#Write31Days – Post 23 – False Teachers

MBA

A few weeks ago, during our small group, a woman asked me how to identify a false teacher.  Specifically, her concerns were based in the fact that she, herself, was still currently learning the scripture.  The Bible tells us to test false teachers and prophets against God’s Word, but if you are currently not well versed in the scriptures… how do you begin?   I am going to share here, the advice I gave to her.  I hope that it is helpful.

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

Matthew 7:15

  1.   Begin in prayer.  Whenever I am presented with an opportunity to hear from a new speaker, read a new book, or perhaps even attend another church as a guest… I start in prayer.  I need the Holy Spirit to be that discerning voice, that physical presence in my body, that will help me.  It is that voice you get in your head, when something just doesn’t sound right.  That knot in the pit of your stomach when you are just not comfortable in your seat.  The voice that says do not listen, flee.  I pray that God will move me away from false teachers.
  2.  Do some research.  Thankfully the internet usually abounds with information on any sort of public figure.  Most churches, organizations, and conferences have websites that will clue you into their statement of faith, allow you to see past sermons or snippets from events, etc.  I want to know who this person is, what is their background, what do they believe in, and who is in their circle of influence, who do they consider a mentor or friend.  You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.
  3. Remember context matters.  In your research phase, you may come across blogs and articles that speak against ANY given author, speaker, or well known Pastor.  What I would challenge you to do, is to not take their word as gospel truth.  If they post a 15 second sound clip, do not take that at face value.  Instead, take the extra time and see if you can find those quotes, video clips, etc in full context.  Many things can be taken out of context, the Bible often is.  We need the full context of the statement (including who their audience was, and WHEN this was spoken) in order to make an educated decision.  If I can’t find the quote/video in full context, I disregard it.
  4. Time changes people.  I am so thankful I am not the person I was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and even 5 years ago.  I have grown a lot in my knowledge of the scriptures.  Therefore, I will generally disregard any old quotes, writings, videos as evidence against a speaker.  To be specific, I won’t usually consider anything that is over 10 years old…. UNLESS the speaker hasn’t changed their position.  If this is the same platform being recycled every few years, then certainly it is important.  But, I recently heard a woman call a current author a “false teacher” over a comment she made over 13 years ago… when the author was barely in her twenties.  She has grown a lot since then, and that is evident in her more recent work.  Therefore I am more interested in who the person is NOW, what to they believe today versus what their inexperienced youthful self saw as truth.
  5. Cautiously ask others.   I used the word cautiously here, because we are looking at personal opinion.  Personal opinion can quickly become gossip, it isn’t always factual, and even facts that are spoken may be inaccurate.  To proceed cautiously I would suggest not asking everyone (like a general “what do you think of this person” post on social media.  That will create a STORM.  Instead look to key people whom you respect, and ask their thoughts.  This could be your Pastor, his wife, bible study leaders, etc.   It is ok if they say something along the lines of “he doesn’t sit well with me, but I can’t tell you why”.  That’s their discernment at work (see #1).  However, if they start giving you “facts”, take the time and do the research (see #2) to ensure accuracy.
  6. Keep Studying.  No matter what, keep studying the Word for yourself.  The more acquainted you become with the scriptures, the sooner you begin raising red flags at false teachers/prophets.   In the beginning, it may simply come from your greater knowledge of God’s character over knowledge of the scriptures verbatim.  If a false teacher says something that just doesn’t fall in line with the nature of God, it will stand out…. even if you can’t put your finger on the exact scripture reference at the moment.  Over time, you will become more familiar with the scriptures themselves and improve your ability to recognize scriptures that are twisted or taken out of context.

These six tips are great ways to help you begin to identify false teachers, while you are becoming a better student of the Word.  The more you know the Word, the more you know God… and the easier it is to identify those who are misusing, misrepresenting, and misquoting the Scripture.

The following are some scriptures that clue us into ways we can identify false teachers and prophets:  (bold emphasis is mine)

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. – Ephesians 5:11        False teachers/prophets are going to make claims, but their claims will not come true.  They will claim healing, but there will be none.  They will give the illusion of miracles, but they will not be real.  They will prophesy, but the prophesies won’t come true.   

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.- Romans 16:17    These are people who are trouble makers, pot stirrers, always looking for a fight and to cause trouble.  They are creating divisions in the church, and spinning scripture out of context further causing division among the body of believers.

