By Dave Y.
Recently, a visitor to TruthForFree.com shared a concern with me about a new “deliverance/inner-healing” ministry out there called Sozo. I did a little research and it appears that this new ministry fad (which is reminiscent of the TheoPhostic counseling program mixed with Toronto Blessing phenomena) is starting to become more and popular among a lot of church groups.
Sozo is a mystical healing method created by a group of people from Bethel Church in Redding, California; however, it has been duplicated and is spreading through many churches all over the world. As an additional note, there appear to be other “ministry” groups that bear the same label (“Sozo”), which are not necessarily affiliated with Bethel. My inclination, however, is to exercise caution (even strong warning) against involvement with ANY group that claims to have special revelation about the work of Christ and then puts their own label or trademark on it. Virtually all such groups do not present teachings that are clearly identified in Scripture, but are only derived through the “special teaching” of whatever program or method the group espouses and as give its special title to (which it generally also claims was given by divine inspiration), and which often comes (rather conveniently) with a monetary price tag.
The Lord Jesus instructed us to ONLY make disciples of HIM, not of men, not of church organizations, not of special doctrines, methods or religious programs. He is the only King, the only Lord, the only GOD, the only Deliverer!
In years past I was myself involved with the Toronto Blessing movement and deliverance programs like “Cleansing Stream” so I am sensitive to these influences. I’ve also researched and known folks that have gotten involved with TheoPhostic counseling so I am very aware of the dangers in this movement as well. Bits of all of these programs are present in Sozo (including involvement with and endorsement by a number of religious leaders that I would personally consider dangerous), which only confirms to me that there really is nothing new under the sun.
My first impressions after reading the website? BUNK!!! Total bunk! Hence I shall call it Bunk Sozo (or B.S. for short). First of all, what does Sozo mean? Sozo is a Greek word (used in the Bible) meaning “to save”. Some examples of use in Scripture are Matthew 8:25 when the disciples were with Jesus in the boat and a storm rose up and they cried out to Jesus to “save” them. Also 2 Timothy 4:18 where Paul said, “the Lord shall deliver (or save) me from every evil work…” The ministry’s website advertises their product (and yes it is a product) like this:
- Description of Sozo from official website:
The Sozo ministry is a unique inner healing and deliverance ministry in which the main aim is to get to the root of those things hindering your personal connection with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus with a healed connection with Father, Son and Holy Spirit you can walk in the destiny to which you have been called.
* Sozo is an inner healing/deliverance ministry
* Sozo is simple, fast, Spirit led and effective
* Sozo finds issues in minutes instead of years
* Sozo helps heal your relationship with God to enable you to fulfill your destiny
And all of this can be yours for around $80 bucks! Pardon me if I don’t get up and jump for joy. My favorite secular video game costs less than this and has far more therapeutic value than this extraneous, unnecessary and ridiculous church program. The organization also offers intern programs for $50 a week. This does not provide meals or lodging or any other materials that may be needed for the training… Oh, and that’s not all… There’s also a $50 application fee (hmm… must be expensive paper). If an intern decides they want to move up a notch and become a “Global Intern”, they can pay another fee of $200. Can anyone imagine Jesus walking around Israel, healing the sick, caring for the hurting, casting out demons and saying, “You can come to my convenient intern program for just $50 a week… or, you can go ye into all the world for a mere $200 fee.”? I didn’t think so.
If these people really cared about helping people grow closer to the Lord and finding deliverance for their hangups, they could just as easily share every single teaching audio and video message from their website for free! It’s easy! Take it from a guy who does it every day! These folks are obviously in this as a business. But even if they gave this stuff away, I would still caution viewers to steer clear because of the mountain of obvious false teachings presented in their materials (not the least of which are training courses on “stewardship” which involve emphasis on the unbiblical, un-Christlike doctrine of monetary tithing). The church that sponsors this program can’t even get basic Bible doctrine right… Why on earth would anyone trust the struggles of their soul to them? GO TO JESUS INSTEAD! He’s more powerful and won’t charge you a dime… and He’ll spend unlimited time with you for no extra fee!
