Gurmeet Ram Rahim is a charismatic Indian guru known as one of the so-called Indian godmen.
These godmen, who follow a strain of Hinduism, have a high-profile presence, have thousands of devotees, and claim to possess paranormal powers. They claim to have attained a higher level of spirituality.
It turns out that he and his close followers were involved in the sexual exploitation of many, many girls. He is a self-proclaimed teacher, claiming a higher spirituality, deceiving and exploiting others.
Unfortunately, we have a similar phenomenon in the Christian world as well: self-proclaimed teachers, claiming a higher spirituality, yet deceiving and exploiting others.
It also happened in the Apostle John’s time – that’s why he wrote the letter we know as 1 John – and it happens today. John wanted Christians to know that the gospel they had believed was the real, authentic thing – leading to eternal life. (1 John 5:13) John warned Christians not to be deceived by false teachers.
The false teachers talked about Jesus, claimed to have the anointing, claimed a higher spiritually, claimed to have stopped sinning, and claimed to have true fellowship with God.
In stark contrast, what did the Apostle John say is the hallmark of authentic Christianity?
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)
The false teachers were claiming fellowship with God, but their lives were characterized by darkness and full of greed and immorality.
They claimed to be Christian leaders, but their lives showed that they were liars and deceivers.
I chatted this week with a friend who has a thriving, gospel ministry among refugee women from elsewhere in Africa.
She explained that she has not met one pastor in the area she ministers who is legitimate. The pastors all run their churches as businesses to fund their stay in South Africa.
Recently, one of those pastors was arrested for child abuse. He was granted R1 000 bail. His wife, the “prophetess”, told the church that he was granted bail of R20 000, which the church needed to raise. He paid the R1 000 and pocketed the rest.
Our world is full of men and women who claim to be Christian leaders, but walk in darkness and exploit and deceive those under their care.
The opposite should be true for Christians and Christian leaders.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1:7)
If we claim to have fellowship with God, who is light, our lives should be characterized by light and holiness and righteousness – not perfection but progress.
Of course, we do sin, but that’s not the characteristic of our lives.
When we do sin, we know that the blood (death) of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
Note the attitude of the false teachers to sin:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1:8)
Very often false teachers claim to have no sin. They say things like, “Since we’ve reached this higher spirituality and received the anointing, we no longer struggle with sin. We’ve found the key to true spiritual victory and now live in the power of the Spirit.”
In the churches of false Christian leaders, they don’t talk about sin.
They talk about Jesus, power, the anointing, and the Spirit – but never sin. Which is very strange, because John says in 3:5 that Jesus came precisely to take away sin.
They were making bold claims, but they were liars and God’s word was not in them.
What is the authentic Christian response to sin?
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1:9)
We regularly acknowledge our sins before God and turn away from them, knowing that God forgives our sins on the grounds of Jesus death for us.
It’s not that we don’t sin, but when we do sin we confess our sin.
Do you struggle with sin? Is it a constant battle? Good, join the club.
God is light, in him is no darkness at all, we too should absolutely despise sin, whatever it may be, with a holy hatred.
We should pray, “Lord help me not to sin. Help me to hate sin.”
We don’t deny the reality of sin in our lives, but confess our sins and do battle with sin – which is why at our church we always have a prayer of confession in our services.
Don’t be deceived by the myriad of false teachers claiming a better, more spectacular form of Christianity.
Don’t be deceived by the “Christian” leaders who look strikingly similar to the godmen of India.
Don’t be taken in by their bold claims, higher spirituality and seemingly supernatural ministries.
Don’t be taken in by their talk of power and victory.