Tomorrow we will continue with Part 3 where we will look at witnesses of the Presence of God. Today I wanted to pause and reflect on some of my research these last weeks. I always enjoy this Lenten journey because I learn and grow too and most importantly we learn to stand firm on the word of God as our source of strength and truth. It is important for all of us as Paul said to Timothy to 2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Malachi 2:5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. 7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.” Micah 5:4 “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.”

        Today in the church the word of God has not been handled properly and knowledge has not been preserved. Malachi continued Malachi 2:8 “But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.” The distorted words of man and doctrines of demons have replaced God’s word and Daniel 8:12 “because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.” 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Yes, many will sound knowledgeable, but they teach other gospels and as Paul also said to Timothy, 1 Timothy 1:3 “command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” The problem is other gospels are being taught everywhere in the church, even though Paul warned us that this has already started even in his day. Galatians 1:6 “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”

        We have been talking about who God is and that obviously includes who He is not. We know God by knowing his word. John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” Because the church has rebelled and truth has been thrown down, God has turned His face from the church. That also means what we are told in John 16 is not happening and explains all the false teaching in the church. especially about the end times. John 16:12 “He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” When God does turn His face back to the church, then truth will prevail and we will do as Jesus did once again.  John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

        At the beginning of our Lenten journey, we looked at the Asbury gathering; I would not call it a revival. Many were saying the presence of God was surely in this place but if God was as present and strong as they said He was, there would have been monumental change, not just in people but in the institutions themselves. Did all those people turn from wicked ways or did they even know they had to? As far as the institutions, has there been any change in the worship of man? Are the idols still standing (Asbury and His horse, Charles, John), name changes of chapels and the schools themself. If there was, that would be a good start. There seemed to be lots of music, and little preaching of God’s word. I talked about music and glory on Day 14, 15, 16 and how music should be set aside for now, as praise and worship as it is today can give you a false sense of God’s presence. Praise and worship have become a god. Having said that, so can the preaching of dynamic speakers which is why we must test the spirits as we will see in a moment. 1 John 4: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  

        My research and study led me to talk about the song Majesty, The Heart of Worship and the glitter bomb at Bethel Redding. Looking into all these really showed me just with those few topics how badly the church has been deceived. To see it just look around at churches. I have been thinking a lot about groups that I had talked about; Bethel Redding, Foursquare denomination and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, though I just briefly mentioned that latter. Most people in the church agree to disagree which has led to churches going their own ways, but what most people do not tell you is those ways are not God’s way as they teach other gospels. For most, if you were told this group is a cult, you would have enough discernment not to drink the Kool aide which means “to become a firm believer in something or a passionate follower of a philosophy or movement,” even to the point of death. Most would avoid that kind of brainwashing as that would be called a cult. When it comes to churches, most are drinking the Kool Aide without giving it a second thought and they are ready to die for those beliefs. Yes, we are called to carry our cross but that is for the gospel, not other gospels. The problem is that millions in the church are being deceived by false teachers and other gospels and they think they have given their lives to Jesus, but according to scripture they have not and will find out only when it is too late.

        Earlier in my life when talking about cults, the two that would come to mind would be Jehovah’s Witness and the Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and they are cults. A cult can be defined as “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.” “It is great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work.” “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious.” I like the word spurious which means “outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities.” You can see that not only does this describe cults, it describes other gospels and is very similar to the gospel but as the same time completely different. Over time I realized that there were many more that should be included than I thought. Today I believe that every church in one way or the other has been affected by the abomination that causes desolation, from subtle to extreme. When you use the term cult, your mind immediately thinks of people who have been brainwashed, living in a commune somewhere, cut off from society and worshipping a sex crazed, power hungry man who thinks he is the Messiah or even God. What most people do not realize that the same thing is happening when they walk through the doors of a church. David Koresh comes to mind at Waco or Jim Jones and Jonestown, where the drinking of the Kool Aide actually took place and there are many others like those. One called Heaven’s Gate had people so brainwashed they thought “that suicide would allow them to leave their bodily “containers” and enter an alien spacecraft hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet.” The cult’s philosophy took its roots from Applewhite’s Presbyterian upbringing – his father was a minister – and essentially grafted belief in extraterrestrials onto Christian theology. Applewhite told his acolytes that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ, that God was an alien, and that they were living in the end times. They read the Bible, especially, Revelation.” Now most will say that’s extreme and crazy and it is, but everyday people are taught other gospels and false doctrines like the rapture, hell doesn’t exist and all kinds of distorted and demonic views of the end times and everyday people think they are worshipping God. 

