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.