Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Examining Biblical Authority

There is no matter more central and critical to spiritual knowledge and understand­ing than the matter of authority. That fact becomes even more apparent when one considers that the very term “Kingdom of God” actually connotes the Domain, Authority, or Government of God (cf., Rev. 12:10). The word, “kingdom,” in fact, is a compound word composed of two derivatives, king and domain, thus it connotes the domain of a king—in this case, the Kingdom of God or Christ. One cannot even begin to have a proper understanding of the realm of the Kingdom of God as well as the genuine Gospel of the Kingdom, which the Gospel writers expressly indicated Jesus preached during His fleshly ministry, without having an understanding of the matter of authority.

Moreover, all true knowledge and understanding concerning authority begins with the most vital and fundamental Truth that God Himself IS Authority—the ultimate authority—and the essence and embodiment of authority, and therefore that all legitimate authority emanates from Him and Him alone. Hence, all authority truly established by God, that is to say, legitimate authority, is authorized by God, and therefore is to be respected and observed.

We live today in an age of virtually ubiquitous iconoclasm. Increasingly, cultures and subcultures of the world are predicated on concepts and attitudes of “dissing” or disrespecting all that is decent, all that is honorable, all that has been traditionally held in high regard, whether it be precepts, principles, or people. Rendering “honor to whom (and what) honor is due” is not only a less and less practiced concept but one that is frequently ridiculed and scorned today. From the interpersonal and societal degradation of the “gangsta” and gang cultures to the personal degradation and mutilation of the tattoo and body-piercings culture, iconoclasm is the new “sport” of the times.

If this wholesale disrespect for the respect-worthy were restricted to the secular world, perhaps this vogue would not be quite so disturbing, but the current vogue practiced by those claiming to be part of Jesus’ Church is that whatever the world is doing, they emulate, in the name of being “relevant” and “reaching out” evangelistically to those of the world. Never mind that the Word of God clearly indicates that the strategy and methodology inspired and approved by the Holy Spirit is precisely the opposite and nowhere advocates an evangelistic strategy predicated on “becoming like ‘em to win ‘em.”

The fact is that the genuine Gospel is still the one modeled by Jesus, who commenced His evangelistic outreach by saying to His first follower, “Come, and follow Me.” He did not say, “I’ll come, and follow you.” When He said, “Come, and follow Me,” He meant, “Come, and become like Me.” As He later explained to the disciples, He came actually to show us the Way to the Father, because, He said, “He who has seen Me, has seen the Father.” In fact, He said, “I AM the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me!” It doesn’t take much extrapolation to see that Jesus and the Word of God is advocating calling people into the “Kingdom Culture”—and there is a culture of the Kingdom of God—out of the cultures or “ways” of the world. That is part of what God is saying wherein He says, “My WAYS are not your ways…as high as the Heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts and My WAYS above your ways.” He means your “ways” of living, that is, your “life-styles” or “cultures.”

In so many of these cultures of the world, a virtually complete absence of self-control and self-discipline prevails, which produces an essentially hedonistic life-style. And, without question that void of self-governance is due primarily to the lack of parental authority that prevails in secular societies today. The unfortunate fact is that the vast majority of those of reproductive age today no next to nothing about this topic we are examining here—authority. And people simply cannot comport with something they know nothing about.

Yet, at the opposite end of the spectrum we have had in the ecclesiastical realm essentially as long as it has existed a leadership paradigm rooted in ascendency, ambition, and aggrandizement that seeks to subjugate, dominate, and control its adherents. Four decades ago, a movement emerged that propagated seeds of error of this genus that were infused into the fabric, foundation, and functions of the Post-Pentecostal church realm in particular. The genus of these seeds was hyper-authoritarianism, the fruit of which was a leadership model that employed mechanisms of psychological enslavement of followers. These erroneous concepts that are still espoused and employed in many Neo-Pentecostal churches today result from a combination of ignorance, misconception, misinforma­tion, disinformation, misapplication, distortion, and in some cases outright perversion of Divine Truth.

Legitimate Authority vs. Illegitimate Authority
As I have already indicated, the Kingdom of God is all about authority—the Authority of God (cf., Rev. 12:10). Therefore, if the Kingdom of God is all about authority, and the Church Jesus is building is all about the Gospel of the Kingdom, then it is unequivocal that the seminal and foundational issue of the Church is—authority.

So, as we move forward in this discussion, the first thing I want to make abundantly clear is that in no way am I saying that there is no valid or effectual authority operable in the Body of Christ and by believers. On the contrary, there is a valid and effectual authority that has been given by God for government in the Church, but the problem is that people misconstrue, distort, pervert, and misapply the principles of authority established by God, and thereby exceed the intents and purposes of valid authority. No other spiritual matter has been so contorted and misapplied as has this matter of authority. Under the auspices of the doctrines that were disseminated during the Discipleship Movement, both leaders and laymen alike have been duped into contravention of the intents of true God‑established authority, and consequently have been both propagators of and participants in various kinds and degrees of perversion of authority, which, due to that perversion, produce—whether deliberately or inadvertently—various forms of “illegitimate authority.”

Some of the most vital and instructive statements contained in the Word of God with regard to legitimate authority juxtaposed to illegitimate authority are found in the Thirteenth Chapter of the Book of Romans. The second part of the first verse states: “...For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom. 13:1b). Implicit in this one statement is four important instructive declarations regarding authority: 1) that there are legitimate governing authorities and authority structures in existence that have been established by God; 2) that the only legitimate authority is the governing bodies and authority structures that have been established by God; 3) that all the legitimate authority structures that do exist are those that have been established by God; and, 4) any governing authorities or authority structures that have been appointed solely by man without a mandate or sanction from God are illegitimate.

Based on this Scripture, it is important, I believe, to identify the different types and levels of authority that exist. Though I don’t purport to be an expert on the matter, and certainly don’t want to come off as if I believe I have the “definitive word” on the matter, after years of study and meditation concerning this vital issue, including of the commentaries of others on the subject, I’ve concluded, and I believe it’s a reasonable conclusion, that there are essentially twelve types and levels of authority that have been established by God. While I would shun dogmatism about this particular conclusion, especially in regard to the number of types of authority, it is, however, interesting that the number twelve is emblematic of government or authority in Scripture. The following is a list of these twelve types and levels of authority established by God, along with a brief explanation of each. These levels of authority are ascend­ingly transcendent, that is to say, they rank in preeminence in ascending order. This means that the higher levels outrank and supersede the lower levels. I’ve listed them in the order of their rank of preeminence. Bear in mind it is not my intent to elaborate on each of them here in this context, but rather only to describe each of them sufficiently to be recognizable in application. Neither do I provide Biblical support for each one in this context, though an abundance of Scripture could be cited validating each one.

1. Sovereign Authority.
The absolute supremacy and sovereignty of the God‑Head over the entire universe; “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth” (Eph. 1:10); the sovereignty of the Creator over the Creation, inherent in every set and inviolable law and principle in the Creation; e.g., the law of gravity, the law of spe­cie‑after‑specie procreation, the law of sowing and reaping, the law of reciprocity (Gen. 1, Jn. 1).

2. Veracious Authority.
The absolute authority of The Truth—The Word of God—codified, contained, canonized, and explicitly expressed in Holy Writ (Scripture) [eg., Jn. 1; 17:17; 1 Tim. 3:16].

3. Volitional Authority.
The human will; the free moral agency of every human; given by God to every human‑being, inherent with the sovereign and inviolable right to self‑government (the right to rule one’s own life), inviolable, that is, as long as the free personal choices of one person do not violate or infringe upon those of another person. God has created every person as an individual, a free moral agent,and given them the right to sovereignty over their own life; i.e., a free will. God Himself will not violate a person’s will or volition (right to choose); thus, He certainly has not consigned such a right to any mere mortal human over another, save in the case of lawlessness.

This type of authority could also be called “personal authority.” It is the inherent authority of every person to govern himself, especially with regard to one’s personal affairs and (lawful) choices according to his own conscience. (It must be understood, however, that in the case of a person who has been Born Again, that person enters into a process of sanctification in which he voluntarily and gradually surrenders His own will unto the Lordship of Christ over every aspect of his life, subjecting his will and life unto the Will and Life of the Lord. The believer’s will is by no means taken away or usurped, but rather, on the contrary, the believer exercises his free will in willingly subjecting himself unto the sovereignty of God and the Lordship of Christ.)

4. Domestic Authority.
Authority within the home; i.e., the husband is the surrogate governmental head under the Headship of Christ over the family. This means the husband is responsible to God for providing spiritual leadership ­ in respect to all familial affairs; he is to provide spiritual leadership unto the wife; and, the parents (husband and wife) together as a unit are responsible for the government (plus, the care and training) of the children.

5. Ecclesiastical Governmental Authority.
Authority delegated by Christ to certain individual believers He has anointed and appointed as Fivefold Ministers, who have the responsibility of providing intermediary government (pilotage, steerage) in local churches and ad hoc judicature with regard to matters universally affecting the Church‑At‑Large.

6. Spiritual Ministerial Authority.
Delegated spiritual authority from Christ to minister His supernatural power in His stead and on His behalf. This authority could also be called “surrogate spiritual power.” This is God‑given authority of believers over Satan and his temptations and devices: sickness, disease, temptation, malevolence, disorder, lawlessness, sin, etc. It is the authority (“exousia”) given by God to believers to operate the gifts of the Spirit. It is also the enable­ment and sanction of God to function in a God‑anointed and God‑appointed spiritual calling or spiritual function.

This also is the “power” (“dunamis”) that Jesus said would inure to the Spirit‑baptized believer after that the Holy Ghost came upon him, by which to operate works of power that give witness of a risen and living Savior (Ac. 1:8), the same power that Jesus Himself had demonstrated in works of power during His fleshly ministry, which He said would be delegated to believers: “he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do” (Jn. 14:12). Having triumphed over sin, death, Hell, and the grave, all power and authority over all things was given unto Jesus; which power, prior to ascending into Heaven and sitting down at the right hand of the Father, He in turn delegated to believers:

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Mat. 28:18);

…therefore, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation....And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will cast off (lit.) serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mk. 16: 15‑18).

7. Civil Authority.
Civil authorities; i.e., secular governments, to include all laws and agencies of same; e.g.: civil laws, courts, Heads‑of‑State, government agencies and officials, law enforce­ment agencies and officers (eg., Rom. 12).

8. Stipulative Authority.
Authority established by means of legally binding contracts and agreements into which separate parties have voluntarily entered, wherein they have agreed to abide by certain specific stipulations governing their relationship.

9. Entrepreneurial Authority.
Authority of entrepreneurs (business owners) to govern the affairs of the business of which they are the owner, or in which they have a vested, majoritive interest; also includes the spectrum of employer‑employee authority.

10. Delegated Authority.
Authority that has been delegated by one person with legitimate authority to another person, with the effect that the latter represents the former. This is a kind of surrogate authority in which one person in authority invests his authority in a subordinate to authorize the latter to effect (operate) the authority of his superior. This kind of authority is usually parochial, or limited to a certain scope and parameters, and ad hoc, in the respect that its jurisdiction is limited to a specified purpose and realm of function. This kind of authority is operable and found in virtually every realm of human endeavor.

11. Functional or Motivational Authority.
Authority inuring to a person by virtue of a particular ability, sphere of function, or talent, whether God‑given (Motivation or Function Gifts [Rom. 12:6‑8]), or acquired through education or training. At times, this type of authority is impromptu and situational, coming into play to meet an arisen need of the moment (e.g., functional authority of a physician happening upon the scene of an auto accident).

12. Customarial Authority.
Customs; societal traditions; cultural ways, methods, manners, practices. This is the lowest level of authority, and is to be honored when it is not contravening of dictates of the preeminent levels of authority.

Narrowing the Focus
As I indicated previously, it is not within the scope of this article to elaborate on each of these twelve types of authority, however, we will direct our focus on three of these types of authority, directly—Delegated Authority, Spiritual Ministerial Authority, and Ecclesiastical Governmental Authority—as well as one other type of authority, tangentially—Civil Authority.

To reiterate something I expressed earlier, all true knowledge and understanding concerning authority begins with the most vital and fundamental Truth that God Himself is Authority, that He is the ultimate authority, and the essence and embodiment of authority, and therefore that all legitimate authority emanates from Him and Him alone. Hence, all authority truly established by God, that is to say, legitimate authority, is sanctioned by God, and therefore is to be honored and observed.

However, conversely, any supposed or purported authority that does not emanate from and has not been established by God is illegitimate authority, and as such has no jurisdiction in regards to bearing the sanctioning of God, is not binding, and bears neither the requirement from God to be observed and honored, nor the punitive sword of retribution for violators. Furthermore, any particular body of even God‑appointed authority that specifically contravenes the Law of God, that is, the Word of God, has in so doing exceeded its God‑ordained jurisdiction, and has thereby effectively unsanc­tioned itself and rendered itself ILLEGITIMATE, thus forfeiting any authority to compel observance and obedience as well as any right to preservation. Such is the case with proponents and practitioners of the hyper-authoritarian Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines which are the focus of this series of articles.

During the many years I spent researching and preparing to write this book, in addition to the thousands of hours I spent in reading the various writings (books, papers, notes, handouts, pamphlets, etc.) of many of the leading proponents and practitioners of the pertinent teachings, I also travelled to and visited scores of churches the Lord led me to in order to hear and witness firsthand the teaching coming from their pulpits and the effect those teachings had upon the listeners. One thing I noted as being quite ironic was that one of the passages of Scripture most frequently cited by the Discipleship teaching proponents as a proof-text for their assertions and theories concerning the ilk of authority they purport is delegated to church leaders is the very text I quoted from earlier—the Thirteenth Chapter of Romans. This text—by their interpretation—has become their “Magna Carta,” of sorts, granting them license to subjugate, predominate, and control other believers who they consider subordinate to them. But, what they fail to understand (or choose to ignore, whichever may be the case) when they so adamantly and vehemently postulate their hypotheses is that the realm of authority specifically alluded to in this chapter, without equivocation, is CIVIL authorities and governing bodies, not ecclesiastical governing authority. This is such a vital distinction that it bears restating in slightly different words for emphasis. While there are indeed certain elements of truth regarding authority in general indirectly reflected in these verses, the realm of authority specifically addressed in the Thirteenth Chapter of Romans is that of SECULAR government, NOT authority within the Church (ecclesiastical authority). Though this undeniable fact is perhaps not explicit in the initial verses of the King James Version, most all of the modern versions do explicitly indicate that it is the CIVIL governing authorities being referenced in this chapter; e.g.:

Everyone ought to obey the CIVIL authorities... (v. 1, PME);

Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (CIVIL) authorities... (v. 1, A.B.);

Everyone must obey the STATE authorities... (TEV).

However, incontrovertible proof that civil authority, not ecclesiastical authority, is being alluded to in this text is found in the sixth verse, which, regardless of what version you read, echoes in so many words essentially what the Amplified Bible says: “For this same reason you pay TAXES, for the [civil authorities] are official servants under God, devoting themselves to attending to this very service.” In case you didn’t catch it, the vital word in this sentence is—TAXES! We pay “taxes” to civil governments to remunerate them for their service on our behalf and to fund the programs and benefits governments provide, not to churches. We pay “tithes” to our church for the support of our ministers, not “taxes.” Thus, we know that it is secular government that is being alluded to in these verses, not any supposed authority of ministers over those “under” them as purported by the Discipleship proponents.

Notwithstanding, as I indicated, there are inherent within this very Roman text a number of crucial truths regarding “legitimate authority” as well. Foremostly, there is an implied distinction between legitimate and illegitimate authority in this passage. The Phillips Modern English version especially highlights this differentiation made in the passage:

Everyone ought to obey the civil authorities, for all LEGITIMATE authority is derived from God’s authority, and the existing authority is appointed under God. To oppose [legitimate] authority then is to oppose God, and such opposition is bound to be punished. (Rom. 13:1,2; brackets added)

Indeed, the overriding issue inherent with the heretical Discipleship teachings and practices we are examining is not whether there is authority in the Body of Christ and among believers, for we have already established that there is, but rather the nature and scope of that authority, and the distinguishing of legitimate authority from illegitimate authority.

Now, as I stated earlier, patently false concepts regarding authority is one of the most fundamental flaws in the heretical Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices that remain the “gold standard” in many Neo-Pentecostal churches. My body of study and research has led me to the conclusion that there are five particular aspects of spiritual authority that are greatly misconstrued and misapplied under the auspices of these erroneous teachings: delegated authority, ministerial authority, church‑governmental authority, “positional authority,” and submission to leaders (this portion was addressed in the article, The False Doctrine of Absolute Submission). In this book, Charismatic Captivation, I examine these twisted and tangled webs of delusion and illusion under the luminous rays of Scripture, separating Truth from lies, fact from fiction, and the legitimate from the illegitimate with regard to these matters relative to authority. (In this article I will address only the matter of delegated authority.)

Delegated Authority
One of the most basic elements of the Discipleship teachings that deviates from Biblical Truth is the matter of "delegated authority." Put another way, error regarding the matter of "delegated authority" is one of the most fundamental elements of error of the Discipleship doctrines. Most assuredly, the principle of the delegated authority of Christ is a valid and vital principle. But, the heart of the issue is: what is the authority that Christ has delegated unto believers? That is to say, what is its nature, composition, scope, and sphere of operation? How is it defined? What is included in this authority, and what is excluded? What are its limitations?

In searching for the answer to these all‑important and pivotal questions, the Word of God, of course, must be our primary and preeminent source. In this regard, as any other, what God says must be the final authority, the definitive statement. "Let God be true, and every man a liar." Neither tradition, nor history, nor the philosophies of men can be our source or guiding light in this regard, but only the Light of perfect and pristine Divine Knowledge and Wisdom.

This matter of authority, the cardinal issue of the ages, because of its profundity, is admittedly a complex matter, not so much perhaps in terms of composition, but rather in explanation and application. As with elucidation of so many other spiritually appraised concepts, words seem to fail the most glib and articulate expositors as they attempt to expound upon the matter of authority. That seems to be the nature of true revelation knowledge from God: it is so profound that in many cases it is nearly impossible to express and explain in human terms, for it is the task of translating the infinite into and unto the finite. Notwithstanding, I have attempted to express as succinctly as possible the essence of the matter as it relates to the focus of this volume, reserving a more comprehensive and detailed exposition of the broader issue of authority and government for another, forthcoming book devoted specifically to that subject.

The issue at hand here is the matter of the authority that Christ has delegated unto believers, its composition and application. Essentially the delegated authority of Christ, according to all that Scripture tells us regarding it, can be distilled down to two forms: one, Spiritual Ministerial Authority, or Spiritual Power, and, two, Ecclesiastical Governmental Authority. Both of these are forms of authority that have indeed been delegated unto the Body of Christ by Christ. However, it is there that the similarities of the two end and their diversities begin. (We will examine these two issues in the next article in this series.)

