Years ago my wife, Jeri, and I were driving on the interstate when we were overcome by a white cloud of windblown snow. "I can't see a thing!" I shouted. We were experiencing a complete whiteout. I lost all sense of direction. I couldn't see the road or other cars. Everything had vanished, replaced by this strange, mystical blizzard of white. The only thing I knew to do was to slow down and pray that I was still on the road.
By the providence of God I came to a stop in the median, where we waited out the storm. When it lifted, I was shocked at what we'd gone through. Miles in front of me and miles behind were wrecks—too many to number. Massive trucks had slid off the road and turned over. Cars were everywhere. It was purely by the hand of the Lord that we survived.
A whiteout is a weather condition in which visibility is severely reduced by snow. The horizon disappears completely; there are no reference points at all, leaving the individual with a distorted orientation.
This is what's happening today in the church. Many are oblivious to the dangers on the horizon. In this spiritual whiteout the reference points—the ancient landmarks—have been covered. Erroneous teachings have merged together with truth, causing innocent believers to become disoriented—and blinded.
The Lord recently imparted to me a vision concerning the state of the church and what we must do about it. Those familiar with our ministry know we've never played games and have a deep, reverential fear for the work of God. Given this, I urge you to take heed to the following words. If you think I'm just letting off some steam, understand that I've just passed through three years of cancer treatments. I had been given only days to live. And as Leonard Ravenhill often reminded me, we must speak with the unction and urgency of God. We are all nothing more than dying men preaching to dying men.
In the vision I saw the church, depicted as a beautiful ski resort, with an enormous avalanche hovering overhead. The Lord immediately revealed the interpretation. This impending spiritual avalanche carried a threat that could destroy everyone. I've spent countless hours in the past attempting to rescue those who had fallen prey to false teaching. Now, in this visitation from God, I saw layers upon layers of snow steadily covering the solid, traditional truth of Christ. As with a whiteout, the truth had been lost in the flurry. No one who loves God willingly preaches deception, yet a spiritual whiteout of unhealthy, unbalanced and, in some cases, unbiblical teaching is blinding the body of Christ in America, and it is quickly spreading around the world.
How Has This Happened?
Unhealthy and destructive teaching can enter the church in various ways. Sometimes a biblical truth is taught to the exclusion of other biblical truths, producing a dangerous imbalance. At other times a biblical truth is taught in an exaggerated way, often going beyond what Scripture actually says, and in the end this does more harm than good. Many times clear, biblical warnings are ignored or reinterpreted so radically that they lose all impact or effect, leaving people vulnerable and exposed.
Paul warned that the "time will come when [believers] will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Today's church in America, as a whole, is dangerously close to turning aside to such fables. Millions have already succumbed to these false teachings. Before we lose any more souls, it's crucial that we identify what I believe are the seven greatest lies that have infiltrated the church and have led to a whiteout of error.
1) Overemphasis of Prosperity
Undoubtedly, some adherents of the carnal prosperity message are motivated by greed. For them, preaching Jesus is a means of financial gain, something Paul rebuked in the strongest possible terms, speaking of men "of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain" (1 Tim. 6:5).
Yet many sincere believers embrace this message too—and back their case with Scripture. They point to the covenant blessings the Lord promised to Israel for their obedience, including financial prosperity (Deut. 28:1-13). They highlight verses in Proverbs and Psalms that link financial prosperity to generosity, hard work, godly living and faith (e.g., Ps. 112). They remind us of wonderful promises, such as those found in Proverbs 3:9-10—and how Jesus reiterated these in the New Testament with teachings such as, "Give, and it will be given to you" (Luke 6:38). And they quote Paul, who wrote about the financial principles of sowing and reaping (1 Cor. 9; 2 Cor. 8-9; Phil. 4:11-19).
Are you with me? I am not against you having money. But I am adamantly against money having you. The problem is, there's more to the story that the carnal prosperity preachers fail to mention:
- Jesus warned against storing up treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19-24) and covetousness (Luke 12:15).
- Jesus emphasized caring for the poor (Matt. 25:31-46).
- Paul and John both taught that we should not live according to this present age (1 Cor. 7:29-31; 1 John 2:15-17).
- Jesus did not die to make us financially wealthy but to save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21).
- God chose the poor to be rich in faith and kingdom heirs (James 2:5).
More importantly, the carnal prosperity preachers have ignored other biblical warnings, like Paul's powerful words to Timothy: "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness" (1 Tim. 6:9-11).
Carnal prosperity preachers encourage God's people to seek after riches—or to seek after God for the purpose of riches—often even judging your spirituality by the kind of car you drive. What does that have to do with the gospel of Jesus?
2) Exaggerated View of Grace
This hyper-grace teaching has become an epidemic (see "What's Wrong With Grace?" on p. 28). It has slipped in almost unnoticed and taken root like an unwanted weed—easy to get in but hard to get out of the Christian. I have personally dealt with many young people who were once on fire but fell under this "kicked-back" view of God. Now, instead of pursuing Him, they are partying. This "unmerited freedom," if not tackled and taken out, will spread to future generations, leaving us with millions of lukewarm Christians who have traded their passion for poison.
Sadly, some hyper-grace preachers live in sin and ease their consciences by preaching about a God who is all love and who never condemns, a God who doesn't judge us by our conduct. Like the false teachers Jude confronted, they "turn the grace of our God into lewdness" (Jude 4). The New International Version describes such lewdness as "a license for immorality."
But not every hyper-grace preacher is looking for a way to justify sin. Some truly love Jesus but are simply preaching truth mixed with error. They've taken an undeniable, glorious truth about God and presented it in such an exaggerated form that they nullify all divine warnings and even claim that the words of Jesus don't apply to New Covenant believers. If this seems judgmental, then it's time to honestly line everyone's teachings—including mine—alongside the Word. Don't just go through the Word; let the Word go through you. Why are we so afraid in this godless generation to confront fallacies?
These hyper-grace teachers rightly emphasize that we are saved by grace and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9), that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6-8), that we are no longer sinners but saints in God's sight (1 Cor. 1:2), that God's love for us is not based on our performance (Rom. 5:9-10), that having begun in the Spirit we can't become perfect by human effort (Gal. 3:3), that we are now sons and daughters of God, joint heirs with Jesus (Rom. 8:15-17), and more!
But they ignore mountains of other scriptural truths and draw wrong theological conclusions. For example, they rightly teach that Jesus died for all our sins—past, present and future—but wrongly conclude that as believers we no longer have to deal with sin (meaning we never have to confess sin or repent of sin, and the Holy Spirit no longer convicts us of sin). Aren't you tired of hearing of another backslidden brother? Trace his steps and you'll often find he was given permission to slip away from the wonderful freedom of holiness into the bondage of humanism.
Dr. Mark Rutland's
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