Monday, February 22, 2016

Sonship and Identity in Christ Error (Manifest Sons of God and Joel's Army)

During this long wilderness season the Lord has shown me exaggerations in various aspects of teachings. When God first opened my eyes to these things, I went into panic mode because I was so overwhelmed with "how big" the deceptions were. I did not even know what to do. I felt so grieved in my spirit. Over time, the Lord calmed me a bit and now I am finally able to write (and publicly share) about these deceptions in a more clear, edifying way.

At the end of 2013 God really started to challenge me with what I believed. I've written briefly about this before, but God showed me that I didn't even know the basic tenets of the faith. Sure I could repeat catchphrases and taglines from specific ministries, but beyond that I did not have any foundations on the Word of God. God showed me that I had accepted deceptions in my walk with Him. He gave me an unforgettable warning dream that was a catalyst for me in the spirit.

Two of the things God showed me were:
1) exaggerations found in identity teachings ("Who we are in Christ")
2) exaggerations found in what it means to be "sons of God" on earth.

There are truths in these two teachings that people need to know about. However it seems in people's enthusiasm they have added exaggerations and deceptions. When we get revelation about a scripture and find we have been missing out on an aspect of God's love or grace for us, then we must be very careful with our next steps. We must not overcorrect and then find ourselves in a ditch on the other side of the road. Some examples of this are when a person gets hurt in the Charismatic church and then they become Cessationists. Or when someone gets hurt in a legalistic church where they did not have an accurately understanding of grace and then they go on to adopt "hyper-grace", "once saved always saved" or Universalism.

If you are in a similar season right now with God, you must be very careful with your next steps. We must not exaggerate real biblical principles found in the Word and we must remain balanced in ALL things. Yes even the good things of God can be over-exaggerated to the point where they become error and in some cases even heresy. I have had people vehemently tell me it is impossible to exaggerate the good things of God. I beg to differ! It is becoming increasingly popular for people to say that since God is love, He would not send people to hell, so there is no hell and everyone is already saved and forgiven in Christ. This is just one example of an exaggeration and/or misunderstanding of God's love, which actually becomes heresy.

For those of us who have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives, there are promises that God has made that we can be fully assured of. However some of these promises are things that we will only inherit when Jesus returns and we are made like Him (1 John 3:2-3). Many today are teaching that all of the promises from God are available today. These exaggerations have created many paper tigers in the Church who are seemingly "on fire", but their identity as a son of God is based upon exaggerations and not on the Person of Jesus Christ. They are more interested in what it means to be "a son of God" and knowing their "rights" instead of knowing THE Son of God and surrendering their lives to Him. 

Many have taken bits and pieces of scripture here and there to make it say things that are not truthful. Some groups believe that not only will they see all these promises in this life, but that it is a requirement in order for Jesus to return. 

Yet the truth is the exact opposite. Upon Jesus' 2nd coming is when we will see many of these promises fulfilled. They put the cart before the horse.

First the Errors

Many ministries have gone through the bible and picked out all of the promises that we have in Christ. Ephesians is a particularly popular book where this is done inappropriately.

Many will read through Ephesians and pull out these following promises.

We are in the heavenly realms and have all spiritual blessings.
We are always holy and blameless in His sight.
We were predestined for adoption as sons in Christ Jesus.
We have redemption through Jesus blood, the forgiveness of sins.
We have all wisdom and understanding.
We are citizens of heaven.
We are seated in heaven.

Are all of these true? Yes, but not necessarily today or in this life as we know it. There are many promises in this list that we will only fully inherit on the Last day when Jesus returns to earth. Paul even states that the Holy Spirit is given to us as "a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession"(Ephesians 1:13-14). This is why biblical scholars use the word, “positionally” because while we can be certain of these promises from God, we aren't actually experiencing them now and will not until the end. 

For some people being told this is painful because they truly think they are in heaven right now on the throne with God. They really think they are in charge of bringing heaven to earth. They have been lied to that every promise is now and today and some think they can be immortal on earth. They have been told that God can't see sins and can "only see Jesus". Some have used many of these teachings to justify sin and mysticism in their walks with God. 

This is what they have been taught and they don't know any better. 

The promises themselves are not in question, but it is the time in which we receive all of these promises that is the point of contention.

I'm going to list 2 of the errors and briefly explain it to make this as simple to understand as possible. These are really complex teachings so please understand an entire book could be dedicated to these topics.

1). Some ministries exaggerate the Finished Work on the cross and say that once Jesus died that all of the promises made to us are for now on this earth, in these bodies without any delay to those who "know who they are in Christ".

2). Some ministries teach that as believers we have all authority in Christ and that we are in charge of bringing heaven to earth. They say we must pray for "God's will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven". Many use this portion of the Lord's prayer to say whatever is found in heaven, that we should have today, but only to those who know their full potential as sons. They make knowing your identity as a "son of God" out to be a spiritual journey very similar to what is seen in the New Age with Christ Consciousness and their understanding of "At one ment". Their understanding of being "in Christ" is more similar to the New Age idea of Oneness than a Christian viewpoint of salvation.

The main problem with these exaggerations is that they boast in man's abilities and create elitism. They deify man and make Jesus "just a man". They make the cross not a place of surrender to our will, but as a means to obtain power. Proponents of these teachings believe all of heaven is for the taking and we should not settle for anything less "as sons of the most high God". Many point to the miracles that Jesus performed and say that He did all of these things "just as a man in right relationship with God who knew His identity". When you piece all of this together, they are basically saying that those who "know who they are in Christ" should not only be walking in everything that Jesus walked in, but we will do greater. If you ask them who is doing this currently, they will say, "we are still growing in this" meaning that there is no one who is doing it. 

Many in these groups completely downplay or throw away the idea that Jesus while on earth was fully God as well as fully man. Here is a comment on a YouTube video from Bethel church that presented the Manifested sons of God doctrine. 
"Funny. Don't you realize that Jesus although THE Son of God emptied Himself of His deity while on earth? And in so doing, did nothing of His own power, just like Peter? Even Jesus had to use the power of the Holy Spirit just like we as sons of God do." [Emphasis mine]

This is absolutely not biblical and yet it is a common line of thought in many ministries who preach divine healing, Sonship, dominionism and Manifested sons of God. 

When we stop teaching the basic tenets of the faith in our churches this is how people become deceived. 

When we stop reading the bibles for ourselves and allow others to read and interpret it for us, this is how people become deceived. I was once there myself.

Those in the Manifested sons of God movement all agree that the risen Jesus Christ is God with all authority and power. None of them will refute that or even attempt to deny that. However they do not all agree that while Jesus was on earth that He was still fully God capable of using His divine attributes. They will say things like, "Jesus was God, but He did everything he did as a man in right relationship." They use this opportunity to introduce a known heresy called Kenosis theology. 

The Person of Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully Man. You cannot remove 1 aspect of His nature without actually misrepresenting the Son of God and denying the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ. This is not just deception, but this is in fact heresy. 

Unfortunately many in these movements misrepresent Philippians 2:5-8. The reason for this is because they believe Jesus is the man model that shows true sons of God what they are capable of walking in on earth. However when these ministries talk about "walking like Jesus", you will notice it is rarely about surrender, humility, righteousness or obedience to the Lord's will. It is ALWAYS about authority, obtaining power and performing signs, miracles and wonders. If they happen to teach on surrender, obedience and humility, it is only as a means to show people how to obtain greater authority, power and revival. This is toxic!

It is sad to say, but many who are following these ministries just want God-like powers. The thought of having access to infinite power is quite pleasing to our childhood dreams and visions of being a superhero. (You will see many in these groups actually love Superman and other superheros). I can tell you first hand, that the devil knows our desire for power and man's desire to want to feel special. We actually see that was one of the things Jesus was tempted with by Satan while in the wilderness (Luke 4:5-8). We are to resist the devil and all of his schemes, not rewrite scriptures to make room for them. 

