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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

How Right Division Saves Us from Being Duped by Charlatans (My Testimony)

This event early in my Christian life when I was not yet grounded helped start me on the road to a more sound understanding of scripture and the will of God for this current age. It was one of my early experiences that reminded me that just because someone had a title, it doesn't mean they are my authority. The seeds of "studying to show [myself] approved unto God" (2 Tim 2:15) were starting to germinate. 

In  the Fall of 1991, when I was first shocked out of my Catholicism and religious self-righteousness, and struggling with a parallel deep depression, I was so hungry for anything "Christian" that one of the first books I read was "Good Morning, Holy Spirit!" by Benny Hinn. The charismatic/Pentecostal wing of Christendom was the most prominent wing on television and radio in those days.

I was so hungry in my new faith that I was watching and listening to Christian radio programs, TV programs, and messages available on tapes and CDs. Thankfully, I had developed and early, rudimentary skepticism (after all, I'd been living a 25 year religious lie to that point), but I was not well grounded.

One radio program I regularly listened to was a ministry by a local "evangelist" He was essentially the typical, rural Southern preacher that we'd all seen in popular culture parodies. This "man of God" was going to have a Friday night revival in Thomasville, NC (a small town about 25 miles away from Greensboro in a rural county to our southwest). He would advertise on his radio broadcast," Come and meet God in Thomasville!"

So, I went to meet God in Thomasville. I drove down to Davidson County in the pouring rain and found the small building where I was going to "meet God." It was just behind one of the many barbeque joints in the town. (Fortunately, Thomasville has some of the greatest barbeque in the world, so it wasn't a complete loss.)

After dinner ("supper" in Thomasville), I took my place in that small building. The room where God was apparently accepting visitors was on the ground floor of a nondescript structure with about 40 (as I recall) movable chairs split in two groups of 20 with an aisle between. There were about 25 people in there and a very small band in the corner. There wasn't really an "altar" or platform, but a small raised area up front (about 6" high, IIRC). In any case, there was an area up front separated from the rest of the small room.

The evangelist, in full white suit, preached his message (from a verse in the KJV, of course). I'm guessing he was Matthew 18:16. He kept saying we need to be "Ek-stablished in the Word!" Just like that "EK-stablished in the Word!" as he walked up and down the small aisle. Don't remember anything else from his message.

The time came for prayer. He went up front, the music started, and some jaunty song about "sending that ol' Devil down!" was in full swing. As I did at any meeting I attended in those days, I was right up front. Again, a relatively small crowd, so it wasn't that difficult.

All around me, people dancing and jumping and singing. One man crumpled up his pack of cigarettes and threw them up on the small stage (big deal in North Carolina!). The preacher was doing his deep growling and loud praying over the small throng. Then he started to my right and was praying over individuals.

OK, here he comes. I'm gonna get to meet God. I'm gonna get my prayer answered. My fiancée is going to come back to me (her leaving the source of my depression)! He extends his hand over the first guy and prays loudly (music still going, still sending that ol' Devil down), touches him on his forehead, he faints backward. Guy to my immediate right is next. Same shtick. He falls.

Now, we pause to remind our audience, I was not yet familiar with being slaughtered by the Spirit (I know it's "slain" but I call it slaughtered). So, when he prays over me, and then hits my forehead, I do not fall back. He keeps pushing on my forehead, I just keep praying. Finally, he and the two guys behind me, finally move on to the guy on my left. He falls on cue.

I left a bit confused. Ironically, the first place I fellowshipped (and where I was baptized, a HUGE deal for an ex-Catholic as it's essentially the spiritual death penalty) was an Assemblies of God (on advice from the 700 Club). Lovely people. Small church. Very important in my first steps outside of Rome. But, fortunately, I didn't just swallow anything I heard (still don't). It was a positive experience, until the barking started. But that's another story for another time. 

I should say the dog barking from some claiming to be overcome by the Holy Ghost was the last straw in a series of experiences that moved me closer to the principles of Right Division. Hearing incoherent babblings and repetitive vocal emissions that I was supposed to believe was some heavenly language turned me into skeptic. I never "spoke in tongues" myself, and it seemed to me that the tongues of Pentecost and the Book of Acts were known languages (but what I did I know, I didn't have a seminary degree!).

I was invited by a friend to attend a small Plymouth Brethren assembly in south Greensboro. I attended a Friday-Saturday mini-conference on the topic of dispensationalism (Classic, Acts 2 dispensationalism, but a vey helpful introduction to the idea). The confusing world of Benny Hinn and his ilk started to make sense to me. There was some sort of mass hypnosis going on. Many sincere folks in that movement, to be sure. But when I stepped back and compared what I saw in that world with what I saw in scripture, something was wrong.

Eventually, even in an Acts 2 Classic dispensationalist construct, I could not make heads or tales of the Book of Acts or a number of passages in the epistles. One book which helped me immensely in trying to understand the Book of Matthew had been A.C. Gaebelein;s commentary on the gospel account. I still highly recommend it. But it didn't really help with the post-Gospels period.

Next, I found "The Silence of God" by Robert Anderson in our Plymouth Brethren Assembly library and that moved my understanding a little farther down the road. I'll skip to the end here and just note that it was actually in an online Southern Baptist forum that I met a man named Paul (ironically) who introduced me to a 6-part series on the Book of Acts by Stuart Allen. This started me on my road of personal study (comparing scripture with scripture) whereby I developed my own understanding of the Mystery revealed to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians for the Post-Acts age. The separation of God's plans for the earth from his plans for the far above the heavens opened my eyes to greater understanding.

Today, as super cessationist (I think John Macarthur is too charismatic on this point!), I am in little danger from the likes of Hinn, Copeland, Bickle, etc. That does not mean that I do not love my Charismatic brethren (and sistren). I love many of the Calvary Chapel teachers, for example. I can still find value in many different corners of Evangelicalism.  I'm just not looking for anything from them in regard to rightly dividing the Book of Acts or from the Gospels in the current age. I believe I have a better understanding of the covenants of scripture, but that does not mean that I cannot find conviction in a teaching on the Christian life, for example.

I'm still a little miffed that Benny Hinn got some money from me purchasing his book! 

Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

For a video walkthrough of the entire Bible, checkout my 7-part series:

For a much shorter overview of studying scripture for yourself, 
please try my 2-part podcast: