Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“The simple-minded man believes every word, but the prudent man looks well to his going.”
Solomon, in Proverbs 14:15
Sometimes, it is just astounding to me. I read the words of religious teachers, but what they say is so contrary to the plain sense of the Scriptures–and sometimes contradictory to their own words in other places–that I marvel at how they manage to gain such a large following. The latest episode that made me marvel at the ability of false teachers to impress millions and persuade them to adhere to their teachings had to do with the Assembly of God sect, the largest of all Pentecostal sects.
A few months ago, we freely mailed out over 27,000 copies of one of our books, Speaking in Tongues at Spirit Baptism, to Pentecostal churches across America, including Assembly of God churches. Yesterday, one of those books was returned to me by an Assembly of God pastor in Altha, Florida. In addition to the returned book, the minister there included a brochure published by the Assembly of God organization, Our Distinctive Doctrine, The Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I was happy to receive it, and I read through the twenty questions and answers about the baptism that were in the brochure.
What struck me most about the brochure is not that the AOG doctrine is wrong. Long ago I studied what they teach, and I already knew it was wrong. What struck me this time was how obviously wrong AOG doctrine is, and yet how many of God’s people support it. This brochure stirred up anew the deep grief I feel for God’s divided and confused children–not merely because they are taught badly but because the badness of what they are taught is so obvious–and yet they do not seem to notice!
Why? How can a doctrine be so wrong, so illogical and so unbiblical, and yet be so popular among God’s people? It would be understandable if it was just the world that supported false teaching. That would even be expected. But God’s people! Why do they support brands of Christianity, such as the Assembly of God sect, that are so clearly wrong?
Paul exhorted the saints “to put all things to the test, and hold on to what is good.” John exhorted the saints to “test the spirits whether they are of God.” Jesus commended the pastor in Ephesus because he had the wisdom and the courage to put false apostles to the test and to expose them as liars. But where is that kind of zeal for truth, and courage, and godly wisdom among the saints today? The lack of those things among God’s people is the answer to my original question, “How do the false teachers gain such a large following?”
If we are prudent, we will “look well to our going.” That is, we will examine carefully what a man tells us about God. We will not take for granted anything a man tells us, but we will wait for the witness of the Spirit before we commit ourselves. The Spirit alone can guide us into all truth, and we should never support any man who claims to serve God until Jesus has confirmed to our spirits that what that man has for us is really from God.
Do you know what the man really teaches who is teaching you about God? Have you examined his doctrine? Have you “looked well to your going?” Or are you among the many who are “simple, and believe every word”?
From a different perspective, let me point out that one of the biggest headaches for a true servant of God is people who follow him but who do not really know whether or not he is sent from God. Jesus had many such followers, and every one of them were a burden to him. I would rather have a thousand enemies than ten such friends. I have always exhorted everyone associated with me to get in touch with God for themselves and find out why they are associated with me. I tell them they must know why they are involved with my work in Christ. If they truly belong with me, they need to know it. And the only way to truly know that I am their pastor and this is their spiritual home is to have it shown to them by Jesus.
God’s people have not been taught to examine themselves and their faith, but to do so is an element of righteousness. When and if the saints do examine the doctrines they are taught, they are going to be stunned at how wrong they are, and how simple-minded they have been to support the men who have been teaching them for so many years.