I keep seeing supposed leaders of the church searching for “secrets” for worshiping or seeking God hidden in the occult, the new age, paganism, kabbalah, etc. and it disgusts me. Not only are these forms not taught in scripture, God’s word forbids it. You shall not worship the Lord Your God in that way. I apologize in advance that this post will not likely be one of my most eloquent of blogs.
False Prophets and False Teachers
Most of these false teachers twist scripture in ways that are easily discerned by simply looking at what the Word of God says in context. But it seems that when they get bored of twisting the Word of God they like to dig into false religions and adopting pagan practices and think that they can be used by Christians to worship or communicate with the One True God. The Apostle Peter pointed out that Proverbs 26:11 applies to such false teachers:
2 Peter 2 (ESV) | False Prophets and Teachers
1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
I was going to try to trim down the quote, but to properly track the pronoun use (the highlighted “they”), it became necessary to include the full chapter. Peter is specifically calling out the false prophets and false teachers. He does not mix his words, and he does not leave any “wiggle room”. They face a fate worse than that of never having heard the Gospel. Think about that for a minute… without the Gospel we face a fate that we’ve earned, one of wrath. Those who have been given the Gospel and then turn aside chasing after the defilements of the world leading others to the same (false prophets and teachers enticing the unsteady souls) face a worse judgement. As we saw previously in James 3:1, “…for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (ESV), there is precedent for such a concept. Peter also makes it clear that he isn’t just saying someone whose heart is after God but lacks understanding (though James points out that such a person who teaches will be judged more strictly), Peter is identifying all of the markings of a false teacher and false prophet. Wolves who prey upon Christ’s sheep. Sheep who He left under the charge and protection of the Elders of His Church (beginning with the Apostles continuing to this day).
The Bible is the ONLY Source of Knowledge About the One True God
While I am not a cessationist, I do believe the canon of scripture to be closed. Therefore, God’s revelation of Himself, His Kingdom, and His Return, is complete until the events Prophesied in Scripture actually come to pass. In the meantime, we are to take EVERYTHING we hear and measure it against the Word of God, the Bible, to know if it is of God. We know that when God wrote the first tablets of the Law, He declared them the Tablets of the Testimony. They Testified of Him, God the Father. In the Law, God makes absolutely clear that we are not to attempt to worship the One True God in a manner that we learn from the world. Let’s look in Deuteronomy 12.
Deuteronomy 12:1-4 (ESV) 1 “These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.
The full chapter is worth reading and studying with the understanding that there are portions of the Law that were permanently fulfilled in Christ, never to be repeated. Such as the one physical Temple and the daily Sacrifices, whose fulfillment in Christ is clearly laid out in the book of Hebrews. For this discussion, let us skip down to the closing portion of this chapter.
Deuteronomy 12:29-32 (ESV) | Warning Against Idolatry
29 “When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.
Although the title is not part of the Scriptural text, it is a section heading included by the translators of the ESV, to help the reader understand the context of the following portion. It is very interesting to me that while it is included under “idolatry” the question isn’t about which God is to be served; rather, this is a question of the manner in which we are to serve/worship God. This is a portion of the Law where God reveals something about Himself, that He will not honor forms of worship derived from the world, from those who have worshiped false gods. For the Lord hates those forms of worship. Hates.
Oh sure, this will get a fast and boisterous “Amen!” when we refer to human sacrifice, temple prostitution, and setting up an Asherah pole in church. But what about Yoga? Transcendental Meditation? Channeling? Spirit Guides? Laberyinth prayers? Asceticism? Monasticism? Numerology? Divination? Praying to graven images? Lectio divina? How strong your “Amen” remains depends largely on your knowledge of what the Word of God says and where these practices originate.
The Colossians struggled with the influence of mystical, ancient, foreign teachings and forms of worship. Let’s look at what the Apostle Paul had to say.
Colossians 1:11-23 (ESV) 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Now, this highlighted portion is sometimes twisted out of context to justify the search for alternate means of knowing, worshiping, and pleasing God outside of Scripture. There is nothing in Scripture that suggests that what we read about God in Deuteronomy 12 has ever changed; in fact, God does not change. We do know that Jesus declared all foods clean, and God reiterated it to Peter in Acts.
Colossians 2:6-23(ESV) 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
If anyone… anyone comes to you with strange teachings, or so-called “spiritual practices”, or hidden principles, or new revelations regarding how to please God, hear God, or to compel God in any way to answer your prayers, stop… take out your Bible… and say “show me in here”. I don’t care if they can point to a 3rd century monk, it wasn’t an Apostle, it is not Scripture. Sola Scriptura is the only sure way of knowing it is of God.
Be alert, not many of the false teachers are willing to divulge the origins of their teachings. Many will pull Gospel texts out of context to suggest that Jesus practiced some of these techniques or they will simply declare “God showed me this” and throngs of Christians will simply say, “sounds legit!” without batting an eye.
Much of this problem comes as a result of improperly teaching Scripture. When churches lose sight of properly dividing Law and Gospel, and slip into Law > Gospel > Law emphasis, it pushes Christians into a false ideology where Salvation is by Grace but making God happy with us is something we have to do on our own. That’s not the Gospel… that’s Law. It becomes particularly dangerous when the Laws taught post-Gospel end up being man-made laws and not even scriptural… that’s false teaching, and it destroys souls. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of your denomination, stick to the written Word of God. Bury it in your hearts, and keep it on your minds always. Learn to rightly identify Law and Gospel, knowing that we need both in equal measure, for it is the Testimony of God. The Holy Spirit is alive in each of us who are in Christ as a promise to us and a seal of His Salvation. He will grant us understanding of the Word, and He does not speak on His own, but will always point us to Christ. There are things in scripture we will not fully grasp until Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 13:8-12). Until that great and glorious day, let us hold fast to the Word of God, and the Mystery of Christ, that is the Gospel.
Colossians 4:2-6 (ESV) 2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
May the Lord Bless you and keep you firmly in His Will,
In Christ Jesus,