Saturday, September 1, 2012
Perry Noble, Steve Furtick, and John’s Mandate to Test the Spirits
Ἀγαπητοί, μὴ παντὶ πνεύματι πιστεύετε ἀλλὰ δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα εἰ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, ὅτι πολλοὶ ψευδοπροφῆται ἐξεληλύθασιν εἰς τὸν κόσμον.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but perform a critical examination of the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (my translation). I John 4:1
PerryNoble's Newspring Church opens service with this Kiss song, “Highway to Hell.” Steve Furtick'sCode Orange Revival performs wild dance routine as part of their infamous “code orange” revival. These men have made clear statements indicating they believe they preach the true and genuine truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Contrary to American thinking, John urges every Christian to take up a spirit of critical thinking and examination when it comes to truth claims about the gospel. John was clearly writing his letter due to concerns about false teachings. Was the false teaching Docetism, a natural outworking of Gnostic thought? Did John have Cerinthus, a known false teacher in mind as he set out to write his letter? Two things are clear in John: false teachings existed and had to be dealt with; and these false teachings were leading to antinomian views about sin.
Jesus said in Matt. 7:15, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” He goes on to say, “So then, you will know them by their fruits.” In America, everyone wants to just get along. No one wants to drive a stake in the ground on any particular hill and die on it, it seems. This postmodern outlook of a new morality has managed to take hold in the Christian Church. The world labels one a hater if they have norms different from those they have. It is their way of shaming Christians in an attempt to bring them back into conformity or at a minimum, keep them silent. To a degree, the Church has played along. Any mention of men like Noble and Furtick is met with repulsion. I have even had conversations with conservative, reformed people who defend Furtick to a degree, talking about the good he is doing even if he is wrong on a few minor points. The attempt by some to continually increase what is acceptable is both regrettable and arrogant. John issued an imperative to all Christians that we cannot ignore. He commanded us not to believe every spirit and he commanded us to make a thorough and critical examination of every spirit to determine if they are from God.
Ministers step out onto the stage quite regularly these days. Where do these men come from? Who, in the Church, recognized them to possess the right set of character traits, values, and skills to merit consideration for Christian leadership? What did that examination process look like? If playing the song “Highway to Hell” during the worship service isn’t enough to get a pastor fired from serving, that tells me tons about the people sitting in that service. Jesus said you will know them by their fruit, rather than by the words they use. Jesus was funny that way. He says the Father does not care about what you say, but rather, what you do. The indication that a man is a false prophet is that he does not do the will of the Father. Purging sinful conduct from the Christian group is one of the main goals of the Christian minister. Playing the song “Highway to Hell” in the Christian service of worship to God introduces much confusion about holy living. It would be like having scantily dressed dancers perform just before preaching a sermon about the sin of pornography. It is more than just bad judgment. It is sinful leadership.
Jesus said he that is of God hears God’s word. John said it this way, “They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” The ones who are from God listen to ministers who deliver God’s truth. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Any spirit that contradicts truth is false.
We can no longer afford to be seduced by the American idea of tolerance. The notion of a false unity and a sense of harmony has had its day. The time has come for the church to return to the norms of Scripture. The word dokimadzo has the sense of trying to determine the genuineness of something by testing and examining it, often by using it. Jesus told the Pharisees that they could analyze the sky but they could not analyze the times. Paul urges the Corinthian church to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. He instructed the Thessalonians to examine everything. The believer must do strive to do better when it comes to using his/her mind in the pursuit of truth.
Your behavior follows your thinking. As a man thinks, so is he! The false teaching in John led to a false view of sin as false teaching often does. John’s purpose for writing this small letter could not have been stated more succinctly: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” False teaching and sin are the two dominant themes in I John. This is not surprising because false doctrine naturally leads to wrong conduct. John tells us that if anyone loves the world, the love of God is not in him.
Perry Noble and Steve Furtick continue to push outside the norms of the Christian group. In other words, they continually attempt to redefine orthodoxy just as their friends Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren do in the emergent church. This does not threaten only to redefine Christianity, it threatens its very existence. Jesus is not just one nice way to live and think among many other selections. He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to God except through Him. If men do not believe this, they will die in their sin. Men like Noble and Perry continually attempt to keep the Jesus label, all the while tinkering with The Way, The Truth, and The Life. It is like replacing a Ford motor with a Chevy while claiming the car is a Ford. It just won’t work. There is a difference between Christians and non-Christians. It is real, not imagined. When Church looks just like the culture, it doesn’t take a theologian to recognize that something is terribly wrong. Truth is the only antidote for a postmodern culture that has spawned a number of pseudo-Christian ministers and churches who are right in their own eyes.
 Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Matthew Black et al., The Greek New Testament, 4th ed. (Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies, 1993), 621.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 7:15.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 7:20.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Jn 4:5–6.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Jn 2:1.
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