What is kenosis?

From GotQuestions.com

Question: “What is the kenosis?”

Answer: The term kenosis comes from the Greek word for the doctrine of Christ’s self-emptying in His incarnation. The kenosis was a self-renunciation, not an emptying Himself of deity nor an exchange of deity for humanity. Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Jesus did not cease to be God during His earthly ministry. But He did set aside His heavenly glory of a face-to-face relationship with God. He also set aside His independent authority. During His earthly ministry, Christ completely submitted Himself to the will of the Father.

As part of the kenosis, Jesus sometimes operated with the limitations of humanity (John 4:6; 19:28). God does not get tired or thirsty. Matthew 24:36 tells us, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” We might wonder if Jesus was God, how could He not know everything, as God does (Psalm 139:1-6)? It seems that while Jesus was on earth, He surrendered the use of some of His divine attributes. Jesus was still perfectly holy, just, merciful, gracious, righteous, and loving – but to varying degrees Jesus was not omniscient or omnipotent.

However, when it comes to the kenosis, we often focus too much on what Jesus gave up. The kenosis also deals with what Christ took on. Jesus added to Himself a human nature and humbled Himself. Jesus went from being the glory of glories in Heaven to being a human being who was put to death on the cross. Philippians 2:7-8 declares, “taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” In the ultimate act of humility, the God of the universe became a human being and died for His creation. The kenosis, therefore, is Christ taking on a human nature with all of its limitations, except with no sin.

Recommended Resource: Jesus: The Greatest Life of All by Charles Swindoll

Why is this important?

Well, there are a number of ministries that teach a ‘kenotic’ view of Jesus. They tell us that All that Jesus did in his ministry years he did as a man filled with the Holy Spirit, but is not as God. They would have us believe that because Jesus operated as a spirit filled man, Spirit filled believers should also be walking around performing sighs and wonders as a normal part of our Christian lives. There is an excellent article here that discusses kenosis and provides a Biblical and theological answer to the doctrine. It s well worth reading.

How to Honor Christ in our Apologetics

How to Honor Christ in our Apologetics

Posted: 20 Mar 2018 01:01 AM PDT

@ The Cripplegate

There was a man who thought he was dead.  In fact, he told all his family members that he was dead. Finally, after months of being unable to convince him, they dragged him to a doctor. The doctor, also unsuccessful, finally asked him, “Do dead men bleed?” The man responded, “Of course not!” The doctor promptly took out a knife and cut the man’s finger, and as the man watched the blood run down his hand he exclaimed, “Wow! I guess dead men do bleed!”

This man had presuppositions he brought with himself to that doctor’s appointment. He believed that he was dead and no evidence was going to change his mind. In a similar way, every one of our evangelistic encounters happen with someone who has preconceived notions and presuppositions.

Understanding why people don’t believe the Gospel is key. Either they lack the evidence and are just waiting for the perfect argument to come along or they are blinded by their sin and need the Gospel. As believers, we are called to make a defense. 1 Peter 3:15 gives us our calling. Peter says,

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”

This verse gives us three keys on how to do apologetics that we should apply in our everyday conversations as we “make a defense” with unbelievers.

First, make a defense that honors Christ as holy.

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…

Honoring Christ is our priority in evangelism and apologetics. Too many times we are concerned with honoring the unbeliever, and sometimes, when we are so focused on this, we end up dishonoring Christ.

One way we dishonor Christ is by not trusting what the Bible says about unbelievers. The Bible tells us in Romans 1 that all men know God exists but suppress the truth in unrighteousness. As we talk to unbelievers, we should not grant to them that they do not believe in God. I’m not saying that we should point at them and scream “liar.” But we must gently and carefully, but boldly, show them in Scripture that the Bible says that all men believe but suppress the truth because they love their sin. When someone says that they would believe in God if they could only have some evidence, we know that, biblically, this simply isn’t true. The Bible is the only evidence that people need. Whether it is Romans 10:17, or the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the Bible proclaims itself to be the only evidence people need in order to have faith. Jesus, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, goes as far as saying that a resurrection wouldn’t be enough to convince someone. The Bible is enough, and it is the only power unto salvation. Besides, presenting evidence to an atheist would mean that you are the lawyer, they are the judge and jury, and the judge of the universe–God, Himself–is on trial! That is flipped, messed up, and dishonoring to Christ.

Another way we dishonor Christ is by the way we talk about the Bible. Saying things like “if the Bible is true,” or “I could be wrong,
or “give Jesus a try!” may seem humble, but, ultimately, they dishonor Christ by acting as if it isn’t certain that He is the Son of God and the only way to Heaven.

A third way we dishonor Christ is by thinking that our words will convince unbelievers of the existence of God. Whether it is through our persuasion, or thinking that we can come up with the perfect evidence, when we go away from Scripture we are trusting in our own devices.  We are practically saying that we can reason someone to believe in God, when Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:25 that it is God who must grant someone repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth. First comes repentance, which is granted by God Himself, then comes truth, in that exact order. People don’t need reason, they need repentance.

Second, make a defense for the hope that is in you

…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…

Something happened to you that has transformed you. You actually believe in absolute truth. There is no question in your mind that Jesus is God. There is no question in your mind that you will spend eternity in Heaven with Him. You are ready for the Day of Judgment, and are not afraid to die.

On the other hand, unbelievers don’t have this hope. They have constant doubt. Their salvation is dependent on the way they live. They have no idea whether God will accept them one day. They are not ready for the Day of Judgment, and most are afraid to die, or at least they should be. Most question the idea of absolute truth.

Most atheists out there know only one thing for sure:  that there is no such thing as absolute truth. When you ask them if that is absolutely true, they say yes. They live in what is called an infinite regress. A is true because of B. B is true because of C. C is true because of D and so forth. This doesn’t end at Z, but continues on in infinity. In other words, they can’t know anything. The only way to solve this regress is if you know the One who can see the whole thing.  That is God, Himself, who knows all things and can let us know some things for certain. God has done this with general and special revelation.  On top of that God has given you supernatural faith, and you can make a defense because you have the hope that He’s given you. Your evangelism and apologetics should reflect this.

Third, make a defense with gentleness and respect.

…yet do it with gentleness and respect.

I wrote a lot about this last week. But I cannot stress enough the fact that our words should reflect the transformation that has happened in us. You simply cannot be a jerk and get angry in evangelism. Believers exhibit the fruit of the spirit not only while speaking to other believers, but especially in talking with unbelievers. Stephen, while being martyred in Acts 7, is an incredible example of gentleness, calmness, and forgiveness. Of course, Jesus is our Master Teacher of how to face persecution in a way that exalts God.

There was a pastor who went to visit a student on a college campus. This student wanted the pastor to talk to his roommate. The roommate, upon seeing the pastor, immediately stated, “I could never believe in a book that says that a man survived after being swallowed by a whale!” The pastor wisely asked if he could just share his testimony and tell him what the Gospel was. The roommate says yes, and after about an hour he trusted in the Lord and was saved.  About two hours later, the pastor remembered his initial objection and asked him if he wanted to talk about Jonah. The young man replied, “I guess not. If it’s in the Bible I believe it.”

The young man had an issue with God’s Word because he loved his sin. The minute he repented, he instantly trusted the Truth. A lot of times in our evangelism, we can put our trust in our methods instead of putting our trust in the Lord to do the work of saving souls. We must remember to honor Christ in our evangelism.

Apologetics is a wonderful tool that the Lord has used to encourage so many believers in their walk. But, ultimately, it is a powerless tool to bring someone to Christ. It can be a tool God uses to open an ear to the Gospel, but on its own it cannot save. We must always remember to preach the Gospel and to quote Scripture as we do so. As Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Warnings With Teeth

by Austin Duncan

 

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The church today is faced with the same threat that has plagued it in every age—the ever present danger of apostasy. Because this is the danger that confronted the pastor who preached the sermon recorded in the book of Hebrews, Hebrews is an instructive for pastors, as it models how we should alert our congregations of the danger or apostasy.

The cause of apostasy, according to Hebrews, is spiritual lethargy. It follows then that the best counter to apostasy to an unrelenting focus on the preeminence of Jesus. Instead of launching new programs, asserting initiatives, and attending to church growth trends, the preacher serves his congregation well when he invites his church to consider afresh the glories of Christ revealed in Scripture.

But effective warnings against apostasy are more particular than simply proclaiming the glories of Christ. I say “more particular” because the author takes the glories of Christ and uses them to warn the readers about the specific dangers of apostasy. He warns his readers, with real warnings, about the real dangers of the real threat of apostasy. In fact, his warnings are so dire that many contemporary preachers not only refuse to model them, but actually explain them away! In so doing they take the threats of the Bible designed to produce endurance and neuter them in an attempt to remove the danger. But this only increases the threat of apostasy.  

