In an information age convoluted by a myriad of philosophies of life and perceptions of Christianity, is it any wonder that you possibly could have been taught something that does not line up with a balanced Christian life?
I believe that God has placed in His word simple to use guardrails which we can utilize to validate any new teachings which may arise. Paul said "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV).
Recently a young Christian man I knew was introduced to a “greasy grace” doctrine and started posting it on social media. At first, I discounted it as a phase that he was going through, but then I realized that I should not let him be deceived by this unproven religious theory. I led him to Paul's admonition to Timothy, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). I told him, "It is important to understand that Paul said to ‘rightly divide’ not ‘rightly add’ the Word of Truth.” I then said, "Brother, you can take many general topics and find a lot of scriptures which follow a similar line of thought, add them together and create a 'unique' doctrine.”
However, that does not mean that that doctrine is in harmony with the fundamental teachings of the Bible.
The principle of salvation is the bedrock foundation, which every theological statement must grow out of to be in harmony with this central biblical theme. I have come to realize that every single principle that the Bible teaches is first taught by word and then by example. We see salvation being taught, and then we see people coming to Christ and being born again. We see Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles teaching many principles to the New Testament Church, then we see those same people living out those principles, confirming that their teachings are true, bearing good fruit as Jesus said that they would.
Every single principle, both then and now, that is truly from God harmonizes with biblical demonstrations of true faith. Also, we see the negative consequences when individuals go against the righteous teachings of God's Word. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, KJV).
Furthermore, Jesus and the New Testament writers warned that in the last days "many false teachers would rise up and deceive many" (Matthew 24:11, NKJV). One of the biggest false doctrines to hit the church in the last 40 years is the "Prosperity Gospel." It does just what I described above; it “adds" together a group of scriptures, which seem to support a theory that God wants all of his children to be "wealthy."
However, it fails the test of the biblical example lived out by his children in the individuals of the New Testament, where a few were wealthy but most were not. This false doctrine does not rightly "divide" the Word of Truth or harmonize with a demonstration of true faith. As a matter of fact, of the seven churches of Revelation, the one that received the highest approval from Jesus, Smyrna, was impoverished and the one which received the harshest criticism was Laodicea, which was the wealthiest. Again, these simple tests of word and example, a true fail-safe, proves what Paul told Timothy: "Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that to gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself" 1 Timothy 6:5, KJV).
Beware, my fellow Christians, of teachings, which sound good but do not line up with the lives described in the scripture. "Let God be true and every man a liar" (Romans 3:4, KJV), should alert us to put every teaching to the test, especially when we find out that what some are teaching simply does not work for everyone and especially not in every country.
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.