A few years ago I was following Joyce Meyer religiously (yes, pun intended.) If I didn’t get my Joyce fix every day, everything seemed to go wrong. Her words, spoken boldly in love, really charged me up. Her message was simple. I knew she was the one keeping my feet straight on the right path.
However, one day I heard a rumor about Joyce Meyer Ministries and my whole world came tumbling down. I couldn’t believe she was involved in a scandal. It was a wakeup call. I recognized my error; I became a disciple of Joyce Meyer, placed her on a pedestal and followed her. As a result I had to complete an identity check and ask “Are you following Jesus?”
Take a moment to examine yourself. Are you following a leader or pursuing the Leader, Jesus Christ?Are you following a leader or pursuing the Leader, Jesus Christ? Click To Tweet
Question #1: Who are you following?
What do you know about him? Does his doctrine align with your beliefs? What is his teaching/preaching history? Have you checked into his past? If you don’t know this information, you need to investigate.You’re not wrong to listen to the wisdom from Biblical leaders if they pass a “trustworthy test.” Click To Tweet
You’re not wrong to listen to the wisdom from Biblical leaders if they pass a “trustworthy test.” However, Paul is specific about the role of the evangelist. He or she is only a servant of God, not God himself (I Corinthians 3:5-7). When you focus your attention on the spiritual guidance of the builder, instead of the foundation, Jesus, (I Corinthians 3:11) you’re building your house on sinking sand rather than on the rock. The story says a house built on sand will collapse with a mighty crash (Matthew 7:24-27).
Question #2: Why are you following him?
You heard one incredible podcast that touched your heart, and now you’re hooked on everything he says or writes. But, what’s the real reason behind your loyalty?Is he leading you to Christ, or leading you to ruin? Click To Tweet
In several passages in the New Testament writers warn of false teachers who cleverly teach destructive heresies leading the way to spiritual ruin (2 Peter 2). They will tickle your ears by telling you what you want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3) rather than challenging your sinful lifestyle.
You must ask yourself and be honest why you’re giving so much attention to this specific teacher. Is he leading you to Christ, or leading you to ruin?
Question #3: How are you following him?
These days there are many ways to get information from a spiritual teacher. You listen via podcast, watch and read online, use their phone app, get weekly newsletters, read every blog they write or buy their most recent book. I use these tools too. I’m not judging the way you gain spiritual truth; I’m concerned about an entirely different thing.
The problem is the obsession, worship…idol worship. There’s a reason the show in the U.S. is called “American Idol.” The idol in the show is a real person and America loves to worship people with talent. Your spiritual leader is a real person, a talented one. Your fixed attention on him, daily depending upon his wisdom is idolatry, plain…but not simple. Sixty-six times the writers of the Bible mention the words idol and idolatry, so I think God is pretty serious about it.
An idol is anything a person worships as a god instead of God. Idolatry is worshipping the idol.
Ask yourself, “Have I made an idol of my favorite leader? Am I getting everything from one source to the exclusion of the Bible? Am I getting alone with God for His direction first?”
If you’re answers made you think then, maybe you need to search your heart for a fixation on the wrong teacher.
Question #4: What would happen to your spiritual journey if he fell from grace?
Paul says anyone building on the foundation of Christ must be careful not to lay a different foundation other than Jesus (I Corinthians 3:10-11). However, the truth is well-known evangelists fall from grace, meaning, they screw up…in public. I’m not going to list them, but you can search the internet and quickly find names of famous leaders who made mistakes which cost them their ministries.
When leaders I followed as a young Christian fell from grace, it rocked my walk with God! I believed if they couldn’t make it, how could I? I worshiped these men and women, put them on a pedestal, so when they fell, they took me down with them. It was horrible.An idol is anything a person worships as a god instead of God. Idolatry is worshipping the idol. Click To Tweet
However, if my identity was stable in Christ, and not on them, I would not have stumbled. To climb back onto my foundational rock, I had to do an identity check.
Here’s how to do an identity check: Imagine your favorite leader, teacher, preacher, or evangelist falling from grace and ending their ministry. How does it make you feel inside? If your stomach turns, your heart beats a little faster, you feel fear, or you start to worry a little, your identity check is telling you something; your focus is on the guide. It’s time to return to your real identity, Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 3:21-23).
Question #5: Do you compare his words to the Word of God?
Do you know the importance of testing the words of leaders who teach at any level? Small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, pastors, evangelists, and televangelists can make mistakes. (Oh! Yes, they can!) It is never wise to fully soak in every word without doing a fact check. Using the Spirit within you to discern the truth often takes testing. I Thessalonians 5:20 says, “…test everything that is said. Hold onto what is true.”
Your job as a listener is to become a fact-checker.
“But,” you ask, “how do I do that?”
“Well,” I say, “you must use the Word of God.”
To use the Bible means to read it. It doesn’t require complete understanding. But, as you gain wisdom from the Spirit through reading it, the Spirit helps you discern the accuracy of what is preached and taught. Job once said, “the ear tests the words it hears just as the mouth distinguishes between foods” (34:3).Your job as a listener is to become a fact-checker. Click To Tweet
God calls men and women like you and me to become spiritual leaders. But leaders are human and make the same mistakes as every Christian. It’s important not to make idols of them. However, it is important to honor, respect, and love them (I Thessalonians 5:12-13).
Take the test. Retake it as many times as necessary to bring Jesus Christ into focus. Then use spiritual Biblical leaders as the backdrop in your spiritual journey.