This article is an excerpt from the book, Charismatic Captivation, by Dr. Steven Lambert. The book exposes the prevalent problem of authoritarian abuse in Neo-Pentecostal churches in particular since the “Shepherding Movement” of the 1970s. The volume spotlights the salient signs and symptoms of authoritarian abuse, dissects the fallacious doctrines behind it, and offers victims clear, concise steps for recovery from the psychological trauma and spiritual damage they experience. It has been praised by scholars, ministers, and layman alike as one of the most convincing as well as comprehensive treatises written to date regarding Neo-Pentecostal authoritarian abuse. The book is available from Amazon.Com, Barnes and Noble, bookstores, or from the publisher, Real Truth Publications on this site.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The False Doctrine of Absolute Submission

At the zenith of the Charismatic Movement in the 1970s, a pseudo-movement that came to be known as the Discipleship or Shepherding Movement emerged. That purely humanly-devised campaign was led by an alliance of five ministers who employed their influence to rapidly proliferate in the emerging Charismatic Church a collection of doctrines related to authority that were patently hyper-authoritarian. In sum, the unscriptural teachings posited and promoted a multi-tiered, pyramid-shaped system of governance that conveniently positioned these five ministers at the apex of the pyramid. Coincidentally or not, the multi-level paradigm these teachers proposed mirrored the multi-level marketing models that were exploding upon the scene across the nation at the time in the business world.

If the claims of the many pundits and preachers who tersely dismiss the whole matter as being a mere relic of the past since rectified and resolved in the Neo-Charismatic Church Age, that would certainly be a glorious outcome of an extremely destructive and disgraceful period in church annals. However, those claimants are galaxies removed from being right. The fact of the matter is that the false doctrines and unbiblical practices the Discipleship proponents fostered were never fully extirpated from the Post-Pentecostal Church, but rather were actually surreptitiously infused into its fabric, foundation, and functions. Much of what the Neo-Charismatic Church espouses concerning church government, local church polity, and Fivefold Ministry functions, as well as a host of other topics, is predicated on the hyper-authoritarian teachings propagated during the Shepherding Movement, which were actually recycled doctrines indigenous to The New Order of the Latter Rain Movement birthed in 1947 in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada, that produced The Manifested Sons of God heresy.

A fundamental and essential tenet of the hyper-authoritarian Discipleship/Shepherding system is a dogma which is best described by the term "absolute submission," in which followers are required to, in effect, surrender their personal will unto the many ascending echelons of leaders in the pyramiding chain‑of‑command, and to obey explicitly and comprehensively the dictates and whims of those many "leaders." Followers are taught that they cannot simply hear from God themselves, but that they must "submit" virtually every matter of importance requiring a decision in their life unto their "leader." They are taught that God requires them to "be in submission," which in hyper-authoritarian cults extrapolates into total obedience and obeisance to the chain of human leaders of their group, and into those leaders making most or many of their decisions for them, whether overtly or by employing subtle manipulation that leads the member to the conclusion to which the leader wants them to arrive.

In these groups, it is quite common for members to be compelled to receive the approval (which is usually spoken of as a "confirmation") of their "leader" with regard to such mundane decisions as major and even minor purchases, going on a trip, visiting with relatives, matters concerning the care and nurturing of children, dating, marriage, relocation, and a host of routine decisions individuals and families must make as a normal course of life. Moreover, it is not uncommon for the member’s "shepherd" to take on the role of de facto advisor and confidant in legal and fiduciary matters, such as estate wills and financial planning, probate, trusts, capital investments and expenditures, and court litigation, even though the "shepherd" is not a professional and has little or no expertise in those fields. Some "shepherds" have even been given power‑of‑attorney to act as a legal agent on behalf of an "underling." Not infrequently, so‑called "shepherds" have used the color of their authority to wrangle their way into being made a beneficiary of estates and death benefits of members as well as interest‑holders in business enterprises in exchange for their "advice."

On this last topic, as somewhat of an aside, allow me to point out that it has become vogue for mega-churches to recruit salaried "estate/trust planners" whose primary goal is to raise funds for the church, which they accomplish by advising and assisting well‑to‑do and usually elderly members to invest their money in a host of fiduciary investment vehicles available today that will produce returns on their money, provide tax shelter, and provide on‑going funds for the church as a living and death beneficiary or assignee. Though these professionals are typically licensed insurance salesmen and securities brokers who often reap additional compensation from commissions paid by the carriers and firms they represent, these churches have the unmitigated gall and lack of integrity to unashamedly anoint them with the title of "pastor" in a thinly veiled attempt to lend additional credibility and confidence to their schemery by giving the impression that the function of these professional money‑makers is spiritual and that their advice has spiritual merit and underpinnings. In my opinion, this is sheer deception and nothing less than a modern‑day, more sophisticated version of money‑changers in the Temple! What makes it especially deplorable, despicable, deceptive, and outrageous to me is that it is all done under the color of spiritual authority.

Absolute submission is an integral and essential element of the Disciple­ship/Shepherding theories and practices. However, it is manifest in varying degrees of covertness and overtness by different groups employing them. At one end of the spectrum are proponents and practitioners of these doctrines who hold to and implement an extreme and dogmatic version of absolute submission to the group’s leadership, which is very manifest in the structure and modus operandi of the group, both publicly and behind‑the‑scenes. At the opposite end of the spectrum, are groups who employ a much more subtle and oblique form of absolute submission, which is deliberately kept out of the public services in order to give the impression of freedom and liberty. It is only manifest in the behind‑the‑scenes aspects, among those who have completed all the requisite indoctrination, initiation, and "proof of loyalty" "tests" prerequisite to them becoming a part of the "inner circle" of leaders and prominent "insiders."

In any case, however, absolute submission is by no means a benign and inconsequen­tial premise, but is an extremely malevolent and destructive mechanism the sole goal of which is unauthorized and ungodly predomination and control. Invariably and inevitably, in the case of those who have accepted the premise of absolute submission as being meritorious, and have integrated it into the structure and operations of their ecclesiasti­cal society, whether it is manifested privately or publicly, it becomes the basis for a demonic and extremely injurious form of "brainwashing" and psychological "conditioning" of the constituency. Multitudes of naive and unsuspecting individuals as well as whole families have been psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually damaged by these very powerful mechanisms of domination‑ and control‑oriented indoctrination. Some have suffered such total spiritual shipwreck and disillusionment that recovery requires the supernatural intervention of God.

Be assured, however, that most hyper-authoritarian groups, from the leaders to the members, will vehemently deny adhering to the premise of "absolute submission" or any of the Discipleship doctrines or practices, for that matter. Moreover, they will adamantly insist that their group does not employ any of the techniques, mechanisms, and methodol­ogies inherent in all such aberrant, cultic and occult theoso­phies.

Because of the disrepute and disfavor into which the Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices as well as their proponents fell in the Seventies, many Discipleship/Shepherding groups, as mentioned in Chapter Two, simply "went underground" with their methodologies, resorting to a more subtle and obscured, "kinder and gentler" modus operandi, disguising their mechanisms, and implementing alternate, less overt terminology. By and by, most Discipleship/Shepherding groups became increasingly more esoteric (a practice expounded upon further in Chapter Eleven), only implementing their methods and mechanisms of domination and control upon new initiates gradually, incrementally as they progressed through the various stages of development in their relationship and status in the group, while redoubling their efforts to give the appearance of liberty in the public services. Before long, the unsuspecting victims are "caught in the web" of religious enslavement, from which, because of the illusive and delusive strands of indoctrination, many will never escape.

Now, though there have been countless truly innocent and unsuspecting victims of this demonically‑inspired system of unauthorized domination and control, there are a significant number of participants who, driven by selfish‑ambition, were actually attracted to it by the allure of becoming so‑called "leaders" within the sphere of a group‑society where they could attain some measure of "authority" that would give license and sanctioning to their innate desire to dominate and control other people.

A now infamous truism attributed to Nineteenth Century English Parliamentarian and historian, Lord Acton, states: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely!" Absolute authority coupled with carnality inevitably produces corruption. Those who crave power and authority over others are operating out of a destructive dementia, which, if not arrested by the Cross of Christ, ends up destroying their own lives as well as the lives of many others. Authority in the hands of those who crave it is the most destructive force known to mankind. It is an historic fact that those selfishly‑ambitious would‑be world‑rulers who craved power and world‑dominion down through the ages, eventually became corrupted and demented by that power, and once having obtained some measure of it, used it not for good purposes and constructive advancement, but for evil and destruction.

All this is why the Lord consigns legitimate authority only unto those who have surrendered their self‑will and who have humbled themselves to comprehensive obedience unto the authority of God. In other words, God grants true authority only unto those who, like the Roman Centurion, are men "under authority"—God’s! The last person to whom God entrusts authority is the person who craves it. God’s Way is to humble the exalted and exalt the humble. He does not entrust authority to those who crave the status of being someone great and first, but those whose genuine desire is to be a servant and a slave of all, following after the example of Jesus, who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:42‑45).

All this is also the reason these absolute authority structures and the dogmas advocating absolute submission to human leaders are unequivocally not of God—because they contravene totally His Word, His Will, and His Ways! Notwithstanding, proponents of the Discipleship doctrines in general and the absolute submission dogma in particular twist and pervert certain passages of Scripture and use them as purported "proof‑texts" by which to corroborate their corrupt and excessive claims that such slavish obeisance to mere mortals is what the Word of God prescribes. Such cases of perversion of Scripture are far too numerous to examine each one here, but just three of the more stellar examples will suffice to make the point.

One of the most frequently quoted texts by the Discipleship proponents pertinent to the matter of absolute submission is Hebrews 13:17, which, for purposes that will soon become clear, I quote here from both the New American Standard and the King James Versions:

Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (NASV)
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch over your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (KJV)

This particular verse is an outstanding example of how the poison of deception is concocted by subtle twists and perversions of otherwise perfectly valid truths by expositors of hyper-authoritarianism. When they teach on this subject, invariably they use these verses as a basis to spin an expository yarn that leads listeners to believe that God is in this verbiage telling believers that they are to be virtual empty‑headed marionettes, walking around like zombies in a catatonic‑trance, automatically and immediately responding in hypnotic‑like total obeisance to every tug on their strings by their leaders. In the case of the extremist proponents of these doctrines, this is not a figurative assessment, but rather precisely what they seem to want out of their followers. As CBN founder Pat Robertson once quipped concerning the band of leaders who started the Discipleship heresy, the only difference between some of them and Jim Jones essentially is the Kool‑Aid.

