WORLDVIEWS

FAITHISM 3

Over the past two weeks we have been looking at two different expressions of ‘faithism’ – the legalistic expression in which the level of my faith (including my obedience) is thought to determine whether or not God blesses me, and the Word-Faith expression, in which my positive faith is understood to create the answers to my 'prayers'.

To protect ourselves and our families against the Word-Faith concepts, we should:

Have nothing to do with false teachers (2Timothy 3:5b)
Whenever anyone, no matter how powerful, or popular, or respected they are (Galatians 1:8,9),  teaches any of these ‘faith’ concepts, once we have searched the Scriptures and found these teachings to be contrary, we should do just what God tells us to do: have nothing to do with them. Turn off their television programs; refuse to read their books or listen to their CDs; and avoid meetings where they are teaching.

We may feel these responses are hard and judgmental, but we are never told by God to follow our feelings. We are told to obey God, and he has already made the decision in the matter of false teachers: ‘have nothing to do with them.’ If we continue receiving their teaching we are choosing to disobey God.                                                             

Know who Jesus Christ is
An accurate understanding of who Jesus Christ is, will fortress us against the perversions of the Word-Faith teachers. Jesus Christ defines God. His revelation of God outlaws the little god of the ‘faith movement’. Just read and believe what Mark and John have written in their gospels about Jesus, the Son of God, and you will find the puny god of this heresy, who cannot act unless we release him by the power of our faith, both ludicrous and blasphemous.

Understand the salvation Jesus Christ gained for us
In Christ we already have every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer (Ephesians 1:3). In Christ, we are complete (Colossians 2:10); in Christ all the failures, weaknesses and inadequacies of our lives are covered, cancelled, forgiven, hidden away, so that Paul assures us ‘your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3). God no longer takes us into account: neither our sin nor the inadequacy of our faith makes any difference to our relationship with God or to his relationship with us. We have a mediator, Jesus Christ; he stands in between (1Timothy 2:5); we approach the throne of God, neither in our own name nor on the basis of our own merits or performance, but in the name of Jesus Christ, by whose blood we can enter boldly (without fear of rejection) into the holy, unapproachable presence of Almighty God (Hebrews 10:19-23). We rest in Jesus Christ; we have no confidence in ourselves. In that there is the fullness of peace, joy and satisfaction. Knowing this, being confident of this, we can cast aside as mere drivel the deceptive babblings of the faith teachers.

Exercise biblical discernment
We are told many times in the Bible to expect false teaching. That it occurs should not surprise us. Nor should it surprise us that it often comes subtly packaged in supposedly biblical words and phrases. Nor should it surprise us that some within the physical church are deceived by it.

What is surprising, and also devastatingly sad, is that so many within the church have so little understanding of the true God and his salvation, that they have been so deceived by the twisted teaching of this movement as to accept it as God’s truth. The widespread acceptance of Word-Faith teaching indicates a great famine of God’s true truth right across the churches. Why should anyone who knows the one true God of the Bible desire the little god of the Faith movement? Why should anyone knowing they are complete in Christ subject themselves to the torturous striving for the powerful faith and sinlessness demanded of them by the Faith teachers? One must ask: ‘Have they really known and understood the true truth at all? And if not, who is to blame?’

Understand the Biblical perspective on suffering
The Word Faith teaching assumes that ‘healing is in the atonement’. On this basis it teaches that no Christian should ever be sick because it believes that Jesus, on the cross, suffered all human illnesses. The Bible makes no such assumption; it teaches that spiritual healing is in the atonement, not physical healing. In fact the Bible teaches us that pain and suffering are part of our life in the Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 era. It is only in Revelation 21 that pain and suffering are removed from us. Thus in Romans 8:17-39 we are told that suffering is our common lot – that the whole of creation groans, we groan, and the Holy Spirit within us groans (the Greek word is agonidzomai = agonize) – while we wait for our final redemption. This passage clearly outlaws the Word Faith perspectives.

Put on the armour of God
The armour of God (Ephesians 6:14-17), understood from the perspective of what God has given us in Christ, rather than the perspective of something we must achieve, is a good starting point in the presence of any deceptive and destructive teaching:

Truth, God’s truth, Jesus Christ, in whom we know the truth about the Father.

Righteousness, Christ’s righteousness, by which we have legal acquittal from our sin and guilt in the presence of the Judge of all the earth.

Peace, by which we rest in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, in which we are assured that all of the wrath and enmity are taken away; in which nothing stands between us and our heavenly Father; in which peace we stand accepted in the presence of God.

Faith, the gift of God by which we are united to his Son, Jesus Christ, in whom we are protected from all the condemning, guilt-inducing accusations of Satan and of our own consciences.

Salvation, in which we are assured of our complete forgiveness and reconciliation, in which there is no more condemnation, in which our sin is so borne by Jesus Christ that its penalty and judgement never have to be borne by us.

It is only having exhorted us to put on this armour that Paul then gives us four instructions to pray (6:18-20).

God’s armour protects and delivers us from faithism and word-faith. It outlaws the idea that our faith has power in itself. It outlaws the idea that sin comes in between the believer and the reception of blessing. The believer no longer stands in isolation, dependent on his/her own achievements (of faith or sinlessness) for granted prayer. The believer stands rather in Christ depending on his righteousness for access to the presence of God, and allowing God to either give or withhold physical blessings, according to his sovereign decision. The Bible outlaws the teaching that our life and our future are in our words, and that our words have the same creative power as the creative word of God.

Let us cast aside the deceptions of faithism and word-faith, and honour Christ by making him, not our faith or our words, the object of our faith.

For your study: Read the Lord’s Prayer [Matthew 6:9-13 or Luke 11:2-4]. Study it carefully. Make a list of the boundaries that this prayer creates around [1] the appropriate attitude in prayer, and [2] the appropriate content of our prayers. Note that this prayer contains submission to the will of God – it leaves no room for God to be coerced by our will

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012