or word was genuine, but the interpretation was false! If the vision or word is not fulfilled, it will not help to say that it was misinterpreted. The result is the same whether it was a false prophecy or a false interpretation, for God's people will be led astray.
There are many fortune tellers, crystal ball gazers, mediums, etc., who claim to be able to predict things that will come to pass. Unfortunately for them a close examination of their full predictions shows an appallingly inaccurate record. The problem lies in people's poor memories. If a thousand of these charlatans made predictions every year, as they do, then only the ones that were fulfilled are advertised and remembered. Thus the 2-3 out of every thousand that come to pass in some form represent an appalling average. Every one of us could suggest things that might happen and be suitably vague, as Nostradamus was, so that we can fit several scenarios to the message. Investigators like the atheist James Randi have exposed many deceivers in this way.
The false prophet whose signs and predictions do come to pass seems to be a greater danger than the prophet whose word fails, for many will blindly follow the miraculous, especially when it is performed in the name of the Lord. Few are aware that they can be led into idolatry by these means, and may stray far away from the truth of the gospel, which is why the Deuteronomy 13 passage is so important. If you look to discern the way God is supposedly working today in the 'hyper-charismatic movement' you will find contradictions galore. Do people really think that the apostle Paul would have stood by while people behaved like animals in Corinth, or as they do today in Toronto/Pensacola/Brownsville?
It is not always easy to discern falsehood today when you allow 'fellowship with unbelievers' (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:16; 2 Corinthians 3:19). Ecumenism has allowed Roman Catholics to believe they have received the Holy Spirit by the 'sign' of speaking in tongues. What does this great gift allow them to do? To pray to and venerate the Virgin Mary and dead saints with greater vigour than before! Thus they fail the test of Deuteronomy 13 and are to be dealt with appropriately, i.e., disfellowshipped!
Sadly many Christians today are unaware of the supreme sacrifice that Anglican Bishops Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer & Thomas Cranmer and others paid with their lives. They were burnt at the stake in the mid 16th Century, because they would not deny their Christian faith in Jesus Christ and receive the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Neither Ridley nor Latimer could accept the Roman Catholic mass as a sacrifice of Christ. Latimer told the 'commissioners', "Christ made one oblation and sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and that a perfect sacrifice; neither needeth there to be, nor can there be, any other propitiatory sacrifice." However through today's ecumenicalism, unity with Roman Catholicism is promoted by many denominations in Britain, such as the Baptist Union, and internationally recognised figures such as Chuck Colson, Billy Graham, J. I. Packer and Jack Hayford, apparently without any consideration of the martyrdom of these bishops and many other faithful saints.
If Christians were less ignorant of the deceivers they would know that the Mormon cult practices occultic Masonic rituals and believes in the plurality of gods, yet also affirm that 'speaking in tongues' is one of the gifts of 'the spirit' for today. Yet which 'spirit'? Since they go one feelings they are perfectly at home with most Toronto/Pensacola/Brownsville type garbage and it should come as no surprise that the 'Promise Keepers' deception allows fellowship with Mormons! Again, Deuteronomy 13 immediately eliminates this error. Why did I leave the Mormons? Because, no matter how far backwards you try and bend to accommodate their errors, the Bible shows them to be in major error in all the major doctrines and in hundreds of other ways - but particularly over the tests of Deuteronomy 13 &18
35. Beware the danger of embracing false prophecies and gifts
There are clear warnings in Scripture concerning the falling away in the end times and the rise of the anti-Christ, or pseudo-Messiah. In these present times there are many going after 'signs and wonders' indiscriminately and ignoring the clear Scriptural guidance concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As a result there are many embracing the teachings emanating from Toronto, Brownsville, Pensacola, and the Vineyard in the USA; and Sunderland and Holy Trinity, Brompton, feature in the equivalent phenomena in England. Some have attempted to bring these "revivals" back to Wales. In all of this commotion few have taken the time to check the supposed activities of the Holy Spirit against the clear Biblical guidelines laid down. Indeed, some are so desperate for new spiritual enlightenment, that they seem ready to accept anything rather than throw out "the baby with the bathwater." As a result we have bizarre claims of some returning from "revivals" with the Holy Spirit contained in a balloon - which they then release into the congregation! Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will blow where He will (John 3:8), yet some are believing that they can actually contain Him! When questioned they claim that the balloon is merely symbolic. Do they not realise that this is a mere step away from the unsubstantiated transubstantiation heresy of the Roman Catholic and Anglican church?
As pointed out earlier there are supernatural signs that can be counterfeited by 'another spirit' which is neither holy nor prepared to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. True spiritual gifts and miraculous signs given by the Holy Spirit will honour the Lord Jesus and build up individual believers in their knowledge of Him. Counterfeit signs lead to pride and even idolatrous or immoral practices, and hinder the working of the Holy Spirit in bringing a person to the cross of Jesus where his real need will be met. If you doubt the extent of this deception read Exodus 7-12 where you will find that the occultic magicians of Egypt were able to counterfeit many of the signs brought by Moses and Aaron! Too many today believe that 'the strong man' (Satan!) of Matthew 12:29 is chained today and therefore unable to do similar works to these. My Bible says he is not chained until Revelation 20:1-3, which has not occurred yet. As someone wrote: 'If Satan is chained now - it must be a very long chain!'
If you read Case Histories I & II, which I have included later in this section, you will see some of the disastrous results that follow false ministries and deceitful signs and prophecies. In the wake of the kind of results described here many are left stunned, wondering what went wrong. They may ask themselves, 'Why did I act, at times, against my own better judgment?', or, 'How could I have allowed myself to have been so deceived?' Many simply refuse to believe that they could have been deceived! This spiritual pride has been described as the biggest deception of all and, since no lessons were learned, the likelihood is that it will happen again or to a deeper degree until 'false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. '(Matthew 24:24)
A major cause of deception can occur when an immature or carnal Christian who is ignorant of the Bible suddenly discovers a movement, centred around a charismatic leader. They seem to have discovered an enthusiastic, dynamic and dedicated ministry, full of excitement and even claims of prophetic vision. The leader may minister extensively around the world and proclaim messages with great authority. They claim a 'prophetic ministry' and may make application to biblical prophecies and world events which causes the ignorant to believe that they have discovered great truths and are truly following a 'man of God.' There may be a wonderful sense of community and 'love' in the church they have discovered, which holds exciting meetings and events. The members seem to be living a sacrificial life reminiscent of Acts 2:44-47 ('And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need') and the leader claims many 'miracles', telling of how God provided just when they were in desperate need. God seems to be present in a way they never knew in other churches and the 'anointing' and new spiritual experiences excite them and fill them with the desire for more of this 'new thing' that God is doing. They are told that God has great plans for their future and He is going to use them in a 'special way.'
This is typified by Assemblies of God meetings in Cardiff where the senior minister, Rae Galloway, often makes a great point of emphasising how the young people in the congregation are going to be used in 'mighty ways'. They will do great exploits for God who will fulfil all the desires of their heart if only they lay 'everything at His feet.' So much of this 'hype' is reminiscent of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland exaggeration and it comes as no surprise to find this Cardiff ministry defending such men. God requires them to give their time, money, talents, and will over to Him. The Lord Jesus Christ asked men to give up many things to follow Him (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21; Mark 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:23; 9:59; 18:22), but these 'false' and 'ad lib' ministries are the ones which give people false ambition and are too often incapable, or unwilling, to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. By putting people in the spotlight it often seems that God really is blessing the gullible until finally the bubble bursts as their immaturity reveals that it wasn't God who called them but the 'ego tripper' who seeks the reflected glory from his protégé! The victim may think that the rewards make all the sacrifices worthwhile at first, but the 'charismatic leader' is rarely available to help them pick up the pieces when disaster strikes. Sadly, all of this can be disguised as testings from God or the attack of the enemy, so many Christians never even realise that they have been victims of deceivers.
Consequently, when people try to warn them about certain aspects of a leadership or organisation, they judge them as critical, lacking vision, or unwilling to pay the price of such total commitment. If they hear stories of confusion or tragedy in the lives of previous members this only proves how unspiritual they were! If they see the leader flying into rages they put it down to the stress of the work God has given the great man, or the devil attacking this faithful servant of God. When hypocrisy, lying, dishonesty, questionable jokes, extravagance and irresponsibility surface as time goes on, they reason, God is using this person, so who am I to judge? None of us is perfect?' Again, misapplication of Scripture (as demonstrated in the Case Histories) is the reason for such attitudes. Thus people allow all the fruits of evil to pass without comment, even Satan's sin of pride in trying to make himself like God (Isaiah 14:14), and which he instigated in man (Genesis 3:4-5), seem permissible in a ministry such as the Copelands which these people consider to be greatly 'used of God'! Some years ago I asked a friend why he supported King's Church, Newport, which allows heretics like the Copelands to spread their false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). His incredible reply was that 'he had learned a lot from Ken (Copeland). Anyway, how can you say his doctrines are wrong when there are so many different Scriptural interpretations given in the churches?' This shows the source of such error in today's 'Pentecostal churches.' Elim and the Assemblies of God in Cardiff have been the source of much of the error that I have seen peddled as truth in this city and they so often do it with pride that they are the only denominations following a 'full gospel'. Unfortunately, this 'gospel' too often follows the path of 'experiential theology' rather than biblical truth with the result that their adherents are 'tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming' (Ephesians 4:14) rather than standing on the Word of God. I mentioned the first example I saw in Cardiff of error creeping into the church through the 'Plain Truth' magazine, and this is steadily continuing as naive Christians read books obtained through Charismaniacs, Word-Faith churches, and Christian bookshops which allow heretical teachers to have access to their shelves.
Christians today have been blinded to the truth by counterfeit 'signs and wonders' in hyped up meetings where false prophetic utterances have caused them to shut their eyes to sin! It was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross! Something must be radically wrong in the church today when Christian ministers, supposedly 'zealous for God', are unconcerned about the very things that nailed Jesus to the cross! The churches are being increasingly deceived! As I mentioned publically in Case History II (Section 36 - below), we can often find higher standards of integrity and kindness in the world than in our own church leaders! Others have been led so far from the truth that they have lost their faith and will never trust another Christian or church again. Some have even committed suicide because of the failings and deceptions of such leaders (ibid.). Tragically, few realise that the biggest error they made was to fix their eyes on a man or woman instead of keeping their eyes on Jesus who said:
'Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU." (Hebrews 13:5)
27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 "I and the Father are one." (John 10:27-30)
Remember, if you leave the Word of God you leave the God of the Word! The truth of the Word, rightly divided, shows up all error. Test the counterfeit against the real - test the false gospel of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, or the 'false shepherd', against the Word, and, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32).