I am reposting this with some edits. I was too harsh with those who misunderstand Bill Johnson and have judged and rejected him and I would like to publicly apologize and ask forgiveness from those I have hurt. I am deeply saddened that Bill Johnson has been publicly slandered and branded as a false teacher by some. I see him as a dear brother in Christ who is pursuing Jesus and seeking to bring the kingdom of God to earth.
“May your will be done. May your kingdom come.” – Jesus
There are SO many Scriptures about not judging others. My favorite is this:
“Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4 NASB)
Someone applied this verse to me years ago when it had appeared I had gone off the deep end. (I hitch-hiked to New Orleans to preach Jesus on the streets during Mardi Gras – Read about it here).
I appreciated it so much when someone came to my defense. I am eager to do the same. If someone is under attack, isn’t it the right thing to come to their defense? If your name was slandered just imagine how loved you would feel if people rose to your defense? And so when Bill Johnson came under attack I was practically begging Jesus, please let me write this post!
Why? Because I want to do what Jesus does. I want to defend others. I don’t want anything to do with what the devil does. His is the business of slander, and since Bill Johnson was publicly slandered on my facebook page I felt obliged to have a response, good or bad. Bill Johnson has said, “Id rather be on the side of the accused than the accuser.”
Now I have the wonderful privilege of sticking my neck out for Bill Johnson… whom after having heard for myself I really love the man and highly value his contribution for Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Thank you Bill Johnson for pursuing Jesus and for your service to the body of Christ. You are a gift.
After a bit of research, my first thought about Bill Johnson was, “Wow, he is getting a great deal of attention from the haters. Apparently he is doing something right!”
Why would I think that?
Paul was approached by some Jews about the Good News of Jesus and the movement that came because of it and they said:
“But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.” (Acts 28:22 NLT)
Of course it should be no surprise that any true movement of God will receive the same kind of treatment and be denounced everywhere. Jesus also warned that his true prophets would not be well received by everyone:
And, “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 5:11-12 NLT)
“Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” ~ Jesus (Luke 6:26 NIV)
According to what Bill Johnson professes, what he teaches, (and the fact that God is backing up his word with signs and wonders!), I have concluded that this man is a dear brother in the faith and should be honored for what he brings to the body of Christ.
After listening to him for myself I have come to be very inspired by his ministry, challenged to think about what the Scriptures really say and ask myself, “Do I really believe Jesus? Do I really believe what Jesus has said?”
As a believer, I’m compelled to say, “Yes, I choose to believe Jesus”.
One small example of this is when Jesus said, “Keep on asking and you will receive”.
Do you believe him? What about that miracle you desperately need? What if it’s as serious as cancer or M.S.? Tooth decay? Seasonal allergies that cause disruption to your work?
The fact is, since I’ve been taking God at his word and have kept on asking (without giving up), I have seen results. My allergies cleared up! My little girls teeth stopped hurting her (and we continue to pray for a complete healing!).
“Keep on seeking and you will find”.
I have prayed for deeper encounters with God and have experienced him in marvelous ways. I am far more aware of his presence in my life daily and feel him and hear from him more clearly and frequently now then ever before. I know him in deeper ways since seeking Him.
“…You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD…” (Jeremiah 29:13-14 NASB)
Healings are happening at Bethel church on a regular basis, and other signs and wonders are occurring that no one can dispute! The critics simply just have to claim that they are ‘false’ signs and wonders. There is even video footage of what could be described as a “glory cloud”. There was talk of gold dust manifesting, and feathers. Why feathers? Bill Johnson humorously said, “Well, God does say in Psalm 91 that God would cover you with his feathers.”
And why not? God is a very happy and playful God.
I was at first very skeptical and uncomfortable about all these strange miracles. (The fact is that they rarely get talked about at Bethel, and never anymore – so says someone who attends there that I personally know). But the more I’ve come to know God I realize what a loving heavenly Papa he is, it would be just like him to manifest feathers just to let his children know that he is lovingly and protectively surrounding them (like a mother hen over her chicks – of course no one is saying God is a big chicken).
I once read Psalm 91 to my daughter Ellie and came to the verse, “He will cover you with his feathers”.
“God has feathers?” Ellie asks.
I then explained to her what a figure of speech is.
What a beautiful metaphor this is! It reminds me of what Jesus said:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” (Luke 23:37-38 NASB)
I want to be willing! I prayed, “Lord Jesus, I come under your metaphorical wings! I am your baby chick, ‘cheep, cheep’.”
I then thought, I am probably the first to ever have prayed that exact prayer.
May we all be willing to come under his wings. Doesn’t that sound comfy? He longs to protect you, comfort you, and be your refuge. Receive it.
Isn’t that beautiful?
In fact after hearing about this bit about feathers manifesting, I was getting into my car after coming out of the YMCA and as soon as I sat down a little feather floated down in front of me. What? Where did that come from?!? I started weeping with just this “random” reminder that God is covering me, that he loves me, that he is intimately acquainted with me and loves me intensely and immensely!
Then comes the fear mongers, quoting all kinds of misappropriated Scripture throwing a wet blanket all over the wonderful intimacy (and wonders) we can all experience in relationship with Papa. They incite you to fear and steal your joy (your crown).
May we not make the same mistake Jerusalem did when they rejected Jesus. May we not reject and “stone” Bill Johnson or any other true prophet who comes to us preaching and doing their best to live out exactly what the Bible says. It was interesting to me to note the similarilties of the treatment Jesus received to that of Bill Johnson.
One example was when Jesus was rejected by the chief priests and religious leaders because of where he came from.
“Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.” (John 7:41-43 NIV)
See what’s happening here? People were rejecting Jesus because he wasn’t from Bethlehem or David’s descendant. They were ill informed.
There are people I know who reject Bill Johnson as a false teacher (or something worse) because he said Jesus was “born again”. He was teaching on the resurrection and apparently people had a problem with his phrasing and were falsely assuming Bill was teaching something unorthodox.
From his sermon:
“…Did you know that Jesus was born again? I asked… the first service and they said, “No.” But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.
In Hebrews 1 it says this, “For to which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you’?” And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.” He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’”
Bill Johnson says Jesus was born again! Scandalous!
But did anyone pretend for a moment to be a friend to Bill Johnson and ask, “so what did you mean by that Bill Johnson?”
It took me all of 30-seconds with a search on google to reveal this:
On February 14, 2011, Bill Johnson stated the following on his Facebook wall:
“Jesus was sinless for sure. The spotless lamb. BUT He BECAME SIN. He needed to be raised from the dead. Acts 13 calls Him ‘the first born from the dead.’ He did not raise Himself. The Father through the Spirit raised Him. He was born of Mary. That’s one. He was raised from the dead. That’s two. ‘Again.’ It’s not a statement creating a new doctrine. It’s to make people think, which gets scary for some. Primarily it’s to help us appreciate the fact that Jesus had become sin and was in need of the resurrection as much as we are in need of being born again.”
So obviously Bill Johnson needs to repent and publicly disown that he preached… what exactly? That Jesus rose from the dead?
I told someone that his statement was innocuous. Wrong word. I knew it immediately. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is anything but innocuous. This means something quite profound to all those who are in Christ. It is why any of us are given access into a whole new way to be human – something we’ve never been. And that’s exciting!
BEWARE THE FALSE TEACHER!
Hey, I’m all for exposing false teachers. Yes, let’s hold to the truth of the true Gospel and fight for it! But may we never attack a brother in the name of “standing up for the truth”. We can and should hold them accountable and question them for what they teach if that is what Jesus is calling you to do, but that doesn’t mean we reject and disassociate from them.
My most popular blog is an exposition of a false teacher who is leading people back into bondage to the law through the Hebrew roots movement. (I hope this blog of defending a brother becomes even more popular). We need to be wary of those who preach a false Gospel. The warnings of Scripture are there for a reason.
BUT, we should never let the healthy warnings of Scripture to turn us into miserable fear mongers! If you aren’t thoroughly enjoying your Christianity, are you sure you are even believing the right Gospel? Do you possess something worthy of exporting? Would you want everyone in the world to be as full of joy as you are right now because you know Jesus? Are you so in love with Jesus that can’t wipe the happy off your face because of how good he is to you? Do you enjoy God?
If not, why not? It’s called “Good News” for a reason!
Paul writes in Galatians:
“I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.
Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9 NLT)
I don’t know who would say a joyful amen to anyone falling under God’s curse. God weeps for those under his curse. If we know him, we would too. It is a sad, sad thing that people would depart from the glorious joyous Good News of Jesus.
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
This is a phrase that was used to describe the teaching ministry of Bill Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Church in Redding California and I pray it is true… in the very best sense. Let me explain.
Interestingly leaven was used as a metaphor a few different ways in Scripture. Once by Jesus to describe the kingdom of God:
“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 13:33 NASB)
Here the metaphor of leaven is used in a wonderfully positive way. This is exactly what I pray happens, that the Gospel being preached by our dear brother Bill Johnson goes out and infects the world. Bill is preaching the kingdom of God.
Jesus also warned his disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of Herod.
“He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”” (Mark 8:15 NASB)
So what is he referring to here? A few ideas off the top of my head are: Pride and hypocrisy, and lording it over others.
Paul also used the idea of leaven specifically to describe the devastating effects of false teachers leading people back into the old system of the law rather then living by the new way of the Spirit and Grace and the Righteousness available to us in and only through Christ Jesus.
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Galatians 5:9 NKJV
Here is the Context (a must read):
“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.
You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.” – Paul (Galatians 5:1-10 NLT)
So obviously the question is, what is Bill Johnson preaching? What is his message? Is it according to the truth of the Gospel? Or opposed to the truth of Jesus? Is he in the business of gathering or scattering? Is he advancing the kingdom of God or it’s enemy? Specifically to the above passage, is he leading people back into bondage to the law?
Bill johnson is controversial and hard to ignore. So was Jesus.
If we are quick to judge, we end up being like the Pharisees and religious leaders who didn’t give Jesus a fair hearing. And this is exactly what I see happening.
What are the standards that Scripture gives us to discern false teachers and does Bill Johnson fit the bill?
I was talking with a pastor recently about what constitutes a “false teacher” according to Scripture? Obviously Scripture is what we need to have as our plumb-line for truth, right? And not our personal preferences about how they do their ministry, right?
So what are the biblical standards that define a false teacher?
Surprisingly the tests are a great deal broader than we would think. The apostle John gives us a few tests like, did Jesus Christ come in the flesh? (I was informed recently that the New Age actually believes that the Christ did not take on human form in Jesus?) Search it out yourself what Bible standards are for false teachers.
What if, while we are expecting most to turn away from the faith in the “end times apostasy” (and what exactly does this apostasy refer to? It could be wildly different than you think… could be.), that in our efforts to fight against this “apostasy” we are actually causing people to fall away from the faith? Think about it. If we are on a constant fear-mongering witch hunt as I see many Christians and “ministries” doing, then aren’t we instead driving people into fear, and NOT faith?
Are we encouraging people to have a simple pure childlike devotion to Christ and come to Jesus with open hearts full of wonder and trust to experience Jesus for themselves?
Instead these watchdog ministries, and the “hunt for the new heretics” websites popping up everywhere reminds me of the people Jesus warned us about who refuse to come into the kingdom themselves and block others entry into the kingdom… by inciting us to fear and creating a religious culture of fear.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 23:13 NIV)
From all the evidence I have encountered, this is my conclusion: Bill Johnson is a servant of Jesus and the kingdom of God. Like you and me he is not without his flaws and peculiarities. He is helping many (including myself) to grow in the ways of Jesus. To cast our brothers name out as evil is… well, evil.