         A couple of the big cults are Scientology and Mormonism. As one writer said “Scientology and Mormonism were new religious movements that have evolved into a general understanding or definition of a religion.” Even so they are still cults. As the word of God became my life, I started to see how far off the church had become. I would describe that as my journey. I would like to say I saw it right from the beginning, but as I questioned what I had grown up with, became part of churches and compared it with scriptures, I started to understand the desolation of the church and that understanding has grown. Once I realized that the abomination that causes desolation had decimated the church, what I was seeing in the church and the outrageously vast differences in doctrine and theology, it all made sense. It was the Mormons who made me expand my definition of cults to include other gospels. No, I didn’t get involve with them, although I did tell some of them to stay away from a person they were trying to indoctrinate. Jehovah’s witness have their own bible as we talked about and said Jesus was a god. That is a cult. Mormons have Jesus Christ in their name, but His word has been distorted and isn’t as important as the book they have alongside the bible. One time a Mormon told me the Book of Mormon could be described as the bible nailed to a board with one nail. The book of Mormon was the second nail that stopped the bible from spinning and gave clarity to it. That would be false by the way but many people in the church actually believe this line of thinking. On the Mormon website, they give this eye-opening history. The title of this section is a dead giveaway that this is not of God. It states, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” They then give a brief history. “The coming forth of the Book of Mormon, foretold by ancient prophets, began with an angelic visitation in 1823 to 17-year-old Joseph Smith. Seven years later, in 1830, this scriptural canon of the Latter-day Saints was published for the world. “The Book of Mormon [is] the most correct of any book on earth,” Joseph Smith stated, “and the keystone of our religion.” These scriptures testify of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, His mission, and His ministry. The prophetic work of Joseph Smith rapidly unfolded as the Book of Mormon went “before the world.” Joseph declared that “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book. Joseph Smith taught, “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none” So this one is easy and easily discerned that this is not of God and yes, it is a cult.

        As I began my journey I belonged to a few different denominations and participated in a few churches. The foundation of the church should be the bible, but it is not. The common denominator instead of the bible is that each church / denomination also have their extra book that explains the bible, that puts a nail in it, to give the people the understanding they need to have eternal life, at least according to them and their distinctives. Some call it a handbook of doctrine or book of discipline, the manual, the church order and so on. These are their guidelines, beliefs, doctrine, rules etc. that make them distinct from one another. Yes, they all say they believe in Jesus Christ, but they all base their beliefs on a man or women that went before them other than Jesus. As I said earlier about the Asbury gathering, if Jesus is so important why are all the buildings named after men. So, I thought that the Mormons have this extra book, albeit from a false prophet, and most churches have their own book, from prophets or teachers, so what is the difference. Now obviously there are difference but there are some similarities. Some are extreme, while others are subtle. They all say they believe Jesus, but they all say something different about Him so do they really believe Jesus? They all agree to disagree, but they all think the other is wrong if they were truthful. Each group / denomination, usually base their beliefs on the teachings of a man or women as we see in a bit. This was supposed to be Jesus, the word of God, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not man. We have His word and we were supposed to have the Spirit of Truth. John 16:7 “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” If God had not turned His face from us, the church would be one, but man went his own way and rebelled. Thus, the abomination that causes desolation has destroyed the church, but not completely.

