If this were a catchy, click-bait-y post, the title would be Five Ways to Tell If You’re Believing Heresy.
Except there’s really only one foolproof sign you need: you’re a human. (And not Jesus, which is technically a second sign, but so oddly specific that I didn’t count it.)
Here’s what I mean: maybe you have perfectly orthodox beliefs, prioritized in just the right order with the essentials at the core and the interesting doctrinal potpourri on the fringes. Maybe your pastor is careful to interpret the Bible well, maybe you pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, maybe you compare everything you hear to Scripture.
Even with all that, there will still be days where you believe the wrong gospel. On paper you may say you believe one thing, but what you do reveals where your heart is.
That’s extremely vague and mysterious-sounding, like I’m some sort of spiritual fortune cookie dispenser. To de-guru myself, here are a few examples from my life that I’ve noticed recently.
The Prosperity Gospel
“God wants you to be happy. If you’re experiencing suffering, it must be your lack of faith, because God is waiting for you to call down blessings, live your best life now, ask and receive health, wealth, and a mega-T.V. ministry.”
It’s practically self-satirizing—sites like Babylon Bee don’t even need to do anything to parody this message. You can basically quote the major leaders and it looks like something that no one who read the actual New Testament or examined the life of even one early church leader could possibly come up with.
Joel Osteen and his shiny smile is, in my circles, the universal punching bag for heresy jokes. Kind of like a reverse Chuck Norris. We understand that the Bible tells us we will suffer, in no uncertain terms. (Multiple times.)
On the other hand…when things do go wrong in my life, my first reaction is, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” Even trivial problems and delays provoke my whining, as if God somehow owes me sunny weather or a non-snoring neighbor on the plane or the return of Aldi’s limited edition Mint Moose Tracks ice cream.
It gets more serious, of course, when the suffering is real—sickness, broken relationships, death. It can be harder to remember, then, that shouting at God for letting this happen is basically saying Osteen was right all along. I deserve a perfect life in a fallen world, and when I don’t get it, I have a right to be angry. (more…)