Faith Bible Blog

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Be careful what you give

Surprised by Error

Be careful what you giveIt was just another flyer in the mail.  I almost threw it away, but decided to read the details.  It was a new church near me doing an easter egg hunt to draw people from the community.  Nothing wrong with that.  They were giving away an iPad or Disney tickets to the finder of a special egg (which will surely increase turnout) — that was a bit unusual.  Intrigued, I decided to check them out on the web.  What I found made my jaw drop.

The first place I typically visit on a church’s web page is their leadership page to learn the background and education of the pastoral staff.  The teaching pastor was previously a youth pastor at a large non-denominational Pentacostal church in Texas. He graduated from a bible school in Texas that emphasized practical living. I hadn’t really heard of either of them, so I moved on.

The second page I visit is their doctrine/beliefs page.  Often times, it appears that churches utilize a general statement of broadly evangelical for this page.  But not this one.  Instead, they were surprisingly specific about their beliefs.  Here’s a few…

  • God “exists in three personalities–Father, Son & Holy Spirit.”
    • This statement is called modalism (aka Sabellianism) and is a perverted view of the Trinity.  It teaches that God has three modes, from the perspective of man, in which He may be variously manifest.  Since the early church, though, this view has been condemned as unorthodox and heretical.  The Bible clearly teaches (and Christians through the centuries have agreed) that there is one God who is eternally and distinctly coexistent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Isaiah 48:16 and Matt 28:19 are just two examples of the many Scriptures that teach this.
          Because their doctrinal statement is lifted from another church and the teaching pastor’s training emphasized practical matters more than theology, it is possible that the language used here is accidentally heretical, rather than intentionally false. But the doctrine of God is really not one you want to get wrong! Hence, Paul’s exhortation in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Pay close attention to your self and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this, you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
  • “God is good. He is for us – Not against us. He does not use tragedy, illness or acts of nature to teach us.”
    • Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), those who took the Lord’s table with a wrong heart (1 Cor 11:29-32), the trials and deaths of those whom the world was not worthy (Heb 11:32-39) are all examples of the Lord, in His goodness, using tragedy, illness and nature to teach, sanctify and save men.  1 Cor 10:6 says that we should specifically look at how Israel was laid low in the wilderness as an example for us to keep us from craving evil things.  Heb 12:1-3 specifically cites the suffering of Jesus as instructive for us in our fight against sin, calling our attention to His pain and shame so that we do not grow weary & lose heart. Enough examples.
          God is good AND He uses bad things to teach us, sanctify us and conform us to His image.
  • “It is God’s will that believers prosper and be in health.”
    • Joseph was wrong then? in Genesis 50:20, when he speaks to his brothers about how they had entrapped him, were violent with him, and then sold him into slavery.  He says, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.”  Genesis records how Joseph suffered for much of his time in Egypt, according to the plan of God, and that those who prospered from his eventual management of Egypt during the famine were not mainly believers.
          In the New Testament, Paul communicates much the same thing in 2 Cor 12:7-10.  Clearly in that passage, he describes how the Lord’s will was for him to be tormented and treated poorly by an demonically-controlled opponent.  He prayed repeatedly about it and God answered Paul directly, saying that Paul’s distress was in accordance with His will.  God intends for us to bring Him glory in the greatest possible way, but that is not always the most comfortable, prosperous, healthiest or easiest way.

As I researched this church, it appears that their statement of beliefs are lifted straight from the Texas church where the lead preacher used to serve as youth pastor. Now I don’t normally discuss other churches in the valley unless I am saying something positive, but here’s the thing…

If these beliefs are part of the church and its preaching,
then they are advocating a different gospel!

Part of the responsibility of an elder in a church is to guard the flock (Acts 20:28-30, 2 Tim 2:25-26), which means that I’m under compulsion to warn you against false teaching. I fear that a few in our body, who received the mailers like I did, might be lured in by the big easter egg hunt and the giveaway. You might even hear the preaching on Easter and think that it sounds fine. But if their website accurately represents their beliefs, then the result of that church’s influence in your life and family will not be pretty.

The gospel and your faith will become means to the ends of success, health and happiness. Such a gospel creates a fear of ‘lack of faith’ which may result in poverty or illness. Such a gospel creates a love for creation over the Creator, and confuses the character and person of God Himself. Biblically, God does not promise health or wealth or freedom from tragedy in your life. Instead, God promises that the world will hate you (Matt 10:22, 1 Jn 3:13), non-Christians will persecute you (2 Tim 3:12), and you will suffer because of Christ (Rom 8:17), enduring many trials and tribulations (Acts 14:22). There is no promise of health or wealth in this life for the Christian. Instead, God promises you that freedom from pain and sickness and grief await you in the life to come (Rev 21:4). The gospel of health and wealth is a false gospel that will not save you. (I’d recommend Health, Wealth & Happiness by Jones & Woodbridge for book-length detail on this point.)
Looking back now, I think that my shock was my own fault.  I had forgotten that false teaching like this really exists within our valley.  When I think of church plants, I think of churches that get the gospel right who are planting other churches.  I forgot that false teachers also do start-ups.  A false gospel has to start somewhere.  Pray that this one finds no foothold in our valley.

As you may have noticed, I am not naming this church online — mainly because I don’t want to accidentally boost their search rankings.  For those who live in Murrieta, please avoid a new church with the initials PLC.  It clearly advocates a false gospel.  [Ed. note — Promise Lutheran is NOT the church being referenced here; it just happens to have the same initials.]

Author: John Pleasnick

John serves as a pastor and elder at Faith Bible Church

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