It should come as no surprise to followers of Jesus Christ that we will encounter more false teaching, doctrine, so-called believers including pastors of mega churches, authors, music, and the like who proclaim false doctrine according to the Word of God.
My husband is probably the first to ever challenge me on this very topic. I’ve written about it before, but I believe it needs to be repeated. As someone who worked in a Christian bookstore for years as a teenager, I thought I was pretty well versed on what should be classified as ‘correct theology’. The bookstore I worked in was a “mom and pop” bookstore that exercised discernment in what they would supply in their store. I specifically recall a very popular book at the time I worked there that was one of those so called ‘bandwagon books’, meaning a large community of believers was endorsing, purchasing, and ‘buying into’ its teaching. I recall how even as a young impressionable teenager, I so admired the owners’ conviction to not carry said book, even though it would have been profitable financially to do so.
Fast-forward some twenty or so years later, my husband and I had a conversation once about a particular, rather popular “Christian” author in which I had a few of this author’s books on my bookshelf. In a loving, yet direct way, my husband challenged me to consider this author’s beliefs. As he did some research and lovingly shared his findings with me, I was shocked to learn this author with a large following, selling out stadiums for speaking engagements, had huge discrepancies in major key points of doctrine. Of course, I was embarrassed that I’d been duped into believing this author was one to be trusted. I recall when my husband first brought his suspicion to me, I was a bit defensive of the author as someone I respected on our church staff quoted this author often in a women’s group she led that I’d been a part of for some time. We even watched some of this author’s teachings during our meetings. In my defense, I’d never heard her speak or read anything she had written that contradicted my beliefs or noticed any red flags of the person’s theology. However, it was from this person’s twisted and false doctrine that they wrote and spoke from. It can be very subtle and even sneaky so as not to unveil the lies.
It was then that my husband educated me to be discerning about everything we allow into our minds, especially when it comes to teaching and music from a “follower of Christ”. He gave me pointers such as checking into the endorsements of an author’s books. Are those endorsing this author someone you can trust biblically and theologically? Is their doctrine sound? Where was the author educated? He pointed me to a couple trusted websites where I could search a particular author and their beliefs. He also cautioned me that just because a particular author or book is sold in a so-called Christian bookstore or even marketed as a Christian book, doesn’t mean the book/author is reputable, or even a Christian. Most importantly though, my husband encouraged me to pray for discernment from the Holy Spirit. Pray and ask the Lord to help me rightly identify anything I come across that does not align properly with God’s Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to heighten my senses by being in God’s Word regularly so that I can recognize counterfeit from truth, remembering that the two are closely intertwined.
Now, as a long-time follower of Christ, I was astonished and quite embarrassed that I didn’t recognize such false teaching for myself. How was it possible I could be duped? I believed I was well-versed on truth. It was then that I realized how critical it was for me to ask the Lord for wisdom, understanding, and discernment. God’s Word is clear to believers, warning us of what we allow into our minds and what is to come in the last days. We have to remember that our enemy seeks to confuse us and our beliefs; while God is not a God of confusion. We must be careful what we allow in our thought life and what we put before our eyes, even if it seems that everyone else is reading it. Just because a book is a top seller, doesn’t mean it’s meant to be read. Being in God’s Word with our minds saturated in His truth will give us reason to check everything against His Word.
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1)
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3, full chapter)
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. (Proverbs 18:15)
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1:5)
“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (2 Timothy 1:13-14)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)