Discernment, False Doctrine, False Teachers, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Clinging to the Golden Calf: 7 Godly Responses When Someone Says You’re Following a False Teacher

 Originally published January 16, 2015

false teacherEver heard of Jeroboam? If you’ve read your Old Testament, the name probably rings a bell, but, let’s face it, it’s hard to keep all those Jeroboams, Rehoboams, Ahinoams, and Abinoams straight, right? Well, let’s read a little bit about Jeroboam:

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar.
1 Kings 12:26-32a

The Kingdom of Israel had just split into the southern kingdom of Judah and the Northern kingdom of Israel. Jerusalem, where the temple is located, is in Judah. Jeroboam (king of Israel) figures that if his people continue traveling to Jerusalem for feasts and sacrifices, they will eventually turn their loyalty back to the the kingly lineage of David (aka: Judah, 26-27) and he’ll lose both his kingdom and his head. So, in order to keep the people inside the borders of Israel and control them, he makes a couple of golden calves (which somebody should have remembered turned out badly the last time that was tried {Exodus 32}) for them to worship at either of two convenient locations, Bethel, in the southern part of Israel, and Dan in the northern part. Jeroboam, leading the way, had the Israelites simply transfer their feasts and sacrifices that they would have offered to God to these golden calves. It’s a fascinating story that you can read more about here if you’re interested.

So why am I going on and on about Jeroboam?

Because Jeroboam’s story is so similar to something that is happening in the visible church today. He was a well known personality who led God’s people to worship an idol which he told them was God. And God’s people went along with it, transferring their worship from the one true God to the golden calf called “God.”

There are a ton of Jeroboams out there today. Some of you reading this might be following one of them and worshiping the idol their false theology tells you is the God of the Bible. And in the same way that a man of God came along and rebuked Jeroboam for his blasphemy, a man or woman of God might come along and call out the Christian celebrity you’re following, or take you aside -out of love and concern- and let you know that person is a false teacher.

I hope you won’t respond like Jeroboam did. He was so angry, he tried to kill the prophet. But sadly, I have seen this type of response (at least verbally) many times, especially from women, when faced with the fact that their favorite Bible teacher or author is preaching a false gospel.

So, what’s a godly way to respond
when someone tells you you’re following a false teacher?

 

1. Consider the source and Listen.

If you know the person who’s telling you this, think about her godliness and character. Is she generally a godly person? Does she know her Bible well? Does she show love and concern for others? Is she trustworthy? A godly person of good character has no reason to toss out wild and unfounded accusations, especially if you’re her friend and it might offend you. In fact, she’s probably scared to tell you.

But even if it’s a stranger on a blog saying Celebrity Bible Woman is a false teacher, hear her out and make sure you understand what the issues are. Remember, what she’s saying might be true, but you’ll never know if you immediately write her off.

2. Listen for content, not tone.

There are some discerning people out there who will bring you flowers and candy and hold your hand as they gently tell you the person you’re following is a false teacher, and then there are discerning people whose tone or manner might rub you the wrong way as they’re delivering the news. Don’t let the way something is said turn you off to the content of what is being said. Don’t sacrifice truth on the altar of tone.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

It’s tempting to let our feelings take charge when we’re receiving bad news, but you aren’t going to be able to evaluate the content of what the person is saying if you’re consumed by rage or hurt. It might help to remind yourself of your relationship to the teacher/author in question. Do you even know her personally? It’s not like someone is leveling accusations against your child, spouse, or best friend. Put your emotions aside and let reason and clear thinking rule the day.

4. Don’t blindly believe the messenger.

You don’t have to -nor should you- believe everything you hear just because it quotes a Bible verse or wraps itself in the label “Christian”. That applies to both the person who tells you you’re following a false teacher and the alleged false teacher herself. Listen carefully to what the person has to say, make sure you understand it, then get out your Bible and get to work. Are the issues the person has raised biblical? What does God’s word have to say about these issues? Is the person you’re following violating Scripture? If so, choose to stop following the false teacher because the Bible -not a person- tells you to do so. People are fallible. God’s word is not.

