Wandering Stars: The Paganism of Bethel, Hillsong, and the NAR pt 4

Editors Note: Jeremy Sanders completes his series on the paganism of the NAR. The views of this author are his own and do not represent his employer.

The spirit of ecumenicalism has now encompassed more than just different Christian denominations. Now, many people claiming the title “Christian”, have begun applying it to other religions as well. This heresy is not just confined to the NAR/ prosperity teachers but extends to almost every major denomination, as well as many of the cults. Just last week, Pope Francis went to meet with senior Islamic leaders in Iraq. He has also claimed that being a “good person” means someone will get to heaven, and hence be in the right relation with God. The Mormons teach everyone will eventually get to heaven. Famously, a pastor of Hillsong Church in NYC also seemed to agree with this doctrine.
Can only Christians be in a relationship with God? – Carl Lentz on Oprah – Bing video (Hillsong Pastor saying that non-Christian’s can be in relation with God).  Joel Osteen is another of these teachers. Osteen, who is a Pantheist/ Universalist who dresses up his false doctrine in a Christian veneer, has said that Hindus may get to heaven because they “love God”. (56) Joel Osteen says Hindu’s love God. – YouTube, (56) Joel Osteen Says Jesus Christ is Not the Only Way – YouTube.  Notice, Osteen does not agree that Jesus is certainly the only way to heaven.

              Of course, we know what the Bible says about this subject. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Only through Christ can someone come to God, have a relationship with God, and have eternal life. A true Christian must not be ashamed of the Gospel, because it is our foundation. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

15. Thus far, we have covered fourteen false doctrines taught by the mainstream charismatic movement. All stem from one particular doctrine that is not only taught in charismatic churches, but also in many “Evangelical” churches. It is called Experiential Christianity. The basic concept of this doctrine is that a man’s experiences can be used as a foundation for theology. Going even further, some argue that a person’s experience is just as relevant, if not more so, the Scripture.   

Of course, the Bible warns us not to elevate experience above Scripture. Paul writes to us in 1st Corinthians 4:6, “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” (Emphasis added). The Apostle is teaching that we are not to put a higher value on the words of men than on Scripture.

Paul is not the only Apostle to so warn us. Peter, when describing the Transfiguration of Christ, makes this interesting statement. After describing the Transfiguration as a first-hand witness, he writes, We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.2nd Peter 1:19-21(Emphasis added). Notice that Peter is saying that there is something more certain than personal experience, Scripture! The prophecy (teaching) of God is recorded in Scripture and was recorded by men moved by the Holy Spirit.

Of course, the world is full of people claiming to have some sort of experience. Some of these people are obvious charlatans, while others genuinely believe in their experience. I don’t doubt that these people believe they experienced something, but I do doubt the source of these experiences. Some are natural phenomena misidentified as supernatural. Others are experienced contrived by false teachers to deceive (think the golden glory clouds of Bethel). Still, others are demonic, intent on binding people to a contrived experience to reject God. We have countless examples of “heavenly tourism” where people claim they go to heaven or see Jesus appear in a vision. However, they are almost certainly all untrue. All these stories are contradictory, with individuals often contradicting their own stories, let alone contradicting the stories of others. (56) Trips to Heaven – Justin Peters Heavenly Encounters – YouTube Something is amiss. Furthermore, only three men in Scripture were given a glimpse of heaven. Stephen (Acts 7:55), Paul (2nd Corinthians 12:2-4), and John (Revelation) are the only three.

