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Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire: Bad Doctrine Often Reveals Underlying Sin

by | Jun 25, 2024 | News

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The modern church landscape is rife with wolves in sheep’s clothing, those charlatans who twist the Scriptures for their own personal gain. It’s not just the galling falsehoods they preach—whether it be the prosperity gospel, egalitarianism, the New Apostolic Reformation, or the social justice gospel—that should alarm us. It’s the stench of unrepentant sin that often wafts from their ministries, revealing the rotten core beneath their polished veneers.

The Bible, our ultimate authority, doesn’t mince any words at all when it comes to false teachers. Jesus Himself declared, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). And the Apostle Paul, ever vigilant, warned Timothy that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3).

What does this teach us? There is often an inseparable bond between heresy and unrepentant immorality. True shepherds, who are truly born again, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, don’t peddle heresy—heresy is attractive to those who have not been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ, have not been transformed by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, and are still rooted in the carnal pleasures of the world. And they use religion as a tool to pursue these worldly lusts.

Take, for instance, the prosperity gospel peddlers. These spiritual con artists, with their saccharine smiles and glitzy productions, promise untold wealth in exchange for faith—a faith that invariably translates to fat checks written to their ministries. You’ve heard about Robert Morris and his abhorrent sins in the news recently—Morris has built an empire on his deceitful prosperity pimping. He should have been disqualified long before his sins were ever exposed. And the King of Prosperity Pimps, T.D. Jakes, has been accused of taking part in grossly immoral activities. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Heresy—whether it be the prosperity gospel, to social gospel, the New Apostolic Reformation, etc.—is a con as old as the serpent’s lie in Eden, repackaged for the gullible masses. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll often find financial misconduct, greed, and sometimes even more sordid sins lurking in the shadows. The Scripture is clear: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).

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Or look at these egalitarian crusaders who, in their zeal to erase God-ordained distinctions between men and women, trample upon the clear teachings of Scripture. These self-styled champions of “equality” often cloak their rebellion in the guise of justice and progress. Yet, it’s no surprise that many such leaders, like Carl Lentz and his former boss, Brian Houston of Hillsong Church, have been ensnared in scandals of sexual immorality. When God’s design for the church and family is disregarded, moral chaos is sure to follow. As Paul warned, those who “depart from the faith” inevitably “devote themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

The New Apostolic Reformation, with its grandiose claims of modern-day apostles and prophets, is another breeding ground for heresy and pride. Circus actors like Todd Bentley, with his bizarre antics and fake miracles, have amassed a followings of multitudes of those seeking to have their ears tickled. Bentley—whose “ministry” is replete with revelations of sexual misconduct and moral failure—is just one example demonstrating that those who claim special revelation apart from Scripture are often living a lie in more ways than one. “By their fruits you will recognize them,” Jesus said (Matthew 7:20), and the fruits of these false apostles are rotten indeed. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

The prevalence of bad doctrine is often a smokescreen for deeper, unrepentant sin. It’s not enough to judge a tree by its leaves, we must look at the fruit it bears. And too often, the fruit of these false teachers is bitter and corrupt. Paul clearly laid out the qualifications for church leaders in his letters to Timothy and Titus. He stressed that pastors should not only hold to sound doctrine but also demonstrate a blameless moral character. When these so-called leaders fail on both counts, it is an indictment of their ministries and a call to the church to wake up and expel the leaven before it corrupts the whole lump. But when we ignore the smoke, we’re also ignoring the fire.

And the silence of other church leaders in the face of such rampant heresy and immorality is deafening. If the church would spend more time rooting out heretics and purging them from the pulpits, we could spare ourselves a whole lot of the embarrassment of exposure of even greater, more abhorrent unrepentant sins. Scripture commands us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). This testing must be thorough and uncompromising, for the health of Christ’s body depends on it.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And in the case of false teachers, that fire is often fueled by unrepentant sin. Do not be complicit in overlooking these abominations. Instead, let us stand firm on the unshakable foundation of God’s Word, exposing falsehoods rampant in pulpits around the world, and demanding purity in the church—both in doctrine and in deed.

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