Friday 30 October 2015


Conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit and condemnation of satan explained. How do we differentiate between conviction and condemnation when our conscience is pricked?

The Holy Spirit’s role is to convict (elegchō) the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). The word ‘world’ refers to all, believers and non-believers alike. It is false to think that the Holy Spirit only convicts non-believers of sin and spares believers.

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
(John 16:8-11)

No doubt this passage in John 16 is open to various interpretations. The best way to settle the issue is to compare scripture with scripture. Let’s turn to two other passages, one in Revelation and the other in Hebrews, which show us clearly that the Holy Spirit does indeed convict believers of sin.

The fact that the Holy Spirit convicts believers of sin is found in Revelation 3: 19-22.  The key verse here is verse 19. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). The word ‘reprove’ has been translated from the Greek word, elegchō, which in English can also mean convict, show to be guilty, expose, rebuke, discipline.

As such, Revelation 3:19 may be paraphrased thus:  I convict those whom I love concerning sin and I discipline them; so they have to be zealous and repent.

The book of Hebrews tells us that God convicts (disciplines or chastens) those who are his children. In fact, such conviction is a mark that they belong to God.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”
(Hebrews 12:5–6)

An earthly father would be doing a great disservice to his children if he fails to discipline and correct delinquent behaviour while they are still young and pliable. If he is grossly negligent, they might turn out to be criminals, murderers and rapists later in adult life.

Do you think our loving heavenly Father will fail to discipline His beloved children? Will He not reprove or convict us when we sin?

Can you see the close similarity between the two passages in Revelation and Hebrews? God, the Holy Spirit, convicts or reproves us so that we might repent and be saved from judgment.

So we can now bring to the attention of the megachurch pastor who claims that the “Holy Spirit never convicts believers of sins”, that there are two passages, Revelation 3: 19-22 and Hebrews 12:5–6 that refute his teaching.

To say that the Holy Spirit convicts non-believers of sin and believers of righteousness, as hyper-grace teaches, is to add man-made artificial subdivisions to this passage in John 16:8-11.

Though the Holy Spirit shows us where we have gone astray, exposes our sin and makes us feel guilty, He does it with pure motives. He reproves or convicts us because we are His children and He wants the best for us so that we will not have to face His wrath on judgment day.

The Holy Spirit is definitely on the believers’ side though the way He exposes our sin makes us feel uneasy. By convicting us of sin, the Spirit makes us uncomfortable so that we may escape judgment through repentance. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

It is better to be uncomfortable now (acknowledge the conviction of Holy Spirit as genuine and positive and then repent) than face the prospect of eternal suffering in a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The error with hyper-grace is that it dismisses the fact that there is such a thing as the conviction of the Holy Spirit. So, from this false teaching, believers think that they do not need to repent but merely rest in the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Whatever guilt we feel inside as a result of sin is “swept under the carpet” on the basis of this false teaching: Whenever we sin and our conscience is pricked, hyper-grace leads believers to think like this: “Don’t worry, no need to repent, just change your thinking, we are pure in God’s eyes by imputed righteousness.”  

The consequence of embracing false teaching is that our ‘sin account’ with God is not settled. We no longer enjoy God’s favour (John 15:9, Rom 11:22b). And we will have to face God’s wrath on judgment day.

What are the possible scenarios when we sin and our conscience gets pricked?

  • When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we humble ourselves and repent.

  • Secondly, we can be convicted of sin by the Spirit but harden our hearts. So we do not repent.

  • Thirdly, we choose to believe in the lie that the Holy Spirit does not convict believers of sin. So we reason to ourselves we do not need to repent. 

Only the first restores our relationship with God. In the other cases, our fellowship with God remains broken.

The ultimate tragedy is when believers think they are prosperous and do not feel the need to repent, not realising they are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17).

So far we have dealt with conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit. How about condemnation by satan?

The devil, in contrast, accuses believers day and night (Revelation 12:10) in order to torment us and make us ineffective or impotent in our service for God. Condemnation of the devil is negative. Satan, in contrast to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, is clearly not on our (believers’) side. 

We may have been cleansed after having repented but his accusation still rages on. It is in such situations that we need to declare that God has forgiven us (1 John 1: 9) and that He no longer remembers our sins (Hebrews 8:12, Isaiah 43:25).

We need to declare Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Yes, we need to declare, “I am the righteousness of God.”

The baffling question is this: “How do we know whether it is God convicting us or satan condemning us whenever we feel uneasiness in our conscience?”

The answer is the Word and the Holy Spirit.

Notice that if our heart does not condemn us, if we do not feel guilty, we have confidence before God (1 John 3:21). If our conscience is pricked when we sin, we do not have confidence to approach God.

The Holy Spirit works hand in hand with the Word. The Spirit shows us where we have transgressed God’s laws, convicts us of sin, exposes our sin so that we might repent and become righteous.

Jesus, in His high priestly intercessory prayer, prayed to the Father that believers will be sanctified by the truth, which is the Word. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

We also gather in John 16:13 that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. But unless we are well-versed with the truth by diligently studying the Word, the Holy Spirit will not be able to guide us along the paths that please God.

We need to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit does convict believers of sin. The Spirit accomplishes this task through the Word, which guides us concerning what pleases Him (or what grieves Him or quenches the Spirit).

When we are convicted by the Spirit through the Word and repent, we continue to enjoy God’s favour and remain in fellowship with Him.

Believers who fail to recognise the conviction of the Holy Spirit as something positive, but instead dismiss it or deem it as the condemnation of satan, may be led up the garden path of deception and damnation.

For more insight into discerning whether our pricked conscience means the Spirit’s conviction or satan’s condemnation, we would do well to read “The Spiritual Man” (3 volumes) by Watchman Nee, which explains how our spirit, soul and body function in relation to one another.


Certain conditions have to be fulfilled before self-examination is useful. Otherwise it is mere introspection.

Hyper-grace teaches that since God has already forgiven all the past, present and future sins of believers, it follows that we should put the ‘sin issue’ behind us and banish ‘sin consciousness’ from our lives. Is this biblical?

Hyper-grace teaches believers only need to change their mind (correct their past erroneous thinking) when they repent. Is this what the Bible teaches about repentance?

Monday 26 October 2015


Eight key tenets of hyper-grace doctrine refuted

When red flags go up at popular beaches, it means there are dangerous undercurrents that endanger lives. Stay out of harm’s way. Don’t swim. It’s too risky.   

Similarly, in the spiritual realm, we need to raise red flags whenever there are dangerous false teachings so that impressionable believers will not be entrapped.

Believers are taught not to believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).

We also need to scrutinise whatever is taught, like the Bereans, to ascertain whether it is in accordance with scriptures (Acts 17:11).

I have already highlighted a serious heresy in an earlier post: “Is it true that the Holy Spirit does not convict believers of sin?”

If we think that this megachurch pastor’s teaching on conviction of sins—the Holy Spirit does not convict believers of sin—is outrageous, we haven’t seen the rest yet. The other tenets of his hyper-grace teachings are equally erroneous.

A false-grace doctrine is a drug—a poisonous sleeping pill that feels freeing, relaxing and euphoric. Yet the false-grace overdose that’s occurring in churches all over the world is resulting in people’s careless, self-focused slumber that they will, one day, fail to awaken from.
John Burton

Here are seven other key tenets of hyper-grace doctrine, each followed by a link that presents a rebuttal to it.

Hyper-grace teaches that the future sins of Christians are automatically forgiven (FSAF). Is it rational to say Christ’s blood covers all our future sins even before it came into being?

Hyper-grace teaches us that, after our one-time confession of sin at conversion, believers no longer need to confess our sins. When God looks at us, all He is going to see is Christ’s blood, not our sins whether it is past, present or future. We merely rest in the ‘imputed righteousness of Christ’. Is it true that sin need not be dealt with after conversion since we merely rest in the ‘imputed righteousness of Christ’?

Hyper-grace teaches believers only need to change their mind (correct their past erroneous thinking) when they repent. Is this what the Bible teaches about repentance?

Hyper-grace teaches that believers are no longer under the law since they are now under grace. Are believers really free from the requirements of the law?

Hyper-grace teaches that since God has already forgiven all the past, present and future sins of believers, it follows that we should put the ‘sin issue’ behind us and banish ‘sin consciousness’ from our lives. Is this biblical?

Hyper-grace teaches that since believers are under grace, they do not have to be subject to the law. Obedience to the law is seen as something negative—an attempt to earn God’s blessings apart from grace.
Hyper-grace teaching implies that obedience is unnecessary in the life of a believer—that we should not nullify God’s grace through obedience or “works of the law”.

Hyper-grace teaches that believers enjoy eternal security and will never lose our salvation: “The truth is you are saved by grace and you are kept by grace. It’s grace from start to finish! Don’t let anyone frighten you into doing dead works, but rest secure in His finished work. Just as you did nothing to earn salvation, there is nothing you can do to lose it.”
Is it true that believers will never lose our salvationeven if we deny God or willfully live in sin?


Believing in a message of false grace gives a false sense of security. False grace was exposed in a video in which Dr Michael Brown was being interviewed by Sid Roth. It's a clear, compelling, well-balanced, Word-based presentation.

