Practical Christianity is clear and specific for each of us as individuals at a particular time and place. One of the ways we can recognize religious manipulation is when we are instructed, whether by something we read, hear or think, to do something that does not have clear boundaries. Here are some “Red Flags” that signal that something deserves greater questioning:
* Vague: “you need more faith,” or “just be in the will of God and you’ll never be in the dark.”
* Unending: “you’re just not trying hard enough.”
* Religious: “Pursue your sanctification with righteous justification and humility and wisdom will be yours with the fear of the Lord.” We don’t have to learn a whole new language to live the Christian life.
* The burden of the doing is on the individual: “You can’t steer a parked car”; “God is waiting for you to tithe before He can bless you financially.”
* Dependent on something that can’t be changed (age, gender, nationality): “God is doing something special with the youth…”
* Motivated by idolatry of the will: “If you really wanted to, you could accomplish great things for God.”
* Rigid: “only those who speak in tongues are truly baptized by the Holy Spirit”; “there is only one way to serve God.” Practical Christianity is flexible.
* Motivated by fear or pressure of any kind: “If you don’t do this, believe this, feel this way, God won’t ___________.”
* Speaking for God / authoritarianism; “Because I said so”; “I’m the leader, so God is holding me accountable for your growth”; “God has given me the vision for this church.”
* Over-generalization: This is especially prevalent in our own thinking. Look out for terms like everyone, always, should, must. For instance, “God always blesses us when we give out of our need.” “Since this works for eveyone else, if it’s not working for me I must be doing something wrong, or there’s something wrong with me.”
When we recognize that check from Him, how do we respond? Simply, “Lord, is this true? What does this mean for me? Is this something you want me to be paying attention to? How do You want me to respond?” He is faithful to answer these questions, often by bringing some circumstance to our mind and showing us how it fits, if the teaching is indeed grace-based. The more we depend on Him for His leading and direction, the more rest we will enjoy and the more flesh He will consume. If He doesn’t respond, it probably wasn’t from Him, it wasn’t for you, or the timing wasn’t right.