Heresy comes from the Greek word “αίρεση” which means to choose. I am not sure how this word has come to mean what it does, but it is understood by all of us as false teachings.
Heresy is usually defined as a departure from orthodox church doctrine. But in fact it should be expanded to mean anything that goes against the teaching of Scripture. Now the church has relegated heresy to theology, either written or taught. That means that if a preacher teaches something unbiblical, either through his mouth or through his pen, then that is heresy and he is labeled as an heretic. And that view is certainly Biblical and valid.
But Paul seems to expand that view by implying that we ourselves are a kind of epistle, a teaching in a living human expression, and that others are able to read that teachings by watching our lives.
II Cor.3:2-3 - Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
Now that brings me to my point. When something written does not line up Biblically we call it heresy. But what about things in our lives that do not line up with Christ? If we are epistles, then we are heretics when our lives are out of line Biblically. Do you see the connection? Of course we are hypocrites as well, but we can accurately be called heretics when our living epistles manifest things that are not according to the Word, both the written and the Incarnate Word, and then we are teaching heresy by our actions.
I am not attempting to create semantics, here. I believe we have concentrated on doctrinal heresy, as well we should, but we have ignored lifestyle heresy. But when our lives are walking with actions that are against the clear teaching of Scripture, then we are teaching that to others. That is heretical. When we are self righteous we are saying without words that Jesus desires this. That is heresy. For too long many of us have hidden behind the heresy of others while we have exhibited lifestyle and behavioral heresy.
So when we go to our prayer closet and the Spirit desires to address things in our lives that displease Him, can we distract Him by saying, “But Lord, Rob Bell is a heretic!” The Rob Bell’s of this world may very well be doctrinal heretics, but how many orthodox believers are heretics in practice? I have often felt my observations about theological heretics were somewhat impotent, regardless of the accuracy of my views, because there are many areas of my own life that I know do not reflect the Lord Jesus.
Aggresively and relentlessly researching and exposing the heresies of others while being blind and ambivalent about our own "shortcomings", otherwise known as "sins" in the orthodox world, is indeed an exhibition of self righteousness. There can be no balanced approach to addressing our own lives as it pertains to being a follower of the Lord Jesus. We must be vigilent and resolute as we allow the Spirit to sift and purify our lives. Anything that does not reflect the Lord Jesus and His Word is heresy. And by our lives we become false teachers.
We are outraged by the rank heresy of the emergent church, but we are only slightly unsettled about our own sin. We rail against the compromises of Rick Warren, but we use I Jn.1:9 as a painless cure for our own compromises. We are disturbed by the emotional excesses of the charismatic services, but we remain very comfortable with our unexplainable lack of emotion. We confront the prosperity teachings, but we still worry about making and saving more money ourselves.
The only way to confront heresy is to identify it and Biblically address it. The only way to confront our own heretical actions is to allow the Spirit to conduct a full inventory, identify each part of our lives that are heretical, and address them all. I am not sure, but I would guess that if we do that with a venerable surrender and with the same vigilance we show toward looking for heresy in others, we just may find enough personal heresy to keep us consistently running to the prayer closet with repentance.
We should passionately desire to be more like Jesus.