It is the assignment of corrupt connotations to the key words and phrases of this text that results in their extreme and erroneous extrapolation. The Greek word translated obey, for instance, does not connote a slavish, cowering, cringing‑in‑fear, obeisance and servility, and total subjugation. Rather, it signifies to be "persuadable." The dictionary definition of "persuasion" is the act of causing someone to believe or accept, or to do something by appealing to their sense of reason or understanding; to induce to believe or act; to influence; to convince. Concerning the meaning of this word in this passage, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states: "The obedience suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion" (p. 806).

Additionally, Vines indicates that this Greek word translated obey in many English versions, peitho, is closely related to the word pisteuo, which means to trust, and that the difference in the meanings of the two words is that the peitho (persuasion‑obedi­ence) is produced by pisteuo (trust). In other words, the obedience spoken of here in the original language is more of a willing compliance and cooperation based on persuasion resulting from established trust and confidence.
Hence, the import of what God is saying here is that believers should display an attitude of willing compliance, cooperation, persuadableness, and convincibleness, toward their spiritual leaders, based on the trust those leaders have established with regard to their spirituality, integrity, and wisdom, juxtaposed to the contentious, argumentative, non‑compliant, and uncooperative attitudes some purported believers display toward their leaders.

Beyond all of this, is the overriding point that is being established here, which is that the specter of "absolute authority" vested in an elite cabal of leaders linked together in some humanly‑devised ecclesiastical hierarchy simply and indisputably is not prescribed or supported by Scripture. The only "absolute authority" that exists is the sovereign authority of God Himself. Unredeemed and partially redeemed humans will never be fit to share in that level of Divine Authority.

This article is an excerpt from the book, Charismatic Captivation, by Dr. Steven Lambert. The book exposes the prevalent problem of authoritarian abuse in Neo-Pentecostal churches in particular since the "Shepherding Movement" of the 1970s. The volume spotlights the salient signs and symptoms of authoritarian abuse, dissects the fallacious doctrines behind it, and offers victims clear, concise steps for recovery from the psychological trauma and spiritual damage they experience. It has been praised by scholars, ministers, and layman alike as one of the most convincing as well as comprehensive treatises written to date regarding Neo-Pentecostal authoritarian abuse. The book is available from Amazon.Com, Barnes and Noble, bookstores, or from the publisher, Real Truth Publications.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nicolaitanism In The Neo-Pentecostal Church (Part 2)

In the Revelation He communicated by the Holy Spirit to the Apostle John, Jesus issued a terse but severe warning to the Early Apostolic churches expressed His utter disdain for both the deeds and the doctrines of the Nicolaitans. He commended the Ephesian Church for being in accord with His own hatred for the deeds of the Nicolaitans: “Yet this you do have, that you hate the DEEDS of the Nicolaitans, WHICH I ALSO HATE” (Rev. 2:6). Conversely, the Pergamum Church Jesus condemned for the fact that, "you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans." Further demonstrating His contempt for the Nicolaitan false teaching, He followed this indictment with the command, "Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth."

In short, Nicolaitanism was a heretical hierarchical system of church‑government devised, propagated, and instituted by a corrupt sect of usurpers that surfaced toward the end of the First Century A.D. The teaching of the Nicolaitans was the genesis of the concept that remains yet today in much of Christendom in which an elite class of professional clergy is set in as a hierarchical ecclesiastical government to in effect lord over the laity. The Nicolaitans taught and instituted a form of ecclesiastical hegemony (domination by force by one entity over another) based on a pyramiding, multilevel ascendancy structure comprised of priests, bishops, and cardinals, and so on, all of whom were under complete subjection to a singular religious potentate, who was venerated as the human substantiation of Christ Himself—the Pope. The residual of this system today—still alive and well and revered by millions of adherents—is the Papal System of the Catholic Church.

The Nicolaitan heresy was virtually identical in essence to the Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices propagated by proponents and yet prevalent in the Post-Pentecostal church today. How much more significant that becomes when it is understood that it was primarily these perverse precepts and their propagators that were responsible for plunging the Church into the spiritual “black hole” of the Dark Ages, from which the collective Church is still today in the process of recovery and restoration.

Apostolic Authority Supplanted by the Nicolaitan Doctrines

Jesus’ apocalyptic warning against the doctrine and the deeds of the Nicolaitans is more than just interesting. The truth of the matter is that had the early churches given heed to those Divine warnings, the course of history would have been totally different than what it was, because as mentioned before the demonically inspired teaching and practices of the Nicolaitans resulted ultimately in the Papal system that supplanted the apostolic authority upon which the Church was founded. This, indeed, was not only the most grievous and egregious effect of the Nicolaitan heresy, but no doubt also the very objective of the arch‑enemy of the Church, Satan, who personally contrived this diabolical deception.

In His now infamous dissertation to Peter and the other Apostles of the Lamb, Jesus declared the Church to be His very own possession, His consuming passion, and that He Himself was its Chief architect and builder, when He proclaimed, “I will build My Church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat. 16:18). When contemplating this statement, it is imperative to remember that when Jesus said He would build His Church, He meant He would build His Church through, foremostly, the foundation ministries of apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). Prior to His ascension, Jesus personally selected twelve “disciples” who by His appointment and anointing became “apostles” (Mat. 10:1,2), and relegated to them the task and function of being the chief surrogate builders of His Church. The apostolic precedent He set and never rescinded remains in effect throughout the Church Age. 1 Cor. 12:28 makes this abundantly clear, in that it explicitly states that “God has SET in the CHURCH, first apostles, second prophets,” which means that apostles and prophets are permanently set into Church for as long as the Church exists and remains here upon the Earth, or in other words, for the duration of the Church Age. The term “set” in this passage, it is important to understand, connotes permanence, in the way the term is used to refer to what happens with concrete as it dries—it becomes set.

Further evidence that apostles are the surrogate “builders” of the Church is found in the Apostle Paul’s statement concerning the nature and function of his ministry as an apostle: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise MASTER‑ BUILDER I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it” (1 Cor. 3:10). The term “master‑builder” Paul used is the equivalent of what today is called a “general contractor,” which is the most concise yet comprehensive definition of the ministry of the apostle in the Bible.

A general contractor is the person responsible for building the building precisely according to the predetermined design of the architect represented on the blueprints. The general contractor, while he must himself be skilled and knowledgeable in each and every phase of construction and installation, cannot, for the sake of the successful completion of the overall project, hinder his effective­ness by becoming involved in the actual labor of any of the particular phases of the construction process. Rather, the function of the general contractor is that of coordination, administration, and oversight of the building process. He must see the overall “big picture” and oversee its completion. He must concentrate his efforts solely on organizing and overseeing the work of all the subcontractors and laborers in his charge, selecting and efficiently employing just the right person for each phase of the building process, in order that the building be built in precise accordance with the specifications of the architectural design.

Apostles are spiritual general contractors. What makes them apostles is that they are graced with and can at any time as necessary flow in the full range of the Ministry Gifts. Plus, they have also been anointed with the gift of spiritual (not to be confused with, business) administration. Spiritual administration includes for one thing a supernatural ability to discern by the Spirit the spiritual gifts with which believers have been anointed by God, so as to, on behalf of the Lord, select and appoint the right people to the right spiritual functions and responsibilities. Square pegs in square holes; round pegs in round holes. Apostles also employ the range of Ministry Gifts to train and equip other believers to function in their particular gifts and callings, and to coordinate those efforts in a cohesive and collaborative effort toward the spiritual edification of the Church.

The Church is established “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the Cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19,20). Truth declares unequivocally that the Church Jesus is building is founded upon and will be built up through apostolic authority. The true Church of Jesus can never be established upon any form of government other than apostolic authority. The Church‑Age began with apostolic authority in place, and apostolic authority will be in place at its culmination. Moreover, it will only be when the Church returns to apostolic authority and foundation that genuinely significant spiritual advancements will be made.

The natural nemesis of that apostolic authority has always been, and will always be humanly contrived and appointed, politically‑based, hierarchical systems of ecclesiastical government. Supplant­ing of the apostolic authority and government established by Jesus was a primary factor precipitating the Church’s gradual descent into the throes of deception and apostasy that transpired in the Dark Ages. Abrogation of apostolic authority in favor of politico-ecclesio hierarchy led to the virtual debacle of the Church as the instrument for implementation of Divine purpose, reducing it instead to being an agent of demonically‑inspired humanistic purposes. No other single element was more causal to the deterio­ration of the Church during its corporate apostasy than this supplanting of apostolic authority.

Similarity of Nicolaitan and Discipleship Heresies

So much more could be said with regard to the imperative­ness of apostolic authority in the Church today, but space here will not permit. The point I am establishing here is that the teaching and practices of the Nicolaitans and the modern Discipleship teachings and practices are virtually identical. It is an indisputable fact that the Nicolaitan heresy was the primary force leading to the supplanting of apostolic authority in the Early Church, which in turn ultimately led to the corporate apostasy of the Dark Ages. So also the heretical Discipleship/Shepherding teachings advocate a counterfeit authority system that in effect supplants apostolic authority. The similarity is just too striking to be merely ironic or coincidental. Rather, it is my confident conviction that the Nicolaitan doctrines were planted by Satan in the Early Church to supplant and effect the abrogation of apostolic authority, and in identical fashion the Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines were implanted by Satan in the Last Day Church with the express intent to supplant apostolic authority, and impede, or if possible, preclude, the restoration of same. In the case of the latter, however, Satan’s efforts, in the end, will not be successful, for apostolic authority will indeed be restored to the Church.

