The Prettified Gates of Hell
Satan, by his gospel, offers an ample entranceway through which you, and all you have, can enter. That’s what Craig Groeschel experienced and offers his hearers. How wonderful you will feel for a time, as you’re deceived into thinking you’ve entered Heaven! As it is written, however: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 HNV). Don’t be simple: Learn the difference between truth and error. Repent; take up the cross, and enter life.
A friend and site reader sent us Craig Groeschel’s YouTube channel for review:
I watched one of Craig Groeschel’s videos from LifeChurch.tv (“the fastest growing Church in America”), and then red the introductory letter, introduction, and first chapter of his book, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist.
Are you ready for another negative report? It will certainly be negative for those not interested in hearing and following the truth of God. For those who worship God in spirit and truth, however, this report will be a sweet savor of life:
“Now thanks be to God, Who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and He revealing through us the odor of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are to God a sweet savor of Christ, in those being saved, and in those being lost; to the one we are the savor of death to death, and to the other we are the savor of life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 MKJV).
Craig Groeschel is obviously a presentable, industrious fellow with no little charisma, a professional speaker who works hard and appears very sincere about his religious convictions as he quotes from the Bible. Satan is all those things and more. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be:
“Did not even Satan marvelously transform himself into an angel of light?” (2 Corinthians 11:14 MKJV)
Groeschel paints a picture that promises life to his hearers, but it’s a picture without substance or the power to bring life. These are what the Bible calls “works of the flesh,” not of God’s Spirit, not a whit. The Christian life Craig presents is artificial, and those who follow him will join him in Hell, where he is presently, a place of darkness and separation from the Lord. The following Scripture sums it up:
“For of these are those who creep into houses, and take captive gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6-7 HNV).
Jesus Christ is the Truth, and unless you come to the knowledge of Him, the things you learn not only won’t help you, they’ll deceive you into thinking you have something when you don’t. That is the prince of darkness at work.
Now I’ll show you where Craig went astray, as I shine the light of Christ on Satan’s ways of darkness.
In the aforementioned book, Craig gives a testimony of his conversion. He and some of his unruly and worldly fraternity brothers at a “Christian” university decide to have Bible studies:
“At the end of our rookie Bible studies, we prayed the only prayers we knew: ‘God, protect us as we party. God, keep Joe’s girlfriend from getting pregnant. God, don’t let us get caught cheating on the American history test.’ They weren’t the typical prayers prayed at Baptist student unions, but they were honest.”
Better to be honest about what you are than try to hide it behind a religious façade. God would rather have you cold than lukewarm. But cold isn’t hot, which is where believers need to be, and there’s no indication anywhere in this testimony that Craig was actually convicted of sin and repentant. This isn’t a testimony of saving faith.
“After finishing Matthew, we discovered that Mark, Luke, and John had several of the same stories. Three chapters into Acts, we got bored and skipped to Romans. Midway through Romans, I got so excited that I started reading ahead. When I reached Ephesians, I encountered two verses that would forever change my life: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.’ Could this be true? We’re saved by God’s grace and his grace alone? It’s not by our works? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
While it’s absolutely true we’re saved by grace alone, that grace is manifest by repentance and the power to live a godly life. In other words, by the works of faith – “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith from my works” (James 2:18 MKJV). Yet we see none of those works with Craig as he presents his story, though he’s right to think that one can’t earn his way into Heaven.
The next thing we hear is:
“Well, that evening I became a wacko. Kneeling on the grass, I heard a voice. It wasn’t audible — it was actually way too loud to be audible, too present inside me. ‘Without me, you have nothing. With me, you have everything.’ I knelt and prayed the shortest, most power-packed, faith-filled prayer of my life.
Not so much whispering as mouthing the words, I said to God, ‘Take my life.’”
Who spoke to Craig? Was that Christ speaking to him? The voice didn’t say. But what it did say sounds familiar: “Therefore if you will worship me, all shall be yours” (Luke 4:7 MKJV).
Yes, that was Satan speaking to Christ. Do you think Satan announces himself, saying, “This is the Devil speaking”? No, he comes as an angel of light, speaking as if he is God or represents the truth of God. But Jesus knew who He was dealing with:
“And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve’” (Luke 4:8 MKJV).
