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Intersection of Life and Faith

Don't be Fooled by Counterfeit Faith

  • Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
  • 2002 31 Jan
Don't be Fooled by Counterfeit Faith
Many philosophies and religious systems masquerade as genuine spiritual truth. But beware. If you place your faith in anything or anyone except Christ, your faith will bring you harm instead of healing. Tragically, some people have used Christ's name to peddle their counterfeit forms of faith to people, poisoning others seeking spiritual growth. But once you trust in Christ, who is truth personified, He will help you avoid the clutches of spiritual abuse.

Here are some principles to keep in mind as you discern what constitutes healthy faith:

  • Consider your motives for participating in religious activity, such as joining a church. Realize that the only healthy motive for engaging in any religious activity is to seek a deeper relationship with God (not to escape pain, pursue greater personal power, bolster your self-esteem or any other misguided reason).

  • Accept God's deep and unconditional love for you without trying to earn it. Know that salvation is also a gift that cannot be earned.

  • Be honest about the emotions you experience. Realize that all people struggle with anger, fear, doubt and other tough feelings at times. God understands completely and doesn't expect you to see the fallen world unrealistically through rose-colored glasses.

  • Don't expect that God will definitely heal you or someone you're praying for if you just have enough faith. God can and does heal people, but only if it's His will for them, despite how much faith they have.

  • Understand that clergy people are fallible because they are human. Never assume that every pastor, priest, or other minister can be trusted; instead, pray about what he or she tells you and make sure it aligns with the Bible. Look to God Himself as your ultimate authority. Similarly, don't feel obligated to submit to any other person who is not truly following Christ, such as an abusive spouse.

  • Don't expect financial rewards for your faithfulness. When you give money, do so to express your love for God rather than to receive a material gain on your investment.

  • Serve others out of love, but set boundaries with them so you have the time and energy to meet your own needs as well. When you live a balanced life, you'll actually be better able to serve others.

  • Actively use the talents God has given you to follow where He leads rather than passively waiting for God to do all the work to make things happen as if by magic.

  • Realize that Christ cannot be just a great teacher. Either He is who He claimed to be - the Savior of the world - or He is a fraud. You need to decide for yourself based on the evidence.

  • Know that God is not too big to care for you personally. Every aspect of your life matters to Him.

  • Understand that God's ultimate goal isn't necessarily for you to be happy, but to be holy. As He transforms you, you will likely experience some pain, but you will also discover joy, which is deeper than happiness and doesn't depend on circumstances.

  • Don't try to become like God yourself; that's impossible. Instead, acknowledge what Christ has done to bring you into a relationship with God and rely on the power the Holy Spirit gives to live your life well.

Adapted from Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse, copyright 2001 by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton. A Shaw Book published by WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, Co., www.waterbrookpress.com.

Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Clinics, host of the "New Life Live!" national radio program, and creator of the Women of Faith conferences. He is also a speaker, licensed minister, and author of more than two dozen books. Jack Felton is a licensed therapist, an ordained minister at New Hope Christian Counseling Center, and president and founder of Compassion Move Ministries.

Have you ever been spiritually abused? What was that experience like? How did you heal from it? What did you learn about God as you healed? Visit the Books Forum to discuss this topic. Just click on the link below.

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