Recently, someone sent me a question that pertained to pointing followers of false teachers to the Bible. It was hard to classify this particular scenario of hers without refuting any specific false teacher she named in her inquiry. Therefore, I basically challenged her to do several things in her scenario. These things I encouraged her to do are by no means a magic wand of some sort. After all, it is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
What I do in this article is show her question. I then answer it. I then conclude with a bit of a debrief.
I know someone who follows Word Faith/Prosperity doctrines.
I am discussing with this person the necessity of utilizing canonized scripture as the ultimate source of truth.
She relies heavily on teachings of Joyce Meyer & Kenneth Copeland.
Below is a quote from this person:
“I listen to her and I decide what goes into my ‘heart/spirit’. That’s all I’m required to do. God does the teaching. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of my faith, so I have no problem listening to any of the ministers that Long listed.”
She refers to “Long”.. a minister who listed the below teachers as being in error; they are “prosperity theology” or “word-faith” preachers:
• Joel Osteen • Creflo Dollar • Benny Hinn • TD Jakes • Joyce Meyer • Paula White • Fred Price • Kenneth Copland • Robert Tilton • Eddie Long • Juanita Bynum • Paul Crouch
Please help me to get this person on the right track. Thank you!
I appreciate your wanting to discuss using the Bible as the ultimate source of truth.
I want to encourage you to shift your focus a little bit. It is awesome that you are pointing to the Bible as the ultimate source of truth. Please consider the main character of the Bible; that main character is Jesus Christ.
John 5:39-45 explains (NASB). Jesus is speaking here:
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.
Jesus is explaining that the Scriptures testify about Him (see also Luke 24:44-45). John 20:30-31 essentially gives a thesis statement of the Scriptures (NASB). I begin at verse 26 for context:
26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Scripture is written so that people may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Moreover, by believing, one may have life in His name. Now, this life is not the life we have currently on this earth. Rather, it is eternal life with Jesus Christ. We need this eternal life because we need to be saved from our sins. In fact, Jesus Christ came to earth to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Matthew 1:21; John 1:29). Scripture focuses on Jesus Christ. It focuses on who He is and what He has done.
Now, a person must recognize that he/she is born dead in trespasses and sins.
Ephesians 2:1-10 explains (NASB):
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).
If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.
Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48).
Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9).
Thankfully, Jesus came to solve the sin problem over 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.
There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today if you have never repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Now, I state all that because the message of Christianity is a message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:46-48; Matthew 28:18-20). This message dominates throughout Scripture. John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 3:3-6; Mark 1:2-8). The prophet Ezekiel proclaimed repentance (Ezekiel 18:19-32). The prophet Jeremiah also proclaimed repentance (Jeremiah 25:1-14). As I mentioned, Jesus Christ came to save sinners. Man’s main problem is sin.
With all the information above being stated, I want to encourage you to challenge your friend and ask her what she believes the central message of Christianity to be. Compare what she says with the dominating theme of Scripture (which is Jesus Christ, repentance and the forgiveness of sins). Share the Gospel with her. Ask her if she is a good person. Ask her to name the central themes of the teachings of the false teachers she listens to with her ears. Challenge her to see if Jesus, repentance and the forgiveness of sins dominates the message outside the closing prayer (I say “outside the closing prayer” because I have seen Joel Osteen, on multiple occasions, lead the viewer through a sinner’s prayer despite preaching a message completely void of sin, wrath, judgment, etc.).
If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you have probably noticed that I do not really do any posts that focus on a particular teacher. I did have a season in which I was doing that on my older blog (faithcontenderblog.wordpress.com). However, not much (if any) fruit resulted from that. My current blog instead both focuses on promoting sound Christian doctrine and refuting doctrine in the public domain (mainly books) that contradicts sound Christian doctrine (Titus 1:9).
This does not necessarily mean I am out-of-touch with some of the more popular preachers and teachers in the present day. I do listen to a lot of sermons from a lot of different pastors from a lot of different places. I’ve taken notes on what I have heard. Some sermons are good. Others are a mixed bag. Quite a few are an abomination.
You might be wondering how I judge a sermon. One of the plethora of things I hope to construct on my blog is an exhaustive “how-to” for evaluating a sermon. In the meantime, here are some criteria. These are simply a few pointers to help any layperson (or even pastor) use to evaluate a sermon by any preacher or teacher (including the ones listed way up above):
1. Law and Gospel
The purpose of the law is to show people their sin (Romans 3:20). It is of my opinion that no preacher should ever assume all people in his congregation are saved. In fact, one would be wise to think there may be someone in the congregation on the brink of death (as in within a week). People need to know they have sinned against a holy God (see my above Gospel presentation for more information). However, they should also not be left in their sins; they need to hear the Good News of the Gospel (see above again). They don’t merely need good advice on things to do (Law); they need good news (Gospel). A good sermon has a proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel (see Galatians 1:1-5:18 as an example of this proper distinction). Moreover, there is a sense of urgency in the sermon on this proper distinction.
2. Preacher versus Jesus
Preachers should not be preaching themselves; they need to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins (2 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 2:2). Good sermons have more information about a great Savior than it will information about the preacher. If from a sermon you learned more or got more information about the preacher than you did Jesus Christ, you probably viewed or listened to a bad sermon (an abominable one if God’s Word barely made an appearance).
3. Steak or Seasoning
God’s Word commands that pastors shepherd the flock of God among them (1 Peter 5:1-2; Acts 20:28). This involves preaching the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Jesus even told Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:16).
Now, would you feed a person steak or seasoning? Well, obviously a steak is a meal and seasoning is just…….well, seasoning. Sheep deserve a meal, not beef sprinkles. A good sermon features a chunk or chunks of Scripture rightly handled in context. If a sermon has half or single verses ripped out of context from various passages and strung together to support some pre-conceived agenda (basically a bunch of sprinkles gathered together), you might be a dealing with a bad/abominable sermon (but certainly not always). The chunk(s) of Scripture is a meal. That will feed sheep. The half/single verses ripped out of context and strung together are basically a hodgepodge of seasoning most of the time. Those sermons often starve sheep.
It is a good idea to evaluate sermons for biblical fidelity. The Bible actually commands us to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11). With a good set of criteria (and I think the criteria above is rather fair), one can carefully evaluate another’s sermons to see if they are glorifying Christ or self. In my opinion, if one wants to get a fair idea on if a preacher is either biblically faithful or one to be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17), I would recommend listening to about 7-12 messages from that person. If time does not permit that amount of work to be done (which is fine), look to 1-2 Christmas/Easter sermons that person preaches (at least one of each).
In closing, please pray for the lady who asked me the question. Pray for the person being witnessed to by this lady. This situation seems rather complicated.
God bless and I hope you found this article helpful.