Why Discernment Ministries Fail (and Succeed) (2)

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 Grant Swart

This is the second installment of “Why Discernment Ministries Fail (and Succeed)”, Part 1 of which I published a year ago, almost to the day. Rather than repeating much of that which I wrote before, may I suggest that you refer to Part 1 here: Why Discernment Ministries Fail (and Succeed) (1), if you are interested in this subject, and have not previously done so. In Part 1 I attempted to establish the groundwork for bringing this installment into perspective, and it should provide an evenhanded and fair approach to the subject. A modern phenomenon, few ministries which place themselves under the banner of “discernment” have Biblically principled intent or calling, and the trend has in a very short period of time, drifted completely out of alignment with Christianity.

Regrettable and diverse are the failures of an overabundance of internet based “discernment” ministries, websites and blogspots, radio and television programs, publications, documentary films, etc. Frequently, these self-appointed and so-called discernment ministries are highly visible, easily accessible and present themselves as representatives of the truth. Often they regard themselves as whistle-blowers tasked with identifying threats to their specific brand of religion, “exposing” perceived falsehoods and acting as guardians of the Christian faith. Many of these “ministries” are the creations of self-appointed “watchmen” who claim to possess divine inspiration for their fake discernment abilities, which purportedly surpass those of the average Christian. In addition, these “watchmen” defend their position, which by the very nature of their ministries cannot be regarded as biblical, with an aggressive fervour which resembles religious and occult fanaticism.

The all too evident failure of the vast majority of these so-called “discernment” ministries, is in no small measure due to the fact that they are not founded on biblical prescripts, neither do they consistently accept or proclaim biblical doctrines. The reason for the rare success of a small minority of others is simple: they are not “discernment” ministries per se, they are truly Christian ministries in as much as they are led by heaven sent shepherds, true servants of the church, watchmen who have been appointed by God. (link here to Heaven Sent Preachers and Man Made Preachers – There is a Difference )

Isa 52:7-8  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen–they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.

From this passage in Isaiah, read in conjunction with Romans 10:15, we understand that it speaks of true Gospel preachers and teachers. The Spirit of God describes all true Gospel preachers as watchmen.

With this in mind, we can begin to expand further on what I wrote in Part 1, regarding the fact that most so-called discernment ministries (Shiny Fake Gold-Plated Coins) are not in the least what they claim to be, and why there are so few (Shiny Solid Gold Coins) that actually can side with the Truth. We continue to explore, based on a few simple fundamentals, why fake so-called discernment ministries consistently make a mockery of Biblical truth, doctrine and facts, and why they unashamedly stand in slanderous opposition to God’s people, His shepherds and His church.

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1. False watchmen are strangers to the sheep

Discernment ministries in isolation from pastoral ministries are a relatively new phenomenon in terms of church history, and before the 1990’s were virtually unheard of. The rise of the scourge of fake discernment ministries can certainly be ascribed, almost exclusively, to the emergence of digital internet media, which has provided a soapbox from which all and sundry are able to voice their pseudo-theological opinion and skewed apologetics concerning Christians and Christianity, and a platform from which they can launch long distance attacks against the fundamentals of the Christian faith and the followers of Christ.

Are these harsh words? Unqualified? Unloving? Refutable? Divisive and indicative of an intolerant spirit? Is it wrong to generalize in this way when there are a few of these ‘discernment’ ministries which seem to be inexorably committed to defending the faith? Only the hopelessly ecumenical, others who defend the heresy of universal atonement and blind unbelievers caught up in the powerful gospel of secular humanism, will answer in the positive to these questions.

Most construed discernment ministries have a sizeable number of followers at any given time. Only a small number of these highly visible ministries are, at times, scripturally sound. Far more importantly is that ministries guided by watchmen appointed by God, generally do not illicit large numbers of followers. The Gospel truth has never been popular, and neither has the true church ever been. Geo-political analysis reflects a global figure of over 2,000,000,000 professing Christians, whereas in reality, the true church of our Lord Jesus Christ has always been a persecuted minority group. This might go a long way in explaining why the vast majority of fake discernment ministries base their alleged successes on indiscriminately attacking the sheep along with the wolves. Violence, blood and guts, murder and war, pictures of suffering and loss have always been popular themes within the world of entertainment, and the realm of the average stand-alone discernment ministry is nothing more than exactly that: popular entertainment for bored unbelievers, largely void of Gospel truth or Biblical directive.

One of the denominators common to false discernment ministries, is that they have an extremely high turnover rate of followers, not unlike a lot of modern charismatic and synergistic mega-churches, where similar forms of secular humanism, legalism and private interpretation of Scripture draw large crowds of professing believers. This fact can be readily derived from the names of perpetual participants to the discussions on the ‘discernment’ bureaus and forums, names which appear for a limited time and then disappear just as abruptly and acrimoniously as they arrived. This seems to happen as soon as they become a little too familiar with the “chief self-appointed discernment officers”, either questioning or voicing a concern about the methods, attitude and doctrinal approach of the leaders of the “ministry”. As soon as they proffer any form of dogmatic Biblical doctrine, they are summarily axed or alienated.

There is another oddity worth mentioning, which is evident from even just a cursory glance at the phenomenon of mushrooming discernment ministries. It is that most followers of the fake ministries are largely drawn to them by the highly controversial and sensationalist nature of the subjects being addressed there. More often than not, these deceived people follow a few of these ministries at a time, spending hundreds of hours engrossed in the gossip and slander which is the reason for the existence of these ministries. Often these “discernment junkies” change their allegiance from one fake ministry, to another.

