Angels of Light (darkness)

I was startled this morning, while reading one of the online devotional, that I frequent on a regular basis.  Something just didn’t feel right.

2 Corinthians 11:10-15 (CSB)
As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia. Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows I do!
But I will continue to do what I am doing, in order to deny an opportunity to those who want to be regarded as our equals in what they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no great surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will be according to their works.

Eyes Open

There have always been deceivers, who’s intent is to circumvent the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as the Word of God. They do this to popularize their position or garner favor from their audience not to Glorify God.

With the advent of television, you began to see this to a much greater degree (not that all religious broadcast fall into this category) and today with the ability to publish video and text online without prequalification or review, it has become even more pervasive. We have seen the spread of ‘prosperity gospel’, deviations of the ‘name it an claim it crowd’, and those ‘bulk healers’ who espouse that they can provide a healing prayer, by laying their hands on the camera. Watch and be healed.

What triggered this article this morning, was upon reading a devotional that gets sent to me in email, I had an uneasy feeling. I was following up on my concern by watching a video that this individual had posted. Something just didn’t sit right with me and I was trying to figure out what it was.

It was quite a show. Grand motions and colorful speech. It seemed apparent that the person on the video was taking full advantage of their accent; not being typical. Walking the street and hearing it in the US would be something quickly drawing attention to the person. I was thinking that if this wasn’t manufactured, it at least was being used to endear and engage the viewer.

Then it happened.  This person prayed over the camera; espousing a prayer of healing that was intended to blanket the viewing audience with it’s healing powers.

Eyes on Jesus

Now, I am not suggesting that Jesus would never ever heal hundreds if not thousands because of a bulk prayer of healing.  Jesus, in fact, could do exactly that.  Just as Jesus could give us all a couple of Cadillacs and a fancy home in the suburbs. He could and for some he has seen to it, that they are immensely wealthy by earthly terms.

But that’s not typically how God operates. He does do things on a grand scale, but when he does there is no doubt, that it is God doing it and it serves a purpose. A purpose that ultimately Glorifies His name.  Not to garner favor with the world, of elevate self.

The Word says:

Hebrews 12:1-2 (CSB)
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

What do we need to be testifying to this cloud of whiteness?

Galatians 6:14 (CSB)
But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.

The distinguishing factor, is who the eyes are focused on.  We should only trust that which focuses on Jesus, because any other gospel, regardless of how well intended it is, simply is nothing more than an imitation ‘angel of light’ spewing darkness.

“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light”.

They are clever and polished; well funded and seeking to ensnare. In order to divert every person, they can to their false teachings and away from the message of Jesus to come to him in repentance and humility seeking his Grace and Forgiveness.

My intent, is not to expose every false apostle of Christ.  No, my hope is to make you aware that these false prophets exist and perhaps furnish you with the tools to identify them, so you’re better able to shield yourself from their poisonous aberrations of the Gospel.

Let’s look at the three that I mentioned in the opening more closely.  After that we’ll consider what is genuine to ascertain what is false.

Prosperity Gospels

I can easily name names here, but I will not even lend credence to them by calling them out.  Their judgement is coming from the one true judge.

Most often operating out of mega churches with an audience that is in the thousands; ministers of prosperity gospel will dilute the necessity for repentance, while attempting to persuade you that God is sitting on His throne just waiting to dole out the goods. Most often related to the faith your willing to demonstrate (ie. How much you can contribute in your love offerings).

2 Corinthians 12:9 (CSB)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”
Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.

If the messenger isn’t focused on Christ; His sacrifice, His Love, His Grace and His Forgiveness; you had better question just what the message is about! If the messenger isn’t admonishing repentance and surrender of self to the will of God in Christ Jesus; then it’s not about the way that he’s made for us to establish a relationship with Him and adoption into the family of God as His child, washed by the blood of His Son Jesus!

If the messenger is focused on what worldly treasures can be attained if you but believe strong enough; then they are not focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seek to destroy not just your joy but your relationship with the Creator!

1 Corinthians 1:21-25 (CSB)
For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

This message of Christ and His redeeming power baffles the Jew and to all others it sounds like foolishness.  The Jew’s seek a sign and ignored the ones that were given them, blinded by their presumption. Gentiles on the other hand mock and ridicule the message of the Gospel. However, we preach ‘Christ crucified’, because in giving himself on our behalf in our place, He establishes a new covenant between God and mankind.

Not about material things, or social status. Prosperity gospels are the handy work of the evil one.