We are told through the writing of Solomon that in reality there is nothing that is truly “new”:
That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new?” Already it has existed for ages which were before us. (Ecc. 1:9,10)
And so it also is with the unscriptural hypotheses brought forth in the heretical Discipleship doctrines. They are virtually identical to those propagated by the Nicolaitans, which, as I have said repeatedly, was the seed from which the fallacious hierarchy of the universal Roman church was germinated.

The reason for the similarity lies squarely in the fact that these doctrines were not merely contrived in the minds of men. Rather, they genuinely are “doctrines of demons” of the sort prophesied by the Apostle Paul in his letter to his younger protégé Timothy (1 Tim. 4:1ff). He foretold that in the last days there would arise patently demonic but subtle and impelling doctrines of deception that would actually be propagated by lying, deceiving spirits through the agency of human teachers. These false teachings would be so subtle and impelling that many genuine and sincere believers would be duped by and give heed to them, with the result that bona fide believers will fall away from a true relationship and rightstand­ing with God into apostasy and perdition.

Indeed, this egregiously erroneous Discipleship/Shepherding teaching, I am absolutely persuaded, is a doctrine of this sort. It is contrived by the devil himself and propagated by his fallen cohorts, demons, with the objective of craftily leading unsuspecting believers into spiritually idolatrous and adulterous covenants with mere men, and away from effectual relationship and rightstanding with God. As I have been establishing, these doctrines and practices are essentially the same age‑old attempts by Satan to captivate and control people through the mythical utopian bliss of religious collectivism: “promising them freedom while they (Satan and his cohorts) are the slaves of corruption” (2 Pet. 2:19, parenthesis added by the author).

Are We Heading Toward Another Corporate Apostasy?

Jesus' apocalyptic warning against the doctrine and the deeds of the Nicolaitans is more than just interesting. The truth of the matter is that, had the early churches given heed to those Divine warnings, the course of Church history would have been totally different than what it was, because as mentioned before the demonically inspired teaching and practices of the Nicolaitans resulted ultimately in the Papal system that supplanted the apostolic authority upon which the Church was founded and consequently ended up in apostasy. This, indeed, was not only the most grievous and egregious effect of the Nicolaitan heresy, but no doubt also the very objective of the arch-enemy of the Church, Satan, who personally contrived this diabolical deception.

The question before the Church today is: will we allow ourselves to be taken into the error and resulting apostasy that was the fate of the Pergamum Church by continuing on this path of displacement of apostolic authority by a Scripturally-invalid system of government and authority, i.e., “bishops,” and the rest that comes after that, or shall we cease and desist from that trend and opt instead to return to the apostolic-prophetic foundation so that indeed “the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the former (Hag 2:9)?”

The harlot Worldwide Universal Church, will not cease and desist from that path, but will follow it to the end—in the name of ecumenicism, ally with all the “religions” of the world (true Christianity is not a religion and is the only faith that will be excluded from the alliance) and align under the Roman Papal System, recognizing the Pope as the supreme spiritual potentate and the transubstantiation of Christ. Sadly, the Spirit tells me that huge blocks of even the Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal Church, led by their false, self-appointed “bishops,” will ultimately depart from the true Church Jesus is building and ally with the apostate Antichrist universal church, taking multitudes of their adherents with them, in fulfillment of the Spirit’s prediction set forth in First Timothy 4:1,2.

[Editiorial Note: Astoundingly, around the start of this year, 2003, many months after the writing of the above prophetic paragraph, upon mentioning it to a minister-friend, she became exercised in the Spirit and related to me an event transpiring a few months prior in which a friend had accompanied a large contingent of Charismatic "bishops" on a "missionary" travel tour the main purpose of which was a prearranged official Papal audience at the Vatican at which each bishop genuflected and kissed the Pope's ring, and he in turn blessed each one.]

Which Church Will You Be A Part Of?

As sad and distressing as that is, the most important question of all to you, the reader, and to every believer is: Which church will you be a part of—the one whose ultimate architect is the arch-enemy of God, which will be led by the false prophet in alliance with the Antichrist, or the End-time Remnant Church that Jesus is building, whose Architect is God, and is led by the Conquering Christ, the Champion of our salvation?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nicolaitanism In The Neo-Pentecostal Church (Part 1)

One of the common denominators of false cults, false religions, and the occult is that their doctrines and practices are predicated upon the “isms” of vain, humanly invented philosophies. The same is true of the heretical hyper-authoritarian Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines, dogmas, and practices that were infused into the fabric and foundation of the Neo-Pentecostal church, which fact is further corroboration that they are all of the aforementioned characterization: cultic, false, and occult. One of the most significant “isms” of the Discipleship heresy is one that is specifically mentioned and condemned in the Bible—Nicolaitanism.

In short, Nicolaitanism was a heretical hierarchical system of church‑government devised, propagated, and instituted by a corrupt sect of usurpers that surfaced toward the end of the First Century A.D. The malevolent and ignoble objectives of these interlopers are succinctly reflected in the etymology of their name—Nicolaitans—a compound Greek word, comprised of two components. The first component is derived from the word “nikao,” which means, to conquer. The derivation of the second compound is the word “laos,” which refers to the laity, a term used in the days of the Early Apostolic Church to allude to congregational believers who are not Fivefold Ministers or a part of the governmental presbytery of a church. Combined, these two components precisely convey the overall primary goal of the Nicolaitans, which was to conquer the laity.

It is not clear whether this appellation was an overtly defiant choice by these tyrannical ecclesiastical usurpers themselves, or whether they were so named by their opponents. What is abundantly clear from history, however, is that the demonic doctrines and practices devised and propagated by this corrupt corps of clerics were deadly weeds of false teaching virtually identical to that being touted by the Discipleship proponents of today. It is also evident that, because those deadly weeds were not vigorously opposed and extirpated, but were instead permitted to spread through the Church, eventually the hyper-authoritarian Nicolaitan doctrines and deeds led to the hierarchical system of the Roman Catholic Church that took the Church into 1,200 long years of spiritual deterioration and devastation.

The teaching of the Nicolaitans was the genesis of the concept that remains yet today in much of Christendom in which an elite class of professional clergy is set in as a hierarchical ecclesiastical government to in effect lord over the laity. The Nicolaitans taught and instituted a form of ecclesiastical hegemony (domination by force by one entity over another) based on a pyramiding, multilevel ascendancy structure comprised of priests, bishops, and cardinals, and so on, all of whom were under complete subjection to a singular religious potentate, who was venerated as the human substantiation of Christ Himself—the Pope. The residual of this system today—still alive and well and revered by millions of adherents—is the Papal System of the Catholic Church.

The Nicolaitan heresy was virtually identical in essence, as I said, to the Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices propagated by proponents and yet prevalent in the Post-Pentecostal church today. How much more significant that becomes when it is understood that it was primarily these perverse precepts and their propagators that were responsible for plunging the Church into the spiritual “black hole” of the Dark Ages, from which the collective Church is still today in the process of recovery and restoration.

The Dark Ages (313—1517 A.D.) was the period of the Great Apostasy for the collective Church, an occurrence prophesied by the Apostle Paul when he wrote:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will FALL AWAY FROM THE FAITH paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron (1 Tim. 4:1,2).
During this age of spiritual darkness, the Truth was subverted by humanistic ideologies and vain philosophies (Col. 2:8)—the “doctrines of demons” of which Paul forewarned. Eventually, nearly every remnant of Divine Truth, the foundational teachings upon which the Church had been originally established, was distorted, debauched, diluted, degraded, abrogated, and abandoned.

The prominent and preeminent role of the Nicolaitans in this cataclysmic and precipitous descent into comprehensive spiritual apostasy dramatically depicts the catastrophic consequences that ensue when false teachers are not exposed and their false teaching extirpated with finality. It is for this very reason that the Word of God warns, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (Gal. 5:9). It’s also the reason the Lord mandates: “Clean out the old leaven (false teaching), that you may be a new lump,” and “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves,” in order that we might “celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and TRUTH” (1 Cor. 5:7,13,8).

Jesus’ Disdain for the Nicolaitan Deeds and Doctrines

Considering the eventual denouement and consequences of the Nicolaitan heresy, it is little wonder why Jesus issued such a terse but severe warning to the Early Apostolic churches through the Apostle John regarding the Nicolaitans in the apocalyptic vision comprising the book of Revelation. It is in His commendation to the church of Ephesus in which Jesus expresses His utter disdain for the premise of such ecclesiastical predomination as that proposed and propagated by the Nicolaitans: “Yet this you do have, that you hate the DEEDS of the Nicolaitans, WHICH I ALSO HATE” (Rev. 2:6).

Jesus’ commendation of the Ephesians for recognizing the hereticalness of the ungodly teaching and practices of the Nicolaitans, and their consequential resistance and rejection of the false doctrine, is a tribute to the Apostle Paul who founded the church, to Timothy, who Paul personally tutored and sent to be their chief elder, and to all the other Fivefold ministers who contributed toward the spiritual development of the Ephesians. They had been so well taught that they were not deceived by men who came to them claiming falsely to be apostles (Rev. 2:2), nor did they succumb to the demonic doctrines and deeds of the Nicolaitans.

In His commendation of the Ephesians, Jesus indicates His hatred for the Nicolaitans’ deeds, which was an allusion to the practices of unauthorized, oppressive domination that were engendered by the heretical doctrines espoused and propagated by them. However, in His condemnation of another of the Asia Minor churches He addressed in the apocalyptic vision conveyed to the Apostle John while on Patmos, Jesus’ expressed His utter disdain of the doctrine, or teaching, of the Nicolaitans, “Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching (doctrine) of the Nicolaitans” (Rev. 2:15).

Jesus’ Condemnation of the Pergamum Church For Accepting the Nicolaitan Heresy

Though the Ephesian church was not taken in by the hypothesizing and attempted hijacking by the Nicolaitans, unfortunately, this was not the case with another of the seven Asia Minor churches explicitly addressed by Jesus in the Revelation communicated through John—the Pergamum church. Jesus sharply condemned the Pergamum church because “some” among them (some of which apparently were among the leadership of the church, else it could not have existed in the church long) had indeed been deceived into accepting and espousing the teaching and practices of the Nicolaitans: “Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching (doctrine) of the Nicolaitans” (Rev. 2:15).

The Nicolaitan heresy was not the only deception by which the Pergamum believers had been bewitched, however. For, Jesus also rebuked them because some of their membership also espoused some other form of false teaching leading to some form of idolatry and immorality that the Lord said was akin to the teaching of the prophet Balaam:
But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. (Rev. 2:14)
The Pergamum Principle: Proclivity To Deception

Apparently, the Pergamum church had become especially vulnerable to false teaching. Like many groups today, they seem to have even developed a proclivity to deception, a tendency toward being duped by false teaching. As it is also today, it seems that once a group has begun to receive false teaching, an invisible door in the spirit realm is opened, making them susceptible to additional false teaching and delusion of many different kinds. I have found this to be true in my experience in dealing with different groups and churches. Usually, where there is one erroneous doctrine being espoused, there are many different deceptions. Indeed, the culture of some Charismatic churches is a virtual cornucopia of false teaching and what can only be characterized as a fair of folklore and mysticism. I call this proclivity to deception, “The Pergamum Principle.”

Why is this so, and why do some individuals and groups seem to be especially vulnerable to deception, while others are able to resist it and stay on track doctrinally and directionally?

I believe the Lord has shown me the answer to that question. It is revealed in a portion of Scripture where perhaps we would not expect to find the answer, a passage dealing with five main elements—the Second Coming of Christ, the Rapture, the Day of the Lord, the Last‑day Apostasy, and the revelation of the Anti-christ:
...with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him (the Rapture), that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.... And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed.... that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, [displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders {NIV}], and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason, GOD WILL SEND UPON THEM A DELUDING INFLUENCE (PROCLIVITY TO DECEPTION) SO THAT THEY MIGHT BELIEVE WHAT IS FALSE [THE LIE {margin}], in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness (lawlessness). (1 Thes. 2:2‑12, parenthetical explanations added by the author)
What the Spirit is revealing in this passage is that there will be a period right before the return of Christ, the Rapture of the Church, and the revelation of the Antichrist, in which many ostensible believers will fall away in their relationship with Christ due to a “deluding influence” or “proclivity to deception” that the text explicitly states God Himself (as hard as it may be for some who insist on maintaining a humanistic view of God to believe) “will send upon them.” This deluding influence will have the effect of causing certain believers to believe lies, false teaching, deception, and to be duped by counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders perpetrated by Satan himself during that time through counterfeit messengers (ministers) who will arise in the Church falsely claiming to be apostles:
...false apostles, deceitful workers, who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan disguises himself as an angel (Greek words for “angel” and “apostle” are synonymous) of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants (“ministers,” Greek) also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds. (2 Cor. 11:13‑15)
This grave consequence will, according to the text, be directly linked to the workings of the “mystery of lawlessness” that is “already at work” to some degree, though presently restrained from full manifestation by the presence of the Church on the Earth until such time as the Church is taken out of the way (raptured) at the return of Christ. That is to say, those who will become susceptible to deception during this time of apostasy will become so because they have continued to maintain some degree of enamorment and involvement with some forms of “lawlessness.” Instead of fully receiving and believing the whole Truth, and allowing their lives and attitudes to be fully exposed by the Light of Divine Truth, such marginal believers will continue to revel in the dark shadows of deception.

Love of the Truth Produces True Salvation

Moreover, this text indicates that the true essence of the problem lied in the fact that “they did not receive the LOVE of the Truth so as to be SAVED.” Unless and until a person acquires a genuine LOVE for the Word of God, which is the expression of Divine Truth, he will never be able to fully receive and believe its content in his heart, and thereby make a complete repentance leading unto salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). Indeed, verse ten of our text indicates that these people never did become fully “saved” in their hearts, though they no doubt would vehemently contend otherwise.

Having made such a statement, I need to digress for a moment in order to explain. This word “saved” that appears in this verse, is based on the Greek word “sozo,” which means to make whole, to restore, to effect recovery, in addition to also carrying the connotation, to make holy. Based on this, it becomes clear that through the years since the waning days of the Early Apostolic Church many have espoused a far different connotation of this familiar term “saved,” which is so basic to fundamental orthodoxy, than the meaning intended by the Holy Spirit in the no less than 108 occurrences in its various forms in the New Testament.

The fact is, being “saved,” in the true Biblical sense, has little if anything to do with “having a home in Heaven” as so many modern expositors have so vociferously, adamantly, and repeatedly purported it does. Being saved, in the sense intended by the Holy Spirit, is a matter of being “sanctified,” that is, being made holy; it is being restored to the place of holiness and righteousness possessed by Adam before the fall; it is being made whole—spirit, soul, and body (1 Thes. 5:19)—in accordance with the Image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), the Image according to which Man was originally created (Gen. 1:26,27). Being “sozo‑ed” is to be made “wholly holy” as well as “wholly whole.”

In reality then, the matter of “having a home in Heaven,” or more appropriately and importantly, having rightstanding and fellowship with God, according to true Biblical orthodoxy, is dependent upon our submission to the process of being made holy, that is sanctification, which is precisely what the Spirit has said—“without holiness, no man will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14, KJV). Conversely, being saved is not so much predicated on “walking the aisle,” “shaking the preachers hand,” or parroting some verbatim profession of faith, as purported by so many, though it may indeed all begin that way. So many people focus on the start of salvation, that is, being “Born Again” (though, certainly that is essential), instead of the really crucial matter—the finish. The winners of a race are determined at the finish, not the start. Aside from the obvious fact that to finish a race, one must start the race, the beginning is not the determining factor in regard to the final outcome of a race. The outcome of a race is not determined by who started, but who finishes. It is not the starting of the race that is most consequential once the determination to enter the race is made, but rather finishing the race without having been disqualified (1 Cor. 9:24‑27).

Similarly, the essential matter of salvation is not the matter of being born but the matter of dying. The matter of being born, whether in the natural or the spiritual, we had absolutely nothing to do with. In both the natural and the spiritual, our birth was a matter of the workings of God, which transpired totally without any contribution from ourselves. Contrary to the so‑called “testimonies” of some who would take credit for their salvation, the Bible says we were “Born Again through...the living and abiding Word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23), and that it was by grace through faith we were saved, and even that was not of ourselves or of our own works, but was the gift of God, so that no one can rightfully boast regarding his own salvation (Eph. 2:8,9).

Moreover, as I indicated, true salvation is not based on our birth, but on our dying. We must “die daily” to self and sin, crucifying the evil passions and desires of the sin nature that lurks within us (Gal. 5:24). The paradox of the gospel is that if we die, we live, eternally. For the believer, dying is living. This process of dying is sanctification, the process of being made holy, and “without holiness, no man will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14, KJV).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spiritual Idolatry

Though the term is a fairly familiar one within the context of the church and Christianity, few people really understand what spiritual idolatry is, meaning its true nature. In this article we are going to consider the matter of spiritual idolatry and what it is from a Biblical standpoint.

To merely call idolatry "sin," though it certainly is, somehow seems an extreme understatement, for it is the ultimate affront unto God. Yet, arguably, it is the most pervasive sin of all today among professing believers. Contributing to the prevalence of idolatry within Christendom, no doubt, is the common perception by many that idolatry is something that occurs only in underdeveloped, far-away, foreign lands, or that it is something relegated mostly to ancient civilizations of past ages, while nothing could be further from the truth.

In Galatians 5:20, the Apostle Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit listed "idolatry" as one of the fundamental elements of evil comprising the carnal nature, or sin nature, which actually is the nature of the devil himself, and which is also alluded to as the "spirit of disobedience" — the "spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). So, in other words, because the carnal nature is common to every human, idolatry, then, is a basic tendency of every person ever born.

In simplistic terms, idolatry is making something or someone that to which we look to bring happiness, peace, fulfillment, contentment, and all the things only God is supposed to provide us, which in essence is the definition of a false god.

To put it another way, idolatry is fashioning and forming false gods, or idols, out of one's own vain imaginations. Indeed, idols are really always imaginary, existing solely in the human mind and thoughts. Again by inspiration of the Spirit, in another place, Paul states categorically that those possessing true Spiritual knowledge and understanding "know that there is no such thing as an idol (false god), and that there is no God but one" (1 Cor. 8:4). False gods are false because they really do not exist, except in the mind of the idolater.

Idolatry in actuality then is merely the product of human thinking, manufactured in the factory of the human mind. It is the act of creating an abstract god within the deep, dark void of human reasoning. At bottom, all idolatry is "mind-idolatry," for it is primarily in the mind that all idolatry exists. In a nutshell, the basis of idolatry is what I refer to as "stinkin' thinkin'."

Moreover, the ilk of idolatry which bona fide believers are most guilty of committing even routinely, though unwittingly, is the idolatry of holding to false and contrived ideas about God that in fact are wholly incongruous with what He Himself has revealed in His Word concerning His Divine Nature, Will, and Ways. When it is all distilled down, idolatry is the ultimate form of arrogance and self-righteousness, for it supplants God and His Word, Will, and Way, and puts in His place a false, humanly formed and fashioned god, one made in our own image and after our own likeness, to affirm and hallow our own humanly contrived ideas and concepts. Thus, idolatry, in my view, is the ultimate offense that the human heart can commit against a Holy and Sovereign God.

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), who was the pastor of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Toronto and Chicago, for a number of years was also editor of the CMA's official organ, Alliance Weekly, as well as a prolific author of books. His spiritual acumen was so highly regarded by his colleagues that many esteemed him a twentieth-century prophet. Despite all his prodigious achievements, he was perhaps best known for his personal intimacy with God, and his book, The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper & Row), was a collection of some of his most outstanding messages related to knowing God in personal intimacy. So profound and insightful are his comments regarding the subject of idolatry, as well as exquisitely and eloquently articulated, that they could scarcely be improved upon, making direct quotation the only fitting means of conveyance. The following are excerpts of his commentary, the chronology of which I have taken the liberty of rearranging in order to better serve our purposes here:

"Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it."
"The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. 'When they knew God,' wrote Paul, 'they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.'"
"Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is — in itself a monstrous sin — and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness."
"A god begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God."
"Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true."
"Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it."

All false doctrine is, in essence, an assemblage of "wrong ideas about God" and "perverted notions about God," as Tozer put it. How profound and Scriptural is his statement: "Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous," for "polluted waters" is a metaphor evoked in Scripture to represent false teaching. Indeed, false teaching is by no means, as some seem to believe, a harmless or inconsequential phenomenon, but rather polluted waters can be lethal, both in the natural and the spiritual. False teaching, which in essence is substituting human ideas and sophistry for the absolute Truth of God's Mind, in fact IS idolatry.

Idolatry and false teaching are synonymous terms. Idolatry always has associated with it some form of false teaching, and false teaching is always an ilk of idolatry. As Tozer so brilliantly articulated it: "The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true." In other words, the person engaging in idolatry simply contrives his own doctrine concerning spiritual matters and the composition of "truth," and conducts his life based on those determinations even though they are not congruous with the real Truth which emanates from and is defined by God as Truth in His Word.

Over the course of Church history, change within the Church has been a slow—at times agonizingly slow—process. Despite the great strides the Church has made since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in 1517 A.D. in ridding false teaching, more yet remains. And false doctrine is far from being the innocuous matter it is viewed as being by many professing believers today. The 21st Century Church needs to accept the responsibility incumbent upon it to point out and repudiate false doctrine of whatever sort and wherever it may be found, for truly false doctrine inherently is spiritual idolatry of the highest order.

[Original Post Date on Real Truth Digest E-zine: 10/15/99]

[Note: This article is adapted from the book, CHARISMATIC CAPTIVATION, by Steven Lambert. The book exposes the widespread problem of authoritarian abuse in Neo-Pentecostal church-groups, and explains how it became infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church arising out of a false movement known as the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement (1970-77). References to "Discipleship" or "Shepherding" (and variables) doctrines, teachings, proponents and participants, and so forth, allude to those pertinences that arose out of that movement.]

Charismatic CaptivationGet Print Book or Ebook (Immediate Download)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Curse Of Unauthorized Covenants

For over thirty years, I have been doing all the Lord has allowed, anointed, and enabled me to do to set captives of spiritual authoritarian abuse free from the bonds of witchcraft, or the "yoke of slavery," in which they are ensnared.

In the last few years, the Lord has kindled a fire in my belly for the State of Florida in particular. Not only to do what I can to set the captives residing in this State free, but also to be used of the Lord to ignite prophesied fires of revival and refinement in the humanly nicknamed "Sunshine State," but Heavenly named, "Sonshine State."

Florida is an apostolic state, in that the apostolic anointing and function is a "first-in" anointing and function (1 Cor. 12:28) — a forerunner, pioneering, breakthrough anointing. Virtually all the original famed explorers' forays into the New World were along Florida's then surreal sand-covered beaches. Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, is accredited with the original discovery, in 1513, of the pristine paradisal peninsula, which is encompassed on three sides by the immense waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The lush flora and foliage pervading it partially influenced the awed adventurer's naming of the newly found land.

Further demonstrating the State's apostolic roots, though it is not been widely chronicled, a number of critical conflicts, conflagrations, and events precipitating the colonization and early establishment of America occurred here in Florida.

Florida is a proverbial "Fort Knox," financially speaking, because much of the world's wealthiest and most influential people reside in or hold properties or interests somewhere in the pearled peninsula. For multiple consecutive years, the sparse, exclusive enclaves of Jupiter/Hutchison Islands have been ascribed the wealthiest per household hamlets in America. The unimaginable dense concentration of mammon represented in the State of necessity then comprises a lion share of the "wealth of the wicked" God declares is stored up for the righteous of the End-times Church Jesus is building that is required to finance the final great global in-gathering of souls.

For these reasons and much more that cannot be addressed in this article, one of the most ferocious pitched battles between Heaven and Hell is over the 60,000 total square miles of land mass comprising the State of Florida, but more importantly, over the some 18 million souls who inhabit it. Numerous profound and portentous prophecies by prominent voices foretelling major moves of the Spirit of God have been trumpeted during the 20th and now early part of the 21st Centuries. What some have purported to be a "Prophetic Movement," which was a precursor of the subsequent "Apostolic Movement," was launched from the panhandle of Florida, where one of the most significant modern protracted outbreaks of the Spirit, the "Brownsville Revival," also occurred. The sleepy Central Florida town of Lakeland was the somewhat unlikely host of the so-called "River, or Laughing Revival" in the early 1990s through the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne and the aegis of Carpenter's Home Church, itself a significant phenomenon, burgeoning as it did into a multi-thousand-member super-church over the span of two decades in the late 1900s under the leadership of Karl Strader. (Albeit, the fruit of the "River Revival" in the hosting AG church was not lasting, but rather experienced in its aftermath dwindling attendance and ultimately a complete debacle as a consequence of a series of scandals, leadership failures, and dubious circumstances, climaxing in the forced selling of 10,000 seat facility.) Similar growth bursts transpired during that same span in a number of other Florida locales as well. Still today, Florida is graced with a number of mega-, super-, and large Neo-Pentecostal churches that are offshoots of the spectrum of spiritual streams flowing in the State over the last three or four decades.

Unfortunately, however, as an apostolic State, the master-deceiver, the "prince of the power of the air," has also in times past hijacked the spiritual air-currents of the fair State whose name is also partially derived from the Spanish word for Easter, for propagation of some of his most diabolical and damaging handiworks of deception — "winds of doctrine," i.e., false movements founded on "doctrines of demons" — in modern church history. One of the most prominent of those false movements was the Discipleship or Shepherding Movement of the 1970s, spawned in the South Florida coastal town of Fort Lauderdale. The deviant doctrines dispersed through that false movement eventually permeated the fabric, foundation, and functions of the Charismatic Movement, ultimately effecting its derailment and demise, as well as the defilement of its myriad of spiritual offspring (believers, churches, ministries) with the spiritually decimating disease of hyper-authoritarianism.

From today's vantage point, it is clear that the effect of that spiritual plague was of epidemic proportions. Veritable spiritual genocide has transpired as a result. Not just in Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal but denominational and non-Charismatic consortia as well. None of the present streams of the Spirit — i.e., spirit-oriented churches, groups, ministries, and networks — are unaffected by it. The constant stream of communications and counseling requests to my office over three decades by victims of authoritarian abuse demonstrate the validity of these assertions. The streams that are supposed to make glad the City of God (the church Jesus is building) [Ps. 46:4] have been polluted by it and instead made the Church sad. Vast portions of the Body of Christ reel in the downward spiritual spiral of witchcraft! It's almost as if the events initiated by the sounding of the Third Angel's trumpet of Revelation 8:10,11, wherein a great star named Wormwood — "fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters....and a third of the waters became wormwood; and many men died (spiritually) from the waters, because they were made bitter" — has some latent application.

What is the answer? I believe the answer is inherent in a prophetic word the Lord gave me in July 2004. It tenders the key that unlocks the chains of bondage in which God's people who are called to be "Sons of God" as opposed to "slaves of men." The false teaching of illegitimate authoritarianism has brought curses upon the Body of Christ that must be reversed in order for the people of God to possess their inheritance. This past week the Lord dropped this phrase into my spirit, "Poised to Possess!" I believe the Spirit is saying the Church is "poised to possess" the Promise Land, but like the Israelites, they must be delivered out of the tyranny of spiritual Pharaohs that are holding them in bondage in order to possess it. The Body of Christ at large, and to some degree the Church of Florida more so than any other, is in serious crisis! Yet, sadly the majority of believers are thoroughly brainwashed and thus hoodwinked to the horrific state of affairs that pervades the Church.

As I write, my spirit is exceedingly sorrowful and grieved. But I have been at this prophetic thing long enough to know that it is not really me that is sorrowful and grieved, but rather God. Really, when you stop and think about it, what is it to me? Why would I, as just another person, care about these matters? No, I'm seeing and sensing what God sees and senses. Prophets are "seers." They see things; often things others do not or cannot see, at that time. Oftentimes others will not see the things a prophet sees until like Elisha with his servant, the prophet prays that God open the eyes of the blind so that they can see what he sees. But prophets are also "sensers" they sense things that others do not sense — often the heart or feelings of God (yes, God has feelings). I know without any equivocation that what I am seeing and feeling in my spirit is what God sees and is feeling. This is not a Steven thing, this is a Spirit thing!

One of the objectives of the Spirit of the Lord and anointing that was upon Him, which is likewise the anointing under which every true minister on His behalf operates, Jesus stated was/is to "set the captives free" (Lk. 4:18,19). The Holy Spirit commanded through the Apostle Paul, "It was for FREEDOM that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject AGAIN to a YOKE OF SLAVERY" (Gal. 5:1)! Jesus declared, "He whom the Son sets free is FREE indeed" (Jn. 8:36)! He also said that true disciples of His, who abide in His Word, will be SET FREE by the Truth that they KNOW (Jn. 8:31,32)! It is clear from just a few snippets of Scripture such as these and the preponderance of Old Testament chronicles concerning the people of God as well that God is intensely desirous of His people being FREE of ALL kinds of bondage, no matter what it may be! GOD WANTS HIS PEOPLE FREE! Free to be HIS! He is a jealous God who, above all else, wants us to be free to belong to Him, and Him alone!

Satan himself, the original rebel and defector from God, is the master-taskmaster! He is the arch-megalomaniac who is absolutely possessed with the altogether foolish figment of conquering and controlling God's entire Creation, and enslaving the crown jewel of that Creation — mankind. Yet, the most succinct expression by the Holy Spirit in the Word of God of the purpose of the Son of God's manifestation and visitation is "that He might DESTROY THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL" (1 Jn. 3:8). Essentially, "the works of the devil" are invisible chains of captivity to the rebellion against God that the devil himself originated. God wants you free from his bondage.

My spirit cries out to the Body of Christ today: BE FREE FROM THE CAPTIVITY OF SATAN AND SIN, INCLUDING THE SIN OF IDOLATRY AND SPIRITUAL ADULTERY! I implore you to hear the voice of the Lord crying out in the wilderness today! Pray and ask God if you have sinned and brought a curse upon your life by entering into unauthorized covenants.

Father, I pray now, in the name of Your Son, whom you sent to set the captives free, that you open the eyes of your people, to see the yoke of bondage that they have been under, and that you set them free from it today! I give you praise, honor, and glory, for hearing my prayer and doing it! Amen!

After reading this prophetic word, if you have not already read my book, Charismatic Captivation, I strongly urge you to order your copy today and read it, in order to be set free from "the yoke of slavery" to illegitimate human mediators. You may read more about the book and order it from our website at: http://www.slm.org/pubs/index.html. I also urge you to take a look at my recommended reading list for victims or suspected victims of spiritual abuse that you can order through Amazon.Com.

The Curse of Unauthorized Covenants
By Steven Lambert, ThD (7/7/04)

One of the last books Derek Prince authored prior to his recent death was Blessings and Curses (Revised version, 2003; Chosen Books, Grand Rapids Michigan).

It has been well-documented how that in the 1970s Prince had been one of the originators of what became known as the Discipleship or Shepherding Movement. To his credit, however, when the doctrines associated with that movement were challenged by numerous prominent church leaders, the highly-respected Bible teacher was the first to publicly acknowledge that the teachings were erroneous, recant them, repent, and ask fellow believers for forgiveness from the spiritual harm he had been instrumental in wreaking upon the Body of Christ.

In Blessings and Curses (p. 46) [emphasis and bracketed comments added], Prince writes:

In Exodus 23:32-33 God warned Israel about the idolatrous nations whose land they were about to enter: "Do not make a COVENANT with them or with their gods...The worship of their gods will CERTAINLY be a SNARE to YOU." If you make a solemn agreement with people who are under the power of evil forces, you come under that same power.... As Christians, we are all in a covenant relationship with the Lord and the ONLY other valid covenant is that of marriage between a husband and wife. Covenants are very powerful, and to enter into a covenant relationship on any other basis but these can be extremely dangerous. If it is a scriptural covenant [which the author states are only those between a believer and the Lord, and between a husband and wife], its effect will be a blessing. But, if it is unscriptural, its effect will be a CURSE. Solomon offers an urgent word of counsel in Proverbs 6:4-5 to anyone who has made a pledge or vow binding them to an evil ASSOCIATION:
Allow no sleep to your eyes,
No slumber to your eyelids.
Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
Like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

What you have said with your own lips [unscriptural/unauthorized pledges, oaths, covenants] only YOU can unsay. At the same time, get rid of any articles associated with the ungodly covenant. It is best to do this in the presence of Christian witnesses who can support you with their faith.

It is clear in Scripture that human covenants, pledges, and oaths other than the only two that are authorized by Scripture (marriage and God's with believers) subject the participating parties to curses that bear the potential for great harm and grave danger.

Contrary to the adage quoted even by occultists, Jesus did not teach that the truth itself will automatically set you free. Rather, He taught that it was the truth that we KNOW — the truth that lives (abides) in us and that we live in — that will set us free (cf, John 8:31,32). Indeed, the Word of God is literally filled with Kingdom Truths that bear unfettered power to liberate all who will accept and apply them to their lives, yet that glorious result cannot occur until we first KNOW those Truths. It is incumbent upon every believer who comes into this knowledge and understanding regarding illegitimate covenants to immediately repent and renounce every such improper covenant, and replace it with a confession of the two appropriate covenants, in order to "free yourself" from the "hand of the hunter" and "the snare of the fowler" — for improper covenants make us captives to the hunter and make our lives ensnared by the fowler, (Satan) who has the authority to fowl everything in our lives that is unprotected as the result of our removing ourselves from the protective covering of God through improper spiritual covenants and associations made with humans, which produce enslavement (Rom. 6:16).

Ungodly human covenants of improper submission to men, as postulated by the erroneous Shepherding doctrines, have brought the State of Florida under a curse — from the Southeast coast to the Northeast extremities of the panhandle. Let every preacher and believer first "free" his or her self from these covenants of enslavement and the curses they bring upon the participants, then preach, proclaim, and declare the message of freedom and liberty to fellow believers, and thereby deliver ourselves and the church of Florida that Jesus is building from the scourge of the curse!

When the scourge of this self-imposed curse is finally removed, we will begin to see God's hand of favor and approval released upon the church of Florida, and the fulfillment of the many prophesies predicting an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit and God's Glory upon the coastlines of the State![end]

The following is an excerpted section from Chapter Two, The Movement Goes Underground, from my book, Charismatic Captivation, first published in 1996, which proffered back then more warnings concerning the dangers of unauthorized and unscriptural "covenant relationships," and traces the roots of the concept to the Discpleship/Sheperding controversy that emerged in the mid-1970s.

However, what has transpired over the course of time is that in order to avoid the adverse effects of controversy, the majority of Discipleship proponents and practitioners have gone "underground," so to speak, employing less overt and less conspicuous methods and means of propagation, cloaking and camouflaging their operations behind more subtle and euphemistic, cryptic language.

For example, the extreme concepts initially referred to as concepts of "pastoring" are now termed "shepherding" principles. To give it a more sophisticated and sanctimonious ring, the obsequious relationship between the subjugated (the sheep) and their subjugator (the shepherd) now is called "covenant relationships." These "relationships" (if you accept that appellation) in many groups espousing Discipleship/Shepherdship/Covenant doctrines and employing variations of the practices advocated under that teaching are actually codified in the form of a "Covenant Agreement" signed by the subjugated in which the subjugated pledges his eternal oath of allegiance and unquestioned obedience and obeisance, along with his financial support, of course, to his "shepherd." Usually, this "covenant" requirement is a matter which is not addressed openly in the public meetings, but is introduced "in private" to attendees who have been around long enough to have become fully indoctrinated with the group's ways and teachings, and to have become psychologically dependent on the group (more on this and other psychological mechanisms employed by Discipleship groups later).

Allow me to say in passing that to me, oaths such as these bear little dissimilarity to the secret oaths and pledges required of initiates into secret societies such as the Free Masons, Ku Klux Klan, and the La Cosa Nostra (Italian Mafia), which essentially bind the inductee to that group for life, or in other words, "Til death do us part." In fact, it has been my experience in dealing with hundreds of people in deliverance from demonic powers that the pledge taken by inductees into these secret societies is precisely the same in terms of the spiritual impact it induces as those taken by members of Discipleship/Shepherding/Covenant cults (as we shall discuss later, this is precisely what these groups are — cults). A plethora of spirits of bondage, witchcraft, and idolatry saunter right through the door willfully opened by the person who enters into such demonic "covenants" of allegiance to men. Additionally, terribly debilitating and subversive satanic soul-ties are formed with the individuals with whom they have "covenanted." But, in actuality, the spiritual dynamic that is being instigated in the unseen spiritual realm when a person "covenants" with another human being in this manner, agreeing to subject himself to a mere human rather than unto the Lord Jesus Christ, is a pact of idolatry, because, spiritually speaking, wittingly or unwittingly, the subjugant has in essence pledged to submit his human will to his subjugator. In effect, the subjugant has just become the willing slave of his subjugator, for the Spirit says, "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are SLAVES of the one whom you obey" (Rom. 6:16).

The ultimate result of such a "pax idolatrus" is that that person has in actuality made the pact, not with that leader, but with demons, for in reality there is no such a thing as an idol, but the idolatrous homage rendered unto "idols," whether they be human or inanimate is "sacrifice to demons, and not to God" (1 Cor. 10:19-22). In other words, anyone who makes a spiritual covenant with anyone other than God, covenants with demons, whether they intend to or not, for "You cannot drink the cup of (fellowship with) the Lord and the cup of (fellowship with) demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons" (Ibid, v. 21, parenthesis added by author). If you do so covenant and so partake of fellowship with idols (other gods), or demons, you "provoke the Lord to jealousy" (Ibid, v. 22). Thus, in actuality this "covenanting" business and paying homage to human leaders is tantamount to pagan demon worship. The Bible explicitly constrains us against making such "covenants" with anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It specifically commands, "Do not become slaves of men" (1 Cor. 7:23).

Dear Friend, if the Holy Spirit is convicting you of ungodly human covenants of improper submission to men such as what are addressed in this word, I urge you to "Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids" until you "FREE YOURSELF, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler" by renouncing all such ungodly covenants and thereby break the self-imposed bondages and curses over your life. Repeat the following simple prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, my eyes have been opened to the error of these improper covenants I have made with men in ignorance, and sense the inner conviction of the Spirit regarding them. I ask you to forgive me of my sin and error. I want to FREE MYSELF from the witchcraft resulting from those false oaths, pledges, and covenants right now. So, in the Name of Jesus Christ, the Name above every name, I now renounce those covenants I made and demand by the Spirit of the Lord that the illegitimate yoke of slavery that has been upon me now lift off of me! I am now free of all false burdens and responsibilities, and free to serve YOU as my Lord. Thank you, Jesus!

[Original Post Date on Prophetic Perspective E-zine: 11/19/2005]