The words we use, and how we define them, are critically important. I am seeing an alarming pattern where professing Christians, and often the people they follow, are just slightly twisting words or attaching a human definition to a word that God gives a different and specific definition for: Words like meditation, belief, grace and repentance. When we assign a definition to important words in the Bible that differs from God’s definitions, we start to head down a very dangerous path where we can be easily deceived by slick speakers with dangerous agendas.
Let’s look at the subtle but important difference between spiritual “formation” and Christians being transformed by God’s Word and Spirit. The “Spiritual Formation” movement teaches that we by our own power and techniques can transform ourselves into holiness—the Bible teaches something quite different:
The Bible tells us that it is God’s Word and Spirit that works in us to renew our minds and be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. So instead of pursuing holiness and formation by our own human efforts, we surrender to the truth and wisdom of God given to us in His Word; we surrender our human understanding which is flawed for the wisdom of God revealed in His Word.
There is nothing wrong with prayer, fasting and biblical meditation. But let’s camp out on that word “meditate” for a moment. The “meditation” taught in the Spiritual Formation movement and religions like Buddhism is to “empty your mind”. The word in the Bible for “meditate” is to think deeply and speak these things out loud. So correct Biblical meditation is not to empty your mind and just see what comes into it—it is reading and deeply thinking on the Word of God.
The “Spiritual Formation” Movement has become common place in many Christian groups and churches. And, as Pastor Gilley pointed out, it often starts from a wrong premise: Proponents of the movement suggest that “naturally Jesus and Paul did these things—in fact it was so common that they saw no need to even mention it in the Bible”. But show me one place in the Bible where God says that truth can be found apart from Him; show me one place where God tells us to empty our minds and just go with whatever comes into them; and show me one place where God tells us to rely on human tradition and understanding over His Word. God has given us everything we need to know about Him and this life in His Word—but when we start “adding things” that aren’t in His Word we start down a very dangerous path—one that might lead to eternal damnation.
As Pastor Gilley mentioned, this movement might well have started off with very good intentions. Many times we find ourselves in a dry place, feeling detached from God—and as Christians we do not want to be there. So we dedicate ourselves to doing something about it. In a way we fall for a “works-based” solution believing we in our own efforts can sanctify ourselves. But the truth is the only way we can be saved or sanctified is by doing one thing: Surrendering to God. God alone saves and sanctifies. Our human efforts to do either will only meet with disappointment and frustration.
Jesus warned us to guard our hearts and minds against deception and that wolves in sheep’s clothing would infiltrate the camp to lead people astray. I do not believe that every person who touts the “Spiritual Formation Movement” is a wolf, intending to deceive people and pull them away from God. Many are deceived themselves—people who found themselves in a dry, dark place and wanted to reconnect with God. But when we trust our own human understanding and techniques, we open ourselves up to danger.
In my book “The Death of Christian Thought” I document how professing Christians can be easily deceived when we are sloppy with the words we use and the definitions we apply to them—and the “Spiritual Formation Movement” is a prime example. Proponents just make slight changes to the words and definitions God gives us in His Word, and next thing you know, we are on a dangerous path.
I’m increasingly concerned that with the busyness of life, more and more professing Christians just do not take the time to deeply study the scriptures on their own, as married couples, or in meaningful small group discussions. We talk on this show about how many parents are outsourcing the moral education of our children to public education, media and government—but many are also outsourcing their spiritual life to a quick 20 minute sermon or something they see on the internet, instead of doing what the Bereans were commended as noble for: Searching the scriptures diligently, even when Paul taught them, to see if what they were hearing lined up with the Word of God.
We just assume because someone is a pastor—or they have their own Christian radio or television show—that they are an expert we would be wise to follow. And there are solid pastors and teachers out there, no doubt. But how do we know they are solid unless we hold them up to the plumb line of Scripture? If we do not have a solid understanding of God’s Word how could we possibly identify deception when we see or hear it?
It is time we all take a step back from the busyness of life and start thinking more about eternity. Put down the smart phone, playing the video games, or checking out Facebook, and pick up the Word of God. Turn off the football game and have a meaningful discussion with your spouse about the Word of God or the sermon you just heard in Church. The enemy has done an excellent job of getting us to be so busy that we have just set aside the Word of God—the bread of life—and we are entertaining ourselves to death.
When we stand before God he will be thoroughly unimpressed with how many Facebook friends we have; He will not care one bit about how many Championships your favorite team won. And if your name is not written in the lamb’s Book of Life, and you try to blame the pastor or televangelist who misled you—well, good luck with that one.
There is growing deception out there folks. The Word of God is being twisted by Humanist thought ever so slightly, just like Satan loves to do, to distract us away from God. And we are falling into a trap of spending more and more time on social media, or watching television, or pursuing wealth by working 60 hours a week—keeping ourselves so busy that we have become functionally biblically illiterate. Growing deception and growing ignorance of God’s Word is a lethal combination—one with eternal consequences.
“The Death of Christian Thought: The Deception of Humanism and how to Protect Yourself” is available at Amazon.com.