by Bill Rudge
There is an accurate saying that Satan will use nine truths to get one lie across. The primary lie he attempts to propagate concerns the identity of Jesus Christ – the One before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Satan’s ultimate deception is to suggest you do not need to accept Christ, or try to cause you to follow “another Jesus” other than the Jesus of the Bible (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4).
While some demote Jesus to merely a great teacher or prophet, others say we all have the potential to become another Christ, still others will simply substitute Jesus with someone or something else. Attempts are made to minimize, distort, deny or replace Him: All have eternal implications (John 8:24). Anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God incarnate in human flesh and the only way of salvation can be scripturally identified as a false prophet or teacher (1 John 4:1-3; 1 John 2:22, 23 ). As Jesus ascended to heaven, two angels said to the disciples:
Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).
Please notice, it will not be another Jesus or a reincarnation of the Christ spirit, but the same Jesus who ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives. He will be returning in all His glory. At His Second Coming, biblical evidence, cataclysmic signs and physical transformation of believers will undeniably confirm Jesus Christ to be the true Messiah.
The time is soon coming when “the kingdom of the world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15). Jesus will establish His righteous Kingdom wherein true believers will rule and reign with Him for eternity and inherit all God has prepared for those who love and obey Him. Do not settle for an imitation or counterfeit when you can know the TRUE ONE Who leads to eternal life.
The following is excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, “Not Our Father’s Faith.”
Is Much of Today’s “Prophesying” in Reality “Christianized Fortune-Telling”?
There are two extreme positions concerning prophecy: 1) To “despise” prophetic utterance and thereby “quench” the Spirit; and 2) To encourage or tolerate a form of prophecy that is unscriptural.
I believe that prophecy is for today. I believe the New Testament indicates that the gift of prophecy should be in operation in the Church (I Corinthians 12; I Corinthians 14; Ephesians 4:11; I Thessalonians 5:20,21; I Timothy 4:14). In I Corinthians 14:39, Paul actually encourages believers to “… desire earnestly to prophesy ….” But I do not believe in endorsing the tremendous misuse and abuse of this gift today. I will not tolerate those who speak from their own inspiration nor the demonic counterfeits which are being enthusiastically received in many Christian circles.
The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words states:
The basic word for ‘prophet’ in the OT is nabi, which means ‘spokesman’ or ‘speaker.’ Essentially a prophet is a person authorized to speak for another, as Moses (Exodus 7:1-2; Numbers 12:1-8) and the OT prophets were authorized to speak for God ….
The Greek word prophetes (prophet) is the only word the NT uses to translate the Hebrew nabi. Related NT words are propheteuo (‘to prophesy’), prophetis (‘prophetess’), and propheteia (‘prophetic saying, gift, or activity’).8
Two Types of False Prophets
There are two main types of false prophets in the Bible. First, there are those who speak and prophesy in the name of other gods such as Baal (Jeremiah 2:8; 23:13; 32:32-35). This type of false prophet is very easy to distinguish, but it gets more difficult and confusing when we deal with the second type of false prophet.
There are false prophets who claim to prophesy in the name of the Lord; yet, they are proclaiming the word which the Lord has not told them to proclaim. A few examples follow:
Jeremiah 14:14 –
“Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.’”
Jeremiah 23:16,21,22,30-32 –
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord. I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds. Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,’ declares the Lord, ‘who steal My words from each other. Behold, I am against the prophets,’ declares the Lord, ‘who use their tongues and declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,’ declares the Lord, ‘and related them, and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,’ declares the Lord.”
Ezekiel 13:2,3,6,8 –
“… say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God, ‘Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, ‘The Lord declares,’ when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word. Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Because you have spoken falsehood and seen a lie, therefore behold, I am against you,’ declares the Lord God.”
Matthew 7:22,23 –
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name ….’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
I John 4:1 –
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Not All Who Say, “Thus Saith the Lord,” Are Speaking the Word of the Lord
When I was a new Christian, I learned this lesson very well — that not everyone who says, “Thus saith the Lord,” is really speaking the word of the Lord.
God had spoken to my heart and my wife Karen’s heart, to go to Bible college. After a three-week mini-mission to Mexico, we were preparing to move to Mt. Vernon, Ohio, the location of the Bible college. A woman, who was a so-called prophetess and did not know what the Lord had already clearly spoken to Karen and me, prophesied over us during a service, saying we were to go back to Mexico.
I said, “I’m still a relatively new Christian and I am not that mature in the Lord. I don’t know the Word very well yet, but I do know that if God told me to go to Bible college, if God told me to buy a mobile home, if God enabled us to find the very last mobile home lot on which we could put our mobile home in the city where we were to move, then God wants me there. And that’s where I’m going!”
I had to decide: Do I follow the voice of someone telling me God’s will for my life, or do I follow God’s Word and what His Spirit has led me to do? I chose to follow the Lord, and many times since, I have reflected back on how disastrous my life and ministry would have been had I not followed His direction during that crucial decision in my life. But because I obeyed God’s voice, He has produced tremendous fruit through our ministry, done the impossible through our lives, and honored and blessed us greatly! This woman, who people exalted and almost deified, eventually fell away from the Lord.
In a tragic story in I Kings 13, we see that the word of the Lord came to a man of God and told him what he was to do. In obedience he began to follow the word of the Lord, but when a false prophet told him something contrary to what God had already told him to do, he obeyed that prophet. As a result of obeying the deceiving prophet, and thereby disobeying the Lord, he was killed by a lion that very day.
The message is crystal clear: When God speaks to you, obey! If what God says contradicts what a prophet says, then you follow the word of the Lord and do not follow that prophet.
God wants you to obey His voice and His Word. Develop that relationship with Him, and do not give responsibility to any supposed prophet or anyone who prophesies over you. It’s between you and the Lord. (For background information and context read I Kings 11:43 through 12:33, as well as all of I Kings 13.)
False Leaders Use Control and Manipulation
It is both dangerous and diabolical that some use “Thus saith the Lord” to control and manipulate people. One of many illustrations I could cite concerns a young man who called me because he was very confused about the teaching he was receiving in church from his pastor. He wanted to leave this church, but his pastor said: “Thus saith the Lord, if you leave, one of your children will die.” Needless to say, he was terrorized and afraid to leave.
Think about some of the prophecies today in light of what Peter said –
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words … “ (II Peter 2:1-3)
“Tell Me God’s Will for My Life”
When I was a new Christian, people tried to tell me what the Lord wanted me to do. As I matured in the Lord, they wanted me to tell them God’s will for their lives. I won’t have any part of either one. I’ll share the Word and what the Holy Spirit impresses on my heart and agree in prayer, but the final responsibility concerning God’s direction for one’s life lies between God and that individual.
I remember when I was a brand-new Christian, I went to a man of God whom I greatly respected. I said, “You’re so close to the Lord, He speaks to you so much. Would you pray and tell me what God wants me to do?” It was a cop out. I wanted a quick, easy, convenient way to get God’s guidance. He said, “Bill, it’s your responsibility to seek God’s will for your life. You had better learn right now to discipline yourself to get into God’s Word and get on your knees to seek God’s will and know His voice.” And although I was at first disappointed, he taught me a very crucial Biblical principle.
In John 10:27, Jesus said,
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
We need to hear and know Jesus’ voice.
If we are not on speaking terms with the Lord — so that He has to speak to someone else to tell us what to do ― then we’d better repent. We’d better discipline ourselves before the Lord and get into His Word and seek Him through prayer and fasting (as the true prophets in the Bible did) so we, too, can hear His voice.
The Supernatural and Spectacular Are Not the Usual
Many think those who are seemingly having frequent audible voices, visions, personal prophecies, revelations, and words from the Lord are super spiritual. But I wonder where their hearts are before the Lord. Are they hardhearted and insensitive to His Spirit? Are they undisciplined to read His Word and to pray? Is the use of the spectacular the only way He can get them to hear His voice and obey?
I would rather be so sensitive and surrendered to the Lord that He can speak to my heart through His Word and Spirit ― without always having to do something phenomenal to get my attention, or without having to send some prophet to get my life in order or to tell me what to do. Usually in the case of hardheartedness, such as Baalam when God spoke through a donkey, or for special situations like Moses at the burning bush when He called him to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, or when God gave Peter a vision to do something “unthinkable” (taking the Gospel to the Gentiles), did God resort to supernatural, spectacular ways of revealing His will.
Prophets Are Not Our “Guides”
Donald Gee writes in his book, Concerning Spiritual Gifts:
There are no indications in the New Testament that it is the function of prophets in the church to be her guides in the sense that they guided Israel of old — by a system of ‘inquiring of the Lord.’ There are indeed instances such as the prophecy of Agabus concerning the forthcoming famine (Acts 11:28), or the fate of Paul at Jerusalem (Acts 21:11), where the prophet plainly foretells what may happen. But it is significant that he offers no guidance; it is left to the individual members of the church to determine … (Acts 11:29) what they would do, and to Paul to decide his own course of action (Acts 21:13).
Still more significant is the fact that there is no attempt to use the gift of prophecy or the office of prophet in the great dispute that arose about circumcision in Acts 15; or in Paul’s obvious personal dilemma as to the next step for his ministry in Acts 16:6-10, though on both occasions Silas, a recognized ‘prophet’ (15:32), was on the spot.
It can truthfully be affirmed that there is not one single instance of the gift of prophecy being deliberately resorted to for guidance in the New Testament.9
Even though there are prophets and prophecy in the New Testament, these are not the same as they are in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the prophet was often like Moses or Samuel who was the recognized spokesman, not only for God to the people, but for the people to the Lord. He was the mediator. In the New Testament, when Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple ― separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies ― was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). Through Christ, our Mediator, we now have direct access to the presence of God.
There is also another aspect in the New Testament to consider ― Pentecost. Now all believers can be filled with God’s Spirit and be personally led by the Spirit of God. We have the promise of Romans 8:14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Bonds and Afflictions Await Paul
The account of the prophecy by Agabus, that Paul would be bound in Jerusalem, is often inaccurately used to validate guidance through personal prophecy. Looking at this account in Scriptural context reveals a different conclusion.
First, we discover that before Agabus prophesied, Paul already knew from the Holy Spirit that bonds and afflictions awaited him. Acts 20:22,23 says –
“And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.”
Acts 21:4 repeats this –
“And after looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.”
Then in Acts 21:10-14, Agabus confirms –
“And as we were staying there for some days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: “In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”‘ And when we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, ‘The will of the Lord be done!’”
The prophet Agabus merely told Paul what was going to happen. It was Paul’s responsibility to determine what he would do. We need to keep that Scriptural balance in mind.
After Paul spoke to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, the Lord once again confirmed that it was His leading for Paul to go to Jerusalem, for He said to Paul in Acts 23:11, “… as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.”
Prophets and Personal Prophecy
The owner of a Christian bookstore asked me to review a leading book on the topic of prophets and personal prophecy. I gave it to our research director, and after only twenty minutes of checking, he said it was heresy. Next, I gave it to a Biblical apologist who said it was unscriptural. Then I gave it to an Assembly of God pastor who is very knowledgeable of Scripture, and he said the foundation principles of it were built on sand. Finally, I read it myself and confirmed the book was in error.
My basic conclusion after reading this book is that the author has deviated from the truth in three ways:
1) He has taken the Scriptural promises and blessings that are for those who have faith and obedience in the Lord and His Word and reinterpreted them to be for those who have faith and obedience in prophets and personal prophecy. A very subtle transition occurs much in the same way Satan subtly changed God’s Word as he tempted people in Scripture.
2) He has reinterpreted and taken out of Scriptural context almost every Scripture that refers directly or indirectly to prophets and personal prophecy, trying to justify his emphasis on multitudes of personal prophecies.
3) He is teaching “Christian fortune-telling” rather than the Biblical operation of prophecy.
