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The True Nature of
By Steven Lambert, ThD
This article is adapted from the book, CHARISMATIC CAPTIVATION,
by Steven Lambert. The book exposes the widespread problem of authoritarian
abuse in Neo-Pentecostal church-groups, and explains how it became infused into the
very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church arising out of
a false movement known as the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement
(1970-77). References to "Discipleship" or "Shepherding"
(and variables) doctrines, teachings, proponents and participants, and so forth,
allude to those pertinences that arose out of that movement.]
Over the course of Church history, change within the Church has been a
slow—at times agonizingly slow—process. Despite the great strides the
Church has made since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in 1517
A.D. in ridding false teaching, more yet remains. And false doctrine is
far from being the innocuous matter it is veiwed as being by many
professing believers today.
To merely call idolatry "sin," though it certainly is, somehow seems an
extreme understatement, for it is the ultimate affront unto God. Yet, arguably, it is
the most pervasive sin of all today among professing believers. Contributing to the
prevalence of idolatry within Christendom, no doubt, is the common perception by many
that idolatry is something that occurs only in underdeveloped, far-away, foreign
lands, or that it is something relegated mostly to ancient civilizations of past ages,
while nothing could be further from the truth.
In Galatians 5:20, the Apostle Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit listed
"idolatry" as one of the fundamental elements of evil comprising the
carnal nature, or sin nature, which actually is the nature of the devil himself,
and which is also alluded to as the "spirit of disobedience" — the
"spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience"
(Eph. 2:2). So, in other words, because the carnal nature is common to every human,
idolatry, then, is a basic tendency of every person ever born.
In simplistic terms, idolatry is making something or someone
that to which we look to bring happiness, peace, fulfillment,
contentment, and all the things only God is supposed to provide
us, which in essence is the definition of a false god.
To put it another way, idolatry is fashioning and forming
false gods, or idols, out of one's own vain imaginations. Indeed,
idols are really always imaginary, existing solely in the human
mind and thoughts. Again by inspiration of the Spirit, in another
place, Paul states categorically that those possessing true
Spiritual knowledge and understanding "know that there is no such thing as
an idol (false god), and that there is no God but one" (1
Cor. 8:4). False gods are false because they really do not exist,
except in the mind of the idolater.
Idolatry in actuality then is merely the product of human
thinking, manufactured in the factory of the human mind. It is
the act of creating an abstract god within the deep, dark void of
human reasoning. At bottom, all idolatry is
"mind-idolatry," for it is primarily in the mind that
all idolatry exists. In a nutshell, the basis of idolatry is what
I refer to as "stinkin' thinkin'."
Moreover, the ilk of idolatry which bona fide believers are
most guilty of committing even routinely, though unwittingly, is
the idolatry of holding to false and contrived ideas about God
that in fact are wholly incongruous with what He Himself has
revealed in His Word concerning His Divine Nature, Will, and
Ways. When it is all distilled down, idolatry is the ultimate
form of arrogance and self-righteousness, for it supplants God
and His Word, Will, and Way, and puts in His place a false,
humanly formed and fashioned god, one made in our own image and
after our own likeness, to affirm and hallow our own humanly
contrived ideas and concepts. Thus, idolatry, in my view, is the
ultimate offense that the human heart can commit against a Holy
and Sovereign God.
A.W. Tozier (1897-1963), who was the pastor of the Christian
and Missionary Alliance Church in Toronto and Chicago, for a
number of years was also editor of the CMA's official organ, Alliance
Weekly, as well as a prolific author of books. His spiritual
acumen was so highly regarded by his colleagues that many
esteemed him a twentieth-century prophet. Despite all his
prodigious achievements, he was perhaps best known for his
personal intimacy with God, and his book, The Knowledge
of the Holy (Harper & Row), was a collection of
some of his most outstanding messages related to knowing God in
personal intimacy. So profound and insightful are his comments
regarding the subject of idolatry, as well as exquisitely and
eloquently articulated, that they could scarcely be improved
upon, making direct quotation the only fitting means of
conveyance. The following are excerpts of his commentary, the
chronology of which I have taken the liberty of rearranging in
order to better serve our purposes here:
"Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the
erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling
before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized
peoples are therefore free from it."
"The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of
thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in
the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship
has taken place. 'When they knew God,' wrote Paul, 'they
glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but
became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish
heart was darkened.'"
"Among the sins to which the human heart is prone,
hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry,
for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The
idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is — in
itself a monstrous sin — and substitutes for the true God
one made after its own likeness."
begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite
naturally be no true likeness of the true God."
"Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain
from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are
themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines
things about God and acts as if they were true."
"Perverted notions about God soon rot the
religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel
demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the
Church confirms it."
All false doctrine is, in essence, an assemblage of
"wrong ideas about God" and "perverted notions
about God," as Tozier put it. How profound and Scriptural is
his statement: "Wrong ideas about God are not
only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they
are themselves idolatrous," for
"polluted waters" is a metaphor evoked in Scripture to
represent false teaching. Indeed, false teaching is by no means,
as some seem to believe, a harmless or inconsequential
phenomenon, but rather polluted waters can be lethal, both in the
natural and the spiritual. False teaching, which in essence is
substituting human ideas and sophistry for the absolute Truth of
God's Mind, in fact IS idolatry.
Idolatry and false teaching are
synonymous terms. Idolatry always has associated with it some
form of false teaching, and false teaching is always an ilk of
idolatry. As Tozier so brilliantly articulated it: "The
idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they
were true." In other words, the person engaging in idolatry
simply contrives his own doctrine concerning spiritual matters
and the composition of "truth," and conducts his life
based on those determinations even though they are not congruous
with the real Truth which emanates from and is defined by God as
Truth in His Word.
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Recommended related articles:
This article is adapted
from the book, Charismatic
Captivation, by Steven Lambert,
ThD. An abridged version of this book in the booklet form, entitled,
Charismatic Control is also
available. You can read more about this book and booklet, as well as all the other
writings and publications of Dr. Lambert on the Real Truth Publications
Online Catalog at: http://www.slm.org/pubs/index.html.
Publications may also be ordered via an Online
Order Form, by calling the SLM office at (561) 575-0739 (locally) or Toll Free
at 866-400-3933, or by writing Real Truth Publications, P.O. Box 911, Jupiter, FL
© 2003 SLM, Inc. All rights reserved.
Except for brief excerpts or quotations, this article may not be republished in any
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inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is one of many
articles posted on the SLM, Inc website located at: http://www.slm.org.
Lambert is a Bible teacher and theology scholar. He is an ordained
minister, a Christian Counselor, and holds several earned theological degrees. He also
serves as the Executive Director of Concinnity
Network International, a fellowship of Fivefold Ministers relating and
colaboring for common purposes. Dr. Lambert is also a writer, serving as
contributing editor/publisher of two Internet E-zines (links below) featuring numerous
online articles, and is the author of an ever-increasing number of books, booklets,
courses, and other teaching materials. He is also consulted by the media regarding
Christian cults and authoritarian abuse.
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