Name It, Claim It

More than likely I’m going to get some a bit angry with me about this false teaching.  That’s right, false teaching. Regardless, it is frightening the number of people that call themselves Christians that are fully vested in the concept that if you can reference a passage anywhere in the Bible in any given translation, you then can claim that for yourself. God is bound by His Word therefore to grant you that claim.

There are a couple of problems with this approach to the scripture.

The first is that often time to nail down God to do what we want him to we have to slice out just enough to get our claim and ignore the rest of what the Word is saying.

Here is an example of how this works in an everyday setting.

Becky says to her husband: ‘If I am going to get that package I ordered in time, I will have to drive to the factory and pick it up’.

Now Becky’s husband using the ‘name it – claim it’ methodology focuses in on ‘drive to the factory’. That and nothing else. Doesn’t consider picking up the package or even if there is a package. It’s all about the drive in his mind!  Doesn’t consider what the package is or what it is for.

So, after he returns from his drive with no package, Becky asks him where it is.  He responds, ‘You told me to drive to the factory!’

If this were to actually take place Becky would not be the least bit happy with her husband and He would be confused and disillusioned because after all ‘he did what she said’, right?

How often do we do this with scripture? I’d have to argue much more often that we would want to admit.

Deuteronomy 4:2 (CSB)
You must not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, so that you may keep the commands of the Lord your God I am giving you.

While Becky’s husband didn’t technically remove anything from what she said, he simply via selective hearing, picked out only the part that he wanted to use to justify his 3-hour drive. In effect, what he did was cut out the rest of what she had told him, and so often we do the same to God to get just the thing we want from him (or so we think).

If God doesn’t come through, He has failed to keep his promises!  And we have a right to be disappointed.  If we do secure that which we ‘claimed’ then we effectively are justifying our actions based on subtracting from the Word of God.

God does may promises to us in His Word; lots of them! However, we deceive ourselves when we think we can pull one over on God by spouting a fraction of His Word back to him and he is bound to it.

God is bound to what he says in His Word, no different than Becky intended to get the package in a manner to fit her timeframe.

If we only focus on the part, we want to focus on and ignore the rest of the context we fail. No matter how good the thing is that we focus on is, that fragment wasn’t put there for you to manipulate God or His Word.

Later in Deuteronomy it follows up on the passage above.

Deuteronomy 12:32 (CSB)
Be careful to do everything I command you; do not add anything to it or take anything away from it.

So, you have it, we can claim the promises of God, but this isn’t a license to manipulate His Word. Praying back scripture is good. It provides us a means of focusing our requests to God in a manner congruent with His Word.  But taking Him out of contest is nothing short of calling God a liar.

Bulk Healers

This is the one that prompted me to write this article in the first place.

I’m not going to say that God will not heal massive numbers of people because of a single prayer of the faithful. On the contrary, there is nothing that is impossible with God.

Matthew 19:26 (CSB)
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

God is capable of healing the entire planet in the blink of an eye. The question isn’t one of God’s ability but of God’s nature.

God doesn’t deal with us in bulk. He examines every heart and has a plan for each of his creation in accordance to His will.

Matthew 10:29-31 (CSB)
Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

God deals specifically with each of us. He’s not a ‘micro manager’ but He is a micro God with macro capabilities. God goes into the minutia of our existence and can deal with all of us at the same time.

2 Corinthians 12:7b-9 (CSB)
“Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”
Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.

So even the apostle Paul was afflicted with a malady that despite repeated earnest request was left to deal with. But Paul also explains that God had given reason for this. ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is perfected in weakness’.

God’s plan for us may or may not include healing, but He will act in a manner to use our suffering to Glorify Him.  We are so focused on the ‘here and now’ that we can’t see the big picture of our existence beyond this world. God does! Ultimately every faithful believer will be healed, but that healing may not come unit we rest at the feet of our savior.

Revelation 21:4 (CSB)
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.

He will wipe away every tear, death no more, no grief, no crying, and no pain.  Total and complete healing; the ultimate end to a life committed to God.

So, when the ‘bulk healers’ place their hands on the camera and espouse a blessing of healing for all, they are not doing it to Glorify God, they are doing it to glorify themselves.

John the Baptist said it best.

John 3:30 (CSB)
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

He – Jesus, must increase and I – John in this case, must decrease. And so, it is with all of us.  God’s ultimate plan may not include your healing today, but ultimately, He will if you’re willing use you as an instrument of His Glory and Grace. If you commit yourself to him you will be healed, but perhaps beyond this short life we have here.

This doesn’t mean that we disregard the laying on of hands and asking God to intervene for physical healing. We absolutely should! But in doing so it is important that we acknowledge who God is, what our place is in His plan and replace our will with complete surrender to His will and plan.

Other Angels of Light (darkness)

We’ve covered these three big ones but honestly there a numerous other ‘Angels of Light’ that we must be aware of.  False teachings abound today, and you need to be aware of how to identify them.

Matthew 24:24 (CSB)
For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

In many cases the distortion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be subtle. If you’re not paying attention even God’s elect could be deceived.

While the fundamental test is how these people deal with the deity of of Jesus, the condition of man, the path to salvation and repentance; will be the most common points where these false prophets will deviate from scripture.

The Deity of Jesus:

This is likely the simplest of the tests to identify a false teaching. If anyone says that Jesus is not the Son of God, their message is not of God.

John 14:6-9 (CSB)
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
“Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Jesus and God the Father are one. Period, end of story.  There is no way to scripturally deny the deity of Jesus. Anyone saying otherwise is not speaking with the authority of God.

The Condition of Man:

By nature, mankind is in a fallen condition due to ‘original sin’. Even if that were not the case, it doesn’t take very long after we are born before we all commit offenses that entitle us to the death penalty. To show this in scripture:

Deuteronomy 5:9 (CSB)
Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them, because I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ iniquity to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me

Psalms 51:5 (CSB)
Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.

The passage in Deuteronomy shows the transference of violation of God’s law from generation to generation.  Then in Psalms the writer declares that ‘I was sinful when my mother conceived me’.

Sin is the default condition of every man, woman and child.

Without mankind having a fallen condition there is no reason for God to have sent His Son to redeem us.

The Path to Salvation:

There is only one way to salvation. Anyone that suggests a different way, is not of God.

Acts 4:12 (CSB)
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”

Jesus! The path to salvation is through Jesus. No other way.

Romans 10:9-10 (CSB)
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

1) Confess Jesus as Lord of your life. 2) Believe that God has raised him from the dead. That’s it!

Now I will have to preface this with the fact that both are more of a heading than an actual statement. In each there are layers of detail that must be considered.

Jesus Lord of your life:

Making Jesus Lord means that you will have surrendered your will to Him and have become a servant, follower, slave; to His direction in your life. This means obeying Him, doing that which He directs you, and surrendering all to his will.

Matthew 16:24 (CSB)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Deny self, pick up your cross (your burden) and follow Him.

Believe God Raised Jesus From Death:

Belief (faith in the convent established by Jesus for salvation) is essential. This means everything from the virgin birth, His life here with us, Him surrendering His life for our sins, His burial and resurrection, and finally His assertion into Heaven from where he will return to claim His own in the last days. Every bit of this involves trusting Jesus.

Trusting that He is God’s Son. Trusting that He came to to live among us a sinless life. Trusting that He gave himself as the perfect sacrifice to atone us for our sins. Trust that in rising from the dead he vanquished sin and death forever and secured for us life eternal with Him. Trust that while he did return to His home in Heaven with the Father, He left us the Holy Spirit to be our guide, teacher and intercessor. Trust that His promises are true, and He will return to claim his bride; His Church.

Repentance:

Faith without works is dead. The first ‘work’ of a Christian is to repent. Repentance is the last milestone on the path to salvation.

Matthew 4:17 (CSB)
From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Revelation 3:3 (CSB)
Remember, then, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent. If you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come upon you.

Romans 2:4 (CSB)
Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Let me summarize these three passages.

Jesus preached repentance as part of the pathway to salvation. This was an urgent call. Repentance isn’t a one-time event, but rather, a process you perform repeatedly as the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin we’ve not dealt with.

Repentance is when we stop doing what we were doing and choose to do what Jesus demonstrates. Remember that ‘Take up your cross and follow me’? This is part and parcel to that very thing.

Summarization

There are those standing in pulpits, carrying Bibles, claiming to be acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  If they teach something counter to what we have discussed here they are not. It’s that simple.

Taking it one step further, between you and Jesus, if this article has been a revelation to you bringing light to a problem with the path you took to your salvation, you may have been already deceived by one of these who masquerade as an ‘Angel of Light’. If that is the case, then you need to re-evaluate your salvation and test your heart and make sure that it is aligned with what the Savior requires of you; then ask for forgiveness from him and repent.

If you fall outside of this pathway to Salvation, and wish to seek the forgiveness for your sins, you can lay them at the feet of Jesus right now.  All you need to begin a walk with the Son of the Living God is here. It was in this verse.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

Then repent, change your direction. Take up your cross and follow Jesus!

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