Many people who profess to love the Lord are caught up in this twisting of Scripture. Christian leaders and those who claim to be prophets use this book (and similar books) as their source for prophetic guidelines. I wonder where their discernment is, and if they really have the Holy Spirit, why does He not speak to their hearts? I wonder, if they know God’s Word, why they do not see how Scripture is being twisted.
Over and over as I read or listened to materials by those endorsing personal prophecy, the Scriptures were taken out of context, the meanings were twisted, and the Scripture references given were often totally unrelated to the unscriptural conclusions they made. It was the same Scripture-twisting tactics used by many cults to lure those with little Bible knowledge and who lack the time or motivation to search Scripture, to blindly follow their beliefs and practices.
Control and Manipulation
Leaders of the discipleship movement supposedly repented of the “wrong and injurious” extremes and the “unhealthy submission resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders.”10 But something very similar and even more sinister is occurring through many supposed prophets and personal prophecies.
A woman from Florida, a charismatic believer who is constantly in the Word, went to a church affiliated with the prophets. She said as soon as she walked in, she knew in her spirit something was wrong. Not only did they give an incorrect prophecy concerning her, but also she said, “The people were controlled by the prophets and prophetesses in the church.”
It was the spirit of shepherding and discipleship manifest through the so-called prophets. It was the same control and manipulation, the same replacing of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s Lordship with human beings whom we look to for decisions and guidance.
How accurate Jeremiah was for today when he said –
“An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so …” (Jeremiah 5:30,31)
It is interesting that many of these so-called prophets only seem to prophesy flattery and great things for their associates. However, they often resort to a form of “black witchcraft” by mainly prophesying doom and destruction against those who oppose them.
I wondered why a so-called prophet of God did not detect and rebuke the spirit of deceit and occultism in a church where he frequently spoke. Instead, he prophesied blessing and that everything was right on course before the Lord.
I soon discovered he spoke from his own inspiration, and he always had such positive words of blessing and prosperity because this church was supporting him financially. It reminds me of Micah 3:11 which says,
“… her prophets divine for money ….”
Nehemiah 6:10 -14 records –
“And when I entered the house of Shemaiah … he said, ‘Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night.’ But I said, ‘Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.’ Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me. Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me.”
Demonically Inspired Prophecy
Shortly after confronting the pastor who motivated the writing of my initial Beware booklet, a prophecy for my immediate destruction was given at a pastors’ conference he attended in 1989.
This demonically inspired prophecy sounded so accurate. It deceived many of the pastors in attendance to be persuaded that I was wrong. It seemed so close to the truth ― but in reality was so far away. If only those pastors had genuine discernment and went by the Word, they would not have been deceived. But they trusted in a false prophecy, which proved to be a steppingstone into even more distorted and perverted false teachings and practices.
The prophecy of my imminent destruction proved to be totally wrong ― in fact the Lord protected me in numerous, extremely dangerous situations during overseas missionary outreaches, and empowered and anointed me as my ministry continued to grow internationally. The pastors vehemently opposing me were the ones who soon suffered loss.
We read in Exodus 10:28,29 –
“Then Pharaoh said to him [Moses], ‘Get away from me! Beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die!’ And Moses said, ‘You are right; I shall never see your face again!’”
But it did not happen the way Pharaoh expected. It didn’t happen the way Haman anticipated either. Esther 9:24,25 states –
“For Haman … the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them …. But when it came to the king’s attention, he commanded by letter that his wicked scheme which he had devised against the Jews, should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows” (which Haman himself had prepared for the Jews).”
I Kings 22:20-23 says –
“And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”
In the same way as the preceding Scripture, the Lord showed me that He allowed that false prophecy so that those pastors would have a false assurance and security and boldly align themselves with this other pastor, thus exposing their true beliefs and eventually causing their own words to bring God’s judgment on themselves.
Reflecting back on how his brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt and the Lord turned it around for good, Joseph said to his brothers,
“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)
Who Would You Believe?
The opposition and prophecies about my destruction came from people who were supposed prophets and apostles who:
had foundational beliefs about prophecy which are built on error and Scripture-twisting;
made unscriptural excuses for not being 100% accurate;
propagated other unbiblical teachings and practices.
Should I have believed them? Or should I believe the Word of God and the Spirit of God? In over thirty-five years of ministry, the Lord has fulfilled 100% of what I have publicly proclaimed that He has led me to do, much of which seemed totally impossible to ever be fulfilled. But God has been faithful ― and the end result has always been ultimate victory!
I think the spirit from which these supposed prophets prophesy is evident. It’s the same spirit I have encountered over the years in dealing with many occultists. It’s the same spirit that motivated someone from one of their churches to actually team up with a leading occultist and attempt to destroy our ministry. It’s the same spirit that during this time spoke as a demon in a woman’s dream telling her to destroy our ministry and telling her husband (in her dream) to kill me.
I may one day die for Christ, but the Lord has assured me that my life will not be taken until His purpose is fulfilled. My prayer is: “Lord, let me have the grace, the power, the boldness, and the forgiving attitude of Your servant Stephen.” (See Acts 6:8-7:60.)
The Final Test
The final test that proves who really heard from God is the end result. In Scripture, there are several instances where a false prophet opposed and attempted to undermine and discredit a true prophet of God. But in the end, God always vindicated and honored His true messenger.
Jeremiah 28:10-17 states –
“Then Hananiah the [false] prophet took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah the [true] prophet and broke it. And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Even so will I break within two full years, the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations.”‘ Then the prophet Jeremiah went his way. And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, after Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, ‘You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron.’ For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him. And I have also given him the beasts of the field.’” Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Listen now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the Lord.’”‘ So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month.”
On another occasion, Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks at the order of the priest Pashhur, chief officer in the temple (Jeremiah 20:1,2), because Jeremiah had pronounced God’s upcoming judgment on Jerusalem (Jeremiah 19:15). When Jeremiah was released, the Lord again proclaimed through him judgment on Jerusalem and Judah (Jeremiah 20:3-5). And then Jeremiah prophesied to Pashhur –
“And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into captivity; and you will enter Babylon, and there you will die, and there you will be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have falsely prophesied.” (Jeremiah 20:6)
After Jeremiah’s release from a dungeon in which he would have surely died, and later his rescue from a cistern in which he would have starved to death, he prophesied to King Zedekiah –
“If you will not go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then this city will be given over to the hand of the Chaldeans; and they will burn it with fire, and you yourself will not escape from their hand.” (Jeremiah 38:18)
We see the tragic fulfillment of this prophecy in Jeremiah chapter 39.
False Peace vs. Impending Judgment
Even though Jeremiah’s prophecies of the people being taken into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon were being fulfilled, Ahab and Zedekiah, two false prophets, continued to prophesy lies. As a result, they were burned in Nebuchadnezzar’s fire ― not spared like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Jeremiah 29:20-23 gives the following account of these two false prophets –
“You, therefore, hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles, whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and concerning Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying to you falsely in My name, ‘Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall slay them before your eyes. And because of them a curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon, saying, “May the Lord make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire, because they have acted foolishly in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken words in My name falsely, which I did not command them; and I am He who knows, and am a witness,” declares the Lord.’”
Occasionally the Lord has led me to caution or warn individuals or groups concerning unscriptural teachings and practices they are propagating. And after a time of much prayer and fasting, Scripture study, and examining my heart and motives, I would do so. As I look back over the years, I am amazed and humbled that all those who refused to repent have become even more perverse in their teachings and practices and have eventually suffered the consequences.
I have seen the false teachings and the false prophets come and go. I can somewhat relate to Jeremiah, who after faithfully proclaiming God’s Word for many years, questioned King Zedekiah regarding the false prophets –
“Where then are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you or against this land’”? (Jeremiah 37:19)
Similar to the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day who were prophesying peace and prosperity, today’s “prophets” continually prophesy renewal, revival, and restoration. But is much of the “revival” occurring today really a commitment to the Christ of the Bible and Biblical Christianity, or is it merely an attraction to all of the excitement and phenomena going on?
Jeremiah accurately prophesied God’s impending judgment because of the many sins of the people and their leaders. Then ― in contrast to the false peace of the false prophets ― Jeremiah prophesied the Lord’s promised restoration (Jeremiah 33).
When the judgment prophesied by Jeremiah finally comes upon Judah and Jerusalem, he records his deep distress in the book of Lamentations which clearly shows the consequences of sin and apostasy.
Lamentations 2:2-5 states –
“The Lord has swallowed up; He has not spared all the habitations of Jacob. In His wrath He has thrown down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; He has brought them down to the ground; He has profaned the kingdom and its princes. In fierce anger He has cut off all the strength of Israel; He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy. And He has burned in Jacob like a flaming fire consuming round about. He has bent His bow like an enemy, He has set His right hand like an adversary and slain all that were pleasant to the eye; in the tent of the daughter of Zion He has poured out His wrath like fire. The Lord has become like an enemy. He has swallowed up Israel; He has swallowed up all its palaces; He has destroyed its strongholds and multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and moaning.”
Lamentations 2:13,14 –
“How shall I admonish you? To what shall I compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? To what shall I liken you as I comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For your ruin is as vast as the sea; who can heal you? Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions; and they have not exposed your iniquity ….”
Lamentations 2:17 –
“The Lord has done what He purposed; He has accomplished His word which He commanded from days of old. He has thrown down without sparing, and He has caused the enemy to rejoice over you; He has exalted the might of your adversaries.”
Lamentations 4:12,13 –
“The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the inhabitants of the world, that the adversary and the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem. Because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests ….”
I believe Scripture strongly indicates a similar end-time scenario of God’s judgment on a rebellious world and apostate church (tribulation period), and then Christ’s Second Coming and promised restoration of all things.
Lamentations speaks of that hope of restoration in the following verses:
Lamentations 3:21-26, 40 –
“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord. Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.”
Just as Jeremiah suffered and was persecuted for his obedient testimony for God and for speaking the true word of the Lord, so too, true believers who remain faithful will greatly suffer during the tribulation period because of their testimony for Jesus (the Jesus of the Bible) and the Word of God. In fact, no less than five times does Revelation (in regards to the Apostle John or the persecution of end-time believers who refuse to compromise) mention the utterly crucial and central nature of the Word of God and their testimony for Jesus (Revelation 1:2; 1:9; 6:9; 12:17; 20:4).
A “Spirit” Comes on These People
A “spirit” seems to come on these people once they submit to these false teachings. I have seen several who, after being confronted with the truth yet choosing to continue involvement in a group or church propagating these errors, had a visible countenance change and their hearts became hardened.
These people are being taught a “Christianized fortune-telling.” This happened to a woman I knew who had a gentle, loving spirit. She attended one of these “prophets’ schools,” and after submitting to that teaching immediately began to manifest a spirit of haughtiness and rebellion.
She refused to sit down with me and go through the Scriptures on prophets and personal prophecy or attend a lecture I was giving on the topic, even though I offered her an opportunity to respond. And this woman, who previously (when I was in her favor) had given an unconditional prophecy of blessing for my life and ministry, as well as future persecution, now started prophesying my destruction, and ended up becoming so deceived and vengeful that she became part of that very persecution. Unlike the prophet Nathan who confronted David and prophesied to his face (II Samuel 12:1-14), this supposed prophet (and many others like her) cowardly prophesied my destruction to other people behind my back.
On another occasion a traveling “prophet” stopped by our ministry center. He said the Lord led him to me. After a few minutes of cordial conversation, I informed him that I believed that he and those to whom he was submitted were not speaking the words of the Lord, but were into “Christianized fortune-telling” and speaking from their own inspiration and a counterfeit spirit.
He became irate and said I was young and inexperienced. As he stood up he informed me he was going to prophesy my destruction ― thinking I would be intimidated. I said, “Go ahead and prophesy my destruction. But I want to let you know that when you are done, I am going to pray the Lord gives you a double portion of what you prophesy. And then we’ll see whose prophecy is fulfilled!” He refused to prophesy in my presence, but hurried out of the ministry center and supposedly prophesied my destruction while in the parking lot. As he pulled away in his motor home, he threw garbage on our property.
Much of what is being accepted as genuine prophecy today is unscriptural nonsense and is being given by those who are speaking from their own inspiration or a demonic counterfeit.
Most of the prophecies I hear today are unimpressive, powerless, and inaccurate. Many are “safe prophecies” — so vague and general that they could be true of almost anyone, like those found in fortune cookies. They are more like psychic readings or fortune-telling than Biblical prophecy.
In contrast, prophecies recorded in Scripture were almost always very specific. Some were fulfilled almost immediately and others were not fulfilled for years or even centuries, but they were precise and exact.
For example –
“Then Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, ‘Cursed before the Lord is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his first-born he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.’” (Joshua 6:26)
This specific prophecy was fulfilled generations later –
“In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; he laid its foundations with the loss of Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.” (I Kings 16:34)
Donald C. Stamps, general editor of The Full Life Study Bible stated:
Many of Jeremiah’s prophecies were fulfilled in his own lifetime (e.g., Jeremiah 16:9; 20:4; 25:1-14; 27:19-22; 28:15-17; 34:1-5); other prophecies involving the far-distant future were fulfilled later or are yet to be fulfilled (e.g., 23:5-6; 30:8-9; 31:31-34; 33:14-16).11
There are prophecies in Scripture where blessings are promised if the word of the Lord is obeyed. Adverse consequences are promised if it is not obeyed.
Isaiah 1:19,20 states –
“‘If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The prophet Jeremiah gave King Zedekiah a choice. If he would obey the word of the Lord and surrender to the King of Babylon, his life would be spared, his family would live, and Jerusalem would not be burned. But if Zedekiah did not obey, then Jerusalem would be handed over to the Babylonians and burned with fire and he would not escape (Jeremiah 38:17,18).
There is a similar prophecy in Jeremiah 42:8-18, which was given to the remnant left in Israel after the Babylonian captivity. They were told that if they stayed in the land, they would be blessed, but if they went to Egypt to reside there they would die by the sword, famine, and plague.
A Call to Repentance
Many prophecies were a call to repentance, such as Isaiah 58:1 –
“Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins.”
Joel 2:12-14 states –
“‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.’ Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness, and relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him …?”
Jonah 1:1,2 commands –
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.’”
Zechariah 7:8-14 admonishes –
“Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah saying, ‘Thus has the Lord of hosts said, “Dispense true justice, and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.”‘ But they refused to pay attention, and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. And they made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. ‘And it came about that just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen,’ says the Lord of hosts; ‘but I scattered them with a storm wind among all the nations whom they have not known. Thus the land is desolated behind them, so that no one went back and forth, for they made the pleasant land desolate.’”
Prophecies Must Be 100% Accurate
Not only are most prophecies today usually very vague and general, they are rarely 100% accurate. Many rise up and proclaim: “God told me to say this. God said to go here or to do this. God showed me this is going to happen.” But it doesn’t come to pass. If a few of their prophecies are fulfilled, these are used to give them credibility, while the prophecies which were proven false are ignored or altered to conform to the circumstances.
Many supposed prophets attempt to whitewash the fact that they are not 100% accurate by stating something like: “A prophet is not a false prophet simply because something he/she says is inaccurate or doesn’t seem to apply to us. The prophet may be honest, righteous, and upright, yet immature in his prophesying. Missing it a few times doesn’t make one a false prophet. If it did, most preachers and teachers would do best to cease ministering as well.”
But that is not Scriptural. Biblical prophecies were amazingly accurate. Prophecies of impending judgment were fulfilled unless the people repented (I Kings 21:27-29; Isaiah 38:1-8; Jeremiah 18:7-10, 26:2-6,12,13; Jonah 3:1-10). Promises were not revoked unless the people were disobedient (I Samuel 2:30).
Although Hananiah, the false prophet was not accurate, Jeremiah the true prophet was. Jeremiah 28:15-17 says –
“Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Listen now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the Lord.”‘ So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month.”
Countless prophecies in Scripture validate this type of accuracy in prophecy ― not to mention the amazing fulfillment of specific Messianic prophecies. When a prophet saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” is inaccurate, he had better repent. There is a tremendous difference between a counselor saying, “This is my opinion of what you should do,” or “This is the Biblical counsel and advice for your situation,” and someone saying, “Thus saith the Lord, this is God’s direct word to you.”
Deuteronomy 18:21,22 states –
“And you may say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken ….”
Now if we practiced what they did in the Old Testament times to false prophets, we wouldn’t have so many going around saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” For Deuteronomy 18:20 warns –
“But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak … that prophet shall die.”
Those who prophesy from their own inspiration will never be 100% accurate unless they merely give very general and vague prophecies. Satan is not omniscient and therefore not 100% accurate, which is why so many of the predictions from those who prophesy through demonic inspiration do not come to pass either.
Isaiah 44:24,25 reveals –
“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself, and spreading out the earth all alone, causing the omens of boasters to fail, making fools out of diviners, causing wise men to draw back, and turning their knowledge into foolishness.’”
In contrast, Scripture says regarding Samuel, one of God’s true prophets –
“… the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.” (I Samuel 3:19,20).
I Samuel 9:6 states –
“Behold now, there is a man of God in this city, and the man is held in honor; all that he says surely comes true ….”
New Age Channelers
I believe Satan is raising people up today and giving them false prophecies, dreams, and visions to undermine and discredit those who are genuinely hearing from the Lord.
While New Agers are channeling spirits that are proclaiming New Age doctrines, many so-called prophets who claim to be speaking by the Spirit of God are, in my estimation, doing exactly the same thing. They are channels for deceiving spirits who are proclaiming revelations that are amazingly similar to New Age teachings being proclaimed by trance channelers.
After I spoke at a church, a man told me God is continually speaking to him — giving him revelations and prophecies.
He told me “this voice” told him the U.S. would be turned back over to believers and a queen would reign. I told him his scenario was unbiblical and fit more into the reign of Antichrist and the prophesied apostasy. The queen he described sounded like the whore of Babylon in Revelation 18:7 –
“To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.’”
Then he said God told him he would see fire come down from heaven. So I opened my Bible to Revelation 13:13 and read –
“And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.”
I told him the only place in the New Testament that talks about fire coming down from heaven is regarding the False Prophet and the Antichrist. It is amazing that what this voice told him was verbatim of what Revelation 13:13 says concerning the Antichrist and the False Prophet.
In reality, this man is a channel for a demon, and doesn’t even realize it. I told him that he needed to renounce this voice that was speaking to him — for it was lying and deceiving him. It was not the Spirit of Christ.
I said, “Show me proof that what you are hearing is really from God. Give me Scriptural validation and give me specific fulfillment. Whenever I have said the Lord has spoken to me, I can substantiate it by God’s Word and it has always been fulfilled 100%.” He had neither validation nor fulfillment, yet he was seeking to sway a church, and if possible, believers in the U.S. by his “revelations from God.”
There are countless people like him who are claiming revelations, dreams, visions, and prophecies from God. Most are not only extra-biblical, but contrary to Scripture and have no validation of fulfillment. They also undermine and discredit what God is truly speaking through His genuine servants.
It’s More Like Fortune-Telling
I have researched many psychics and fortune-tellers, and there seems to be no apparent difference between their method of prediction and degree of accuracy and that of many so-called prophets of God today. The only difference, seemingly, is that the supposed prophet often uses “Thus saith the Lord.”
At a meeting where “holy laughter” was occurring, a woman stood up to give a prophetic utterance. For several minutes she rambled on to the enthusiastic receptivity of the pastor and audience. She called out many ailments that God was supposedly healing (most of which could be true for anyone in the audience) and none of which were documented as being healed. It sounded more like a psychic reading than Biblical prophecy. She also shared for several minutes about the revelation Jesus was supposedly giving her that everyone in the room was being encompassed by light. I thought I was at a New Age gathering ― not a Spirit-filled church. When she was done the audience applauded.
One pastor, also known as an apostle, announced at his church that a woman prophetess was coming the next week, so he invited everyone to be sure to come back to get their personal prophecy. They might as well pay ten dollars and go to the local psychic or fortune-teller.
Biblical prophets did not prophesy at will, but when the word of the Lord came to them. Jeremiah 42:7 states,
“Now it came about at the end of ten days that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah.”
New Testament prophecy also was not determined by the whims of the person operating the gift, but as the Spirit gave utterance.
I saw the following ad in a Christian magazine: “For your personal prophecy send your name, address, and love offering.” This resembles fortune-telling far more than any form of prophecy in the Bible. The cassette ordered from this supposed prophet was not only unscriptural in many areas, but was also very boring and unimpressive.
I frequently saw a “Palm Reader” sign in the front yard of a house, and then one day I noticed that the sign was replaced by a new sign that read, “Christian Advisor — Advice on All Matters.” Will it next be changed to “Christian Prophet”?
This person probably discovered that palm reading wasn’t all that popular, but that there is a gullible market of Christians who don’t want to get on their knees and into God’s Word to seek His will for their lives.
I was later informed that some Christians helped her change the sign. I hope it was a genuine conversion, but I doubt it very strongly. It was merely a change of terminology. Besides, even if she was converted, she had no business setting herself up that fast as a Christian consultant without time to grow and mature in the Lord.
Meetings where prophets have people line up or call them out and give them a word from the Lord, or meetings where everybody is prophesying over each other, resemble many of the occult and New Age meetings I have researched.
With this in mind, it doesn’t surprise me that a supposed prophet of God who was giving personal prophecies to people throughout the country stated that his wife was “at a women’s meeting one day and God got a hold of her and picked her up out of the chair, supernaturally, and threw her on the floor ….”
I have encountered accounts like this in the occult through demonic phenomena, but never of true believers in Scripture.
Putting Personal Prophecies Above God’s Word
Although most deny it, the sad reality is that many put the personal prophecies they receive above God’s Word. They are encouraged to get a cassette copy of their personal prophecies and write them out and meditate on them and read or listen to them many times.
One noted prophet stated he follows his prophet mentor without question. “Whatever he tells me to do, I do it. I’m not into shepherding. I’m under protection; I have a covering.” He may have a covering from that supposed prophet, but he has removed himself from under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 makes known that even if their prophecies come to pass — if they cause you to follow other gods, they are false prophets. At first I thought, “These prophets aren’t making anyone go after other gods. They appear to glorify Jesus Christ.” But, as I sought the Lord and His Word and researched more, I discovered that their prophecies were getting further and further away from Biblical Christianity. In too many cases they are causing people to go after other gods. They are subtly removing the God of the Bible and Christ’s Lordship from their followers’ lives and making them dependent on the prophet. They are also replacing the Word of God by encouraging the people to obey, memorize, and conform to personal prophecies and “new revelations” more than God’s Word.
So-called prophets of God have prophesied over many separated or divorced people that their spouse would come back to them. Some of these people have waited years. Some even wait for the fulfillment of the prophecy after their former spouse has married someone else — making it unscriptural for them to ever reunite (Deuteronomy 24:4). There is a growing number of casualties — people who have been so hurt, confused, and misled by supposed prophets and prophetic utterances, that they want nothing to do with the true Jesus Christ of the Bible.
Cult Awareness on “New Revelations”
It is sad to discover that what I had written many years ago about the cults concerning “new revelations” is relevant for the Church today. The following excerpts are from my Cult Awareness booklet:
Although they say their “new revelation” merely sheds additional light on what God has already revealed through the Scriptures, in reality, it adds to or subtracts from the Bible. Ultimately, their extra-biblical revelation is given greater authority and importance than the Bible.
It is interesting to note that most cult leaders who have received “new revelations” have acknowledged receiving them during encounters with spirit beings. A look behind the scenes will reveal a definite association with the occult and contact with demonic beings who masquerade as angelic beings, spirits of the dead, or even Christ Himself.
Now realize, a cult leader who is attempting to gain followers for his “new revelation” is usually not so naive as to immediately attempt to persuade “Christians” to accept his/her “extreme” ideas and beliefs. Instead, they will give some general truths that almost everyone agrees with and talk about God, Christ, the Bible, miracles, etc. The immature and unsuspecting listener is impressed. Very subtly the cultist reveals his “new revelation” of false doctrine mixed with just enough truth to keep you off guard. Finally the cultist reveals that his true allegiance is to some book or teaching other than the Bible and someone other than Jesus Christ.
Cultists are usually successful in proclaiming their “new truth” to those who have little of the “old truth.” But in reality their message is not new at all. Ecclesiastes 1:9,10 states,
“… there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, ‘See this, it is new’? Already it has existed for ages which were before us.”
So although they claim to have God’s “new revelation” for the world, it is really just new names and disguises for Satan’s old methods of leading people away from the God of the Bible and from His revealed truth in Jesus Christ.
At a time when thousands of New Age messiahs and prophets are attempting to gain followers for their “new revelations,” Galatians 1:8 warns,
“But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”12
Evaluate All Things in the Light of Scripture
When problems concerning issues and new teachings arose in the early New Testament Church, believers evaluated them in light of Old Testament Scripture. For example, in Acts 15:13-19, James uses Old Testament Scripture to provide the Apostles’ conclusion regarding the Gospel being proclaimed to the Gentiles.
So too, in these last days, we must evaluate all so-called prophecies and “new revelations” in light of Scripture. When they run contrary to Scripture, no matter how good they sound, no matter how anointed they seem, we must reject them. If we don’t, we will soon be following “another Jesus,” not the actual Jesus of the Bible; “a different spirit,” not the true Holy Spirit; and “a different gospel,” not the genuine Biblical Gospel (II Corinthians 11:4).
In a personal letter from David Wilkerson, pastor of Times Square Church, he writes, “Personally, I never stray from the Word and I do not give much credence to much of what is called personal prophecy and new revelation. Ninety-nine percent of it is zeal without wisdom, repetitious, and absolutely nothing new except error. We are safest when we stay rock solid on the Word.”
There is a Need for Biblical Balance
I Corinthians 14:29-33 admonishes –
“And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
I Thessalonians 5:19-21 gives us what I believe to be one of the most balanced Scriptures on prophecy. It states –
“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.”
We have an obligation to allow the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit, but you and I have a responsibility to evaluate them in light of Scripture and to reject that which is not in accord with God’s Word — and to hold fast to that which is good. In contradiction of this Scripture, we are seeing raised up in our midst self-proclaimed and man-appointed prophets who refuse to be judged. Through their twisting of God’s Word, they are making it almost impossible for anyone to Biblically critique or evaluate them.
They are not allowing us to be like the Bereans who were commended for receiving the Word eagerly and for searching out everything to make certain the teachings were accurate (Acts 17:11). As a result, there is rampant false teaching on crucial Biblical doctrines being accepted under the guise of inspired prophecies and “new revelations.”
These supposed modern-day prophets and apostles are wrongly attempting to manipulate their followers into believing they are above questioning. While Jesus did rebuke the church of Ephesus for leaving its first love, He commended it in Revelation 2:2 for not enduring evil men, and for putting to the test those who call themselves apostles, but who are false.
I Believe in Prophecy
I believe the gift of prophecy is for today. The Church needs to be encouraged, corrected, and built up with messages from the very heart of God — brought forth by His Spirit, and found in His Word. True Biblical prophecy is accurately proclaiming “Thus saith the Lord.” The genuine word of the Lord today will always be in harmony with His written revelation to man, the Holy Scriptures.
Biblical prophecy is not merely foretelling future events, but often forthtelling the very heart and mind of God. Revelation 19:10 states,
“… For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Biblical prophecy is not going to exalt and magnify and make you dependent on the person operating the gift; it will exalt and glorify and draw you to the Jesus of the Bible!
Concerning true prophecy in the Church, Scripture states –
“… if an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.” (I Corinthians14: 24,25)
But too much of what is going on in Christian circles today is not the genuine gift of prophecy by proclaiming the true word of the Lord under the anointing of His Spirit. It is a poor imitation, false prophecy, and “Christianized fortune-telling.” It is prophesying from one’s own inspiration, and often it is a demonic counterfeit.
I challenge you! Do not accept as genuine a prophecy or revelation from anyone, unless it is in exact accord with God’s Word, is 100% accurate, confirms what His Spirit has already spoken to your heart, truly exalts the Jesus Christ of the Bible, and draws you closer to Him.
Never accept anyone’s prophecies and revelations as a higher authority than the Bible or make anyone the director of your life (except Jesus Christ), or run to other people for quick prophetic advice, when you should be seeking guidance from God’s Word and allowing God’s Spirit to speak to your own heart. Get on your knees and seek His face and obediently follow His Word and Spirit!
by Bill Rudge
Occult beliefs and practices, under the guise of being benevolent and scientific, are infiltrating virtually every aspect of society: education, media, games, cartoons, movies, music, medicine, the holistic health movement, mental health, science and even the Church. Visualization and meditative techniques, mystical experiences, manipulation of energy forces and encounters with supernatural entities promise hidden knowledge, healing, health and power, apart from the God of the Bible.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus (a city steeped in mysticism and sorcery): “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
After coming to faith in Jesus Christ, and during the early part of my ministry, I spent many years researching and lecturing on the cults, the occult, the New Age movement and Eastern mysticism, as well as sharing Christ with those involved. I traveled across the U.S. – from Greenwich Village in New York to Venice Beach in California and throughout the world – Canada, Haiti, Africa, South America, India, the West Indies, Europe and the Orient, visiting occult and New Age centers. I met with leaders and devotees on their turf, proclaiming the Gospel and sharing the claims of Jesus Christ and His superior power with psychics, mediums, trance channelers, hypnotists, fortune-tellers, witches, satanists, sorcerers, shamans, voodoo witch doctors, yogis and high ranking martial artists.
Several of these people came to faith in Jesus Christ and discontinued their former practices. Yet, I am amazed at how many Christians have been infiltrated by the very beliefs and practices from which these people turned away! Obviously lacking discernment and the knowledge of God’s Word many “Christians” defend practices and philosophies that deny or distort Scripture as they develop an allegiance to someone or something other than Jesus Christ and His Word.
Who Is In Control?
Participants often start with seemingly innocent practices, postures or techniques. Many begin to develop powers they think are latent within them and learn to manipulate supposed energy forces. Some have encounters with entities or disembodied spirits which manifest as masters of wisdom – usually proclaiming a loving message of sinlessness (no need for a Savior) and unity of all religions (except Biblical Christianity).
In the beginning they believe they control these powers and spirit beings, but eventually they discover they are being controlled. These entities, which they initially thought were benevolent spirit guides, aliens, angels, departed loved ones, or even Jesus, begin to control and interfere with their lives and ultimately enslave them. You would be astonished at how many young people and adults – many claiming to be Christian – have told me about such encounters and phenomena they have experienced.
Incantation and Possession
The Canaanites were permeated with idolatry and occultism (supernatural, mystical or magical beliefs, practices or phenomena). God spoke through Moses to warn the Israelites who were about to enter the land of Canaan not to imitate the detestable practices of those nations. They were forbidden to practice divination, witchcraft, sorcery, interpret omens, cast spells or communicate with the dead (Deuteronomy 18:9-11).
In these ancient Canaanite religions and various pagan and shamanistic practices, priests and priestesses, as well as worshippers and devotees, invoked and often became possessed by what they considered to be gods or goddesses.
There is a trend today of meditation and mysticism (experiencing god), incantation (a series of words said as a magic spell, charm or prayer), invocation (the summoning of a deity or the supernatural) and possession (by what Scripture defines as demonic entities). Many such as superstar, Beyonce, want and ask to be possessed – then flaunt it before a frenzied, impressionable audience of young people and adults.
End Times Occultism
It is interesting to note that prophetic Scripture reveals an increase of demonic activity and phenomena in the end times. People will not repent of their sorceries, idolatry and worship of demons (Revelation 9:20, 21). No wonder God allows the release of demonic beings from the abyss (bottomless pit) who reveal their true nature by tormenting humans for five months. Revelation 9:1-11 provides a vivid description of unrestrained demonic activity on earth during the Tribulation.
Those involved or dabbling in New Age spirituality, magic arts, sorcery, idolatry, mysticism and occultism would do well to consider this account of demonic beings released from the abyss. The true intent of Satan and his cohorts is to inflict harm, torture and destruction on human beings – even those in allegiance with them.
Confessed Occult Practices
In the first century A.D., Ephesus was a center for magical beliefs and practices, worship of Artemis and a variety of other mystery and astrological beliefs. Many of the Ephesian converts to Christianity came from this background of magic and mysticism. Acts 19:17-20 records the following account:
…and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
These converts had trusted in magic for protection from, and power over evil spirits, or to gain an advantage over others and to control the forces of nature. In contrast, the apostle Paul taught them that the power of God was far superior to the powers of darkness. This power of God was not received through learning techniques and rituals or invoking and manipulating spirits (by reciting magical words and names), but through faith in, and authority from, Jesus Christ.
Intense Spiritual Warfare
When people turn to the LORD the forces of darkness recede and demonic phenomena diminish. But when people turn from the ways of the LORD He “hides” His face and demonic phenomena increase – as is happening today. Many Christians wonder why God seems so distant. It would be wise for them to consider what practices and beliefs they have opened their minds and lives to, and to whom or what is the true allegiance of their hearts.
The church today has been taught to be non-judgmental, tolerant of all, to focus on love and unity and to create one’s own encounters with God. As a result, “Christians” are easy prey for the angel of light to seduce them by imitation and counterfeit experiences and phenomena –deceiving them with “another Jesus” who is not the Jesus of the Bible (2 Corinthians 11:4).
There is a growing spirit of rebellion, wickedness and uninhibited greed and immorality in the world today, and apostasy in the church, as prophesied in Scripture. Satan knows his time is short and is intensifying his efforts to seduce the world and wage war (seeking to destroy in any way possible) believers in Jesus Christ.
We are in the midst of the most intense spiritual warfare in history as Satan attempts to wear out the saints and orchestrate his master plan of world dominance through the Antichrist. Nevertheless, true believers in Jesus will overcome and ultimately be victorious!
The satanic principalities and powers were defeated at the cross (John 12:31; 16:11; Colossians 2:15), but they continue their evil deception and influences in the present age (Ephesians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Peter 5:8, 9; Revelation 2:10), until they are stripped of all power at Christ’s return.
It is an assured fact that one day everyone who has ever lived on this planet, as well as all the angelic beings, each and every demon and even Satan himself, will bow before Jesus Christ and confess (acknowledge) that He is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).
Never Too Late
You may have been told by people or spirits that once you went through the initiation ritual, signed in blood and “sold your soul” or renounced Jesus Christ, you can never be forgiven or set free. That is a lie. Many people have come out of witchcraft and various other forms of occultism and been set free by Jesus Christ.
Instead of being deluded by New Age spirituality and occult philosophies, practices, phenomena and possession, walk in the light and truth of God’s Word, be filled with the Holy Spirit, stay faithful to Jesus Christ and show His love, courage and power. Instead of being conformed to the standards and ways of this world (Romans 12:2) be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Instead of being deceived by the “great delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2: 9-12), influence and impact your world for Jesus Christ.
The following article was excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, “Spiritual Warfare and Victory in Christ.”
Entering the Arena
As soon as you give your life to Jesus Christ, you enter the arena of spiritual warfare. Your former peaceful coexistence with the forces of darkness terminates. Colossians 1:13,14 states ―
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son ….
