Falling Into Deception
11 "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many."
24 "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
I became familiar with false teachings at an early age. From six years old to about ten years of age I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. A couple of years after that I attended some Christian churches with my mom. As a young adult, I started on my own quest for the truth. I went to different places of worship including a Catholic church and a Buddhist temple. Because of extended family members, I also became familiar with Mormonism.
After experiencing many kinds of deception, both in my youth and early adulthood, it is a wonder that I became a Christian at all, but I did.
Within the Walls of Today’s Churches
2 Timothy 4:1-4
4 "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables."
By the time I was 30 I had finally accepted God as my personal Lord and Savior. It wasn’t an instantaneous transformation, but definitely a work in progress. At that time my husband wasn’t ready or even looking for a church to attend. I went to church alone early on in our relationship. Eventually, he decided to visit a few of them. We ended up agreeing on a church that his brother and sister-in-law attended and even helped start. They were one of the first 12 members of the church. It had now grown and moved into an auditorium at an elementary school. My husband and I ended up attending the church for 12 years. We were married by the pastor and also adopted two beautiful little girls through a program presented at the church (a true blessing!). Needless to say, we were fully invested in the church and their practices.
The church grew very quickly and needed to move into a larger facility. During this time another church in the area was losing its pastor and the church was looking for a replacement pastor. Our pastor ended up taking the position and merging both churches together. With the merge of the two churches came new ministry opportunities. The church was very involved in the community with outreach programs but was missing the vital ingredient for Christian growth, the bible. Although bible verses were being used within the topical teachings, the bible was nowhere to be found! Each service had a fill in the blank pamphlet relating to the topic being taught and flashed the scriptures on a large screen. It seemed there was no need to bring a Bible to church. At that time, I thought, “Great, this makes things easier. I don’t have to try to find the scriptures myself and I can keep up with the study.” Here’s where compromise and biblical illiteracy started to take root and deception quickly took a hold of my life. It was a slow fade, or maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps I fell into deception from the minute I walked through the doors of this popular evangelical church?
Before long, a “More Seats, More Story” fundraiser started. The church was ready to build a new (even larger) sanctuary. Many people paid into this building fund for months or even years. With this growth came more entertaining music, skits, and many things the world had to offer. Even the youth ministry themed their events around what was popular in the world, like “The Hunger Games". Also, small group outreaches were themed after “Happy Hour”. The church was driven by their “More Seats, More Stories” theme and the idea of reaching people to fill seats in the new sanctuary. The church opened a café, served popcorn, donuts, pastries, breakfast burritos and coffee. They had kiosks for ministry opportunities and outreach. They served tacos for the “Happy Hour” theme and had incredibly talented musicians offering worldly music, such as Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, and even a Christmas tribute to Michael Jackson, along with popular trendy Christian music. There were even ice skaters, actors, painters, dancers, and elaborate stage set-ups. We were immensely entertained and the church grew like wildfire. The church “Rocked”, but where was God in all of this entertainment? Did God have a seat in this sanctuary? Did anyone know about the word of God? Scripture was being used, but not being taught.
1 Timothy 6:3-5
3 "If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself."
There’s a big difference between using God’s word to bring about a pastor’s topics and teaching God’s infallible word to the flock. Most of the members of this church were falling into compromise and didn’t even know it. Author’s books were recommended for bible study, such as John Ortberg’s, “It All Goes Back into the Box”and Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life”. There was also the pastor’s fill in the blank DVD bible study series. Many authors were quoted during sermons and the word of God was downplayed. This church was a mess, but many people (including myself) couldn’t get enough of it. There were many areas of service to get involved in and the church seemed to be thriving. The people were actually being counted as they walked in the door. It was all about numbers and growing, but where was the growth in God’s word? Where were the mature and growing Christians? This church was so deprived of God’s words that the enemy blended in without anyone batting an eye.
Beware of the False Doctrine of Men
False Teachings Entering Recovery Programs
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
The recovery program was all about the doctrines of men, Rick Warren’s and John Baker’s “Celebrate Recovery” program was up and running. The program chanted the “Serenity Prayer” and the Bible took a back seat to topical teachings on Hope, Powerlessness, Control, Grace, and many other topics surrounding the word recovery.
I know this recovery program all too well. After the death of my best friend and father, I felt lost and entered the program. It claimed to have the answers to recovery and wholeness. I found out I was "codependent" and a "people pleaser". I was taught Codependent simply means self-dependent and not God dependent. Wow, that should have been a clue, right? It was supposed to be a 12 step recovery model using God’s words of affirmation. Step 11 states: “We sought through prayer and meditation (what kind of meditation?) to improve our conscious contact with God (we improve our conscious contact with God?), praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out (what power, ours or God’s?)”. Step 12 followed by stating: “Having had a spiritual experience (what kind of spiritual experience?) as a result of these steps (not the bible but the steps), we try to carry this message to others (what message, God’s or mans’?) and to practice these principles (what principles, God’s or Rick Warren’s?) in all our affairs”. People started bowing down to their teachings. They became addicted to the program instead of turning to God's word for help and guidance. Reading the bible and praying for God’s mercies, help, forgiveness, and healing should be sufficient. The doctrines of men are not the answer.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 warns:
4 "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,"
During all this “recovery” I allowed these teachings to divide my family in half. My older sister and I went through the program and my mother and younger sister stood together while my mom grounded herself in biblical truths. They knew something was seriously wrong with a program that was being run by man’s ideas of wholeness and healing. There was a three-year division that led to hard feelings and eventually tore our family apart. It took a lot of prayers and a long time to bring us back together.
Next, increasing deception overwhelms my life. Teachings on visualization enter in and crowd out sound doctrine.
17 "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them."
False Doctrine of Men-Part 2
Visualization Practices-Going Within To Meet God
28 "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock."
Shortly after my experience with “Celebrate Recovery”, another teaching entered the church. I wanted to keep growing and recovering from life’s disappointments and hurts. I went straight into another teaching model on codependence. This teaching, by far, was the most dangerous of all. It took me right into the innermost depths of my soul and taught me to spiritualize the Old Testament teachings and to get in touch with my inner-child. This teaching had me go within myself to find God. The premise of this teaching was to bring awareness of the fact that the New Testament believers were all walking tabernacles, with inner and outer courts to organize, along with, a holy of holiest within ourselves; a sacred place to meet with God. It led to visualizing being in the presence of God and imagining what the throne room would look like. The problem with visualizing being in the presence of God was that everyone could have a different image and experience.
1 Corinthians 3:16
16 "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
Although the bible does say we are the temple of God, it doesn’t teach us to visualize being in the presence of God. The bible also doesn’t teach us to visualize courts, gates, and doorways within our lives.
The author of this doctrine had two books out around the same time. I went through her first book and study, which encompassed long deliverance prayers. It came with the authority to renounce wrongful spirits in our lives and announce God’s power over our circumstances. These prayers came with a warning of being spiritually attacked after the prayers since the prayers were so powerful but necessary for deliverance. After this class, I helped lead the next class in the same study. About the time this class came to an end I went right into her second book. It was based on the word grace. Here’s where everything became seriously over-spiritualized and truly dangerous. The author taught people to visit doorways within oneself, such as the parental doorway, inviting God into my story and having Him cleanse each area of life. I needed to give Him permission to move into these doorways and allow access to healing. This kind of teaching has no biblical basis to back it up. But I was in desperate need for answers and truth. Unfortunately, I was looking to man instead of God.
12 "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
After finishing the second study, I helped lead the next class along with helping record her DVD series. I thought I was moving right along and helping others become aware of their need for these studies, which would help further their growth as God’s divine children. Wow! I felt truly special. I wrote my testimony and read it in front a few hundred people in different recovery programs and also for my classmates. I thought I was helping people in need, by offering a listening ear, words of encouragement, and even giving much-needed advice, since I seemed to have all the answers everyone was looking for. I thought I had truly arrived at a heightened understanding of truth. The truth is, we never truly arrive anywhere until we are face to face with Jesus our Savior. This statement came right from my next door neighbor. God bless her for her honesty.
This much-needed wisdom didn’t stop me. I thought I was hearing right from God during my prayer time. I started writing down the words that God would share with me. It seemed to be a wonderful time of enlightenment. My spirit soared in excitement. I was truly in the clouds and needed to come down from my ego parade. The writings were so encouraging and told me everything I wanted to hear about how wonderful I was and truly special. I felt chosen for an elite calling and gifted as a writer. I had much encouragement from others. I had even been told that my writings were similar to the author of the “Come Away with Me My Beloved” devotional. She claimed to be hearing right from God, which I believed I was receiving as well. I started writing my own devotional and thought maybe one day mine would be published.
Here’s where deception clouded every decision I made. I looked at the world differently and felt connected to all things. I felt the birds had a story to tell me and that the wind was blowing through me in the oneness of the universe. I was misled beyond words. This practice was very mystical in nature, much like Eastern Religious practices, along with new age influences. I was trapped in a net of confusion, which God warns about.
1 Corinthians 14:33
33 "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints."
1 Peter 5:8-9
8 "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world."
2 Peter 2:1-3
1 "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber."
THE END OF DECEPTION
The Beginning of Awareness
14 "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,"
Coming out of deception isn’t easy. First, I had to admit to myself that I had been deceived and then I had to ask myself “Why?” That was the hardest part of letting go of my delusions - realizing my error. I was broken and lost like I’d never been before. I was upset, frightened, and I hungered and thirsted for answers. I looked in many different directions and locations for answers, all the while becoming more and more confused. I talked with different pastors, asked many questions about today’s churches, and received only a few answers. What stuck out to me in the theme of the answers I received was the underlying theme of not judging other churches. Really? How do you ever understand deception and what it looks like if you don’t judge teachings and question doctrine? I asked myself this one simple question, how could deception enter in when I was seeking God with my whole heart? The answers became clearer as time went on. I didn’t know the Bible and therefore I didn’t realize the state of my fallen condition. I was deprived of the one thing I needed most, God’s infallible word.
Shortly after arriving at this awareness, my mom shared a DVD series with me, “Wide is the Gate”. In this DVD series, many people shared their life experiences with deception, which rang true to my own experiences. Each story was different but led to the same place, the doctrine of men and false religions. My story echoed many others. I realized I wasn’t alone in my error, deception, and confusion. Although each person came from a different location, ideology, and background, every story was man-centered. One question still astonishes me, why God chose to save me from myself and this world, I’ll never know, but I’m forever grateful.
I did go back and talk to the pastor of the church I attended for 12 years. I was amazed that the pastor didn’t realize the extent of the teachings being allowed into his church or within his congregation.
I explained to him about mystical teaching entering the church and let him know the author of this doctrine was filming her DVD series on campus. He looked perplexed. He wasn’t aware any author was filming at his church. He didn’t even know her or her teachings, but would look into it. Unfortunately, not even a week later, she was giving another topical teaching in the recovery program.
During the same conversation, the pastor’s son brought to my attention that he was in seminary school. I asked him if he was aware of the false doctrines entering some of the schools. He explained that he was aware, but wasn’t fazed or moved by the teachings. At the same time, he added that he thought people that believed in the literal word of God were naïve. Needless to say, I was shocked. Everything that I’d learned thus far about deception was coming out in a single conversation. This was around the time the pastor’s son seemed to be being prepped to take his father’s place at the church.
In addition, when I was at the church the mission’s pastor walked off the job without having another job to fall back on. He was dissatisfied with the church growth model and the teachings being proclaimed from the pulpit. He knew too much and wouldn’t stand by and watch the corruption being allowed into the church. I know this story because I met with him to talk about his reason for leaving. This missions pastor had a wife and two young children to feed, but wouldn’t stand for what was going on. This church was an unbiblical mess, but there were thousands of people attending each service.
I thank God that He led me to a church that teaches all the way through the bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse, both, Old and New Testament. It has grounded me in the truth for the first time. The pastor of this church has helped me to realize the depths of my errors and offered sound doctrine to combat the lies I had learned to believe. He had seen my deception many times before and spoke openly about God’s words of warning to His people. He covered eschatology, which isn’t taught in many of today’s churches, but is necessary to understand the times we live in. He covered much-needed warning about apostasy entering today’s church in his segments in the “Wide is the Gate” DVD series. He took the time to teach me about controversial issues in the Bible and offered much needed biblical truths right from the word of God.
2 Timothy 2:15
15 "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
It was a simple truth. It was not hard to find when I put all my attention in the one place truth is found – the Bible. The truth is not always easy to hear, but truth is essential in the life of every believer. I have grown so much in the almost 4 years now I've been attending this Bible based church. I’m forever grateful and realize now, I’m a sinner saved by grace, in need of a savior. God’s words have revealed these truths to me and humbled my spirit. I have turned from my wicked, self-righteous, self-serving ways and yielded to the truth only found in God’s word. I realize now, that God’s words are sufficient and no effort of my own will ever be enough; Jesus has already paid the price for my sins.
God led my family to the remnant church, still steadfast in the word and not compromising with the world in order to build a mega church based on worldly principles and values. Now we have a home church built on God’s unchangeable, inerrant word alone.
16 "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear."
Stand up for the word of God and don’t compromise with the world. Stand apart and be a Berean - search the scriptures daily to see if anyone’s claims or teachings are true or in error.
10 "Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."
The bible reveals these truths and exposes errors. There’s no need to look elsewhere.
8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."
I hope and pray that my story will reach those who are falling into deception and help shed some light about the times we live in.
New King James Version of the Bible used unless otherwise noted
Most bible verses are copied from gateway.com