by Sandy Simpson
But solid food is for the MATURE,
who by constant use have trained themselves
to distinguish good from evil.
At the core of maturity in Christ is the issue of training to be able to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong. But in today’s churches this issue has not only been downplayed, but actually swept aside.
I run a website and get hundreds of emails every week. Since the website deals with apologetics against false teachers and false prophets, about half the email I receive is blasting me for even bringing up the issue. These emails are from “Christians” who claim I am not “anointed”, don’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit, etc. I am forced to remind them of Hebrews 5 and Ephesians 4 and the biblical definition of maturity in Christ. Maturity is not defined as following dynamic speakers, running after people who claim the ability to perform signs and wonders, those with wealth, charismatic teachers with large numbers of followers, those with name recognition, and prophets who make wild prophecies. It is defined simply as training ourselves to know the difference between good and evil.
Where do Christians get solid food? From voices in their heads, intuition, imaginations, flights of fancy, signs, wonders? No. Solid food is consumed by feeding on the meat of the written Word of God.
Heb. 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
If you want discernment and maturity, there is no place else to go than to the written Word. The Word cuts through the “spin” and excuses we make and teaches us about every issue of life. If we heed the Word we will grow.
Jam. 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
We can deceive ourselves by merely listening to the Word. Many Christians attend church and listen to the Word on a weekly basis and have deceived themselves into thinking that is enough for spiritual growth. It is not. The second part of the equation is to put what they have learned into practice. This is the hard part. It is easy to claim you are mature in Christ, but when you are faced with matters of discernment and you balk at the hard choices to be made, that shows you are not used to practicing what you have learned. If you say you are mature yet you read books by false teachers, you are not mature. If you listen to the words of false teachers and defend them, you move further away from maturity.
There is an argument for eternal security that goes something like this: “Since you are not justified by works, you cannot be lost by works.” This is a true statement. But what this statement fails to account for is faith, belief. Your belief system is not a “work”. It is what you believe, your worldview. The Bible says that you can put your faith in something other than the true Jesus Christ.
2 Cor. 11:3-4 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
If your belief system is corrupted by false teachers and their materials, what hope do you have then?
Jer. 5:31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?
The Bible also says that we can believe in vain if we are believing in the wrong thing.
1 Cor. 15:2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
We must hold firmly to the Word, to the Gospel, to be saved. Yes, God holds those He knows who are His elect. But if you do not do what He asks us to do, instead turning to false teaching becoming brainwashed by it, you can end up believing in vain. You might say, “This is impossible. How can this happen to a Christian?” Then how do you explain what will happen to many on Judgment Day?
Matt. 7:21-22 "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Notice that these people call Jesus Christ “Lord”. They think they are saved, just as the Pharisees thought they were saved by being Jewish leaders. What is their problem? They turned aside to false teachings about Jesus Christ. They placed their belief in another Jesus. They called him “Lord” but they did not really know Him. They did not really obey Him.
So then how important is coming to maturity in Christ to our salvation? It protects us against being deceived. Jesus Himself warned his disciples and all believers that we CAN be deceived.
Luke 21:8 He replied: "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ’I am he,’ and, ’The time is near.’ Do not follow them.
If you don’t think we have thousands coming in the name of Jesus Christ who are deceived and deceiving others today, you are living in a fantasy world. Why should we not follow them? Because we can be deceived! Do not follow anyone who claims to be a little messiah, a little Christ, the I AM. “Who is saying that today, other than New Agers?”, you might ask?
“You don’t have a god in you, you are one,” (Kenneth Copeland, The Force of Love (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1987), audiotape #02-0028, side 1.)
“Are you ready for some real revelation knowledge....you are god” (Benny Hinn, “Our Position In Christ”, tape # AO31190-1)
“Jesus was God in the flesh. We must be as He was in the world, and even greater in volume and influence.” (Earl Paulk, The Ultimate Kingdom , 1986, p.121) “We are the essence of God, His on-going incarnation in the world” (Earl Paulk, Held In The Heavens (Atlanta: K Dimension Publishers, 1985, p. p. 125.)