Furthermore, many people who claim visions, experiences, and the like, preach doctrine derived from these unscriptural experiences. Yet, Paul tells us in Galatians 1:8 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”  Notice that even if an angel preaches any other gospel, we are to stay true to Scripture. We are not to let experience define our faith. This statement raises an interesting question. If God gives visions and experiential events, what is their purpose? If they are from God, that means they should be considered on the same level as Scripture. If so, they must fall into one of two categories; either they are restating something already in Scripture, or they are saying something new. If the former, then what is the purpose? Scripture has already stated it, there is no need for it to be restated. If the latter, then it is adding to Scripture. Of course, we know from numerous Scripture passages, not least Revelation chapter 22, that anyone who adds to Scripture is accursed. “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:” (Revelation 22:18). So then, there is no reason for God to speak in visions, dreams, or experience today. God speaks today through His Word, that is how to hear the voice of God. Those that refer to the “still small voice of God” inside their head are improperly applying Scripture. This phrase is often taken out of context. It comes from the story of Elijah in 1st Kings 19:12, where the prophet hears the “still small voice” of God. Yet, the context of the passage demonstrates the voice was not some inner voice from inside the head of Elijah, but an audible voice heard from outside. “And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?” 1st Kings 19:12-13 (Emphasis added). Notice that Elijah hears the voice from outside the cave, and goes outside to hear the voice again. Context matters when conducting proper exegesis.

Since we have demonstrated the dangers of experiential doctrine, we can not see how it has so corrupted the charismatic movement. Because experience has been elevated on par or above Scripture, and there is no way of verifying the truth of these experiences apart from Scripture, the charismatic movement cannot discount ANY crackpot experience. To do so might be to discount the voice of God, so anything then must be accepted. For this reason, the nature of these experiences only becomes more and more dramatic and extreme. Any person who claims to have heard from God is now considered to be relevant, no matter how crazy the story. Such ideas are not confined to the charismatic movement but have seeped into mainline denominations, evangelicalism, and even fundamentalism. No church is safe from these claims if the underlying doctrine is not dealt with swiftly and with extreme prejudice. This fact is why devotionals such as Jesus Calling by Sarah Young are best sellers and read by people of every denomination.  The author claims to have been moved to write down personal conversations with Christ. As we have demonstrated, such claims are unbiblical, and true Christians should look to her devotion for sound Biblical doctrine. And her claims are mild compared to those of other charismatic teachers who claim to have had a direct revelation from God. Lest we forget, the cults such as Mormonism, are founded upon the idea that we elevate the experiences and words of men to the same level as Scripture. The idea is not new, it has been occurring for the last two thousand years. The Roman Catholic Church is a prime example of the dangers of such beliefs, for they elevate the teachings of their popes to the same level as Scripture. Such practices have led to countless doctrinal errors, ranging from priestly celibacy, works-based salvation, indulgences, etc. The true church must echo the cry of Luther and the Reformers “Sola Scriptura” lest we too fall into such error.

II. Contend for the Faith! The Christian Response to the NAR

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 1:3

The NAR and associated groups are heretical false churches, preaching a false gospel while at the same time dabbling in occultic/ demonic practices. There is no getting past this point. As Christians, we should have nothing to do with such groups. They preach a different gospel, a different Jesus, a different salvation than the Bible. Sadly, many of their doctrines are slowly creeping into the church. Even in evangelical churches, these doctrines are beginning to take a foothold. Not necessarily through these churches’ messages, at least not yet. Few Evangelical churches would permit Bill Johnson, Steven Furtick, or Brian Houston to preach in their pulpits. Yet, they allow music from Bethel, Elevation Worship, Jesus Culture, and Hillsong to be sung by their choirs and congregations. Many of these songs contain watered-down versions of the false doctrine propagated by these false churches. Music is often the window to a church’s soul and is just as important as the message preached from the pulpit. And it is the primary vehicle used by these heretical groups to spread their doctrine and fund their organizations.            As Jude 1:4 tells us, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” These movements are creeping into the church, and they are using their music as the means to crack open the door. As followers of Christ, we are told multiple times throughout Scripture to shun false teachers.

  1. The Call to Discernment

“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” 2nd John 1:7-11 (Emphasis Added).

These verses plainly state that we are not to receive false teachers who preach a false gospel concerning Christ into our homes or to bid them God speed. By allowing NAR organizations access to our church by paying for and singing their music, we are welcoming them into our homes as well as blessing them with funds to further spread their false gospel. By buying their music, the church is being “a partaker of his evil deeds” and supporting the spread of heresy. This fact alone is enough to shun singing their music in church.

