Basic Training, Discernment

Basic Training: Being Berean- 8 Steps for Comparing Teaching to Scripture

Note from Michelle: I am dealing with some family health issues right now, and would really appreciate your prayers. I also have a lot on my plate in some other areas of life and ministry, so for the immediate future, you may be seeing more “re-runs” on the blog than usual. Thanks for your understanding. Love y’all!


Originally published September 14, 2018

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

How do you know if what your pastor, your Sunday School teacher, your favorite podcast preacher, or your favorite Christian author is teaching you matches up with what the Bible actually says?

Did you know that you’re supposed to examine what you hear and read by the measuring stick of Scripture and reject anything that conflicts with it? Or do you just take for granted that if someone is a pastor, teacher, or Christian celebrity, he must know what he’s talking about, and what you’re hearing or reading must be biblical Christianity?

If you didn’t know you need to examine what you’re being taught, or you’ve always just assumed that if someone calls herself a Christian teacher what she’s saying must be biblical, sadly, you are not alone. In fact, you are in the overwhelming majority of the visible church. I’ve been a faithful church member all my life and, to this day, in the churches I’ve attended, I’ve never heard a pastor or teacher proactively preach or teach this biblical concept. I was nearly forty when I “stumbled across” the concept of being a good Berean – through a para-church ministry.

What does it mean to be a Berean, or discerning, or to “test the spirits”?

The term “Berean” comes from a little story in Acts:

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
Acts 17:10-12

“Testing the spirits” comes from 1 John 4:1:

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.

Some Christians have an extra measure of discernment – “distinguishing between spirits” – as a spiritual gift:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;…to another [is given] the ability to distinguish between spirits,
1 Corinthians 12:4,10b

But all of these passages have the same foundational concept. All Christians are to believe what rightly handled, in context Scripture teaches, and reject whatever contradicts it. Although it is the responsibility of our pastors and church leaders to teach and lead us to distinguish between true and false doctrine, we are not to depend solely on others to “do discernment” for us. We need to learn how to be good Bereans ourselves.

How do we go about that?

1.
Accept the fact that
false doctrine/false teachers exist.

I know that sounds uber basic, even for “Basic Training,”, but there are many professing Christians who reject the idea that a pastor, teacher, or Christian celebrity – especially their personal favorite – could be a false teacher. If someone has gotten a job as a pastor, has a seminary degree, has thousands of followers on social media, or has a major Christian retailer promoting her conferences and selling her materials, what that person is saying must be biblical. Accepting the fact that false doctrine (teachings that conflict with Scripture) and false teachers (people who teach false doctrine) exist is the first hurdle a Christian has to get over in order to ultimately be a good, obedient to Scripture, Berean.

False teachers and false doctrine have been around since the birth of the church. Don’t believe me? Take a stroll through the New Testament. You’ll find that every single book (except Philemon) deals with false teachers or false doctrine in some way. It’s a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments. To deny that false teachers and false doctrine exist is to call God – the author of Scripture – a liar.

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. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.
2 Peter 2:1-3a

2.
Understand why discernment is important.

As with many things in Christianity, there is a spectrum of false doctrine. Some doctrines are so integral to salvation that if you believe falsely about them, you are not a Christian (regardless of what you think, feel, or call yourself) and you will spend eternity in Hell.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Galatians 1:6-9

Some false doctrines aren’t integral to salvation, but will warp and hinder your relationship with Christ and stunt your Christian growth. As an example of this, I’ve often cited the false teaching that prayer is a “two-way conversation” (you talk to God and then He talks back to you). I was once a victim of this false teaching, and because I wasn’t hearing God speak to me I suffered all kinds of anxiety: wondering if I was truly saved, feverishly trying to dig out the hidden sin that must be there preventing me from hearing from God, lamenting my lack of faith that kept me separated from Him, and so forth.

