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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 From God

Carol Brooks

Also See
Why Christians Are Deceived
That deception is so rampant in the church can be primarily attributed to just one underlying fact - the vast majority of Christians today are Biblically illiterate.

The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make
1) Believe that we, or our pastor/denomination/spiritual leader cannot be fooled, 2) Attribute every personal testimony and “sign” as being of or from God, 3) Take Bible verses out of context and 4) believe that we, as Christians, are not to judge anything or any one. Not necessarily in that order.

 Fraternizing With The Enemy
Few seem to realize that the Christians are commanded to separate themselves from those who teach and practice false doctrine

True and False Unity
Although doctrine has often been allowed to divide people in disgraceful ways, division is not something that can be avoided. You could scour the Scriptures for the next ten years without finding a single word about being united at the expense of truth. Ignoring important areas in which we differ is simply a papering over of the rot in the walls

 

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ON THIS PAGE

Personal Testimony... The Essence of Witnessing?

Personal Testimony Or The Word of God?
Did Any Of The Apostles Use Their Testimony To Evangelize?

Signs and Wonders Or The Word of God?
The Old Testament emphasizes not one, but two tests of a true prophet.
Jesus will tell some that were able to perform miraculous signs that He never knew them
The Corinthian Church

Conclusion
So what is it that will protect any Christian from being deceived by false teachers?

 

Personal Testimony... The Essence of Witnessing?
Not only does a little wit, charm, and charisma go a long way, but testimonials and dramatic stories sell.

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 that 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".

 However, he goes on to say that the value of personal testimony is that it ...

    "bypasses intellectual defenses. Many people who won't accept the authority of the Bible will listen to a humble, personal story". [01]

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 many cases personal testimony surmounts the Bible's authority.

Warren then quotes part of Acts 1:8. He writes,

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

In order to make his point, Warren only quotes part of the verse - eliminating the second half that says the disciples would be witnesses of Christ Himself.  Note how Acts 1:8 reads in several different versions

     But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  (Acts 1:8 KJV)

    but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8 NASB)

    but ye shall receive power at the coming of the Holy Spirit upon you, and ye shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the end of the earth.' (Acts 1:8 YLT)

    But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (NIV)

The disciples traveled everywhere with the Messiah and spent much time with Him. They listened to Him, learned from Him, witnessed the miracles He performed, watched Him die and be buried and then rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. Because they were the only eyewitnesses to everything He said and did, they were the only ones qualified to bear witness to all these things- well equipped to tell the rest of the world who Christ was, why He came to earth, and what His message was.

"Notice that this really isn't a command; it is a simple statement of fact: When the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . . you shall be witnesses of Me.  The words shall be are in the indicative, not the imperative. Jesus wasn't recommending that they become witnesses, He was saying they would be witnesses." (David Guzik)

Their eye-witness testimony lent weight to the commission given them by the Messiah in Matthew 28:18-20 

    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.”


Personal Testimony Or The Word of God?
Did The Apostles Use Their Testimony To Evangelize?
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.

    Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. (Acts 17:1-4)

    for he (Apollos) powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 18:28)

    When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. (Acts 28:23)

While it seems reasonable to surmise that the original disciples and Paul did tell others of the events they experiences, 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. They made the Scriptures the focus of their evidence, showing how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies.   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-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Did Paul Use His Testimony To Evangelize?
In the article quoted above Rick Warren also says that from Acts 22 to Acts 26, Paul "used his testimony to share the Gospel instead of quoting Scripture" on six different occasions. 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. And I believe it was only twice.

    1) The first time was when the Jews in Jerusalem tried to kill Paul who was rescued by the the commander of the Roman cohort. The commander then allowed Paul to address the people. See Acts 21:17- 40. Acts 22 opens with the words "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you." (Acts 22:1) He then tells the Jews what had happened to him.

Acts 23 simply records more of the dissension that was taking place, especially with the Pharisees and Sadducees. In Acts 24:10, Paul again makes a defense to the governor however, he said nothing about his experiences, simply stating that those who accused him could not prove the charges (24:9-21). In Acts 25, Paul said not a word about his experiences by made a short one sentence defense to the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem (25:7-8)

    2) In chapter 26, Paul again defended himself, this time to King Agrippa. His defense included a recounting of his experience while journeying to Damascus. See verses 12-29.

Certainly Paul had an incredible experience on his journey to Damascus. the original disciples could also have told many stories about the incredible experiences they had during the time they spent with the Messiah.

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 cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased"-- and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

While opinion regarding the meaning of this passage are quite diverse, a simple reading of the text says God Himself confirmed the ancient prophecies when He said "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased". Peter points his readers to the ancient prophecies and tells them that that they would do well to heed them "as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.


Signs and Wonders Or The Word of God?
One of the most dangerous mistakes made in the church is assuming that God must be present because miracles are performed. So one has to ask whether supernatural manifestations provide evidence that God is at work? The short answer is no!

Old Testament
The Old Testament emphasizes not one, but two tests of a true prophet.

1) This first one is usually misconstrued. It says

    'But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' "You may say in your heart, 'How will 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.

2) 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. (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)

These verses give us the acid test of a true prophet... his adherence to the Word of God.

Regardless of whatever sign or wonder we are presented with, if it at all contradicts God's word the prophet or "dreamer of dreams" was to be put to death, "because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 13:5)

And as far as false prophecy goes, the listeners are not excused because false prophets told them lies. It is they who have given credibility to these fabrications.

    "Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who are prophesying in My name, although it was not I who sent them--yet they keep saying, 'There will be no sword or famine in this land'--by sword and famine those prophets shall meet their end! "The people also to whom they are prophesying will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and there will be no one to bury them--neither them, nor their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters--for I will pour out their own wickedness on them. (Jeremiah 14:15-16)

New Testament
Jesus told us that some who are able to prophesy, cast out demons etc. will in the end hear Jesus say "I never knew you."

    "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' (Matthew 7:21-23)

Miraculous signs were done by Christ and His apostles, but they will also be done by the lawless one

    Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, (2 Thessalonians 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.

    Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who *had the wound of the sword and has come to life. (Revelation 13:11-14)

    for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (Revelation 16:14)


The Corinthian Church
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 am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. (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 explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, (1 Timothy 4:1)

    But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to 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 under certain conditions a different spirit can take over. This is exactly what happened to king Saul. When the Spirit of God left him, he was overtaken by an evil spirit from God. (See 1 Samuel 16). To understand how an evil spirit can come from the Father, compare 1 Samuel 16:14-15 with 1 Kings 22:19-22.


Conclusion - How Christians are Protected
So what is it that will protect any Christian from being deceived by false teachers?

As Paul told Timothy

    You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

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.

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 members of cults like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses,etc. can and do give powerful testimonies of how their lives have changed. Numerous members of other religious groups can testify as to how they or someone else was healed by "the power of prayer", by their "guru" or holy man.

Even atheists sometimes have powerful testimonies of supernatural occurrences that occur through mediums, channelers, clairvoyants, psychics, mystics, gurus, shamans, yogis, psychic and holistic healers, 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.

 

Note: Paul's urging Timothy to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2) seems to take on a note of urgency, inasmuch as he is exhorting Timothy to do all he can because...

    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, (2 Timothy 4:3 NASB)

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 being believers. Yet that is exactly what the Scriptures teach.

    Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12 NASB) (See The Seven Seals)

 

End Notes

[01] Rick Warren. How to share the Good News through your testimony. www.exploregrace.com/userfiles/file/YourStory.pdf

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