How to develop discernment and escape the clutches of destructive heresies

Why it’s easy to be fooled without realising you’ve been had


You may use the following introductory passage:
When red flags go up at popular beaches, it means there are dangerous undercurrents that endanger lives. Stay out of harm’s way. Similarly, in the spiritual realm, we need to raise red flags whenever there are dangerous false teachings so that impressionable believers will not be entrapped.




Tuesday 13 October 2015


Trusting His wisdom and acknowledging Him in our plans

As believers, when we make important decisions such as switching jobs, going into “full-time” ministry, buying a house or migrating, we need to seek God and commit the decision-making process to Him.


Here is a prayer asking God to guide us. It is implied that we trust His wisdom and acknowledge Him in all our plans and decision making.

  • Lord, we declare that You are the almighty God who alone knows what is best for our  lives (Jeremiah 10:23).

  • We acknowledge that You have a specific will for every child who calls You, “Father”. And that you are more than willing to show Your perfect will to us (Jeremiah 1:5, Romans 11:29, Acts 17:26).

  • We want to live purposefully and intentionally to glorify Your name. As such, we dare not be presumptuous or trust in our own wisdom (James 4:13-15, Proverbs 3:5-6, Jeremiah 9:23-24).

  • We know that You are not a hard taskmaster. For the paths you have arranged for us to tread have our welfare at heart (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 37:4).

  • Lead us, guide us as we meditate on your Word. Speak to us through the still small voice, trusted mature believers, and the opening and closing of doors (Psalm 32:8-9, Joshua1:8, James 1:5, Ephesians 5:17-18).

  • And even if we should venture to do something and falter, we know that You will lovingly correct us and set us along the right path again (Psalm 37:23-24).

What happens when we apply the above steps in the decision-making process?

The result might be that these elements—the Word, inner witness and peace, circumstances and godly counsel—all line up in a straight line, like the runway lights that help a plane land safely.  Then we know that God has spoken, “This is the path I would like you to take.”

If we seek to hear His voice, listen to His heartbeat, trust and acknowledge Him in all our plans and decisions, our lives will be marked by blessing, purpose and direction. 


Is obedience compatible with self-fulfillment?

Stay in the marketplace or move on to “full-time” ministry? How do we determine our calling?

When we come to a fork or crossroad in life, we know we need guidance. How can we know God’s will for our lives?

We can choose either to obey God or reject His ways. But, having done so, we cannot choose the consequences of our decision.

By embracing a God-inspired vision, we can live purposefully—by design and not by default.

Stay put or emigrate? A biblical perspective of emigration

Does God’s wisdom merely guide us along the correct moral path? Has it no relevance to us when we make mundane decisions in life—like buying a home?


A Bible teacher from Singapore sent this comment (edited) by email:

Your writing is a good reminder to Christians that our decision making involves more than the “usual facts” but wisdom from God. As long as we live in our mortal bodies, our tendency is to rely on our natural knowledge, might, wit, wisdom or whatever resources we can muster. A common rationale is that “God helps those who help themselves.” However, our natural intelligence or even a lifetime of study will never be sufficient to prepare us for the challenges of life. God understands our frailty. And He is more than able to teach and coach us in any situation for it is written in Christ are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

When we lack answers and do not know what to do, the Holy Spirit is there to impart wisdom as we submit to and lean on Him for “it is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God, the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). We need to adopt an attitude not of inactivity or passivity but rely on the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit because a paradox in God’s Kingdom is that He delights in using weak vessels to do mighty works. When we use our strength or natural wisdom, God stands aside and waits until, in desperation, we shift our trust from ourselves to Him. When we decide that “we can’t”, He will then respond “I can.” God intervenes when we lay our shortcomings at His feet and exchange our weakness and wisdom for His strength and His wisdom.

An example illustrating this principle is found in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 where King Jehoshaphat found himself in a crisis as a great army was preparing to attack his kingdom. He prayed to the Lord and confessed, “We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:12). As the people of Judah cried out to God, they were granted godly wisdom. They applied God’s strategy—putting the worship team ahead of the soldiers as they marched into battle—and defeated their enemies (2 Chronicles 20:21).

When a believer taps into the Holy Spirit’s supernatural wisdom, he can apply it to every situation in life because God’s Law is higher than any other law. As he walks in submission to the rules of the God’s kingdom, the “Law of the Spirit of Life” operates in the supernatural realm to defy natural wisdom. The Holy Spirit directs his steps as he walks humbly before his God.


I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself,
    that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
(Jeremiah 10:23)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
(Jeremiah 1:5)

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
(Romans 11:29)

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
(Acts 17:26)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15)

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 straight your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
(Jeremiah 9:23-24)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and He will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you.
 (Psalm 32:8-9)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
(Joshua 1:8)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
(James 1:5)

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
(Ephesians 5:17-18)

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the Lord upholds his hand.
(Psalm 37:23-24)

Friday 9 October 2015


Should believers pursue sensational experience even if it goes against sound doctrine?

Some church leaders seem to support this premise: “Experientialism is the way to go; experience it and you will come to know the truth.” 

Do you think the preceding statement is valid?

Is it true that the proof of the pudding is in the eating? Nothing like trying, isn’t it? Don't we sing, O taste and see that the Lord is good?

Let me begin by saying that I have nothing against experiences and the miraculous realm, coming from a Pentecostal and Baptist background of more than 40 years.

But when teachers like Bill Johnson exalt the experience of signs and wonders to the extent that doctrine, scholarship and the use of one’s sound mind are all downplayed and even the deity of Christ is denied, red flags go up.

Are we so mesmerised by the miraculous and sensational that we are willing to depart from sound doctrine and whatever we hold dear in our faith?

For Bill Johnson and his followers, the presence of signs and wonders is more important than anything else—the more of the miraculous the better.

Should believers be willing to “go off the map”—go beyond what is found in the Word—in order to embrace the realm of the miraculous?

Johnson claims, “For decades the Church has been guilty of creating doctrine to justify their lack of power.”

He warns believers of the danger of embracing a “powerless Word”: "Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know."
The above (in blue) **  is an attempt by Johnson to denigrate scholarship and the Word to pave the way for believers to venture into the exciting realm of the miraculous.

Firstly, to set the Word against the Holy Spirit does not make sense. The Holy Spirit can only prompt believers to embrace the things found in the Word, not anything that is outside the confines of the Bible. After all, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). And the Word is the Truth (John 17:17). Needless to say, we don’t have to set the Word against the Holy Spirit. How can we set one person of the Trinity against another person of the Trinity? Both work together to fulfill a common purpose. Most of the time, we can only know what the Holy Spirit is saying when we have a firm grasp of the Word.

In fact, Christians with a firm grasp of the Word should be more secure—not have a false sense of security as Johnson insinuates—for then they will be able to overcome deception. Those who do not emphasise the objective Word but depend on emotional highs and the leading of various spirits are more likely to falter and be deceived. 

Secondly, the Bible is our “map”. To go “beyond what we know”, as asserted by Bill Johnson, is to go beyond the bounds of Scripture. When we denigrate the Word and exalt the realm of the supernatural, we no longer have any guide, compass or plumb line. We will be treading on uncharted territories. Whatever supernatural phenomena that we assume as originating from the Holy Spirit may not necessarily be so. 

That’s dangerous and leaves us at the mercy of deception by diverse spirits.  For deception goes hand in hand with the following: Letting our minds be on passive mode, setting aside discernment and downplaying of doctrine and scholarship. As such, believers will play into the hands of the devil if we adopt such a position.

Thirdly, every teacher claims that he or she stands for the truth. But how do we know the truth? Start with the objective Word. Study the whole Word. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s illumination. Learn know how to rightly handle the Word. And then within the constraints of the Word, be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul emphasises the importance of sound doctrine which should be upheld at all costs. We need to hold fast to the Word, which must be preserved intact in its unadulterated form.

To imply that the Word should play a less important role in the believer’s life for the sake of greater supernatural experience—that we should be willing to be "led by the spirit" and follow "off the map” if we want to be more adventurous and venture into the realm of the miraculous—is another gospel.

  • Test all things; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

  • Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

  • Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1: 13-14)

  • But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it. (2 Timothy 3: 14)

No, we must never go "off the map”—that is, entertain doctrines or practices that are beyond the sanction and bounds of the Word.

And all miracles or supernatural phenomena should be tested for authenticity against the Word.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
(1 John 4:1)    

What is the litmus test of an encounter with the living God?
“We know that the manifestations affect the emotions, but the Bible places much more emphasis on repentance (changed mind) and obedience (dedicated will) as the appropriate response to an encounter with the living God. The ultimate test of any experience is whether it leads to real repentance and observable obedience. This yardstick is especially necessary in an age which is addicted to novel experiences and regards all religious experiences as self-authenticating. The Church must not fall into this way of thinking but faithfully 'test all thing’” – David Pawson


Here are some searching questions for fans of Bill Johnson and Bethel church

Is there a rationale for pursuing signs and wonders?

Are the supernatural manifestations in church today invariably of divine origin?

The battle that has been raging for centuries: Should the believer emphasise the Word or Holy Spirit more? Some believers ground themselves so strongly in the Word that the Holy Spirit has little relevance in their lives. They become wary of spiritual gifts or “being led by the Spirit”, thinking that by doing so they may be opening themselves to self-deception and counterfeit spirits of darkness. So they reason it’s better to play it safe by staying in familiar territory.