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.
The Myth OF Faith Alone
We Don’t Really Believe What The Bible Says
We say we believe that our Bible contains the inerrant word of God. We say that we read His word and implicitly believe what it says.
The truth is, that for the most part these are mere words, and we believe none of these things.
Because if we did actually take the Word of God seriously, we would stop glossing over passages like this one.
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 (I Timothy 4:1)
Paul said that "some" will fall away from the faith, however Jesus was a little more explicit. He not only said that many would be led astray but that few would find the narrow road.
And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:10-13)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14).
Noting that Jesus had to be speaking about believers not unbelievers, since one has to be on the right path before one can be led astray, do not these words give us some pause for thought? Do we not use a miniscule amount of common sense and look around and wonder who the "many" being led astray are?
Do we not have the sense to wonder how, in a world in which Christianity is apparently booming with dozens of Mega-churches, 24 hour “Christian” TV programs, countless Christian conferences and institutions, and literally thousands of “Christian” books being published ever year... In a world in which the vast majority of Christians are churchgoers, who regularly watch "Christian" TV and tithe to one or the other (or even both), why it is that only a few find the way?
What can possibly account for the discrepancy between what appears to be a relatively stable/spiritually prosperous church, and what the Bible says about many falling away. Or did Jesus and Paul have absolutely no idea what they were talking about, and things have done this marvelous turn around since they spoke which, by the way, would make both of them false prophets.
Or is the problem that it is us who are...
Wise In Our Own Conceits
... something both Isaiah and Paul warned against ...
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:21).
Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits. Romans 12:16
In other words both Isaiah and Paul were warning against getting a tad too wise in our own estimation. As Proverbs 26:12 says there is more hope for a fool than for someone who wise is his conceit.
Most Christians Think They Themselves Cannot Be Fooled.
The first very dangerous thing any Christian can do is believe that they cannot be fooled. Yet most Christians are under this very perilous delusion. This in spite of the fact that deception is one of the major themes of the New Testament, with the words deceit, deceitful, deceitfully, deceitfulness, and deceive, used over and over again.
To Deceive means to cause to believe what is not true; To lead another into error, danger, or a disadvantageous position. Deception is a misrepresentation of the truth, regardless of whether the person doing the misleading is himself deluded.
In other words, deception means that the person being deceived wholeheartedly believes that the path they are on is the right one, the beliefs they hold are Biblical, and the practices they indulge in are supported by Scripture. As the author of Proverbs said...
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool; But whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.... There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 28:26, 14:12)
The Wolves Among You
The second most dangerous thing any Christian can do is assume that HIS pastor, mentor, spiritual leader, or denomination as a whole, cannot be deceived. What is rarely realized is that deception can only occur is it looks like the real thing. To paraphrase the words of apologist Craig Hawkins... for counterfeiters to successfully pass off fake one-hundred-dollar bills, they cannot print out a picture of Donald Duck on purple paper. they have to duplicate a genuine hundred dollar bill as closely as possible. And this is nothing new. The magicians in Pharaoh's court could, up to a point, imitate the God enabled miracles performed by Moses. (Exodus 7 and 8).
Similarly, in-house deceivers have to come across as the real thing. They do not exactly walk up to you and tell you that they are there to deceive and lead you astray, but have to appear to be very sincere, and very genuine. And, considering this generation's propensity to judge a book by it's cover, it also helps if they come across as 'nice guys'. Not only does a little wit, charm, and charisma, go a long way in getting people to believe that they are the 'real thing', but testimonials and dramatic stories sell.
Both Peter and Paul were very emphatic about the fact that wolves would come from the flock itself (Emphasis added)
"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31)
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (2 Peter 2:1)
If you take the time to read Jeremiah 23, you should understand how widespread deception can be. Jeremiah spoke of the false shepherds that were destroying and scattering the sheep, and the "polluted" prophets and priests who spoke visions that did not come from the mouth of the Lord, but from their own imaginations, thus leading the people into "futility"
Yet, most Christians today, totally ignoring the implications of Paul's warning in Acts 20 29-30, seem to think that heresy is something that largely happens outside the church. While the founders of cults such as the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses started out in traditional church settings, they eventually separated themselves from the church, and are therefore more easily recognizable. However, when Peter said these false teachers will "secretly introduce destructive heresies", he was obviously speaking of heresies being introduced INTO the church....
Paul, speaking of men who preached a different gospel (leaders and teachers of the church), said this
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Consider our Lord's warning in Matthew 16:6, when He told the disciples to "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees". These words were directed not to new believers, nor to anyone who was in danger of being influenced by false teachers, but to men who were dedicated to the Messiah and who had forsaken all to follow Him. They had been under His personal care and guidance for some time, and had little in common with, or sympathy for the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The very fact that a warning needed to be issued to even these men who were hand picked to found and lead the new church, only serves to underscore the fact that no one, not even the leaders of the church, are immune to being influenced by false doctrine. If Jesus’ warning to beware of false doctrine was applicable to the future leaders of the church, then how much more does it apply to us?
In today's Biblically illiterate Christian world, many Christians think that doctrine is not important. Every week, wishy-washy sermons, either devoid of Biblical truth, or in complete conflict with Biblical teachings, are heard from pulpits around the world. Because hype, hoopla, and heightened emotions are seen as the work of the Holy Spirit, many churchgoers do not recognize heresy when it is introduced. Too many Christians today are so thoroughly deceived because they do not test what they hear by the standard of God's Word.
Unfortunately, our entertainment oriented, anti-intellectual, often lazy and superficial culture, that wants everything, including religion, in pre-digested, convenient little packages, is giving less and less heed to in-depth Biblical study and understanding, which leads to right doctrine.
The authority of Scriptures in the life of the believer cannot be superseded by anything else... Not by words of prophecy, not by signs and wonders, not by experience, and certainly not by the endless programs or courses being pushed by the church, many of which use Christian terminology but are not Scripturally sound. Christians who think that theology is best left to the pastor, or other church leader, because they attended a seminary, are treading very dangerous ground. If you are one of these Christians, then you have placed your faith and, possibly, your eternal destiny, not in the hands of the God of the universe, but in the hands of a so-called expert.
If you do not scour the Scriptures yourself to see if all said pastor/leader is teaching is Biblical truth (note that a few out of context "proof texts" don't count), then how will you know if, tomorrow, your church veers off course and starts teaching false doctrine? Where will you stand if your pastor decides that his church needs to join the 21st century and become a seeker-sensitive, or purpose driven church. How many others in the congregation, who are without the benefit of sound Biblical doctrine, will meekly go along with his ideas (after all, he "should know about such things" and he does quote best selling authors in his arguments for the changes).
Considering the astronomical stakes, are you willing to risk that your are being "tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming"? (Ephesians 4:14 NASB)
Subtle distortions of Biblical Christianity have the ability to damn, because they have the ability to confuse, or water down the gospel, just enough to make it powerless. Faith in itself is not enough, because faith is only as good as the object of that faith. Faith does not save.. faith in the true God does.
However, the problem is, you cannot know what is Biblically unsound unless you know what is Biblically sound. In other words, you have to know what the Scriptures teach... you have to know doctrine. There is simply no other way. Compromising essential doctrine can seriously jeopardize your salvation. Are you willing to take that risk? (See Theology and Doctrine, both of which are crucial to faith).
Unlike the early Bereans, whom the Apostle Paul called "noble" for testing his words against Scripture (Acts 17:11), many Christians tend to swallow anything and everything, taught or written, by anyone who comes along claiming to be a Christian. If they have a charismatic personality, claim to have had a vision or prophecy from God, and/or are the author of multiple books, it is almost guaranteed that hundreds of thousands of believers will put their faith in these men without once testing what they say against the Scriptures. (If the size of the leader's following is any indication of the truth of their teachings, then we would have to conclude that Mormonism, with its millions of members, is also of God).
False doctrine is often hidden behind charisma, and engaging personalities. And yes, it is true that most of these false teachers will glibly rattle off Scriptures that supposedly support their teachings and give them the appearance of orthodoxy. However, the man in the pew rarely seems to realize that these quoted Biblical verses are usually taken way out of context and, in fact, do not say what is claimed. In fact, it is not at all rare to find that the verse in question, if read in context, will say exactly the opposite. But we, like the Israelites of old, clamor for a king to rule over us (1 Samuel 8:19), and, perhaps because of our own laziness, rely on a go-between to tell us what God has said. This has made it very easy for heresies to creep in.
