Bible study · Book review · Christian Living · Christianity · Nonfiction

The Gospel Under Attack

I have a list of Bible teachers I tune in to listen to on YouTube. Allen Parr is on that list. With well over a million subscribers, he hosts The BEAT (Biblical Encouragement And Truth) where he provides succinct lessons in scripture on what God has to say about some of the problems Christian face today. He said he wants to help people become students of the Bible, so they will become equipped to discern truth from lies. He has answered many questions Christians have about their salvation, the end times, and how to hear from God. Allen doesn’t shy away from talking about what God has to say about some of the serious issues within our culture.

Allen reveals seven major ways false teachers have corrupted the Gospel message in “Misled: 7 Lies That Distort the Gospel (and How You can Discern the Truth).” He created a fictional character, Jarren, who is a new Christian looking for a church to attend. In each chapter, Allen progresses from the not-so-bad to deadly lies some professing Christians claim are true of God and His Word. I’ve tried to condense the main message about each of the ways people have been duped by deceivers. Allen uses more scriptures than I have listed here. He demonstrates how to defend against lies with truth found in the Bible. Here are the 7 lies he worked through:

Speaking in Tongues

On the day of Pentecost, during the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23: 15-21 ESV), the Holy Spirit filled the room and each of the believers “began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.” (Read all of Acts 2 for this pivotal moment when the Holy Spirit filled each of the early Christians.) These believers were gifted with the ability to speak a foreign language they didn’t study and didn’t speak before. Those who had come to Jerusalem for the festival heard the speakers communicate the Gospel in their language. Today, false teachers will tell Christians they aren’t saved if they can’t speak in tongues, Allen said. They claim it proves the Holy Spirit is within us, and if we can’t speak in tongues then we’re not Christians. Some even tell Christians they have to wait for the Spirit in the same way as the early church, but Paul tells us it happens when we are saved. (Read Ephesians 1:1-14) He said when we “believed in him, [we] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:13-14)  

Health and Wealth/Prosperity Theology/Word of Faith Movement

Many televangelists have promoted this second false teaching. They have amassed wealth and large congregations. They call it “sowing seeds” when they assure their audiences that God will either multiple the money that is sent to them or provide them with healing for their illnesses. Our relationship with God becomes transactional at that point, Allen said. God doesn’t serve us by making us well and prosperous if we send money to a ministry, no matter how much these men and women claim that is true. Allen pointed out several flaws in this chapter, but the one that stood out for me: Jesus warned that we’ll experience suffering and persecution. Health, wealth, and happiness in the here and now are not promised. Just look at Paul’s experience. How many times was he jailed? Beaten? In 2 Corinthians 12, he said he asked God three times to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” but God told him, 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. v. 9-10

Did that mean Paul didn’t have enough faith? Did he not “sow” enough seeds?

Speaking Things Into Existence

Allen has discussed a few of our worship songs today that talks about Christians having God’s power to manifesting things into existence through our words. Christians are afraid to say anything negative. They believe their words have the same power as God’s when He created the world. But Allen said we cannot create like God. He created out of nothing. We can use paints, wood, butter and flour, in other words, created things to make something new. We can’t speak things into existence. We are not God, nor are we “little gods.” We are made righteous by Jesus Christ’s blood. We are coheirs with Christ, and we are children of God when we accept Christ. But God’s power is not our own. False teachers would have us believe we can “manifest” healing or wealth on our own, but they seek to steal God’s glory. Many end up placing their faith in a person then and not God. These false teachers ultimately want the glory for themselves.  

Prophets and Prophecies

Allen introduced two words that spell check hated: cessationists vs. continuationists. As the word implies, the first group believe that “certain miraculous spiritual gifts, such as divine healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy ceased when the apostles died, and the canon of the Scripture was completed.” (Source for this quote.) The apostle Paul predicted these special gifts would cease in verses 8-10 of the love passage, 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”

The second group, continuationists, believe that the Holy Spirit still gives Christians miraculous spiritual gifts and prophetic words to speak over God’s people. Allen said spiritual gifts should edify the church and point to the power of Jesus Christ as the apostles did in their day. But many use these so-called gifts to want to appear more spiritual than other Christians. False teachers lie about having these special healing powers to dupe them into sending in money in exchange for healing they can’t give. The fraudulent faith healer actually handpicks people with unverifiable illnesses to heal them. Allen cracked a joke here: a friend tells Jarren they need to show up early so they can find front-row seats. God does His best healing there.

As for prophets and prophecies, Allen said Old Testament prophets spoke for God who called His people to repentance and restoration. They warned people about God’s plans for them if they continued in their sin. These prophets were often reviled and tortured by their own people. Old Testament prophets knew that speaking for God is serious business. They would lose their lives if they lied and said something came from the Almighty when it came from their own hearts.

In the new testament, Allen said the prophets often spoke about the fulfillment of Old Testament promises to God’s people. He said pastors and teachers of scripture today do the same. They too need to ensure what they say is verified in scripture. Too many pick and choose what fits their narrative or what makes people comfortable. Allen said not to believe anyone who claims to have the authority to speak for God about the future of the whole Church outside of what scriptures tell us. The Bible is a closed canon.

Now, Allen does believe Christians can speak a prophetic word of encouragement over the lives of people of faith. But he wants us to test whatever “God told them” against scripture. Don’t accept everything spoken over your life as coming from God. If a prophetic word doesn’t come to pass, we will know that it doesn’t come from God. Just as in Old Testament times, God will hold false teachers accountable for saying they speak for Him when they speak only from their own hearts and minds.

Progressive Christians

I think this next group believes they’ve made “progress” when it comes to Christian beliefs by not believing in sound doctrine. They have a low view of Jesus Christ, Allen said. They think we should follow Him as a role model, but His death on the cross wasn’t necessary. (I know. How does that make them Christians then?) Their moto is:

“God loves you just the way you are. You don’t have to change a thing.”

Progressive Christianity has become wildly popular because they don’t tell people about their need for repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ. Their beliefs won’t result in transformation. You will remain dead in your sins. 1. The Gospel changes you, Allen said. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners when He died on the cross and paid our penalty. He defeated sin and death. He’s not an ordinary man.

And 2. Most churches say, “Come as you are,” Allen said, but if God calls you to Him, He isn’t going to leave you the way you are. If He calls you, He wants to give your soul a makeover.

You Can Lose Your Salvation

This is one I wrestled with when I was a teenager. Despite having been saved, I would have this thought: “How can I truly be saved if I’m still sinning? I remember telling a friend’s mama, about my deepest fears. I knew that Jesus Christ had defeated sin and death once and for all. I think younger me felt like I needed to do something extra. I don’t remember Mrs. Mullinax’s exact words, but I remember their impact: Did I think His death on the cross for me that day wasn’t enough? Did I want Christ to die again on that cross? No. It was a powerful lesson.

Jarren had been wrestling with sexual sin, and he had confessed it to someone. That person told him if he continued in “willful sin” he may not be saved anymore. Allen pointed out that all sin is “willful sin.” On our own, we are incapable of living perfect lives like Jesus. Even the apostle Paul noted that he too continued to sin despite his conversion. Allen said we are not immune to sin’s pull this side of Heaven after accepting Christ. We will not be happy to continue in sin though. God doesn’t want our worship motivated by fear, Allen said. He wants us to have deep assurance of our salvation. Here are the pillars Allen gave that supply that proof.

Pillar #1 Perseverance – “Those who are truly born again will be empowered by the Spirit to continue to believe until the day they die. We don’t persevere in our own strength. We do so because the Holy Spirit empowers us to do so.” (Phil. 2:12-13). Allen quoted Charles Spurgeon who said we are “working out” what has already by “worked in.” Here, he discussed the differences between professing and genuine Christians. The first are people who say they are Christians, try to live a virtuous life, but have never had a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you,” Allen said, and not “I don’t know you anymore.” These were people who depended on their activities to get them into Heaven. They did not have a genuine faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on humanity’s behalf.

Pillar #2 Preservation – God started this work of salvation, not us, and He will complete it. (Phil. 1:6). Allen said it doesn’t say “only if” we don’t sin again. We can’t change God’s mind once we have placed our genuine faith in Jesus. (Jude 24). God won’t take us out of Jesus’ hand. God gave us to Jesus. (John 10:28-29) Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:38-39).

Pillar #3 Predestination – God predestined believers to be conformed in the image of His Son. God knew beforehand what would happen because He is omniscient. (Romans 8:29-30) Allen said God does all the work, not us. Our part is recognizing our need for a Savior, saying “Yes” to Jesus, and giving our lives to Him. That’s it. God is the pursuer who is calling us to Him. (2 Tim 1:9) He chose us before He created the world. (Eph 1:4); He knew every sin, every decision we would make, Allen said, and still He chose us.

Pillar #4 Propitiation – Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for sinners appeased God’s wrath. His sacrifice covered all of our sins once and for all, not just some sins. We are saved by grace through faith, not from works. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Here, Allen mentioned author Beau Lee’s formula: Jesus + Nothing = Salvation.

Pillar #5 Permanence – Jesus said we’ve passed from death into life when we accept Him. (John 5:24) We gain eternal life, not temporary life eternal. It’s immediate, not conditional in nature. (John 3:16) Either salvation is eternal, or it’s not, Allen said, if eternal, it’s not temporary.

Pillar #6 – Promises – God does not renege on His promises. God gave us the Holy Spirit when we accepted Christ. The Spirit is a deposit, not unlike a down payment for a new home, Allen said. We were sealed by that promise on the day of salvation. (Ephesians 1:13). If God were to remove the Holy Spirit, He would break that contract with us, and God doesn’t break His promises.

Pillar #7: Prayers – Jesus as our high priest sits at the Father’s right hand and makes intercession for us. (Hebrews 7:25); He constantly intercedes for us. He understands our weaknesses, our circumstances, and our temptations. (Hebrews 4:14-15).

Pillar #8 Pictures – The first is a picture of adoption – we are adopted into God’s family when we are saved. (Ephesians 1:5); The second picture is of slavery – we were slaves that God ransomed, Allen said. The third picture is of the criminal – we are forgiven of our sin, guilt, and freed of punishment. Our debt is cancelled. (Colossians 2:14) We are a new creation, (2 Cor. 5:17) that God is molding to look like His Son Jesus.  

Grace may be free, but isn’t cheap

Allen said false teachers twist the truth so much that what they say sounds correct. Jesus’ death on the cross ended sin’s curse on us once and for all. That’s true. This has led some to say we no longer have to confess our sins to God! Christ’s sacrifice for us covered past, present, and future sins, so why would we need to, they say. But the scriptures tell a different story. Christians still need to confess sins. Look at Jesus’ model prayer. (Matthew 6:5-15) If it’s not necessary to confess our sins, why did Jesus say anything about asking God to forgive us of our trespasses?

Allen gave one of the best ways Jesus illustrated this idea of confession while washing His disciples’ feet. When Peter asked Jesus why He would wash his feet, Jesus said to him in John 13:6-10, 

“‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.’”

Christians who have received God’s saving grace are made clean, Allen said, but we still need to clean up any sin in our life that deposits on our heart, like the dirt on the disciples’ feet. The Holy Spirit convict us when we do wrong, so we will want to confess our sins. This is one way to tell if you are a genuine Christian, Allen said, because you care that you have sinned against God.

In his early 20s, Allen said he started attending a church where the lead pastor believed several of these distortions of the Gospel. He studied the Bible though and could discern truth from lies. Allen said he stayed in this church for four years even though he saw that their beliefs had members headed in the wrong direction. He didn’t want to let God down by leaving. He left after graduating university and said this experience informed his own ministry decisions. He wanted to encourage Christians to study God’s word, so they too would become equipped for doing battle in the spiritual realm by filtering everything through a scriptural lens.

My thought after reading this book is that churches today should stop worrying about making people feel comfortable. I forget which pastor said this, but Christians should expect to squirm in their seats once in a while. I think back to times too numerous to count when I have felt like the pastor wrote his message just for me. I would think, “Whoa. How did he know? Did someone tell him? That’s the kind of church I am used to though. Allen believes Christians need a community where believers help them become mature believers, so they in turn can help new believers grow in the faith. Check out his YouTube series on this topic called Church Gone Wild.

Allen showed how important it is to read and study scripture. Trust me when I say the more time you spend camped out in studying scriptures, the more the Holy Spirit has to work with to bring to mind those passages later. And He does! I hope Allen creates a study guide to go along with this book that comes out on June 13, 2023. You can preorder through here and here.

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”

2 Timothy 4:3-5 NLT

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