But more important than the way false doctrine affects you or me personally is that God commands that we reject what conflicts with His written Word. Because God’s Word is objective truth, anything that stands in opposition to it is a lie. And Satan is the father of lies, even if the person telling those lies claims to be a Christian. To knowingly believe false doctrine is to reject God in favor of Satan. It is disobedience. It is calling God a liar. It robs God of the glory and honor due His name.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Romans 12:9

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. 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 12:16-17

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 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 11:12-15

3.
Submit to Christ and His Word
as your authority in life.

If you have been genuinely regenerated, you are a new creature in Christ. You are no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to Christ. That means Christ is your Master. He gets to run your life and tell you what to do (including the command to reject false doctrine/teachers), not you, and you are under obligation to obey Him to the best of your Holy Spirit empowered ability. How do you find out what He wants you to do, believe, think, and say? He wrote it all down for you in the Bible. The Bible is Our Authority.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Romans 6:16-19

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3

4.
Be a student of the Word.

As obedient servants of Christ, we’re to be students of the Word by default. This is how we get to know Christ better and learn how to obey and emulate Him. But an awesome side effect of being good students of the Bible is that it makes being a good Berean who “examines the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so” much easier. If you’re studying God’s Word, memorizing God’s Word, meditating on God’s Word, praying God’s Word, and applying God’s Word to your life, it’s going to be there in your heart, at the ready, so that when you hear teaching you can do a quick mental comparison to the Scripture and know whether to accept or reject that teaching.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11

5.
Where does the Bible say that?
Does the Bible really say that?

These simple questions are two of the most important tools in your Berean toolbox. If you hear a pastor say, “God wants you to be wealthy!” or your favorite women’s Bible study author writes, “God told me ________.”, the question you should be asking is, “Where does the Bible – rightly handled, and in proper context – say that?”

Sometimes a pastor or teacher will read or quote a passage, verse, or part of a verse, (sometimes from a faulty translation or paraphrase of the Bible) and give an explanation of what it means. Again, your question should be similar: “Does the Bible – rightly handled and in context – really say that?”

If you don’t already have the appropriate passages “stored up in your heart”, grab your trustworthy translation of the Bible and a good concordance and start studying. Make sure to study the context of the verses you look up. Who was the original audience of this verse? Is this verse addressing Christians or Old Testament Israel or someone else? Is it a command, or a promise, or a simple description of something that happened in history? In other words, find out what the Bible properly says about the teaching you’ve just heard. If the teaching matches up with what the Bible teaches, do what those Bereans did – “receive it with all eagerness.” If it doesn’t, chuck it.

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.
2 Timothy 2:15

6.
Learn to discern.

Sometimes, when you’re learning a new skill, one of the best ways to get a feel for it is to watch an expert do it. I highly recommend listening to Chris Rosebrough’s podcast, Fighting for the Faith, if you’re new to this whole idea of comparing teaching to Scripture. At least until you feel confident in doing it yourself. A major portion of Chris’s program is playing the audio of various teachings and sermons and breaking in with thought-provoking biblical questions, comments, and Scriptures. You’ll learn how and when to ask, “Where does the Bible say that?” and “Does the Bible really say that?”, how to examine Scripture in context, and what some of the common false teachings of the day are.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Ephesians 4:11-14

7.
Sometimes false doctrine is an honest mistake.

It could be a mistake on your part (especially if you’re just starting to learn your Bible and about discernment). Maybe you weren’t careful to look at the context of the Scripture you’re examining. Maybe you misunderstood its meaning. Maybe you misunderstood what the pastor, teacher, or author said or meant.

It could also be a mistake on your pastor’s, Sunday School teacher’s, or other Christian leader’s part. People are human and make mistakes even when they don’t mean to. Maybe your pastor just flubbed his words in the sermon and didn’t say what he actually meant to say. Maybe your Sunday School teacher thinks she has a biblical understanding of baptism, or peace, or evangelism because that’s what she was taught in church growing up, and just doesn’t realize what she’s saying conflicts with Scripture.

Does the person you think has taught false doctrine generally have a track record of acting biblically and teaching sound doctrine? Go to him kindly, humbly, and politely, and ask for clarification with the appropriate Scriptures at the ready. Does he readily admit he messed up and align himself with Scripture? Teachability, humility, and eagerness to submit to Scripture are some of the hallmarks of a doctrinally sound teacher who made an isolated honest mistake. Someone who digs her heels in and clings to false doctrine despite correction – that’s a false teacher, not an innocent mistake (see #7 here).