These discernment junkies, like Internet investigators, Conference fashionistas and Tattle-tale heroes, are happy to partake in the arguments, gossip, disparagement, mockery, ridicule, persecution and deceitful fabrication against the people of God. Which heaven sent preacher, irrespective of their doctrinal or denominational position, has not had their name emblazoned across some discernment ministry’s home page, magazine cover or on some offensive radio program before?

However, the first reason in Part 2 of this article, for the failure of fake discernment ministries, is that they are strangers to the sheep. These ministries simply cannot succeed in a realm to which they do not belong. They are not in the church, they stand outside of the church, they do not have access to the fold. (John 10:8)  All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. (John 10:5)  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. (John 10:3)  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. (John 10:27)  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

Christ’s sheep will not follow a stranger, a false prophet or a false discernment ministry. The Lord provides to all His sheep the Spirit of discernment. They have, by way of the new birth, a spiritual instinct which enables them to distinguish things that differ. They know the difference between light and darkness, truth and error, fake ministries and true ministries. When they hear false doctrine preached, there is something within them which says, “That is wrong”. When they hear the truth preached there is something in their hearts which says, “This is right”. The careless religionist may see no real difference between one religion and another, one preacher and another, one sermon and another, one false discernment ministry and another. But even the least instructed and weakest of Christ’s sheep do, though they may not be able to explain why.

We rejoice when God sends His sheep shepherds after His heart to feed them with knowledge and understanding. But even where faithful pastors are lacking, the Good Shepherd looks after his sheep. “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” (1 John 2:20). By this Holy unction Christ preserves His sheep in the way of life, and protects them from false ministry, false accusations and failed discernment ministries.

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2. Watchmen, Not Watch Women 

There are a number of articles on this blog and at reliable Christian sites which address the subject of women preachers and the very specialized and specific role of women in the church. You can read them here. Remembering Biblical Principles For Christian Women in the Digital World , I do not Allow a Woman to Teach… (1Timothy 2:12-15) & The BIBLICAL Role Of A Woman.

I know that in this day of feminism, when women want to look, act, and talk like men and men are taught to look, act, and talk like women, people are aghast when they hear it, however – No woman has ever been called of God to preach the gospel, pastor a church, serve as a deacon in a church or provide any kind of “discernment” ministry. The Word of God is crystal clear in this matter. And no other argument or sentiment is of any importance in this matter. It is therefore another cause for concern and an additional common denominator amongst fake discernment ministries, that the majority of them are administered by women. Once again I must hasten to add that there are certainly other valuable watchmen who are called by God, teachers who look after the flock.

Preachers, pastors, elders, and deacons are men (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:6-9; Acts 6:3). It is clear that watchmen are therefore also to be men, not sisters. They are to be husbands, not marriage partners. They are to be fathers, not simply advisers. Watchmen are clearly to be men filled with the Holy Spirit and brimful of wisdom.

Notwithstanding the fact, that the women who lay claim to being “watch-women” have no Biblical mandate or calling to ministry, most of them exhibit extremely bad attitudes about men in church leadership. They are arrogant and self-centered and their deceived and fickle fans worship them, defending their counterfeit ministries with great gusto. Very little of what is done in the so-called discernment ministries exalts the Lord Jesus Christ. If the ministry has been self-appointed, not called by God, nothing that is done there can glorify God.

Is it any real wonder why most people in this kind of ministry are women? Is it any further wonder that weak men pledge allegiance to these women and even follow and support their fake ministries? Certainly their efforts at ministry constitute blatant acts of rebellion. On closer examination, it becomes alarmingly evident that their private lives exhibit a similar pattern of curses, lies, strife, broken families and other forms of instability. Few of them attend any church and most of them speak out against any church, forgetting that the church is the very thing which they claim to be defending.

God has an order for society which is laid out in His Word. It is an order which is timeless and essential and which has never proven to be unnecessary, outdated or superfluous in war, society, the family or the church. In every instance where God’s order has been replaced by that of men, it has been an utter failure and has taken place at irrecoverable cost. In the home, in the Church of God, and in God’s order for society, women are to be in subjection to their husbands as unto the Lord (Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Cor. 11:1-3).

Unless a watchman is effectively equipped (by God), and therefore compelled to protect the whole meaning of God’s Word, such a watchmen is in effect useless and in fact, detrimental to the health of the church. It is like having a double agent in the mix.

The theologian BB Warfield commented: “The chief dangers to Christianity do not come from the anti-Christian systems.  Mohammedanism has never made inroads upon Christianity save by the sword.  Nobody fears that Christianity will be swallowed up by Buddhism.  It is corrupt forms of Christianity itself which menace from time to time the life of Christianity.  Why make much of minor points of difference between those who serve the one Christ?  Because a pure gospel is worth preserving; and it is not only worth preserving, but is logically (and logic will always work itself out into history) the only saving gospel.” 

This is not a matter of superiority or inferiority. It is God’s order! This is not based on the rants and ravings of some repulsive post-modern chauvinistic ideology. It is God’s order.

“First, we all must humbly admit that none of us has an inside track to the thoughts of God.  There is no esoteric knowledge for a special class of elites.  Everything that God has communicated is there to read and analyze by every child of God.  Next, we must understand that our views (what we think) are unimportant; what matters is God’s view.  We are not to spout our opinion but to carefully study the Scriptures and then shine its light on the teachings of ourselves and others. Therefore, it is our obligation to scrutinize God’s Word and “cut it straight” (2 Tim 2:15) so that we are able to teach the Lord’s truth(2 Tim 2:2), which is able to equip for every good work (2 Tim 3: 16-17). This is to be done not to appear superior but to humbly aid in the spiritual life and growth of one another.” – Gary Gilley

In the Church of God women are to learn according to Biblical instruction, in a divinely ordered way as becomes women (I Cor. 15:35; I Tim. 2:11-12). It is always wrong for women to push themselves forward, to usurp authority over men, and seek to dominate men. Only weak, spineless men will allow it to happen, such as those who condone and contribute to the error of wayward discernment ministries. And only proud rebellious women want it to happen. God’s people should all honour God’s order and organization.

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3. God’s watchmen are where He places them – not where they choose to be (Ezek. 3:17-18)

(Ezekiel 3:17)  Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

(Ezekiel 3:18)  When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

Watchmen are to warn God’s people where they are, on the ground. Watchmen need to be physically present among the flock, it is rather pointless for a watchmen to act via the media. When Satan attacks, he certainly does not revert to the virtual world, he attacks in person, he attacks in reality, he destroys lives, really. Because of what watchmen must say, they are able to save lives, not by some special power or supernatural means – it is a singular imperative which God is talking about here, for it is by hearing the Gospel that God’s people are saved. Watchmen are to warn others of their sin by way of giving them the truth as laid out in the Gospel. They are to do this in person.

There is absolutely no biblical directive for what happens in almost every paranoid discernment ministry today, where no preacher or doctrine whether sound or unsound, escapes being labeled a false prophet or a heresy. Labeling others is not the job of the discerning watchman, and certainly not from a far off place. Any discernment ministry which shouts warnings and hurls abuse at the church or its opponents from afar, by any means other than interacting with their flock, is not from God.

God places His watchmen where he wants them, where He knows they are required to perform Gospel tasks according to His very specific purpose. Watchmen in the ecclesiastical sense, in which it is spoken of here, are teachers whose task it is to instruct people in divine things, to warn them of evil ways and the dangers of sin. As in the Old Testament we had prophets, in the New Testament we have ministers and overseers, shepherds, watchmen. These ministering watchmen are the sons of men, who are put into this office by Christ, they do not assume this office by themselves or by other people. Christ gives them to the church: “Son of man, I have given thee a watchman”.

Because Christ has put these watchmen into such an important position in His church, it is also Christ who instructs these ministers through His Word, His Gospel. The tasks of the watchman, the discerning teacher, is to see to it that His people do not sin against God, that they are warned against dishonouring Him and that they understand the Gospel of God’s grace. Ezekiel 3:17 makes it abundantly clear that the words spoken, and the work which is to be done by watchmen, is to come from the mouth of Christ, not from the opinion of the minister. Fake discernment ministries do not, by and large, do any of these things. Rather they primarily devote weeks, months and years to “discerning” or “exposing” the work of other men. They do not, and cannot feed the sheep, for they have no spiritual food to give where they operate from.

If the watchmen fails to faithfully proclaim the Word of God, God will require the blood of men at his hands – such watchmen are themselves lost men (1 Cor. 9:16). However, if the watchmen faithfully proclaims to men the Word of God, if he faithfully preaches the gospel of Christ, he has delivered his own soul, even if those to whom he preaches refuse to hear him – (Acts 20: 26-27).

Therefore, an additional failure of most counterfeit discernment ministries is due to the fact that they are self-appointed, reliant on their own non-existent ability.

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4. God appoints watchmen to warn all souls of an immediate and constant danger – not to whip the church or unbelievers

God would not appoint watchmen to be seen as performing artists or to act as strong-armed buffoons, jailers, religious lawyers or executioners. God appoints discerning watchmen for very specific tasks. Watchmen are appointed to warn unbelievers in their midst of the wrath of God and to speak the Words of Truth to those who would be lost. Watchmen are also tasked with warning the believers of the snares and trickery of the roaring lion, Satan.

It is painful to observe how the self-appointed fake discernment ministries, whether in print or in other forms of media, spare no cost or trouble in pursuing believers and unbelievers alike, stoning other Christian ministries and personalities, and how they almost consistently get it wrong. Painful, maybe even frustrating as it may be to the believer, it is however, completely understandable. They are not of God, their approach is unbiblical and is supported only by their overwhelming enthusiasm to proclaim their version of a man-centered, will-worshipping and religious opinion.

The commission of the watchmen is to warn the flock of Christ against the cares of the world, against the deceitfulness of riches and the temptations of evil. How often does one see those truths proclaimed from within the realm of the “discernment industry”?

False brethren, false prophets and false doctrine arise mainly from within the church and through these channels Satan attempts to divide and conquer the church. In Ephesians 4:8-16 we are given clearest directives as to the tasks of all members of the church. All those in the church have been appointed by God, from the first to the last, from the least of all to the foremost. Because stand-alone discernment ministries do not operate from within the church, it stands to reason why they are incapable of following biblical instruction.

(Ephesians 4:11-14)  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Counterfeit discernment ministries, whether on air or in print, do not have these directives as their proclaimed aim, neither do they have the unity of the faith in mind while they wage war with spiritual whips and dishonest, selfish intent against all and sundry.

There has been an explosion of false discernment ministries in less than two decades. They are becoming more and more common in more than one way. Biblical ministries are being ‘demonized’ by these self-appointed watchmen who pose as Christians. I doubt there exists a single frontline Christian teacher or preacher who has not been labeled as a false prophet by unscrupulous, misinformed and over-eager heresy hunters. These are heresy hunters who have not been appointed by God. They might very well have spiritual gift of sorts, but the Holy Spirit has had no part in that.

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5. All of God’s watchmen see eye to eye – none of the failing discernment ministries ever do (for long)

Isa 52:8  Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.

That does not mean that they are perfectly agreed in every point of doctrine. But it does mean that they are in perfect agreement concerning all things vital to their work as watchmen upon the walls of Zion, as watchmen over the souls of men. Divisive, destructive, controversial, argumentative, inquisitive, uninformed, backbiting gossips and legalists which represent the false discernment ministries have become an aggressive and cancerous problem which is being associated with the Christian faith.

This is much the same type of dilemma which confronts the church, as that which is represented by the New Age, emergent, word of faith, will-worshipping Arminian and Roman churches throughout the world. By association alone, and through the high visibility which they enjoy in the modern media, these embarrassing secular institutions have not done the image of the Christian church any favours, and frankly have contributed greatly to the problems experienced by evangelical Christians when they take the truth of the Gospel to lost followers of other false religions.

The false discernment ministries of self-appointed watchmen could never see eye to eye with each other for any extended period, or agree with Scripture on the essential issues I will list in further below. Why do I say that? It is because watchmen who are not appointed by God, are not tasked with His work, but rather concerned with their own perceptions of the truth. False watchmen see themselves as ‘additions’ or enhancements to church ministry, they fill imaginary positions of overseers of ministries, based on what they have to say about men who are sent by God to protect and instruct the flock. In fact, they have no means of addressing these issues, as they are in most part, reliant on their own man-centered gospels, and follow their own deceptions.

One of the imperative truths about biblical discernment and for taking care of the sheep, is that true preaching is not essentially intellectual, psychological or rhetorical; it is essentially spiritual. Self-appointed watchmen, left to themselves, may be able to appeal to the emotions of their target readers or audiences. They might even be remarkably charismatic and have sufficient intellectual persuasion to endear their readers and audiences to their personalities and thereby illicit many misguided followers.

Self-appointed discernment ministries might even be able to educate some of their followers about large portions of Scripture, but what they cannot do is to regenerate them spiritually. While solo watchmen like to portray such intent, that remains entirely God’s work. Unless watchmen see eye to eye with each other, and with Scripture, by the spiritual enablement of God, they are spiritually useless. We are utterly dependent on the grace and power of the Holy Spirit in order to see eye to eye in matters of faith, yet most discernment ministries completely side-step that truth.

False discernment ministries cannot truthfully address matters such as in the following examples:

The Character of God as described in Isaiah 6:1-4, His Holiness, His Sovereignty and His Goodness. Passages such as this one, which fill the believer with trembling, admiration and awe, certainly do not head the list of articles in false discernment ministries’ directories. In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

The character of man, not discussed according to the whimsical enthusiasm of the fake watchman, but according to verses such as Romans 3:9-18 and 5:12, soundly understood. Humbling topics such as the man’s depravity, sinfulness, his condemnation and his inability are not favourites of the fake watchmen. Why? Because they do not see themselves as depraved, sinful and condemned. If they were to admit to their own inability, and then write or talk about it, they would remove their own raison d’etre.

How God’s Grace is imparted to sinners as in 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 9:16. By the very nature of self-appointed watchmen in fake discernment ministries, they are will worshippers and synergistic advocates. Think about it – if they were appointed (divinely elected to their positions) by God alone as all true watchmen are, they would agree with His methods and proclaim His Grace. This is therefore one of the primary reasons why these discernment ministries fail to emphasize the biblical doctrines of election, effectual redemption, regeneration and preservation.

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6. Not all ‘discernment ministries’ say the same thing, thus they fail; watchmen chosen by God succeed

Around the entire world and throughout all the ages of creation, all watchmen who have been and will be called by God, say the same thing. If watchmen disagree with God’s truth, they are not watchmen. If watchmen do not bring the good news of God’s Gospel of Grace to the sheep, they are not watchmen, but enemies of God.

God’s watchmen guard the message of God’s love and Grace, the covenant of Grace, the news of the incarnate Saviour, the truth about forgiveness by the Blood of Christ and justification by His imputed righteousness. God’s watchmen endeavour to get the good news of God’s gift of eternal life and of the fail-safe tranquility in Grace, to all who they can reach.

Watchmen appointed by God publish and proclaim peace with God, not strife with God’s enemies. They protect the peace of the consciences of God’s people and they maintain peace among believers, they do not pursue war with unbelievers. Most fake discernment ministries are instigators of strife, confusion and disarray amongst God’s people, by the nature of their unbiblical approach, their abrasive and destructive actions and their contentious determination.

There is a marked and essential difference between contending for the faith as instructed in Jude 1:3, and being contentious simply for the sake of contention. Jude 1:3-4 expresses concern about men who abuse salvation by grace by living a life of sin and encouraging others to take an impure and profane attitude toward sin. It addresses the true gospel being denied, the true grace of the Lord God being denied and the true redemptive work of Christ being denied by these men, if not in words, then in works.

