Warning Signs of Bewitchment

Churches can get derailed. Congregations that start off as vibrant, Spirit-filled, and Word-centred can easily become fossilised, man-centered and worldly. The Galatian Church is a perfect example of this. In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul wondered how they had so quickly deserted from a gospel of grace to one of works:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

(Gal 1:6)

We can glean from Paul’s astonishment that he least expected the congregation at Galatia to deviate from the right path. In chapter three, he wonders,

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal. 3:1-3).

Paul so laboured to preach the gospel to these Christians in such a vivid manner that he believed it was akin to they being eyewitnesses to the crucifixion of the Saviour. Through his preaching of the gospel and work of the Holy Spirit, the Galatian church was born. Shortly after his departure (Gal. 1:6), these folks had come under the spell of false teachers.  Throughout the epistle, Paul provides strong reasons why the assembly at Galatia should return to the true gospel. He counters the falsehood that was being peddled by those who were troubling them and distorting the gospel.

 There are many parallels of the Galatian situation today.  The good news is, we have the benefit of hindsight from the Scriptures to detect falsehood before it gets out of hand.  The truth is, bewitchment and deception don’t happen in an instant. They usually start in insipid ways that may be too subtle to detect. Nonetheless, they cast a shadow or warning lights before them. This article points to three warning signs of bewitchment that every Christian should look out for.

Dear Christian, check it if:

The Gospel Is Not Preached.

The Bible is clear that the problem of man is sin. This is the diagnosis, and the cure is salvation; not motivation, nor renovation or anything else for that matter.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

(Romans 3:23-25a)

The New Testament is careful to stress that the person of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection is absolutely; that is, the gospel, is essential to salvation. There’s no salvation without Jesus, his literal death and his literal, bodily resurrection. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then we are to be most pitied of all people (1Cor 15:14). The finished work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection deserves unparalleled emphasis from every Christian pulpit. Remove that, says Paul, and your preaching is vain, and your faith is equally futile.

The amber lights should begin to flash whenever we notice that the cross is emphasised less and less from the pulpit, and in its place, messages that emphasise how good we are and how deserving we are of God’s (material) blessing are a constant feature.

The Pastor Claims An Exclusive New Revelation from God Apart from Scripture.

God has graciously revealed all we are to know from Him in Scripture. The Scriptural revelation is complete and intended for all God’s people. What we need is to be taught to interpret it accurately, the Grace to understand, and to submit to it. Whenever someone says “God revealed this to me” what people usually hear is, “you can’t challenge this, he got it from God Himself!” So, you will find that for fear of being labeled as going against God, many people will not question anything their pastor claims to have been revealed to them by God.

Scripture alone is inspired, infallible and represents the totality of God’s revelation. Everything else must be measured against this. It is the one objective standard for living here on earth. Everything must be subjected to its searching glance. And if anything goes contrary to its most Holy teachings, we ought to throw it out. No matter how wonderful our spiritual experiences may be, we must not elevate them above the Scripture. We submit to the Scriptural revelation and that alone; they are sufficient.  They alone cannot be broken (John 10:35).  To add to it is to take from it, and we’ll answer to God on the last day.

Paul told Timothy, “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (2Tim. 1:14) By which he meant, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2Tim. 2:2).

Every faithful church merely repeats the same old truths which were passed down from the Lord to the Apostles, and from the Apostles onward to us via the Bible.

The Pastor Regularly Shares His Opinion  Rather Than Expounding Scripture.

If you can’t see that the points the Pastor makes actually come from the Bible, your faith will end up resting on a man and not on God’s word.

The central theme of God’s Word is His Son, from Genesis to Revelation. You cannot preach the Bible and ignore Him. Every preacher who is worth his salt needs to center his exposition of Scriptures on Christ. Because if you claim to have a ‘revelation’ from the Bible, but you don’t have Christ at the center of your messages, then you have lighted upon another thing, not the revelation of God, and you may well write your own Bible.

The apostolic pattern is to share less and less of our own opinions and divert all attention to the gospel. Paul said, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (2Corinthians 2:2). Preachers need to preach Him who called them, lest they disqualify themselves—because “it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1Cor. 4:2).

 

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