By Kevin Reeves
(from The Other Side of the River: When mystical experiences and strange doctrines overtake his church, one man risks all to find the truth—A true story.)
Kevin Reeves was an elder and a member of a “River” (Latter Rain, Word Faith, etc) church for many years. His book, The Other Side of the River (Lighthouse Trails Publishing) chronicles those years and the story of how he and his wife were able to finally understand and leave this movement in exchange for biblical Christianity.
From Chapter 12
Nearly everyone in our leadership cringed at the actual utterance of the word heresy. At its every mention, they regarded me with an alarmed expression that nearly yelled, “Don’t say that!” and avoided the use of the term as if it were an unclean thing. Even presented with the Word of Faith doctrine that states the physical death of Christ on the Cross did not accomplish salvation, their heads would shake, mouths tighten, and hands would go up to bring a halt to further discussion.
It’s as if it is considered unloving to bring serious departure from the Christian faith out into the light, and openly name the person involved. Interestingly, Paul had no such compunction (II Timothy 2:17-18), nor did the apostle John (3 John 9-10). Jesus called out the Pharisees to their face, in front of multitudes. We have the pattern set forth in the Word, but we simply refused to follow it, shrinking back behind an unbiblical definition of love.
What exactly is heresy? In II Peter 2:1, the word is used in the plural to indicate those who would bring in doctrines that contradict the Gospel set forth by our Lord and His apostles. In the Greek, the word—hairesis—comes from a word meaning “choice or opinion.” Teachings contrary to the doctrine of Christ are built upon “imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (II Corinthians 10:5). They are the result of a minister’s (or anyone’s) personal choice to depart into another realm, “intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Colossians 2:18). Heresies are mere opinions given a godly veneer, persuasive argument based upon assumptions, ideas, dreams and visions not grounded in the revealed Word of God.
Heresy is not a light thing. In this relativistic, tolerant age, it is wrongly considered good manners to look the other way when someone expresses disagreement with objective truth. We have begun to find common ground, as some would put it, and link arms with Mormons and Muslims, believing the theological divide is not as wide as we had thought. Instead of bravely upholding the standard of scriptural inerrancy, we succumb to a redefinition of the very Gospel of our salvation which was once for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).
We have conveniently forgotten the martyrs who stood faithful to our Lord under penalty of death, who clung to the pure Word of God as the flames licked the soles of their bare feet, and the smoke of their own burning flesh seared their nostrils. We, who have never shed a drop of our own blood in defense of the Gospel, turn our backs upon those who have.
In the first of [our church’s] eldership meetings, when I brought out the courageous faith of the early reformers, one leader rebuked me and told me not to bring that up. I was stunned. Why not talk about our forefathers in the faith? If not for some of the early reformers, most of us would be Catholic. I remember well the feeling of being lost in a system of rules and superstition, and leaving the interpretation of Scripture to a clergy that sacrifices Christ again with every Mass. No, we must never forget or disparage the martyrs who “overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
And yet, a new kind of Christian has taken the place of those earlier defenders of the faith. They have traded biblical Christianity for an experiential, mystical spirituality. Brothers and sisters, this shouldn’t be! While there have always been Christian leaders and teachers who pervert the doctrine of Christ, we live in a time where there seems to be an increase of false doctrine permeating the halls of Christendom. We must not shy away from facing these heresies head-on.
False doctrines and the practices that come with them do not set free—rather they enslave their adherents and hinder them from truly knowing God. This bondage was one of the main issues facing my wife and me upon examining the un-biblical doctrines we had been taught. As long as we believed the false, we were hemmed in on every side, backed into a corner by superstition and unbelief. Both of us having left one system of that ilk (Roman Catholicism), we had jumped feet first into another, and avoided the liberating message set forth in the Gospel. As with every religious system outside of the Gospel, do this, don’t do that, don’t touch, grab for this—a manmade set of rules had rendered the Word of God of no effect.
Quite frankly, I grew very tired of the whole affair. . . . Every time we turned around, a new revelation steered us in another direction. My spiritual legs became heavy from running after every “wind of doctrine” that blew through our ranks. There was never a place of satisfaction, that Sabbath rest spoken of in Hebrews 4. While the anointing we pursued promised to be refreshing, all it did was hone, razor-sharp, the craving for another spiritual high. We at New Covenant were caught up on an unceasing merry-go-round.
But we are not so different from Old Testament Israel. They, too, ran after new and exciting ways of worship. They, too, thrilled at false signs and wonders, hung on the words of their multiplied false prophets, and substituted idols for the true God. But seeking the satisfaction they craved, they ran right past the only One who could offer it. The result was a maddening mix of gods that spiritually bled them dry.
Our Lord’s remedy for them holds as true for us today. “Return, thou backsliding Israel and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful” (Jeremiah. 3:12). We need to repent and return to Christ, who gives life and genuine refreshment:
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)
Also from The Other Side of the River: