Some Popular but Unscriptural Teachings

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

In determining whether a teaching is of God, we need to look at its source. Does it have a scriptural basis? Is it founded in Christ? Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life! He is the only way into the presence of God. Therefore we need to know His voice and only follow Him.

We are surrounded by many voices. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. In Eastern culture, shepherds did not own the well from which they watered their sheep, but gathered at a common well or watering place. There was no line of demarcation between the various flocks of sheep. When the sheep had their fill, each shepherd called his sheep; they knew his voice and followed him. They did not listen to the voice of another shepherd because they didn't know his voice. In like manner, Christ's sheep don't listen to the voice of a stranger; they only listen to the voice of Christ! By only listening to His voice, all other voices are eliminated and ignored. The voice of the serpent with its many camouflages will go unheeded.

A counterfeit cannot be detected without the knowledge of the true object. A counterfeit bill is detected by placing it under a bright light and scrutinizing it to see whether it corresponds to the genuine bill. The closer its resemblance to the genuine, the more believable the counterfeit. The serpent's voice comes to us as though it were God's voice. It is a counterfeit voice, and it is always in opposition to God's voice. Its many disguises are meant to lead us away from the truth. Therefore it is of extreme importance to know the shepherd's voice. Every voice that does not originate in the shepherd is a counterfeit. Let's look at the source of a few of today's popular teachings that pose as truth, but are actually counterfeits.


This teaching feels right and sounds good, but does it have a scriptural basis? We often hear people say, "I know God has forgiven me, but I cannot forgive myself." Maybe we have also said that at some time or other. Counselors have encouraged us to forgive ourselves. So let's put this teaching under the light of the scriptures and determine its origin.

Search the scriptures for yourself, and try to find a verse that tells you to forgive yourself. Does a sin that God has forgiven, still need our forgiveness? Are our standards for forgiveness higher than God's standards? If they are, we are making additions to receiving God's salvation. In so doing, we are inadvertently proclaiming that God's forgiveness is incomplete without our help. In placing our judgment above God's judgment, we are accusing Him of being a liar. This reveals the pride that exists in our natural mind. God tells us that Christ died for all sin; our part is to repent, receive His forgiveness, and rejoice in His grace! Our own works have nothing to do with God's provision for our forgiveness.

So why do we think we have to forgive ourselves? It's because we don't know that all sin is against God. Sin against people is actually sin against God. Let's look at some examples.

1.. When Abimelech took Sarah, Abraham's wife, God appeared to him in a dream and said, "Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept (restrained) you from sinning against Me." (Gen. 20:6)
2.. Joseph also understood this, for when Potiphar's wife wanted him to lie with her, he said, "How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9)
3.. Even Pharaoh eventually said to Moses, "I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you." (Ex. 10:16) Sinning against God took priority.
4.. Even our grumbling and complaining are against the Lord. To the children of Israel Moses said, "For the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him…Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord." (Ex. 16:8)
5.. This concept is also found in the New Testament, but it is stated a little differently. Jesus said, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (Matt. 12:30) Paul wrote, "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another." (Gal 5:17) It is our fleshly mind that is against the Spirit and causes us to sin against God.

So where does the theory of the need to forgive oneself come from? It springs out of the guilt we feel after we have sinned, as well as the resulting undesirable consequences of that sin; therefore it does not come from God. However, the accuser keeps reminding us how dumb and selfish we were to commit that sin, and we graciously agree with him. It really was foolish of us to obey his incitement to sin! Instead of repenting and receiving God's forgiveness, we keep beating up on ourselves. Our religious pride and the law keep condemning us, so we think we still need to forgive ourselves. We don't realize that our guilt is included in God's forgiveness, and that we can trust Him to work all things for good in our life. Instead of God's word being our truth, we allow our feelings to become our truth.

How do we get back on track? Once we realize that there is no condemnation in Christ, and that God's forgiveness is complete (for it includes both our guilt and our sin), we can accept the fact that God's forgiveness is all we need. God's forgiveness does not need any additions or subtractions. It is perfect! It is not up to us to forgive ourselves because our sin is not against ourselves, but against God; we need to repent of our failures, receive God's forgiveness, and trust Him to work all things for good in our lives. He is able to restore whatever the locusts have eaten. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God." (Rom. 8:28) Let's accept His forgiveness, listen to the Spirit, and walk in obedience!


This is a very crafty deception of the enemy, for it so closely resembles the truth. Both Christians and non-Christians can train themselves to think positively because the source of this thinking is self. Its power does not stem from a connection with God's life. This concept originated in the Garden of Eden when the serpent came to Eve and told her in effect that she should have a positive mental attitude by saying that she should not think in terms of death. Eating the forbidden fruit would make her wise and enable her to become like God. In other words, by her own efforts she could become like God in making the right choices, for she would know good and evil.

Job's friend agreed with this concept, for he declared that "you will also decree a thing, and it will be established for you." (Job 22:28) In effect he was saying that we can create our own circumstances by exercising our mental power. But God told Job to pray for his friends because they had spoken things that were not true.

Having a positive attitude while facing the challenges of life certainly makes life easier for everyone who is involved! It is more fun to be around a positive person than with one who is negative. But that is not the point of our discussion. The real question is, "Are you developing a positive attitude by your own effort, or is it the fruit of faith?" There is a big difference between the positive mental attitude that is the result of self-effort, and the confident assurance that flows out of our life in Christ. A life of faith results in a positive attitude while the doctrine of developing a positive attitude is produced by self-effort, and therefore does not have its source in Christ. Those who walk by the faith of God's power within them walk in peace and joy, not because they are aggressively pursuing a positive thought, but because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus lives in them. It has freed them from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8:2)

Striving to have a positive attitude is self-effort; resting in the trust that comes from knowing the love, power and sovereignty of our God is the evidence of faith. In Prov. 3:5-6 we read. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Trusting the Lord brings us peace and confidence.

In Phil. 4:6-8 Paul tells us what we are to think about. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." Obedience to Paul's admonition results in a secure and peaceful heart and spirit. It is the mind of Christ in action and rest!

This thinking has its source in God! In Phil. 2:3 we are reminded to do nothing that has its source in self. The self-life lacks humility; it is always filled with pride and the exaltation of self. Christ never obeyed the desires that originate in self because His mind was filled with the desire to obey God and to do only the things God told Him to do. Obedience eliminates disobedience! The mind of Christ is the mind God has given us! Our faith in God results in a positive, victorious, joyful spirit. It is not the result of self-effort, but of trust and reliance in the goodness of God.


Have you ever wondered what it means to have a free will? We readily agree that we have a will, but we find it more difficult to agree that our will is always in opposition to God's will. A free will is a will that is free from all influences; it cannot be influenced either positively or negatively. Can our will be influenced? Why would businessmen spend millions of dollars on advertisements if they could not influence people? Why would people use fear tactics, threats and bribes if they thought they could not influence our will? Reluctantly we must admit that we are influenced, not only by outside stimuli, but also by our desire for the lusts of the flesh to be satisfied. Since we are influenced, we can readily deduct that we do not have a free will - in spite of what we are told by most counselors, preachers, evangelists and tele-evangelists. Both experience and observation testify to the fact that our will can be influenced! Since it can be influenced, it is not a free will!

The scriptures testify to this fact. They declare that we cannot do the things we want to do. "Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Emphasis ours) (Rom. 8:7-8) We also see that natural man cannot please God, for man is unable to see spiritually. The minds of the unbelieving are blinded so they cannot see the light of the gospel and the glory of Christ. Natural man cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws him; this privilege has to be granted him by the Father! The world cannot receive the Holy Spirit of truth because it does not see Him or know Him. Paul also said that he was not practicing what he would like to do, but that he was doing the very things he hated. (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4; John 6:44, 65; 14:17; Rom. 7:15)

In these verses we see that natural man cannot please God and that he cannot do what he wants to do! If there are things he cannot do, he does not have a will that is free to do its own will! Therefore we see that the teaching of man being a free moral agent and having a free will, is not rooted in the scriptures. Instead, it is rooted in the philosophy of natural man.

Without a free will, choices are made according to the many influences that bombard us externally and internally. Often we regret the choices we have made. Yet most Christians live under the delusion that God has given humanity a free will, and therefore we are free moral agents. Furthermore, they say that since God has given us a free will, He will not overrule our will. If this were true, it would thwart God's power and deny His sovereignty. This is a dangerous teaching, for it elevates the power of our will to the extent that we can stop God from performing His will. Do you think God would be so foolish as to give His sovereignty to mortal man? An act like that would take away God's sovereignty and He would no longer be omnipotent. Yet, without apology, the doctrine of free will and free choice is emphatically proclaimed as truth!

To support this assumption, Joshua 24:14-15 is often quoted. In Joshua's final admonition to Israel he said, "Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Emphasis ours)

A close look at this passage reveals that Joshua is actually saying that if you do not want to serve the Lord, choose from among the many gods the ones you want to serve. Choice comes when you forsake obedience and move into disobedience. If you are not serving the true God, it doesn't matter which god you serve; only God is true - all other gods are false gods!

How and when did the doctrine of choice originate? It has a long history, for it originated in the Garden. It came into this world when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in disobedience to God's command. Although Adam and Eve lived under the most idyllic circumstances, having all their needs taken care of, under the suggestive artful questioning of the serpent, they were influenced to think that God was withholding something good from them.. They were led to think that obedience to the serpent's lie could supply their lack. Instead of believing God, they listened to another voice, and obeyed that voice. Eating the forbidden fruit brought them into a new realm - into the realm of disobedience, selfhood and death.

Disobedience changed their understanding of God and their idea of who they were. It brought them into a delusion, for their new knowledge did not have its source in God. This blinded their eyes and they could no longer see spiritually. They could not see the difference between the good that flows out of truth, and the good that is rooted in self-effort. They could not see that there is no evil in God's goodness, and that the good that is obtained by self-effort is united with evil, for both the good and evil are rooted in disobedience - they are one fruit!

The natural mind depicts the tree as bearing two kinds of fruit: one kind is good and the other evil. However, this is not the case. God did not say they could eat the good fruit and leave the evil fruit untouched. The tree bore only one kind of fruit and none of it was to be eaten, for it was both good and evil fruit!

Their new philosophy began a way of living that was characterized by the knowledge of good and evil, and therefore it demanded choice. They reasoned that the right choices would eventually lead them to God, and the wrong choices would mislead them. They forsook the way of obedience and substituted the way of choice. Jesus Christ is the only way into the presence of God! In Christ there is no evil, so there is no choice; in Christ there is only obedience; in Christ we see the unfathomable riches that a life of obedience brings!

With the knowledge of good and evil came the doctrine of choice. Choice is rooted in self-effort and self-reliance, and good choices feed the ego. Since choice is rooted in disobedience, it divides disobedience into good disobedience and evil disobedience. Obedience to God's directives brings us into the goodness of the tree of life, and there is no evil in that tree..

Adam and Eve thought they could substitute choice for obedience, and live. But they couldn't - and neither can we! God wants obedience! He knows that we are not capable of making right choices because we are not omniscient and we are not free moral agents. Only God knows what is best for us, and He wants us to believe that! Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved!

Humanity lives in a world of substitutions inherent in the mindset it has inherited from Adam. In that mindset, error is being substituted for truth. Christ came to bring us truth. He is the way, the truth and the life. We cannot have life without truth; if we adulterate truth, it is no longer truth, just as pure water is no longer pure if a drop of arsenic is added to it. Christ has to remain our standard for truth!

How do we get to believe in Jesus Christ? A favorite expression for the proponents of choice is, "You have to choose to believe." How does this line up with the scriptures? The scriptures teach us that we were all dead in our sins and transgressions before we were resurrected into life. The very obvious question that then faces us is, "How can a dead person make a right decision?" We don't look at a corpse and wonder why it does not make a decision to live. We know that it would need life from an outside source. Likewise, we were dead, and therefore unable to make a decision to live. If we could make that decision, we would have something to boast about. But in Eph. 2:8-9 it states that salvation is a gift of God, "not as a result of works, so that no man may boast." Our salvation is entirely the work of God.

Since we are all born into the death realm, how do we get out of our dilemma? First of all the Spirit of God has to awaken us (Eph. 5:14) and show us our need. He shows us our inability to procure our own salvation, and our need of the salvation that can be ours in Christ. He persuades us to believe in Christ! We are persuaded that God is who He says He is, and that He is trustworthy and true. Belief is a persuasion - not a choice! If our faith has its foundation in our will to believe, its dependence is in self. It is like the house that is built on sand - on the many philosophies of human understanding. Its source is not in Christ Jesus, the Rock! It does not have a true foundation, and it will be washed away when the storms of life overwhelm us. Our faith has to be founded on the true knowledge of God, and function in obedience to this knowledge.

The doctrine of right choices is very appealing to the natural mind for it elevates our mind and our will onto a higher level. It presupposes that our fleshly mind is capable of making a right choice, and our will is capable of performing it. But the scriptures tell us that the flesh is always against God's will. Jesus never did His own will; He only did what the Father showed Him to do! His obedience to the Father's will produced a sinless life. The doctrine of right choices gives us something to boast about; it elevates us above those who have made wrong choices; it gives us reason to justify God in casting all who did not make a right choice into an eternal hell of fire. However, it is in opposition and against the scriptures, for they declare that our salvation is all of God.

As long as we proclaim choice instead of obedience, we are robbing God of the honor that is His due. Since a right choice brings honor to the one who made it, our right choices would bring honor to us. In so doing, we become thieves; for we are stealing honor from God by taking credit for His work in us. Walking in obedience is not a choice; we don't choose to obey; we walk in obedience because we are persuaded that God is right, and that we can trust Him even when everything in the natural proclaims that God cannot be right! Paul never said that our obedience is due to choice; he tells us that it is the obedience of faith! (Rom. 1:5; 16:26)

Let us seriously consider Paul's admonition in Rom. 12:3. "For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith." We can confidently make sound judgment in regard to the various teachings that we receive by checking their source. Everything that does not have its source in God is a lie, and everything that has its source in God is truth! May the Spirit of truth ever be our teacher!

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