GRACE UNDER FIRE
6/16/12 at 04:50 PM 5 Comments

Is it a Cult? Strange Manifestations in 'Christian' Circles and Sozo, from God or not? Feathers in Church? Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Redding California

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"...for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14)  

When I first heard of Bethel Church years ago (when someone was urging me to join), it was simply a small organization (claiming to be a Christian "church") in northern California. Now, its influence has grown worldwide. Its influence, along with "sozo" (a mystical, new age practice), has expanded to Russia, the UK, Australia and beyond. It is part of the nefarious NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) which has ties to a few conservative politicians. The leaders of NAR, like Rick Joyner, are rather militant and threaten to wipe out Christian denominations, creating one denomination (under their leadership, of course). Jesus said to "beware the yeast of the Pharisees". The Pharisees were an ancient sect of Judaism who were very lax and liberal (as opposed to strict and conservative) when it came to written Scripture and Bible interpretation, nullifying God's words while adding on their own clever and deceptive twists, rules and "traditions of men" (see Mark 7:13). They went "off the map" of truth and put their twisted interpretations onto others. Jesus had a problem with that. Like yeast in bread, a little yeast (lies/error/false teaching) spreads and can do a whole lot of damage. Likewise, the teachings coming out of Bethel Church have spread and are now harmful on an international level. I get emails from around the world from people (the ones from the grandmothers and mothers are the most heart-wrenching) who have lost family members to this cultic sect (or, should I say cult?).

In chapter 12 of When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California writes:

I have seen the small gems that suddenly appeared in the people's hands as they worshipped God. Since early in 1998, we have had feathers fall in our meetings. At first I thought birds were getting into our air conditioning ducts, but then they started falling in other rooms of the church not connected with the same ductwork. They now fall most anywhere we go - airports, homes, restaurants, offices and the like...He [God] wants to take us farther, and we can only get there by following signs. Our present understanding of scripture can only take us so far. (Page 204,205)

Johnson erroneously convinces people that these signs are from God and the Holy Spirit and our present understanding of scripture cannot take us far enough, and people eat up this nonsense. I (and multitudes of others) find this disturbing (and also a bit comical). On the same pages, he says that (uncontrolled) laughter, gold dust, oil and a cloud (appearing in the church building) are also signs of God's presence. He further explains in the same chapter that these signs and manifestations "are simple indicators of God's presence and purpose". He calls these signs God's "personal notes" to us. He clearly links these signs to our holy God and the Holy Spirit.

Is this correct? Most people who use their intellects would see through this garbage. Sadly, many drink up the Kool-Aid that Bethel Church is serving up. In scripture, believers are commanded to be scrutinizing (not blindly accepting) by putting what they see and hear to the test instead of accepting a teaching, sign or wonder right away, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).

Are all signs from God? Clearly scripture teaches that the apostles did signs and wonders. God is still powerful just like He was back then: "And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders done among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch" (Acts 5:12). He can do anything.

However, scripture also contains warnings about being duped and following fake signs and wonders: "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him" (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).

Johnson preaches this about Jesus: "He laid his divinity aside" (When Heaven Invades Earth; chapter 7; page 110). How's that for a giant whopper? Johnson also preaches that Jesus did His miracles as a man and not as God. Remember in John 10:30 when Jesus said, "I and the Father are one"? What about the immaculate conception and the virgin birth? That was divine, so Jesus had to be divine since conception, even before that - and forever for that matter! In an article from Charisma Magazine dated February 23, 2012, Johnson wrote: "While Jesus is eternally God, He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man...it’s vital to note that He did all His miracles as a man, not as God. If He did them as God, I would still be impressed. But because He did them as a man yielded to God, I am now unsatisfied with my life, being compelled to follow the example He has given us. Jesus is the only model for us to follow". The "proof" text he gives is Philippians 2:7 (which does not state that Christ's divine nature ceased, but basically that Jesus humbly became a servant despite His divinity).

In the same paragraph from When Heaven Invades Earth, Johnson explains that Jesus was "powerless" as well (in addition to being a non-divine man): "The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb (powerless)".

Is this the Jesus you know? This is indeed the tactic of the cults: to elevate man in man's "divinity" and to lower Jesus in His divinity (attempting to take away from it). This is an ongoing public debate. Do a quick "Google search" and see all the websites which expose this "church" as a dangerous cult or cultic sect.

Jesus walked on water. Was that powerless and done as a mere man with an anointing? Was He non-divine during His incarnation? Or, both divine and human in nature? Wasn't the real Jesus divine and human at the same time?

Is this the same Jesus of the Bible that is preached here - a Jesus who was a non-divine man? I personally believe that Jesus was and is always divine in nature and never ceased to be divine in nature and one with God (because God is divine) for a split second. Divinity is part of the very nature of Christ and cannot be changed by a group of deceptive people in a norther California town who are, oddly, putting gold glitter from Michael's craft store in their air ducts in an effort to trick people into thinking it's a "sign". Divinity cannot be laid aside or stopped. I am human in nature, and I cannot lay that aside. Jesus was and always will be divine in nature, so how could He lay His divine nature aside as He has always been divine, Godhead and deity forever?

Interestingly, there are no records of feathers falling on the early Christians in the Bible, though this is an occurence happening in occultic religions and practices. According to a new age ministry called Krysalis Training Academy, which supports the Dalai Lama, psychic practices, reiki, new age spiritual healing, hypnotherapy, eastern meditation, shamanism, wicca, mysticism and more - feathers are indeed a sign:

Angels often send us little reminders of their presence as angel feathers, which are small white feathers. These seem to appear from nowhere when we are down and in need of comfort. I remember sitting in a café, watching the rain falling on the pavement outside and feeling blue. Suddenly, a small white feather floated down in front of me and landed on my table. I smiled, knowing the angels were around me, with their comforting presence.

Feathers falling, from God or not? As we see here, feathers do appear as signs from other spirits of the occult.

The Apostle Paul spoke in 2 Corinthians 11:4 on "another Jesus" and "another spirit". Could this be?

Another peculiar manifestation in professed Christian circles these days are uncontrolled animal behaviors/sounds, hysterical uncontrolled laughing and drunkenness. Bill Johnson endorses John and Carol Arnott (Catch the Fire Ministries and Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship) on his own website's friend list (see this list and all the ministries he has not turned away from; Romans 16:17). In fact, Johnson and the Arnott's are together having an upcoming conference in the UK in August 2012 called the Revival Alliance Conference. The Arnott's promote jungle and barnyard animal sounds as a manifestation from the Holy Spirit on their official website. Interestingly, we do not see any apostles being "overcome" by a lack of self-control with animals behaviors/sounds in the entire history of Christianity nor from our plumbline, the Word of God (remember, self-control is the fruit of the Spirit, not a loss of self-control; see Galatians 5:22).

According to the same occultic ministry mentioned above, animal sounds are characteristic of spirits of shamanism.

The Arnott's, friends of Johnson, explain:

The Toronto Blessing is a transferable anointing. In its most visible form it overcomes worshippers with outbreaks of laughter, weeping, groaning, shaking, falling, 'drunkenness,' and even behaviours that have been described as a 'cross between a jungle and a farmyard.' Of greater significance, however, are the changed lives.

Bill Johnson attributes these manifestations to the Holy Spirit when he states:

Our new list includes falling, shaking, laughing, etc...we must learn to recognize his move by recognizing his presence. (When Heaven Invades Earth; chapter 12; page 205)

The Apostle Paul said that if all spoke in tongues and an unbeliever walked in, they would think everyone was crazy (and turn around and walk right out!). "So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?" (1 Corinthians 14:23; NIV). Are these manifestations from God? If you walked into a church and one or more people were barking uncontrollably like a dog, hissing like a snake, moo-ing like a cow, or jumping around like a monkey, would you stay to hear the message? To most individuals, this is rather obvious cult activity, but the truth is that multitudes are being led astray and swept away into this abberant movement. What would God say about this? What about the Apostle Paul? Some things to ponder.

The Apostle Paul said, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:12-17).

Have you ever looked up the Greek meaning for seducers ('imposters')? This word is translated from the Greek word "góēs". Here is how the HELPS Word-studies defines the word 'imposter':

Originally, a sorcerer (in ancient Greek literature); in New Testament times, 1114 (góēs) is a swindler – a shameless cheat pretending to use supernatural power; an actor (cheap imposter), looking for self-gain, i.e. posing to be someone he isn't. "A charlatan", used only in 2 Tim 3:13, refers to a seducer (properly, a wailer) – a fraud who "sounds off" like a whining enchanter. This person uses their verbal spells and incantations to give the (false) impression they can do miracles.

Are these signs and wonders from the real Jesus and the real Holy Spirit? Or is this another Jesus and another spirit bringing "lying signs and wonders" as prophesied? What do you think?

The Intellect

It is important to note that Johnson uses demeaning statements about the intellect (that is, using the God-given intellect/brain), from a section of his book entitled Following Your Leader Off the Map: "Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of the scriptures enjoy a false sense of security" (When Heaven Invades Earth, chapter 6, p.105). He also says, "to follow Him [the spirit], we must be willing to follow off the map - to go beyond what we know". In the very next sentence, Johnson again speaks negatively of the intellect: "The Church has all too often lived according to an intellectual approach to the Scriptures, void of the Holy Spirit's influence".

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Holy Spirit wrote the scriptures. He is the very author who inspired the writing. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21). Furthermore, scripture encourages the importance of being smart and discerning: "Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding" (Proverbs 23:23). Proverbs is a great book to read about the importance of getting Godly wisdom into one's mind (from the scriptures). "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).

God never asks us to "check our brains at the door". What these teachers are doing is a clever manipulation tactic: attempting to disarm and brainwash the minds of people by getting them to lay aside their brain power, discernment and intellect, and sadly, they are successful at this. This is called mind-control, of course, and getting people to doubt their discernment. Also, the Holy Spirit does work with our minds (Romans 12:2), for the scriptures even say that He "re-minds" us of things: "But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). To remember is to use the mind. Don't think for a minute that God does not want you to use your brain, mind or God-given intellect and discernment (1 John 4:1). Christianity is an intelligent religion, not a blind faith.

Johnson also explains in the same chapter that Christ is not part of Jesus's name (his last name): "Christ is not Jesus' last name. The word Christ means 'Anointed One' or 'Messiah'. It is a title that points to an experience. It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from Heaven to earth with a title. He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired".

The problem with this teaching is that even an angel of the Lord called Jesus "Christ" approximately thirty whole years before His water baptism (clearly, making it a part of His title). Because Christ means Messiah, and Jesus was and is always the Messiah, He had that title before age thirty. Remember Luke 2:10,11 says, "Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord'". Keep in mind, Jesus was only a baby at this point, long before His water baptism experience ('the smearing', as Johnson describes), yet the mighty angel of the Lord calls Him..."Christ the Lord"!

"Therefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).

Johnson explains, "the word anointing means 'to smear'. The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism. The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit".

1 John 4:1-3 says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world."

Christ came in the flesh, even before his anointing at age thirty. Jesus is the Messiah (Christ), and was the Messiah even as a kid. Remember when Jesus Christ, the twelve year old, was teaching the teachers in the temple in Luke 2? While Johnson says Christ is "a title that points to an experience", we see in scripture that Christ was his title even before that experience at age thirty (Luke 2:11).

Johnson here clearly links the term "Christ" (the smearing) to His water baptism (approximately age thirty).

To further prove this point, a simple Bible search of the word 'Christ' will reveal to you the numerous scriptures where Jesus was indeed called..."the Christ"...even long before age thirty. Jesus is called Christ as His title because He alone is the Messiah. Galatians 3:27 says, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ".

Furthermore, Luke 1:35 makes it clear that the Holy Spirit was upon Jesus' conception in Mary's womb, with power (not without power): "And the angel answered and said unto her, the Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God".

What in the world is Johnson talking about? These peculiar teachings have been around for quite some time, actually. They are called the Kenosis Heresies. Jesus was and is a part of the holy trinity. That means He was and is always divine. But Johnson explains in chapter seven, "The anointing is what linked Jesus, the man, to the divine". Remember, the anointing here that Johnson is referring to in his chapter is the water baptism (at approximately age thirty).

What about before this "smearing" - was Jesus divine then? Or, just a powerless, non-divine man who had yet to get his link (smearing) to the divine?

Jesus did not need a "link" to the divine to become divine at age thirty, for He was already deity and Godhead (part of the trinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit). Jesus said that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). If they were one, then they were (and are) both divine. Nowhere in scripture does it say that Jesus Christ was non-divine before age thirty or that He gave up His divinity ("laid His divinity aside" as Johnson explains) before age thirty. God cannot cease being God; deity cannot cease being deity. True divinity cannot be stopped. The Bible says that Christ does not change: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). This is what happened at His water baptism at age thirty: "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up immediately out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him" (Matthew 3:16).

The Spirit of God descended on a divine Messiah (Christ) who was already "one with God" (John 10:30).

Encouraging you to study the Greek meaning of divinity (divine nature) and how it cannot be removed from somebody who is truly Godhead and deity.

Johnson claims that Jesus was eternally God but teaches these other doctrines contrary to that statement. To call someone God is not enough (Mark 5:7; James 2:19). If we are a teacher, we must teach accurately about Jesus Christ and who He is because this is the command from the Spirit and from the Lord: "speak thou the things which become sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1; 2 Timothy 4:3; Revelation 22:19) and we are commanded to turn away from those teachers who teach falsehood (Romans 16:17).

We must not mess with Christ's two natures, the very person and identity of the real Jesus Christ. If we do, we may prove to be a cult.

"For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth." (Ephesians 5:9)

"Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:20)

David Wilkerson on Weird Manifestations
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