5. Don’t shoot the messenger.

It’s been my experience that women who are loyal devotees of false teachers can be some of the most vicious people in the world if you dare to question their idol. I have had women verbally rip me to shreds, threaten me, call me names, accuse me of “judging,” and tell me I’m what’s wrong with Christianity for politely pointing out from Scripture that someone is teaching false doctrine. Ladies, we give Christian women as a whole a bad name when we act like that. More importantly, that kind of behavior is a reproach to Christ, and never appropriate for someone who calls herself a Christian.

6. Defend from Scripture, not opinion, emotion, or personal preferences.

It is downright embarrassing when a person is shown that Celebrity Bible Woman is violating a certain Scripture, and her only argument is, “But I just LOVE her! She’s such a great teacher and helps me understand the Bible so well!” If it were really true that Celebrity Bible Woman is such a great Bible teacher, her followers ought to be able to  prove -from Scripture- that what Celebrity Bible Woman is doing isn’t unbiblical. The bottom line is that Scripture is our ultimate authority, not our opinions, not our personal preferences, not how much we love a certain teacher. For a Christian, if something comes up against the Bible, the Bible wins. Period. So, if you’re going to defend Celebrity Bible Woman, defend her from Scripture. And if you can’t, why are you still following her?

7. Love Christ more than you love your favorite teacher.

If someone shows you from Scripture that your favorite teacher, author, or pastor is teaching false doctrine and you ignore that warning because you are so enamored with that teacher, then what you’re saying is that you love that teacher more than you love Christ and His word. Jesus said:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37

Your parents. Your children. They’re the people you love most in the world. If Jesus says you can’t love them more than you love Him, do you think it’s going to be OK with Him if you love your favorite Bible teacher more than you love Him? It’s not. Love Christ above all else, and cut that false teacher out of your life.

 

It can be difficult to hear that you’re following a false teacher. You like her. She makes you feel good. You think you’re doing great in your walk with the Lord. It’s hard to give all that up. But we must be careful that we never put our feelings for a person above Christ and His word. If someone tells you you’re following a false teacher, don’t brush her off or attack her. She’s most likely coming to you out of love and concern for you and for the body of Christ. Check out what she’s saying against the Bible. And if she turns out to be right, stop following that false teacher and thank her. Because a person who rescues you from an enemy of Christ is truly your friend.


 

Check out my friend Pamela’s great article on this same topic called The Christian Woman’s Guide to Conversing with Bereans.

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ 2 Corinthians 4

2 cor 4 6

 

2 Corinthians 4

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.


 

 

Questions to Consider:

1. Identify the antecedents of the pronouns in this chapter. Who is “we“? Who is “they”? (3)

2. What does it mean that the gospel is “veiled”? To whom is it veiled and why? (3-4) How could God save these people if the gospel is veiled?

3. What are the two instances or events of light shining in darkness which Paul is comparing in verse 6?

4. In verse 7, what is the “treasure”? What are the “jars of clay”?

5. What does Paul say is the purpose (15) of the persecution and suffering he mentions in verses 8-9? Why do they “not lose heart”? (16-18)

Faith, Trust

Fear Not ~ 9 Biblical Ways to Trade Worry for Trust

fear not

Did you have any fears as a child? Monsters? The dark? Dogs? When I was a little girl, I had this record of the story of Peter and the Wolf, and I was afraid of wolves at night (Look at the picture and listen to him growl. Can you blame me?). I just knew they were skulking around my bed in the dark, black as midnight, drooling rabidly, ready to shred me to ribbons should I stick so much as one toe out from under the covers. It was terrifying.

As adults, we look back on those childhood fears with some degree of smugness or embarrassment and think about how silly it was to be scared of something that was never a threat in the first place. But even if we don’t like to admit it, fear is something we grown ups still struggle with, at least from time to time. Finances, health, and our children’s futures may replace wolves, darkness, and the boogeyman, but fear is still fear, whether you’re four or forty.

And God is well aware of that fact.

In my Bible, the phrases “fear not,” “do not be afraid,” and other similar expressions appear over 75 times. Fear is a normal, God-given reaction that can be healthy and keep you safe in the event of a real threat. Fear is a blessing when it motivates you to jump out of the path of a speeding truck or stay away from a rattlesnake, but just like everything else affected by the Fall, fear can often be misdirected and thwart our growth in Christ.

Most of our fears as adults have nothing to do with tangible, imminent, life or limb danger. Usually, we are fearful of “what if’s.”

“What if I get a bad report from the doctor?”

“What if I get fired?”

“What if my teenage daughter gets pregnant?”

In other words, we worry about what might happen.

It’s really easy to sing “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” on Sunday, but much harder to actually do the work of trusting Him on Monday. Worry almost seems woven into the fiber of our DNA. In fact, worry has been such a common theme in the human experience that Jesus took time to address it during his Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:25-34

Clearly, it is not God’s will for us to worry. No matter how strangling our fear may feel, God wants us to trust Him in everything, from the most dire situation to the most mundane. But how?

1. Make sure the object of your trust is the right one.

A popular false teaching from the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) camp these days is that it’s never God’s will for you to be sick, poor, or experience tragedy. If you just have enough faith, and decree and declare enough, you can yank whatever outcome you want right out of the hands of God. Do you know why that’s not true?

Arguably the mightiest men of faith in history, eleven of the twelve disciples were martyred. So was Paul. David, whom God said was “a man after His own heart” suffered tragedy after tragedy. Jesus Himself prayed in Gethsemane that God would keep Him from having to go to the cross, and God said no.

Like these godly men, as Christians, we do not place our faith in positive outcomes. We place our faith in Christ, and His sufficiency for us in all things, regardless of the outcome. Make sure you’re trusting Christ, not what you want Him to give you.

2. Get off the guilt train.

Sometimes we can fall into Satan’s trap of believing that if we’re really saved or really trusting the Lord or really have faith, we’ll never fear anything. Then, when those worries creep in, we start feeling guilty. We’re not supposed to have those feelings.

Have you ever read the story of Gideon? Gideon was one scared dude, and he had good reason to be. But even though he was scared and fumbling, he believed and obeyed the Lord. And the Lord commended him for being a man of great faith.

Trusting Christ doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid of anything. Trusting Christ means you keep believing Him, keep loyal to Him, and keep obeying Him even when you are afraid.

3. Take reasonable precautions.

Trusting God doesn’t mean you should be careless. Eat healthy and exercise. Be frugal. Watch your children carefully. God gave us a whole book about using wisdom, and He gave us brains, so let’s use them.

4. You’re not in this by yourself.

God has promised never to leave you or forsake you. He has promised to give you the strength to deal with anything you come up against. He has promised you a way out of temptation. Trust that God is with you and will help you.

5. Rehearse your trust instead of your fear.

A lot of therapists will encourage you not to “repress” your fears but, rather, talk about them, write about them, examine them, etc. In other words, rehearse them (which only leads to more fear, because fear feeds off itself). But the Bible never says to do that. It says, “do not fear” and “trust in the Lord.” Period. No analysis required.

Those worries may start creeping in, but you don’t have to set the table and turn down the bed for them. Push them right out of your mind, slam the door behind them, and say (out loud is helpful), “No. I’m not going to worry. I’m going to trust the Lord.” You’ll still feel worried at first, but “fake it ’til you make it.” Your feelings will eventually follow.

6. Replace fearful thoughts with biblical thoughts.

After you’ve pushed those fearful thoughts out of your mind, consciously redirect your focus to trusting the Lord. Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to help you trust Him. Put on some biblical worship music that focuses on the goodness of God, and sing along. Be thankful- start listing all the ways God is good and has blessed you. Recite and meditate on Scripture about trusting God. Some of my favorites are:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

 7. Get your mind off it.

Watch a good movie. Have coffee with a friend. Better yet, serve someone who needs your help. Share the gospel with someone who’s lost. Get your mind off the worries and on to something better.

8. Get physical.

Go running or do some physical labor around the house or something like that. Either you’ll get some endorphins going and you’ll start feeling better or the shin splints and backache will completely erase any memory of whatever you were afraid of.

9. Repent and get a fresh start.

Sometimes (often, if you’re like me), you’re going to blow it. You’re going to give in to fear and let it control you instead of trusting God. You’re going to act on your fears and disobey God instead of trusting and obeying Him in spite of your fears. When that happens, don’t run away from the Lord. Run to Him. Repent and be forgiven. That’s what His mercy and grace are all about.

Worries are a normal part of life in a fallen world, but, in Christ, we are not to be enslaved by them. We have a Savior who is sovereign over all things. He clothes the grass with lilies. He feeds the wild birds. And He cares oh so much more for you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and fear not.

How do you deal with worry in a godly way?

Throwback Thursday, Types and Shadows

Throwback Thursday ~ In the Shadow of the Son

Originally published March 6, 2013shadow son

Once, there was a father who sent his beloved son on a journey far away from home. The son was to seek out the father’s other children who had been separated from the father for quite some time. Quite willingly, the son went.

But when the son arrived at his destination, he found that his brothers had strayed away from where they were supposed to be, seeking greener pastures. So the son went after them and found them. He met them right where they were.

His brothers saw their father’s favored son coming for them. They hated him and everything he said and stood for because they knew he was to be in authority over them. It had been foretold. They conspired to kill him and bury him in a pit. Then, the prophecy of his authority over them would not come true.

The brothers stripped him of his robe and drenched it in the blood of an animal they had sacrificed for this purpose. They stripped him of his dignity, his favored status, and, if possible, his father’s love and approval. It was an attempted coup to knock the prince off his throne.

When they were finished, they threw him into a pit that had never held another man’s body. They sat down to eat, returning to life as usual.

But it wasn’t enough. Revenge is a meal that never satiates.

The brothers determined to turn the favored son over to a rough pack of wealthy heathens. They wouldn’t dirty their hands to kill him. Their brother’s life would rest in the hands of foreigners who had no part in their family line. And so the son’s fate was sealed.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Isaiah 53:8-9

His closest brother sold him out for pieces of silver, for the price of a slave. Life, as he knew it, was over.

Later, another brother would peer into the pit to see what had become of him. “He is gone!” the brother discovered to his great distress and sadness. Little did he know that the favored son had risen up out of the pit. He would rise in power to deliver the very brothers who had hated him and plotted his death, as well as myriads of others who didn’t even know him.

Who was this favored son? He is the One who has taken away our reproach and added us as sons and daughters into God’s family. He is Joseph, the forefather. He is Jesus, the Son.

Based on Genesis 37.

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Deuteronomy 30

circumcise heart

Deuteronomy 30

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And the Lord your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. And the Lord your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the voice of the Lord and keep all his commandments that I command you today. The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.


 

Questions to Consider:

1. To whom was this chapter written?

2. What are “all these things, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you” in verse 1? (Hint: Read Deuteronomy 28)

3. What are some of the material ways God promises to bless Israel if they will repent of their sin and obey Him (1-10)? Does God make these same promises of material prosperity to Christians today? Compare these promises to Israel with these promises God makes to Christians. Is God being inconsistent?

4. What would “I will circumcise your heart” (v. 6) have meant to an Old Testament Israelite? What does it mean for Christians today?

5. Was Israel capable of obeying God the way He was asking them to? (11-14) How does God enable Christians today to obey Him?