By Rick Becker 11 June 2020
When you are saved from the deception that captivated you, a process begins to unfold. It’s painful, confusing, it’s lonely at times. But as the scales are removed from your eyes, truths that were previously hidden from you will be illuminated. Some are uncomfortable, but essential to lay a foundation for a faith that doesn’t fall for the various comfortable winds of doctrine. Post New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) you can expect a shift (excuse the pun) in your understanding of scripture, and consequently of God and self. In this article, I share various stages or moments of awakening to certain truths that many experience after their exit from the NAR.
* Update – POST NAR TRAUMATIC STRESS is a recent article that explores three factors that impact those who leave the system:
1. Characteristics – the cultish characteristics of the NAR or any spiritually abusive system.
2. Consequences – the consequences of leaving the NAR or spiritually abusive churches.
3. Cure – the path to wholeness.
1. T H E S H A K I N G
When God begins to open our eyes to the deception we have embraced, we will be shaken to the core. The reason for the shaking may be different for many:
• An incident exposes the manipulative and controlling leadership of our church.
• We read an article or watch a video that exposes the false teachings we have been subjected to, and never thought to question.
• We become uncomfortable with the manifestations we are witnessing and are struggling to reconcile them with scripture.
• Our expectations have not been realized, tithing did not bring financial increase, our disease has not been healed, our difficult circumstances remain…the promised breakthrough never materializes.
• We are surrounded by passionate people but we simply cannot get onto their level. We don’t have the experiences or encounters they claim to have, and we begin to wonder why God has passed us by.
• The reaction we receive to our questions, makes us wonder why a simple question cannot be answered straightforwardly. Instead, the spotlight is on us, our attitude, our behavior, our reluctance to trust in our leader’s words, and our failure to buy into the vision of the church. We are accused of being quarrelsome, and that we are causing dissension. We are told we simply want to create controversy, and that we are guilty of slander.
If you are at this particular junction right now, I hope the following passage of scripture relieves you of false guilt:
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5
Note that It’s the ones who teach a different doctrine who are the problem. They project their characteristics onto you because they cannot defend their teachings from scripture – they are deprived of truth. By comparing their teachings to scripture, you have become a threat to their “ministry” and shameful gain, and as a result, they need to silence you. Whatever the trigger, this is time that stirs up a whirlwind of emotions, and raises many questions. This shaking is never pleasant, but it’s necessary to be awakened to the deception we have fallen into.
2. T H E S E A R C H I N G
This is the time when we start looking for answers. This process is shortened if we can put aside our emotions, and turn to the only objective truth there is – the scriptures.
We should set aside the personalities of the leaders, set aside the good and bad experiences we have had, and test one thing – the teaching. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11.
The issue, of course, is the fact that we were deceived by men and women who quoted scripture, but now we begin to discover one very important principle – context matters. Instead of verses being plucked out of context to suit a narrative, we apply the principles of exegesis to find the real meaning of a verse. Instead of asking – what does this verse mean to me? we begin to ask – what did the author mean, and what is the application? We learn to make the distinction between law and gospel, a prescriptive or descriptive text. The theology of the NAR is man centered, and as a result, man instead of Christ is elevated. It’s through this narcissistic tainted lens that the NAR interprets scripture. Post NAR, we learn that the bible is not a motivational manual, therapeutic thesis, or handbook for superpowers. By way of illustration, we learn that:
The story of Joseph is not about our promotion from pit to palace.
The story of David and Goliath is not about slaying our personal giants.
Jesus calming the storm is not about our authority over the elements.
To understand the scriptures, we look for Christ, instead of self:
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” Luke 24: 44-45
We realize that Bill Johnson is incorrect in saying that Jesus came to model miracles for us. Walking on water, changing water into wine, raising ourselves from the dead, calming a storm…..why should we emulate these? Jesus didn’t perform miracles to show us what we could do, but show that he was one with the father, that he was God: “even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” John 10:38.
The purpose of scripture is belief in Christ, not self: “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31
Post NAR, our delusions of grandeur are reduced to a pile of ashes. Our inaccurate perception of God and self is corrected as we search the scriptures. We realize that we don’t possess the attributes of God. We cannot declare, decree, or speak things into being because our words are not causative. We realize the error of Bill Johnson’s statement – “God is in charge, but He is not in control. He has left us in control.” The gap between us and God becomes clear. The main discovery when we search the scriptures after leaving the NAR is that God…is God. We are not his partners or co-creators, we are his servants. He is not going to meet our demands or help us fulfill our desires. He’s not going to make all our dreams come true, he may not heal our chronic disease, and he may not change our difficult circumstances. The gospel does not promise physical or financial well being in this world – it promises spiritual well being.
We begin to realize that it’s not God who has disappointed us, but that our false expectations based on false teachings have deceived us. This is such a crucial distinction to make, failure to do so results in many people rightly rejecting a false concept of God but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. When we recognize the lies we have bought into, there can inevitably be no fellowship between light and darkness. For the sake of our spiritual well being, there needs to be a separation.
3. T H E S E P A R A T I O N
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Romans 16:17
Note that once again, the divisive ones are not those who ask questions, or compare teachings to scripture – the divisive ones are those who twist the scriptures. The timing and reasons for leaving a church under the spell of the NAR may differ, but the bottom line should be the realization that fellowship with those who distort the truth is impossible. By sitting under a pastor who twists the word of God, you are submitting yourself to someone God has disqualified and is deceiving their followers. Your pastor should in fact be the one rebuking those who teach false doctrine. He “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it“ Titus 1:9
In this article, I address several invalid reasons for staying in a church that teaches false doctrine. I’ll simply mention the points here. The following reasons are not legitimate reasons to stay in a church that teaches false doctrine:
1. I’ll simply ignore the bad teaching – eat the meat and spit out the bones.
2. I’ll just stay and be a witness.
3. I have family members in the church; if I leave I will offend them.
4. I stand to lose too much.
5. Despite some bad doctrine God still moves.
6. I will be without a spiritual covering.
7. I play a valuable role in the church.
8. There is no alternative nearby.
Churches that have been infected with NAR teachings do not reach a plateau and remain mildly deceptive. Inherent in the movement is the necessity for new revelations, increasing manifestations, and more outlandish testimonies. There is no option but to leave the burgeoning cesspool of NAR deception.
“..while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:13-17
4. T H E S I F T I N G
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.“ Hebrews 4:12
Matthew Henry, commenting on this verse writes: “It will discover to men their thoughts and purposes, the vileness of many, the bad principles they are moved by, the sinful ends they act to.” In the NAR, the “word of God” is not the word of God. Instead, we received the words of men, their private interpretations, and portions of scripture from the diabolical Passion Translation. The word of God has been silenced in our lives, it cannot do its work.
God in his mercy has opened our eyes and has allowed us to be sifted. A painful process, but the goal of sifting wheat is not to destroy it but purify it. The shaking is the equivalent of our house falling down, the sifting is the stage where we examine our foundation to discover why it fell. During the searching phase, we examined the teachings that ensnared us. During the sifting process, we examine our hearts. The primary question we probably all had, is why were we deceived in the first place?
An uncomfortable answer is found in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: “For 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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
We are quick to blame false teachers for deceiving us, but fail to recognize that the real problem was our itching ears and passions. It’s one thing to identify deceptive teaching, it’s another to identify self deception. Self is the main cause for all our miseries: “I have never met a man who has given me as much trouble as myself.” – Dwight Moody
I can think of three basic reasons why so many have been captivated by this insidious movement:
• to alleviate some form of pain.
• to obtain some form of pleasure.
• to display some form of power.
The first reason is the heartbreaking one. People desperate for physical healing, or relief from some form of mental anguish go to churches like Bethel for help. Not only do they receive a different gospel, but they are subjected to a different spirit. Their physical or mental troubles will be eclipsed by the spiritual delusion that will fall upon them in that environment. On the surface, the motivation and goals of the NAR seem godly. What believer would not hope for the eradication of sickness, crime, and all kinds of evil? What carnal individuals would not like the spotlight on themselves as a result of their ministry? However, lurking beneath the godly veneer is a theology that has enthroned self, not Christ. Words such as destiny, legacy, and influence are commonly used in the NAR, and the revealing factor is that they all refer to self. A classic example of the narcissism that characterizes this movement can be found in the words of Bethel’s false prophet, Kris Vallotton – “Your identity as a child of God is a non-negotiable. You’re powerful, glorious, and outright awesome.”
This sifting process gets to the heart of the matter. We begin to realize that we were not as powerful as we thought and that the spiritual thrones we believed we occupied were an illusion. We begin to realize that the gospel is not means of gain or guarantee that life on earth will be blissful and pain free. If we fail to deal with our hearts and identify the sin or area of ignorance that led us into deception, we may find ourselves in another deceptive movement or group after leaving the NAR.
5. T H E S U R R E N D E R
There is a hopelessness that is unbiblical and destructive. But I believe there is a hopelessness that is biblical, and necessary to grow and mature in the faith. It’s a hopelessness that initiates our surrender. For some, this surrender may be more of a calculated step as the word of God is illuminated, for others, it’s the result of sheer exhaustion brought on by a relentless pursuit of what can only be described as vain imaginations. The sifting allows us to see that all was not well with our souls. The surrender is the awareness that we are powerless to fix it – and that some things will not be fixed this side of eternity. The beauty of surrender is that we have thrown ourselves at the feet of a sovereign God, who loves us, and promises us that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
There is a flurry of activity in NAR circles. It’s a continual and exhaustive operation, dependent on methodologies and spurred on by manifestations. It’s a man centered and works based theology, always reaching for the next level without the awareness or acknowledgment that the current level didn’t deliver what was promised. Once we are catapulted off the NAR hamster wheel, the stillness and rest may feel strange and even make us feel guilty. We will look back at this time and realize what a gift it was, and realize that the guilt was false guilt. The surrender means submission to God. The NAR is a movement that does not submit to God, they pervert his word, his character, and consider themselves equals to God in many aspects. Even worse, in other aspects believe they can outperform God. For the first time, we find our rightful place – in humility and submission to God. We have been dethroned, – our destiny, our legacy, our dreams, our desires, our ministry…are counted as rubbish.
Our throne is replaced with a cross: “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
We stop searching for what God has already revealed. We stop seeking after that which God has already given. We stop desiring that which God never promised. There is rest in submission. Now we begin to understand what trust and faith mean.
6. T H E S U F F I C I E N C Y
The cultish characteristics of the NAR ensure that followers remain dependent on the personalities and private interpretations of their leaders. By establishing themselves as mediators between God and the ordinary follower, leaders can manipulate and fleece their followers. Followers will find themselves in an endless quest to please their leaders, and in an endless quest to hear from God and experience some sort of spiritual encounter. In retrospect, we discover that it was never enough, and that is because it was a yoke from men that was placed on us.
Breaking free from the NAR is liberating because the emphasis is no longer on what we can or must do for God – but on what Christ has done for us. It’s a migration from self sufficiency, to sufficiency in Christ.
Gone are the fleshly and straining efforts to hear the voice of God. Gone are the efforts to change circumstances by the power of our words. Gone are the days we spent running after anointings and manifestations. Gone are the days of looking for omens – numbers, cloud formations, feathers, oily palms, and gold dust. Gone are the days we chased after men and women, hoping to receive a touch or “prophetic” word from them. Gone are days we timed ourselves speaking in tongues in the hope that it would make us more spiritual. Gone are the days of pleading the blood over anything we could name. Gone are the days of binding things that don’t exist or cannot be bound by a man. Gone are the days of claiming our healing.
The subjective means we relied on, make way for the objective and infallible truth – the word of God. Our emotions, our experiences, and our expectations are no longer the driving force behind our Christianity. We trust in what Christ has already spoken (Hebrews 1:2) and realize that we have already been anointed (1 John 2:20) We learn that the Holy Spirit is given to all believers, and has given all believers certain gifts. We realize that we don’t need a new revelation or the latest word some NAR teacher has just “released” for the body of Christ. We trust in what has already been written in scripture, and know that it is sufficient: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
7. T H E S U F F E R I N G
Beneath the layers of NAR doctrine is the fundamental idea that all forms of suffering must be done away with. There is no suffering in heaven, and that’s the goal of the NAR – to make earth look like heaven. Prosperous cities, cancer-free zones, domination of the seven spheres of society, favor with all people, personal health and wealth, the ability to perform miracles greater than Christ – if these were all attained, where is the suffering? God is concerned with our character, not our comfort, and to this end he allows us to experience hardships, discipline, and sufferings: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” Romans 5:3-4
There is no doubt that God ordains and uses suffering in the life of believers:
• “For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.” 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4
• 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.”
1 Peter 4:12-13
• “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” Psalm 119:67
One of the first ways you are going to feel the consequences of your decision to stand for truth is in your relationships. This is a form of suffering that affects us so deeply. Lifelong friends and family may abandon you. Like David, you may feel the sting of betrayal from those you love:
“For it is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng” Psalm 55:12-14
And sadly, the words of Jesus may become our reality:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39
Post NAR, we reject the propensity to speak into uncomfortable circumstances and bind everything that troubles us. We are reminded of Paul’s thorn in the flesh, and learn from his “encounter.” Paul did not speak to the thorn, bind the thorn, or cast out the spirit of thorn. Paul pleaded with God. But God did not remove something uncomfortable, God used something uncomfortable: “ So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Our perspective changes, we were taught to believe that suffering was a sign that we had failed in some area, or that God was absent. Post NAR we understand that favorable circumstances, health, wealth, and miracles or manifestations are not a barometer to measure our spirituality. We learn to trust in the providence of God, and the presence of God in the midst of our suffering instead of viewing our suffering as the absence of God. We begin to understand that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me does not mean that I can achieve my personal goals, do all things I desire, or bring heaven to earth. Instead, we believe in the plain reading of scripture in context – which means we are content in abundance or need.
“ I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13
8. T H E S A N C T I F I C A T I O N
Justification is positional, we are justified by faith and declared righteous by God based on the work of Christ on the cross. Sanctification is progressive, we are gradually conformed into the image of Christ – a process that will only reach completion when we are resurrected from the dead. The NAR teaches that Jesus lived as a man in a right relationship with God. That’s why they believe we can model the miracles of Jesus, and that’s why some NAR teachers believe we can be sinless on earth. We know that grace is not a license to sin, but the struggle with our flesh will continue until we die. Furthermore, our awareness of our sin should increase, not decrease, as we grow in sanctification.
The NAR is a movement that by and large teaches that unregenerate man is inherently good, awesome, and just needs God to unlock the potential within.
Bethel’s Eric Johnson believes “every government, every structure, every system, fundamentally and theologically must start with the concept and idea that people are good, and they mean to do good, even if they’re not saved. We have to start from that premise.”
Eric Johnson is wrong, we have to start from the premise given in scripture: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Ephesians 2:1-3
The NAR is a movement that hardly recognizes the believer’s struggle with sin. Consider this statement from Kris Vallotton: “Those of us who know God are not in a war with our flesh, however, we do have a devious, evil enemy who is a sinner.”
Paul recognized the struggle within (Galatians 5:16-17) and mentioned the war with our flesh: “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
1 Peter 2:11.
The struggle is real: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:2
The fact is: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10.
Matthew Henry comments on these verses “All who walk near to God, in holiness and righteousness, are sensible that their best days and duties are mixed with sin. God has given testimony to the sinfulness of the world, by providing a sufficient, effectual Sacrifice for sin, needed in all ages; and the sinfulness of believers themselves is shown, by requiring them continually to confess their sins, and to apply by faith to the blood of that Sacrifice.”
Upon conversion, few of us realized the magnitude of our sin and the measure of grace God bestowed on us. This under realization will be amplified, or prolonged, in those who are caught up in the NAR. After coming out, it should not be strange when we experience an increasing awareness of sin. This means sanctification is at work. This greater awareness of sin should lead to a greater awareness of God’s mercy and grace. Thomas Watson put it this way – “Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” – Thomas Watson, “Doctrine of Repentance,” 1668.
The correct perception of God and man cause us to respond to God in awe and reverence. What we experienced in the NAR is a destructive familiarity because we were deluded by these perceptions. The consequences are a lack of the fear of God. The majesty and holiness of God are lost on NAR disciples who are in love with self and blinded to their own sin. Their regular trips to heaven and “encounters” with God are nothing less than experiences with an imaginary god. This is why deluded Bethelites believe they can stand and video a “glory cloud.” If God did manifest himself in their presence, they would be on their faces in repentance. Consider Job’s encounter with God: “Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak;I will question you, and you make it known to me.’I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6
8. T H E S O J O U R N I N G
The scriptures are clear regarding the trajectory of this present world. Paul describes the last days as “times of difficulty” due to the fact the people will be lovers of self, unholy, heartless and brutal (2 Timothy 3) The events unfolding in the world today should be a wake up call to the NAR that the “prince of the power of the air” is unfazed by their vain declarations. Their goal to transform the world has no biblical mandate. What is it then, that drives the NAR to make the world a better place? The root I believe is the love of this world. If not the pleasures of this world, the pride that comes with being part of a new breed that sanitizes the earth and enjoys godlike status. They have made this world their home, and want to improve its standard. The Christian cannot avoid being in this world, but the world must not be in the Christian. “The Separation” stage separated us from a false church, now as sojourners, we live as separate from the world.
Once we exit the NAR, and our eyes have been opened to the fact that earthly comfort and gain are not part of the gospel, the world and things that are passing away lose their attraction. Our perspective has changed, and as a result, our priorities have changed. We realize that very often the promotions we sought, may actually hinder our progress: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
An eternal perspective takes a grip on our souls and purges us of the idea that we have the right to experience the best of this world. It’s this eternal perspective that compels us to live as sojourners in this world: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. ” 1 Peter 2:11
Like sojourners, we realize that the world is not our home. We are passing through, not to transform the cities of this world, but to point to a celestial city. Our mission is not to cure the ills of society or the body, but to cure the deadliest ill of all – spiritual death and separation from God.