“I wouldn’t believe in a God who would do…”
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The Bible tells us that in the last days there will be a great falling away from the faith. A friend of mine recently posted on his Facebook wall a well produced video about Singing In Hell. It was a high quality dramatized teaching video featuring a pastor in his study and the mini movie included actual actors.
I watched it several times and enjoyed parts of it, yet I felt uncertain about others. It felt like this pastor who was unknown to me, might actually be saying nobody went to hell, except, he didn’t actually say that. The theme of God being with us in our hell and singing our way through it was both encouraging and comforting.
I did a quick Google search of his church and name and nothing shouted error, deception, or heresy. The website looked a bit relevant/emergent, but the pastor was trained at Fuller Theological Seminary (a reputable school). I looked for anything on their site that might scream heretic, yet I found nothing definitive. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t fully reconcile everything he said about hell. Something was not quite right, yet I couldn’t clearly discern it.
I emailed the video to several friends who I consider excellent teachers of God’s word. Within minutes, several replied with concerns. If I had only clicked page two of my Google search results, I would have seen that this teacher was clearly Universalist. I was nearly sick to my stomach because I had almost shared it with others and swallowed the poison of heresy. I was thankful I hadn’t ignored that nagging check in my spirit and sought counsel.
How had I missed the obvious? One of the reasons it was so distressing to me was that I had studied the very topic, only not quite as thoroughly as I had imagined. Just months earlier I read Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell, a well-written apologetic on hell that was written in response to the sudden rise in popular preachers ascribing to the dangerous doctrine teaching that all humans go to heaven.
First I was reminded that false teachers – or wolves in sheep’s clothing – seldom look sinister. In fact, most are often sincere and believe they are teaching the word of God accurately. Many have no clue they are deceived. The thing about deception is it is…deceptive. The video was well crafted and the fact that a friend shared it with me gave me less cause to be alert and vigilant.
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Secondly, there was a lot of Bible truth in his teaching. Throw in bunch of truth and a sprinkle of arsenic and they won’t detect the poison until the meal is fully eaten. The pastor also avoided any of the buzz words I usually watch for. He never came out and directly said, “No one goes to hell! Everyone goes to heaven!” Much like a magician, he masterfully directed my attention to what he wanted me to see and concealed what he didn’t want me to notice.
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Why is this effective? Because we all have our favorite teachers and once someone moves into the arena of beloved teacher, we can stop being diligent Bereans, searching out the matter for ourselves. The deception wasn’t coming all it once, he was willing to serve it one bite at a time.
A similar approach once happened in the Garden of Eden. A trusted one came to share with his friend Eve. He pointed to something that was very beautiful to look at and spoke words of truth mixed with a bit of lies. Once deception is swallowed death entered the planet. Later, one named Truth defeated death and the grave and He then sent Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.
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I love what Mike Bickle has to say regarding this subject: “I distinguish between heresies that keep someone from receiving salvation, deceptions that keep someone from enjoying the fullness of fellowship with God and people, and errors in the secondary issues of the kingdom that keep us from the full understanding of God’s ways. We expose heresy and refuse to fellowship with those who preach heresies, we confront those in deception, and we give grace with patience to those with errors. We all have errors and lack full understanding.”
The question then begs to be asked, “How then shall I escape deception?” Obeying the First and Second commandment of course.
Loving God means loving truth. Loving God must go beyond a good worship service or quiet time in prayer. It has to include loving the truth and diligently seeking Truth, by giving ourselves to His words. When we know the truth, we can then fully recognize a counterfeit. We must ask Holy Spirit to guide us into truth and keep us from error, deception, and heresy.
In my case a shallow study of the topic may have had more of a homeopathic affect. The theory of homeopathy prescribes that a minute amount of the live disease will inoculate you from the real thing. Having studied lightly was possibly more harmful than good. I should have given myself further to studying the doctrine of hell. Not in order to win an argument, but to recognize the authentic from the fraudulent.
The second commandment of course has to do with loving people. It will also keep us from error, deception and heresy. How? Sharing our revelation and understanding of scripture with a multitude of counselors may keep us from slipping into one of these categories. God wants us dependent upon His Spirit and interdependent upon one another. This is how the body of Christ is meant to function. When both are in place, our spiritual immune system will function optimally. Should we stumble in error, deception or heresy He is faithful to set our feet back on solid ground.
Hunger for truth, your going to get good at this!
ChriS & Yvette