What Bill Gothard Really Teaches in the Basic Seminar

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What I Really Teach in the Basic Seminar

God used Paul to bring the Gospel to the Gentile world. He and his fel­low am­bas­sadors were so ef­fec­tive that their en­e­mies ex­claimed, “These who have turned the world up­side down [or right-​side up] have come here al­so!” (Acts 17:6).

Why was Paul so ef­fec­tive? Because his mes­sage was based on the com­mands of Christ and god­ly char­ac­ter. He said to Timothy that he based sound teach­ing on two things: The words of our Lord Jesus Christ and that which leads to Christ-​like liv­ing (I Timothy 6:3).

At the height of Paul’s min­istry, he made a sig­nif­i­cant state­ment: “For a great and ef­fec­tive door has opened to me, and there are many ad­ver­saries” (I Corinthians 16:9).

No ef­fec­tive work for God will go un­chal­lenged by God’s en­e­mies. I have learned to thank God for my ad­ver­saries. They usu­al­ly at­tack key points and force me to restudy them and get deep­er in­sights that re­in­force them.

For ex­am­ple, our most vo­cif­er­ous ad­ver­sary is adamant about his de­f­i­n­i­tion of grace. He claims that it is on­ly an “at­ti­tude of God” with no in­her­ent pow­er. He tries to ex­plain away the mil­lions who have at­tend­ed sem­i­nars. He points out that the Basic Seminar be­gan dur­ing the 1960’s, which was a tur­bu­lent time with youth re­volts and parental frus­tra­tion.

At this crit­i­cal point in American his­to­ry, I “ar­rive on the scene with a mes­sage on au­thor­i­ty and rules.” This is a to­tal dis­tor­tion and mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Basic Seminar mes­sage. The cen­tral mes­sage is “day and night med­i­ta­tion.” He al­so equates au­thor­i­ty with dom­i­na­tion and blind obe­di­ence.

We teach a to­tal­ly dif­fer­ent con­cept of au­thor­i­ty. Also, young peo­ple re­act to rules, and we do not teach rules. We present uni­ver­sal Biblical prin­ci­ples that all peo­ple must fol­low. I have found that when peo­ple un­der­stand the prin­ci­ples, they set up their own rules to help them live out the prin­ci­ples.

Therefore, I will sum­ma­rize the sev­en ba­sic prin­ci­ples that are pre­sent­ed in the Basic Seminar.

1. The Principle of Design

God de­signed every per­son to car­ry out His pur­pos­es in the world. He equips each one of us with un­change­able fea­tures that will al­low us to achieve His will. Among them are lim­i­ta­tions and dis­abil­i­ties that re­quire us to ac­cess His pow­er. For ex­am­ple, God cre­at­ed Sarah to be the moth­er of na­tions. However, He caused her to be un­able to have any chil­dren — un­til she was 90 years old!

God has great works for every be­liev­er to car­ry out. “For by grace you have been saved through faith . . . for good works, which God pre­pared be­fore­hand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Jesus promised that we would do even greater works than He did: “He who be­lieves in Me, the works that I do he will do al­so; and greater works than these he will do, be­cause I go to My Father” (John 14:12).

These greater works will on­ly be car­ried out with the pow­er of God on us. In Paul’s case, God gave him a phys­i­cal im­pair­ment [“thorn in the flesh“] and many per­se­cu­tors. When Paul asked God to re­move them, God an­swered, “My grace is suf­fi­cient for you, for My strength is made per­fect in weak­ness.” Paul re­spond­ed, “Most glad­ly, there­fore, I will rather [boast] in my in­fir­mi­ties that the pow­er of Christ may rest up­on me” (II Corinthians 12:9).

Most peo­ple have a ge­net­ic “im­ped­i­ment.” It could be a birth de­fect, a scar or some oth­er “un­change­able.” Rather that re­sent­ing it or re­act­ing to it, we can view it as a dai­ly re­minder that our body be­longs to God. It will then be our “mark of own­er­ship.”

True suc­cess is ful­fill­ing the pur­pos­es for which God cre­at­ed us.

2. The Principle of Authority

The en­tire uni­verse is built on the prin­ci­ple of au­thor­i­ty. God rules in the heav­ens and in the af­fairs of men. “He is the gov­er­nor among the na­tions” (Psalm 22:28).

There are two kinds of pow­er. The first is dunamis pow­er, which is pow­er with­in it­self. All dunamis pow­er comes from God (Romans 13:1). The sec­ond type of pow­er is do­min­ion pow­er, which is del­e­gat­ed au­thor­i­ty.

All dunamis pow­er re­sides in God and all del­e­gat­ed au­thor­i­ty comes from God (Romans 13:1). God del­e­gates au­thor­i­ty to gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, par­ents, pas­tors and em­ploy­ers. Each one must an­swer to God for the way they used their au­thor­i­ty and how they treat­ed those un­der their care.

God de­signed au­thor­i­ty to func­tion by agape love. This means that the one “in charge” must lay down his life for those whom he serves (John 15:13)

God demon­strat­ed this kind of au­thor­i­ty by the death of His Son for all those in the world. “God so loved the world that He gave His on­ly be­got­ten Son” (John 3:16). Likewise, hus­bands are to lay down their lives for their wives: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ al­so loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

We hear about “ser­vant lead­er­ship.” However, this ex­pres­sion does not cap­ture the true spir­it of God-​given au­thor­i­ty. The phrase for del­e­gat­ed au­thor­i­ty should be “ser­vant ex­am­ple.” Peter em­pha­sizes this to pas­tors: “Nor as be­ing lords over [those en­trust­ed to you], but be­ing ex­am­ples to the flock” (I Peter 5:3).

Delegated au­thor­i­ty nev­er car­ries with it the right to tell some­one to do what is moral­ly wrong. If such an in­struc­tion is giv­en, it must be re­spect­ful­ly de­nied and, if need be, an ap­peal must be made to a high­er au­thor­i­ty.

3. The Principle of Responsibility

This in­volves get­ting a clear con­science. In or­der to do this, we must first take full re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for every one of our thoughts, words and ac­tions. Paul stat­ed, “This be­ing so, I my­self al­ways strive to have a con­science with­out of­fense to­ward God and men” (Acts 24:16).

Paul sent Timothy out to min­is­ter with two weapons: his faith and a clear con­science. He warned that those who re­ject or ig­nore these weapons will “ship­wreck” their faith (I Timothy 1:19).

A clear con­science is on­ly pos­si­ble if we first take every thought cap­tive to Christ’s con­trol. “For the weapons of our war­fare are . . . mighty through God . . . bring­ing every thought in­to cap­tiv­i­ty to the obe­di­ence of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:4-5).

This is no small task be­cause the av­er­age per­son has be­tween fifty and eighty thou­sand thoughts per day. Many of these thoughts come from dark­ness; and many peo­ple try to push them out of their mind. This is about as ef­fec­tive as try­ing to push dark­ness out of a room. Only light can dis­pel dark­ness.

Likewise, the on­ly way to con­quer every “dark” thought is to fill our heart and mind with the “light” of God’s Word. David af­firmed this: “The en­trance of Your words gives light” (Psalm 119:130). The on­ly way to do this ef­fec­tive­ly is to find a pas­sage of Scripture every day, mem­o­rize it and put your­self to sleep quot­ing it to the Lord. This is “day and night med­i­ta­tion.” Light al­ways con­quers dark­ness.

After con­quer­ing our thoughts, we must then ex­am­ine our heart and reins to de­ter­mine if we have gen­uine agape love to­ward all peo­ple. Most of­fens­es can be tracked to a lack of gen­uine love.

If we try to ask for­give­ness for an of­fen­sive word or ac­tion, but fail to have gen­uine love, our re­quest for for­give­ness will prob­a­bly be re­ject­ed as in­sin­cere.

A clear con­science means that we can look every per­son in the eye and no one can say, “You of­fend­ed me and nev­er tried to make it right.” If we have gen­uine love and yet we are re­ject­ed in our at­tempt to ask for­give­ness, the of­fend­ed per­son must an­swer to God for their fail­ure to for­give (Matthew 18:35).

4. The Principle of Suffering

God de­signed be­liev­ers to have a ra­di­ance about them that shines out to all those around them. Thus, Jesus said to His dis­ci­ples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

How do we get this light? It comes from suf­fer­ing for do­ing what is right and from re­spond­ing with lov­ing for­give­ness. Peter ex­plains how this works: “Beloved, do not think it strange con­cern­ing the fiery tri­al which is to try you, as though some strange thing hap­pened to you.

But re­joice to the ex­tent that you par­take of Christ’s suf­fer­ings, that when His glo­ry [splen­dor and bril­liance that at­tracts the at­ten­tion of oth­ers] is re­vealed, you may al­so be glad with ex­ceed­ing joy. If you are re­proached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glo­ry and of God rests up­on you. On their part, He is blas­phemed, but on your part, He is glo­ri­fied” (I Peter 4:12-14).

Isn’t it amaz­ing that as Jesus faced the ex­cru­ci­at­ing suf­fer­ing of cru­ci­fix­ion, He prayed, “Now, O Father, glo­ri­fy Me to­geth­er with Yourself, with the glo­ry which I had with You be­fore the world was” (John 17:5).

Suffering is al­so nec­es­sary for ma­tu­ri­ty. “May the God of all grace, who called us to His eter­nal glo­ry by Christ Jesus, af­ter you have suf­fered a while, per­fect [ma­ture], es­tab­lish, strength­en, and set­tle you” (I Peter 5:10).

Suffering al­so has a pow­er­ful ef­fect on over­com­ing sin. “Since Christ suf­fered for us in the flesh, arm your­selves al­so with the same mind; for he who has suf­fered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (I Peter 4:1-2).

Before Peter un­der­stood these deep truths, he asked Jesus, “Lord, how of­ten shall my broth­er sin against me, and I for­give him? Up to sev­en times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to sev­en times, but up to sev­en­ty times sev­en” (Matthew 18:21-22).

God re­quires full, gen­uine for­give­ness, not sim­ply a ver­bal re­sponse. It must come from our in­ner­most be­ing. God will turn us over to the “tor­men­tors” of guilt and bit­ter­ness “if each of you, from his heart, does not for­give his broth­er his tres­pass­es” (Matthew 18:35).

We of­ten hear the phrase “for­give and for­get.” It is im­pos­si­ble to for­get when some­one has dam­aged us or our pos­ses­sions with last­ing pain or loss. Forgiveness re­quires a new per­spec­tive about the of­fense. Paul com­mend­ed be­liev­ers who “joy­ful­ly ac­cept­ed the plun­der­ing of your goods, know­ing that you have a bet­ter and an en­dur­ing pos­ses­sion for your­selves in heav­en” (Hebrews 10:34).

Forgiveness is ful­ly re­leas­ing an of­fend­er and choos­ing to live with the con­se­quences of their of­fense. The al­ter­na­tive to for­give­ness is bit­ter­ness which dam­ages our own body and de­files the lives the lives of all those who take up our of­fense (Hebrews 12: 15).

The best de­f­i­n­i­tion I have heard for bit­ter­ness is, “the un­re­solved vi­o­la­tion of my jus­tice sys­tem.” It is not our place to judge oth­ers or to take vengeance on them. “There is one Lawgiver who is able to save and to de­stroy. Who are you to judge an­oth­er?” (James 4:12). Vengeance be­longs to God (Romans 12:19).

Nor are we to eval­u­ate the lev­el of re­pen­tance that an of­fend­er has and on­ly for­give them if we “feel” they have reached our “re­quired” lev­el. Jesus told Peter that if an of­fend­er tres­passed against him sev­en times in a day, and then al­so re­pent­ed sev­en times that day, he must for­give him (Luke 17:4). After the fourth or fifth of­fense in the same day, most peo­ple would cer­tain­ly doubt the gen­uine­ness of their re­pen­tance and be re­luc­tant to for­give them.

It was on this ba­sis that Jesus said about all of us, who’s sin put Him on the cross, “Father, for­give them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

5. The Principle of Ownership

What we own soon owns us. Then it be­comes the cen­tral af­fec­tion of our life and push­es every­thing else aside.

Our de­light in the dai­ly Rhemas of God’s Word is es­sen­tial for our life and suc­cess (Matthew 4:4; Psalm 1:3). Therefore, God warns that “the cares of this world, the de­ceit­ful­ness of rich­es, and the lust for oth­er things en­ter­ing in choke the Word, and it be­comes un­fruit­ful” (Mark 4:19).

The on­ly an­swer to this dan­ger is to ded­i­cate every­thing we have to God. By this ac­tion, He be­comes the own­er of us and all our pos­ses­sions. What we ded­i­cate to God be­comes holy (Romans 12:1), and God takes very good care of what be­longs to Him.

Years ago, an­oth­er au­to­mo­bile hit the car I was dri­ving. My in­stant re­sponse was, “Lord, I ded­i­cat­ed this car to You; so if You want to dam­age Your car, that is fine with me.” This re­sponse brought an im­me­di­ate emo­tion­al free­dom from the in­ci­dent and an ex­pec­ta­tion of the good things that God would give as a re­sult of al­low­ing it to hap­pen. “All things work to­geth­er for good to those who love God, to those who are the called ac­cord­ing to His pur­pose” (Romans 8:28).

God has a mar­velous fi­nan­cial plan for all be­liev­ers who ded­i­cate to Him all their mon­ey, pos­ses­sions and earn­ing pow­er. This plan in­volves two ac­counts. The first in­cludes all your week­ly needs and fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. The sec­ond is a sep­a­rate fund to give away, as God di­rects; this is God’s “sow­ing” fund. It fol­lows the Laws of the Harvest: the more we sow the more we reap.

Our goal is to be as fru­gal and ef­fi­cient as we can with our per­son­al ac­count. And re­mem­ber: God’s “re­tire­ment port­fo­lio” is heav­en. We are to work as long as we can; for “the night is com­ing when no one can work” (John 9:4). Can you imag­ine Paul tak­ing re­tire­ment for the last years of his life? Paul viewed his vo­ca­tion of tent-​making as mere­ly a side job to sup­port his min­istry.

Those who fol­low God’s fi­nan­cial plan have an amaz­ing promise from God. He will pro­vide for all your fi­nan­cial needs and He will mul­ti­ply your “sow­ing fund.” “God is able to make all grace abound to­ward you, that you, al­ways hav­ing all suf­fi­cien­cy in all things, may have an abun­dance for every good work.” God will pro­vide for all your needs and “mul­ti­ply the seed you have sown and in­crease the fruits of your right­eous­ness” (II Corinthians 9:8-10).

This plan re­al­ly works! I have ex­pe­ri­ence it for over 70 years. I can nev­er out-​give God. He is debtor to no man.

A pas­tor and his wife in Michigan de­cid­ed to start a sow­ing fund. Any mon­ey they re­ceived above their month­ly salary would go in­to their sow­ing fund. The next year, they re­ceived over $40,000 from un­ex­pect­ed sources.

6. The Principle of Yielding Rights

In or­der to un­der­stand this prin­ci­ple, we must first know the three lev­els of love. The first lev­el of love is a self­ish, sen­su­al love, which is the de­f­i­n­i­tion of the Greek word eros. It is on­ly con­cerned with what it can “get” for per­son­al gain or plea­sure and comes with deeply em­bed­ded “rights” and ex­pec­ta­tions. When it doesn’t get what it wants, anger erupts.

The sec­ond love lev­el is what the Scripture calls phileo love. This love is based on mu­tu­al ben­e­fits. As long as the ben­e­fits are re­ceived, this love con­tin­ues. However, if they di­min­ish or go away, phileo love al­so fades away. At this lev­el, per­son­al rights and ex­pec­ta­tions make pris­on­ers of each par­ty. When the things de­sired or ex­pect­ed are not giv­en, there is hurt, which of­ten turns to bit­ter­ness.

The third lev­el of love is agape love. This is the love that God has for us and that He wants us to have for every oth­er per­son. Agape love is a deep-​rooted love that has giv­en all its “rights” to God and has no ex­pec­ta­tions from oth­ers for per­son­al gain. The de­light and de­sire of a per­son filled with agape love is to give to the needs of oth­ers, not to re­ceive from oth­ers for per­son­al ben­e­fit or gain. With this “Godly” per­spec­tive, a per­son will not ex­pe­ri­ence anger over vi­o­lat­ed rights or un­ful­filled ex­pec­ta­tions, be­cause they are trust­ing God to take care of all their needs and they ex­pect noth­ing from oth­er peo­ple. A life ruled by agape love can say with David, “My soul, wait on­ly on God, for my ex­pec­ta­tion is from Him” (Psalm 62:5).

There are four pri­ma­ry rights that we be­lieve we have, along with ac­com­pa­ny­ing ex­pec­ta­tions:

  1. The Right to be re­spect­ed
  2. The Right to car­ry out my will
  3. The Right to earn and spend my mon­ey
  4. The Right to en­joy my plea­sures

These “Rights” are re­lat­ed to the four fears that are em­bed­ded in our reins:

  1. The Fear of Rejection – pro­tect our name
  2. The Fear of Failure – pro­tect our will
  3. The Fear of Poverty – pro­vide our mon­ey
  4. The Fear of Death – pur­sue our plea­sure

Jesus ad­dressed these fears in the “Lord’s Prayer” He taught His dis­ci­ples (and us). They can be con­quered by be­com­ing a mem­ber of His Kingdom and by ac­cess­ing His pow­er through dai­ly Rhemas.

  1. Hallowed be Thy Name” vs. my name
  2. Thy will be done” vs. my will
  3. Give us . . . our dai­ly bread” vs. fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence
  4. Deliver us from evil” vs. my plea­sure

Someone has ac­cu­rate­ly ob­served:

If you want to start a ri­ot,
Teach peo­ple their rights.
If you want to start a re­vival,
Teach peo­ple their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

7. The Principle of Moral Purity

This prin­ci­ple is deeply root­ed in an enor­mous amount of med­ical re­search as well as re­peat­ed com­mands, warn­ings and ex­am­ples in Scripture. There is an on­go­ing war be­tween the mind of our brain and the mind of our reins.

Paul de­scribes this in­ner con­flict: “I de­light in the law of God ac­cord­ing to the in­ward man. [God has im­print­ed His moral Law on our heart and reins]. But I see an­oth­er law in my mem­bers, war­ring against the law of my mind, and bring­ing me in­to cap­tiv­i­ty to the law of sin which is in my mem­bers” (Romans 7:22-23).

When a per­son re­al­izes his or her need of sal­va­tion and is “born again” by the Spirit of God, the war­fare con­tin­ues. It is now be­tween the Spirit and the flesh. “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are con­trary to one an­oth­er, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17).

God has de­signed His en­tire cre­ation to func­tion by cause and ef­fect. When it comes to the moral laws that He has built in­to our bod­ies, He states: “Do not be de­ceived, God is not mocked; for what­ev­er a man sows, that he will al­so reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap cor­rup­tion, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap ever­last­ing life” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Our body func­tions with hor­mones. The most im­por­tant hor­mone re­lat­ed to our health, mood and be­hav­ior is sero­tonin. It is called the “hap­py hor­mone.” When it is at a high and bal­anced lev­el, it fos­ters health, a hap­py mood and self-​restraint. When our sero­tonin lev­el is low, we ex­pe­ri­ence anger, anx­i­ety, ag­gres­sion, ad­dic­tions, de­pres­sion and thoughts of sui­cide.

If we de­light in sen­su­al thoughts or im­ages, the hor­mone dopamine is re­leased. It floods our plea­sure cen­ter and cre­ates a neur­al cir­cuit which en­cour­ages fur­ther ac­tiv­i­ty that soon pro­duces a men­tal ad­dic­tion. It al­so blocks our sero­tonin re­cep­tors, which re­sults in low sero­tonin lev­els.

The on­ly an­swer to win­ning the war be­tween the Spirit and our flesh is the dai­ly dis­ci­pline of day and night med­i­ta­tion.