In the 1970s there were a lot of strange things going on that have sort of gone by the wayside. There was the disco phenomenon. There was the 8-track. There were platform shoes. There were many strange fads. One of the strangest things of that decade was the infatuation with psychokinesis. That is the ability to alter, or move something with only the power of your mind.
There were large budget studies conducted by scientists with alleged “gifted” individuals. These “psychics” were able to bend spoons, bend keys, among other tricks.
Perhaps the most famous of these people was a man by the name of Uri Geller. He was a charming charismatic man that was appearing on all the talk shows displaying his amazing gifts. He even had the backing of a scientific study by Stanford Research Institute that was funded by the United States Defense Agency. People were becoming believers and Uri was becoming wealthy.
In 1973 Geller appeared on the Tonight Show to display his ”powers”. He was going to display how he could select which of the many tin cans contained a ball bearing. Little did Uri know, the Johnny Carson Show had called a magician to see if this was a trick or not. The magician gave them advice on little things they could do to the cans to see if it was in fact a trick.
On national TV, Geller could not display his powers. Here is the strange part of the story… People still believed him.
Over his career, magicians would replicate the tricks that Geller was performing. When asked about it, Geller would say that they were able to replicate it in some way but it wasn’t the same as what he was doing. People still believed him.
At one point two magicians went in to a scientific psychokinesis experiment parading themselves as true psychics. The entire time they planned on convincing the scientists that they had real abilities and then when it was all over, they would come clean and say it was a scam. They did exactly that. And you know what happened? People began to rationalize why these two men were phonies but the others were the real deal.
The question is why? Why would someone believe something that is demonstrated as untrue? Why do people still believe horoscopes, and crystal balls, and tarot cards? Why do people still believe that some have the ability to peer into the other side?
It’s an important question because we can believe what we do for the same reasons. In fact, in the religious world people follow false teachers for the same exact reasons. In 2 Corinthians 11:13, Paul calls those who were trying to teach something contrary to him “false apostles”.
The word apostle simply means “messenger”. It can be used in a general sense in which every Christian is an apostle. But it also was a specific title and office in the first century Church. In this capacity it described those special people whom Christ selected to preach the gospel. The Apostles had authority from Christ to reveal the Gospel until the New Testament was completed around the turn of the first century (Eph 4:11-13, 1 Cor 11:9-12). When we say apostle today, we are referring to that special elite group of men that were ordained by Christ.
But Paul says they are “false”. False does not carry the tone that the word carries with it in the original language. There is an evil or wickedness in the root of this word that can often be overlooked.
Here is why it is so wicked. When someone claims to be an apostle of Christ, or when someone claims to be receiving a message directly from God, they know that they are lying. Paul will actually say they are “deceitful”. The image is bait on a fishing lure. They get you by attracting you and then before you know it you are hooked.
I run in to people like this all the time. They have been deceived by some false teacher and have bought in completely. I simply show how their doctrine and beliefs do not match up with the Bible but they can’t let go of what they have been taught. They are hooked by the charm and deception of these false teachers. It is extremely sad. It is not that these followers are deceivers, but Jesus still said they will too fall into the ditch (Matt 15:14). Ignorance and good intentions don’t let you off the hook!
Paul gives us insight into why we would follow these people. First, false teachers seem honest. Paul says that they “disguise themselves as angels of light” (2 Cor 11:14). Just like those who fell in love with Uri Geller, he seemed so sincere and honest.
Second, they have credentials. Gellar had a scientific study to follow him everywhere he went. The false teachers that Paul was talking about had credentials too. They had a resume of “mission” work to point at (11:12). People automatically trust a “pastor”, “reverend”, or anyone else who claims that God has revealed something to them.
Third, people go along with the group. There is comfort in attaching beliefs to something popular. The conventional wisdom is that the greater the following, the more legitimate something must be. But that goes a complete 180 degrees from the words of Jesus, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt 17:13-14).
Fourth, it feels good. I can’t tell you how many religious discussions I have had that involve the phrase “I feel”. God did not ever intend for us to follow our feelings. The heart is deceitful above A-L-L things (Jer 17:9).
Humans fall for deception. Its actually the original tool of Satan against Eve (2 Cor 11:3). Knowing this, God gave us a universal standard of truth in his word (John 17:17). It teaches us about how to be set free from sin (John 8:32), and it teaches us about how to properly worship God (John 4:24). It is perfect (1 Cor 13:10) and keeps us from “being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14).
Honestly ask yourself, If God gave one standard for the Church, why are there so many different Churches? The answer is in this article.