We are living in an age of rapid technological changes, scientific advancement – an Information Age. We have access to more Bible study tools, historical records and critical works, yet ignorance and deception seem to be more entrenched.
Recently, I saw a video from the Liberation City church in Lagos, Nigeria in which the congregation listened with rapt attention to a lady as she reeled out “confessions” in melodramatic tones:
“I am an agent from the 3rd heavens! … We penetrate through the earth [and] bring you to the devil through [the] Internet. Have you not seen us before? Don’t you hear people like Beyonce, Rihanna, Jay Z, all of them … they are worshipping us … I am Baphomet, yes! The god of the Illuminati, that is what I am … Jay Z is our king.”
What particularly amused me was the pastor’s response:
“We command the spirit of Illuminati, perish! in the name of Jesus! We break all the Illuminati network in Nigeria!” The congregation replied with a loud “Amen!”
Unfortunately in some church circles today, once you claim to be an ex-Baphomet, a reincarnated Michael Jackson, or an alien from the 7th heaven, the congregation will loll out their tongues at whatever you say. You can even crank out a DVD and earn a fortune. We are just as prone to falsehood as those in the 16th century, and this is not restricted to Africa.
In the spring of 2005, hundreds of people rushed to pray to an “image of Mary” that supposedly appeared on a bridge pillar in Chicago. They didn’t even stop to consider that the “image” was actually a salt stain on the concrete. Truly, there are natural limits to everything except human stupidity. Something in our fallen nature always wants us to think we have found a truth that others have never found, and makes us feel “superior” for discovering it. It worked in Eden and it still works today.
In this age of deception, we need discernment to spot truth from falsehood. The word “discernment” is from two Greek words, anakrino, meaning to examine or judge closely, and diakrino, to separate out, investigate and to examine.
Hebrews 5:14 says: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess. 5:16-17)
While we are not to instantly dismiss revelations or truth clams, we are not to blindly accept them either. We have to first critically examine and investigate them because:
(a) Satan always works through deception. He uses false teachings, false miracles, false holiness and false supernatural experiences to lead Christians astray. He masquerades as an angel of light and he knows the human race too well. We are only gullible at our own peril. As R. A. Torrey said, “The ancient serpent is more dangerous than the roaring lion.”
(b) There is deception even in the church. The Lord Jesus warned: “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Mt 24:4). The term “Take heed” can be likened to walking through a street full of crooks while you have many diamonds on you. The bible says “there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1).
(c) Heresies gain strength by number and fame. Someone with large followership can go to a website or book authored by a heretic, glean its contents uncritically and dish it to others as a “revelation” and the cycle continues. This is why we must “prove all things, hold on to the good” and not become slaves of men by blindly swallowing everything we hear or read (1Thess. 5:21).
Exercising discernment is distinct from the gift of discerning of spirits – which is a supernatural insight into the spirit realm by the Holy Spirit. If you have this gift, for example, and you walk into a house that is demonically infested, you may sense it in your spirit. The discernment I’m speaking of is not a gift, but a duty of every believer to examine and judge what is being presented to him/her.
I will cite just 3 case studies of why this is important.
#1. “[God] said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him – for we can prevent Him if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we can not now imagine” (Beyond Personality, 1945, 48)
The above quote (teaching deification of man) is from a man acclaimed to be a great Christian apologist, Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963). It was through this man’s pen that one of the most pagan-laden fiction stories in the 20th century fell into the hands of thousands of children – The Chronicles of Narnia.
“In all praise of Lewis’s superlative value as a Christian apologist” writes Loren Wilkinson “not much is said about his cautious defense of paganism. The old pagan world is implicit in nearly all of his fiction – from the thinly disguised (but wonderfully baptized) Norse and Celtic world of Narnia, to the ancient myth of Cupid and Psyche in Till We Have Faces, to the Greek-god-like oyarsu in the Space Triology.”
His sympathetic views of paganism is hinted at in Surprised by Joy where he wrote: “Sometimes I can almost think I was sent back to the false gods there to acquire some capacity for worship against the day when the true God should reveal to me Himself” (Christianity Today, Nov. 15, 1999, 54). But this is condemned by Scripture(Dt. 12:30).
C. S. Lewis also believed “there are people in other religions who being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it” (Mere Christianity, 1952, 176)
This is a form of universalism. According to his biography, Lewis went regularly for confession; believed in purgatory; prayed for the dead and received the last rites in 1963 – which was given only to Catholics at the time (A Biography, 54, 198, 301). Interestingly, Lewis is hailed today as a “patron saint” of evangelical orthodoxy and many quote him without mentioning his poisonous heresies.
#2. “What God really is, is God manifest himself – herself – itself through your breath, through your conscience and through your intuition. As long as you have that, you have the presence of God and you also have the power…”
This quote is from Oprah Winfrey, the famous TV talk show host, whom the USA Today called “America’s pastor” and “today’s Billy Graham.” One striking thing about this woman is her ability to make the most deadly occult/New Age beliefs sound “Christian” to her audience who hang on her every word. On her final TV show, she made a reference to God saying:
“I’m talking about the same one you are talking about. I’m talking about Alpha and Omega, the Omniscient, the Omnipresent, the Ultimate Consciousness, the Source, the Force, the All of everything there is, the One and Only G-O-D” (The Atlantic, May 2011).
Don’t let the Biblical terms she used sidetrack you, her “God” is the pantheist god of the New Age – the Force. She was raised a Baptist but in her 20s, she heard the pastor say that God is a jealous God. “I asked ‘Why? Come on-let’s get over it!” she said “That’s when I started exploring taking God out of the box, out of the pew.” She now declares “I believe in the FORCE – I call it God” (The Gospel According to Oprah, July, 1998).
She was quoted saying “one of the biggest mistake humans make is to believe that there is only one way. Actually, there are many diverse paths leading to what you call God.” Sorry ma’am that’s one of the biggest lie from the pit (Jn. 14:6). When someone in her audience identified her as a New Ager, she was upset:
“I am not new age anything and I resent being called that. I am just trying to open a door so that people can see themselves more clearly and perhaps be the light to get them to God, whatever they may call that. I don’t see spirits in the trees and I don’t sit in the room with crystals.”
Though she brushes off the New Age label, her philosophy evinces it. In her visit to Standford University Memorial church in April 2015, she led over 1,000 members in an occult meditation:
“Close your eyes for a moment, will you please breathe with me … put your thumb to your middle finger and gather your other fingers around, and let’s feel the vibration and pulse of your personal energy as you take three deep breathe with me” (Charisma News, 29/04).
Most of the guests on her show were New Agers/pagans/shamans and the books she promotes are New Age to the core. She promoted Deepak Chopra’s The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success (“In reality, we are divinity in disguise, and the gods and goddesses in embryo that are contained within us seek to be fully materialized” p. 3).
She promoted John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus. Gray was a secretary to Hindu guru, Maharishi Yogi and earned degrees in an occult university. She promoted Esther Hick’s The Law of Attraction (who also channeled her “spiritual teachers” on her show) and Rhonda Byrne’s New age work, The Secret (“You are a God in a physical body” p. 164). Sadly many Christians are embracing the concepts in these books.
# 3. “Heaven is so Real is our Lord Jesus’ end time book. He only used my body to write this book … He is letting people know what it takes to enter His kingdom, through this book.”
This quote is from Heaven is So Real by Choo Thomas (1934-2013). The book was about her visions of Jesus, heaven and other end-time themes. The problem with the above quote is this: there is only one end-time Book that tells us what it takes to enter God’s kingdom and that is the Bible. By claiming her book serves this purpose and that Jesus “used her body” to write it, she is trying to elevate it to the level of inspired Scripture. This is a heresy.
The YouTube version shows Choo rocking back and forth as she speaks in a trance-like language, describing her visions. She said the Holy Spirit makes her stomach hurt as if she is going to explode, so she has to rock back and forth to ease the pain. There was also a chant-like New Age music playing in the background, which the screen caption indicated “Holy Songs Sung by Choo Thomas.” (She also performs holy dances, to “release the presence of the Spirit”).
Describing Jesus’ visits she said: “Just before He visits each time, my earthly body quivers and quakes for at least twenty minutes … my body shakes and my stomach tightens. Deep groans emerge from my spirit, and I perspire profusely.”
“During the night … my body shook more violently than it ever had. I was almost hurled from the bed because it was so forceful. I tried to grab the sheet to steady myself, but I couldn’t because I had no control over my body… and I grew afraid.” (p 17).
“He stood before me with His hands stretched out in the form of a cross. As before, my body responded by stretching out, and it took the shape of a cross. The power was so heavy that I felt I would die” (p 164).
I can’t find anyone in Scripture being so treated by Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
Her visions followed a fixed routine: shaking, falling into trance and walking with “Jesus” on a beach. He said to her: “You have a special heart and that is why I answer your prayers … your heart is pure” (p. 16). “[You are] the most fortunate individual who had ever existed” (p. 65). “I will make you famous” (p. 70). To be sure, her Jesus placed a “beautiful crown” on her head. (p 21 ). She said: “He took me to His throne and directed me to sit on a chair next to Him” and they ate fruits and drank from a pond (p. 61). Such ego trip.
On pg. 126, she says her Jesus “seemed light-hearted than usual and very talkative.” She speaks of a purgatory-like “barren lifeless place” near hell where disobedient Christians will stay forever (p. 46); an ocean of “Jesus’ filthy blood” mixed with our sins (p. 29) and even saw the faces of demons flying behind the head of her “Jesus!” (p. 158). While her book says some positive things, it teaches a false Christ and a false spirit. She also somersaulted Bible verses to cement her demonic deception.
Many Christians are not discerning because:
1. The influence of modern “positive” Christianity has conditioned them to focus only on “gospel goodies” and leave out doctrine. Whereas the Bible commands us to “Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” This is because certain false teachers have slipped into the Christian fold (Jude 3-4).
2. They don’t feed on a solid spiritual meat of the Word, which is necessary for spiritual discernment. We must not wait for others to spoonfeed us the Bible. We are to feed on it ourselves, study it and learn how to rightly divide it (2 Tim. 2:15)
3. Many have been taught to think it’s wrong to hurt other people’s feelings by exposing heresies. They cite Matthew 7:1 saying “do not judge.” In context, Matt. 7:1-5, says we are not to judge others for what we are guilty of. In vs. 6, Jesus judges certain people as “dogs and pigs.” He also says we are to judge lives and teachings: “Beware of false prophets … by their fruits [lives] ye shall know them” (Mt. 7:15-16).
4. Many are sidetracked by outward appearances or spiritual gifts (Jn. 7:24). A person is not doctrinally right just because he quotes Scripture, appears to be good or has miracles in his ministry. Many false teachers fool people with charisma and smooth cliches. Look at the fruits, not the gifts.