        Each group with their own particular distinction usually traces them back to a man or a woman. I grew up in the Methodist tradition (one was even names after Wesley) and I was a minister, so John Wesley was worshipped and idolized, and as I said earlier, there are idols of him and others like Asbury at the seminary I went to. They just changed the meaning of idolatry to respect, but it is still idolatry. You have others who worship Calvin, Luther, Darby and list is large. As time went by, the church continued to follow men and women. In my earlier days the big names were Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, and everyone wanted to have a church like theirs. They bought into what they were selling. “Rick Warren is the author of The Purpose Driven Life, one of the bestselling nonfiction books in publishing history. It has been translated into 137 languages and sold more than 50 million copies in multiple formats.” One writer said, “A survey of Christian leaders in 2005 asked which books were most influential in their lives and ministries.  The Purpose Driven Life was the most frequent response.” That is sad. A couple of other names were James MacDonald, Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell. Oddly they, Driscoll and Bell both pastored churches names Mars Hill. Four of the five pastors listed have fallen, yet people worshipped them and still follow them. Rob Bell “In 2011, Time named Bell on its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.” The problem with this influential person was all of a sudden he did not believe in hell. He wrote a book called “Love Wins” and said “It's been clearly communicated to many that this belief in hell as eternal, conscious torment is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus' message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear." The problem here is that without hell, you really don’t need Jesus nor do you believe what His word states very clearly.

        If this sound familiar, “The Mormons from their website say, “While the righteous rest, those who were unrighteous in life will live in spirit prison (often referred to as “hell”). Spirit prison is not a final judgment or eternal punishment. Because God is loving and fair, those in prison will be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and given the opportunity to accept the Savior, which can “make [them] free” (see John 8:32). And yes, they misquoted that verse and if they had actually read the verse, they would have seen John 8:31 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They did not hold to His teaching. The Jehovah’s witnesses say the same. On their website it says “Would it not be totally inconsistent, then, for anyone to claim that a God with such tender feelings would literally torment some humans for all eternity? If it is not in his heart to afflict or to grieve humans who deserve punishment, how could Jehovah God for all eternity look approvingly upon the anguish of wicked ones?”

        I also talked about the Foursquare denomination. They were started by a women named Aimee Semple McPherson which all started based on her vison of the foursquare gospel. I talked about it on Day 14, but I just wanted to say when something is started by a false prophet danger lurks. I also talked about Bethel Redding how dangerous they are. Both of these are charismatic and false teachers who teach other gospels especially about end times and faith healing. 

         Last week I looked very briefly at the Seventh-Day Adventist, and they also have the same view that a loving God would never send someone to hell for eternity. “Adventists do not believe in an everlasting hell. They believe that death is similar to a sleep and hell is but an instant at the end of the world. Hell is not torture for all eternity.” As I looked at the Adventists, you see very quickly the problem with them. I mentioned earlier the Waco cult. They were “Branch Davidians; an offshoot of the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Church which was itself an offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” As you research you will see critics have a hard time describing them. Some will say cultish, others will say part of Christianity. I had said last week, the Seventh-Day Adventists teach that they are the remnant and I said tongue in cheek “their disappointment will be even greater when they find out hell is real for all eternity.” They organized after what they call the Great Disappointment of the Millerites at the time. “Thousands of followers of William Miller (1782—1849) became bitterly disillusioned after his 1843 and subsequent 1844 predictions for the second coming of Christ failed to come to pass.” “Stories of the event abound. Some members of the church neglected their farms and other affairs and sold their possessions, expecting to be drawn upward to heaven.” At least it wasn’t a mass suicide! From here the prophetic took over. There were visons that gave an explanation that this event was not a failure but a beginning. About the failed prediction, “They said, except his prophecy had a spiritual fulfillment instead of a physical one.” They said they were not wrong as it wasn’t an earthly event, but a heavenly one. Failing to repent is not a good way to start. The prophet was Ellen G. White, who they say had hundreds of visions. “She and her family were among the Millerites who believed Jesus would be coming on October 22nd.” They say “Ellen White’s first vision showed the people of the Advent Movement traveling to heaven with their eyes fixed on Jesus. It came as a comfort to the believers who had experienced the Great Disappointment in October 1844.” Their website devotes a section to her. They say “She is also a highly-regarded pioneer of Seventh-day Adventism, as she played a key role in the formation of the denomination. And her impact is still recognized today, both by Adventists and others. Smithsonian Magazine even named her as one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.” She is the most translated female non-fiction author in the history of literature, as well as the most translated American non-fiction author of either gender.  By the time she passed away, her writings came close to 100,000 pages. This included 24 published books, 5,000 articles, and more than 200 informational leaflets.” So, as you can see their beginning were based on false visions from a false prophet. If they had just read their bibles, they would have known that Jesus said in Matthew 24:4 “Watch out that no one deceives you. 11 many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” 

