We often think ourselves just fine and hold our heads up high because we are not fornicating, cussing, watching "R" rated movies, or getting drunk on Friday nights. I say to you that if we are guilty of any of the "ism's" outlined below; we have either 1) never rightly understood the "transformed" life and are living a counterfeit Christianity; or, 2) We have rightly understood the gospel; but have replaced it with one of our own making. In either case, we are guilty of misrepresenting the Lord--a far greater sin then we allow ourselves to imagine.
"...there are outside-the-church idols and there are inside-the-church idols. It’s the idols inside the church that ought to concern Christians most. It’s easier for Christians to identify worldly idols such as money, power, selfish ambition, sex, and so on. It’s the idols inside the church that we have a harder time identifying.
In his book "How People Change", Paull Trip identifies seven counterfeit gospels—-”religious” ways we try and “justify” or “save” ourselves apart from the gospel of grace. I found these unbelievably helpful. Can you see yourself in one (or two, or three) of these?
Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”
Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”
Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”
Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”
Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”
Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”
Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”