Ephrata Community Church : DOCTRINAL STATEMENT

THE HOLY SPIRIT:

We believe the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, who convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. He is the agent of God in the regeneration of the lost. He is the gift of Christ to the church indwelling all believers, sealing them in the body of Christ unto the day of redemption. He is the divine teacher who guides believers into all truth. He imparts the gifts of the Spirit as found in Scripture. (John 16:6-15; Titus 3:5-7; John 14:17; John 15:26; Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

.. SECTION 2 – THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, inerrant and infallible in their original writing. They are the supreme and final authority for faith and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Peter 3:16)

.. SECTION 7 – THE KINGDOM OF GOD

We believe the Kingdom of God to be God’s right to rule, which was prophesied through the law and prophets, and came to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. We believe Jesus to be the King in the Kingdom, which is working for consummation at the end of this age. (Mark 1:14; Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20; Luke 17:20-21; Revelations 19:11-16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Revelation 11:15)

.. SECTION 10 – MISSION OF THE CHURCH

The mission of the church is to demonstrate the power and reality of the Kingdom of God on the earth, specifically through the transformation of people’s lives into the likeness of Jesus by the power of the cross of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. The biblical means of accomplishing this is evangelism and discipleship. God fulfills His purpose for His church through local churches. (Matthew 5:13-16; Ephesians 3:10; Matthew 28:19; Colossians 2:19)

.. THE LORD’S SUPPER

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving the bread and the cup, according to the appointing of Jesus Christ, His death is proclaimed. Those who worthily partake, in remembrance of Him, feed upon Him to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace, have their union and communication with Him confirmed, and testify and renew their thankfulness and commitment to God and their mutual love and fellowship with each other as members of the same body. (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

The False Promise Of The Prosperity Gospel: Why I Called Out Joel Osteen And Joyce Meyer

I have been preaching for 20 years. Yesterday I did something that I have never done before in a sermon. I publicly called out false teachers and named them by name. I said:

If you listen to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, if you take what they teach seriously, it will not be good for you. It will be detrimental to your long-term growth as a follower of Jesus.

(You can watch my sermon here.)

I used to think that their error was so blatantly obvious that they could just be ignored. I was wrong. They are massively growing in popularity in the evangelical world and are seen as credible and helpful. Before I’m inundated with questioning emails I want to share why I distrust these two and think you should as well. So, don’t shoot me — at least not yet.

When I was a kid I could tell the difference between neighborhood kids who wanted to be my friend from the neighborhood kids who were my friends so that they could play with my toys. Joel and Joyce are the latter. They both teach a twisted form of Christianity that teaches obedience, giving and faith as a way to get things from God. They are both products of what is known as the Prosperity Gospel and The Word of Faith Movement, or the Seed Faith Movement.

John Piper does a great job of defining what the Prosperity Gospel is and why it is so sinister. Please take a few minutes to watch this before moving on to the critiques of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen:

Joyce Meyer

When I first heard her tell her story I was deeply moved and impressed. She is an amazing example of overcoming hurts and abuse. She will forever have my admiration and respect in that regard. Furthermore, she gives spectacular advice. If my wife or if one of my daughters went to her in a moment of crisis, I believe they would return with magnificently helpful advice. If they went to her for teaching, they would return with deadly heresy.

False Doctrine

1. She teaches that Jesus literally stopped being the Son of God on the Cross (listen here):

“He could have helped himself up until the point where he said I commend my spirit into your hands, at that point he couldn’t do nothing for himself anymore. He had become sin, he was no longer the Son of God. He was sin.”

2. She teaches that Jesus went to Hell and became the first-born again man (listen here):

.. Joel Osteen

Like Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen has some really great things to say. He is encouraging and the man is certainly happy. This should not be held against him.

The man is confused on theology. He has much of the same doctrinal misunderstandings as does Joyce Meyer. They come from the same tradition. His doctrine is difficult to discern for many because he won’t talk about doctrine. He won’t talk about theology. He quickly back pedals when asked hard questions, as seen here in an interview with Larry King.

In fairness, Joel published a letter of apology after this interview.

While I commend him for his humility and courage to publicly declare that he was wrong, this is just one of too many instances. He frequently misunderstands important matters of faith and doctrine when being interviewed. He repeatedly gets the Gospel wrong. And he does so when talking to millions.

If we take Joel at his word, our only conclusion is that he is either incapable or unwilling to understand and explain how the Gospel intersects with all of life.

We recently hosted Hank Hanegraaff (The Bible Answerman) at SMCC. He has some very helpful insights (here and here) into Joel Osteen’s confused views of faith, doctrine and Scripture:

Joel Osteen and Prosperity Gospel

The Prosperity Gospel is much like all other religions in that it uses faith, it uses doing good things to leverage material blessings from God. Essentially, use God to get things from God.

“If you are believing for your child to find God, go help somebody else’s child to develop a relationship with God. If you’re struggling financially, go out and help somebody who has less than you have … f you want to reap financial blessings, you must sow financial seeds in the lives of others … If you want to see healing and restoration come to your life, go out and help somebody else get well” From Your Best Life Now, pp. 224, 250-51

This is not the Gospel. This is a false Gospel. Joel teaches that we open ourselves to God to get more from God. He teaches that we use our words to speak into existence a better reality. This straight from the Word of Faith Movement. This is not what is taught throughout the New Testament. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote. And remember that he wrote this while in prison.

Philippians 4:10-13 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Conclusion

When I was in seminary, Heather and I were poor. There were seasons in which I worked 70+ hours a week while taking a full-time Master’s load. There were times that I had to sleep every other day so that I could get all my work done. This was an extended period of exhausting financial stress.

During this time, I remember reading something from Joel Osteen. He and his wife claimed by faith a new house that they wanted. Joel was unsure, but his wife Victoria was confident. And she lovingly chastised him for his lack of faith. Sometime later, they purchased that house. Still in seminary, my wife and I were walking through our dream neighborhood and that was playing through my mind. As I walked through the neighborhood, looking at all the homes, I wanted so badly for what Joel is teaching to be true. I don’t know if you can understand how desperately I wanted it to be true.

I wanted relief and I wanted more. But I knew that it wasn’t true. I knew that my exhaustion and desperation made me emotionally vulnerable to this false Gospel. I’m educated and well read. I’ve haven’t just read the Bible, I’ve translated large chunks of it from the original Hebrew and Greek. I think I understand it. I think I have a relatively significant level of discernment. But for a moment, I was emotionally vulnerable to this false doctrine.

What about the millions of others who are desperate, searching, hoping and vulnerable without the discernment? We owe it to them to not tolerate a false gospel any longer.

If you made it to the end of this blog post, congratulations. This is a thick and heavy subject. Even though I’ve written much, this only begins to scratch the surface of the repugnant nature of the Prosperity Gospel.

Richard Rohr Meditation: A New Reformation

In the past, most of Jesus’ practical teaching was ignored by Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians. The establishment chose instead to concentrate on private sinfulness and personal salvation and, as Brian McLaren says, an “evacuation plan” into the next world.

.. growing recognition that Jesus was clearly concerned about the specific healing and transformation of real persons and human society “on earth as it is in heaven.”

.. The Church, more than Jesus, historically focused on doctrinal belief and moral stances, which ask almost nothing of us in terms of real change. They just define groups—often in an oppositional way.

.. Critical biblical scholarship is occurring on a broad ecumenical level, especially honest historical and anthropological scholarship about Jesus as a Jew in the culture of his time. This leads us far beyond the liberal reductionism and the conservative fundamentalism that divide so many churches.

We now see the liberal/conservative divide as a bogus and finally unhelpful framing of the issues.

The Biden Doctrine

Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates wrote in his memoir, Duty, that Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

.. I haven’t always agreed with Biden’s positions, but those positions have tended to follow a pattern and demonstrate a consistency of approach, analysis, and engagement that stands out—particularly when compared with many other foreign-policy players who often don’t leave clear footprints.

.. decisions on whether to deploy America’s “enormous military capability,” he said in the interview, should depend on assessments of “(a) what is the strategic interest? And (b) what are the second, third, and fourth steps in this process?” His contention to me that “you do not commit force unless you can demonstrate that the use of that force is sustainable and will produce an outcome” sounds nearly identical to the views President Barack Obama expressed to Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlanticarticle “The Obama Doctrine.”

.. what makes his approach distinctive is that he may very well be the nation’s first “personality realist.” Unlike Obama—whose relationships with world leaders from Japan’s Shinzo Abe to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu are famously chilly—Biden says of his doctrine that “it all gets down to the conduct of foreign policy being personal. … All [foreign policy] is, is a logical extension of personal relationships, with a lot less information to act on.”

 .. She supported the U.S. surge of forces into Afghanistan in 2009, at a time when Biden opposed it. In 2011, she supported both America’s Libya intervention and the raid to kill Osama bin Laden
.. Americans, he said, tend to over-respond to the “wolf at the door” without recognizing that there are other wolves out in the field.
.. The “wolves in the field,” then—the real existential threats facing the nation—he sees not as terrorism, even from ISIS, but rather the prospect of “loose nukes, and unintended nuclear conflict that erupts with another nuclear power” like Russia or China. Other big threats include “that not-stable figure in North Korea,” Kim Jong Un, and Pakistan, which, he reminded me, he dubbed the “most dangerous nation in the world” nine years ago.
.. “Terrorism is a real threat,” Biden said, “but it’s not an existential threat to the existence of the democratic country of the United States of America.

.. had seen Biden take his granddaughter Finnegan to China to help break open new terrain with the new Chinese leaderwhen Xi Jinping first took office, and do the same with his granddaughter Naomi*
.. “You’ve got to figure out what is the other guy’s [leader’s] bandwidth. … You have to figure out what is realistically possible
.. Netanyahu had enough trust in the vice president to ask him to help normalize his country’s relations with Turkey, which had ruptured in 2010. Biden took the mission, mediating between Netanyahu and Erdogan—himself not an uncomplicated leader. And it worked. The two countries signed a deal to normalize relations this summer. Netanyahu called the vice president thanking him for his role in making their rapprochement—and a potential natural-gas deal between the two countries—work.
.. Biden has tried to effect similar reconciliations between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
.. Biden is regularly handed the lemons in the foreign-policy sphere—the tough, unglamorous cases, the ones that have to be worked for a long time. It’s worth noting, as Goldberg has, that there are leaders Obama never really warmed up to. Biden tends these relationships
.. Biden would be the golden retriever of the administration.’
.. Biden Doctrine, then, has four key components. 1) Don’t use force unless it counts and is sustainable. 2) Shore up and strengthen alliances—and build common cause on common projects with other global stakeholders. The world is changing and fragile and America can’t do all that needs to be done alone. 3) Have a sense of perspective, and think about proportional responses to threats—terrorism is not existential but nuclear exchanges are. 4) Relationships and the personal side of foreign-policy making—with allies and with enemies—is a key part of successful foreign-policy execution. It’s this fourth dimension of “personality realism” that represents the vice president’s biggest contribution