“Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” Charles Spurgeon
In this world there is certainly a lot of “almost right” out there. But as I have said before, the most dangerous lie is the one closest to the truth. Therefore, for the Christian, biblical discernment is imperative. I’ve been thinking about all of the false teaching out there today. Certainly, false teaching is nothing new. Practically every one of the New Testament epistles deals with recognizing and exposing false teachers.
Jesus dealt with it. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,” Matthew 7:15. The apostles dealt with it. “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed,” Galatians 1:9.
The first century church dealt with it. “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them,” Act 20:29-30.
And if we love the truth, we will deal with it and do our best to expose it. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars,” Revelation 2:2.
(See also Matthew 24:4-5, Matthew 24:23-24, Luke 21:8, Romans 16:18, 2 Corinthians 11:13, Ephesians 4:14, Philippians 3:18-19, I Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 2:17-18, Titus 1:10-11, 2 Peter 2:1, 2 John 1:7, 10, Jude 1:4)
The Apostle John tells us, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world,” 1 John 4:1.
Not every spirit is of God. The Bible speaks of evil, unclean, dumb, foul, and deaf spirits. It tells of the spirit of infirmity, spirit of divination, spirit of bondage, spirit of the world, spirit that “worketh in the children of disobedience,” spirit of antichrist, and the spirit of error. Not every teaching is correct. A false spirit produces false teachers that fabricate false doctrine. “…many false prophets are gone out into the world.” This is why biblical discernment is so important. I believe there are truly many Christian men and women who want to teach the truth to others. They are sincere. Perhaps their motives are pure. But, they have not filtered all of their teaching through God’s Word. To try the spirits means to test or prove them. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
There are two ways to test a spirit. The first is by the Word of God. The believers in Berea were nobler than the ones in Thessalonica because they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so,” Act 17:11. If a doctrine does not line up with Scripture it is wrong. The Spirit of God will never contradict the Word of God. It will never supersede the written word. Just as Christ came to do the will of the Father and glorify Him, the Spirit will point people to Christ and glorify Him. John 1:1 tells us that Jesus is the Word of God. Revelations 19:13 tells us that “The Word of God” is His very name. We also know that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God,” 2 Timothy 3:16. To say that the Spirit would lead us or teach us something contrary to Jesus Christ (The Word) is untrue.
The second way to test the spirits is by their fruits. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20 “by their fruits ye shall know them.” You cannot separate a man’s personal life from his ministry. Does his life line up with what he is teaching? Be careful to accept every teaching as truth. You need to make sure that what is taught is first biblical and second that those teaching have a life that demonstrates good works. “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom,” James 3:13.
If the Spirit of God dwells in us, by knowing the Word of God and examining fruits we can test the spirits to see if they are of God. “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:10.
Like I said, I am concerned about all the good sounding, “almost right”, man-centered ideas that are ever constantly being proclaimed about God and His Word. I am not saying that those who teaching such things are “false prophets” but I do believe many are misguided. And if we are not careful, we will let their teaching influence our beliefs. Over the next few days I will be address some of these fallacies that are prevalent today.
- Gospel Message without Repentance
- Ecumenical Movement
- Labels & Doctrines of Men
- Cultural Relevance