Bethel Church, Redding / Five Fruits

Fruit 3: A False Gospel

This post is part of a series focused on the “bring the kingdom” teaching of ministries like Bethel Church in Redding, CA and ministers like Bill Johnson and the fruit in real people’s lives.


I once knew a woman whose dad had been a small-time drug dealer.  He sold and used marijuana, and was generally very easy going and laid back.  He had affection for his kids, and worked construction as well to support them.  He was kind to them, and genuinely liked them.  When they were older, he kept in touch and visited them.

The problem was, while he was laid-back, coping with life by keeping his cool and getting high, the kids’ mother was beating, abusing, starving, locking in closets, and sexually molesting their children.

At some point, this man had some sort of conversion experience at a hyper-charismatic church whose pastor co-authored a book with Bethel’s Bill Johnson, a church that constantly pursued the “Presence of God,” healings, signs and wonders.  There was a change.  Now he began to tell his kids to forgive their mom.  And everything else continued exactly as it had before.  He did nothing to stop the abuse, confront the abuser, protect the children, or even determine what it really was that his children were telling him was happening.

They attended church for years, having mystical spiritual experiences, experiencing the fire, the glory, intimacy, etc.  Last I heard, a decade or more after his “conversion,” nothing had changed in his relationship with his wife.

His daughter, the woman I knew, eventually came into a genuine love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  She just had a horrible time trying to figure out who He really was.  Was He the spirit that came into her room and comforted her after she was molested and raped?  Was He the spirit that descended when she would dance in ecstasy at church and give her visions?  Was He the spirit that made her roll around and laugh and laugh and laugh at her funny life?  Or was He…


Is He Holy?

Is He the One who warned that it would be better to drown oneself than to stumble an innocent child and pronounces WOE after WOE upon those by whom “offenses would come” against children?  And then went on to say it would be better to cut off one’s hand or gouge out an eye that causes you to sin than to face hellfire?  Is He the One that said that no drunkard would inherit the kingdom (I figure this probably applies to drug users, too)?  Is He a Righteous Judge?

OR is He a PASSIVE PAPA who tickles you while you’re dying and pats you when you’re violated, telling you to forgive (as in, “do like me and let’s pretend it isn’t really happening”) and offering you another hit off a spiritual joint so you can make it through your hellish day?  You know…the “Glad God”?  Who invites you to exit the pain by going out of your mind, over and over and over?

There is so much I could highlight out of this story.  But let’s start with noting this real live sinner, needing salvation, who was presented with Bill Johnson’s version of the “kingdom.”  Healings, signs, wonders, and visitations.  Experiences of ecstasy, relief, relaxation, escape, and elation.  Hey!  This sinner found a church that offered the same benefits as marijuana, without the legal implications!!!   NO REAL CHANGE, NO CONTRITION, NO OBEDIENCE AND NO TRANSFORMATION.  Just feelings and experiences.  What is this gospel, that can be fully embraced without any repentance (a false gospel)?  What kind of conversion is that (a false conversion)?  What is this spirit, that frolics and dances around with slaves of sin who’ve not obeyed the true gospel, without bothering to bring it up (not the Holy Spirit)?

Why did the concept of “forgiveness” mean nothing to him but pretending?  Because that’s all it can mean to a sinner who’s presented with idolatrous ecstasy and paranormal experiences rather than the steadfast, repeated, unyielding true gospel of God’s holiness, man’s depravity, and the atonement, justification, and sanctification offered through repentance by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Why is it hard to see that Bethel and friends are offering a false gospel?  Why is it difficult to see that the kingdom they describe is one of their own making?  That the spirit that ministers in this “kingdom” is brazenly unlike the HOLY spirit, who “brings life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10)  and the “spirit of truth” (Jn. 15: 26, 16:13) in the Scriptures…whose fruit, we are CLEARLY told, is not signs and wonders but “goodness, righteousness, and truth” (Eph. 5:9)?

Read the Words of God from Deuteronomy 13 carefully:

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Did you know that the Lord plainly told us in Deuteronomy that He would allow lying signs and wonders to test our hearts, to find out if we love Him with all our heart and soul?  That is why there are thousands of Christians packing up their cars and boarding planes to seek signs and wonders, healings and relief, experiences and encounters.  Because God is testing their hearts.

Remember Solomon in his wisdom, testing the hearts of the women who were both claiming to be the infant’s mother in   1 Kings 3?  Two women emphatically claiming their rights, and the King had to administer a test.  Unbeknownst to the women, what he would discover was who really LOVED the child.   Their ardent feelings and ecstatic claims were not trustworthy, and did not help him discern one from the other, as any wise leader knows.  Feelings, claims, and enthusiasm are simply too easy for the human flesh nature to manufacture.

And so the King tests us.  Because fervent, ecstatic worship, feelings of longing and love, and powerful speeches do not belie the state of our hearts towards Him.  If a handsome wealthy man wants to know if his betrothed is truly devoted, all he needs to do is make another handsome, wealthy man available in his place.  And he will know whether she loved him, his character, he himself.  Or if she just loved his benefits.

And God’s character, He Himself, is perfectly righteous.  No one who loves Him with all their heart and soul breathes a sigh of relief to come into a tolerant environment where the message is that you need a touch, rather than that you need to repent.  No one who loves Him with all their hearts has a family in their midst for years who are being abused and molested and doesn’t notice because they’re too caught up in a spiritual circus.  No one who loves Him with all their hearts is satisfied with years of church about signs and wonders that do nothing to put to death the works of their flesh and bring them into righteousness.

God is so merciful, not tricky or unfair.  He warned us plainly in Deut. 13.  He warned us of the false prophets, He warned us of the test (telling us exactly what would be on it–lying signs and wonders), and He told us how to pass (v. 4).  David shows us over and over in Psalm 119 what a man who loves God with all His heart and soul sounds like.  His longing, His zeal, His affections are over and over consumed not with the feelings He gets from encounters and experiences, but FOR THE WORD, WAYS, COMMANDMENTS, PRECEPTS, ETC.  of God.  Read it to hear the sound of loving God with all one’s soul and heart.

And so with this simple test God can determine when people truly love Him, and when they just want another hit on the joint.  Which of his people hate the sin and are indignant over wickedness, and which are those who will readily embrace a system that explains why they can all just get along without really dealing with any of that stuff.

Because sin, theirs and others, doesn’t really bother them so much.  Because destruction and wickedness are not tormenting their righteous souls (2 Pet. 2:8).  Because they do not burn inside for the Name of the Holy God, at how He is blasphemed among the nations (Rom. 2:24), disregarded by men, and even crucified by those He formed (Jn. 1:11).  Their zeal is not for truth and righteousness and the King of Kings.  They’re looking for a good time.  They don’t hate sin, but they’d like relief from its consequences (like every person ever born, clean or unclean).  If they see a sign or a wonder, they assume it must be God, because unlike Anna and Simeon, who were waiting all their years for a Messiah who would save this corrupted world from sin, moments of wonder, ecstasy and relief is all they’re looking for.

Those who love God with all their heart and soul are not marked by jumping around in worship and flailing on the floor.  They are those who can’t overlook the empty-eyed child that comes every Sunday and is never filled, can’t stomach the holiness of God being disregarded, can’t overlook the sensuality and immorality of the so-called prophets and worship leaders and preachers, can’t paste over it all with catch-phrases like “honor” and “royalty” and “restoration of fallen leaders” and “forgive your mom (pastor, leader, father) while I’m too high to bother to protect you.”

Something in them gets sick at the party, rather than high.  Therein lies the test.  And I do believe this test is sent by God.

Note:  God’s testing of our hearts is often mercifully slow, rather than a one-time event.  He gives us chance after chance to repent.  I can look back and say that I failed the test, often myself loving experiences and ecstasy and falling for deception.  But now my very confession of failure is how He causes me to pass.  Because He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we confess our sins (1 Jn. 1:9).  If you are in this spot, realizing that you have loved experiences, signs and wonders, and not been troubled by your sin, not been increasing in purity and righteousness, and not been zealous for God’s holiness, then confess it, leave off your idolatry of experience and sensuality, and seek the true God in His perfect Word.


4 thoughts on “Fruit 3: A False Gospel

  1. Dear Beth,

    That is EXACTLY what I think and you could not express it better!!! Since we were (me and my husband) really borned again we deal with this false gospel in some churches of this day. God is holy and rightouess – if He didn´t hate sin He would be unfair!!!! We have been persecuted (we are called the repentance couple), but it makes me so mad when I hear a false love being preached!!! Thank you so much for this article – I wiil share it in the facebook in english and also translated into portuguese, ok? Jesus bless you.

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