Picture this scene which occurred during a mission trip to Haiti … Jacques, the former witch doctor (who is now a Christian), sits nose to nose with Pierre, another notorious witch doctor, and shares the Gospel with him. They are sitting in the same arena where the cockfights occur.
The background for this setting: A Salvation Army pastor invited me to speak at his church. Before the evening service, we heard the commotion of a nearby cockfight. Men using drugs and alcohol were betting on the roosters. We invited them to come to church. Some came inside. I said that “Just as one of the roosters had to shed its blood so some of you could win money, Christ shed His blood and died for our sins so that we could gain eternal life.”
After the service someone asked if I wanted to meet the voodoo witch doctor. The young man led me (followed by several team members) down a dark path to where the cockfight was held. I soon discovered the man who was in charge of the cockfight and the gambling arena was Pierre, the witch doctor. He had some of his men put chairs in a circle in the middle of the pit for us to sit on — where the cockfight had occurred just a few hours before. Many people sat to listen. As I shared with him he listened intently. Then Jacques came in. When Pierre saw him, his face lit up. Pierre had great respect for Jacques because he had heard about him. The two of them were in the middle of our circle (just as the roosters had been previously), debating back and forth as Jacques shared about Christ and Pierre responded why he could not give his life to Christ.
After we finished our meeting I had everyone stand in a large circle to have prayer that the Lord would protect Pierre and bring him to salvation. Pierre indicated that what we were saying was true, but he was in so deep with Satan (voodoo rituals to perform, gambling and cockfight arena, alcohol and drugs, etc.) that he couldn’t give his life to Christ yet. With downcast eyes his words were, “I owe the devil too much.” I trust he will one day give his life to Christ since he had been so receptive to hear the Gospel.
The writers of the New Testament frequently used military terminology: soldier of Christ, armor of God, shield of faith, fiery darts, sword of the Spirit. These and many other such terms describe the spiritual warfare in which the believer is engaged.
I believe we are in the midst of the most intense spiritual warfare in history. There is a growing spirit of occultism and rebellion in the world, as well as apostasy and deception in the Church. Satan knows his time is short and is intensifying his efforts to seduce the world and wage war against the saints. God’s Word indicates that we will see increased and unrepentant sorcery and demonic activity as we draw closer to the Lord’s return.
Know Your Enemy
Victory in spiritual warfare is realized by committed believers who know their enemy, are aware of his objectives and strategies, and understand how to exercise the authority and power delegated to them by Christ.
First, let us discover who our enemy is. The Bible clearly reveals that there is a devil. We meet him in Genesis 3 and continue to read of him all the way to Revelation 20. He was endowed with beauty and wisdom and a superior position of authority in God’s creation. Pride and rebellion resulted in his fall and his becoming Satan (the adversary). The once harmonious universe fell into disharmony. Satan and the angels who joined his rebellion (known as evil spirits or demons) now attempt to oppose the plan and purpose of God.
We can learn a great deal about who Satan is by looking at some of the different names and descriptions of him throughout Scripture, such as:
accuser (Revelation 12:10)
adversary (I Peter 5:8)
deceiver (Revelation 12:9; 20:3)
devil (slanderer – Matthew 4:1)
dragon (Revelation 12:3,7,9; 20:2)
god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)
murderer (John 8:44)
roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8)
Satan (adversary) (Zechariah 3:1; Matthew 4:10; Revelation 12:9; 20:2)
and tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)
The devil is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He and his cohorts are full of deceit. They are enemies of all righteousness and make crooked the straight ways of the Lord (Acts 13:10). Some of Satan’s strategies, techniques, and abilities are revealed in the following verses:
he has power and the ability to perform false signs and wonders (II Thessalonians 2:9);
he will deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9);
he disguises himself as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14);
he twists God’s Word (Genesis 3:1-5);
he prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8);
he can cause physical sickness (Job 2:7; Luke 13:16);
he hinders believers (I Thessalonians 2:18);
he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1);
he desired to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31);
he put betrayal of Christ into the heart of Judas (John 13:2);
he entered into Judas (John 13:27);
he filled the heart of Ananias to lie (Acts 5:3);
he cast some into prison (Revelation 2:10).
But he can be resisted (James 4:7) and overcome (I John 2:13; Revelation 12:11). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ triumphed over principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15) and rendered powerless him who had the power of death — that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14). After Satan is bound and thrown into the bottomless pit for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:2,3), he will be released to deceive the nations one last time (Revelation 20:7,8). He will then be thrown in the lake of fire to be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10) in the eternal fire prepared for him and his angels (Matthew 25:41).
In trying to be like the Most High, one of Satan’s main objectives is to receive worship. During his temptation of Jesus, Satan unsuccessfully attempted to entice Jesus into worshiping him (Matthew 4:9,10). Scripture reveals that during the last days Satan will be worshiped by the whole world. The Antichrist, who receives his authority from Satan, will proclaim himself to be God and seek control over and worship from every human being on earth (II Thessalonians 2; Revelation 13).
Satan gives superficial blessings, temporary pleasures, and counterfeit power to some, while for others he uses fear and intimidation. His basic motivation, however, is always the same: to enslave, control, and receive worship.
Revelation 9:1-11 is a vivid description of unrestrained demonic activity on the earth in the last days. Those who are involved in sorcery, magic arts, idolatry, occultism, and New Ageism would do well to consider this account of the demonic beings released from the abyss. The true intent of Satan and his demonic cohorts is to inflict harm, torture, and destruction on human beings ― even those in allegiance with them.
Some of Satan’s and his cohorts’ activities are intended to advance and build his kingdom, while at other times his operation is designed to sabotage and disorganize God’s kingdom. In order to accomplish this, he tries to hinder people from following Jesus Christ and being conformed to His image. When that fails and they refuse to deny the Lord, he attempts to cause believers in Christ to dishonor the Lord and rebel, thereby rendering them powerless and neutralizing their effectiveness. His strategy is to make them weak and vulnerable by luring them into compromise ― usually sexual immorality or false teaching. He hopes believers will give up in fear and defeat and not achieve the purpose and potential God has for them.
Lure of the World
Satan’s main focus and relentless attack is against our personal integrity. He seeks to tempt, entice, and lure us from pure devotion to Christ. He knows that a compromised believer is an ineffective tool for the Lord. His main device is sexual enticement, but he knows all our vulnerabilities and past weaknesses. He will use any vice we have to seduce us. He waits for the right opportunity to entice us or create circumstances that will lead to our demise. Only by submitting to God and resisting Satan’s alluring, yet often seemingly innocent temptations, can we avoid untold misery and walk in victory.
While Balaam could not curse Israel, he told the King of Moab to entice them with sexual immorality and idolatry and thereby have the hand of the Lord against them (Numbers 31:16; 25:1-3).
The lure of the world through television, movies, videos, the Internet, music, magazines, and books is a prime means to infect believers with worldly philosophy which is often diametrically opposed to God’s revelation of truth.
When his attempts to compromise your thoughts, attitudes, and lifestyle are unsuccessful, he targets your family or workplace and provokes and raises up people and circumstances to oppose and undermine you. Maintaining personal purity before God and the world and standing strong in the midst of the storm are crucial in overcoming the strategies of the enemy.
Scripture Condemns Sorcery
Several years ago one of my staff and I met with a man who was pastor of an occult-oriented church and was also recognized as one of the top ten psychics in the eastern U.S. He was certain his “gift” of divination and fortune-telling was from God. After an hour-long meeting, I strongly cautioned him that his beliefs and practices were not of God, but were the occultism condemned in Deuteronomy 18:10,11 and throughout Scripture. I believe the Lord sent us to him as his final warning and to call him to repentance. In spite of the Biblical evidence we shared with him, he refused to discontinue his occult involvement. A short time later, he died of a heart attack at a young age.
A sad indictment against the last days generation is a refusal to repent of sorcery, worshiping demons, and idolatry ― which means occultism and demonic phenomena will be very prominent (Revelation 9:20,21).
All forms of sorcery and occultism are condemned by God (Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Leviticus 19:31; II Chronicles 33:6,9 …).
Early in our ministry my wife and I learned a valuable lesson. A mother brought to me various items her teenage son had used during Satan worship. She wanted the items out of her house and did not care what we did with them.
I immediately threw out the black candles and other objects which were obviously intended for occult purposes, but we thought it would be wasteful to discard the crystal bell and brass cup. We reasoned that we could give them away or sell them and give the money to the ministry.
During my Bible study a few days later I read Deuteronomy 7:25,26 —
The graven images of their gods you are to burn [destroy] with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God. You shall not bring an abomination into your house … you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is something banned.
Just as I was on my way to destroy the items, my wife mentioned to me that during prayer she felt strongly led of the Lord that we should get rid of them. I shared with her what the Lord had just shown me through Scripture and we immediately destroyed these items.
It is crucial not to possess or participate in anything directly or indirectly associated with the occult — books, movies, music, games, jewelry, healing techniques, and so on. Do not give the enemy opportunity to afflict or harass you because you are compromised in forbidden practices. By foolishly identifying and associating yourself with his regime, you give him opportunity to claim that you are still yielded to him so he has the right to oppress.
Acts 19:17-20 records the following account ― … and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the Word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
Scripture clearly reveals that God has zero tolerance for sorcery and idolatry. He alone is our Creator and He must be the only One we seek for supernatural knowledge, wisdom, and power. To Him alone do we bow down, submit our will, dedicate our heart, and offer our praise.
Balance is Crucial
I had an opportunity to do a ride along with my son-in-law of the California Highway Patrol. The Sergeant who was briefing the officers introduced me. He informed them that I signed a form releasing the state of California from any responsibility or liability and therefore they could “have at me” and shoot me or whatever since I have no rights. Although he was only joking, the sad reality is that when through disobedience and rebellion we step outside of God’s will and protection, Satan can “have at us.”
It has been said that human beings are defended castles and have a wall of protection sheltering us from the demonic realm. However, dabbling in the occult lets down the drawbridge and opens the door to the spirit world. Those who step outside God’s protection and willingly violate and disregard clear Biblical truth concerning this had better repent.
Christians who purposely or ignorantly dabble in practices and techniques forbidden by Scripture or fill their minds with occultism are no more immune to demonic oppression than Christians involved in sexual immorality are immune to pregnancy, venereal disease, or AIDS.
A woman who was supposedly led to Christ by a pastor gave him all her occult books, Tarot cards, and other occult paraphernalia. He in turn gave them to our research director. A short while later this woman estimated these items to be worth hundreds of dollars, so she asked for them back. “Besides,” she said, “many of them were given to me by very special friends.”
We warned her not to take them back because they would ensnare and destroy her, but she refused to listen. She attempted to justify her decision by promising not to read or use them.
Within a month she started reading the occult literature again, and shortly thereafter she began doing seances and reading Tarot cards. “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). She had been very active and vivacious, with a youthful appearance, but from this time on she quickly degenerated physically, mentally, and spiritually.
She died a few years after returning to her occultism. A pastor visited her about a month before she passed away and said she was in complete bondage. Unable to talk or respond, she just wildly stared about. He said she ended up being physically debilitated, mentally deranged, and spiritually degenerate.
While it is true that demonic beings can be responsible for some physical, emotional, and spiritual problems, they are not necessarily always the direct cause. Many problems are the result of people reaping the consequences of what they have sown.
It should not be surprising that many people like to blame everything on Satan. Since the beginning of human history, we have been blaming others for our problems. After Adam ate the forbidden fruit, God confronted him, but Adam blamed it all on Eve. Eve blamed it on the serpent. Both were blaming God indirectly, for He had created them.
Many today blame their smoking, drinking, gluttony, lust, sexual immorality, tempers, and other such behavior on Satan. We must, however, assume responsibility for our actions instead of blaming everything on the devil. Galatians 5:19-21 indicates that immorality, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, envying, drunkenness, and things like these are “deeds of the flesh.”
In most cases what is needed more than instant deliverance from demonic influence is a consistent life of discipline and self-control. While most people would rather have quick and easy solutions to their problems, God’s way often requires time, effort, and obedience.
On the other hand, we must not ignore clear Biblical teaching concerning the reality of Satan and evil spirits. Ephesians 6:12 states ―
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
So while I must warn against the overemphasis and extreme sensationalism concerning demonic activity and deliverance that occurs in many circles, and while in my opinion many of the phenomena attributed to the demonic are done so inaccurately, I also must acknowledge the reality of the demonic realm. Thus, I attempt to have a balanced perspective by taking into consideration the physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. This enables me to discern Biblically whether I am dealing with actual spiritual warfare or merely physical or psychosomatic behavior.
One extreme is attributing all problems and phenomena to demons. The resulting confusion and fear can be disastrous. The other extreme is allowing demonic activity to occur without recognizing it or effectively dealing with it.
Equally wrong is how many are sensationalizing unbiblical beliefs and techniques and passing them off as powerful principles on spiritual warfare. Many today have popularized techniques and beliefs that do not even resemble Scriptural truth concerning spiritual warfare nor the example of Jesus, His disciples, and the Apostle Paul.
The real spiritual battles are being lost while powerless believers are diverted into showy displays of force and erroneous unbiblical strategies which may appear impressive, but which are totally ineffective in truly tearing down the strongholds of the enemy and advancing the kingdom of God.
Boldly and accurately proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best way to identify and deal with genuine demonic activity. Satan is threatened by the powerful and accurate proclamation of God’s Word. He, therefore, is compelled to oppose and undermine it. This reveals his associates — those who fight against the work of the Gospel. Continued proclamation of Biblical Christianity through the anointing of God’s Spirit is a powerful and effective tool in exposing and extinguishing demonic strongholds.
A Lesson For Us Today from the Church at Ephesus
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
Ephesus was an important seaport city of the Roman province of Asia. It was the home of the famous temple of Artemis. As one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the temple of Artemis attracted pilgrims from all over the Roman empire. The temple played a central role in the life of Ephesus, not only as a place of worship, but also serving as a bank. Those who lived in Ephesus were extremely loyal to Artemis as recorded in Paul’s encounter with Demetrius in Acts 19.
The apostle Paul commissioned Timothy to oversee the church at Ephesus. One particular problem that Timothy faced in addition to the influence of Artemis, was the infiltration of false teachings into the church. Paul admonished Timothy to remain steadfast to what he had been taught:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Paul knew it was the Word of God which would give Timothy and the church at Ephesus the spiritual discernment and strength it needed to remain true to the faith.
Just like Timothy, we find ourselves being bombarded today by a panoply of spiritual teachings; we are surrounded by a smorgasbord of beliefs. In the midst of this plurality of teachings, how do we spiritually discern what is and what is not of the Truth? People I encounter often use the “Jesus rule,” trying to answer this question. As long as what is being taught mentions Jesus enough times, then surely it must be right! Others appeal to their subjective experience and conclude that if it makes them feel better or closer to God, then it must be right.
However, proclaiming the name of Jesus and subjective experience are, in themselves, insufficient to avoid the deception of false teaching. An objective standard by which to spiritually discern the array of teachings and practices around us is required. In the case of the Christian, God has given us this objective standard — the Word of God. Just as Paul urged Timothy and the church at Ephesus to be equipped with the truth of Scripture, so must believers today.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to go to Turkey and visit the ancient city of Ephesus. I was amazed at how this leading city of the past was merely a pile of rubble. All that was left of the temple of Artemis (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) was a single standing column. As I looked upon the stone and marble, I realized that the church at Ephesus, which once stood for the Truth in this city of religious pluralism, was now among the ruins of the past.
Many Christians today are caught up in the various spiritual teachings of our time. With little or no discernment, they run from one idea to another and from one mystical experience to the next. This lack of spiritual discernment by the church today will come to a sad end — just as in Ephesus. Unless we are grounded in God’s Word, we will not have the spiritual maturity needed to escape the spiritually counterfeit dangers of our time.
Lest we suffer the same tragic fate as the church at Ephesus, we must maintain a love and passion for Jesus Christ by never leaving our first love (Revelation 2:4). My prayer is that all believers discern and reject the infiltration of false teaching. We must study, search and reflect upon Scripture, then apply it to our daily lives. It is reassuring to know that biblical Christians are overcomers who will be granted the right to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
What is the current state of evangelicalism?
In the past, differences among evangelicals usually focused upon secondary issues such as worship style, the role of women in the church, and the proper structure of a service. Despite these differences, evangelicals always found common ground on the simple truth that the Word of God was the final authoritative source. The reality of this truth was confirmed in my own childhood experience as I visited many different evangelical churches with my parents. While some churches would sing hymns, and others would have a worship band, one thing that was always consistent was the preaching of the Word. Regardless of the denomination, the minister would begin the sermon by opening up the Bible and expounding upon the truths found within it.
As I look at the current state of evangelical Christianity, I no longer see the centrality of the Word of God being a common thread that unites us. In a typical Sunday morning service many messages from the pulpit today make little to no reference to the Bible. Instead of the Bible being the main source of instruction for the body of Christ, many ministers now rely solely upon personal stories, jokes, skits, pop psychology, and various media outlets to instruct their congregation. Evangelicalism can no longer be defined by the principle of sola scriptura, as the Word of God is no longer seen as the final authority in all matters.
What has been the main motivation among evangelicals behind this shift away from God’s Word? While there are varying factors, the main one is a desire to be “relevant.” In this attempt to be “relevant,” the Gospel message is watered down to avoid offending anyone. Also, “outdated methods,” such as the preaching of the Word, are replaced with new seeker and user-friendly methods that are designed to appeal to people’s needs. At the foundation of this attempt to be “relevant,” many evangelical churches have in essence re-defined Christianity according to the post-modern culture.
A key characteristic of the post-modern culture is the denial of absolute and exclusive truth. Truth is defined in terms of relativism and subjectivism. Relativism teaches that one person’s truth is no more valid than another person’s truth; while subjectivism teaches that truth is found in one’s subjective experience. Thus, Scripture is no longer seen as the ultimate and absolute authority in the life of the believer. As a result, the distinctive features that once separated the body of Christ from the surrounding culture are now blurred. Instead of reforming the culture through the Gospel message, many evangelicals have allowed culture to reform the Gospel message. In essence what you have is no longer “biblical” Christianity but “post-modern” Christianity.
With the emphasis now away from God’s Word and upon experience, what does “post-modern” Christianity look like?” The best way to describe “post-modern” Christianity is to see it like a chameleon. Just as a chameleon changes colors in order to blend into its environment so, too, “post-modern” Christianity changes colors based upon the subjective feelings and experience of the individual(s). Just like people picking and choosing different foods at an all-you-can-eat buffet, evangelicals are now picking and choosing what they will include into their form of Christianity.
Christianity has become a smorgasbord of opinions and beliefs with no clearly defining parameters on what constitutes the true message of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, in “post-modern” Christianity evangelicals are claiming such biblically erroneous ideas as (1) God does not care what religion people believe, (2) there are followers of Christ in other religions, (3) the core of Jesus’ Gospel is not a call to repentance and faith but to work with other religions for the greater good of mankind (social gospel), (4) New Age techniques like meditation and yoga can be reconciled with biblical Christianity, and (5) there is no final judgment.
When you remove the absolute and authoritative Word of God and rely upon subjective experiences, you end up with a “free for all” of beliefs. Thus, no one should be surprised when evangelical leaders make outlandish claims that they are both Muslim and Christian, or when evangelical leaders participate in other religion’s festivals. Just as it was during the days of the judges in the Old Testament (Judges 21:25), the church is full of people today who do whatever seems right in their own eyes. In the end, “post-modern” Christianity has led evangelicalism into theological agnosticism, where we no longer know what we believe and why we believe it.
I have heard numerous people try to justify this shift from the centrality of Scripture. Beyond their claim this enables the church to be “relevant,” the main argument is it helps keep the church pews full. However, does the number of people who come through the doors of a church always signify a healthy church? An answer to this question can be determined by examining the fruit that is being borne by “post-modern” Christianity within evangelicalism.
The first fruit being produced is biblical illiteracy. The average Christian today no longer adheres to a biblical worldview. Instead of looking at the world through the lense of Scripture, the average Christian relies upon his own feelings and experience. As a result, core doctrines that have been historically held by the church are now not only being questioned but even denied. For instance, recent surveys have shown that a growing number of Christians deny the existence of Satan and hell (Genesis 3; Revelation 20:10-15), that Jesus lived a sinless life while He was on earth (2 Corinthians 5:21), and that Jesus is the only means to obtain salvation (Acts 4:12).
A second fruit that is being produced is false teaching. Since truth is to be experienced, rather than obtained through studying God’s Word, evangelical churches have become feeding grounds for unbiblical teaching. Perhaps, the greatest example of this has been the influx of New Age teachings that have crept into the church. With an emphasis upon meditation, emptying the mind, mystical experiences, and manipulation of energy, evangelicals have repackaged Eastern religious practices with Christian labels.
The question we need to ask ourselves is not “does this experience/practice make me feel closer to God,” but “is this experience/practice validated by the teaching found in God’s Word?” We need to heed the warning given by the apostle Paul, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:6-8).
A third fruit being produced is worldly lifestyles. Evangelicalism today is full of people who base their moral decisions upon circumstances. An example of this situational ethics was a survey asking Christian teenagers whether it was wrong to have sex before marriage. A good majority responded that it depended upon the circumstances, primarily, if the two people loved each other. This approach to morality is simply the logical conclusion when the Bible is removed as an authoritative and absolute guide for truth. Thus, the church becomes inundated with every moral perversion that goes on in the world, and since one person’s truth is just as valid as another person’s truth, church discipline has become extinct. “Post-modern” Christianity has certainly changed the way the church looks since the time when the apostle Paul called for the church to judge the immoral behaviors of those in its congregation (1 Corinthians 5).
A fourth fruit being produced by “post-modern” Christianity is false conversions. With the removal of the preaching of the Word, a typical evangelical service is designed to entertain the audience. While there are some who make genuine professions of faith, there are many whose commitment to Christ is nothing more than a mere feeling spurred by a certain song or the dimming of the lights. The understanding of the commitment and sacrifice that is required is rarely shared (Luke 9:23- 24), as Jesus is portrayed as only our friend and Savior without any mention that He is also our Lord and Judge (Matthew 26:64; Hebrews 4:13).
The health of a church is not determined by what walks though its doors, but on what comes out of its doors. What is coming out of many churches are “trees bearing bad fruit.” The desire to be relevant, fill the pews, and not appear judgmental is actually destroying evangelicalism.
As recent surveys have shown, the next generation of teens and young adults no longer fill the pews of our sanctuaries. This should not be a surprise. When the church reflects the very practices and beliefs of the culture, how can it be expected to provide this world with a unique message of hope? When the Bible is viewed as just another book and Jesus is seen as just another way, Christianity loses its uniqueness as it is absorbed into our religiously pluralistic culture.
In a conversation with a college professor, he noted similar concerns as were mentioned above. However, he felt “post-modern” Christianity was at least beneficial in opening up dialogue with non-Christian faiths, emphasizing the importance that faith is not just a mental exercise but also a personal experience, and that the church should always be reforming and looking for new ways to communicate the Gospel message to nonbelievers.
While this professor is right in acknowledging these positive fruits, the dangers of “post-modern” Christianity supersedes the positives as it has undermined the authoritative Word of God and built a man-centered, rather than a Christ-centered, theology. Therefore, the church must stand up and share the authoritative and absolute truth of the Gospel message.
“Post-modern” Christianity has presented the evangelical church with a great challenge, and if evangelical believers are going to be equipped to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3), and be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15), then we must heed the following.
First, pastors need to get back to sound biblical preaching. God’s word is essential for a believer’s life. While personal stories, jokes, skits, and various types of media are not unbiblical methods of communication, they certainly should not be the main source(s) of instruction during a Sunday morning service. God’s Word should be! Instead of the Bible being a footnote in Sunday morning messages, we need to adhere to Paul’s command, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1, 2).
Second, each believer must commit him/herself to studying God’s Word. The Bible provides God’s people with proper direction (it tells us why we are here and where we are going), proper doctrine (it tells us what we need to know), proper discernment (it tells us how we can know right from wrong), and proper discipline (it tells us how we are to live). The Bible is a road map for the believer as he navigates through life. As the psalmist said, “God’s Word is a lamp unto [our] feet and a light unto [our] path” (119:105).
Third, the church must look to the Bible, not experience, as the final determiner of truth. While experience and emotions do have their place in a believer’s life, when it comes to determining truth, the church must ultimately look to God’s Word. Jesus said, “Sanctify them in truth; Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). We see in the book of Acts that when the church had to make decisions on doctrine, they went to Scripture. In Acts chapter 15, when the church met in Jerusalem, James went back to the written word to validate the Gentiles’ inclusion into the body of Christ (Acts 15:16-18). Rather than being tossed to and fro from the subjectivity of our experiences and emotions, believers must be grounded upon the absolute authority of the Word of God, and be like the Bereans who received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether the things Paul said were true (Acts 17:11).
Finally, while we need to ground ourselves upon the Word of God, we must avoid letting our faith become merely an intellectual exercise. This was the problem with the church at Ephesus. Christ praised them for their doctrine and discernment (Revelation 2:3) and their hatred of false teaching (2:6), but rebuked them because they had left their first love (2:4).
Without love, Christians are ineffective in their ability to point others to Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul made it clear that without love we are nothing and whatever we do profits us nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-4).
The Gospel must not be merely understood, it must be lived out. The greatest way we can live out the Gospel message is by loving God with all our heart, mind and soul, and loving our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). If we fail in doing this, then as Jesus warned the church in Ephesus, He will remove our lampstand (church) from its place (Revelation 2:5).
We live at a time when the love of many is growing cold because of all the trials and tribulations we are facing. However, true believers must keep the flame of love for our Lord and each other burning brightly.
As the lost in this world desperately seek answers to their spiritual longings, may evangelical believers and churches be houses of light and salt who accurately proclaim a message of hope, but also live the Gospel out through acts of love.
by Bill Rudge
Most men and women get into ministry with a heart to serve the Lord and continue with that commitment throughout the duration of their ministry. Hopefully this is true for the majority of those who serve in Jesus’ name. They will one day hear Him say:
Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! (Matthew 25:23).
Some people get into ministry because they also have a heart to serve the Lord and help others – but along the way they get lured into sexual immorality. While forgiveness is available for true repentance (1 John 1:9), they better carefully ponder the requirements and responsibilities set forth in Scripture to be a leader: 1 Timothy 3:1-12; Titus 1:6-9; James 3:1.
Others enter ministry as “opportunists” with a predetermined agenda to exploit and take advantage of vulnerable people. They go through the external motions of professing faith in Christ – even praising the Lord and quoting Scripture – but their lifestyles indicate their hearts are far from Him and His Word. Jude and Peter warn about such predators:
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. But the Lord is coming to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done (Jude 4, 13-15; 2 Peter 2:2).
by Bill Rudge
As a new Christian I had two basic questions concerning my karate involvement. First — did the Lord want me involved? And if He did or didn’t, how far in or out should I be? And second, if he wanted me out, was it something I should speak against to warn Christians? Throughout this booklet I hope to answer these two questions which I struggled over for many years.
Several years ago … while traveling throughout the country, I spent considerable time researching and interviewing many martial artists who were involved in a diversity of martial art styles.
Since then, I have been contacted by numerous Christians from the U.S., Canada, and countries around the world who are involved in these various styles either as students or instructors. Many either have quit their involvement or are seriously struggling with it because they feel the Lord is speaking to their hearts to discontinue such training. They called me to find out why I quit.
I want to make it clear that some sincere Christians remain in the martial arts and feel justified before the Lord. I do not question their commitment to Christ. But I also must make it equally clear that there are many, like myself, who feel strongly convicted and led by God’s Spirit to discontinue their involvement.
In this booklet … I want to share the five basic reasons why I quit and also share the testimonies of three other Christian karate instructors who felt led to give it up. I pray that if you are a believer in Christ who is involved in the martial arts (or thinking about becoming involved), you will do some honest soul-searching and examine your heart and motives before the Lord. Please evaluate each of the following points and ask the Lord what He would have you do.
While I’m not trying to act as the Holy Spirit and determine God’s will for anyone’s life, and while it is ultimately between you and the Lord, I feel compelled to challenge every Christian involved in any form of the martial arts to prayerfully consider the five main reasons why I quit.
1) Pride / Egotism
An attitude of pride, arrogance, egotism, self-sufficiency, and a desire for power and control are often developed by adherents. Many claim humility, but I believe it is usually a false, deceptive humility. I began to think I was god and almost invincible. I became haughty and egotistical and had an air of superiority when dealing with people. And I saw the same attitude in almost every student and instructor (even Christians) I met. Many impressionable students (even many advanced practitioners) idolize and practically worship their senseis and masters.
2) Violent Nature
The violence involved in much of the martial arts is not compatible with Christ’s example of love. Although there are situations where I believe self-defense and the use of force are Scripturally justified, many of the techniques being taught transcend self-defense. These are offensive and aggressive techniques designed to maim and cripple one’s opponent. These tactics are not as much defensive as they are retaliatory. They are used to inflict punishment. One time before I quit karate, a man got so obnoxious with me that I actually considered taking his eyes out. I realized that this should not be an option for someone seeking to live under Christ’s Lordship.
3) Temple of the Holy Spirit
Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Some of the breaking and conditioning practices, the repetitive blocks, kicks, and punches, and the full-contact sparring, for example, can be destructive and degenerative to the body. I frequently had black-and-blue marks all over my arms, legs, and chest from being an uke, or from sparring and training. While I used to thrive on that intense activity in my younger years, I realize now that I have injuries that can be traced directly to those days of rigorous conditioning, training, sparring, and breaking wood and cement blocks. Many practitioners eventually develop arthritis, joint injuries, and various other debilitation and health problems because of martial arts involvement.
4) Eastern Mystical / Occult Connection
There are definite Eastern mystical and occultic overtones inherent in the martial arts. Many who initially begin martial arts training for self-defense, physical discipline, exercise, and health benefits, or for sports competition, eventually become involved in practices and philosophies that are diametrically opposed to Biblical Christianity. In all styles of the martial arts there is an underlying philosophy that eventually conflicts with Scripture. These disciplines have an alluring effect that tends to lead a person little by little into Eastern religious and occult philosophy and practice.
5) Testimony to Others
I didn’t want the testimony of my involvement to be a stumbling block to others. I thought I could (and many Christians claim to be able to) remove the mystical/occult elements and limit my training to only the physical aspect. But those following my example (and yours) might not be able to maintain that separation.
I tried to justify teaching karate classes and doing self-defense clinics and demonstrations in churches, schools, and detention centers because of the tremendous impact I was having and all the fruit I was bearing for the Lord. But now I realize that far more people got into the practice and philosophy of the martial arts than were genuinely led to Christ. People would respond to the altar calls, but a few days later they would also sign up at the local dojo. As I evaluated many of the people influenced by myself and other Christian martial artists, I discovered they were becoming more and more committed to the martial arts and less and less committed to Jesus Christ.
As a result of the influence of Christian martial artists, many unsuspecting people have become interested in the martial arts and thereby have been introduced to various mystical concepts, literature, and movies. Many of these people eventually adopt an Eastern/occult worldview.
Even Christian students and instructors are often not aware of how affected they are by the Eastern/occultic practices and beliefs that are the basis of the martial arts. In fact, when first asked, most will initially indicate that they are not involved in any questionable practices nor have they been philosophically influenced. But after a more thorough consideration, many admit that some of their involvements were Eastern and occultic in nature and the philosophy has had some effect upon them. It is alarming that most of them honestly do not recognize the potential danger of some of their practices and how their worldview is being subtly influenced.
Even before I was a Christian, a lot of my karate associates who started training when I did at least professed to be Christians. But few, if any, were really committed. It is interesting to note that a few years later almost everyone who had continued in the martial arts now practiced yoga, meditation, or TM, and some even considered themselves Zen Buddhists or Taoists.
Through demos and classes many Christian instructors have unwittingly become a steppingstone into mystical/occultic beliefs and practices by whetting the appetites of spectators and students. Then, many students want to go further than their Christian instructor will take them. Or when the student or the instructor moves away, training often continues with a non-Christian instructor who goes deeper into the mystical/occult philosophy than their Christian instructor ever intended or expected.
A Subtle Weapon of Satan
I think there are many truths in the martial arts (discipline, commitment, exercise) that we need to be applying to our Christian lives. But we’ve got to realize that Satan will give us nine truths to get one lie across. And that lie he wants to get across is that we can find a source of spiritual, mental, and physical reality and power, other than through the person of Jesus Christ.
Former spiritualist medium, Ben Alexander, is of the opinion that karate is a subtle weapon of Satan. In his book, Out From Darkness, he states:
I have spoken to a number of Christians who have been involved in karate and among them I find those who have been encouraged to practice meditation techniques and also yoga — along with karate lessons. Some of these brothers quit karate because they realized that the more involved they became in karate they experienced occult manifestations.
On the other hand, I have also spoken to Christians who do not use yoga but do admit to a type of meditation technique. They feel it is in no way involved in the occult.
They also explain they go to schools to demonstrate karate and this gives them an opportunity to witness for Christ. I will always praise God and say Amen that they witness for Christ. But the problem we have is that they have witnessed for karate as well. The danger is that we have opened the door for possibly thousands of souls to enter into the occult which can only lead to final damnation. Christians advocating karate must ask themselves: “Am I a stumbling block to a weaker brother?” …
Even though one may participate in karate without offending his own conscience he must consider the conscience of another who does not have the same knowledge of the danger involved. This consideration must be given because the weaker brother in karate who may be practicing yoga and deep meditation, etc. will be justifying his actions because the strong Christian participates. These opinions are going to be formed in the minds of the non-Christian teenagers in schools after watching and listening to Christians who advocate “Karate for Christ.”
Christian leaders, please understand that yoga, I Ching, the ch’i and meditation techniques are evil influences that can lead to disaster.
Remember, it is not karate that wins people to Christ. It can possibly have the opposite effect.1
Although there are a variety of styles and disciplines of the martial arts, they have common roots in Taoism and Buddhism. As I researched the various types of martial arts their Eastern mystical/occult background became obvious. It also became apparent that Taoist and Buddhist overtones cannot be conveniently separated and discarded, because in reality they are the foundational principles of martial arts training and philosophy, whether the practitioners and instructors realize it or not. In some styles it is very visible, while in others it is more subtle and covert. Nevertheless, in every style I researched — even those practiced only for physical fitness and self-defense purposes — there were definite Eastern/occult influences.
I was one of the first to warn (in the mid 70s) that the martial arts were much more than just physical exercise and self–defense; once they gained credibility and got a foothold, their true essence of mysticism and occultism would become manifest. Many Christians said, “Oh, you’re being overly critical.” But I have been to many dojos where they are teaching blatant occultism and mysticism — as are many of the martial arts movies and magazines.
Physical conditioning, mental awareness, meditation, visualization, breathing exercises, breath control techniques, development and utilization of the ki force, and ultimately spiritual development are some of the practices and goals which emphasize the influence of Taoist and Buddhist religious and philosophical principles on the martial arts.
