February 20, 2018

Defining Deception

The subject of this book is very personal for me. I was raised in a charismatic Pentecostal church that was open to many of these deceptions and it's very hard for me to talk about in this public setting, as I still have friends and family that are influenced by this movement. I will try to share some of my testimony at the end of this post.

 The authors say here of their book:

"In order to defend biblical truth from error, without muddying orthodox waters, this book is intended as a refutation of modern Third Wave style charismata, specifically the version practiced by Bill Johnson (of Bethel Redding) and apostles of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). 

We will not delve into differences between evangelicals, post-conservatives, or even academic liberals. In fact, we are asking all Christians - no matter their creed or conduct - to analyze the significant concerns related to the mystical-miracle movement and Johnson's version of faith and to unite against it. 

For those who ask, 'What concern is it of yours?' we submit that when any teaching infiltrates the borders of our local churches, a pastor must be both soldier and shepherd. Furthermore, Christ Himself warns us against blaspheming the Holy Spirit so we, as ministers of truth, must confront any derogation of the Spirit's Person and work."

This book is divided up into seven chapters and five appendixes:

1. Gold Dust and Glory Clouds
2. Hall of Generals
3. Rupture in the Third Wave
4. The Shady World of Stage Sharing
5. Master Manipulation
6. Doctrinal Deception
7. True Healing

Appendix 1 - Rescued From Deception
Appendix 2 - Frequently Asked Questions
Appendix 3 - Understanding Biblical Tongues
Appendix 4 - The Myth of Being Slain in the Spirit
Appendix 5 - Can You Be Healed by a False Teacher?

One of the scariest things about this movement is that it is deceiving so many people all over the world.

It causes me great sadness to think of people who want so much to know God, are feed these delusions and false experiences. So many people who just need the love of God, to be pointed to Him and His Word.

Chapter two discusses what many charismatic people call generals of the faith.

These consist of:

Charles F. Parham
William Seymour
Smith Wigglesworth
Aimee Semple McPherson
Kathryn Kuhlman
William Branham
Oral Roberts
Kenneth Hagin

I found this chapter extremely interesting. Some of the history of this movement, I had read in John MacArthur's book 'Strange Fire' but for the most part it was new to me and I found disturbing.

In chapter four Costi Hinn talks a little about his experiences traveling with his Uncle Benny Hinn, as well as, shares some of his false teachings. He also makes it clear that:  

"Bill Johnson is no different than Benny Hinn. It's the same old erroneous theology with a new face."

In this chapter he also shares about false prophets, Todd Bentley and Todd White.

*Side Note: These authors, Costi and Anthony, were very gracious and kind in the writing of this book. They lovingly call out the false teachings of these men, which we are called to do in Scripture. Their hearts are broken for the lost who are deceived, and they care deeply about sharing the true Gospel of Christ. I really appreciated that about this book.

Chapters five and six go a little deeper into Bill Johnson's teachings and really upset me. I know so many people who love him and Bethel church and their music, and I've tried to say something but have been called out as having a 'religious spirit' for speaking out. This hurts me because I know this terminology comes from a false teacher they are under the influence of. This kind of terminology is used to keep people in line with their teachings and not question anything.

These two chapters were eye-opening. Here are the points they go over of five errors Bill Johnson teaches:

1. You and I Are the Same as Jesus - "From the perspective of Christian orthodoxy, the most pernicious error in Johnson's theology is the confusion surrounding the person of Jesus." 

Johnson says here in his book 'When Heaven Evades Earth' - "He (Jesus) performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in relationship to God...not as God."  This is heretical and goes against the teaching of Scripture. Jesus is fully man and fully God.

"There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."1 Tim. 2:5

2. Sick People Just Need More Faith - "Relying on his heretical theology of Jesus as his foundational hermeneutic, Johnson builds his second doctrine on a misapplication of Matthew 16... In Johnson's view, the power of God is limited by our faith and thwarted by the devil. He promises a God who is weak without your cooperation, while the portrait painted by the Bible is of God who is still in charge of His creation."

The truth is: "Sometimes God heals based on prayer and His good will. At other times, His plan includes illness and death, allowing true saints to shine amidst earth's darkest circumstances."

3. The Kingdom of Heaven is Now - "A third corrupt doctrine from Johnson is that Bethel church will lead the earth in a one billion-person miracle revival, ushering in a kingdom state of perfection, paving the way for Christ's return." 

This false teaching is not new. It's based on 'The Kingdom Now' theology of early Pentecostalism, one that is rejected by many Pentecostals today. The authors say here of two fundamental biblical flaws in the 'Kingdom Now' positions:

1. the observed corruption of the world implies that somehow God has lost control; and

2. God needs man to help him regain what he has lost.

"The Bible teaches neither idea."

I think this teaching is closer to the 'new age' teachings than to any Bible teaching. It also belittles God who is Sovereign Lord over all.

*Side Note - It is important to note that the authors acknowledge there are many godly and bible believing Pentecostals in the church today. When referencing to Pentecostalism it is the extremes of the charismatic movement of the false teachers noted in the book.

4. The Dichotomy of Scripture & Spirit - "The fourth error from Bill Johnson is diminishing of the power of God's Scripture in favor of a personal encounter -assumed to be with the Holy Spirit. "

Bill Johnson says here in his book 'When Heaven Invades Earth': "We've gone as far as we can with our present understanding of Scripture. It's time to let signs have their place."

This is so disheartening and I admit I cried often reading this book (defining deception). This statement from Johnson is an out right lie from the enemy, who does not want you to read Scripture and does not want you to follow Christ and His Word, but rather have you follow after signs that false teachers create out of their own minds. This breaks my heart.

5. My Experience Proves My Truth -  "...all of his (Johnson) errors culminate in one overarching theme that pervades all mystical-miracle heroes of the past and Bethel ministries and music today - my experience defines my truth. In essence, if 'it' happened to me then, 'it' must be from God."

Doesn't this sound familiar? Like the world's way of thinking? It's what Bethel church and music are teaching our kids. This is another point that is so disheartening for me. I see so many kids, (and when I say kids I mean teens and twenty-somethings) that are heavily influenced by Bethels music and ministries.

I loved this quote near the end of the book:

"Experience never defines biblical truth. The truth found in Scripture must always define our experience."

Chapter seven was a balm to the hurt and lies of this movement. It's about healing from it.

J.I. Packer once said:

"The Spirit's message is never 'look at me' but always 'look at Christ"

That's the heart of healing...looking to Christ.


 A little about my walk away for the charismatic movement:

When I was a little girl I remember hearing Kathryn Kuhlman on the car radio. She liked to scream. She terrified me. I believe even back then I knew something wasn't right. People like Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, and Jim and Tammy Baker were charismatic royalty. I remember watching them on TV as a little girl and feeling something wasn't quite right. In church I witnessed slayings in the spirit, tongues with and without interpretation, and self-proclaimed prophets who harmed peoples lives. When this last thing happened, that is when my husband and I finally left.

God's prophets do not harm God's people, they lift up the name of Christ and point us to Him. A true prophet is one who shares the message of the Gospel.

At that time, my husband and I started attending a Missionary and Alliance church and God started to open my eyes about the deceptions within the charismatic movement. I was confused, and sometimes the pastor would say things that made me think, something I didn't do when I was under the influence of the charismatic movement. I remember one sermon on tithing that opened my eyes.

In the charismatic movement tithing is emphasized constantly. It's drilled into you. Not tithing is considered a sin and I've even heard some false teachers say that you will go to hell if you don't tithe 10%.

It's a great manipulation.

After this sermon I went home and started researching. I found an article by John MacArthur on tithing and cried the whole way through. MacArthur, who supports new testament giving explained how 10% is an old testament practice and how we are free now to give whatever God puts on our hearts and most importantly what we can afford. God started to open my eyes that day.

I have linked the short version of the article here...

Does God require me to give a tithe of all I earn? 

And the long versions here...

God's plan for giving - part 1
God's plan for giving - part 2 

Here is a short video as well...

What is Biblical 'Tithing' 

When I was growing up, it was taught that Pentecostal was the only denomination that was alive in Christ, all other denominations, that didn't speak in tongues, were dead. Literally we were told every person who didn't speak in tongues was dead in the spirit. I believed this until I started reading books by authors like C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer and John MacArthur, not one spoke in tongues. That's when God woke me up to this deception. If these men of God were not filled with the Holy Spirit then no one was. But the truth is they were, and are, all filled with the Holy Spirit, the evidence was and is in their lives.

You may have heard of what some call, 'name it and claim it.' Though I was never taught this directly, it was part of the influence in the church. If you wanted something you had the power to move God to get it. You asked God with boldness and authority for what you needed or wanted. It took me a long time to be free of this way of thinking. To get to a point of real prayer, prayer of humility and reverence to the God who is in control and wants the best for me in His way, not mine. I still struggle with this, but God is gracious in convicting me and turning me back to depending solely on Him.

Another thing I struggled with within the charismatic movement was addiction to emotional music. This may sound silly to some, but for me it was real and was not of God. I couldn't read my bible or pray without some emotionally charged Christian music in the background. Today Bethel music is leading thousands of kids into this addiction. One day I was reading my bible and I knew in my heart I needed to turn off the music, it was distracting me from hearing from God through His Word. I did that day, and stopped listening to music all together for a period of time, now I not only can read my Bible with understanding, and pray with God alone, I can enjoy music for what it is,  just music.