Since Jesus was in fact fully God and fully man on earth, we have to recognize that He was special. He is different than you and I. He was not born of man but of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). He had no sin nature (1 John 3:5). God the Father equipped Him specially for His ministry on earth. He was not "just a man" walking in right relationship with God. He did not give up His divinity nor any of His divine attributes. Even before His incarnation, Jesus was and has always been God (John 1:1-2)! Jesus has always existed even before Abraham (John 8:56-58). Jesus was capable of turning the stones into bread in the wilderness (Luke 4:3-4). Jesus was capable of calling down a legion of angels (Matthew 26:53). Jesus was capable of getting Himself down off the cross (Mark 15:30).

Yet it was in His obedience to the Father and the Father's will, that He refrained from doing certain actions. It was not that He was incapable of doing it or that He ceased having those attributes. I do not believe we can look at the Scriptures and to Jesus' earthly ministry and make the argument that He did everything as a man with the Holy Spirit. They diminish the divinity of Jesus Christ in order to exalt man! 

The example and model we should take away from Jesus' ministry on earth is not that we can have power and walk like Him, but that we have the pleasure of walking in humility and obedience to the Father's will regardless of what that might look like. 

For me and my husband being obedient to the Lord meant walking through a long wilderness of chronic sickness. It meant being repeatedly broken mentally and emotionally. It meant extreme pressure put on our families and finances. 

For Jesus being obedient to God's will meant He had to suffer a horribly painful death on a cross. 

For some people the allure of having power and being seen as someone who "does miracles" is exciting. Not everyone in these movements have good intentions. It's not that they want to do evil with this power, but it is not from a place of surrender to the Lord's will. Many think they can "use the power of the Holy Spirit" as they please, but this is not true. The Holy Spirit is not just a power, but a Person in the Trinity who is God and also has a will that will not contradict the will of God the Father. 

The Truth Can Be Unappealing

Unfortunately when someone is told the truth, it can be quite unappealing. Perhaps even reading this today, some feel like Eve in the garden when the serpent tempted her to eat from the tree. The sin looked appealing to her and the truth spoken by God seemed less appealing than the lie spoken by the serpent. The lie was more fun and more thrilling than what God said to her and she sinned. I truly believe this whole movement is simply a sweet tasting lie from the devil that questions God's authority. His old tricks in the garden still work today.

In addition it is extremely untruthful and damaging for these ministries to teach that every single promise from God is what we should be seeing in this lifetime. Of course they all have disclaimers and excuses as to why we aren't seeing it. In my eyes it just further shows their insincerity. Even pointing out to them that the earth is still cursed by God and there is still sin, sickness, death and pains on this earth, does not work. They actually see the suffering on this earth to say it proves more people need to be activated and become manifested sons of God in order to bring revival and the Kingdom on earth. They have reasons for everything, which keeps their followers from asking questions and digging into the Word of God on their own. 

I'm Not Cessationist

The difficulty in writing a post like this is that many people will immediately label me as a Cessastionist or someone who does not believe in the supernatural. Yet I most definitely believe that the gifts are in operation today. I most definitely believe in healing, prophecy, words of knowledge, words of wisdom and discerning of spirits etc (1 Corinthians 12). I believe in the roles stated in Ephesians 4:11-12. One does not have to believe that Jesus was "just a man" or other manifested sons of God errors in order to believe in healing or in the gifts of the Spirit. One does not have to diminish the deity of Jesus Christ to believe in the rest of scripture.

I believe we can always pray and ask God for our needs (Philippians 4:6). The bible tells us the Holy Spirit equips us with gifts that He gives as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). 

However we must always know that in the same way Jesus "emptied Himself", we too must come before God in humility and surrender to His will on earth. I believe Scripture proves that God's will for earth is in fact different than His will for heaven (Daniel 4:35). We see in Revelation this earth will ultimately be destroyed and replaced with a new heaven and new earth. The Lord's prayer was meant to be a prayer of surrender to God's will, but in these groups they actually make it about their authority and power. They will twist even the Lord's prayer to create unbiblical teachings. 

The truth is God has the final say in all matters and His ways are not always going to line up with our ways and our will. We are to confirm to Him and renew our mind to His ways, not the other way around. 

Repackaged Heresies of the 80's and 90's

The phrase "manifested sons of God" comes from Romans 8:19. "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." (KJV). 

When read in context, Paul is clearly talking about when the Lord returns and not some time prior to that date. We see that clearly in Romans 8:23-25. When the Lord returns, that is when we are officially adopted as sons of God and we obtain the redemption of our bodies. Right now being adopted as a son of God is one of those positional promises that we can count on, but we do not know the full extent of what that means or looks like. That is what Paul was talking about when he says we are eagerly waiting and groaning in Romans 8. He was not talking about eagerly waiting and groaning for a super class of Sons of God or end times army who will subdue the earth and restore the Kingdom on earth. When read in context, the Manifest sons of God teachings are an obvious misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Paul's writings.

However it's important to understand that most who believe in these errors today do not use the labels I have used in this post! There are some who do, but it has mostly blended in with the teachings of “Bringing Heaven to Earth”, Dominionism, Spiritual warfare teachings, 7 Mountain Mandate, Sonship, "Knowing your identity", the Finished Work of the Cross and Hyper-grace. Many of the names used for these teachings in the 80's and 90's have been abandoned such as Kingdom Now, Manifest Sons of God and Joel's Army, but have been replaced with new names and new ministries like Spiritual Air Force Academy (SAFA), Sonship, Lifestyle Christianity, Azusa Now, Appeal to Heaven and New Breed. Any ministry that has a view that an elite end times army or movement is rising up should be looked at with discernment. 

Many of the same leaders from the 80's and 90's are still a part of these newly named movements in some capacity or another. They are becoming older in age and have begun to pass the torch to their younger spiritual children. Because of this, there are many new names  that are not well known, but are becoming more popular as the years go on. 

Understand though, despite the change of names or the leader speaking the message, the foundational errors are still there and need to be resisted. They still preach a message that an army is rising, which creates elitism. They still believe in exaggerations about Sonship and our authority. They exaggerate what the work on the Cross accomplished. They still teach dominionist ideals. We must recognize the actual teachings instead of relying on specific labels or names of leaders, so that we can identify them for years and generations to come. The banners of old have been picked up by aging spiritual fathers which are now being passed on to their young spiritual children to carry to the next generations. This is how deception is carried from one generation to the next. 

There is much more that could be said on this topic because it is so complex and so in depth. I hope to be able to write more about this in the future.  I hope it is a blessing to those who have read it and makes people begin to question and look into some of the well known names and teachings in these movements. 

Revised Oct 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bring Heaven to Earth? Sonship and Manifested Sons of God

One of the foundational teachings of the Manifested Sons of God and Sonship Movement is this idea that we as believers are charged with bringing heaven to earth. This is taken from a misunderstanding of the Lord's prayer, which was meant to be a prayer of surrender to the Lord's will.

This idea of taking charge sounds appealing to our flesh. It sounds appealing to those who are in generally good times. It is also quite appealing to those who are looking for a way to obtain power and purpose in life. Yet it causes believers to chase after men (either for prayer or for their teachings) instead of looking to and trusting in God Himself. The thought that a believer is in charge of making God's will come to pass is unsettling when you are the one sick, out of work, having marital problems, facing an abusive situation or simply got into a car accident. It is in those difficult times where we realize that we don't want to be the ones in charge of making things better. We learn we really want God to be working all things together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) and that He also works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). 

I don't believe that every single thing that happens to us was God's doing, but I do recognize that in life things don't always turn out the way we wanted, had hoped, had prayed and had asked of God. We must trust Him regardless of what is going on at the current time. In the Sonship Movement I do not see this submitting and instead see a lot of finger pointing going around to those hurting or I see a lot of excuses from their leaders like "we are growing in this". 

The Manifested Sons of God and Sonship Movement insist what they believe is the truth. However their beliefs wrongly put our will, our desires and our limited view and understandings of things as the main focus instead of submitting and surrendering those very things to the Lord. When you surrender to the Lord, you are telling Him you no longer want to be the one who always has the answer. You are telling him that you trust Him no matter where life takes you. Sometimes life may take you to places you don't like. 

Maturity in Christ isn't about having all of the answers or having secret revelations. It is about knowing that Jesus is Lord of all and willingly submitting to that. It's really about learning that you don't have the answers. There is freedom and maturity in letting go.