See Context is Crucial No Biblical author simply strung together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another. Since each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on, stand alone verses. The reader can only be accurately guided by God's Word the way it is written… in its context. Understanding what the author meant comes not only from the words he wrote, but also by what the overall message of the chapter is intended to convey.
Note that the Bible is as unambiguous as it is vigorous in it's censure of teachers of false doctrine.
"But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8-9. NASB)
A factious man after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)
In an unerring prophecy Peter said that many shall follow their destructive doings
But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their lascivious doings; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of. (2Peter 2:1-2)
And as far as false prophecy goes, the listeners are not excused because false prophets told them lies, for they have given credibility to these fabrications.
Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land: By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them-them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them. (Jeremiah 14:15-16. Emphasis Added)
Deviation From The New Testament Pattern for 'Church Meetings'
Contemporary churches have deviated so far from the pattern established in the New Testament, they have literally paved the way for the preachers of false doctrines.
In the early church neither the sermon, nor 'the preacher', was the center of the assembly. The meeting were never dominated by one man, but the Holy Spirit, who was free to move through the gathering as He saw fit in 'an orderly fashion'. Questions and discussions were a healthy part of the meeting (I Corinthians 14:27-40), and if a person received an insight while another was speaking, the person would stop and listen to the recipient of the insight. The phrase 'one another' is used some sixty times in the NT.
Present-day churches, which have become nurseries for overgrown spiritual babes, have long forgotten this pattern. How many churches do you know that trust the leadership of the Holy Spirit to direct and shape their services. Actually if the truth be told, the Holy Spirit could be taken out of the average church and 95% of the program would not be affected in any way. (See Section The Church...Then and Now)
And As a Reminder of How Far Deception Can Go, The Bible Tells Us That
Signs and wonders could be a work of God, but they could also be the work of false prophets (See Deuteronomy 13:1; Revelation 13:11-14; 16:14; 19:20).
Miracles, prophecy, and the casting out of demons, are indeed the works of true ministers, but these ministries can also be done by workers of iniquity (See Matthew 7:21-23).
A church can be very evangelistic, but so were the Pharisees (See Matthew 23:15 and consider the evangelistic nature of cults).
Miraculous signs were done by Christ and His apostles, but they were also done by, "...the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan…" (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
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).
Every true minister of Jesus Christ should be "filled with the Holy Spirit". But the Scriptures tell us that there are more "spirits" than the Holy Spirit that can “fill” people (See Luke 4:33; Acts 16:16; Romans 8:15 and 11:8; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 11:4; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:3, 6).
The ministries of giving for the work of the gospel, prayer, and fasting, are all mighty tools in the furtherance of God's kingdom. But these things can be done by hypocrites as well (See Matthew 6:2, 5, 16).
Prayer is a mighty weapon for the cause of Christ, but not every prayer offered up to God is going to be regarded by Him (See Psalms 66:18; Isaiah 1:15 and 59:2, 3; Micah 3:4; Matthew 6:5, 7 and 23:14; 1 Peter 3:7).
Here Are Some Verses That Warn Against False Teachers... (All Emphasis Added)
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray (Matthew 24:11)
And he said, Take heed that ye be not led astray: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am he; and, The time is at hand: go ye not after them. (Luke 21:8)
I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent. (Romans 16:17-18)
I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema. (Galatians 1:6-9)
Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:6)
Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels, dwelling in the things which he hath seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:8, 18)
As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; so do I now. But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned: from which things some having swerved have turned aside unto vain talking; desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm. (1Timothy 1:3-7)
But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, (1Timothy 4:1)
O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with you. (1Timothy 6:20-21)
haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away. For of these are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And even as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also withstand the truth. Men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith. But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, (2Timothy 3:1-8)
But evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2Timothy 3:13)
For 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; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables. (2Timothy 4:3-4)
A factious (Heretic) man after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)
Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Peter 3:15-17)
Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3)