When it comes to convincing a professing Christian that their doctrine is unbiblical or that a teacher they follow is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Bible study author, speaker and blogger Michelle Lesley reveals how she deals with this issue:
“My job is not to argue my friend into believing that Joel Osteen or Beth Moore or Benny Hinn or Christine Caine is a false teacher. My job is to lovingly present what Scripture says, demonstrate how the teacher is in conflict with it, leave it on the table, walk away, and continue to pray for my friend. My job is done. It is now the Holy Spirit’s job to open my friend’s eyes and change her heart.”
Michelle examines what the scriptures say about how we are to deal with what she deems “spiritual issues.” She writes:
The way people think, the way we react to environmental stimuli, the way we relate to one another, the way our backgrounds and experiences shape the way we view and interact with the world absolutely fascinates me. It’s probably what led me to pursue degrees in psychology and counseling as well as every sociology, anthropology, criminology, and every other social science -ology elective I could get my hands on when I was in college. What makes people tick? Why does the human mind perceive things the way it does? Why is it that two people can witness the exact same event and come away with two completely different interpretations of it?
Those human-centered constructs and sciences can be helpful when it comes to studying observable behavior, but that’s exactly where their helpfulness ends – at the line of observable human behavior. Statistical psychology can perform a longitudinal study on people who were abused as children and show us that those people are much more likely to become abusers themselves. But, try as they might, none of those -ologies can accurately explain why they don’t all turn out to be abusers, or why some become abusers and then, for no earthly reason, suddenly stop and are seemingly magically transformed into healthy parents or spouses.
It’s because all of the -ologies lack a major operating component in their schemata – the spiritual realm. They’re like a football team with an adequate defensive team but no offensive team. You can’t play the game of football that way, and you can’t begin to understand people without acknowledging and understanding the spiritual.
Humans are more than just brains transported around by a bag of bones and muscles. People have spirits, and there are only two kinds: a spirit that has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, or a spirit that is in rebellion against Christ. And even among those who have been redeemed, there’s a broad spectrum of maturity, both overall and in specific areas of sanctification. You can generalize someone as a “baby Christian” or a “mature Christian”, but even among mature Christians, you’ll find that Christian A isn’t as mature in trusting God as Christian B, that Christian B isn’t as mature in generosity as Christian C, that Christian C isn’t as mature in patience as Christian D, and so on.
People are wonderfully and weirdly spiritually complex and unique.
As Christians, I think most of us realize all of this on some level. We know that the Bible says that when we’re born again, we become completely new creatures in Christ. Out with the old man, in with the new. It’s a redeemed spirit that causes us to do things – in varying levels of maturity – like: love Christ, hate our sin, enjoy worship, and weep over the lost. Conversely, not having a redeemed spirit will cause those things to be absent in someone’s life. The words, attitudes, and behaviors we see on the outside are driven by what’s on the inside – the state of our spirits. Or, as Jesus put it:
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
We know this in our heads – when we’re dealing with someone’s sinful or otherwise inappropriate or aberrant actions, the words and behavior we’re observing are an outflow of the person’s spiritual state.
Sometimes, it’s easy to apply that knowledge. You observe someone murdering someone else, and it seems pretty clear-cut to say that the murderer is almost certainly not a genuinely regenerated Christian. Which is why he’s murdering someone.
The waters get a bit murkier when it comes to discernment issues in the church and among professing Christians, but the same spiritual principle applies. We’re ultimately dealing with someone’s spiritual state, not their external behavior.