Awareness Alphabet - The ABC's of False Teachings

by Bill Rudge

In the day and age we are living, it is crucial that we stand strong for biblical Christianity. I trust the following article will be of help as you do so.

Absolute Authority

In false and extreme groups, the authority of God and the Bible is often replaced by that of a human leader. Claiming to be God’s representative, the leader demands total submission. Guilt and fear are often the clubs used to compel obedience by the implication that those who do not submit to the human leader are in rebellion against God. Some groups actually use violence or threats of violence to control devotees or to keep them from leaving the group.

While it is true that we are to submit to those in legitimate authority (Hebrews 13:17), we are not to obey anyone who requests us to do something contrary to God’s Word (Acts 5:29). And leaders are not to lord it over those entrusted by God to their care (1 Peter 5:2,3).

Balance Upset by Extremism

Balance is a key word. Many groups start out with sound teachings and good intentions, but get off-track when they get out of biblical balance. This happens to those who mainly study only those scriptures which pertain to the topics they are interested in, instead of studying all of Scripture in context. They find isolated verses that seemingly coincide with what they already believe while ignoring  scriptures that may add additional light or even contradict their preconceived ideas.

Be careful of any person or group who drifts out of biblical balance and starts to become extreme in their teachings or practices. Always study Scripture in context by reading the verses before and after so you can “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) .

Complete Control

Most false prophets and teachers are great manipulators. They often attempt to control every aspect of your life—time, relationships, and money—for their own selfish purposes. Many want to oversee almost every decision you make. Their desire is for total mastery over their devotees.

The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for allowing this to happen to them (2 Corinthians 11:20). Do not allow anyone to manipulate and control your life. Jesus Christ is the only One to whom we should totally surrender and submit.

Deception

Many false groups conceal their true identity and deliberately deceive new members and the general public about their real beliefs and goals. Only when the new converts have established a commitment to the group and are indoctrinated, do they reveal their actual beliefs.

In these days of widespread spiritual deception, it is of utmost importance that believers test every teaching, practice, and movement by the standard of Holy Scripture.

Emphasis on Experience

Experience-oriented people allow phenomena to determine their beliefs rather than evaluate their spiritual experiences with the Word of God. Those who lack discernment are easy victims for spiritual deception.

There is nothing wrong with feelings, emotions, and excitement; these can be valid responses to the genuine moving of God’s Spirit. Besides, we are not to quench the Spirit who desires to work in our lives in a real and special way. The danger arises when people begin seeking experiences, miracles, signs, and revelations more than they seek the Lord and His Word.

Instead of allowing subjective experiences to determine your beliefs, let the objective Word of God be the final authority by which you evaluate all phenomena and practices.

False Basis of Salvation

The Gospel message of God’s grace and salvation through faith in Christ is often replaced with a false gospel of works and rituals. You have to join their group, follow the proper rituals, witness, give money, chant, meditate, or do something to assist and ensure your salvation. Their true motivation is not for saving souls, but enslaving souls.

Then there are those who teach that we are all divine. This is the same lie Satan used in the Garden of Eden. According to adherents of this erroneous belief, mankind is not separated from God because of sin and rebellion and in need of salvation. Instead, they teach that the goal of every person should be to realize their divinity. Their desire is to exalt self to the status of God rather than to humble themselves and receive God’s mercy and grace.

There is nothing more tragic than someone pursuing a false hope of salvation through their own works and self-effort when Jesus Christ offers this as a free gift (Romans 5:1).

God Portrayed as Impersonal

God is often described as an ambiguous, impersonal force, especially by Eastern and New Age groups. To them, God is whatever you conceive Him to be. They believe that God and His creation are in reality no different. By adhering to proper beliefs and formulas we can all achieve oneness with the universe and obtain God consciousness.

Yet the Bible presents a very real and personal God who has existence and identity separate from His creation. He possesses all the attributes of personality. He lives, feels, plans, loves, grieves, blesses, punishes, and forgives. The God of the Bible is revealed as omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, unchanging, transcendent, triune, good, compassionate, patient, merciful, faithful, and holy.

The reason pseudo-religious groups portray an impersonal God is to absolve themselves from any responsibility and accountability they may have before a personal Creator. However, Scripture emphatically declares that we will all stand before God’s judgment seat (Romans 14:10).

Hazards to Discernment

Although it would be wonderful if every person who comes in the name of Christ would truly be of God, the Bible clearly reveals that this is not always the case. Our enemy is often disguised as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) and his cohorts as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15).

The enemy is attempting in this day and age to seduce believers from pure devotion to Christ through false teachings and prophecies, pseudo-miracles and phenomena, and occult and New Age techniques. Therefore, one of the greatest needs today is for spiritual discernment.

