by Mike Ratliff
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)
Sometimes I marvel at how easy it must be to draw professing Christians into serious error since it seems that masses of them are in bondage to some form of “Christianity” that is not biblical. For example, watch this video post from Soli Deo Gloria. I have pondered what the reason is for any genuine Christian to be involved in something like that. I believe this is why we are exhorted throughout the Bible to disciple new believers for it seems that those professing Christians involved in error are either not genuine or they are not very mature spiritually. I fear that there are large numbers of Christians who have a misunderstanding of Christ’s words that refer to saving faith being as that of a child.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4 ESV)
The misunderstanding is that Jesus is saying that we must must not become spiritually mature through the study of the Bible. They believe that if they pursue deeper Bible knowledge then they will lose their child-like faith. What did Jesus really mean here? This is referring to saving faith having the same type of trust of God and our Lord that a child has for the authority and knowledge of his or her parents. This is not a call to neglect spiritual growth through the means of grace God has provided for His Church.
The theological level of understanding in most of the Church is sadly very low. Knowing scripture and having the ability to rightly divide it are necessary, but how many really know their Bibles or know how to study them? The Church’s level of apostasy is growing because of the utter lack of spiritual maturity within it. This is happening because Christian leaders are not properly leading their flocks to grow in Grace. This is disobedience.
The markers of immaturity within a church consist of being focused on things other than what brings true spiritual maturity.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13 ESV)
When I see a “preacher” focus primarily on externals rather than on heart changing repentance and obedience then I know to look deeper. Invariably, we find that these men pursue primarily what would appeal to people’s emotions. For example. Todd Bentley, featured in the video above, equates true spirituality to the esoteric. He claims to converse with angels and to have actually visited heaven. He claims he heals people all the time. There is no way to prove if what he says is true or false. What is his primary focus? Is it to lead those following him to submit to the Lord in their suffering or is it to escape suffering altogether? The focus of his ministry is to get people to submit to him as he claims that his form of Christianity is deeper, and more spiritual than that of the Apostles. This is the equivalent of speaking, thinking, and reasoning like a child, except that we are referring to spirituality.
What did the Apostles preach and teach? Did they even remotely come close to the message of Todd Bentley? Here is Paul’s answer to suffering.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:22-39 ESV)
What should our response to suffering be according to Paul? Isn’t it to submit to the suffering we all have in this world with the full knowledge that God is working in our suffering to prepare us for the fulfillment of our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. My brethren this is our glorification, which is the end of our sanctification.
Here is Peter’s answer to suffering.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1 Peter 4:12-16 ESV)
Todd Bentley would not recognize any of this from Paul and Peter. To him it would be insane to submit to suffering as commanded in God’s Word. No, instead, we should come to him for healing thereby becoming a partaker of the evil which pervades all he teaches and preaches.
Do you see how vital it is to have a view of this walk that is focused on the Eschaton? If we view this life as just the preparation for eternity, will we be so consumed with the childishness of externals? No, we will seek to obey our Lord as we cooperate in our sanctification thereby becoming more mature spiritually in preparation for our glorification.