For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.  – Romans 16:18     They are smooth talkers, who say the things we want to hear.  It sounds nice, it sounds appealing, and it may even sound like truth.  But they are not trying to serve you, or God… but only themselves.  Everything they do is for their own gain.  More money, more prestige, more celebrity, more power.  They may also speak with authority and their words may seem credible, but their intentions are to build themselves up over man… not pointing man to God.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.  – 2 Timothy 4:3   These teachers will tell us what we want to hear in a way that sounds like truth, and even those who love God will fall for it… if they do not know His word for themselves.  It will sound like truth, because it will distort scripture to support their claims.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. – 2 Peter 2:1     False teachers and prophets are sneaky, and actively sneaking their way into the lives of believers.  They won’t always stand out and boldly proclaim things contrary to the scriptures. Some will slither in to our churches, sitting next to us in pews.  And like the serpent was able to get Eve to question what God really said about eating the forbidden fruit… they will make us question what the bible means in scripture passages.  They will claim to be our sisters and brothers in Christ, but will be wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. – 1 John 4:1-3  There will be false teachers and prophets that are more obvious, speaking directly against God, speak of God without Jesus Christ, or speak of God in a way that contradicts what the scripture reveal of Him.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.- Colossians 2:8  False teachers and prophets will use human thinking, logic, theories and empty evidences as an explanation in an attempt to discredit God or to change how we think of God.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.   2 Corinthians 11:13-15   False teachers will also disguise themselves as leaders, not just fellow believers.  They will call themselves apostles, disciples, pastors, bishops, reverends, priests, etc.  They will use terms we are familiar with to create a credibility.  However the Word tells us that we will see through their claims by their deeds, how they behave and what actions they take.

And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. – 2 Peter 2:2   Multiple times in the scriptures we are warned that false teachers are going to be attractive to people.  They may be good looking, seem to have their lives all together, the words that flow out of their mouths will be appealing.  They will have charm, charisma, and an attractive personality.  They will seem to be financially blessed, free of difficulties in their lives, everything appears to always go in their favor.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

  – 1 Timothy 3:6-5

There are many, many more, scriptures that talk about the false teachers and prophets found in the Old Testament through the New Testament.    These are just a small sampling of those scriptures.  This is also not a discount to those who have received Spiritual Gifts!  Rather it is a call to all believers to be students of the word, to have a solid foundation in sound doctrine, and an intentional prayer life that keeps their focus on WHO GOD REALLY IS, WHAT HIS WORD REALLY SAYS, AND HOW GOD CONSISTENTLY ACTS.

About a year ago, I read an article written by a Christian woman on a piece of scripture that was entirely off the mark.  She ended it with an invitation to challenge her interpretation of the scripture, but only if you could support your argument with the Bible.  I responded to the article, siting multiple resources on the historical context of it.  I also included Bible verses that discounted her interpretation.  Her reply???  I don’t have enough time to address all of this individually.  I disagree with you and she listed a few quick retorts.  Then do you know what she did?  She blocked me from responding.

I followed her rules.  I had more biblical evidence than she did.  She was unwilling to even check if my evidence was accurate.  And she closed down the conversation.

What did that tell me?  False teacher.

2 Pet2:1 – false prophets among the people, false teachers among you. —– She labeled herself a Christian.

2 Tim4:3 – they will not endure sound doctrine. —– She was unwilling to consider BIBLICAL evidence.

Rom 16:17 – cause division, create obstacles to sound doctrine.  —– Her argument took scripture out of context, and was pitting Christians vs. Christians.  You were only right if you supported her “interpretation”.

Ephesians 5:11 – take no part in fruitless work, but expose it.  —– When she was rebuked using scripture, she disabled me from continuing to expose her. 

1 Tim3:6-5 – teaching a different doctrine that didn’t agree with the words of Christ.   —– She was conceited in her belief that she was right. She was creating controversy and friction among God’s people.   She was absolutely unteachable, and her deeds exposed her.  (2 Cor 11:15)

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WHY SO ANGRY?

MBA

Getting on my soap box, again.  But, sometimes, you just have to flesh out those thoughts in your head.  Getting them out, before you lose them.

This morning, I caught my youngest in a lie.  I knew she was lying, but I didn’t know how to prove it. I resorted to my tried and true tactics, but she wasn’t budging. “Not me”, was in the house.  Finally, I had to put it to her plainly.

“I know you a lying.  I know you did it.  I just can’t prove it.  So, until you confess….. ” and thus came my most brilliant of ideas.  And about 30 seconds later, full confession.

I issued the consequence, explaining (as I have done with every one of my kids)…. “If you would have told me the truth, I would only have grounded you for one day.  But, because you lied to me repeatedly, you are grounded for four days.”

And so the ensuing temper tantrum would begin.  Huffing and puffing around the house.  Not slamming things, but surely setting the down and closing drawers harder than one should.

I turned her to face me and said “Why are you angry with me?  I didn’t lie to you.  I gave you multiple chances to tell me the truth.  You chose not to.  It’s ok to be mad.  But, who should you really be mad at?”

She looked at me, like a doe caught in headlights, speechless.  I continued:  “The only person you should be mad with, is yourself.  You broke the rules in the first place. Then lied to cover your tracks.  You are mad at me because you got caught.  You should be mad at yourself for breaking the rules in the first place.”

She paused.  Her attitude improved.

Then, as I drove her to school… the woman behind me began a tantrum when I stopped for the school bus, instead of trying to whip through as the stop sign was being slowly extended.   Even if I had gone, there is no way she would have gotten through…without breaking the law.  But there she was, in my rear view mirror, waving her arms and smacking her steering wheel, gesturing toward the bus.  The bus retracted it’s sign, and I started to drive.  The road is a 40mph zone, I was averaging about 43-45mph…all the while she was close enough that if I popped my hatch back it would hit her car.  She followed closely like this, the entire length of my drive, gestures flying, Lord knows what she was saying.  She was ANGRY.

Why?  Why so angry with me?  I was following the law when I stopped.  I was actually going a little above the speed limit.  I wasn’t going below.

From my own experience of frustrations when driving, I can take a pretty good guess as to why she was so upset.  She was probably running late.

But was that my fault?  Or the bus driver’s fault?  Or any other driver she encounters fault?  No.  Yet she was spewing her venom towards me.  If I am right, and she was late, then really who’s fault was it?  Her own.  Something happened that morning that prevented her from leaving early enough.  Did she over sleep?  Get distracted?  Was she unprepared to walk out the door?  Couldn’t find her paperwork, keys or sunglasses?  It could be any number of reasons, but ultimately the fault lies with her.

If you think about all of those times you have gotten angry & even allowed your anger to spill out on others, how often was the situation actually THEIR fault?

My guess is probably fewer than we’d care to admit.

I was late, not because of the cars on the road, but because I misplaced my keys.

I didn’t turn in my assignment on time, not because the teacher didn’t give us enough time to finish, but because I wasn’t organized.

I wasn’t able to get my work done today, not because there was too much to do, but because I was distracted by personal phone calls.

My water got turned off, not because they are horrible people, but because I didn’t pay my bill on time.

My car was repossessed, not because the dealership is full of jerks who just want my money, but because I wasn’t budgeting.

My kids were late to school, not because they dragged their feet, but because I didn’t want to get out of bed until I HAD to.

I ended up in jail, not because the judge was unfair, but because I committed the crime & deserved the consequences.

I have to pay this speeding ticket, not because the cop is meeting a quota, but because I broke the law.

So many things that make us angry, when we look down deep… are really rooted in our decisions.

There are so many self help books, groups and movements about dealing with your anger.  But, how many of them actually address WHY we are angry in the first place?  Taking some personal responsibility for the choices we made, verses projecting our anger toward others will help us to diffuse that anger.

It is easier to be angry at someone else, and blame them for everything.   It is harder to look at yourself in the mirror and say “this is your doing, how are you going to fix it?”

Ecclesiastes 7:9

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

 

 

 

SPEAKING TRUTH – What is Truth?

MBA

I was thinking about how we interact with each other, as believers.   I can’t find any source in the Bible or reference in a sermon that indicates we should lie to each other.  In fact, the Bible commands us to not bear false witness. 

From the Old Testament, to the New Testament, here are just a few examples:

Leviticus 19:11  ” ‘Do not steal. ” ‘Do not lie. ” ‘Do not deceive one another.

Proverbs 12:22   The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

Zephaniah 3:13  The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.”

John 8:44   You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Colossians 3:9  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

If you were to ask anyone what the opposite of a lie is, their response would be truth.  So, it would appear that if we are NOT to speak lies to each other, than we are called TO speak truth.

John 17:17   Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Ephesians 4:15   Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 1:13-14   In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Scripture also tells us that Jesus is the Word, and he is Truth.

John 1:14    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

If Jesus is the Word and the Truth, then when were are told in the scriptures:

John 8:32  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

2 Timothy 2:15   Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

We are being handed a very might assignment, we are not just handling the words that come out of our mouths … but we are handling the representation of Christ IN US.  We are charged to RIGHTLY handle the word of truth.  Not just words on a page, but the words of Jesus.

We must rightly handle Jesus, and everything He has said to us in his life and the words in the Holy Scriptures.

If we are looking to Jesus as “the Truth”… doesn’t that change how “Speaking the Truth in Love” means?  We are to be speaking about Jesus in LOVING terms.  We love him, we speak fondly of him, we don’t misrepresent him, we don’t devalue his ways with our opinions.

To speak Truth = To speak about Jesus

To walk in Truth = To walk in Jesus.

To declare Truth = To declare Jesus.

To worship in Truth = To worship in Jesus.

To come to Truth = To come to Jesus.

To believe and know Truth = To believe and know Jesus.

To handle accurately Truth = To handle, represent Jesus accurately.

To obey Truth = To obey Jesus.

To be established in Truth = To be established in Jesus.

Because, TRUTH — JESUS… sets us free, sanctifies us, purifies us, establishes us as part of an eternal kingdom.