- Hebrews 13:5-6 – Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”
This bunk deliverance program called Sozo, in this writer’s opinion, lies by suggesting it’s process is “Spirit-led”. How do I conclude that this is a lie? Have I ordered all the materials and studied them thoroughly??? No, and I don’t have to. The website, and even simply the introductory statements, give enough information to reveal its great errors! I conclude that this program lies in saying they are Spirit-led, because the Scripture says that “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” Nothing about this program is FREE in the least! (Not to mention, neither are the other teaching materials offered by the church organization that offers this program). Scripture expressly forbids teachers from charging money for their ministry gift and message, yet so many of these programs and preachers do exactly that. Exodus 23:8 declares that “you shall not receive payment; for gifts blind the eyes of the seeing, and corrupt just words.”
The prophet Isaiah declared the Lord’s words concerning the Truth His wishes to declare to His people:
- Isaiah 55:1-3a – “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to Me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to Me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life…”
But that’s just the start of the problems with what this program claims…
The first ridiculous claim this program makes is that: Sozo is an inner healing/deliverance ministry.
Where as this program declares that the Sozo program can bring about deliverance and healing, the Scripture rather says that ONLY JESUS really does this:
- Luke 4:18 – (Jesus said) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…”
Luke 9:56 (Jesus said) – “For the Son of man… came to save (sozo) us.”
Hebrews 7:23-25 – There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save (sozo) those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.
That last passage in Hebrews speaks volumes; It is Jesus who is able ONCE AND FOREVER to save and deliver those who come to God THROUGH HIM! Not through the Sozo deliverance plan. THROUGH JESUS!!! Any teaching that comes along providing another way to something that God’s Word clearly says is accomplished once and forever through Jesus is TOTAL B.S.!
The following is a great quote regarding biblical salvation from the Sola Scriptura website:
- Save [and] Salvation
yaša‘ [and] yešû‘ah
One of the key themes of the Bible, of course, is salvation. Nevertheless, despite not only the prominence of this theme but also the clarity of what it is and how it comes, there seems to be much confusion about it all in our day. An understanding of these words, however, along with yesterday’s study of sin, clears up all question.
As most Hebrew nouns come from a verb, the verb here is yaša‘ (3467), which appears about 200 times and means “to save, help, deliver, or defend.” The “underlying idea of this verb is bringing to a place of safety or broad pasture as opposed to a narrow strait.” This idea actually comes from the same Arabic root that means “make wide or sufficient,” since “wide” implies freedom from stress and encumbrance. Such change, however, demands deliverance, and such deliverance must come from outside the individual. The LXX usually renders yaša‘ as the Greek sozo (4982G), to deliver or preserve from danger or destruction.
A vivid example of yaša‘ is Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 14:30), accomplished, of course, solely by God. Even when deliverance came through some human instrumentality, it was still only by God’s power, as when Gideon saved God’s people from the Midianites but only because of God’s empowering (Judg. 6:14–16).
From what, then, does salvation deliver us? What is its substance? Salvation is deliverance from spiritual death. Because of Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17), “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4; cf. Rom. 5:12). It is, therefore, Christ alone who came to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Further, no verse of Scripture is clearer on the source of salvation (yešû‘ah, 3444) than is Jonah 2:9: “Salvation is of the lord.” From beginning to end, and everything in between, salvation is all of God. It is not because of our partial merit or good works (Titus 3:5), not because we “said a prayer,” not because of our own “foreseen faith”—even the faith to believe the Gospel is God given (Eph. 2:8–9; Jn. 6:65; Phil. 1:29; Acts 18:27). Rather, “Salvation is of the Lord,” writes Charles Spurgeon, “The Lord has to apply it, to make the unwilling willing, to make the ungodly godly, and bring the vile rebel to the feet of Jesus, or else salvation will never be accomplished.”
Scriptures for Study: God continues to deliver us on a daily basis. Read Psalm 20, noting God’s deliverance from enemies.
One thing that a lot of these inner-healing programs tend to emphasize are things like spiritual warfare, renouncing curses, and exposing lies… but they rarely focus on the simple Gospel of Jesus or the doctrine He taught. There is almost no emphasis on repentance from sin. These programs tend to suggest that everyone is a victim of either a lie or a curse or of a spiritual attack, rather than acknowledging that sin works death in us.
- Romans 8:1-2 – So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 8:6-9 – So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to Him at all.)
Romans 8:11-13 – The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.
Because so many believers don’t know their Bibles and don’t even understand the Gospel or their position in Christ, they get swept up with all of these crazy programs and false teachings.
The second ridiculous claim: Sozo is simple, fast, Spirit led and effective
Simple? Fast? Effective? …oh yeah, and also Spirit-led. They just kind of threw the Spirit led bit in as a bonus. This statement implies that God’s Spirit alone is not enough; Apparently, God’s Spirit is not simple enough, fast enough or effective enough… BUT, add the marvelous Sozo program to the Holy Spirit’s work and, abracadabra, you got deliverance! Once again… B.S.!
Talk about your “microwave generation”… Now we’ve got groups selling “addons” to Jesus. “When God just isn’t enough… When He’s taking to long to meet your perceived need… there’s Sozo.” It’s like a commercial for fuel additive. “Just pour this into your spiritual tank and vroooom! God works much better in your life with Sozo additive!”
The third ridiculous claim: Sozo finds issues in minutes instead of years.
This really does sound too much like one of those infomercials on TV. The ENORMOUS problem with a program like this is that it overlooks the most basic and foundational element of faith – and that is that faith represents an active RELATIONSHIP with the Father. What exactly are these people at Sozo presenting? They seem to be suggesting that a program is more effective than relationship with the Father. Perhaps they will argue, “Well, that’s exactly what our program is trying to help people get a grip on.” To which I reply, “Then I just told everyone that for free!” Jesus said the following:
- Revelation 21:6 – And He also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.”
John 7:37 – “…Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.’“
In the first chapter of Luke, Mary rejoiced saying that her soul rested in God her Savior and then said it is God who fills the hungry with good things!
Jesus said in Matthew 10:8 that we are to give to others without charge because HE GAVE TO US WITHOUT CHARGE!!! I have full confidence in telling every visitor to this site that YOU DO NOT NEED SOZO!!! A relationship with God is sufficient! Take it from a bro who’s been walkin’ with Jesus for better than 35 years now. There is no program on earth I’ve tried (and believe me, I’ve tried a ton of them) that beats out a simple, daily walk with God. We know as humans that, in the natural, relationships take time. Sure there are people who write books that teach you how to manipulate other people so you can get what you want… but who would honestly think that God’s kingdom operates like this? I know one thing for sure, God is not and will not be manipulated by any scheme man dreams up. You simply cannot bypass relationship. For this reason, I believe that any supposed “remedy” that a program like Sozo offers is false! Any program that claims to either bypass the need for relationship with the Father – or that claims you need to pay them to learn the keys – are manipulating their audience right there!
- 2 Corinthians 2:17 – “At least we are not commercializing God’s word like so many others. Instead, in Christ we speak with sincerity, like people who are sent from God and are accountable to God.”
Here is another reason why YOU DON’T NEED A SILLY PROGRAM CALLED SOZO to receive whatever you have need of from the Lord:
- 1 John 5:14-15 – “And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.“
The fourth ridiculous claim: Sozo helps heal your relationship with God to enable you to fulfill your destiny.
Sozo helps heal your relationship with God? This is a lie! Oops… I know I’m supposed to be eloquent and preface such a statement with “in my opinion”, but I’m sorry. This is a biblically and relationally quantifiable lie (ahem… in my opinion). This remark belittles the Gospel of Jesus! ONLY CHRIST was the one who “healed” our relationship with God!
- John 10:9 – (Jesus said) “Yes, I am the gate. Only those who come in through Me will be saved (sozo). They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”
There it is… ONLY THOSE WHO COME IN THROUGH JESUS WILL EXPERIENCE SALVATION!!!!!!
