Posted by: Damon Whitsell | March 21, 2015

Ex-Word of Faith Testimony of Eric: It’s Not About Me

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By the grace of God, I was born again in early 2013 and baptized on March 30th of that same year. I had been searching for a very long time, yet I had not truly understood the Gospel, my sinfulness nor how desperately I needed a savior. Months earlier a pastor had preached on Revelation 20:15 and that truly got me thinking that if I was not right with God, I would end up in the lake of fire. The Lord truly convicted me and I became very concerned about eternity for probably the first time in my life. I knew that I was not right with God. It was through a challenge given by our pastor to read through the 4 Gospels that things started to change. Truly the Holy Scriptures can bring one to salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). It was at the this time that I started to attend a church that adhered to the Word of Faith movement’s (henceforth WOF) doctrines and teachings. I was unaware of what it was, as I am sure that many a Christian does not know what WOF is. WOF is adhered to by many a money-grubbing televangelist, and many of the popular and mainstream representatives such as the likes of Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, etc. Thus much of my theology was subtly tainted with false teachings. In addition though likely of no consequence my brother and I had been subscribing to a magazine called “Tomorrow’s World” They belong to the cult of Armstrongism which is somewhere between Watchtower and Seventh-Day Adventist theology.

I am however thankful for the fact that the pastor at this church encouraged us to read the Bible daily which along with God’s grace brought about significant spiritual growth rather quickly. But to continue, I being young in the faith was unaware and vulnerable, not yet able to discern between good and evil, between true and false doctrine. While many of those in the WOF are closely tied to the “Prosperity gospel” in that they stress the importance of health and wealth, this church which I attended was softer, more subtle, this church’s focus was upon blessings and success. It placed blessings above contentment and fellowship with God.

RCCG-The Redeemed Christian Church of God, which is a church from Nigeria. This was the church that I attended and I mention its name so that other Christians know to avoid it. I should have realized that something was off when the General Overseer of the church,  during a special worship service declared that those that he was addressing in the congregation would not die poor among other things. This is not something a mere man can state, at the time it seemed strange but I paid it little attention.

Before we became fully committed to RCCG, a brother warned us and said that RCCG was a “Prosperity Gospel” church. I heeded not his warnings for I figured, what could the harm be? We departed from that congregation at this point. It was at this point that we experienced what I imagine Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and all cults experience, we were isolated. In typical cult like fashion we were segregated from other congregations and discouraged from going to other services. We were kept so busy that we didn’t have time to attend other congregations or meet with brothers and sisters from other congregations. We grew close to the other members, though we were a small congregation. I had no clue that anything was wrong. It wasn’t until my biological brother who glory be to God is also my spiritual brother, mentioned that the characteristics of our church seemed to fit the bill for the description of the “Prosperity gospel”. Again I turned a blind eye to it and was in denial and assumed that it was unimportant. We went further and further into unfamiliar teachings such as positive confession and Biblical “promises”. We would take a piece of scripture out of context that applied to what we wanted and pray with that scripture, because with our mentality God had to do whatever He said in His word. As we know that God cannot lie, He would be lying if He didn’t fulfil what He had promised, right? Well, though we know that God does not have to do anything, this was our logic.

In addition we were taught that our words were so powerful that we should never speak negatively, lest our words cause something bad to happen. We were encouraged to speak scripture to our problems and speak positively, so that something good would happen. All of these strange teachings came at once. Eisegesis was certainly the source of these weird teachings. One man had even twisted Romans 4:17 to imply that man can speak things into existence like God. A few months later, my brother brought the topic up again, this time with great concern. He shared some scripture with me:

Matthew 4:1-4
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

In addition my brother mentioned, that the Lord had made clear to my brother that He was not a dog, at our beck and call and what we were doing was wrong. My brother explained to me, how what we had done was the opposite of what Jesus had done when He was tempted by Satan, we had commanded the stones to become bread and had the nerve to lift ourselves to Jesus’ position. We had not feared God, but simply demanded what we wanted from Him without reverence. We were selfish and greedy, we were focusing on what God could do for us, not for what we could do for God.

We had fallen for Satan’s ploy. When the startling revelation was presented before my eyes, I realized how grave our situation was, how off course we had gone.  I had completely devalued my salvation and I was devastated by that. After my eyes had been opened I came to truly appreciate the words of Jesus in Mark 8:36 “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” A startling thought dawned upon me, my salvation could be at stake because of false teachings. It was a horrible feeling, I had completely dishonored God and I had to repent for it, I wanted to make it right with Him immediately. Every night for a few weeks my brother and I would talk about the subject and we always came to the same conclusion, we couldn’t stay in this church, our salvation could depend upon it. We attempted to address the issue with our pastor. We thought that it had been a recent occurrence, however the church had always been WOF, yet we had not yet realized it. We spent a lot of time talking with our pastor in hopes that we would come to a conclusion that we could agree on something, that we could convince him that there was something wrong. We ended up frustrated spending so much time trying to convince him and addressing our concerns but they were falling on deaf ears and well frankly speaking, he knew the Bible better than we did, so we couldn’t contend with him.

In addition there were a lot of straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks, this just ended up leaving me angry and frustrated with him. The issue was ignored. He would also say that it was spiritual attack to prevent us from going to the upcoming worker’s conference. But it was not about going to the conference, but about the WOF movement, which was indeed a cause for concern. My brother and I always came to the same conclusion but we could never approach it in the way we intended. We always ended up wimping out, as a result it was a long process and it dragged on for so long and wore us out.

By this point, I had been assigned as the Youth Leader for my region, so I could not back out of going to the RCCG worker’s conference. I had attempted to pull out for fear of poor performance in school but I was not allowed to back out. While en route to our destination, the Lord spoke to my brother and told him that he could not go, for He had been warning my brother for a long time. Thus at our first stop my brother bought a bus ticket and went back home, but before leaving he put in his resignation. We experienced many snags along the way. My pastor and our friend were so intent on going to the conference to get a blessing from the General Overseer. We did arrive in at our destination but when we got there I was disappointed by the messages. They were just hot air and vanity about success, anointings and blessings. I was bored and it did nothing for me, it was simply not edifying. I was visibly distressed and had the opportunity to speak with another pastor about my concerns and he tried to convince me that everything was alright, but it didn’t help. The GO made declarations that he could not possibly guarantee. The GO’s wife spoke such things as “Where there is no Gospel there is no abundance” and “Use these offerings for Your glory and bless us in return” In addition they took two offerings back to back. People were singing and dancing with all their might, now I know not the intentions of the heart, but rather I saw it as a bunch of people trying to earn God’s favor so that He would bless them. I would argue that this was what people were doing, not because they loved God but because they wanted blessings. At the same time I would say that many within the movement truly do love the Lord but are sincerely misled.

The worship sessions dragged on for very long periods, it was no longer worship but mindless droning. Usually songs had very repetitive lyrics. Throughout I was doubting whether or not something was wrong. I didn’t know any longer. I kept praying to the Lord that He would let me know, that He would give me a sign, anything. I got my answer on the last day of the conference and it was explosive. An evangelist rebuked the pastors and the congregation saying such things as “You are treating Jesus as a vending machine”, “You get excited about blessings but not about saving souls”. It was at that moment during the rebuke that I realized that God had indeed answered my prayer. At that point I knew that I had to resign and leave RCCG. The congregation and pastors were furious with the evangelist. The truth hurts. I must have been the only one who was relieved and happy, with a smile creeping upon my face. I feared that I was the only one who realized that something was wrong, it was at that moment that I realized that my suspicions were correct. An extremely strange phenomena that I had experienced within WOF was widespread blasphemy. It was not uncommon for one to take the Lord’s name in vain. This was always something that bothered me greatly, for I take it very personally when one takes God’s name in vain. However I am not surprised in the sense that one who demands things from God after Jesus died for our sins likely does not fear nor revere the creator of the universe.

So, I ended up resigning, we had tried to discuss whether or not our church was involved with the Prosperity Gospel. Our pastor was in agreement and we held a church meeting, however he avoided the key concerns that my brother and I had raised and instead he focused the discussion upon the topic of money. He steered clear of what was wrong and straw manned the discussion thus deceiving the many who were in attendance. We had no chance to speak nor express our concerns with the congregation. I lost my trust in our pastor and everything that he said was to be viewed with close scrutiny, I had been deceived once, I did not want to be deceived again. I could no longer listen to him preach. Every time that we spoke to our pastor about our concerns, even if it were a false teaching he would back it up with scripture. He treated us like we were stupid and resorted to ad-hominem attacks, rarely addressing the issues at hand. It was a mess, things were falling apart before our eyes, the rug beneath us had been torn from beneath our feet. We were no longer on solid ground but had completely lost our footing. But it came to a point where we left, we had been so involved with the church that we kind of came out with almost nothing and we had to build it up all over again. I imagine that this is but a fraction of what a Jehovah’s Witness experiences when he is “disfellowshipped”. The whole thing was an awful experience. At the time it was very painful. Yet our previous congregation awaited us. However, there were changes in the leadership, as a result we had to start from square one. Coming out was such relief for our brothers and sisters there, who had realised that we were involved in something, which we should have not been involved with. It turned out that the pastor was praying for us for months to come out and he was very glad to see us come out of it. We had a chance to speak with some more mature Christians which was so refreshing because we love them so dearly and we realized that they were concerned for us too. There were few people we spoke openly and candidly to about our experience. We told them bluntly that it was a prosperity gospel church. It was a time in the wilderness. We had to tear everything down and build up again just like Josiah when he cleansed the temple. Every part of our theology was in question. So we decided to avoid what other people taught and to focus just on God’s word alone. We did not want to come into bondage again nor be misled. We realized how much we had sacrificed. We hadn’t really been helping people nor had we really been evangelizing either. I had become selfish, I was not a good example of a Christian, I had become a hypocrite and self-righteous and I lacked love. I had become a Pharisee. While I feel as if I have lost friends, I was not shunned by friends or family, rather I withdrew myself from them. My experiences within the WOF movement left me disillusioned and upset. When I tried to speak with the pastor and one of my close friends later on, I was treated as if I was confused or under the control of Satan. I was treated as if I were lost and blind when in fact the scales had fallen from my eyes and God had allowed me to see. God had drawn my brother and I out of this cult. I lost community, friends and I even stepped down from a regional Youth Leader position. Truly I gave it up for Christ, it is in times like this that we realize where our loyalties truly lie, are we willing to give up what is convenient to us or are we willing to forsake it all, denying ourselves and carrying our crosses to follow Jesus. Although there was much pain and loss in that season, it has helped my discernment and understanding of the scriptures immensely. It is in times when men fail us that we realize that only one never fails and that is our Lord. I have come out with a watchman type mentality. I have low tolerance for false doctrine and heresy as a result.

We cannot simply gobble up everything that is fed to us, we must carefully examine it to ensure that it contains no poison, we must be good Bereans (Acts 17:10). The deadliest heresies are those which do not stray far from the truth. While many claim we are not to judge, they forget that we are to expose works of darkness. If false teachers are leading people to hell through heresy we must lift up our voices and warn the sheep. There is a significant lack of discernment and as soon as you try to call out a false teacher, you are treated as the bad guy. You are not allowed to warn people. It comes down to what is in written God’s word and what the context is. We cannot afford to eisegete, for this is what causes heresies and can lead us and others to hell. Context is everything. The whole experience has left me with deep scars. Certain words and terms still cause we discomfort. For a time, every time someone spoke about blessings I cringed within, every time someone used a piece of scripture out of context or used an abused piece of scripture I was turned away. In fact I have not fully healed from it, from time to time when one mentions blessings or misuses Jeremiah 29:11 I become thoroughly uncomfortable and whatever they are speaking about must be examined thoroughly.

As RCCG is a Pentecostal church, coming out of the movement I felt drawn more towards cessationism, because of my disillusionment caused by the whole situation. However I am not a cessationist, I do indeed believe that the Holy Spirit still bestows gifts and that God can and does use people to heal the sick. I absolutely despise this cult, it is such a wicked movement, in that one says to God through their actions, salvation is not enough, You owe me what I deserve. Salvation is the greatest gift that sinful man can receive from a Holy God. And yet people have the nerve to demand more from God.

Through my experiences I’ve come to have a bit of a watchman or watchdog personality. I have to be very careful to make sure that eschatology is right, that soteriology and that Christology are right. In other words I truly have a deep appreciation for sound doctrine, for if our key doctrines are off, we are in trouble. As a result of having been in what I would call a cult, my heart now breaks for the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and those that are still stuck in the Word of Faith movement. I didn’t like being misled nor do I want others to misled. Rather I would prefer that those within the cults would come to a saving knowledge of Christ and be born again (John 3:3-8, John 1:10-12). To be made right with God and forgiven of their sin through what Jesus Christ did on Calvary. To not try to please God through legalism nor try to earn salvation through works, for it cannot save them (Galatians 2:16-21), for we cannot earn our salvation, but it is through grace by faith that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Coming out of Word Of Faith I remember the fear and conviction that I experienced at the realisation that my brother and I had fallen right into Satan’s trap and demanded things from God there was no reverence towards Him nor fear of Him. How could there be if one were to demand things from the Creator of the universe, I had treated Him as if He owed me something, yet He had already given me the most wonderful gift, He had borne my sin and died on that Roman cross, was buried and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). He had redeemed me through His own blood and it wasn’t good enough for me. I was saved by trust in Christ and the Gospel. Let this be a warning, never devalue your salvation. At the end of the day, we need to check everything by the word. We need to know what we believe and why. If you are thoroughly familiar with the core doctrines of historical biblical Christianity and have scriptural support for them, it will not be easy to be misled by the cults and false teachers. Ignorance is not an excuse, I dare not be willingly ignorant in matters of core doctrine. You cannot afford to be misled.

At its core the WOF movement is man-centred not Christ-centred.
The doctrines and teachings tickle the ears of the listeners, it is not about “What can I do for GOD?” but rather “What can God do for ME?”

In a sense WOF is a mainstream version of Christian Science, it shares similar concepts. In addition it bears New-Age elements, which is no surprise considering that it originates from the meta-physical cults. WOF also carries elements of animatism.

Here is a short overview of its key doctrines and characteristics:

  • Men are “little gods” as men are created in God’s image. “Proof-texts”: Psalm 82:6 and Genesis 1:27
  • Claims that we can speak things into existence like God. This concept of words is rather similar to the concept of mana, in which an impersonal power is employed to reach one’s ends.
  • Faith is the substance with which we create things.(Faith in this sense is likened to “mana”, which is an impersonal supernatural force, thus in its nature this teaching is closely linked with animatism)
  • The KJV Bible is the preferred Bible, for with it they can back up their bad Theology: Hebrews 11:1-3 (They reason that faith is a substance as per the KJV translation, hence their preference of the KJV), Romans 4:17 (As in WOF Theology, men are “little gods”, they too possess abilities that God possesses)
  • Positive confession causes good things to happen, speaking negatively causes bad things to happen. (This is very similar to the teachings of Christian Science, in which our thoughts influence our surroundings and lives.) “Proof-text”: Proverbs 11:2
  • Stress upon “anointing” and that some are more “anointed”. “Anointing” passes from person to person like mana. The most “anointed” pastor can bestow blessings by laying hands upon other pastors or members of the congregation.
  • The most wealthy, healthy and successful person is the most favoured by God and has the most faith, thus if one is poor, unhealthy or unsuccessful they must have no faith and their salvation is in question.
  • Jesus died spiritually and took upon Himself the nature of Satan on the cross.
  • Jesus was born again in hell, thus becoming the first born again man.
  • God is not sovereign, He has no power on earth unless man permits it. He limited Himself when he gave man dominion over the earth. Adam himself was then tricked out of his dominion over the earth by Satan and thus Satan became the “god” of this world.
  • The death of Jesus at the cross was not merely for the salvation of sinful man, but man regained his dominion through the sacrifice of Christ.
  • Jesus was not unique, in fact anyone could have died on the cross and accomplished what Jesus did.
  • God is a means to an end, our faith forces Him to do what we want. God is a divine butler.
  • People sow “seeds” via sums of money to make deposits into our “heavenly bank account” which comes back in multiplied blessings.
  • Focus upon Old Testament rather than the New Testament.
  • Stress upon necessity of tithing.
  • Offers man health, wealth and success now.
  • Minimization of the sinfulness of man and thus man’s need for salvation.
  • Superstition abounds.
  • Encouragement of materialism and covetousness, the exact opposite of Jesus’ teachings.
  • Contentment is a foreign concept.
  • Lack of teachings on suffering and self-denial.
  • Teachings that Jesus and His disciples were wealthy.
  • Focus on self-improvement.
  • Satan treated as mightier than God.

We can no longer tolerate heresy, but we must contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Doctrine is a life or death matter.. We must know the core doctrines of the historical biblical Christian faith and why we believe what we do, we must be able to defend them with scripture. People expect us to be ignorant, let’s show ourselves approved before God, ready to give every man an answer for the hope that we have. For if we stand on the word of God and His grace, none can topple us. Cling to Christ and defend the faith.

May the Lord keep you,
Eric

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