Who is your covering?
As the underground Chinese pastor once told his congregation after having visited America and her churches. "It is amazing to see what American believers can accomplish without God." 
This pastor's perception of American believers is profound and, as I am learning, not unique to the foreign faithful. For some of us it may be a revelation to learn how the world is looking upon American believers as less than Christian. An American pastor once said during a European conference, "The Gospel came to the Greeks and the Greeks turned it into a philosophy…the Romans turned it into a system…Europeans turned it into a culture…and the Americans turned it into a business."  Many American institutions have turned Christianity into a business, becoming major media portals to the world that televises despicable heresies (2 Peter 2:1).
Is it possible that American believers have fallen so far from the truth they are now blind to their downward plight? Have they become lukewarm believers (Revelation 3:14–21)? "The Laodiceans understood the analogy because their city drinking water came from a spring six miles to the south over an aqueduct, and it arrived disgustingly lukewarm. It was not hot like the nearby hot springs that people bathed in, nor was it refreshingly cold for drinking. It was lukewarm, good for nothing. In fact, it was nauseating, and that was the Lord's response to the Laodiceans—they sickened Him."  Have they apostatized from the faith?
Apostasy is the act of turning away from or abandoning the true gospel of Jesus Christ for another gospel. People who profess faith in Christ without possessing a solid, foundational view of the true gospel will be vulnerable to illusory snares set by false religious leaders. One way to think about an illusory snare, and its captivating power, is the monkey snare.
In Burma, villagers hunt for monkeys by removing the contents of a coconut and filling it with fruit or peanuts much desired by the primate. The villager attaches a rope to the coconut and ties it to a tree. When a monkey finds the coconut and reaches inside to remove the fruit, its closed fist becomes the trap. The villager made the opening big enough for the monkey to slip its hand through but not big enough for the primate to withdraw its clenched fist. The monkey's unwillingness to let go of the content seals its fate when the villager approaches to take its life.
Today, wayward ministers are setting the same kind of illusory snare for unwary souls who give blind allegiance and devotion to a church or religious group without vetting its doctrine. To vet means to examine carefully.
About five years ago I learned about a new teaching circulating in our church that was introduced with a question, "Who is your covering?" Having no clue, I soon learned the church leaders had announced they were adopting the teaching on pastoral authority. The central theme for the teaching is God guarantees protection for believers who submit to the pastor, which is to do as told. On the flipside of the theme, failure to submit to the pastor results in the removal of God's protective hand on your life. After researching the teaching, I found it had no basis and was pure heresy.
Did the leaders in my former church understand they were setting a monkey trap? No, they had no clue, and when told about the deception they rejected those of us who went forward with the warning. They did not possess a solid, foundational view of the true gospel and were vulnerable to this particular illusory snare gaining a foothold within the evangelical church.
Apparently, my former church was eager to bring the assembly of American believers under its control. "To disobey the pastor, even when the pastor is wrong, is to disobey God because the pastor is always in authority and God the ultimate authority. In other words, the pastor stands in authority between Jesus and the body of believers, becoming the spiritual covering over his or her church. In fact, this teaching refers to lowly believers as sheep, not too bright, often confused, and in need of a shepherd to lead them." 
In closing, my former church had big plans to build schools and retirement centers. They had become an institution focused on turning Christianity into a business using the name of Jesus. They needed money and a gullible laity to finance their agenda over God's. They saw pastoral authority as one way to gain control of the flock. They left the true gospel and fell prey to the monkey trap. They had clenched their fists tightly around the lie. They were trapped, unaware of their captor who had them now. They, like the underground Chinese pastor observed, are doing amazing things without God.
These Nicolatians are alive and well in the church. They are bold and defiant, placing themselves between you and Jesus who is our true Shepherd. 1 Timothy 2:3 says, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus."
1. Following Judah's Lion - How Nationalism Has Changed the Faith - Rick Frueh
2. World Affairs Council Press Conference, Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, April 19, 1994
3. Got Questions - Why did Jesus speak so strongly against lukewarm faith?
Photo credit: iandavid, Some rights reserved
Tags: Church-Issues | False-Teaching
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