Bunk Sozo really is pure B.S. after all!
As for Sozo enabling you to fulfill your destiny… again I say, “BUNK!” This is what Scripture has to say about that.
- Job 23:13-14 – “But once He has made His decision, who can change His mind? Whatever He wants to do, He does. So He will do to me whatever He has planned. He controls my destiny.”
Psalm 73:23-26 – “Yet I still belong to You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but You? I desire You more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.”
Isaiah 65:11 talks about those who bow down to the god of Fate and Destiny… God regarded this fascination with destiny as idolatry! Those who are enamored with destiny tend to turn their eyes and ears away from the instruction of the Lord. We are to simply follow Him and continue in relationship with our loving Heavenly Father, trusting that HE ALONE holds our “destiny” in His hands.
- Dan 5:23b – “…But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny!”
Ecclesiastes 6:9-10 – “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind. Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.”
James 4:12 – “God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?”
What is Sozo doing if not meddling in the destiny of others? It’s even a direct part of their product advertisement. This is NOT their place!!!
Please beware of this and other programs by this organization. As I was perusing the other teaching products available by this church, I noticed one on the subject of false prophecy… They conveniently offer this introduction to the subject:
- [begin quote]
“A false prophet isn’t someone who gets a word wrong, it is someone who has an evil heart.”
The first part of this statement should give folks a major hint at the likelihood that they will indeed get words wrong. This may be Bethel Church‘s definition of a false prophet, but it is not God’s definition as we find in Scripture:
- Deuteronomy 18:20-22 – “But if any prophet dares to speak a message in my name when I did not command him to do so, he must die for it, and so must any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods. But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the LORD?’ If the prophet speaks in the LORD’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the LORD did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without My authority and need not be feared.”
Amazingly, Scripture even reveals to us that there may be occasions (such as those we read about in the Old Testament) where God actually sends a delusion, a lying spirit, to a false prophet or teacher to expose the error of the people who followed that lying prophet, as well as the false prophet himself. Regardless of the fact that God was the one who actually allowed this lying spirit to overtake the false leader (which, in turn, caused the leader to delude the people), God still judged the people for believing the lie. He had already warned them about lying prophets and told them to reject them and not fear them otherwise they would be judged by Him. God’s heart in the matter was to cause His people to return to Him and stop falling into the same sin over and over again.
- Ezekiel 14:9-11 – If a prophet gives a false message, I am the one who caused that prophet to lie. But I will still reject him and cut him off from my people, and anyone who goes to that prophet for a message will be punished in the same way. I will do this, so that you will come back to me and stop destroying yourselves with these disgusting sins. So turn back to me! Then I will be your God, and you will be my people. I, the LORD God, make this promise.
There was never a time, in all of Scripture, that God took His own word lightly. While there is grace under the New Covenant for those who sometimes stumble, NEVER is there any such doctrine introduced by Jesus or any of His apostles in the New Testament that says it doesn’t matter if a self-proclaimed prophet’s message doesn’t come true. This is a cop out for so-called ministries that wish to profit by their programs without consequence or backlash. They don’t want to be tested; that’s why they offer up these nonsense definitions and explanations. Remember my friends, the instruction of our brother Paul:
- Romans 16:17-18 – “And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.”
Virtually all of these religious programs are just that; RELIGIOUS! And they have one sustaining motive; TO MAKE THEMSELVES A LIVING and, perhaps at the very least, provide some twisted form of self-validation. You don’t need a Sozo teacher to either learn how to be healed or to be healed! Don’t believe such nonsense!!! Believe the truth and it will set you free!!!
- 1 John 2:26-27 – “I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. But you have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”
John 8:31-32 – Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
God bless you guys!!! …and God help the Sozo folks flush the B.S.
Peace, love and JESUS! 🙂
P.S. In the days ahead, I will be posting some links to websites that deal with exposing Sozo in more detail (see below). Because this is a new fad religious program, there is not yet much available (at the time of writing this article). If you know of a website that talks about Sozo, please contact me via the contact tab on this site. Thank you!
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SOZO: