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by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

A lesson taught at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, November 21, 2021

Hymn Sung Before the Lesson: “Hallelujah, What a Saviour!”
       (by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6; p. 1135 Scofield).

Christ said that He was the only way to God. Jesus is absolutely essential to salvation. No one can come to God except through Him. You cannot come to God through Buddha or the Hindu gods. You cannot be saved by your own good works. You cannot even be saved by the Holy Spirit – only by Jesus! The Apostle Peter said the same thing,

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; p. 1153).

No one can get to Heaven except by trusting Jesus. He and He only is the perfect Son of God who died on the Cross to pay for our sin, shed His Blood to wash our sin away, and rose from the dead to give us life. This is not some small detail. This is basic Christian doctrine, believed by all true Christians throughout the ages. Sadly, it is not taken seriously by the Pentecostals who dominate the “Christian” religion of the Third World. Yes, there are a few churches there which are not Pentecostal, but they are small and hard to find. There the main branch of Christianity by far is Pentecostalism. What do these churches preach? What do they do?

I went on mission trips to India and three countries in Africa. As I said, almost all the churches there are Pentecostal. The few which are not are small and quiet. No one talks about them. Almost all of what counts as Christianity is Pentecostal. But few of these people are converted. Let me tell you what I saw.

In these churches I heard little mention of Jesus and little mention of the Gospel. Instead, the preacher became a “magic man” who gives people blessings, just as a witch doctor does in Africa and as a guru does in India. The pastor of a small church calls himself a pastor or preacher. If he leads a larger church or ministry, he often calls himself “bishop.” If he is really successful, he becomes an “apostle.” Some of these preachers supposedly have magical powers. Some of them are quite rich, even in a poor country.

The prosperity preachers get the attention. I saw advertising for them on large billboards. They have television programs. On the television in India one of these men gave a long sermon on prosperity. At the end he said you couldn’t have these riches unless you were saved. Then he asked people to pray a sinner’s prayer so they could be saved. But the people didn’t pray that prayer to have their sin forgiven. They did it as an entry ticket to the prosperity party. They “trusted” Jesus as a gateway to getting rich.

I sometimes say, “Money is the universal language that everyone understands.” This is certainly true with Pentecostal preachers! They may not preach the Gospel, but they do understand money! In a meeting, one preacher told the people to raise their hands and say out loud, “I am rich. I am rich.” But the only one who got rich was the preacher. Prosperity theology doesn’t work. It’s a trick!

Let me ask a question. Why isn’t prosperity preached to the poor people out in the country, in the villages and on the farms? Don’t the people there need money? But I never saw a prosperity preacher in the country. Why not? The poor people there don’t have the money to support one of those preachers in the lifestyle he wants! They don’t have the money to pay for his fancy car, airplane trips, his big house, new clothes for his wife, and time on television. So the preacher doesn’t bother with poor people. He knows they won’t be rich even if they listen to him. He knows they can’t give him much. I only saw prosperity preachers in the cities where there was money to be taken. The fox doesn’t go where there are no chickens!

But that’s not all I saw. I saw people line up to be touched by a preacher. Then they fell down and lay unconscious for a few minutes, sometimes twisting or jerking. This was called being “slain in the spirit.” But the Holy Spirit didn’t do anything to them. Before the preacher touched them, the people bent their knees, leaned backward, and tipped their heads back. The preacher put his hand on their foreheads and gently pushed them backwards. If it was real, the Holy Spirit would deal with them whether they bent their legs or not! It was a fake – at best. At worse it was demonic.

In India one man ran up to me and grabbed my feet. I asked him why he did that. He answered, through a translator, that he wanted to get salvation from me by touching me. I told him I could not give him salvation. I was only a man, a sinful man just as he was. I told him there was Another Man far greater than I who would give my new friend salvation if he would come to Him and trust Him. That Man’s name is Jesus. I told him about Jesus, who He is and what He had done. Then I led this poor Indian man to Christ. He trusted Jesus. One month later this man died and went to Heaven.

Many Pentecostal preachers in India have moved into the role of a guru, a spiritual “master” who gives energy and lift to his disciples. I saw this over and over. After the sermon the people came forward to tell the preacher (or me!) their request – healing, money, or something else. They put their hands together and bent down just as they would for a Hindu guru. They asked me to put my hand on their forehead and pray for them. When they speak, they use the same words for a Christian preacher as they do for a guru. They say “man of God” – pronounced in exactly the same way for both kinds of men. To these people, the sermon is not important. The important thing is what comes afterward – the blessing the people get from the preacher’s touch.

In India and Africa I never heard a traditional hymn sung. I don’t know the languages, but I would have recognized the tunes! I heard rock music in the larger churches, just as churches do in America. I often heard the people sing choruses. In a poor church in India they didn’t have money for a rock band with electric guitars and large loudspeakers. But they did have a drum. I heard the people sing “Yesaya” over and over for twenty minutes while the drum was beating. I thought of an elephant slowly walking in rhythm down the road – that was the way the drum beat. “Yesaya” is their name for Jesus. But the name was sung as a chant, not a hymn of praise.

Although Jesus may be mentioned, Christ and His Gospel is not at the center of these churches. Other things are at the center – the Holy Spirit, the touch of a preacher, prosperity – anything but the bloody Christ dying on the Cross to pay for sin.

In a meeting in Africa I heard an hour of music before the sermon, with people dancing on the stage and in front of it. At the end of the music the pastor came to me and said there were people who wanted to be born again. But they had not heard the Gospel! What “new birth” would they receive? I told the pastor I would not counsel anyone who had not first heard the Gospel. He was surprised! After the sermon I did counsel people and tried to bring them to Christ.

It was the “worst” people there who were the more likely to be converted. I heard that some men and women had been involved in witchcraft. After the sermon I told the pastor to give a special invitation just for them, which the pastor dodged. On my fourth insistence he finally gave the invitation in English and repeated it in the local language. Six or seven people came. They knew they had done wrong. They did not think they were already Christians. They knew they were in trouble. I counseled them and dealt with their demonic involvement. Then I presented the Gospel and led them to Christ.

In Pentecostalism there is lots of emotion, but very little salvation. You can go on for years, for decades, for all your life, without being converted. You can go to Hell as a Pentecostal just as you can go to Hell as a Hindu or a pagan.

What makes Pentecostal churches different from classical Christianity? In a classical Protestant church, the most important thing that happens is the sermon. The pastor preaches the Word of God. The Gospel is presented.

In a Pentecostal church the most important things are emotion and experiences. The people get excited by the music. At the end they may get a prayer from the pastor. They may expect a pathway to riches. Sometimes they get zapped by the “spirit” and fall down. But it’s all feelings. That’s not salvation! That’s a waste of time at best, and demonic at worst.

Someone may think, “That’s what you saw in the Third World. We’re better here in America.” No, no! What’s so different here? After all, the Pentecostals in the Third World learned to be crazy from the crazy Pentecostals in our country.

A few years ago Jack Ngann and I visited a Pentecostal meeting. It was supposed to be a revival meeting. It began with loud rock music. Finally there came a man and a woman who swung back and forth on ropes hanging from the ceiling like trapeze acrobats in the circus. When they were really swinging high, the words REVIVAL! were shown on the screen in very large letters. Of course that was no revival at all! But the people applauded. Then some pastors spoke. In an hour of messages, Jesus was mentioned only once. The Gospel was not mentioned. I remember a visiting pastor from Arizona who said that his people were going through “fire tunnels.” I remember thinking, “There are no fire tunnels in the Bible.” But they were very excited about all the great things that were happening! Finally the lead pastor told the people that if they wished to be prayed for, they could come up on the stage. The people went up on the stage and the pastors put their hands on them and prayed for them. The people fell down shrieking, twitching and jerking. One of the pastors shouted out, “Catchers!” These were men who were already prepared to catch people when they fell. It was all planned! Finally the meeting ended right at 9:30 PM. You see, the room was rented and the meeting had to end by 9:30. Therefore the rented “Holy Spirit” left the room at 9:30. The people walked out, just the same as they went in, except they were more demonically influenced. That was supposed to be a “revival,” but it was not.

Not every Pentecostal or charismatic church is quite that wild. But the emphasis is the same – not the Gospel but entertainment and excitement. In many churches in America, the Gospel is seldom mentioned and almost never preached. For them, Jesus is a helper who gives out easy tickets to Heaven while guiding people in their relationships. His main work is not to forgive sin but to make people happy. Pentecostal churches offer feelings and experiences. They offer wild rock music to get the people excited! Pentecostals offer tongues, the hope of wealth, and healings. But they do not offer the Christ of the Cross.

What’s the answer? Jesus Christ gave the answer,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

Pastor, make sure you have trusted Jesus yourself. Then preach and teach Jesus Christ! Make it clear who Jesus is and what He did for us. Preach the Gospel carefully – and nothing but the Gospel. Follow it up with teachings on the Gospel in Sunday School and in Bible studies. Make Christ and His salvation the main subject in your church. Never mind about spiritual gifts and prosperity blessings. The people won’t get rich. But they wouldn’t get rich anyway. Never mind about tongues. Tongues never did anyone any good. Preach and teach Jesus Christ!

Speak with each person in your church individually. Do everything you can to make sure the people understand the Gospel and have trusted Jesus. Then they will be real Christians. That’s your true ministry. May God bless you as you do it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.