Sixth, Self-Esteem Gospel: Another error about the Christian faith is what has been labeled the “Self-esteem Gospel” or the “Psychologized Gospel.” In this errant view Christianity is a means to a better self and a better view of oneself. It takes one of the benefits of Christianity, namely the improvement of the self, and makes it central to the Christian faith. It is an intensely man-centered understanding of the gospel and takes the attention away from the glory of God. While it is certainly true that Christians gain a better sense of self when they walk with God, it is not true that is the main reason for faith. Nor is it true that Christians always feel good about themselves or even should feel good about themselves. Christians still sin and do wrong and feel the sting of a guilty conscience. So it is wrong to make a healthy self-concept the main issue in Christianity. When that happens, faith in Christ almost becomes equivalent with faith in themselves. It becomes a means of actualizing self rather than pleasing God with humble obedience. Again the love of God is twisted in this view. It teaches that Christ loves them the way they are, so they can feel good about themselves before they change. It really is an attempt to get the person to believe in themselves and think they are believing in Christ. Or, put another way, rather than the person believing in Christ, Christ believes in the person. That is not faith in Christ. That is faith in humanity and self. Belief in Christ involves a rejection of self as one picks up his cross and follows after Christ. After all Jesus clearly taught that whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it. I.e. John 12:25. Belief in self is not belief in Christ. In essence, they twist the meaning of Christianity into a self-help religion. It retains some of the terminology and the trappings of Christianity but is actually another religion altogether.
Seventh, Presumptive Faith: Another error concerning faith which is prevalent today, is the idea that belief in the promises of God is best expressed by commanding actions to occur in the name of God. In other words, faith is giving the world commands to become something based on promises of God. They think that to add anything to our prayer requests such as “if God wills” is an expression of doubt. We need simply to declare to be true, and it will become real. This view promotes a very dangerous idea that faith is a power in itself that moves the hand of God to do what we want God to do. It thinks of God as a servant to our faith. He is beholden to us because of His promises. With this power, they say we can create riches, restore health, or cause something beneficial to us to occur. This concept of faith stems from a very wrong idea about God and the relationship between God and faith. It is true that God makes gracious promises which we can claim, but only in God’s time and as God allows. We must never presume upon His grace, for that would be pride. We must remember God is in charge, not us or our prayers of faith. He grants promises, then He chooses when and how to answer our requests based upon his wisdom and sovereignty. Simply put, we do not command Him. He commands us. We ask politely and humbly beseeching Him to work. A humble believing posture before God is not doubt but the essence of faith. “Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.” Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones. Furthermore, faith can only be exercised in God and His promises, not on what we desire. Nor can we test God to see if He will do what He said. I remember once a young man in my college days stayed up all night commanding a mountain to be uplifted and thrown into the sea based upon Jesus’ promise in Mark 11:23. Yet, of course, it did not happen. He got extremely dejected. What he did not understand was that he was not believing God, he was testing God. The Devil used this tactic when he advised Jesus, according to a miss used Scripture, to throw himself down from the temple, for the angels would catch him before he struck his foot against the ground. This was putting God to the test as Jesus exposed. Faith is meant to be exercised when it is needed, not to test God to perform a miracle to cover one’s doubts. So in essence this is a counterfeit idea of faith which Satan uses to confuse God’s people. Presumption is really doubt disguising as faith. God does not do random acts of power just to prove Himself to doubters. The gift of faith is a strong response to the will of God – not using our will to coerce God.
Eighth, Blind Optimism: Another error rampant in society is to view faith as optimism. Optimism is the belief and sense that everything will work out well in life, and therefore we ought to be positive not negative about the future. Obviously there is a measure of truth to this lie. Christians are to be optimistic but not because they are optimistic. Their optimism flows from God’s promises. Blind optimism just chooses to be optimistic subjectively without an objective basis for that optimism. Christian faith and hope is objective. It has an object to believe in and which becomes the source of our optimism. Hope in the Bible is not presented as a wish things will work out. Hope is certainty about the future based upon the solid rock of God’s promises. Because God never lies and always works on behalf of believers, they find their optimism. In other words, our hope is founded on truth. One who just goes about with a positive attitude, hopes without any basis for hoping. Such blind optimism results in blind eyes to truth, for it is not truth which gave rise to the optimism in the first place.
Ninth, Mystical Faith: Faith also is sometimes wrongly construed as a feeling. Because faith often gets intellectually diminished, it is often viewed as something opposite the intellect. And what is the opposite of the intellect? Pure emotion! Thus faith gets defined as a feeling that something good will happen. Faith supposedly retreats to this realm of feelings, for feelings cannot be argued against or fully explained. They just are. So many view faith the same way. If you ask them why they believe, they do not really know. They just feel it is right. They divorce faith from fact and objective Scripture. Instead they define faith as spiritual sense. Often this mystical view of Christianity is reinforced by an appeal to the Holy Spirit. Since the Spirit of God works subjectively, it is argued, faith must have a feeling and mystical element to it. Faith understood this way is viewed more as a religious impulse than belief in truth. However even though faith involves feelings, faith is not the same thing as feelings. Feelings come and go; faith remains no matter how one feels. A feeling of awe or worship or oneness with nature should not be interpreted as faith. Faith sometimes includes feelings of awe or dread of joy or peace, but faith itself is distinct from feeling. Feeling may be there and faith not be present. Faith may be present without feeling.
Tenth, Compartmentalized Faith: This is a view of faith which embraces it in certain situations and abandons it in other situations. A person with this kind of false faith may exalt God triumphantly on Sunday, for example, but forget he knows anything about Jesus at work on Monday. This is a religious person who does not follow God from the heart but isolates his faith to fit into certain groups and events. It is hypocritical faith. A person like this can be very active in church, even a leader, but does not know God or follow Christ. He is into religion for some other reason – to please men, to give the aura of integrity, or some other angle. In essence he is using faith and religion. This is the Sunday-Only Christian or the Easter & Christmas only Christian. As the prophet Isaiah warned, his lips speak well of God in worship, but his heart is far from God.
I hope these ten brief descriptions of false faith will help your discernment and assist you in understanding the reality of your own faith.