The Apostle Paul taught us that false teachers can damage a message even by telling the truth. In Acts 16, a woman is following Paul around, proclaiming, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” She spoke the truth. And you might think that Paul should be ecstatic to find such a good supporter. After all, it is better than the stoning and beatings he received elsewhere, right?
Wrong. Paul would rather take a beating for doing right than the praise of a false teacher (1 Peter 2:20). Paul didn’t want a fortune-teller speaking on his behalf. She was a false teacher and she used her gift to gain wealth for masters who sold idols. So Paul turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And even though he suffered for making that call, it was the right one to make.
By now, I imagine you have probably heard about Victoria Osteen’s message that landed her in hot water with the Christian community. What many are calling “cheap Christianity” is really nothing more than the ultimate conclusion of the health and wealth gospel…YOU. YOU are the most important thing in the world. God wants YOU to be happy; worship is there to benefit YOU; YOU deserve – everything.
Despite responses by Albert Mohler and others who have written about the foolishness of Victoria’s statements, and despite her defense of her statements, I wonder if the bigger picture isn’t being missed here. After all, when false teachers preach a false message, it is pretty easy to call them out. But the bigger surprise is that so many people think that there is ANYTHING that the Osteens could preach that would be pleasing to God.
Think about it this way: Is there anyone you wouldn’t want to compliment you? For example, if Hitler stood up and told everyone what a nice guy you were…while it might be true…you might say, “PLEASE, don’t be for me!” The problem is that the person might do more damage than good because of what they believe and practice.
Please understand, I am not denouncing imperfect people who preach the true gospel. If that were the case, none of us could preach anything! Rather, we denounce any teacher who knowingly teaches a gospel other than the one preached in the New Testament. Paul said, if anyone preaches another gospel, “let them be accursed” (Galatians 1:9)!
God really, really wants His message preached. Period. So, we don’t applaud when a false teacher happens to stumble on the truth. We don’t congratulate when a false teacher preaches the truth 95% of the time, peppered with a false message occasionally. We don’t call good that which God calls evil (Isaiah 5:20). Unless major repentance, change of heart, and change of doctrine takes place, there is nothing the Osteens could ever teach that wouldn’t hurt the church more than help. We should collectively cry, “PLEASE, stopping speaking for Him!”
2.5 million people follow Victoria on Twitter and thousands flock to hear her false message of cheap grace, empty Christianity, and self-worship. Meanwhile, many people continue to think that all churches are basically the same. Listening to one is as good as another. Give it some thought. If God denounces false teachers in His Holy Word and won’t even let them speak for Him, how should we react today?
Perhaps, rather than sifting through false messages searching for nuggets of truth, we should be directing people to the source. There is one true gospel, and if someone preaches any other message, God will say, in the final judgment, “you shouldn’t have presumed to speak for me” (James 3:1).
Friend, I urge you to find a Bible-based, true-gospel-preaching, congregation in your area. If there is a local church of Christ, I encourage you to check them out first. Then, just as those Bereans did, test every Word you hear, and every aspect of worship they practice, against scripture (Acts 17:11).