Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? - Jeremiah 23: 29 (ESV)
When I was first learning about the great falling away that is to happen in the end times I often wondered how so many could be so deceived when God has given us His revealed Word in the Bible. For every lie the enemy tells there is a truth in the Bible that assures us he is a liar. For every false teaching there is the Bible to assure us that it is false. It wasn't until I started a discernment ministry that I started to see the cold hard truth for so many Christians and those who believe themselves to be Christians. They do not want the truth. They want the delusion they are sitting under. They want the lies. Maybe not consciously and certainly not everyone; but the Bible says that few will find the narrow path and I think this supports that essential biblical understanding.
At the heart of deception is the choice of the majority of churches to design Christianity around the believer instead of in whom we have believed. The Bible is a book about Jesus beloved; not us. If you attend a church where the sermons are geared towards you then you are having your itching ears scratched whether you realize it or not. If the sermons are geared to be "relevant" or help you solve problems in this life then they are not about Christ by default. Any "church" that is not about Christ is not part of His church. It is not part of His body. It is no wonder that people would not want to trade their false teaching in. It lifts man up instead of Christ. We become the focus. We are special. We have the power to create our own reality. We are the head and not the tail, above and not below, and a lender not a borrower. Jesus? Sure there's always room to mention Him because it has to have the veneer of being pious. But even Jesus' role is no longer Savior in our lives. We are a friend of God. He is our buddy or our wingman. He becomes our co-pilot. His main function is that of a glorified errand boy. We are taught to leverage Jesus. Through prayer, worship or church. Our faith now "forces" God to somehow do something. We usurp the sovereignty of God like spiritual pickpockets and in some popular teachings as far as to claim the direct power of creation only He possesses. That is the cornerstone of the word faith theology that is promoted by Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Hillsong and Joyce Meyer to name but a few. In other popular theologies supported by Bill Johnson from Bethel Church, Mike Bickle from IHOP, and Rick Warren from Saddleback, God cannot even send Jesus back for the second coming until Christians take over the world. This heresy is known as dominion theology. The other dominant heresy today is prosperity doctrine, which many know from multiple preachers, including Robert Morris, TD Jakes, and Mike Murdoch to name but a few. Many of these false teachers overlap and preach multiple heresies. When it comes to prosperity doctrine God is like a loan shark for the mob. If you pay, everyone is happy but if you miss a payment then curses will rain down upon you. In this false teaching, God cannot operate as the blessing dispenser we want Him to be unless we pay Him first. Oh sure it is always couched with pious sounding bites about obedience and being "blessed to be a blessing" but the reality is this doctrine also flips the Gospel on its head. Instead of being focused on the eternal life we are focused on this temporal life. In this doctrine God wants everyone to be rich beyond their filthiest dreams. Forget the eye of the needle. Forget the only serving one master teaching. More importantly, forget all those poor people in third world countries for whom this doctrine could never work. If you want the windows of heaven to be opened over your life to receive your good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over into your lap, hallelujah harvest well you just better pay the man first.
Why would so many embrace these untruths? Why would people live their lives serving them? Because in each one of them God is irrelevant. Paul Washer once famously quipped that of course everyone wants to go to heaven it's just that most don't want to see God when they get there. When you go to a church that makes the Bible about you then you become God. Word faith, dominionism, prosperity doctrine and nearly every other false teaching all usurp to power and sovereignty of God. Because the theft is so blatant the defense has to be reflexive. Anyone who dares to point out that a favorite teacher is actually a wolf slaughtering the sheep is labeled as unloving. Bible verses are ripped horribly out of context to support the notion. Little Bible fragments that the willfully deceived can rally around. Judge not! I'm just serving God! You can't know their heart! Only God is the judge! Look at all the social good he does! Then there is my favorite - Jesus was all about love. Well, yes and no. What preacher? Jesus was all about the love of the Father, not the carnal excuse for love we have created here on earth.