I interviewed a 5th degree black belt in Poekoelan (an Indonesian style of the martial arts). His father was a ninth degree, one of the highest ranking martial artists in the country at that time. He told me that one night his father came to his house and “flipped out.” He attacked him with a samurai sword. He said he wouldn’t have fought back, but his family was sleeping upstairs and he was afraid his father would kill them too. He and his father fought for almost an hour. He had some 40 cuts on his body and half his throat ripped open. Finally, he killed his father with a pair of nun-chucks. The son was tried for murder but released on the basis of self-defense.
Investigations revealed that his father had voodoo dolls with pins stuck in them. He had a black candle which he used when meditating and he was involved in other occultic practices. The son told me there is no possible explanation for what his father did except that he was what the Bible calls “demon possessed.” Another power had taken control of him.
Many martial arts practitioners get into the development of ki (a supposedly impersonal energy force that pervades the universe). Allegedly as a result of tapping into and controlling ki through meditation and breath control, they are able to do some phenomenal feats.
This impersonal universal energy force is called by various names. The Japanese call it ki, the Chinese refer to it as ch’i, the Indian yogis call it prana. From research, Scripture, and spiritual discernment, I am convinced that this is not scientifically explainable, natural energy but is an occultic energy or demonic power.
According to cult/occult experts John Ankerberg and John Weldon:
People who experience this energy are often powerfully influenced to accept new age teaching or to become active in occult practices.
Essentially, modern new age health methods have only adopted the energy concepts of various pagan cultures and/or traditional occultic theories, such as the ch’i energy of ancient Chinese Taoism, the prana/kundalini energy of Hinduism, the mana energy of Polynesian shamanism, and the psychic force of the occultist and parapsychologist.
In theory, anyone can argue that some form of mysteriously structured energy might exist “within” the human body as in the flow of ch’i through the meridians, or prana through the chakras. It can be argued that no one, for example, knows the internal “structure” of the human spirit. Christian promoters… often argue that ch’i, prana, mana, etc., are unknown and unidentified natural components of God’s creation which circulate within the body through invisible channels.
But these energy systems are theoretically suspect because of contradictory teachings, and in practice, too closely associated with occultism for us to be comfortable with the idea of “neutral” or natural life energies.2
One of the numerous illustrations I could cite occurred while I was lifting weights at a gym in Arizona. I met a man who had been involved in a Chinese style of the martial arts for many years. As we talked I led him into a discussion on ch’i. He explained how he developed his ch’i and told of some of the feats he and his instructor could do as a result of their concentration of ch’i, such as moving objects with their minds. Supposedly, his instructor could extend his arm and point his finger at someone, and by concentrating on extending his ch’i, he could knock them down without touching them — and do many other seemingly superhuman feats.
I asked him the source of this power. He said, “All around us is energy. All we have to do is tap it and redirect it for our purposes. Ch’i is the eternal life force from which everything was made and consists of. We develop these powers from within through meditation and self-development.”
We went deeper into our conversation. I was trying to make him admit the “true source” of this power. He soon did. He told me that sometimes as they performed kata (prearranged patterns of fighting imaginary opponents), if they were totally yielded, the spirits of dead masters possessed their bodies and controlled their movements — greatly increasing their skill, performance, speed, and power. He also said they can put hexes and spells on people, and told of other occultic powers and phenomena, thus revealing the “true essence” of his power of ch’i.
Pat Means, authority on Eastern mysticism, states in his book, The Mystical Maze:
According to Taoism, one of the dominant religions in China, there is a great energy flowing through the universe and our bodies. This energy consists of two forces, yin (female) and yang (male), which constantly complement and harmonize with each other. When one is in harmony with this energy, then his life and body are also in harmony ….
In sum, eastern meditation, yoga and the philosophical varieties of the martial arts all share the same pitfalls for the Christian: an experience that tends to condition his view of reality, and the possible impartation of an underlying monistic philosophy that directly conflicts with the Bible.3
While many Christians wisely avoid the more mystical/occult laced “soft” or “internal” styles, they wrongly and dangerously conclude that most “hard” or “external” systems are safe.
Christian research expert Bob Larson states:
Eventually two schools of martial arts evolved: Ch’uan Fe (kung fu) based on the hard (external) school of Buddhism, and other arts founded on the soft (internal) school of Taoism ….
The undercurrent of Buddhism found in some martial arts is illustrated by the emphasis on bowing, breathing exercises, seated meditation, intense concentration, and heightened awareness. Reflective thinking is discouraged — another influence of Buddhism. Since karate is a practice of the spirit, its stated purpose is to unite mind, body, and spirit to achieve the unity envisioned by Zen ….
While it may be true that the various disciplines of martial arts have different forms, they all have similar religious backgrounds and goals. Because of their roots in Taoism and Buddhism, they view the entire universe as an interplay of harmonizing opposites, the yin and yang. These principles are expressed by the relaxed state of movements. ‘The way’ of Tao is accomplished by yielding and never resisting, and by responding sympathetically to each action of one’s opponent. As illustrated in kung fu, each movement is uninterrupted and flowing. The end of one action is the beginning of the next, thus balancing the yin and yang. When the Zen goal of stilled senses is also achieved, this balanced harmony is supposed to help one merge with the Universal Consciousness ….
The religious and philosophical roots of most martial art forms presuppose a pantheistic perception of the cosmos. Even the cautious student runs the risk of being conditioned by the techniques that pursue a goal of impersonal oneness with the universe. The Taoistic and Buddhist overtones represent more than a historical root. These principles are an integral part of fulfilling the ultimate spiritual aims of most art forms.4
My Gradual Discontinuing of Karate
As a new Christian and a Bible college student in the early 70s, before many (including myself) were aware of the true essence of the martial arts, I was struggling with practicing and teaching karate. I had a “gnawing in my stomach” that something just wasn’t right. I contemplated quitting. A well-meaning Bible college professor and also a minister, both of whom I respected, and several other Christian leaders encouraged me to continue, stating that God could use the natural laws (physics, physiology, kinesiology, anatomy, psychology, etc.) for good and I could warn about the Eastern and occultic overtones. So I continued teaching at the Bible college and in churches.
After graduation from Bible college, I founded the Christian Martial Arts Association (CMAA). I developed some impressive demos for churches and schools during which I demonstrated and shared numerous Biblical principles: balance, commitment, courage, self-control, discipline, and determination. I also illustrated through demo and message the evidence for Biblical Christianity and how to grow in Christ, be available to God, glorify Him with every aspect of our lives, overcome peer pressure, and be proficient in spiritual warfare, as well as many other Biblical truths. I explained why I, as a Christian, was involved; I warned about the Eastern/occult teachings associated with the advanced stages of the martial arts. I also developed innovative total fitness and defense clinics that became very popular.
Through the CMAA I also researched, exposed, and presented Biblical apologetics of various cult, occult, and Eastern mystical groups. But the more I researched, the more I became convicted and the more Christ’s Lordship in my life became threatened by my continued involvement. So began the gradual discontinuing of all my karate involvement — a process which took several years.
My Conviction Grows
At first I was convicted about developing the power of ki and mental powers, so I discontinued that mode of training. Years later, in one of my file cabinets, I discovered some of the old training materials I had used for my classes. Before destroying them, I read them. I was shocked to discover what I had innocently taught my students years before when I was a new Christian. I realized I had begun to teach occult techniques to develop mental powers and the power of ki (impersonal energy force) — all in the name of Christ!
And few, if any, ever questioned what I was teaching. Nor did any Christian leaders I considered credible rebuke me. In fact, most loved it and encouraged me! But now, after many years of research and seeking the Lord, I clearly see where I could have ended up by following that path. I thank God that His Spirit dealt with me about the inherent and potential dangers of these practices.
Later I felt I should stop training in dojos and stop teaching karate classes, so I only did defense clinics and demonstrations. I also threw away the notebook materials I had developed for my karate classes.
Next, I decided not to wear a gi and belt during the demos and defense clinics to distance myself further from karate. I wore street clothes and tennis shoes. I reasoned, “Besides, who is going to be attacked in a gi anyway? You’re more likely to be attacked in street clothes.” But that was insufficient. I felt led to discontinue all potentially harmful practices: heavy sparring, breaking wood and cement, etc. Because of neck injuries from a car accident, I felt it would be wise to stop doing backflips and other snapping techniques. Then the Lord led me to even quit practicing on my own and to get rid of my personal workout routine notebook so it wouldn’t entice me to begin studying, training, and teaching again.
Finally, the Lord led me to discontinue doing defense clinics and demos. I was reading Luke 18:18-30 during my Bible study and the Lord spoke very clearly to my heart that the time had come for me to discontinue doing defense clinics and demos. So I threw away all my defense clinic and demo materials. I believe it was another step toward focusing all my energy into reaching a world of spiritually hungry people for Christ through speaking, radio, cassettes, and literature.
For several more days I continued to pray about it because it was a difficult decision — I loved these things; they gave an excitement and credibility to the ministry. However, I was compelled to obey the Lord and not be persuaded by appearance, circumstances, or feelings. I did not want to be like the rich man in Luke 18 who would not give up “everything” to follow the Lord. I was willing to give up something I greatly enjoyed and that was important to me for something even more important — my desire to obey the Lord in every area of my life.
Wisdom From Joshua
Following this decision to be obedient, the Lord led me to read Joshua 23:6-16 ―
“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now. The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God. But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you. Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. But just as every good promise of the Lord your God has come true, so the Lord will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land He has given you.”
I do not want to only halfheartedly obey the Lord — I want to wholeheartedly obey the Lord and to do and to be everything He desires me to do and to be. I desire the Lord’s “resurrection power” more than any physical power.
Why It Took So Long
I’ve often wondered why it took so many years for me to make a total break with the martial arts. Either it had a stronger hold on me than I realized, or the Lord in His mercy had dealt with me and led me in stages, as I sought to follow Him each step of the way.
The last demo I did was one of the best ever, and the last defense clinic was also one of the best. I didn’t give these up because I had to, but because I willingly chose to obey the Lord’s leading. The defense clinics and demos seemed inconsistent with the tremendous goals and vision the Lord was placing on my heart. I had to be willing to give up physical power to obtain even greater spiritual power. I would not settle for a superficial relationship with the Lord. I wanted everything He had for me.
To be certain I would not go back to doing them again; I obeyed the Lord’s voice and threw away all my defense clinic and demo materials in my notebooks. I felt this material still had a drawing effect on me and might entice me to start training again. I wrote in my records at the time:
I am discontinuing the defense clinics and demos in faith and obedience. I have no idea how this will all work out. We will see what the Lord has in store!
I found out that instead of being less effective, my speaking engagements had even more power. The response was greater once I quit doing the demos in connection with my ministering and the focus was put totally on Him. Usually the demo gave me the attention, security, and impact I felt was needed. So I said, “Lord, I am obeying and honoring You by not doing the demo, so please help me to keep their attention and impact their lives.” And the Lord was faithful! I didn’t do any type of demo for the next speaking engagement, yet the Lord blessed with the best response ever!
Greater Power in Christ
In my opinion, it’s not karate for Christ — it’s karate or Christ! God’s Word and Spirit have given me greater peace, joy, blessing, power, protection, and victory than my martial arts involvement ever could. Read my pamphlet, The Impossible, which contains excerpts from my upcoming book by the same title. You will see why willfully laying down my dependence on the “flesh” has resulted in a greater outpouring of God’s Spirit and has enabled me to walk in victory in circumstances I could never have overcome through the martial arts.
The feats many martial artists perform and the occultic power they develop are impressive, but Revelation 6:15-17 puts this in proper perspective ―
“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of Their wrath has come, and who can stand?’”
Isaiah 2:17-22 tells us ―
“The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear. Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to shake the earth. In that day men will throw away to the rodents and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from dread of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to shake the earth. Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?”
When I compare the greatest martial artists to the resurrected Christ (Revelation 1:14-17), there is no comparison!
Please also consider the following testimonies by former Christian martial arts practitioners. Following their testimonies I will share several questions that every Christian involved in the martial arts should ask themselves.
The preceding is excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, Why I Quit Karate.