All true discerning watchmen of God speak confidently and clearly about free salvation by the Grace of God, through the Blood of Christ, received by faith in Him. Globally agreeable watchmen all uphold the Sovereignty of God in creation, providence and grace. All true watchmen appointed by God agree on these crucial matters, self-appointed watchmen disagree and fail, without exception.

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7. Counterfeit discernment ministries oppose God’s servants and thereby also oppose God

God’s appointed servants are to be held in high esteem by all in the church, because God has tasked them with watching over the souls of believers. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-14)  And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

Self-appointed watchmen relentlessly challenge the authority of God’s servants and consistently get it wrong regarding who those servants are. If a watchmen has not been enabled and chosen by God, he will not be spiritually discerning, which explains why virtually all of God’s ministers are labeled as false prophets or heretics by counterfeit discernment ministries.

(Hebrews 13:7)  Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Stand-alone discernment ministries and their co-horts would never agree to be ‘captained’ by heaven sent pastors, therefore it is common among them that they practice solo-Scriptura with regard to the understanding of the word of God. In other words, while most of them do proclaim that all truth is held within Scripture, they reserve the right to exegete Scripture as they deem fit. It is not unusual for the watchman who stands outside the church, to lay claim to having a special form of divine inspiration from the Holy Spirit in order for them to understand Scripture. While Christians are all spiritually enlightened, false ministries use this in a way which eliminates the need for them to be in agreement with God’s appointed watchmen.

(Isaiah 52:7)  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! God’s appointed servants are tasked with overcoming many obstacles. These mountains are such obstacles in the way of the church and include pains and difficulties God’s true watchmen must contend with as they labour constantly in God’s word.

Although gospel preachers (God’s watchmen) are themselves only sinful men saved by the grace of God, they are beautiful as the messengers of grace and good tidings. They who proclaim salvation through Grace alone, without works, who also uphold the Sovereignty of God who reigns, are honoured by God’s people, yet counterfeit discernment ministries who do not have the ability to identify true Gospel preachers, consistently castigate and haul Gospel preachers over the coals. In doing so, they oppose God.

One rightfully asks of these counterfeit watchmen, as Paul does in (Galatians 4:16)  Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?

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8. God’s appointed watchmen are accountable to God – self-appointed watchmen are concerned with their standing before men

God calls His watchmen to task, they do not apply for the job. Not a single natural man has been born who would have had the inclination or ability to fulfill the task of God’s watchman, nor will there ever be. God provides the watchman with the weaponry and the tools, the armour and the rules according to which the watchman must fulfill his calling and his task. God enables the watchman with ears that hear and eyes that see in order for him to guard the flock. God enables His watchmen to understand the task at hand and provides them with training by way of faith through His Word. God holds the watchmen accountable for how they have led the flock. God’s watchmen will live by Grace, through faith alone in Christ alone, having been called and made to be perfectly righteous in the eyes of God by the Blood of Christ.

Self-appointed watchmen are concerned with their image and effectiveness in the eyes of men. They claim to defend the truth, but they cannot. They are concerned with how they give account of themselves to other men, how they shape up against others, how popular their work is and how many people are in agreement with them. They need to feel that they are contributing in some measure through the ‘successes’ they believe they have achieved on behalf of God. Self-appointed watchmen watch over the world, because that is what they understand. They apply the tools and weaponry of the world, they are trained to guard a false gospel of works; they have great faith in their own abilities to perform this task. God holds the self-appointed watchmen accountable as well, not for how they have led the flock because they were not called to do so in the first place, but accountable for their sins. Having not been Sovereignly called by God, they will die in their sins, unrighteous before a perfectly Holy God.

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9. Gossips, accusers and tattle-tale heroes fail, only God’s watchmen succeed

Pastor Anton Bosch wrote concerning false discernment ministries:

“Watchmen who warn about impending danger have an important role throughout the Bible (Ezekiel 3:17, Acts 20:28-31). BUT, there is a huge difference between a watchman and a gossip. A watchman takes no delight in reporting the threat, while the gossip enjoys telling and re-telling the juicy stories of sin and failure. These gossips are just like the godless Athenians who “spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). Some who style themselves as “defenders of the faith,” take extreme delight in rehearsing the latest error. I have seen the glint in their eye as they play the latest DVD or as they sit around the table seeking to tell of some greater error than the previous speaker. Some rush to the keyboard to publish the latest juicy morsel as quickly and as widely as possible. Is this the spirit of Christ or of Satan? Is this how King David would have reacted?”

Fake, self-appointed discernment ministries are no more than gossips, worldly accusers and tattle-tale heroes. God’s watchmen do not go by the unenviable nick-name of heresy hunters. God’s watchmen are not like dumb beasts, they are not made to be killed and consumed and they do not speak of things which they do not understand, or even less, love. Fake discernment ministries constantly bring charges and accusations against other men; some of them are false teachers and others are solid Christians. According to the Apostle Peter, these accusers will perish in their corruption.

(2 Pe 2:11-12) Even the elect angels (who are superior in might and power to any man, who are guardians over particular men, and who preside over kingdoms) do not bring charges and accusations against the other angels that fell nor against magistrates nor those in authority; but these false teachers who are like dumb beasts, made to be killed and consumed, do not hesitate to speak of mysterious and holy things which they neither understand nor love. They shall perish in their corruption. See also Jude 1:9

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10. Watchmen who take care of the flock succeed through Grace; those who ‘expose’ the sheep fail by themselves

God raises up His watchmen, gives them the gifts necessary for the work he has for them to do, and places them where he wants them in His church. We looked at where He places them a little earlier.

Watchmen are Christ’s under-shepherds, it is their responsibility to keep watch over, protect and warn the church of Christ against impending danger and lead them by means of the Gospel. They must watch over the souls of God’s people and protect them from danger, by faithfully preaching and demonstrating how the Gospel of God’s grace has been made practically applicable to their lives through the perfect atonement of Jesus Christ. Sheep need to be sternly and lovingly reminded of the Father’s will, they need to be guided on the narrow path, lambs need to be fed, they are in great need of compassion and love. The life of a watchman must set a Biblical example for the church and for the world. The Biblical example rarely compares favourably with modern human rights, societal morals or with man’s will.

Discerning watchmen of God act out of deep affection for God’s flock and they honour God’s call to defend Christ’s church and to bring members who wallow outside, into the safety of the church, at all costs. (Acts 20:24)  But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Self-appointed, arrogant, highly opinionated, fake, noisy watchmen are nothing but clanging cymbals who act in their own self-interest, and nowhere is it as obvious as among the variations of the word of faith ‘prosperity preaching’ movement and so-called discernment ministries (1 Corinthians 13:1)  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Rather than guiding those who would believe into the flock, as God has commanded, they lash out at those who are already God’s servants with gusto and great hype. (Romans 14:4, 10a)  Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. (10)  But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother..

Friends, enemies, family and some readers know me as a great lover of dogs. Since childhood, I have shared virtually all aspects of my life with dogs of all shapes and sizes; they have always formed an integral part of my life. Some of them have been like timid church mice, some like boisterous kangaroos, some like Calvinists demanding set orthodox routine and, yet others like Arminians, always trying to tear to pieces everything that was perfectly whole. There have even been some Romanist types who seemed convinced that there was a Eucharistic quality to the Sunday roast on the kitchen table, and that the leg of lamb really would take on a supernatural life of its own, if it were not fed to them.

I have loved them all greatly along with others that I have met on my many journeys, their loyalty and companionship toward me have been unfaltering. Dependant on the merciful providence of God, they will continue to fill my life with great joy until the day that I no longer can smell their sweet dusty coats, hear their dearest voices, meet with their deep, soft eyes filled with loyalty, honesty and unquestionable love, feel the wetness of their kisses after their long wait for me to return to them, embrace the warmth of their powerful, athletic bodies and witness their uncontained joy and childish exuberance at every reunion.

All the above having been said, I need to make an unusual, but illustrative comparison. Of course, this comparison is not an exposition of any biblical text, but it serves to illustrate and identify what a watchman really looks like. In a sense, God’s watchmen are very much similar to flock guardian dogs, who are tasked with taking care of flocks of sheep all around the world. These dogs are born, raised and trained in close proximity to the flocks of sheep and spend all of their lives with the flock. These are specific dogs, gifted with special abilities to perform the task of watching over their master’s sheep without assistance, warning the flock and driving off predators.

Not all, in fact very few, dogs are suitable for the task. Even within suitable breeds, only certain individual dogs have the ability to do the job. These dogs are chosen by the master, enabled by their Creator and trained by the shepherd to perform very specific tasks. No flock guardian dog can simply appoint itself to guarding duty, as the natural instinct of the dog is to prey on the sheep, not to protect them. Any dog who would presume to approach the flock of its own accord prior to selection, cannot be trusted to protect the sheep and is summarily disqualified.

A flock guardian dog will always retain the instinct to protect and this cannot be raised out of it, however a dog that unconditionally and obediently heeds the leadership of its master will also accept new sheep which its master introduces to the flock. Flock guardian dogs must have the strong, even tempered authority of their master over them, otherwise they will follow their own ideas and will not obey commands.

Flock guardian dogs will walk the border of their territory every night, then find a high place to lie down to watch over their charges. Every few hours they will get up and walk around their flock again just to make sure all is safe. If they detect danger they will give off a deep warning bark. If that does not scare away the threat they will deepen their bark, making themselves sound more serious and alerting the flock to gather behind them. Guarding the master’s flock is very serious business. There is no place for yapping, heel nipping, self-serving or easily influenced watchdogs amongst the flock.

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11. Bogus discernment ministries are constantly defending themselves and their spurious ideologies; watchmen simply uphold the Gospel

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:21-24)

A natural progression which stems from the malevolent attitude, unscriptural approach and biblically indefensible position of fake discernment ministries, is that they often illicit opposition from God’s people. A perplexing fact is that false watchmen seem to willingly invite hostility by way of their unscriptural contentiousness and derogatory approach toward other believers in Christ, as well as toward unbelievers. Of course, they do not necessarily contend for the Truth, as most of them operate in denial of the infallibility of Scripture or the Sovereignty of God. As self-appointed hirelings, and not in accordance with the will of God, they attack the church and its doctrines, doing so without God’s spiritual weaponry or armour, rendering themselves defenceless and reliant on their own spurious ideologies.

God’s chosen watchmen may do no more than uphold the Gospel of Grace for God’s people, those in the fold and those who must be brought in, and against the enemy. They are not called to defend themselves, something which bogus discernment ministries are constantly doing. God does not appoint watchmen to protect themselves or need them to protect Himself against men or Satan. The appointed watchman knows that he will be under constant attack, he knows that his task is an unenviable one in the eyes of natural men. He also knows that His weaponry and armour are invincible. He is at rest in Christ.

Did Jesus not tell His own watchmen:

Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:14-19) 

The natural, unbelieving world which is in opposition to and rebellion against Jesus Christ, is consistently being employed by Satan to wage war against all that which contains reference to God and His Word. Fake discernment ministries and self-proclaimed watchmen often petition God’s Word, and regularly use Scripture out of context and to suite their requirements. Clearly they are most pleased, and make every effort to advertise the fact, when they find a meaning in Scripture which they can use to nourish their feelings of self-importance and pride.

Self-appointed watchmen derive great pleasure from patting themselves on the back after achieving a false and temporary victory over their opponents, by misappropriating Scripture. Will-worshippers need to do this to in order to convince themselves that their efforts at holiness are bearing fruit. Additionally, because these deceivers readily attack the church, its leadership and the body of believers, they are consistently involved in defending themselves against the Truth. Due to the fact that they can no longer appeal to Scripture in order to build their defence, they by necessity have to resort to attacking their targets on a personal basis, by name-calling, manufacturing lies, unfounded and irrelevant argument, twisting Scripture and bearing false witness.

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12. Self-appointed discernment ministries meddle in the affairs of the world; God’s discerning watchmen are concerned with the church

On-going reports from worldly discernment ministries show that, to one extent or another, they feel threatened by innumerous cults, sects, followers of other false religions and many secular sources, whose image or income could be affected by the negative exposure they receive from the bogus discernment ministries. Worldly discernment ministries ought to be prepared for this, as they operate outside of the church and ‘jurisdiction’ of God’s Word.

These worldly ministries delve into the dark activities of religions, religious men and false preachers and then they proceed to meddle in their affairs. They try to hold these institutions of Satan accountable for their words and actions and to illicit answers and reaction from them. Often, these are financially powerful religious movements. False Christianity and other false religion is very, very big business. God’s watchmen are not called to dally in those spheres, they are called out of them (Rev 18:4), they are called to concern themselves with the Gospel and be to amongst God’s chosen people.

Due to the understandable retaliation of the “exposed” institutions or businessmen, false watchmen are being forced to hide behind anonymity, pseudonyms, aliases, firewalls, fictitious addresses or a human shield created by their own deceived followers. God’s appointed watchmen are openly courageous; they operate from an honest public platform and have to be easily accessible to those who need to see the things of God. If they are not accessible, they cannot be effective in their task. God’s watchmen are not terrorists; they do not persecute, slander, malign or belittle even the opponents of God. They do not operate from a camouflaged hide-out, they uphold the Gospel in clear view, and proclaim the Gospel of Grace from the most visible vantage points.

God’s watchmen, as all believers do, wear the shield of Faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation and their feet are fitted with the readiness of the Gospel of peace. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” (Ephesians 6:13-17)

God’s watchmen wield the sword of the Word, not the words of persecution or personal opinion. Fake discernment ministries cannot wield that sword from their hideouts. Those watchmen who meddle in and try to discern the affairs of the world, along with the crooks, thieves and thugs, do not do God’s work. They use the counterfeit weapons of their bogus ministries and are defenseless because they do not have the full armour which God avails to His discerning watchmen, whom He Sovereignly calls end equips.

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13. Fake discernment ministries fail by ‘exposing’ perceived threats which are obvious to the true church; God’s watchmen unfold the Gospel.

God’s watchmen are tasked with countering threats and guiding believers through the maze of confusion which Satan uses to keep or place saved sinners in bondage. God’s watchmen can do this only by upholding and accentuating the Gospel of God’s grace. Gospel truth that saves is the foremost concern of the watchmen. Jesus Christ and His perfect atonement is the Truth. No other information is as important or needs to be proclaimed as loudly and consistently.

Of what possible benefit could it be to any believer, or unbeliever for that matter, if the Gospel of God’s free and sovereign Grace, God’s merciful solution to the problem of sin, is not proclaimed by the watchman? What difference would it make to the eternal abode of the soul of any individual, elect or reprobate, to be told that “Prophet A” claims to be able to heal cancer by laying his hands on someone, or that “Gold Dust Woman Y” prays for peoples wallets to be filled with banknotes, if that individual’s soul was not to be saved by God’s grace through faith in the Gospel proclaimed?

Does providing personal information about any preacher or personality save a lost sinner, or is it an understanding of the True Gospel that saves and also provides the saint with armour, swords, security and faith? Digging through the international media, in order to find and bring the latest error of someone to the attention of those who are of immature faith, is like trying to teach someone haute cuisine recipes, while that someone does not even have access to a cooking pot.

Questionable watchmen are like weak, nosy journalists who can find employment only in the tabloid press or like air-headed presenters of scandal seeking television shows. The content of the “exposing” news they bring via their fake discernment ministries, are like articles in paparazzi fuelled magazines filled with the latest juicy scandals of the lives of celebrity preachers. These types of ministries are of no use to the members of the church of Christ.

All falsehoods are exposed by the truth in the Word of God. Information regarding perceived threats and tales of doom woven around these as told by self-appointed fearmongers can be of no spiritual value, whatsoever. God’s people are not saved by being wrapped in fear of Satan, they are saved by being enfolded in God’s truth. One of those blankets of truth in which God’s people are wrapped, is the ability to discern false spirits. The church needs God appointed watchmen, not rumour mongers, conspiracy theorists or sensationalists.

Children of God are all equipped with the ability to discern spiritual deception. They might not know why or how they achieve this at first, but they are all certainly are given the gift to do so. If not, they could never be saved and would remain spiritually dead. As they grow in the knowledge of Scripture, by connotation, they grow in their ability to discern that which is unscriptural. Fake discernment ministries simply publish, emphasize or “expose” that which is accessible to people through the various forms of public media. Any watchmen who has not been called and enabled by God is incapable of “exposing” those things which require spiritual discernment.

With sad and destructive regularity, counterfeit watchmen erroneously identify those who preach the Gospel as false prophets, liars, heretics and impostors. Fake watchmen fail by seeking every possible opportunity to “expose” discerning members of the true church and oppose their work.

All members of the true church are fallible and all will continue to sin and commit errors. Whose purpose does it serve to publicly make known the errors and sins of those who already belong to God? It is of no value to the church, it does not glorify God and does nothing more than feed the self-righteous needs of the fake watchmen.

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14. God’s ensures that His watchmen succeed in glorifying Him

God’s watchmen proclaim His Glory, His Majesty, His Sovereignty, His Goodness and His Grace. Unless this is primarily what issues forth from any ministry which calls itself discerning, it is not God’s watchmen at the helm of that ministry. Unless the watchmen is in compliance with Scriptural prescripts regarding the qualifications for a spiritual leader of God’s people, it is not God’s ministry. God does not have adaptable or flexible standards for His watchmen.

The words and work of any ministry which clearly partakes in the Feast of the Lord and above all, shares the Bread of Life with other believers, that ministry is of the Lord and is always a blessed success. If, as is the case with most “discernment” ministries, the primary accentuation and focus is on rotten fruit, finger-pointing and accusation of others, that false watchman is nothing other than a tattle-tale and bearer of bad news and therefore a failure.

Contentious “discernment” ministries fail. Ministries which contend, succeed. But is that not the same thing? According to the well-known Scripture on contending for the faith in the Book of Jude, those who are called, in other words those who are saved by Grace through faith and not by their own will, must contend for the faith. Watchmen who are called therefore, must contend by means of the Gospel. Those watchmen persevere and succeed. Self-appointed watchmen, who are not called, do by way of their irreverent contentiousness, fail.

Watchmen whose ministries contend for issues which were handed down to the saints, all succeed: (Jude 1:3)  Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Who then, are those who have crept in? They are counterfeit Christians, false teachers disguised as discerning watchmen. What is their agenda? They are used by Satan to pervert the Gospel of God’s grace and to promote the false hope that man’s salvation can be earned by his good works. They cultivate the lie that man can make decisions for God, that God can be influenced or persuaded by man’s actions or lack thereof. They are there to place undue emphasis on the goodness and ability of the godless sinner and downplay the gravity of sin, they glorify man’s importance and denigrate the Sovereign God.

God says clearly that with slyness they will infiltrate the church and that they were designated (chosen, selected) to be false. They are ungodly because they misrepresent grace, His Truth, His people and His Son. These paranoid discernment ministries, rather than bringing Glory to the Lord, create contention over things like end-time conspiracy theories, which soft drinks are permissible for the consumption of Christians and whether there are certain styles of music or art forms which are appropriate for church meetings.

Watchmen who do not contend for personal preferences, succeed.

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15. How are God’s watchmen recognized and set apart from false discernment ministries

Although God uses human instruments such as His watchmen to do work in this world, the success of their labors is altogether dependent upon the Lord God himself, and the glory is His alone. God’s watchmen do not have much time for debates about meaningless things, to the contrary they are set apart from these issues in order to show sinners the truth of God. God’s watchmen always make mention of the LORD.

God’s watchmen are His messengers to the souls of His people, it is their responsibility to study and protect God’s message. They are precious, there are few, and if you want to find them you will have to look on the very narrow path, the path which resembles the one which Bunyan’s character “Christian” struggled along in Pilgrim’s Progress. They will not be encountered outside the church, they avoid the limelight, they strive continually to decrease so that Christ can increase. They do not publicize themselves for any reason other than the Gospel of Grace.

Lost sinners who will remain outside the church, will not recognize them as the watchmen of God. Saved sinners know true discerning watchmen because they guard the message of grace. False watchmen defend a message of freewill and works. True watchmen guard the sovereignty of God’s will, false watchmen protect man’s choice and freedom of man’s will. True watchmen guard the truth of redemption accomplished, false watchmen defend only redemption provided. True watchmen always speak about Christ, false watchmen defend conditions and laws, yet they are sure that everything is alright between them and God.

Earlier I made the comparison between flock guarding dogs and God’s chosen watchmen. It might be interesting to note also, that the Word of God refers to self-appointed, ignorant, blind watchmen, as dumb dogs and shepherds with no understanding.(Isaiah 56:10-11)  His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all.

Do you know a good God sent watchman and his discerning ministry in whose hands you would gladly place something more valuable than your own life or that of a tender child, like the most valuable truth in all of creation? As a believer it is your duty to support that man as best you can. It is also your duty to listen to those watchmen whom God has elected to His church. If you know such a man, then you know a man as reliable as the flock guardian dog I described earlier on, and you will know a man who has been called by the irresistible grace of God. If he recognizes you, then you will know that you too have been called by the same Father. You will know that you belong to the only Lord of Lords.

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© Grant & Elmarie Swart and For the Love of His Truth , 2008 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owners is strictly prohibited.  It is the intellectual property of the Authors Grant Swart and Elmarie Swart. You may obtain permission to use excerpts or images, only with prior permission obtained via email. See the Contact us page.

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