The Wolves Among Us
My wife and I recently watched through a documentary titled American Gospel, a film dedicated to highlighting the blasphemy and danger of the Word of Faith movement rampant throughout American churches. Before I continue, I encourage you to watch it yourself (it available on Netflix), as it addresses some of the greatest doctrinal issues in the American church. You may recognize some of the names you hear in the documentary such as Joel Osteen, T. D. Jakes, Todd White, or Joyce Meyer, and if you listen to these speakers or read their books, I urge you to weigh their teachings against the true message of Scripture. Furthermore, if you have been inspired by anything they ever said, remember that all good things come from God (James 1:17), and his goodness permeates even through evil or misguided intentions (Philippians 1:18). However, we must always be wary of false prophets and teachers that will attempt to lead us astray. In fact, false teaching is one of the most voiced concerns in the New Testament. Everyone from Jesus (Matt. 7:15) to Paul (Acts 20:29-31) to Peter (2 Peter 2:1) warns their audience of false teachers.
Throughout the entirety of church history, one of the enemy's greatest weapons against the body of Christ has been false teachings. The gnositcs originally began to warp the Bible's teachings even as it was being written. As the church began to develop, different fringe groups and cults attempted to take the gospel and warp it to conveniently fit their human wisdom. Even St. Augustine followed Manichaeism, a gnostic religion that believed in a duality between an evil physical world and a good spiritual world, before he was rescued to Jesus through what seems to be a divine appointment. After his conversion, he spoke out heavily against this and every other heretical abomination of Christianity.
Other heresies erupted across Christendom that doubted the divinity of Christ, the validity of the Godhead, and attacked the events of the gospel. Eventually, the Roman Catholic Church would break so far from the New Testament teachings that a religious revolution, known to us as the Reformation, was made necessary to return to foundational biblical teachings. Certain religions, such as Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses, began to take form as people continued to twist Scripture.
Now, in modernity, Christianity is still under attack from all sorts of false teachings. Why does the enemy use false teaching to such an extent? The answer is simple. The best lies use truth as a foundation to make it difficult to distinguish between the two, and so, the enemy uses these best lies in order to lead God's church astray. Now, certain heresies such as the prosperity gospel and universalism have crept into American churches.
Does not God want the best for his people? Of course he does! Why then should we deny prosperity? All the while, these teachers ignore the suffering Christ calls his followers to bear when he commands them to take up their crosses (Matt. 16:24-26).
Does not God love everyone? Why then should we worry about sin? Everyone is going to heaven! Such teachers blatantly disregard the Bible's call to repentance and Jesus' true role as a savior to humanity.
The fact of the matter is that God does want what is best for his children, and he does love everyone. However, these facts are then muddled by so-called human wisdom, and they quickly enter the world of heresy. They add stipulations to scripture and ignore any part of the Bible that does not align with their false theology. They create good sounding arguments that appeal to everyone because it does not challenge their inner nature of sin. The reality of the matter is that we were all enemies of God prior to our relationship with him, yet some false teachers today preach that everyone is on the track to heaven and that Christianity is inclusive to all people, even those that despise the name of Christ. However, as good as universalism or the Word of Faith movement feel on the surface, they are entirely unbiblical.
Ultimately, the greatest threat to the church is not external. In fact, Christianity tends to thrive in areas of heavy persecution. For example, regardless of the anti-religious Chinese regime that is currently governing the nation, the Chinese church is one of the fastest growing churches globally. When Stephen was stoned in the New Testament, the gospel made its way out of Jerusalem and began to spread across the Roman empire and beyond. This is why Paul never warns us to be wary of the government, and as much as some of us would like to spread this fearful rhetoric on Facebook, the ruling powers and authorities have never been an obstacle that the Bible deems dangerous. The wolf in sheep's clothing is not Joe Biden. The wolf in sheep's clothing looks more like Joel Osteen (regardless of how nice a smile he has). I am not saying you cannot get involved in politics or share your opinion about the political arena. However, if we are more on guard against the government than we are against false teachers, then we will be lead astray by an even greater threat.
Cling to the teachings of the Bible. Read it daily, and read it to understand what it is saying. Use commentaries and ask your pastors questions that will help clarify certain truths if you are struggling. The Bible, regardless of what certain people may say, is not the easiest book in the world to read. There are difficulties that arise when time, translation, and cultural differences are involved, and it is silly to say that none of these affect the accessibility of Scripture. This is why study and mediation are necessary in reading God's word. Of course, the greatest teacher when reading Scripture is the Holy Spirit, and thus, prayer is not only necessary but essential to understanding what God has to say to us today. Without reading and understanding the Bible, we become susceptible to false teachings because we have nothing by which to measure the words of man.