This past Sunday it was my turn to teach our adult Sunday School class. We're going through the Old Testament in survey format, which is a new experience for me since as a former pastor, I'm used to doing verse-by-verse sermons. It's a big change. You have to cover a lot more material in a lot less time.
At any rate, this week, as the Lord would have it, we were in 1 Kings 20-22; 2 Chronicles 17-20. This text covers part of the life of Ahab (Northern Kingdom) and Jehoshaphat (Southern Kingdom). But the main characters aren't really the kings; they are the prophets, true and false, that the Lord raised up in this passage to Sovereignly guide the fate of these kings and kingdoms.
What I found to be interesting is the fact that in spite of his 400 false prophets guaranteeing victory against the Arameans in what would be his third battle campaign against them, Ahab hears from one true prophet named Micaiah. Micaiah makes it crystal clear that Ahab (and Jehoshaphat) will be defeated and that Ahab will die. Now this takes guts by itself. But on top of that, Micaiah tells Ahab that he had a look behind the scenes prophetically and that the LORD Himself sent out a deceiving spirit to the false prophets so that Ahab would be lured into battle and be defeated. This is not problematic since the book of Job teaches us that Satan himself is on a short leash and is controlled by God to accomplish His purposes, even with those who are His people (such as blameless Job). So how much more can He use the forces of evil to accomplish His purposes in the lives of those who are His enemies?
This act of God via deceiving spirits is not the only time in Scripture that this happens. Zechariah 13:2 records another instance. It says here that an "unclean spirit" is connected with false prophets. Some Bible scholars connect this incident in 1 Kings 22 with the deceiving spirit with Romans 1:22, 24, 26 where it states that God "gave them over" to reprobate minds.
Now I find this incredibly interesting. Especially in the light of our recent visit to the Todd Bentley "revival" when it came to Denton a few weeks ago. As we tried to speak to people there about the Gospel there was a tangible blindness evident. Over the last four years I have spoken with many about the Gospel, both admittedly unsaved and professing Christians, but I have never seen blindness on anyone like I did that night. At the time, I could not understand it. They were both blind and deaf to the Word of God. Whether you agree with this assessment or not, I know what I (and the others on our ministry team) saw that night.
In these passages of Scripture, I think we have a way to understand this blindness. Many (not all) may be following Bentley because the Lord has given them over to their own selfish desires for health and wealth. He has allowed demonic forces to blind professing believers to the truth. Whether they are or are not true Christians is not for me to say. We are all supposed to "examine ourselves" (2 Cor. 13:5). Since Todd Bentley is of the "spirit of Antichrist" it's not really surprising that in a similar manner his "lying wonders" work together with the "strong delusion" sent by God Himself (2 Thess. 2:9-12) for the purpose of giving his followers what they claim they really want; a spectacular, charismatic (in personality) leader who promises them health and wealth.
On Sunday our church was blessed to have Justin Peters do part of his "A Call to Discernment" seminar. This seminar exposes the Word of Faith movement for their unbiblical teachings. Justin also wrote his doctoral thesis on Benny Hinn's ministry. He is uniquely qualified to teach this seminar. Not only has he studied the movement thoroughly, but he has cerebral palsy and followed the Word of Faith movement for a couple of years as he sought to be healed.
After Justin finished his seminar on Sunday night, I had a chance to speak with him for just a few moments about this theory regarding Todd Bentley. I asked him if he thought this might be the case; that the Lord has sent a strong delusion amongst the Word of Faith followers and that He has "given them over" to reprobate minds. He agreed and added that he thought that this teaching and its spread is a judgment from God on our nation.
This was an aspect I had not thought about, but just some consideration shows it to have some merit. Considering the fact that the judgment by God on Ahab via his false prophets was not simply a judgment on Ahab alone, but on the entire nation of Israel (Northern Kingdom), there is some Biblical weight to this. Our nation has pursued pleasure from its inception, claiming we have the "inalienable right" to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This founding document of the Declaration of Independence, as one recent book has it in its title, is practically "American Scripture".
Now, I don't think the founding fathers had Todd Bentley or the Word of Faith movement in mind when they signed this document. Many of them were godly men. But it is not debatable that the United States is driven by covetousness and consumerism to a degree that no other nation of the world is. Our economy is absolutely driven on violating the Tenth Commandment. Anyone who denies it has never been overseas. To the degree that they are driven by consumerism is due mainly to America's influence.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think that Thomas Jefferson had the right to be greedy in mind when he penned the Declaration. However, as time has passed, that is exactly how we have applied it, especially since the end of World War Two. Interestingly enough, that is when the Word of Faith movement began to be popularized. Meanwhile, evangelical Christianity moved away from the true Gospel and embraced the "Modern Gospel" which states that Jesus will fix all of your problems and give you happiness in spades. The stage was effectively set to make the Gospel completely man-centered. As Americans flocked after it in droves as well as the pursuit of their own personal wealth, is it possible that the Lord sent out a deceiving spirit to give us what we claim we wanted? Is it possible that He has given us over to our reprobate minds, sending a strong delusion on American Christianity, as a judgment on this nation? The case seems pretty strong that He has done exactly that.
If we want true revival and not this smoke in mirrors show that Bentley is doing in Lakeland, we must repent of our covetousness. Turn from our materialism and turn towards the One who did not have a place to lay His head. Turn from the Super Bowl commercials and turn towards the One who said that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Turn from the malls and big-box stores (and churches) and turn to the One who said that if anyone wants to come after Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him.
Oh Lord, have mercy on us. In Your wrath, remember mercy.