I recently spent a few hours reading several articles that were posted as links on social media. These links lead to different authors and materials, and soon I had absorbed more than a dozen posts from all over the internet. Repeatedly I kept saying to myself something like, “Wow, that is really wrong.”
The writers of the New Testament continually warned the Church against false teachers, false doctrine and false prophets. Even Jesus himself warned his followers by saying, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15 – New International Version 2011).
Being on your guard against false spiritual information sounds easy, but it is difficult to keep from being seduced by a gifted speaker with a kind face. Here are a few simple questions to remember when you hear anyone speaking about matters of the soul.
1. Do they use the Bible? Ask yourself, “Is this person using the Bible?” If not, that is a huge red flag. I say this because I have read countless sermons and posts on the internet where the Bible is completely ignored. Just because someone says an article is Christian, does not make it so, only the word of God can bring clarity.
2. Do they use the Bible in context? The meaning of a passage from the Bible is found in its context. Ask yourself these basic questions: To who was the passage written? At what point in history was it written (Old or New Testament, before or after Jesus)? What was said right before and right after the quoted passage? Many times, words and phrases are pulled out of context, and the meaning is changed to fit a modern idea. Remember Satan quoted the Bible to Jesus, but he misused it.
3. Does the teaching have historical support? People have been teaching the Bible for thousands of years. Yes, at times it has been misunderstood by some, but most of it has been agreed upon for hundreds of years. Anytime someone has a new interpretation on an old verse, that is a huge red flag. Do some digging and read some dead authors to get their thoughts.
4. Does the teacher’s life reflect Jesus? I know that appearances are deceiving so you must look carefully. How does the person respond to people who disagree with their teaching? How do they handle other people’s opinions? Things like name-calling, shaming, anger, abuse, belittling, inflated ego and a host of other issues point to a personal problem. Be careful with people proclaiming Jesus but continually show evil in their behavior. Jesus said, “you will know them by the fruit.”
5. Is this making someone rich? My friend used to say, “follow the money.” If someone is making mountains of cash because of their teaching, that is another huge red flag. Many times, people are not interested in your soul, they are interested in a life of leisure and a nice retirement. Controversy sells, and if you can find the right category of people to target, the best seller list is easy to achieve. Also be cautious with sex, fame, and power as these are equally destructive forces.
These are some of the fundamental questions that I ask. Do you have anything that you would add to my list? I recently heard a preacher say that one of the biggest challenges facing the Church is the amount of false teaching being spread today. I believe he is right and a few hours on the internet confirmed my suspicions. Remember to be wise and on your guard lest you be devoured by those with evil intent who destroy people’s faith in the name of Jesus.