Paul also tells us to shun false teachers.  “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Romans 16:17-18 (Emphasis Added)

Paul teaches that those who preach a contrary doctrine are those that cause offense and division in the church. A common charge by the NAR is that critics are causing division, yet we see it is those who preach a contrary doctrine that are truly causing division within the church.  We are to “avoid them” ἐκκλίνω which means to “shun, avoid and go out of the way”. We are to do so because, through their doctrine and speech, they can deceive the hearts of the simple. We see this playing out across the world as the biggest growth in “Christianity” so-called, is the Word of Faith/Charismatic movement.

Of course, we should not be surprised that false doctrine spread like wildfire. Paul warns us that Satan will masquerade as an angel of light, and false apostles will follow his lead. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (2nd Corinthians 11:13-14)

Millions of people are following a different Gospel, and think they are saved. Yet tragically, they will be like the individuals in Matthew 7:22, who cry out Lord, Lord, and point to the supposed miracles they have performed, but who will be told: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:23). Paul tells us to avoid being yoked with an unbeliever because righteousness should not fellowship with darkness, (2 Cor 6:14). As demonstrated, the NAR, Bethel, Hillsong, etc. are filled with false believers and are not Christian. True Christians should not yoke their ministry with these false churches. Galatians 1:6 tells us “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” We must not support false teachers in any fashion, or we are partaking in their deeds. Compromise condemns the sinner to hell and corrupts the believer’s walk with God. Truth and the Gospel are too important to gamble away by presenting songs from known ungodly organizations.

If I could illustrate with a slight absurdity to prove a point, suppose Planned Parenthood produced doctrinally sound Christian music. Would you purchase it and play it in your church? I would have to think not. Why? Now, I am completely opposed to Planned Parenthood and believe the murdering of millions of children is beyond wicked. Yet, I would submit that these false churches are just as bad, if not worse than Planned Parenthood. They are not only sending people down the path to hell, they are doing it in the name of Christianity. And as the third commandment in Exodus 20:7 tells us “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” To take the name of the Lord in vain means to carry His name in vain, claiming acts of ungodliness in the name of the Lord. That is what Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation, Jesus Culture, and the rest of the NAR are doing daily.

How Serious Should Christians View This Issue?

Now, perhaps some might think that the teachings of the NAR, while doctrinally incorrect, are made in good faith, and thus should not be criticized. One might say that perhaps the leadership is not genuine, but certainly, the hundreds of thousands of people involved in these groups are trying to worship God correctly. Even if they are mistaken in the manner of worship, surely God does not reject their worship. After all, how could a loving God reject the worship of someone who may believe they are worshiping Him correctly? Does not 1st Corinthians 12:5-6 tells us, “And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”?

This belief is widespread among many Christian churches and leadership. Many are willing to compromise their doctrine in light of such claims. But is such an attitude Scriptural? The answer is an emphatic NO! The Bible is quite clear, God will not tolerate or accept worship outside the bounds He has prescribed. Scripture is full of examples. Take for instance Cain and Able. One brother’s worship was accepted by the Lord, one’s was not. “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” Genesis 4:3-5.

Both brothers thought they were doing the right thing. Cain thought he could please God through his efforts, offering worship according to his ideas. His worship was sincere, it was done with conviction. Yet, God refused to accept Cain’s worship.

Cain’s example is far from the only example of improper worship being rejected by God. Sometimes such actions can have severe and deadly results. Take for example the story of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron. Both were serving as priests and went to offer worship before the Lord. Sadly, they did so outside of the will of God, with deadly results. “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified…” Leviticus 10:1-3

Because Nadab and Abihu offered “strange fire” to God, they were consumed by God’s holy fire. What is strange fire you ask? Likely fire that came from their own making, not the fire that burned continuously before the tabernacle. It was their own form of worship, outside of the holiness that God demands from our worship. Due to this violation, God adds further guidance to proper worship and provides reasoning for His righteous anger. Leviticus 10:10 “And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;” Worshiping God in an unholy manner, even if done with the best of intentions, is wrong at best, and deadly at worst.

Lest we think these are the only two examples in Scripture, let us remember the story of Uzzah in 2nd Samuel 6:6-7. The Philistines had captured the Ark, but had sent it back to Israel after God poured out his judgment for retaining the Ark. Once David became king, he desired to bring the Ark to the city of David. He sent a group of men to bring back the Ark on a cart. On the way back the cart began to shake, causing the Ark to shake and be in danger of falling from the cart. Uzzah, out of natural and perfectly pure intent, reached out and steadied the Ark with his hand. God immediately struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark. Why? Because touching the ark was against God’s commandments. The proper way to carry the ark was to insert two long wooden poles through slots built into the Ark and have four people bear it on their shoulders. This method was the proper way to honor the vessel that contained the presence of God. However, by putting the Ark on a cart, God was being improperly honored. And while this was not the decision of Uzzah, he was just a follower doing what he was instructed to do by his leadership. And he was killed for his obedience to the king, but disobedience to God.

The New Testament comparison is Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that God is only interested in true worship. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24. God is not interested in false worship. He is not interested in unholy worship that is mixed with idolatry and paganism, no matter how sincere such worship might be practiced. How can we not see the parallel in Bethel and Hillsong? Many in their congregations are following the guidance of their leadership with total sincerity. They are trying to do the right thing and believe they are worshipping God correctly. Yet, their worship is rejected by God because it is unholy. It is not true worship; it is strange fire. It is not a difference in form or administration as mentioned in 1st Corinthians 12. One can have differences in the types of church service, liturgical vs non-liturgical, music vs no music, solos vs choirs, chairs vs pews, denominations vs independents, etc. But administrative and operational differences are not variances in the core doctrine and Biblical prescription for worship. No, this is a difference of holy vs unholy, truth vs error, and quite literally is deadly serious. 

Churches that use music from Bethel and Hillsong are part of this false worship. It is not pleasing to God when otherwise godly churches attempt to bring Him worship with Hillsong and Bethel music. Going back to Leviticus, it would be as if Moses had taken the strange fire created by the sons of Aaron and completed their task. Sure, he would not have been the creator of the strange fire, but he still would have offered it to the Lord. Uzzah was not the one directing the Ark to be carried on a cart and was full of good intentions when he attempted to stabilize the container. Yet, he was struck dead for his actions. His works/worship were not holy. Good works and good intentions do not matter to a God who demands to be worshipped in truth and holiness. We must take care, lest we be deceived like those in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

  • Conclusion

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,” Ephesians 5:15

We have covered a lot of ground, yet barely scratched the surface on this topic. The NAR is a dangerous, heretical, ungodly, occultic group, that is blinding millions of people to the true Gospel, and slowly creeping into the church. The purpose of this article is not to cause division, merely to reveal the dangers of these organizations and cause Christians to grow closer in our walk with Christ.  As Christians, it’s our responsibility to “walk circumspectly” and take a stand against these ungodly movements. Most Christians do not know the severity of the problem and are blindly allowing false teachers to creep into their churches. They are blind in the light, and too apathetic to do anything to confront the issue. May every Christian reading this article prayerfully consider Jude’s charge to “contend for the faith” and take a stand against the heresy invading the church. To contend means taking an active stance, you cannot fight passively. A passive soldier on the battlefield will be slain instantly, causing not only death to himself but opening a hole in the battleline that the enemy can exploit to attack those fellow soldiers depending on their comrade. The church is at a crossroads. Social Justice, Seeker Sensitive, and the NAR have already snuck inside to wreak havoc within the church. Will you take a stand and contend for the faith? Your church and future generations are all looking to you for strength, while your God has already issued the command. What will you do?

Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.

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