The only way to have discernment is to know God’s Word and to know His voice. And the only way to know God’s Word and voice is to spend time in His Word and in prayer.

Intensive Indoctrination

Many false and extreme groups use intensive indoctrination to program new converts. Various techniques are used as extensive time is given to repetitive messages, singing, praising, dancing, chanting, and other emotionally driven and consciousness-altering activities. Little time is allowed to think or reflect on one’s own.

New converts are told that only the leader has special insight and revelation knowledge from God to interpret Scripture correctly. Their interpretation is the only one devotees are taught or allowed.

In order to keep members away from any information that might cause them to question the group’s teachings, they are often forbidden to fellowship with anyone not sanctioned by the leader. They also are encouraged to avoid reading or listening to anything that is not produced or endorsed by their movement.

Be cautious of any person or group who only allows the teachings of those with whom they are associated. Be watchful of anyone who attempts to create an atmosphere or use techniques where adherents reach trance-like states. Never be vulnerable to being indoctrinated and programmed with deceptive and extreme beliefs and practices.

Jesus Is Minimized

Satan will give you nine truths to get one lie across. The lie he attempts to propagate is designed either to make you think you do not need to accept Christ or to cause you to follow “another Jesus” other than the Jesus of the Bible (2 Corinthians 11:3,4).

Some pseudo-religious groups lower Jesus to merely a great teacher or prophet. Others believe we all have the potential to become another Christ.

One of the best acid tests for any questionable group is to discover who they really believe Jesus Christ is (John 8:24; 1 John 2:22,23; 4:1-3). Any person who denies that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God incarnate, and the only way of salvation is scripturally identified as a false prophet or a false teacher.

Knowledge Kept Shallow

The easiest targets for false teachers are the undiscerning who are immature in their faith and have a shallow knowledge of the Word of God. Although not every Christian is called to be an expert on false teachings, the responsibility of every believer is to strive to be an expert on the Word of God. Then when someone takes verses out of context, adds to, subtracts from, misinterprets, twists, or distorts the Word in order to make it conform to his or her own ideas, you can examine the scriptures in context.

Be like the Bereans who received the Word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily, to see if what was said was true (Acts 17:11).

Love and Sex Are Distorted

Many false groups use outward displays of superficial love and concern to attract members. They want to impress upon you that they love you. However, their affection quickly terminates if you question or oppose their teachings or if you leave the group.

Many such groups also depart from biblical guidelines and become extreme concerning their views on sex. Either they forbid or limit sexual desires and relations of even their married couples or else they encourage promiscuity and unnatural behavior.

The apostle Peter strongly warns about perverted false prophets and teachers who seduce their adherents into sexual impurity (2 Peter 2:2; 13,14;18,19).

We must be wary of any group or leader who distorts or perverts the scriptural standards and guidelines regarding sex and marriage. The challenge to all true believers is to share the genuine love of Christ with the lonely, hurting, and unloved. When someone experiences the authentic love of God, they will be far less vulnerable to the seductive lure of a counterfeit and enslaving love.

Motives That Are Selfish

What are the motives for the things we do and say or the ministry we have? Is it merely to be seen of men, for personal gain, and to build our own kingdom, or is it truly for the glory of God and to advance His kingdom?

John the Baptist said concerning Jesus,

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

Today that is often reversed. More emphasis is placed on the human leader and less is put on Christ.

Be wary of those who boast about their “gifts of the Spirit” but manifest little of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22,23). Be cautious of arrogant leaders who give lip service to Jesus and praise Him with their mouths, but the true intent of their heart is obviously for self-exaltation.

Not Everyone Who Says to Me, “Lord, Lord”

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus gives one of the most startling concepts in Scripture––

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!”

These people called Jesus Lord. They supposedly prophesied in His name and performed miracles in His name and cast out demons in His name, but they did not know Him or do the will of His Father.

What is more important than miracles and supernatural phenomena is that you know the Jesus of the Bible in a real and personal way. That He is truly Lord of your life. That you are walking in obedience to His Word and Spirit. That the fruit of the Spirit is being developed in your life as you are being conformed to His image. That your heart’s desire is to exalt Him and you are bearing fruit for His glory.

Only True Movement

A false leader often comes to the belief that his or her group is the only one that has the complete revelation of truth. Followers are taught that everyone outside their movement is either inferior infidel pretenders or outright counterfeits.

This attitude of superiority and  spiritual elitism breeds a scenario of oppression and persecution. It creates a divisive mentality of “we are more spiritual; they are less spiritual.”

While the Gospel is exclusive to those who reject faith in Jesus Christ, it is inclusive of all true believers, regardless of denominational preference (Romans 12:36; 1 Corinthians 12:20-22; 25, 26).

Be wary of anyone who says they are the only true church or implies that they are superior or more spiritual than all others. All this does is cause division and weakens the true body of Christ (Romans 16:17).

Prophecies That Don’t Come True

We are living at a time when God is pouring out His Spirit and many are being genuinely used of God. However, for every authentic gift that God gives, Satan attempts to counterfeit and man tries to imitate. That is why there is an ever increasing amount of prophecies and revelations that are either satanically inspired or given by those who merely speak from their own inspiration.

The Spirit of God exalts Jesus and strengthens, edifies, and encourages the body of Christ. The counterfeit and imitation spirit may on the surface appear to be genuine and to glorify Jesus Christ, but eventually it will put the focus on someone or something else. Ultimately these human or demonically inspired prophecies and revelations cause confusion and chaos in the lives and ministries of those who were undiscerning and foolish enough to accept and tolerate them.

We are not to despise prophetic utterances, but must examine everything carefully (1 Thessalonians 5:20,21). If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken (Deuteronomy 18:22). Even if what a prophet says comes true, if he or she seeks to lead you away from the Lord your God or twists His Word, then do not follow that prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).

Do not accept as genuine a prophecy or revelation from anyone, unless it is in exact accord with God’s Word, is one hundred percent accurate, confirms what the Spirit has already spoken to your heart, and truly exalts the Jesus of the Bible.

Never accept anyone’s prophecies and revelations as a higher authority than the Bible or make anyone other than Jesus Christ the director of your life.

Questionable Finances

Many false teachers lie about what group they really represent, what their true beliefs are, or how the money will be used. Some groups compel members to give all of their finances and possessions. While most may not go this far, some encourage adherents to give multiple tithes or take out loans. Healings or special blessings are often promised to those who give generous and sacrificial donations.

Many groups also merchandise the Gospel by charging exorbitant prices for their services and resources. Others use deceptive and fraudulent fund raising gimmicks. All such approaches are a disgrace to the cause of Christ and contrary to the example set by Him and His true disciples.

The Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:17––

Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.

No matter how nice they seem, what noble cause they say it is for, or how heart-wrenching their story, do not donate unless you know who they are, what they believe, and how your money will be used. Be certain of their integrity and that they are good stewards with the resources you entrust to them.

Rituals That Are Secretive

Obviously there was knowledge and abilities that were lost at the Fall. However, it is foolish and dangerous to seek to retrieve through occult means that which God has banned until He restores all things at the coming of Christ.

Nevertheless, people are fascinated by anyone who claims to have secret knowledge or powers. And they are willing to pay almost any price to discover what their secret is. That is why many false groups use mysterious initiation rituals, have secret codes and formulas, and have inner-circle teachings that are denied to outsiders.

In contrast, Jesus said that He spoke openly to the world (John 18:20). The apostle Paul likewise stated––

I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20).

There is no concealed truth in the universe that is superior to God’s clear revelation in Jesus Christ. There is no deeper or greater truth or power than that which Christ offers freely and openly through His Word and Spirit to all who receive Him. No mystical secret is ever going to rival God’s wonderful mystery revealed in the Gospel, namely, that salvation is available to both Jews and Gentiles through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:6).

Beware of any individual or group who have covert inner-circle teachings and practices or perform secretive rituals and ceremonies or claim to have hidden knowledge and powers. Our focus and obedience should be on what He has clearly revealed in His Word.

Separation from World

Many groups teach devotees to renounce the world and break all ties with their past. Some do not go so far as to require literal separation from society. Members still live and work in the community, but are forbidden to associate with anyone not affiliated with their movement. They are also encouraged to have access only to materials that are produced or endorsed by their group.

While it is true that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and believers are told not to love the world or be conformed to it (1 John 2:15; Romans 12:2), we are not to shun outsiders.

Jesus commanded His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Believers are also instructed to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13,14). We do this by handling ourselves with dignity and integrity in the midst of a perverse generation. We are to be living witnesses to the people we encounter every day.

Techniques That Are Unbiblical

Many false teachers claim to know techniques that will help devotees have mystical experiences, achieve inner tranquility, tap latent powers of their mind, manipulate impersonal energy forces, or have encounters with angels or God.

Mind/body and psycho/spiritual techniques such as imagery, visualization, centering, inner healing, therapeutic touch, toning, hypnosis, yoga, meditation, positive confession, and so on are growing in popularity. They are replacing the genuine transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of many undiscerning people.

Those who refuse to implement the biblical principles for spiritual growth such as repentance, obedience, commitment, discipline, self–control, and perseverance are quick to resort to imitation and counterfeit methods.

Scripture admonishes us to keep our minds on guard and to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We are to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) and be “conformed to the likeness of God’s Son” (Romans 8:29).

Unity of Religion

Most people today believe that all religions are basically the same. A growing number of people are convinced that it does not matter what God you believe in, as long as you are sincere in your beliefs.

The Bible, however, indicates the distinct possibility of being sincerely wrong. The intensity of one’s faith is not what matters most, but who and what one believes in.

If the Bible indicated that there was any other way than through faith in Jesus Christ, then we would be obligated to tell you. Instead, numerous scriptures clearly indicate that salvation is only through Jesus Christ (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5, and 1 John 5:11,12).

All the various false prophets, false teachers, and false christs have merely been preparing the way for Satan’s ultimate deception. On the not-too-distant horizon lurks the temporary reign of the Antichrist, who will join political power, economic control, and religious worship into a unified system of delusion.

It is God’s desire that believers in Him “all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13). However, we are not to unite with the spirit of Antichrist or join together with beliefs and practices that compromise our commitment to Jesus Christ and His Word.

Victims, Not Victors

Those who have been blocked or lured from following the Jesus of the Bible will end up as victims rather than victors. The Bible states that the Antichrist will blaspheme God, oppose Him, and exalt himself above everything that is called God or worshiped. He will even set himself up in the Temple and proclaim himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

However, he will be easily destroyed by the splendor of Christ’s coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The Bible clearly reveals the inevitable and complete victory of Christ and His true followers  (Revelation 19:11-21).

The time is rapidly approaching when the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord (Revelation 11:15). True believers in Christ will rule and reign with Him for eternity and will inherit all that God has prepared for those who love Him (Revelation 21:7). Believers in Christ will be victorious—not only at His Coming––but as we faithfully serve Him now and until He returns (Romans 8:31,37; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:4; 5:4,5).

Willingness to Reject the Truth

The sad reality for some people who choose to join a pseudo-religious group is that their decision is often irreversible. We may feel sorry for those ensnared and wonder why God allowed them to be deceived in the first place or why He does not set them free. However, many of these people had ample opportunities to come to a knowledge of the truth.

2 Thessalonians 2:10,11 informs us ––

They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.

While we are biblically mandated to  pray for and witness to those ensnared in false teaching, we must also realize that some of these people have knowingly and willingly rejected the truth and sound doctrine. We must love and pray for them while opposing the error they proclaim. By God’s grace, some will have their eyes opened and see the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Xtra-Biblical Revelations

Many false teachers claim to be the chosen vessel through which God makes known His new revelations. Although they say their new revelations––or their new interpretation of Scripture––merely shed additional light on what God has already revealed, in reality, it adds to or subtracts from the Bible. Ultimately, these extra-biblical revelations are given greater authority and preeminence over the Bible.

It is interesting to note that most leaders who have received alleged new revelations, have acknowledged receiving them during encounters with supposed angelic beings, spirits of the dead, or even Christ Himself. A look behind the scenes often reveals a definite association and contact with demonic beings who frequently masquerade as messengers of God.

False prophets and false teachers are usually successful in offering their new truth to those who have little of the old truth. In reality, their message is not new at all (Ecclesiastes 1:9,10). The new revelation is really just new names and disguises for Satan’s old methods of seducing people away from the God of the Bible and His revealed truth in Christ.

You Can Tell the Difference

We live in a time when multitudes of people seem eager to accept a spiritual counterfeit. The world’s spiritual climate is prepared for the one who will be the very incarnation of Satan and who—through counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders—will temporarily deceive the world into believing that he is the promised Messiah and Savior of the world.

Only Jesus Christ has gone to the cross, shed His blood, and risen from the dead. It is by His blood alone that forgiveness and a restored relationship with the Father is made possible. Only Jesus Christ is our perfect sacrifice who could satisfy a holy and just God.

According to Scripture, no one will have to wonder at the coming of Jesus Christ. The biblical evidence, cataclysmic signs, and physical transformation of believers will undeniably confirm Jesus Christ to be the true Messiah.

Zeal Misdirected

Zeal properly directed is a great virtue and commendable. However, misdirected fervor and devotion can be dangerous and deadly, as we have seen so many times throughout history.

We are living at a time when true believers in Jesus Christ must have a bold zeal for the Lord and His revealed truth in Scripture (Jude 3; 1 Peter 3:15).

My prayer is that you will earnestly study the scriptures daily, mature in your relationship with Jesus Christ, walk in obedience to His Word and Spirit, and courageously stand for the truth.