Tonight, a good many of my brothers and sisters are in Toronto at an event where celebrated Christian teacher Joyce Meyer is sharing her message of prosperity. As I considered attending this event earlier this week, I was torn in two different directions. On the one hand, I love my brothers and sisters and every moment shared with them is a joy. I will miss being with them tonight and it is deeply painful to stay at home and write this blog instead of going. On the other hand, I have never been able to muster any enthusiasm for Joyce Meyer as a Bible teacher. Though I have heard her expound many important truths, I have also heard her teach a few things that I think are false. One of these errors stands out head and shoulders above the rest. It is, in fact, so critical that I felt compelled to write about it.
I am not poor, I am not miserable and I am not a sinner! That is a lie from the pit of Hell! That is what I were and if I still was then Jesus died in vain. I am going to tell you something, folks, i didn’t stop sinning until I finally got it through my thick head I wasn’t a sinner anymore. And the religious world thinks that’s heresy and they want to hang you for it. But the Bible says that I am righteous and I can’t be righteous and be a sinner at the same time. (Joyce Meyer as heard in this clip)
Now the only Biblical basis she gives for the belief that she is “not a sinner” and that she has “stopped sinning” is that the Bible says that she is righteous and that she cannot be righteous and be a sinner at the same time. As many Christians understand and have pointed out, we wear the white robes of Christ’s righteousness given to us as a gift and it is, therefore, possible for a person who commits sin to be righteous before God:
But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 22:11-13)
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
Now I could just end this post here, but I think it is important to see where this error comes from and why it is so critical. To understand where this error comes from, we need to examine the definition of “sin”. There are two basic ways of defining “sin”. One is the popular way that most Christians and most Christian teachers define it. The second way is the way the Bible defines “sin”.
The popular view of “sin” is what I would call “gross carnal sin”. It is a rather simple belief that the “Thou shalt nots” of the Old Testament are the only thing to be avoided if one wants to avoid “sin”. A person using this definition of “sin” could easily say to themselves, “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t swear, I don’t have extra-marital sex, I don’t steal from others, I have never murdered anybody. I am entirely righteous before God just like Jesus.” This is a horrible attitude and it is entirely contrary to Biblical teaching.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. (1 Samuel 12:23)
As will be made clear by careful contemplation of the above verses, “sin” is not just doing things forbidden by the “thou shalt nots”. Sin is any way in which your love for God or your love for your neighbour falls short of the glory of the love of Jesus Christ. If you think that you are free of gross carnal sin and that you do not violate the “thou shalt nots”, then you are deceived but you might be saved. If you believe that you are without sin by the Biblical definition, then you are guilty of the ultimate error and you are a monster and antichrist.
Why do I say with confidence that anyone who claims to be without gross carnal sin is deceived? By examining my own life, my own struggles and the evidence around me. I struggle, for example, with gluttony and I note that if you are overweight to any degree, then you are eating more than you need for sustenance and you are marginally guilty of that sin. Far more seriously, I struggle with trusting God for my daily provision and I worry about finances and health. Confronted with the teachings of Jesus, I am unable to comply and worry about saving large amounts of money for a “rainy day”. I want to trust in my savings account and not in God. Are we not all guilty of such sins to one degree or another? To claim that you are free from such sins is to make a claim that violates my daily experience and common sense.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6: 31-33)
But the far more important issue concerns the Biblical definition of sin and how denying that you are a sinner by this standard guarantees that you are an unsaved enemy of Christ. To see why this error is so catastrophic, consider the claim that you are making if you claim to be “without sin” in the sense that you never fall short of the glory of Jesus Christ in your love for God or man. If you are perfect in love for God and man, then you have arrived at the same level as Jesus Christ. Why is this claim so horrible? Remember that Jesus Christ was the “living Word” and that every thing He ever said on any subject has the same weight and authority as any verse in Scripture! To not believe this is simply not to understand who Jesus Christ is. If you claim to be at the same level as Jesus Christ and that your love for God and man is perfect, then you are claiming that every word you speak on any subject has all the authority of Scripture.
PANIC! IT IS TIME TO PANIC! When I hear a claim that evidences this kind of megalomania and evil, I panic. I want to run away screaming. I want to flee in all haste. I want to fall on my knees and be sick. I want to repent on behalf of the person making such a claim. This claim is inexcusable, indefensible and antichrist.
So do you see the position that the words of Joyce Meyer and other such teachers put me in? If I “hope all things” as I am taught to do in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, then I must hope that a Bible teacher who makes such claims has a profound lack of understanding of what the Bible teaches about the nature of sin. That the teacher in question is in error on an important issue is the BEST CASE SCENARIO! The other scenario is far too horrible to contemplate and it is for this reason that I avoid teachers who even come close to making the claim made by Joyce Meyer above.
I have decided that whenever I criticize someone for error, I am going to say what I **hope** they meant phrased as well as I can phrase it. Here is what I **hope** Joyce Meyer meant in the quote above:
I am not a slave to sin, I am not miserable, I am more than a conqueror in Christ. Folks,I didn’t have victory over sin in my life until I realized that I was a slave of righteousness and not a slave of sin.
This is a close facsimile to what she said and is unquestionably Biblical. I hope this is what she meant.