And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. —Philippians:1:9-11
The Apostle Paul’s prayer for believers in Philippi is also a prayer for all believers everywhere and at all times. Moreover, it is a prayer that all believing parents should be praying for their children, especially those in their late teens, twenties, and early thirties who know the Lord. Why those in particular? Well, there are a number of reasons, although I thank the Lord for the personal exceptions. That age group is quite vulnerable to the adverse influences of their peers. Their lives are also beset by practical distractions: school, the workplace, social life or lack thereof, career choices, marriage considerations, etc., which sidetrack them from the very thing that would sustain them as they deal with the temporal issues of life.
Paul’s prayer for the Colossians expands upon his intercession for the Philippians:
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. (Colossians:1:9-11)
Notice that he wanted them to be “filled with the knowledge” of God’s will, “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding...being pleasing [to the Lord and] fruitful in every good work.” This prayer, however, would be so many empty words unless those for whom he is praying desire to have a walk worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him. The good news is that many young believers today have that desire and zeal. The not-so-good news is that too few seem to be putting forth the effort necessary to increase in the knowledge of God. Again, it could be due to distractions, but whatever the case, it will have troubling consequences.
Without the “increasing knowledge of God,” which is predicated upon reading His Word and doing what it says, a believer’s walk will be hit and miss in pleasing the Lord and will be mostly unfruitful regarding good works. Furthermore, he will not “abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment,” meaning that he will have no basis for biblical discernment.
Without biblical discernment, this upcoming generation is “adrift at sea”—heading for a rocky coast and pending shipwreck. As I have had the opportunity to speak with young people throughout the U.S. and around the world, many of whom seem to be biblically knowledgeable, I’ve found that they are largely ignorant of false teachings, movements, and practices, along with the false teachers who are seducing multitudes of Christians today. I have no sense of their being like the “children of Issachar…that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles:12:32). They don’t seem to be heeding the many, many warnings in Scripture regarding the prevalence of spiritual seduction and deception (Matthew:24:4; Mark:13:21-23; 2 Corinthians:2:3-4; Galatians:3:1; Colossians:2:4,8; 2 Thessalonians:2:3; 1 Timothy:4:1; 2 Timothy:2:26, 3:1-2, 3:6, 4:3-5, 1 John:2:26, etc.). They seem to be out of touch with the exhortations of John and Peter and Jude concerning those who would deceive them. They are missing Paul’s cry to the Ephesian elders:
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts:20:29-31)
When the full counsel of God’s Word is not taken to heart and put into practice, there is little basis for spiritual growth. Often the result is an experiential faith, based upon subjective feelings rather than the objective Word of Truth. Such a condition produces a shallow if not false faith and completely eliminates biblical discernment.Such a one cannot be like the Bereans (Acts:17:11), whom Luke commended because they listened to the Apostle Paul and then searched the Scriptures to see if the things he taught were true. Dependence upon an experiential faith is pervasive among Christians whether they are Pentecostals, Charismatics, or conservative Evangelicals. Here are just four influences that are experientially based, major seducers of the upcoming generation: the Emerging Church Movement, the International House of Prayer, Christian psychology, and Progressive Christianity.
The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) has no official organization or leadership, although some of its adherents have “emerged” as recognized leaders and spokesmen. It is an attempt to attract the post-modern generation to Jesus through a refashionedChristianity. ECM leaders believe that today’s Christianity has been distorted by a culturalChristianity. This “reinventing” was initially a response against the marketing ploys of the church-growth movement, which gave rise to what have become known as seeker-friendly churches. These churches added consumer-oriented ingredients to attract the “unchurched” to church: “positive” sermons of short duration, top-forty style contemporary music, dramatic productions, food courts, and video arcades and rock-style worship for the youth. That approach, however, didn’t satisfy the desires of those young people, who were craving a deeper spiritual experience. Rather than turning to the Bible, leaders of the ECM turned to what they called “authentic” or “vintage Christianity.”
Although the ECM claimed that they were returning to early church traditions, they went back no further than the rituals, elements, and practices of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. The sensuality of the images, candles, and incense, as well as the rituals, attracted scores of young evangelicals. Even biblically solid fellowships were seeing their youth caravanning to Emergent churches to experience “authentic Christianity.” Bells, smells, and imagery became a powerful seduction. Altars, religious icons, and even the Stations of the Cross have found their homes in the youth rooms and basements of evangelical churches. This affinity for the experiential opened the door to further unbiblical practices and teachings, particularly contemplative prayer and the occult techniques of the so-called Desert Fathers and other Catholic mystics.
The Emerging Church Movement’s commitment to the experiential in opposition to the objective Word of God eased the way for the rejection of sound doctrine (2 Timothy:4:3-4). Among its numerous false teachings are these: Jesus is not the exclusiveway to God; “truth” may be found in all religions; a social gospel displaces the biblical gospel; a “restore the earth” agenda is emphasized over the eternal; and, mingled with all of these, we find universalism, visual idolatry, and an aggressive undermining of the Scriptures. (See TBC, 9/07, 2/08, 3/08)
Another movement, the International House of Prayer (IHOP) is the latest Pentecostal/Charismatic development that features an appeal to youth. It grew out of a series of alleged “manifestations of the Holy Spirit” dating back to at least the 1940s. Known as the Latter-Rain/Manifest Sons of God (LR/MSG), the movement initially was declared to be heretical by the Assemblies of God, but that did little to slow its growth among Pentecostals and Charismatics. The foundational LR/MSG belief is that God is pouring out His Spirit in these last days and raising up Prophets and Apostles to direct an army of Spirit-filled believers, particularly young people, who are empowered to perform signs and wonders and who must take dominion over the earth before Jesus can return. The dominionist doctrine has been a part of the so-called Holy Ghost revivals from the Toronto Airport Vineyard manifestations to the Brownsville Revival and the Todd Bentley/Lakeland, Florida, escapades—all of which drew millions of people from around the world to participate in counterfeit signs and wonders. That emphasis upon spiritual signs and wonders has continued at IHOP through its leader, Mike Bickle, and his association with the leaders of the Toronto Renewal and Redding, California’s Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.
Today’s leaders of IHOP were heavily influenced by those known as the Kansas City Prophets, with whom Bickle was associated, and whose doctrines and methods came from the Latter-Rain/Manifest Sons of God teachings. One foundational IHOP method derived from the LR/MSG is the doctrine that the anointed leadership can hear from God directly, and that communication (known as rhema, said to be the spoken word) supersedes the written Word of God as the authority to which all were to submit. In the past, that controlling doctrine (called “shepherding”) led to cult-like abuses of LR/MSG followers and is reportedly still in effect, according to concerned parents of IHOP students. Followers of IHOP defend the movement by claiming that their parents lack the spiritual maturity to understand what’s taking place. Even though IHOP places an emphasis on prayer, its “prayer techniques” border on the occult, particularly those practices that follow mystical contemplative methods.
Although IHOP’s influence is having an impact on many young people of Pentecostal or Charismatic backgrounds, there is another “experiential” seduction that will influence an incalculable number of young believers who were brought up in conservative evangelical churches. The prestigious Princeton Review, in its survey of U.S. colleges and universities, reported that the second most popular career choice of students is psychology. It’s the same at Christian colleges, where there is a focus on the pursuit of degrees in psychological counseling. If that trend holds true, the next generation of evangelical Christians will be flooded with individuals who have fallen into the trap of a pseudoscience that is far more destructive to their faith than the false science of evolution. The fact that psychotherapy is not and cannot be a science has been well documented from numerous secular sources and in the articles and books offered by TBC. A simple reason that it cannot be scientific is its subjective and experiential nature; it clearly falls outside the methodology that true science demands.
From a biblical perspective, psychological counseling not only denies the sufficiency of Scripture, but its foundational “self” concepts and its chief dogma of the innate goodness of mankind are diametrically opposed to the biblical truth about the sinful nature of man. That fact makes the attraction of so-called Christian psychology delusionary at best and of an antichrist spirit at worst. Furthermore, there is no psychological counseling method that either addresses or deals with (or can deal with) the issue of sin. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped nearly all professing Christian universities and colleges from promoting psychotherapeutic programs in order to attract more Christian students.
Even though most Christian schools of higher education teach some form of evolutionary development, be it theistic or atheistic, there are nonetheless a number of excellent organizations and individuals that have informed Christians about the pseudoscience of Darwinian evolution. The same cannot be said for informing evangelical Christianity, and its youth in particular, about the more insidious pseudoscience of psychotherapy. Too few are addressing this travesty while two very influential evangelical organizations, Focus on the Family and the American Association of Christian Counselors, lead the way in attempting to integrate the Bible and psychology. Tragically, this major seducer of the next generation of evangelicals is an anti-biblical development that has set up shop and is thriving in the evangelical church.
Another development within U.S. Christendom that has drawn young evangelicals away from biblical truth is a phenomenon related to political changes in our country. More than three decades ago, evangelical Christianity was a platform and voting base for the Moral Majority and the Christian Right. Despite its inherent problems, evangelicals nevertheless hoped to change society through their own conservative political candidates. Today, there has been a drastic shift from the political right to the left. Although hardly complete, the change is nevertheless apparent, particularly among the young who profess to be Christians. Many have joined the ranks of Progressive Christians, a.k.a. the Christian Left (CL).
A primary attraction of the Christian Left is its emphasis upon meeting the needs of the poor and rectifying conditions stemming from social injustice. Although a zeal for such things is admirable, in practice and in CL teachings, the departure from Scripture is quite radical. Whereas the Bible certainly addresses such things, they are never to be emphasized over the saving of souls through the preaching of the gospel. The difference too often is a temporal need met at the expense of eternal life with Christ. The majority of the teachings of the CL leaders (Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, among others) are at odds with Scripture at nearly every turn, from liberation theology to the “presence of Christ” within the poor (because of their condition) to a social gospel predicated upon works-salvation. Again, we have a generation that hasn’t been grounded in the Word of God, and this lack of biblical discernment has made it vulnerable to seemingly good works and a motivation fueled by emotions. More significantly, it is a generation that is being deceived by a movement that has distorted the Scriptures for its own humanistic agenda.
The preceding examples are just the tips of a few icebergs threatening the faith and fruitfulness of the upcoming generation. Our hope is that you can see that we must take to heart the Apostle John’s warning: “These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you” (1 John:2:26). Our prayer and cry to the Lord is that TBC and other like-minded ministries, fellowships, and fellow-believers will, by God’s grace and enablement, do all that we can to reach and to help equip young evangelicals biblically, and to encourage them to grow in the knowledge of God and in all discernmentas they await our Blessed Hope, the return of our Lord and Savior. TBC