“The Fullness of the Godhead dwells in me ... God has planned for me to be Christ's image on the earth” (Morris Cerullo from the Video MANIFEST SONS OF GOD).
“The believer is called Christ…That’s who we are; we’re Christ!” (Kenneth M. Hagin, Zoe: The God-Kind of Life (Tulsa, OK: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, Inc., 1989), 35-36, 41.)
“Say it again I’m just like God (they repeat it)” (Creflo Dollar, Changing your world April 16, 2002 Lesea Broadcasting)
Say it like you mean it? [He's yelling now.] “I'm an exact duplicate of God!” Yell it out loud! Shout it! [They follow as he leads.] “I'm an exact duplicate of God! I'm an exact duplicate of God!” [Repeatedly] . . . (Casey Treat, “Believing in yourself,” tape 2 in a four part series quoted in Seduction of Christianity p.83)
“ We want to be gods. Jesus said, 'I said ye are gods' (John 10:34). It is with the attitude of gods in the world that Jesus wants the Christian to live.” (John G. Lake: His Life His Sermons, His Boldness of Faith, Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1995, p. 13).
“I believe happiness can be achieved through concentration upon oneself, opening to others elevating oneself to God.” (Robert Muller, New Genesis p.180)
“The divine name from Exod. 3:14, “I Am who I Am,” is appropriated by Jesus who shows us how to embrace our own divinity. The Cosmic Christ is the “I am” in every creature” (Matthew Fox , The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, p.154)
There are many, many other quotes I could give you by “Christians” who claim to be little gods. The Bible says we are not to follow them or we can be deceived.
We can also be deceived by thinking that people who claim to be saved cannot fall away.
2 Thess. 2:3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
But you say, “That day has not come”. I believe it is coming soon, but never forget that the falling away comes first! The falling away comes before the Day of the Lord, not some great end time revival. We will see the church of the last days, the Laodician church, that thinks it is rich and doesn’t need anything, either spiritually or physically, become predominant. But this last days church is really wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Rev. 3:14-22). Jesus is about to spit the whole thing out of His mouth. The question is: where will you be when this happens? Will you be a mature, discerning Christian or will you be caught up in the apostasy with the majority?
How serious is the deception that is already upon the churches?
Matthew 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect— if that were possible.
The end of this verse, in the original Greek, actually says ei dunatos planao kai eklektos or “if possible also elect”. The phrase “if that were possible” in the NIV and the KJV “if it were possible” are not present in the original language. This verse is not an argument for whether or not the elect can be deceived which is what seems to have been added later. It is a clear warning that the deception of the end times is so severe that it will deceive many people who, at least, claim to be followers of Christ.
Is it possible that the elect could be deceived? Not in the eternal sense. But from a human perspective we can certainly be deceived. We are not omniscient like God and do not know the final salvation of any human being. Christians trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, but must also obey the Lord and, in so doing, prove they love Him.
John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
So shouldn’t we be concerned about deception since Jesus and the Apostles warned the Church so many times? How can we avoid being brainwashed and deceived?
We can avoid it by studying God’s Word, by doing what it says, and by staying away from heretics and false prophets. False teachers prey on baby Christians.
2 Pet. 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them— bringing swift destruction on themselves.
The reason to stay away from false teachers and false prophets is that they are introducing heresy into the belief systems of Christians. When heresy and false teaching has come to full flower, it is destructive.
2 Tim. 2:15-19 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."
Here is the crux of what I have been saying. We must study God’s Word so that we can correctly handle it and use it. We do this in the face of many false prophets who have gone out to deceive Christians whose faith can be destroyed by heresy. What is the solution? Paul says two things. First, God knows those who are His. We can depend on God bringing us to eternal life with Him if we continue to trust Him. But there is something we must “do”. We must confess the name of Jesus Christ, preach the Gospel, and turn away from wickedness. To turn away from wickedness we must know what wickedness is. We must be able to discern between right and wrong. The only way to do that is to grow to maturity in Christ.