In charismatic circles you feel like you aren't good enough if you aren't 'on fire' emotionally for God, when the truth is, we sometimes don't feel Him at all, and that's ok. I remember the first time I brought my husband to church, who was my boyfriend at the time, when the worship started an usher came up to him and told him to raise his hands! I was mortified. Let's just say my husband wasn't a fan of the Pentecostal church after that, though He stayed with me there for years.

One of the most important things that has happened in my life, is discovering the grace of God.

One day I was preparing my Sunday School lesson to teach, when I started listening to a sermon by Paul Washer on grace. It moved me and I went straight to my bible and read the whole book of Romans in one sitting. God spoke to me then and it confirmed to me that He primarily speaks through His Word and He has a lot to say to us. Some is encouraging and uplifting but much of it is convicting. And that's because God is a loving God who knows what we need. I will never put my trust in a man who claims to speak directly for God, they are false prophets who do. God's Word is enough, and every true prophet will point you to it.

It's important to note that I had to willingly repent of all these deceptions I had put my trust in.

The deception that God cares more about my money than me
The deception that tongues is the evidence of a saved soul
The deception that I have power within myself to move God to my will
The deception that music was the key to spiritual fulfillment
The deception that my expressed emotions were more important than living a holy life
The deception that I could hear a 'new word from God' outside of the Bible

It's easy to blame other people for false teachings, but in the end I must repent of the things I put my trust in. The things that were not of God. To be freed you must repent. Some of these things may seem little to some, but they took me away from God and made me think wrongly about Him.

*Side Note: I highly recommend a bible study by Paul Washer called 'The One True God', it helped me immensely in getting to know the God of the Bible. It takes you through His attributes throughout the Scriptures. It's basically you writing out Scripture about Him. I absolutely loved it. It was so helpful. : )

I still, to this day feel so grateful that God had forgiven me for believing these lies about Him. He has truly set me free and I love Him dearly for it. I still have struggles once in awhile and because I'm not perfect, God is gracious to show me my errors. I'm learning that I can come to Him about anything and He will be there. His love is everlasting, He will never leave me or forsake me, in the end He is my all.

Don't be afraid to come to God and ask forgiveness. For anything. He always forgives a humble heart.

"LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear"  Psalm 10:17

I'm also thankful for men like these authors who are brave enough to speak out. I pray God continues to give them courage, and assurance that they are loved by Him.

I highly, highly recommend this book!

I'll leave you with this quote from A.W. Tozer:

"Where are these watchmen? Where are these prophets warning God's people of the false prophets invading God's territory? It has come to the point that if any preacher criticizes any movement, he is quickly ostracized and made fun of. However it is our responsibility - our job - to point out these false prophets, whether other people listen to us or not."

And here God speaks soberly to Ezekiel on being a true watchman:

“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.

When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.

Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul." Ezekiel 33:7-9

*My hope is that if you are involved in this cult-like movement or even if you are on the outskirts, to come to repentance and find freedom in Christ. I also hope that if God has opened your eyes to these deceptions, that you will speak out, share your story and by doing so bring glory to Christ.

"Christians must not stand idly by while God's word is maligned. No matter our attachments and no matter how much we love someone, the most loving thing we can do is tell the truth and stand with Christ." Costi Hinn and Anthony G. Wood


Buy it HERE on Amazon


  1. There is bad stuff out there, that's for sure. But there is good also. We need the Lord to show us the way.

    You've inspired me to read Romans again!

    "...the most loving thing we can do is tell the truth and stand with Christ."

    So true.

    Thanks for sharing this, Cathy.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Sandi! I agree we need the Lord to show us His way. : )

  2. Thanks so much for this review. One of my closest friends came out of the Pentecostal movement and wrestled with some of these same things. In my early Christian life I got hold of some books and saw some TV evangelists who were charismatic (though I didn't know that word at the time) and was so confused. I prayed for the gift of tongues if it was something I needed and was so disappointed God didn't grant it. I thought there was something wrong with me that He didn't answer that prayer. Years later I realized He DID answer it - it wasn't something I needed.

    I'm so glad He brought you to the truth of His Word.

    1. Thanks for sharing this Barbara and thank-you for your kind words!

  3. Thank you for sharing and for your willingness to defend the Faith even when it is difficult.

    I too am saddened by the lack of discernment of many Christians. I feel that the modern church is drifting away from teaching. It is through teaching that we learn discernment, of course, accompanied with a healthy daily time in the Word.

    1. Yes it is sad to see people straying from the truth of God's Word and depending on their own feelings. I am thankful for discerning people like you! Glad you stopped by. : )

  4. Disturbing is the right word for all of this. And it's very sad when this false teaching gets passed off as and equated with Christianity.

    1. I agree. Thanks for stopping by Michele!


Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )