Ever since his resounding victory over man in the Garden of Eden, the enemy has recognized that the best place to attack is at the weak point in human nature – man’s sense of pride and ego. The more Satan can inflate man’s sense of pride and attack his sense of humility, the more victories will be won in his name.
With the many confusing and conflicting doctrines and interpretations of Scripture being served up in sermons, books, and through the internet, all under the general umbrella of what is called Christianity, how can we learn to develop discernment? While we know the Bible is our source of truth, churches and ministries are run by men, and we must always be alert when listening to the words and interpretations of men. We need to be aware whether the spirit of a speaker is truly of God or is fueled by man’s baser instincts.
Often valuable clues are given that a teacher or a teaching is wrong when a false sense of pride or human ego enters into the spirit of the teaching you are hearing, or even into the manner in which something is being presented. This is how we can recognize that someone obvious like Benny Hinn is a false teacher – one merely needs to listen to a couple of sentences to sense his blatant lack of humility. But a simple ego test can also be used to detect false doctrines and teachings that are much more subtle and harder to recognize.
Jesus was the most humble of all teachers, born in a stable, and choosing a donkey to ride into Jerusalem and greet His followers. A person who is not grounded in humility cannot be preaching what the Master taught. One can be assured that any minister or preacher found exhibiting egotistic traits in his personal character or the way he conducts his ministry will not be a reliable expositor of the teachings of the Lord.
I John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Scripture says we are to test the spirit of everything, To test the spirit of something, we need to look at the whether it displays a humble or haughty heart.
Prov 21:4 …..haughty eyes and a proud heart are the lamp of the wicked…… Prov. 18:12 ……before destruction a man’s heart is haughty. ………….Prov. 16:18………pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. ……….Prov. 11:2 …….pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
Thus we would especially need to test the spirit of those ministers and ministries from whom we seek to receive our spiritual edification and nourishment.
The ego test can be used like a form of radar to detect errant teachers, even if at first look their words seem to line up pretty well with what Scripture says. For example, is a preacher teaching humility while wearing a $2000 suit? The radar goes off. Why listen any further to someone who feels the truth doesn’t apply to him?
Test the Ego in the Minister’s Character
Much can be observed in simply the way a minister addresses his followers. Is much of the message about himself and his ministry? Does he spend much time repeatedly going over the past history of missions that have been completed? There is an internet minister based in Florida who never fails at least once every few weeks to list all the past accomplishments his ministry has been a part of for the twelve years he has been broadcasting. He wants what he has accomplished to remain front and center in the hearts and minds of his listeners, forgetting completely that nothing was done by him or of him, and that all we can ever accomplish in this world will come only through the grace of God.
In contrast to this egotistical attitude, the pastor of the small church I joined a few months ago never speaks of what has been done, except when something is ongoing and needs to be updated for the congregation. I had to research on my own what this small but spirit-led church had accomplished in the past, and I was staggered by the number of amazing projects it had founded and supported. bringing about postitive change in the lives of thousands, and never blowing its own horn.
Look at how a minister leads. Does a minister humbly accept his position as servant to the Lord, or does he often play up his position in the church and emphasize all those things he has authority over? Does he engage in or allow power struggles to go on unchecked within the leadership of the ministry? The true minister of God never forgets that true evangelical leadership is servanthood.
Does the minister make a point of saying in public things that should be left between him and God? Many preachers, particularily those who broadcast on the internet, go to great lengths to announce in public intimate details about how much time they spend in prayer and fasting, and how they go about this Godly activity. They make a display of these things, much like the Pharisees in the time of Jesus. They desire for people to notice, because their strongest relationship is with the world, not God. It suits them to have others think they must be very close to God and receive favor and information from Him if they have such a favored relationship with Him. The listener is left to feel that there is no way that they, too, could ever be as close to the Lord themselves.
Thus the minister establishes an elevated position for himself above his followers, which in turn creates a dependancy and a neediness in the follower. He now senses he needs the minister as an intermediary between him and the Lord, and becomes reluctant to break away and walk with Christ on his own, with confidence that God’s promises apply to him as well as any other Christian.
Test the Ego In How Warnings Are Issued
It has become almost a fad with some ministers to warn about the various calamities that are a part of this fallen world. They warn about everything from the weather to the economy. They weigh in with what they think is Bible-based commentary on everything from food shortages to politics, and everything in between. Dollar devaluations, radiation exposure, New World Order, tornados, earthquakes, droughts, floods, famine, civil unrest, heat waves, global warming, and the list goes on and on and grows every week. All of these topics make for colorful sermons and popular MP3 downloads, and do much to attract public attention to themselves. None of it has much to do with preaching the gospel. The Bible tells us plainly that there is but one thing we should warn about: we should alert our brothers and sisters in Christ to be ready for the coming of the Lord, for we know not the hour when He returns. We should be warned about anything that threatens our readiness, including false teaching. Everything except our own state of readiness is in God’s hands.
The kind of readiness we need our ministers to warn us about is our spiritual readiness. We need to be ready for the Master to return at any time. Despite how sure some preachers are about where we are on the endtimes timeline, the Bible tells us He will come at an hour when we do not expect Him. If everyone is expecting Him soon, then perhaps His coming is not as imminent as many are teaching. We want to be like the five wise virgins in Matthew 25 who had oil for their lamps and were ready throughout the night, for they did not know at what hour the bridegroom would return.
The role of the minister is not to impart warnings about the disasters of this world, but to warn about the disaster that awaits anyone who does not spiritually prepare for the coming Kingdom. A minister who becomes obsessed with news headlines and devotes more time to these things than Scripture is a man who follows the world, not the Lord. Better to choose a ministry that follows the Lord.
Test the Ego In Financial Matters
Ego and pride in ministries is often revealed through its handling of financial issues. Throughout the New Testament we read how it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. Jesus never said money itself was either good or bad. It is the relationship we have with money that determines if it is our master. We cannot serve two masters. (Luke 16:13). Being poor deosn’t make a preacher any more discerning than being well-off. But a lot can be learned by observing his relationship with money.
Recently I watched a video showing Creflo Dollar and an associate jumping and romping like schoolkids in big piles of money laid out as offerings and tithes from their congregation on the steps of their church sanctuary. And still people were coming forward, and putting more of their hard-earned wages in the piles, without the slightest ability to test if what they were seeing was based on pride or humility. What chance will people like these have when the apostasy becomes really intense and hard to discern?
Look at how your church or internet ministry spends its money and you can learn a lot about whether you are dealing with a prideful, ego-based ministry or one that is humbly obedient to the will of the Lord. Often a ministry will tend to invest an inordinate amount of money into its building or purchasing new premises. This can slide into pride when the physical appearance and possessions of the ministry become a focal point. If you give to a church, whether it be a brick and mortar church or an internet ministry, see how much of the contributions they receive go to buildings, physical appearance and equipment. Is a new building really needed, or does the purchase of new property seem to be mostly for the comfort and ease of the ministers? Is a brand new broadcast studio really necessary to get the gospel out, or does the pastor just like keeping up with all the latest technological toys on the market?
Is a lot of ministry funding going to travel expenses? Is the travel really needed to accomplish some important work, or is it mostly for show – to show everyone how involved and dedicated and hands-on he must be, taking the time to travel to all these far-off locales. Watch out for the travel bugs in some ministries. It can be a trap of the ego for the minister to fly off unnecessarily for the slightest reason. Travel can become an addiction. It is not completely unheard of for ministers to rack up huge frequent flyer points from air travel funded by their ministry, that they then use for personal travel.
Test the Ego In Prophetic Ministry
In many Christian ministries today they empathize the dreams and prophecies of man as truth to their congregations and over the internet to their listeners. Some allow anyone to just come forward and tell their dream in front of the congregation. Prophetic internet sites broadcast bizarre rants about God revealing details about earthquakes and natural disasters. With social networking sites and Christian forums, these doctrines are spread even further about, and one man`s dream can end up being presented to thousands of the flock as God`s truth.
This is one of the crowning achievements of the human ego within the church today: the false prophets who become obsessed with the idea that they, because of prayer and intercessation before God, have won favor over all the rest of us and have been chosen to receive new revelation from the heavens. This false sense of personal power is then used to gain leverage over others in the body of the church, to hold captive the minds and sometimes the wallets of those who are fooled into thinking they need to listen with baited breath to every word the prophet speaks, or else risk missing out on an important message from God. We must reject those ministries who base their teachings on the dreams of men.
Jer. 23:23…But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people……25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What does straw have in common with wheat? declares the Lord. ….32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them…………ESV
People who think they are modern day prophets try to sell you on the idea that they are receiving new revelation from God that He tells them to pass on to you. This is a twisting of Scripture. It is clear to those who are faithful to the word of God that Scripture is a finished work. The foundation of the church was laid down by Christ and His apostles. There cannot be two foundations to a structure. There is no new scripture, and the offices of the prophet and the apostle are closed. There would only need to be new prophets if there was new revelation to give. God has spoken.
Heb. 1:1-2: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.
They claim an ability to go “deeper” in prayer than the rest of us, and this opens up a channel of communicated revelation from God, which is completely unsupported by the Bible. The sheep are supposed to recognize the voice of the shepherd, but many in the flock are far too willing to listen to any voice that invokes the name of the Lord.
Test the Ego In Worship Music
While music can play an important role in the church service, it should never upstage what its own purpose is. It can end up being an object of worhip rather than an agent of worship. Are people too comfortable sitting in their places listening to the members of the music ministry exhibit their talents, and then becoming restless during the remainder of the service? Do people choose their churches because of preference for certain music styles? We should never lose sight of the true place and meaning of music in our worship.
Greg Gilbert writes in a blog:
I wonder if the whole “excellence in praise and worship music” phenomenon we’ve seen over the past few years–for all the good it’s done–hasn’t also had some less-than-desirable effects on young Christians. I wonder if it hasn’t created a generation of functional mystics who gauge their relationship with God by emotional experience rather than the objective reality of redemption.”
Test the Ego In Your Ministry’s Politics
What does an affiliation with or an affinity for Christian political movements indicate in a ministry? I would be sure to learn the affiliations or partnerships a ministry has and put these spirits to the test. Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven movement and the NAR are both examples of how the gospel itself is taking a backseat to political organization. These movements fall short in the humility department because they attempt to use the will and might of man to set the world right. They turn Godly affairs into the affairs of men. They expouse the philosophy that through humanitarian efforts and peace initiatives and political organization God’s Kingdom can become a reality here, or the groundwork can be set in place for it.
To do good works by trying to meet the needs of people is laudable, but no man can change what is declared in Scripture. The word tells us the Kingdom will be set up when Christ returns, and it is the pride of men at work to think it can change the timing of this. It is also prideful that men actually think God requires their work in setting things up.
The apostles lived in a very corrupt society. Yet no political action was advocated. Paul wrote that Christians were to submit to government.
Rom. 13 1-2 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”…ESV
It is always a work of God and God alone when true change comes. All will be done according to His will, and in His time. Our work is to go about the business of the Great Commission. It is not a work confined to the worldly affairs of men and the resolution of worldly struggles.
John 18:36 “If my Kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I would not be delivered over to the Jews.”
Knowing the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error
As we go about in our Christian walk testing the spirits of that which is taught, we can see that the spirit of truth closely lines up with those things that manifest humility, and that the spirit of error is revealed through those things that express pride. Satan knows Scripture vey well, and knows how to quote it. (Luke 4:9-11) (Matt. 4:5-6). I believe this is why we are instructed to test the spirit of everything spoken or written. Words can be spoken by deceivers as part of an overall plan to entrap us, just as Satan tried to tempt Jesus. But we know that humility was predominant in the character of Jesus, and if we make it part of our character and insist on it in those we listen to, we can be protected from error. There is no more direct way to align oneself to the truth of the will of God as revealed to us in Scripture than for each of us to develop a deep sense of genuine humility.
Andrew Murray had this to say about humility:
“Nothing can be our redemption, but the restoration of the lost humility, the original and only true relation of the creature to its God. And so Jesus came to bring humility back to earth, to make us partakers of it, and by it to save us. In heaven He humbled Himself to become man. The humility we see in Him possessed Him in heaven; it brought Him, He brought it, from there. Here on earth “He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death”; His humility gave His death its value, and so became our redemption. And now the salvation He imparts is nothing less and nothing else than a communication of His own life and death, His own disposition and spirit, His own humility, as the ground and root of His relation to God and His redeeming work. Jesus Christ took the place and fulfilled the destiny of man, as a creature, by His life of perfect humility. His humility is our salvation. His salvation is our humility.”
Meekness and lowliness of heart should be the distinguishing characteristics of true disciples of the Lord, as they were features of the Master. These things do not come of themselves, but must be nurtured through prayer, faith, practice, and service. My prayer is that every church and ministry place humility at the supreme place of importance that belongs to it. I think this is the best way for the church of Christ to prepare for His coming.
…..all blessings in Christ,