It is true that a regenerate believer cannot lose his salvation any more than he can undo the work of the Holy Spirit. But that truth should not keep pastors from preaching threats and warnings in the same tone that the preacher of Hebrews did. Thomas Schreiner explains:

Those who are elected, called and justified, will certainly be glorified. It’s also true that no genuine believer will apostatize. But these warning passages are clearly addressed to believers. Believers are described here and they are threatened with eternal destruction, not with the loss of reward, if they commit apostasy.

The danger of apostasy is not limited to this single congregation of Hebrews some 2,000 years ago. For one reason, similar warnings are found in Jude, 2 Peter, and Revelation. What should the pastor do with these passages? Well, the warnings that are given here are one of the means that God uses to preserve his peoples’ faith. It’s one of the means that God uses to solicit his people to obedience, or as Schreiner says, “The warnings in the scriptures are intended to arouse us from lethargy and propel us onward in the path of faith.”

Preachers need to hold onto these warning passages as a means to warn your people that if they abandon Christ, it would be proof positive that they never belonged to him. It’s not enough to simply step back and systematize and explain the “P” in the tulip to our people. Instead we should speak with similarly strong language used in Hebrews.

These warning passages are not the place to teach about predestination and election. Just because our Systematic Theology Book stifles these passages by placing them on an ultimate and cosmic level, that’s not what the authors of the Scripture do. Too often young preachers (and specifically young Calvinists) feel the need to deaden the effects of warnings by inserting something the author of Scripture didn’t. Don’t follow the warning passages by saying “Well, actually yes, but…not really.”

This is certainly one of the reasons that we see apostasy in our age. We teach perseverance of the saints. We believe that doctrine, and it is true. But we use that doctrine out of place when it becomes our practical excuse to avoid warning our congregations like the preacher of Hebrews does.

Employing the kind of strong language used in Hebrews shows our confidence in the Spirit of God’s inspiration of a text without, without feeling the need to explaining it from every other angles than the author did.

With every confidence you should be able to read Hebrews 6:4-8 and hear those warnings, and in the same breath do what he did in vs. 9 and say, “Though we speak thus, in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation.” Do you see that beautiful balance he strikes? He can threaten and warn, and then with every confidence in his flock know that if they belong to God, they will forever belong to God. He has every confidence that his readers will not shipwreck their faith. That they will not commit the sin of apostasy. That they will not fall away from God. That they will indeed persevere.

Before seminary, I attended a Bible College where I encountered a professor who was a rank Arminian. He told us that he knew we could all lose our salvation because he once knew a very faithful Sunday school teacher who later in life become an atheist. He warned us not to emulate her.

While on the one hand, he at least tried to warn us against apostasy. But on the other hand, his warning was less than effective because he started with experience, then moved to application. While the Calvinist might start with theology and then explain away the power of a passage, the Arminian too often starts with experience, then uses that to amplify scripture.  We ought not make either error, but instead we should build a biblical case for perseverance that includes God’s warnings, not excludes them.

Let me put it this way—if your explanation of the warning passages results in the passages having no teeth—no bark, no bite, just empty words—then you are doing it wrong. Understand that the clear preaching of warnings—warnings with teeth!—is of the ways that God keeps his people from falling away, while simultaneously giving confidence in the security of salvation.

These passages are one of the ways that God keeps us from falling. He entices us with the glories of salvation and reward and he threatens us with terrible judgment and destruction.

Let me challenge pastors who read this—aim to speak about perseverance in a more biblical way; preach more like the preacher of Hebrews.

Idols in the Temple of God by Mike Riccardi

Article from The Cripplegate

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, I began a series on whom the faithful Christian minister may legitimately partner with in ministry. First, I briefly surveyed the history of the ecumenical movement in order to vividly illustrate the terrible consequence of disobedience to Scripture on this matter. Then, I oriented us to the key text that answers this question, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, and considered the context in which it comes. Next, I considered the main prohibition of text itself, and explored what it means for Christians to not be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers.

In the latest installment in this series, I considered how the text outlines precisely how believers are “unequal” to unbelievers. I mentioned that there were five fundamental differences between believers and unbelievers that Paul enumerates, and we looked at the first four in that post. Believers and unbelievers are governed by different rules of life, are subjects of different kingdoms, are ruled by different kings, and are possessed of different worldviews. Today, I’m aiming to pick up where I left off by delving into that fifth fundamental difference, which is, simply, that we worship different Gods. Paul concludes his series of rhetorical questions in verse 16 by asking: “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?”

Idols and Demons

There is an absolute incompatibility between God and idols. And that is because all false religion is demonic. In 1 Corinthians, Paul has taught us that idols don’t really exist: “We know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one” (1 Cor 8:4); “What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No!” (1 Cor 10:19). Idols are no true gods, because there’s only one true God: Yahweh, the Triune God of Scripture.

“But,” he goes on, “the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God” (1 Cor 10:20). The fact that idols don’t exist doesn’t mean that there is no spiritual component to idolatry. Scripture says the millions of false gods of the thousands of false religions in the world are actually demons. When Israel turned from the worship of Yahweh and committed idolatry by making sacrifices to the gods of the nations, Scripture says they sacrificed to demons: “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread” (Deut 32:17). And so Paul warns of those professing Christians who will abandon the faith and embrace false religion, saying, “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim 4:1).

This means that every false religion in the world is not just wrong; it is demonic. Every made-up idol—every false god of every false religion—isn’t just not true; it is a demon. It is energized and powered by the kingdom of darkness that is ruled by Satan himself. And so there simply cannot be any agreement between the worship of these demons and the worship of the one true and living God.

Our Jealous God

That’s why, from the very beginning of Israel’s history, God speaks so severely about idolatry. The first two of the Ten Commandments are devoted to this: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God” (Exod 20:3–5).

And to the second generation Moses says, “You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for Yahweh your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of Yahweh your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth” (Deut 6:14).

God is jealous for His own glory. He will not share the worship that He rightly deserves with demons! “I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images” (Isa 42:8).

Ear-Tingling Calamity

How serious is God about there being no possibility of agreement between the temple of God and idols? Consider a couple of examples with me. Second Kings 21 chronicles the wickedness of King Manasseh, who is perhaps the most evil king in Judah’s history. And his wickedness consisted chiefly in his idolatry. Verse 3 says, “He rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.” This is high-handed idolatry perpetrated by the king of Israel.

But it gets worse. Verse 4 says, “He built altars in the house of Yahweh, of which Yahweh had said, ‘In Jerusalem I will put My name.’” And verse 7: “Then he set the carved image of the Asherah that he had made, in the house of which Yahweh said to David and to his son Solomon, ‘In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever.’” In 1 Kings 8, when the temple is finally completed under Solomon, the cloud of God’s glory had filled the temple, declaring to the people that Yahweh would take up residence with them and dwell among them in His temple. Solomon calls the temple “the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall be there’” (1 Kgs 8:29). This is where God’s special presence dwells with His people. This is where His holy name dwells. And in the courts of that holy place, Manasseh builds altars to Baal, and to the sun and the stars. He brings a wood carving of Asherah into the very temple of Yahweh.

Now, how seriously does God take this? “Behold, I am bringing such calamity on Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle” (2 Kgs 21:12). Verse 13: “I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.” And then this unthinkable statement in verse 14: “I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies, and they will become as plunder and spoil to all their enemies; because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day.”

“I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance.” That ought to make every last one of us tremble. There is no greater insult, no greater blasphemy, than to bring idols of demons into the holy temple of God, and, in adulterous fashion, worship them rather than Him as it were right in front of His face.

Ichabod

Now consider Ezekiel chapter 8. The Lord is about to bring about the judgment He spoke of in 2 Kings 21, and that will come in the form of Judah’s exile into Babylon. God gives Ezekiel a vision of the gross idolatry that provokes Him to the wrath He will exercise upon them. In Ezekiel 8:3–4, the prophet says the Spirit gave him a vision of the temple. And in the temple, right alongside the physical manifestation of the glory of God, was the seat of the idol of jealousy—an idol that the people had placed in the temple. Verse 6: “And [God] said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, so that I would be far from My sanctuary?”

We need to feel the weight of that. So that God would be far from His own sanctuary? So that He would be absent from the very place that was designed to house His special presence with His people? This is unthinkable.

“But,” verse 6, God says, “you will see still greater abominations.” God tells Ezekiel to dig through a hole in the wall to see what was going on in there. Verse 10: “So I entered and looked, and behold, every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things, with all the idols of the house of Israel, were carved on the wall all around. Standing in front of them were seventy elders of the house of Israel, . . . each man with his censer in his hand and the fragrance of the cloud of incense rising.” The elders of Israel—the spiritual leaders of God’s people—were worshiping the images of idols that they had carved on the wall of Yahweh’s temple!

“But,” God says again, “You will see still greater abominations” (Ezek 8:13). And then he sees women weeping for the Babylonian god Tammuz (Ezek 8:14). And then he finds twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of Yahweh and their faces toward the east, bowing and worshiping the sun (Ezek 8:16). How symbolic that these men have turned their backs upon Yahweh’s temple.

These abominations, this mass idolatry, is happening in the temple of God. In the place where His glory dwells! In the place where He condescends and meets Israel and provides atonement for their sin!

So once again: what is God’s response? Verse 18: “Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them.” And then Ezekiel sees God send executioners into the city to destroy all those who have committed idolatry. God commands them: “Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, . . . and you shall start from My sanctuary” (Ezek 9:6). Judgment begins with the household of God (1 Pet 4:17).

But then, even worse than that, the shekinah glory of God, which symbolizes God’s presence with His people, starts to stir. In 10:4 it moves from the ark of the covenant to the entrance of the temple. And then in 10:18–19 the glory stands over the angels of Ezekiel’s vision, who then move to the east gate of the temple. And then, finally, in 11:23, the glory of God departs from His temple, and stands over the Mount of Olives, before ascending into heaven. For the first time in the 850 years of Israel’s history, the people of God are without the presence of God. Yahweh is no longer dwelling with His people.

“What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” What happens when you try to yoke believers together with unbelievers? What happens when you try to mix demonic false religion with the worship of the one true God? What happens to a church that tries to make common spiritual cause with and partner in ministry with those who are not genuine believers in Christ? God writes Ichabod over the doorpost of that church. The glory of God’s presence departs from that place. Dear readers, do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what agreement has the temple of God with idols?

We Are the Temple of the Living God

You say, “Now wait a minute. I can see how all this ‘temple’ talk relates to Israel. But what does that have to do with the church?” 2 Corinthians 6:16: “For we are the temple of the living God!” In this age, the spiritual body of Christ, the Church, is the temple of God—the place where the glory of His presence dwells. God no longer dwells merely with us, in a sanctuary or a building that we construct for Him. He dwells in us, in hearts that He has recreated for Himself, and we ourselves become His temple.

What, then, is the consequence? What responsibility does that create for us? Verse 17: “Therefore, ‘come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean.’” If it was unthinkable—the height of blasphemy—for a temple made of wood and stone to have any association with idols, how much more unthinkable—how much more blasphemous—is it to bring idols into the temple which is constructed with living stones (cf. 1 Pet 2:5)? If God brought such destruction and judgment upon Israel for desecrating His temple with idolatry—if He delivered them over to death and to exile, if He removed the glory of His presence from their midst, and destroyed the very temple where He had caused His Name to dwell—how much severer should His punishment be for those who unite the living temple of God with idols?

And yet that is what we do when, in “ecumenical” fashion, we propose to unite in common spiritual cause or ministerial partnership with the enemies of the Gospel. It doesn’t matter how many social issues or political positions we agree on. It doesn’t matter if they call themselves Christians and say they love and worship Jesus. If they do not confess faith in the only true and saving Gospel, they do not worship God in Christ, but a false god, an idol whom they’ve fashioned in their image, and thus they share in the worship of demons.

The dear people ensnared by these idolatrous false religions are not our partners in ministry, but our mission field. They need the Gospel. They do not need to be inoculated against the Gospel by being led to believe that they are genuine partners in ministry with the true people of God. We need to come out from them and be separate. Not so that we can shun them and feel superior about ourselves. But so that the fundamental differences between us might be made plain, that their need for faith in the true Gospel of the true Jesus might be made clear, and so that we can bring them that message of Good News in its purity.

The ‘Prophets’ and ‘Apostles’ Leading the Quiet Revolution in American Religion

A Christian movement characterized by multi-level marketing, Pentecostal signs and wonders, and post-millennial optimism.

Interview by Bob Smietana| August 3, 2017, Christianity Today

A quiet revolution is taking place in America religion, say Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, authors of The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders Are Changing the Religious Landscape.

Largely behind the scenes, a group of mostly self-proclaimed “apostles,” leading ministries from North Carolina to Southern California, has attracted millions of followers with promises of direct access to God through signs and wonders.

Their movement, which Christerson and Flory called “Independent Network Charismatic” or “INC” Christianity, has become one of the fastest-growing faith groups in the United States. Apostles like Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, and Ché Ahn claim millions of followers. They’re also aided by an army of fellow ministers who fall under their “spiritual covering.”

Many of these apostles run megachurches, including Bethel Church in Redding California, HRock Church in Pasadena, and the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. But their real power lies in their innovative approach to selling faith. They’ve combined multi-level marketing, Pentecostal signs and wonders, and post-millennial optimism to connect directly with millions of spiritual customers. That allows them to reap millions in donations, conference fees, and book and DVD sales. And because these INC apostles claim to get direction straight from God, they operate with almost no oversight.

Nashville-based religion writer Bob Smietana spoke with Christerson (professor of sociology at Biola University) and Flory (senior director of research and evaluation at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California) about the appeal—and danger—of these burgeoning movements.

What’s the difference between INC Christians and the prosperity gospel movement or megachurch networks like the Association of Related Churches (ARC)?

Christerson: Probably the closest kinship would be prosperity gospel movement. But it’s a little different in that the INC movement has a network that cooperates more often. My sense of the prosperity gospel is that it consists of individual entrepreneurs, TV preachers, and megachurch leaders, but there’s not as much cooperation.

Also, the theology is different. The prosperity gospel would focus more on the individual’s health and wealth. This group is unique in that they really think God has put these apostles on earth to basically transform the world. It’s a sort of trickle-down Christianity, where these apostles are at the top of the mountain, exercising this power from the top down. That’s how the kingdom of God comes in.

Ironically, this group isn’t really focused on building up big congregations. Their ideas are spreading through other means, like high-profile conferences and the media products that they are selling.

Flory: These apostles are able to access a lot more money, because they are operating with a pay-for-service model, rather than relying on people’s donations and their goodwill. Congregations bend over backwards to keep people happy and keep the butts in the seats; people don’t have to pay unless they feel like it. But this is a completely different financial model, and it tends to generate much more money.

How do the people in this group identify themselves? Are they Pentecostals? Charismatics? INC Christians?

Christerson: They would use the word prophetic or apostolic—or they would align themselves with one of the apostles. They would say, “I am a follower of Bill Johnson,” or Mike Bickle, or Cindy Jacobs. People would tell us, “he’s my apostle” or “he’s my prophet.” The other term we hear a lot is “spiritual covering”: There’s this idea that you are under spiritual covering of your specific apostle or prophet. A related term is “impartation.” The apostles basically impart their power to you. If you are under them, the power that they have straight from God trickles down to you.

They consciously avoid any kind of formal organization or denomination. They see the strength of weak ties—it allows them room to experiment and to work with all kinds of different people. They can focus on putting together these big events—they don’t have to support a staff or donate to a seminary. They can just go straight to the marketing activities.

How do you become an apostle? What’s the process?

Christerson: It’s all sort of self-appointed. Leaders in the moment would say that people are recognized as apostles because of the influence that they have—not only over your own congregation but over other leaders. But there’s definitely a good deal of self-appointing going on. Peter Wagner, a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation movement, referred to himself as a “super apostle,” because he was influential with a bunch of other apostles.

Ironically, this group isn’t really focused on building up big congregations. Their ideas are spreading through other means, like high-profile conferences and the media products that they are selling.

It’s easy to see the advantages for leaders—it’s great to be the guy at the top of the pyramid since they get all the cash and no one tells them what to do. But it also seems like lay people really like this model. What do they get out of it?

Christerson: For the young people, they’re searching for meaning, and they’re also looking for adventure and excitement. These kinds of churches appeal to them in ways that traditional congregations just can’t. They are not merely trying to learn how to know God, live a godly life, or share their faith with other people. They really believe they are participating in this cosmic spiritual battle to transform the world. They are involved in this battle for whole cities and nations.

And then you have the appeal of direct access to God—getting direct downloads from God. God is going to talk to me and tell me what to do. Or my leader is getting direct downloads. For many people, that’s more exciting than a 45-minute sermon examining the Greek terms from Paul’s writings.

INC movements don’t have same “priesthood of all believers” theology as the Protestant Reformers, because power is still flowing down from particular apostles, and then others can access it. There is definitely a hierarchy. But since they are not building institutions, there is a lot of freedom for people to experiment with the tools they get from these apostles. So that opens up a lot of opportunities for people to lead, innovate, and create their own way of doing Christianity. That participatory aspect is a major part of the appeal.

Rather than traditional worship services, many megachurches say they have “experiences.” What kind of experiences are INC churches trying to create?

Christerson: The traditional megachurch uses music and exciting preaching from great communicators. But we found that wasn’t the case with these INC-lings. They are actually not very exciting preachers. That really surprised us. For them, it’s all about encountering these supernatural manifestations. That’s the exciting experience.

It’s very spontaneous. We went to a conference where a number of apostles were speaking and Bill Johnson was doing a Bible teaching. He had probably talked 20 or 30 minutes, and you could feel the restlessness in the room. He said, “I know you are just waiting for me to stop preaching because you want the power. But just hang with me here.” People weren’t there to listen to him. What they wanted was for him to lay hands on them.

After he finished, people came up to the stage, and they were being slain in the spirit. People were falling down and getting healed. That’s what they are there for. They don’t want to sit and watch other people. They want to access the power themselves to make a difference in the world.

Flory: The desire for this kind of experience is broader than just this group. It works out in interesting ways among these INC Christians, but we see it across different religious groups that we have studied at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture. Particularly among evangelicals, we’re seeing a more experiential, embodied way of understanding religion.

It’s remarkable how effectively INC personalities can get their message out without owning a television studio or buying airtime. How do they manage?

Flory: INC leaders have leveraged digital technology to get their message out—smartphones in particular, where you can get anything you want as long as you have some kind of digital connection. That just expands the world exponentially for these people.

Christerson: It’s also basically free to put your product out there. IHOP is particularly good at doing that. They say their website—in terms of viewed video content—is one of the top 50 websites in the world.

Between the internet and the conferences, they have figured out ways to leverage that big, exhilarating, hyped-up experience you get in a stadium venue. That’s where their networking comes into play. They can bring in four or five apostles, and then their followers flock to see them. People have these significant experiences that juice them up to contact the apostles over the internet. If they can go to a conference two or three times a year to get a new jolt, that becomes the new rhythm, as opposed the weekly rhythm of church life.

Let’s talk about the “7 mountains” theology, which is popular in these circles. On some levels, it sounds like theocracy. Christians are in charge of every part of life: the “mountains” of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. On the other hand, it sounds like there’s no actual plan—aside from putting these Christians in charge. So what’s going on?

Christerson: They really believe that God is behind it all, that he is appointing people into these high positions, and that they will know what to do when they get there. They will be listening to God, and he will use them to supernaturally make America or the world into the kingdom of God. Some of the people that they claim are in these high position—like Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Rick Perry—are part of the Trump administration. But they are not Pentecostals, and they have nothing to do with these groups. The movement just latches on to them and claims God is using Trump to bring in the kingdom.

Some INC people describe Trump as a King Cyrus figure—he’s not one of us, but God is using him to defeat our enemies and restore our nation. If Trump collapses or gets impeached, they will not look very good. Some of them have staked their reputation on Trump’s performance, but not all of them.

They don’t have policy goals, other than anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage sentiments. They don’t have an idea of what it takes to reduce poverty or curb international conflict. None of that is even on their radar.

It’s a very different approach than other religious groups take. If it’s the Catholic Church, the religious right, or the religious left, they actually have a strategy. They have think-tanks and organizations, and they’re involved at different levels with political parties. This is nothing like that.

Flory: In some ways, it’s a really romantic vision. For most of the 20th century, most Pentecostals and evangelicals were pre-millennial—they imagined that God’s reign would appear in full only after the second coming of Christ. But the INC movement is explicitly post-millennial. In their minds, God’s kingdom can come to earth before Christ returns—and, by the way, it will be in America. There is this interesting combination of America first, Americans as God’s chosen people, and a romantic vision of God working it out through the people he chooses.

Do INC leaders engage in any self-reflection about the dangers of holding major power without oversight?

Christerson: I haven’t seen a lot of self-awareness on their part. They think they are an instrument of God—and that’s all they need. There’s a suspicion of any kind of accountability structures, because these limit the power of God working through individuals. When you have a church board and an elder board that hires a pastor, then that pastor can’t do the things that God is telling him to do—because he has to go to the board to get everything approved. The real danger, they would say, is when institutions become more powerful than the individuals that God calls.

But they do seem different than the prosperity gospel preachers, in that wealth isn’t flaunted.

Christerson: Peter Wagner talked about the differences between the two groups. He said that the prosperity gospel thought that money was a blessing for the sake of blessing. For his own New Apostolic Reformed movement, the prosperity comes from God in order to transform the world for God.

Interestingly, INC leaders think that the business world is the key to all of this—because wealth is more powerful than all other forms of power. They anticipate this huge transfer of wealth to believers. But they see this wealth as an instrument for bringing about God’s kingdom on earth.

For prosperity preacher, it’s more that God is going to bless me individually to show me favor and to show that he is God. We didn’t get that from the INC leaders. They dress casually and don’t drive expansive cars or fly in their own planes.

Many INC apostles are very successful. So why have they stayed out of the spotlight, at least in the broader culture?

Christerson: One reason this movement hasn’t gotten a lot of press is that the leaders don’t seek it out. They have their own networks for disseminating information and getting attention. They are not sending our press releases. For example, they had this Asuza Now conference at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and it drew 50,000 people on a rainy day—if not for the bad weather, the crowd probably would have been even bigger. And it didn’t even make the Los Angeles Times. Fifty thousand people show up for an apostle’s conference at the LA Coliseum, and nobody covered it. That was mind-boggling to me.

They don’t seem to be on anybody’s radar, in part because they are not promoting themselves through normal institutional channels.

And yet they do seem like friendly people, at least in public. And they seem to lack the kind of ostentatiousness that turns people off from prosperity gospel preachers or televangelists.

Christerson: They are super down-to-earth. And there isn’t the angry edge we’ve seen from certain religious-right activists or the more traditional pre-millennial dispensationalists who want to fight evil. For these guys, God’s taking over the world, and they are just riding the wave.

Source CT Article

Other NAR related links:

The Six Hallmarks of a NAR Church

The New Apostolic Reformation (Many Articles and Links) by Sandy Simpson

Interview with Sandy Simpson (with outline and additional links) on Echo Zoe Radio

The New Apostolic Reformation (Multiple Articles) by 4 Truth Ministry

List of Direct Quotes from C. Peter Wagner by The Zedekiah List

The New Apostolic Reformation by Apologetics Index

The Roots and Fruits of the New Apostolic Reformation by Bob Dewaay

The Changing of the Apostolic Guard: 13 Names to Watch by Holly Pivec

The Apostles Who Don’t Do Anything by Grace to You

Interview With Caryl Matrisciana: New Apostolic Reformation by Amy Spreeman

Dominionism and The NAR by Berean Research

Apostles and Prophets are the Foundation of the Church by Bob Dewaay

The New Apostolic Church Movement by Let Us Reason

What Is The New Apostolic Reformation? by Got Questions

Do Miracles, Signs and Wonders Create Faith? by Robert Liichow

Christianity Today Should Correct Heidi Baker NAR Story by Talk To Action

Debunking the Seven Mountains Mandate and the NAR by Chris Rosebrough

What’s Wrong With the Passion (NAR)”Translation” Bible?

The New Apostolic End Times Scripture by Steven Kozar

C. Peter Wagner’s Apostolic Movement on Issues, Etc.

The Apostolic and Prophetic Movement by Keith Gibson

Why I Must Speak Out Against the NAR and Bethel Church by Tony Miano

The Latter Rain Movement on Issues, Etc.

The History of the Renewal Movement: Interview with Lyndon Unger on Echoe Zoe Radio (with links and notes)

The NAR: A Warning About Latter Day Apostles by Orrel Steinkamp

What Is Dominionism? by Apprising

I Refuse to Believe Bob Jones-I’m Staying Home by Steven Kozar

What Is The NAR? by Asleep No More

C. Peter Wagner Spins the NAR by Herescope

The NAR-You Will Know Them by Their Nuts by Church Watch Central

HAW and WOF NARpostles by Church Watch Central

The New Order of the Latter Rain by Spirit Watch

Quick Thoughts: What is the Seven Mountain Mandate? by Lyndon Unger

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

— Galatians 1:6-9

Life is But a Weaving

– Corrie Ten Boom

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.