This letter is from John, the elder. I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in the truth--as does everyone else who knows the truth-- because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ--the Son of the Father--will continue to be with us who live in truth and love. - 2John 1-3 (NLT)
Look at what the Apostle John is saying here. Whom I love in the truth. There is no love without truth. Because of all the seeker friendly purpose driven churches, we have seen now the creation of a new jesus. One made in our image. One vested fully in our brand of love. A love that does not require biblical truth anymore. A love that makes us feel better about our sin. We often revile those in the world who openly profess that everyone gets to go to heaven. The reality is at least they are honest about their beliefs. We claim only the redeemed go to heaven but live like the opposite. Not only live like it but seek out teaching that is the opposite of it. The Bible says that we will gather around us teachers to say what we want to hear. There is a fantastic story in the Old Testament about as little known Prophet named Micaiah that illustrates this beautifully:
And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, "Inquire first for the word of the Lord." Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, "Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?" And they said, "Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king." But Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?" And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil." And Jehoshaphat said, "Let not the king say so." - 1Kings 22: 5-8 (ESV)
This is the church today. It will run to gather around them 400 men who will tell them exactly what they want to hear. That grace means they can love their sin. That God wants them to live lavish lifestyles. That they are just so special. They hate the Micaiahs in the church because they never seem to say what they want to hear. They never seem to prophesy anything "good." Now this is an important application beloved. The prophets were how God spoke to His people in the Old Testament. For us new believers, He has spoken to us through His Word. The reality is that the vast majority of people who defend the false and reflexively attack the Micaiahs of the church are really rejecting the Word of the Lord. They are rejecting the truth. After all, it wasn't that Micaiah was prophesying things that were "bad." He was prophesying the truth - what God had actually said! King Ahab didn't like the truth and neither does the church today. The church looks upon the one speaking the truth in the exact same manner. In the story of Ahab, he calls for Micaiah who prophesies the opposite of what the King's 400 false prophets said. Faced with this choice, he follows the word of the 400 liars, just like we do so easily today. For good measure however, he punishes the one speaking what God said:
And the king of Israel said, "Seize Micaiah, and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son, and say, 'Thus says the king, "Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations of bread and water, until I come in peace."'" And Micaiah said, "If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me." And he said, "Hear, all you peoples!" - 1Kings 22: 26-28 (ESV)
King Ahab did not return in peace. He was killed in battle just as Micaiah had said. Just as the Lord had said. The final words of Micaiah however should be a clarion call for a slumbering, deceived church today. Hear, all you peoples! What the 400 liars are telling you is false! This cannot be your best life now unless you are going to hell! You are not destined to reign! Only God reigns! Those parts of the Bible that teaches us how we are to behave morally? Yes, God meant them! You do not have the power of creation in your words! You are the creature - not the Creator! God loved you so much He allowed His only Son to be horrifically killed in your place! Thorns were thrust into His head until His own blood filled His eyes! His side was shattered with a spear! His hands and feet nailed into a cross He was made to carry while people mocked Him and spat upon Him! That is the picture of love beloved! Not this wishy washy, carnal fantasy where everyone sings Kumbaya while holding hands until He comes again and tells us He never knew us! Hear, all you peoples!
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. - Matthew 10: 34-39 (ESV)
Do we understand this today? Do we even care anymore? Jesus did not come to earth to die on a cross for the sake of peace. The Gospel by definition divides people. These verses are where the rubber meets the road. The reason why so many prefer the false is because the truth is they have no intention of giving up their lives for Christ. None whatsoever and with the doctrines outlined earlier, they do not have to! Think for a moment about the end of these verses. Whoever finds their life will lose it. How many people find their life in churchianity today? That is the entire premise of the purpose driven church model! Sure it is padded with plenty of "Jesus-speak" but the purpose is yours. The blessings are yours. They find their life in church when they were supposed to find Christ and trade their life in for His. It all goes back to the false jesus they are being sold. This friend of theirs that can be their co-pilot. But you don't trade your life in for your friend. You don't give up everything you have for your buddy, no matter how great a wing man he might be. But a Savior? Someone who saved you? Who redeemed you when you had no value? Someone who reached down into the filthy morass of this world and cleaned you up? That is who you give up your life for beloved.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. - Philippians 3: 8-11 (ESV)
Paul was originally Saul and he had a pretty good life. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees. Yet one day on that Damascus road he met Jesus and everything changed. Here we see him reflecting back upon his life. He is just a few years from a martyr's death and he knows it. He is sitting in chains in a Roman prison. He thinks back and realizes that everything this world would tell him he lost he did so gladly for knowing Christ Jesus. In fact, he considers the things the world would say he lost as rubbish compared to the chance to be found in Christ. That he would know the power of His resurrection unto eternal life. Here is the part you will never hear preached anymore - that he might share in His sufferings. There's a reason why people refuse to hear Micaiah.
Oh, I understand why people do not want to hear what the Bible actually says! I understand that it is a two edged sword and it cuts deep. It cuts deep into our lies. It cuts deep into our failings. It cuts deep into our sins. Better yet, think of it as the Prophet Jeremiah describes it for us today in our key verse. It is fire! It consumes whatever is placed in front of it! It burns it up until it is all gone. Better still, the Word of God is a hammer. When wielded properly it will shatter to pieces the stony hearts we have built for ourselves through following false doctrines. The stony heart that wants nothing to do with the real Jesus. The one who doesn't bring peace but a sword. The one who demands that we take up our own cross and deny ourselves if we are to truly follow Him. As He carried the cross, which would be an instrument of His death we too must carry ours and crucify our temporal lives to be His disciple. That is the Hammer of God beloved. But we do not want that hammer. It is heavier than the burden the false teacher told us we would have to carry for this thing called Christianity. We do not want our sinful lives broken upon the rock of Jesus Christ by the hammer of His Word. So we trade it in. We trade it in for a snuggie.