Craig didn’t recognize who he was dealing with. He took the bait and became Satan’s man. No repentance, no consecration, no trials by fire and training under the Spirit of God for him (I’m not saying he didn’t clean up his act, but that’s not the same as becoming a new creature by God’s Spirit). He went for the brass ring, directly heading out proselytizing and collecting souls to bring them into the gates of Hell (little did he know and still doesn’t). Shortly after, this: “As if on cue, when I was twenty-three, God opened a door for me to work at a historic downtown church.” And advancing: “At the age of twenty-five, I was a full-time pastor….”
God’s ministers aren’t ready to serve Him immediately, even when experiencing legitimate conversions. They must be filled with the Holy Spirit, taught, trained, and above all, brought into submission of the cross. Look at Saul of Tarsus’ conversion and calling, and consider in how many fundamental ways it’s so very different than Craig’s (not that all happen the same way, but we’re talking substantive differences here).
Paul was making his best effort to live a godly life and wasn’t aware of the sin in his life. Yet you’ve seen how Craig describes his life and that of his companions, dark and lawless.
Paul was confronted on his sins against God. Craig wasn’t.
Paul was told against Whom he offended and Who was speaking to him. Craig wasn’t.
Paul was given specific instructions. Craig wasn’t.
Paul was greatly shaken, as are all who come into contact with God. Craig was elated, as is often the case with those in touch with the one who savors the things of men (Matthew 16:23).
Paul immediately began to preach Christ, which it may appear Craig did, but Craig was soon serving in the works of men, which Paul wasn’t and never did. He came out of them; he was no longer partisan or denominational; he preached against those.
In his fresh revelation and zeal, Paul was creating problems for the Body of Christ, however, and needed to be set aside. Craig just kept going in the works of men, where he still is, decades later. And Craig presents no threat to the dark side. He IS the dark side.
Paul, after many years, was called by God to the ministry ordained for him from the beginning, witnessed before godly men. No such thing with Craig.
Craig calls much of his existence as a supposed minister of Christ “atheistic.” Yes, we understand the believer being in unbelief, and needing correction along the way on His journey to the Celestial City, but Craig doesn’t recognize the scorching indictment this is, not only of his works, but of the Lord Jesus Christ. How is it that the Lord isn’t able to direct and keep His servants? Will they languish in ambivalent and unguided service in His ministry, discovering they’ve been in unbelief for decades? How can atheists minister the faith of Christ to others? That is plainly unscriptural and preposterous.
When Moses walked for a brief moment in “atheism,” failing to sanctify the Lord at the waters of Meribah (“Hear now, you rebels, Must we fetch you water out of this rock?” – Numbers 20:10), he heard from God immediately.
The Lord guides, corrects, and above all, accomplishes all His will in His true servants. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was toward me has not been without fruit, but I labored more abundantly than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10 MKJV).
The reason Groeschel has been an atheist is because God is absent from his life, despite anything he says to the contrary. It’s the god of this world whom he serves, because he serves himself. Craig has been on his own, doing his own thing, as you will be with his counsel, which is full of Scriptural platitudes and general statements that sound good, but go nowhere. For example:
“If you don’t know him, you can. If you used to be close, you can be close again. Getting to know God is not difficult, and it isn’t about a bunch of rules. Yes, God wants your obedience, but he wants your heart even more. He says over and over again that if you seek him, you will find him (Deut. 4:29; Jer.
29:13; Matt. 7:7 – 8; Acts 17:27). You can find him by reading your Bible; he’s been there all along. And when you begin to seek him, you’ll find that he’s already running toward you, his beloved child. Get to know him and allow his presence to impact every area of your life, every day….
Get to know God. When you do, you will never be the same.”
Can anyone just do that, as Craig suggests? What of Jesus’ words?
“No one can come to Me unless the Father Who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44 MKJV).
Who’s in charge? We or God? With Craig’s gospel, it’s us; you get to know God if you just follow his advice. However, the source of Craig’s conversion was the god of this world, not the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, by Craig’s counsel, you won’t get to know your Creator – you’ll be following the voice of another – the enemy.
For example, Craig says you can find God by reading the Bible. Can you? It depends on where you’re coming from and if God is with you. Didn’t the Pharisees read the Bible diligently? Didn’t Jesus say they wouldn’t find Him there?
“You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about Me. Yet you will not come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:39-40 HNV).
And who did the Lord say was their father?
“Your father is the Devil, and you do exactly what he wants” (John 8:44 CEV).
None of these realities enter into the airy-fairy religious advice in Craig’s book. He offers or exercises no discernment from God. I don’t need to read the whole thing to tell you that, any more than I need to eat every piece of fruit from a tree to tell you if the tree is good or bad. Craig provides no wisdom of application for what the Bible says. He has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to God.
He says: “God wants your obedience, but he wants your heart even more.” The truth is, God will only have your heart if you obey Him:
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him” (John 14:21 MKJV).
“And Samuel said, ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice! To listen is better than the fat of rams!’” (1 Samuel 15:22 MKJV)
You would also obey Him only if He had your heart. ”But he who practices truth comes to the Light so that his works may be revealed, that they exist, having been worked in God” (John 3:21 MKJV).
Groeschel has it backwards, putting sacrifice over obedience. His gospel is all about gaining favor by making offerings to God according to the love of a deceitful heart, which isn’t the love of God. It’s false love – Satan’s last stronghold. That’s where statements like this come from:
“And when you begin to seek him, you’ll find that he’s already running toward you, his beloved child.”
Nice thoughts that are lies aren’t nice; they’re killers. Read Are All Persons Children of God?
Will the sincere seeker find God? Yes; but if Groeschel doesn’t know God, how will his definition of seeking God serve you? He’s never found God, so his version of seeking is unfruitful.
His maxims lay impossible burdens on people, like this:
“Get to know him and allow his presence to impact every area of your life, every day.”
Wow! Just how do you allow God’s Presence to impact you? Is He Lord or are you? Isn’t it up to Him to impact a soul when He decides to? What kind of inward striving and imaginations does Craig’s counsel bring forth? What kind of load is that to carry? The Lord’s yoke is easy and His burden is light, because our duty is simply to obey and follow. But many don’t have faith or hear from God.
Craig started out impressed by the promise of grace, yet here he is promoting works that stagger the mind and deplete the spirit. But that’s how darkness operates; there will always be contradiction.
That’s the way of Satan. He’s the king over men’s works. You’re left up to your own devices. You may accomplish some impressive things, even having the success and acclaim that Craig garnered in this world, but in the end you’ll be dead and empty:
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36 KJV)
Which brings us to the essential element lacking in this teacher and his teaching, and that’s what the Lord said right before the words I just quoted:
“Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:34-35 KJV).
Only those who repent and enter into the Lord’s covenant, taking up the cross and experiencing His resurrection life and power, will be impacted by Him by knowing the truth. The rest who pursue Him another way will be blinded.
John 10:1-5 MKJV
(1) “Truly, truly, I say to you, ‘He who does not enter into the sheepfold by the door, but going up by another way, that one is a thief and a robber.
(2) But he who enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
(3) The doorkeeper opens to him, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
(4) And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him. For they know his voice.
(5) And they will not follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’”
We could give example after example of other errors and demonstrations of Groeschel’s anti-Christ carnality. Victor watched one sermon where Craig mentioned making out with his wife two, if not three, times. How does that go down with children, widows, widowers, young singles, any singles, and those having made eunuchs of themselves for the Lord’s and His Kingdom’s sake? Flesh, flesh, flesh, and proud of it.
Craig Groeschel is right on one thing: Christian atheism is endemic in religious circles, and he is part of the problem, not the solution. In fact, he serves well as a preeminent example of this abomination. Let him who has ears to hear, hear.
“But when you see the abomination of desolation, that spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (let him who reads understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Mark 13:14 MKJV).
The most important and effective way to know if one is of God or not is to receive a witness of the Spirit of God. There is no witness from Him to us that Craig Groeschel is His. Indeed, the Lord bears witness otherwise.
Learn the Lord’s ways by hearing, believing, and walking in the truth.
“Sanctify them through Your truth. Your Word is truth” (John 17:17 MKJV).
Addendum, November 2016:
We received a nasty letter from Craig’s daughter, Anna, displaying the spirit and fruit of her father’s contempt for the Lord Jesus Christ. You can read it here: Anna Groeschel – The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree.