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Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church
The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes any Christian Can Make

 

003white  Index To Section 10A   The Contemporary Church       >       Four Most Dangerous Mistakes     >      2.  Testimony/Signs

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Dangerous

The Second Most Dangerous Mistake Any Christian Can Make Is To Attribute Every Personal Testimony and “Sign” To Being Of, Or From, God

Carol Brooks (edited by Vicki Narlee)

The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make

1) Believe that we ourselves, or our pastor/denomination/spiritual leader, cannot be fooled.
2) Attribute every personal testimony and “sign” to being of, or from, God
3) Take Bible verses out of context.
4) Believe that we, as Christians, are not to judge anything or any one.

ALSO SEE

The Myth OF Faith Alone
 

Church-Bar-2
 

Personal Testimony... The Essence of Witnessing?
In an article entitled How to share the Good News through your testimony, Rick Warren says the "essence of witnessing" is ...

    “simply reporting your personal experiences with the Lord. In a courtroom, a witness isn't expected to argue the case, prove the truth, or press for a verdict; that is the job of attorneys. Witnesses just tell what happened to them....”

While it may be true, as Warren says... "Personal stories are also easier to relate to than principles, and people love to hear them; they capture our attention, and we remember them longer". He goes on to say that the value of personal testimony is that ...

    "bypasses intellectual defenses. Many people who won't accept the authority of the Bible will listen to a humble, personal story". [1]

And that, folks, is the problem. People are listening to personal stories and experiences, whether or not they have any basis in the Scriptures, or even agree with them. In other words personal testimony has surmounted the authority of the Bible. 

Warren also quotes from the NIV...

    Jesus said, "You will be my witnesses." (Acts 1:8)

Witnesses to what? As Vincent's Word Studies says.. "The best texts read, of me". Young's Literal Translation reads this verse as "and ye shall be witnesses to me". In other words.. the disciples were to be witnesses of Him.  This  is simply another way of expressing the 'Great Commission' in Matthew 28:18-20  [Emphasis Added]

    And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

They were to tell people about Him and make disciples by teaching said people to observe all things the Lord had commanded.

Besides which.. it was the disciples who were to be witnesses, simply because they were able to give eye witness testimony as to what they had seen for themselves, especially concerning the resurrection. Yet...


Personal Testimony Or The Word of God?
There are plenty of examples of the apostles evangelizing, preaching, and teaching from the Word of God, and a paucity of them preaching or teaching based on their own personal experiences, or using their testimonies to persuade people. Instead they appealed to Moses and the prophets for proof that their message was true. [Emphasis Added]

    Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: and Paul, as his custom was, went in unto them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the scriptures, opening and alleging that it behooved the Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom, said he, I proclaim unto you, is the Christ. And some of them were persuaded, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few (Acts 17:1-4).

    And when they had appointed him a day, they came to him into his lodging in great number; to whom he expounded the matter, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. [Acts 28:23-24]

    For he (Apollos) powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. [Acts 18:28]

In the article quoted above Rick Warren, referring to Acts 22 to Acts 26, also says that Paul, on six different occasions, "used his testimony to share the Gospel instead of quoting Scripture. "

However this is not at all accurate. While Paul does speak of how he became a believer on the road to Damascus, he did so in the context of his defense when he was on trial, not when he was evangelizing. The Jews tried to kill him, and when the Romans intervened, but gave him leave to speak to the people, Paul said, "Brethren and fathers, hear ye the defense which I now make unto you [Acts 22:1]. Much of this defense consisted of his personal testimony of his experiences on the road to Damascus, and the events that followed. However, from the reaction of the crowd, it is clear that his testimony didn't exactly win any one over. On the contrary they were of a mind to kill him.

    And they gave him audience unto this word; and they lifted up their voice, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. [Acts 22:22]

In fact, every instance in the following chapters when Paul speaks about anything even faintly resembling personal testimony, it is in the context of defense NOT evangelization. Read it for yourself.

Certainly Paul had an incredible experience on his journey to Damascus. He, and the original disciples, could have told many stories, and described many different and incredible experiences that took place during the time they spent with the Messiah. However, while it seems reasonable to surmise that they did tell others of these events, it remains a fact, that they  made the Scriptures both the focus of their evidence, and final authority. Those that came to believe were persuaded, not by testimonies, or even signs and wonders, but by the apostles reasoning with them from the Scriptures, and showing how Jesus fulfilled the same.  In fact, in the oft quoted, but not so commonly heeded, compliment Paul paid the Bereans, was that they checked everything by the Scriptures.

    Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so. [Acts 17:11]


Peter's Account of the Transfiguration
When Peter spoke about the Transfiguration, note his words... "we have the word of prophecy made more sure"

    For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there was borne such a voice to him by the Majestic Glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: and this voice we ourselves heard borne out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount. And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; where unto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21).

While Vincent's Word Studies says this can be taken either of two ways.

    a) we have the word of prophecy made more sure, i.e., we are better certified than before as to the prophetic word, by reason of this voice;

    b) we have the word of prophecy as a surer confirmation of God's truth than what we ourselves saw, i.e., Old-Testament testimony is more convincing than even the voice heard at the transfiguration.

it certain sounds like the mountain experience served to confirm the ancient prophecies. Either way, Peter points his readers in the direction of the prophecies, which were reinforced by what the disciples saw and heard on the mountain. Peter states that it is the Scriptures that they would do well to heed, like a "lamp shining in a dark place."


Signs and Wonders Or The Word of God?

Are supernatural manifestations evidence that God is at work? The short answer is no! One of the most subtle and dangerous of the mistakes made in the church is assuming that God must be present because miracles are performed... The Old Testament emphasizes not one, but two tests of a true prophet. The first one is usually misconstrued. It says

    “‘But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And you may say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

However, one needs to read the words very carefully since, contrary to popular opinion, they do not teach us that any prophet whose words come true is a true prophet. The text only says that any prophet whose words do not come true is a false prophet.  Read what was said five chapter earlier.

    “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).

While these verses clearly say signs and wonders could be the work of false prophets, they also give us the acid test of a true prophet...his adherence to the Word of God. Jesus told us that workers of iniquity were able to prophesy, cast out demons and do "many mighty works" but, in the end, Jesus' answer to them will be.... "I never knew you."

    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. [Matthew 7:21-23]

Miraculous signs were done by Christ and His apostles, but they will also be done by, "...the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan…"

    And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, [2Thessalonians 2:8-9]

In the final days of this age, the beast will also be able to perform great signs, including making fire rain down from heaven, which will deceive men.

    And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like unto a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the authority of the first beast in his sight. And he maketh the earth and them dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed. And he doeth great signs, that he should even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men. And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who hath the stroke of the sword and lived. [Revelation 13:11-14]

    for they are spirits of demons, working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. [Revelation 16:14]

The preaching of the gospel of salvation is one of the greatest stewardships a minister has today. But, there are those who call their message "the gospel", yet they preach what God's Word calls "another gospel" (See 2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-8). So to summarize...

False prophets can perform miracles, and make prophecies that come true, but the final test of a true prophet is his adherence to the word of God.


Other Spirits
There seemed to be more emphasis on spiritual gifts (especially tongues) in the Corinthian church, than any other church of that time. Yet the Corinthian church was notoriously immature and unspiritual, even carnal. In the second book of Corinthians, Paul warned them that just as Satan had beguiled, then led Eve astray, he would use whatever method it took to seduce them.

    But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or if ye receive a different spirit, which ye did not receive, or a different gospel, which ye did not accept, ye do well to bear with him. [2 Corinthians 11:3-4]

Paul extended this warning to churches in "later times" who would give heed to "seducing spirits and doctrines of demons", later adding that as time inexorably grinds down to the end, the days get worse and worse.

    But the Spirit says expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.  [1 Timothy 4:1]

    But evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. [2 Timothy 3:13]

Just like the Corinthians, the modern day believer receives the Holy Spirit when he first believes, but fails to recognize that a different spirit tags along with the hucksters and false apostles (wolves) in the church. Something that has been happening for thousands of years. A glance back at the Old Testament makes it very clear that when the Spirit of God left King Saul, an evil spirit came upon him. [See 1 Samuel 16].

Paul is very clear that these false apostles do not preach the same Jesus, neither does the same spirit accompany their message. They are cunning and crafty, using the most devious methods possible to achieve their goal, which is to turn people from their devotion and obedience to Christ. The prophet Isaiah said

    And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? on behalf of the living should they seek unto the dead? To the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them. [Isaiah 8:19-20] 

Although in this verse, Isaiah is referring to necromancy, or the practice of communicating with the spirits of the dead in order to predict the future, the principal remains the same. It is only by the standard of the revealed Word of God that all doctrine and teaching are to be judged. The Scriptures are the only, and final authority.

Note the last line very carefully.... "if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them." People who do not speak according to the Word of God, are in total darkness, without a glimmer of light. In fact in the oft quoted, but not so commonly heeded, compliment Paul paid the Bereans, was that they checked everything by the Scriptures.

    Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so. [Acts 17:11]

It is significant that the methods Satan used to deceive Eve are basically the same methods he uses to deceive the church centuries later.

    He does not reveal who he truly is. Deception would not be very successful if his ministers were clearly seen to be evil, which is why he and his ministers clothe themselves as angels of light as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15.

    He tackles the most vulnerable by first gaining their trust.

    He does not seek to deceive every one, but only those who can and will lead others to follow him. The Corinthians were very partisan, devoted to various leaders, whom they blindly followed. And, just like the Corinthians did in the first century, Christians in the 21st century, judge on the basis of external appearances. Our criteria seems to be any combination of charisma, number of followers, number of books written, size of church etc etc...  not forgetting a generous number of out of context quotes from the Scriptures.

Of course, it helps that the false apostles can, and do, liberally quote Scripture, but usually wrest Scriptures from their context, in order toconvey whatever meaning the speaker/author wishes it to convey which, all too often, is nothing but a corruption of the truth. This perversion of Scriptures is done (whether intentionally or unintentionally) in order to persuade men that everything the false teacher says is based on Biblical truth.

We also have to remember that Satan can very effectively quote from the Bible.


Not Going Beyond What is Written
So what is it that will protect Timothy, or any other Christian from being deceived by false teachers? Paul encourages Timothy to continue in what he has learned

    But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them. And that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.  [2 Timothy 3:14-17]

Notice the same emphasis in 1 Corinthians 4:6, where Paul tells them not to go beyond what is written ie. the Scriptures . Remember that Paul's letter was written to a church that had a strong inclination towards the sensational and the experiential.

    Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other. [1 Corinthians 4:6] 

Timothy knew the Scriptures and Paul warned him to abide (to remain or continue) in them, because they alone are able to make the man of God complete and fully equipped to carry out every good work.  Timothy's work of reproving, correcting, and instructing was to be based not on personal testimonies, signs and wonders, or any "word of knowledge", but on the Scriptures.


Sound Doctrine
Paul's urging Timothy to "preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" [2 Timothy 4:2] seems to take on a note of urgency, inasmuch as he is exhorting Timothy to do all he can because...

    "the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts" [Vs. 4:3]

And how accurately his words have come to pass. Just as Paul predicted so many centuries ago, we have stopped our ears to the truth, and have pursued teachers who tell us exactly what it is we want to hear. ...

And on and on ad nauseum.

Certainly, one of the things we DO NOT want to believe, is that we will be persecuted for godly living. Yet that is exactly what the Scriptures teach.

    "Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" 2 Timothy 3:12).

We are living in a day when very few are willing to endure sound doctrine, which is to be found in the Scriptures alone. However, there is no magic wand waved which automatically causes a believer to know what the Bible says. In order for the Scriptures to make the Christian complete, he or she has to be willing to devote time to studying the word ... It takes not days or weeks, but years to come to a more complete understanding of the Holy Scriptures which, like an onion, have layers upon layers of depth.  Consider this advice from the book of Proverbs...

    1 My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, 2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; 3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; 4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8 Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. 9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11 Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you, 12 To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things; 13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; 14 Who delight in doing evil And rejoice in the perversity of evil; 15 Whose paths are crooked, And who are devious in their ways (Proverbs 2:1-15).

Wisdom is attained by giving heed to God's words, and treasuring His commandments, by seeking and searching.

But all that sounds like work... hard work. And Christians are lazy. Why would anyone start an in-depth study of the Word of God, when they can have the ease of a 20 minute "sound bite". Why study, when the preacher can deliver in just a few minutes every week.  After all, wasn't that what he went to seminary or Bible school for? Isn't that what he is being paid to do? So, the man in the pew sits back and passively absorbs all the flotsam and jetsam that floats down... whether in the form of sermons from the pulpit, or the latest hot shot book that is all the rage for a season.

But the problem is, that the reason more preachers and teachers are not forcefully preaching against the myriad of problems in the Contemporary church, is because many, if not most, of them are behind the problems in the contemporary church.  (with apologies to the few that are not)

They are Satan's henchmen, who largely use personal testimony, along with signs and wonders, to persuade the people that they are of God... and the vast majority of so called Christians will follow them... all the way to hell.

There is absolutely no question that personal testimony can be very valuable, but it has it's place, most often as encouragement for believers.  Many, many people who have joined cults and other religions like Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholicism, or even Buddhism can and do give powerful testimonies of how their lives have changed. Many, many people, who belong to other religious groups, can testify as to how they, or someone else, was healed by "the power of prayer" or their "guru" or holy man.

Even atheists sometimes have powerful testimonies of supernatural occurrences through mediums, channelers, clairvoyants, psychics, diviners, mystics, gurus, shamans, Yogis, psychic and holistic healers, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, contact with the dead,  etc. etc. etc.

All of which should make it evident that neither testimony, nor miraculous signs, can ever be the final evidence of the authenticity of one's claims or beliefs.

Character and Doctrine.
Here are some Bible verses that describe Christian leaders.. Note how much stress is placed on character and doctrine.

    but we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. [2 Corinthians 4:2]

    If any man teacheth a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,  [1 Timothy 6:3-4]

    if any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children that believe, who are not accused of riot or unruly. For the bishop must be blameless, as God's steward; not self-willed, not soon angry, no brawler, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled; holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers.  [Titus 1:6-9]

    in all things showing thyself an ensample of good works; in thy doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of us. [Titus 2:7-8]

     

End Notes

[1] Rick Warren. How to share the Good News through your testimony. http://www.exploregrace.com/Resources/YourStory.pdf

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