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December 1, 2022

Connecting Scripture to Understand and Defend Discernment Ministry

By Anthony Wade

Confronting a disappointment in ministry.....time to remember why we do what we do...


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When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." - Matthew 9:36-38 (ESV)

Shakespeare once said, if you prick us, do we not bleed? In the spirit of full disclosure, I got cut last night. It is easy sometimes to forget that we are all humans sharing this mortal coil. The person who cut did not mean to. This is not about them. It certainly is not about me. All ministry efforts take an investment of time and energy, often with not enough "attaboys" for the soul. Especially in discernment, often considered the angry uncle at the Thanksgiving feast of the church. This is not a plea for such positive reinforcement either. This is a realization that every now and again, we need to review why we are here and why we do what we do. That is because I would be a liar if I could not admit that many discernment ministry efforts can end up sounding shrill, whiny or downright angry at times. I would be a fool to think that could not happen to me, as much as I try very hard for that not to come to pass. So, bear with me today as I try to stitch together verses that show the underpinning for why it is that discernment ministries are undertaken and why they have a critical role to play in the body of Christ.

I start with the key verses cited today from Matthew because they represent for me the driving force behind our pursuit for discernment within the church. For that should always start and end with compassion. Now, before you think that sounds odd realize I mean compassion for the sheep, not the wolves. The crowds Jesus was looking out over had teachers! The problem was they were false! As such they were harassed and helpless. Have you ever tried to have a rational, biblical conversation with a Jehovah witness? Try it with an adherent to Joseph Prince. Try criticizing Joel Osteen to someone who feels genuinely uplifted by his heretical teachings. One of the by products of decades of Purpose Driven church teachings is a generation of cult of personality pastors. At Elevation Church for example they teach kids to extoll Pastor Steven and his vision. False teaching harasses and it makes for helpless followers. I see all the time people complaining about the followers saying they should know better but that misses the point here. They are like sheep without a shepherd, which leads to the compassionate response from our Savior and we should strive for no less from ourselves. The harvest is upon us beloved and the laborers are few. That labor is not just to preach the truth but to lead people away from the false. I have received emails from all over the world sharing victory stories of coming out from the darkness of false teaching and into the glorious light of the true gospel. It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him. I only have the ability to write because of Him. Are there a plethora of such stories? No, but we need to remember what God has said about numbers:

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. - Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. - Luke 15:87 (ESV)

We live in a microwave society with a mega-church mentality. We have all heard the fanciful tales from false preachers and evangelists who declare absurd numbers of salvations by who responds to an altar call without the gospel. I was watching a video this morning of a brother who escaped from Elevation Church who told about how they were all driven by church management for "the numbers." How they would plant people in the congregation to appear to spontaneously respond to a call for baptism to get others to feel better about doing so. There is a reason why heaven rejoices when just one person repents and that is because narrow is the road that leads there, and FEW are those who find it. Convincing people to raise their hands does not mean they are saved. In the Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren addresses salvation ONCE. When he does, he tells the readers to say an eight-word sentence and then arrogantly proclaims they are saved. God will not be mocked. Broad is the path that leads to destruction and sadly, most people in church today have no idea they are walking on it. Don't believe me - see what Jesus said:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' - Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

There is a reason why the bible says to walk out your salvation with fear and trembling. These verses should frighten the most devoted believer. These people standing before Jesus on judgment day are clearly churched people. They have seen miracles. They have thought to have cast demons out of people. Yet Jesus NEVER knew them. How is that possible? How can someone think they are serving the Lord for decades only to discover when it is too late that He never knew them? Let's ask God!

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel" not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. - Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV)

It has been a few years since I stood behind a pulpit, but I feel a preach coming on. When prosperity preachers try and tell you that God wants to bless your socks off for the right price - that is a different gospel! When your favorite word faith preachers tell you that you have the power to create reality with your spoken words - that is a different gospel! When they try to dazzle the eyes with gold dust, gemstones, angel feathers and glory clouds - those are different gospels! When they insist that God must heal you - that is a different gospel! When they make themselves or you the hero of every bible study - that is a different gospel! When they mix their carnal politics with salvation and church matters - that is a different gospel! When they ask you to idolize a country, a flag, a politician or political party - those are all idols and represent a different gospel! When they tell you that grace means the law has no place in the lives of believers - that is a different gospel! When they sell Kumbaya unity at the expense of doctrine - that is a false gospel that God has specifically spoken to:

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. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. - Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)

It is always humorous when detractors of discernment ministries claim we are causing division in the body when the bible says the exact opposite! It is those that teach contrary doctrine that are the ones causing division because they divide the true gospel from their false. Now, maybe some may still not get why this is so crucial, so let us go back to scripture:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. - Romans 1:16 (ESV)

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. - Acts 20:26-27 (ESV)

Do we truly understand what the first verse is saying? Only the true gospel has the power of God to save anyone! No one can get saved in a church that is not presenting the gospel! That is why the way is narrow and few find it! Look at what Paul declares to the Ephesian elders when leaving them. He declares himself innocent of their blood because he did not hesitate to proclaim to them the entire counsel of God, you know, the gospel! Joel Osteen is on record saying he does not preach on sin because he does not think people need to be reminded of what they have done wrong. Sorry! That is indeed a false gospel! Such people who teach on everything but the blood of Christ do not serve our Lord but are smooth talkers, deceiving the hearts of the naïve. You know, like sheep without a shepherd! Just take a look at what Paul teaches Timothy as he launches into his pastorship at Ephesus:

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. -- 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV)

Never lose sight that because of divine inspiration, we believe God wrote these words. He tells him to only guard two things - his life and his doctrine. By guarding your life, you save yourself but guarding your doctrine saves your listeners!

Beloved, I can go on and list scripture after scripture because the entire bible is about Christ and His gospel. We are to watch our doctrine because only the gospel has the power of God to save someone. True division in the church comes from those that would preach another gospel and we are to count them as accursed! I find it no coincidence that God uses the example that even if an angel brings another gospel they should be counted accursed when you consider that Mormonism was founded on the premise an angel gave Joseph Smith a new gospel. To this day, Mormons use the Pearl of Great Price and the Book of Mormon OVER the bible. We do this line of ministry because so many will stand before Jesus churched and damned. We do this line of ministry because we know the way is narrow and few find it but when they do there is great rejoicing in heaven. We do this line of ministry out of pure compassion for the lost who think they are found. Those in darkness that have been convinced their darkness is light. Those harassed and helpless by voracious wolves who seek only to devour.

That brings us to the concluding thought and that is one of style. Let's be honest, this is a ministry of criticism. It is a ministry of critique. If someone espouses a minor theological error that is not a cause for tearing the person down but rather loving correction. We are talking about wolves beloved. People with ministries that reach millions, who spend their lives in direct opposition to Christ. The bible says we are either gathering people to Him or scattering them away. There is no third choice. So how do we approach these wolves? I refuse to pet them. I refuse to play with them. John the Baptist seems to agree:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. - Matthew 3:7-8 (ESV)

Brood of vipers! Jesus was not kinder towards them. He called them whitewashed tombs filled with dead man's bones who turn all who listen to them into twice the sons of hell that they are! That sounds pretty harsh and snarky to me! I understand that following discernment ministries can sound negative and critical, but my focus has always been on the sheep, not the wolves. Being led astray has consequences. Shipwrecking your faith has consequences. We can look across the expanse of the battlefield for the souls of mankind and lament how the wolves are being treated when exposed or we can tend to the bloodied sheep. I choose the latter because I was once them. I am nothing special beloved. I am amazed when God uses me for anything because I know where I came from. I remember the bar God found me in. My flesh wants to sin just as much as Joseph Prince's or Creflo Dollar's. Without the grace of God, I would be nowhere. Without His mercy, I would be nowhere. As my pastor is fond of saying, I am just dirt talking to dirt. I do pray that when you look out over the crowds and see the harassed and helpless, that it sparks a compassion in you. The imagery Jesus chooses is not without reason. The shepherd carries a staff to guide the sheep and a rod to ward off the enemies of the sheep. The gospel, hallelujah is both staff and rod. We should hold neither in contempt.

Reverend Anthony Wade - December 1, 2022

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.