        While there are some very distinct cults, there are other gospels everywhere, which as just as bad as the cults we think of when you comes to where you spend eternity. False teachers and their teaching have destroyed the lives of millions, and they do not even know it, teachers and those listening. Many have died thinking they were secure for all eternity, but will hear depart from me I don’t know you. 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” That time is already here. People have set aside God’s word for the words of men and women who say they speak for God, yet God says, Ezekiel 13:3 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! 6 Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the Lord has not sent them, they say, “The Lord declares,” and expect him to fulfill their words. 7 Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, “The Lord declares,” though I have not spoken?” I will talk more about this tomorrow. If people would just read their bibles, they would not be so easily deceived but because of rebellion 2 Thessalonians 2:9 “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

        God make it clear that He is a loving God but also a jealous God and consuming fire. Adam and Eve were removed from the garden and death entered the picture. Israel and Judah were destroyed and removed from the promised land with only a few survivors. The Lord allowed their enemies like the Assyrian and Babylonian armies to destroy them and the survivors were scattered to other lands. Jesus specifically says, Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Just that verse should send fear throughout your whole body. Matthew 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Jude 1:5 “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” Don’t listen to the nonsense of man and doctrines of demons, listen to what God states and return to Him. 

        If you deny the word of God, you will find out that hell is very real and it is eternal and worse than you can imagine. Jesus said about the end that people would be deceived. Just look around, open your eyes and see the devastation in the church. False teaching is everywhere especially about salvation, power of the Holy Spirit and end time theology. Many think they are saved, and they are not. Many think they are filled with the spirit, and they are not. Many think they are going to spend eternity in heaven but will be with satan, all because they listened to men, women and doctrines of demons and did not test the spirits. Every church today can be described as following other gospels because they refuse to set aside the beliefs of men and women and follow God’s word wholeheartedly. The power from on High is nowhere to be seen and people continue to be satisfied with the empty ways handed down to us by those who went before us. As Jesus said Mark 7:6 “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Paul said we must worship the true gospel, and 1 Corinthians 15:2 “by this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. It doesn’t have to be this way as we are told. Zechariah 1:2 “The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. 3 Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. 4 Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. 5 Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6 But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors? “Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’”

        In the end, it turns out that churches who follow and teach other gospels are as corrupt as cults because they follow a distorted and false view of what the bible actually says. They depend on the teaching of man and have no discernment as to what is God and what is satan. The way the church is today, you do not want to meet God if you are following other gospels. Deuteronomy 8:19 “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 29:24 All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” 25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” Deuteronomy 32:15 “They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior. 16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. 17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God— gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear. 18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 The Lord saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters. 20 “I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful. 21 They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.” 

        Prepare to meet your God Jesus.  Mark 1:14 “proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Ezekiel 18:31 “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”