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Willow Creek: A False Gospel

June 6, 2016

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:8)

What do you call a gospel that leaves out sin, Hell, judgment, repentance, self-denial, sacrifice, blood and anything else that might offend?

Paul called it a “gospel contrary to what we have preached to you”, or a different gospel.

This is really the bottom line with all false religions like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and many more. It’s also the bottom line with Christian cults like the Catholic Church, Mormonism, The Church of Latter Day Saints (Jehovah Witness), Christian Science, Scientology and hundreds like them.

For instance the Catholic Church says you’re saved by grace, through faith, plus works like infant baptism, first communion, confirmation, confessing to a “father”, praying the rosary for penitence (Mark 12:40), doing good deeds such as giving to the Catholic Church, helping others, praying to dead people like the “saints” and Mary, going to church, etc…

The Bible says we’re saved by grace through faith, not by works, so that no man may boast (Ephesians 2:8), and goes even further to say that “all of our good deeds are like filthy rags to God” (Isaiah 64:6). Catholics are climbing a ladder to God when God’s already come down to us. All this while having no assurance of salvation, because they’ll never experience the transformation the Bible talks about (2 Corinthians 5:17), or know if they’ve done enough or been good enough. It’s a life filled with uncertainty, guilt, shame, and a burdened conscience.

While more subtle than Islam or Mormonism – which both deny that Jesus is God – Catholicism is no less damning because you’re putting your trust and faith in something other than Jesus and His crucifixion. Catholics are putting their faith and trust in the Catholic Church, the Pope (“Holy Father”, Matthew 23:9), tradition, their priest, their unbiblical infant baptism, their good deeds, the amount they pray, give, and go to church, and many other things that steal God’s glory and end up damning people.

It’s very similar to Pharisaical Judaism in that the Jews of that time believed in the Bible, tradition, and the Chief Priest; in the same way the Catholic Church is based on the Bible, tradition, and the Pope. Catholicism in many ways is Pharisaical Judaism with Jesus added. In turn many of the things Jesus said to the Jewish leaders of His time can be said to the leaders of the Catholic Church. In Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus made it clear how he feels about the traditions of men.

After being raised Catholic, and most of my family being saved out of the Catholic church, I know there are moral people in the Catholic Church, and even some born-again Christians. While I don’t believe the Holy Spirit living inside someone will allow a person to stay this deceived for long, I do think it’s required of those who know the truth to warn others publicly as the great men of the reformation did.

The Catholic Church hasn’t gotten better since the reformation, it’s actually added more heresies since people like Martin Luther and John Calvin took their Biblical stand. The question is why are so many Christian pastors leaving our Catholic friends hanging out to dry, instead of being bold like the men they read and talk so much about.

But even more subtle than Catholicism, are false gospels like the Prosperity Gospel, Word of Faith, Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements lead by people like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, T.D Jakes,  Joyce Meyer, Benny Hin, Oral Roberts, Paula White, Fred Prince, Kenneth Kopeland, Joseph Prince, Robert Tilton and many more. Jesus, John The Baptist and most of the other hero’s of the faith, would have been major losers by most of these guys standards (Matthew 3:4, 8:20).

These offer riches on Earth, no different than the Devil himself. They make you into little god’s, telling the unsuspecting that if they have enough faith they can get God to do what they want. If they have enough faith they can manifest what ever they need. God is not a genie in a bottle. After all that God has already done for them, it’s all about getting more, more, more. This selfishness and self-centeredness should be replaced with a desire to bless God and others.

But maybe the subtlest of them all is the Seeker Sensitive movement, lead by organizations like Willow Creek. Again, what do you call a gospel that leaves out sin, Hell, judgment, repentance, self-denial, sacrifice, blood and anything else that might offend? It’s a different gospel, and it’s no less damning than any other false gospel.

It doesn’t matter what these “churches” and “pastors” say in private, or what their websites claim as their beliefs, it’s what’s said from the pulpit. It also isn’t so much about what they say, as what they leave out. The combination of focusing on what’s being preached, and the need to listen to a lot of “messages” (unoffensive speak for sermon) in order to determine what’s being left out, is what makes this false gospel so subtle.

You can listen to a lot of messages and not find anything blatantly wrong, it’s only when you listen to a few months of messages that you start realizing that they don’t believe, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This is also evident by the fact that most services only mention a couple of verses of scripture.

People may have their ears tickled (2 Timothy 4:3-4), emotional experiences and sit in comfy seats and be entertained by multimillion dollar stage shows with “Christian” stars to match, but that’s just emotionalism, sentimentalism, easy believism, cheap grace and entertainment. Organizations like Willow may “baptize” hundreds at a time based on asking them in the heat of the moment, or actually the cool of the water, if they believe in Jesus, but that’s just pastoral malpractice and a false convert generating machine. While I was still attending Willow I remember standing in the crowd a couple feet from the baptism tub, listening and watching while one of my friends got baptized, only to hear the pastor ask the guy ahead of him something like, “Do you believe Jesus is your savior”, the guys said, “I’m getting there”, and under he went.

People running down the aisle while emotional, pseudo Christian music is playing, egged on by the peer pressure of everything happening around them, is not how Jesus or anyone else should seek a profession of faith. It breaks my heart to think of all the genuine people running around thinking they’re saved because they had an emotional experience or were baptized in a frenzy, as I was at Willow. There’s no doubt that some of those people are truly saved going into the baptism service, and even some who get saved at the baptism itself, but that doesn’t excuse the unbiblical process. People are saved at mosques, Mormon services, Buddhist temples and even in the streets high on heroin; but they’re saved in spite of their circumstances because false religion and false teachers can’t stand in the way of God’s sovereign plan.

At the end of the day, it’s powerful, charismatic speakers, telling people what they want to hear; combined with the fact that the danger isn’t exposed unless you’re looking for it and/or exposed to it over a long period of time, that ends up getting people hooked by their smooth and flattering speech. By the time things start to smell fishy, you’ve been buttered up by an unoffensive gospel, possibly have some recognition and friends in the church, are moved emotionally each Sunday by emotionalism and powerful speakers, have talked up the church to your friends and family and don’t want to humbly admit your mistake, pridefully and wrongly think that God’s using you to change the church (Romans 16:17), and potentially misled to think you’re saved, so you just decide to let things slide.

While there are many born again Christians in an organization like Willow Creek, there’s also no doubt that false converts – people who genuinely think they’re saved but are really deceived – make up a great number of the congregation. The reason is the Seeker Sensitive movement never tells them their problem (sin), or what they need to do (repent), or what the consequences are for refusing (Hell). Instead people are made to feel emotional through sentimental music and tear jerking messages, and excited through bright lights, big screens and entertainment, leading many to believe that God’s making them feel that way. This in turn tricks them into feeling as though they’ve been saved.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus tells us that very few people are going to heaven and that the gate and the way is narrow and there are few who find it. He then goes on to say in Matthew 22-23, that many of those who think they’re going to heaven are deceived. Finally in Matthew 22:1-14, He tells the parable of the wedding feast where a guest gets into the party without wedding cloths. Again our Lord is saying there’s a lot of people who look like Christians, hang around Christians, but aren’t Christians (Matthew 13:24-30, John 15:1-6). If you think you’ve been deceived by emotionalism or sentimentalism, follow Paul’s advice and, “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The bible is filled with warnings of false teachers and false prophets, and if you don’t know who they are, if you don’t heed these warnings and test every spirit (1 John 4:1), then you’re probably on the receiving end of their smooth and flattering speech (Romans 16:17-18).

So why does God allow the false religions, teachers and “churches” to flourish? Because they’re His judgement on those who continue to search and desire things He’s not offering. If you want to check a box and climb a ladder to God, He’ll give you over to Islam, Mormonism and Catholicism. If you’re seeking fleshly, exciting, prideful, miraculous signs and wonders like the Pharisees (Matthew 12:39) – which is nothing more than doubt looking for proof – He’ll turn you over to the Charismatic Movement. If you’re desiring riches on Earth and feel good encouraging messages, He’ll give you over to Joel Osteen and the other prosperity false prophets. If you cherish faulty human fairness over divine fairness, like your ears tickled, and love the approval of men, rather than the approval of God (John 12:43), He’ll give you over to churches like Willow Creek. (Psalm 81, Hosea 4:17, Matthew 15:14, Acts 7:42, Acts 14:16, Romans 1:24-32)

If you’re a member of an organization like this, and truly know the Lord; seek and ask Him if you should really continue to lend credibility to this false gospel and in turn these false churches. Should you continue to condone and affirm by your presence what the Apostle Paul tells us to turn away from? Also, if you’re involved in linking arms with these organizations to promote common causes, this should be a moment of pause, prayer and reflection. For instance I believe every Christian should think twice before promoting something like the Global Leadership Summit which is put on by an organization that promotes a different gospel, and invites leaders who promote the murder of the unborn like Bill Clinton (2 John 10-11).

It’s my sincere hope that articles like this, and many others will help people to pause and pray about not only their spiritual condition, but who they’re allowing to feed them.

“It’s not what they say, as much as what they don’t say.” John MacArthur

“There are some people who say they’re saved before they even had a sense they were lost.” Anonymous

Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own appetites, and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. (Romans 16:17-18)

From → Willow Creek

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