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Acts 18:24-28

8.
Put your feelings aside and be objective.

You’ve weighed your favorite Bible study author’s teaching in the balance of Scripture and she’s been found wanting.

But you love her. You’ve been following her for years. You’ve gobbled up all her books and attended her conferences. You feel like you know her personally. Sadly, it’s at this point that many professing Christian women reject what Scripture says about their favorite teacher in favor of their emotional “bond” with her. Tragically, their bond with that teacher is stronger than their bond with Christ.

If your highest loyalty is to Christ, you won’t do that. You will cut off your right hand or gouge out your right eye to be true to Him and His teaching. The call to follow Christ is a call to die. Death to self, death to worldliness, death to relationships, even death to physical life sometimes.

Rejecting that false teacher might seem hard, but you must put your feelings for her aside and do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, not what is right in your own eyes. Anyone who loves someone else more than Christ is not worthy of Him.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

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. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37-38

Women and False Teachers: Why Men Don’t Get It, and Why It’s Imperative That They Do

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

 

Being a good Berean is a skill many Christians aren’t aware of and don’t know they desperately need, but being a good student of God’s Word, and yielding your highest loyalty to Christ in what you believe, will grow you to greater Christlikeness and bring you joy, peace, and spiritual maturity.

Discernment

Discernment IS Love

I’m often accused of being “unloving” for writing in a direct or firm tone against false doctrine and other unbiblical issues in the church.

I received another such accusation recently on one of my older articles, “Nine Reasons Discerning Women Are Leaving Your Church“. I thought I’d share my response to the reader with you, because it seems there’s a misunderstanding among Christian women as to the biblical definition of love. It ain’t always “sugar and spice and everything nice” y’all…

“I don’t think you have a complete understanding of the biblical definition of love. You seem to think that “love” is restricted to always being sweet and nice to people. That’s not biblical.

–Was Jesus being unloving when He cleared the temple? (Matthew 21)
–Was Jesus being unloving when He rebuked the Pharisees? (Matthew 23)
–Was Jesus being unloving when He instructed us to disfellowship unrepentant sinners from the church? (Matthew 18:15-20)
–Was Paul being unloving when he turned Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan so they would learn not to blaspheme? (1 Timothy 1:19-20)
–Was Paul being unloving when he anathematized anyone who preaches a false gospel? (Galatians 1:6-9)
–Was Peter being unloving when he described false teachers in 2 Peter 2?
–Was Jude being unloving when he wrote to the brothers warning them about the evils of false teachers instead of writing about the gospel?

Am I being unloving in writing this article? No. Reproof, rebuke, and biblical instruction are all part of godly love. I am demonstrating love for Christ, His Bride, and His Word by pointing out biblical error that needs to be corrected. I am demonstrating love for ignorant pastors and churches by explaining to them why their most spiritually healthy members are leaving. I am demonstrating love for the thousands of doctrinally sound Christians out there who long to attend a healthy church and can’t find one because so many churches are in error in the areas I mentioned. And, I am demonstrating love for you by helping you understand what God’s definition of love is.

Is this article loving? You bet it is.”

Additional Resources:

I Can’t Sit Down, Shut Up, and Play Nice

Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Basic Training, Discernment

Basic Training: Being Berean- 8 Steps for Comparing Teaching to Scripture

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

How do you know if what your pastor, you Sunday School teacher, your favorite podcast preacher, or your favorite Christian author is teaching you matches up with what the Bible actually says?

Did you know that you’re supposed to examine what you hear and read by the measuring stick of Scripture and reject anything that conflicts with it? Or do you just take for granted that if someone is a pastor, teacher, or Christian celebrity, he must know what he’s talking about, and what you’re hearing or reading must be biblical Christianity?

If you didn’t know you need to examine what you’re being taught, or you’ve always just assumed that if someone calls herself a Christian teacher what she’s saying must be biblical, sadly, you are not alone. In fact, you are in the overwhelming majority of the visible church. I’ve been a faithful church member all my life and, to this day, in the churches I’ve attended, I’ve never heard a pastor or teacher proactively preach or teach this biblical concept. I was nearly forty when I “stumbled across” the concept of being a good Berean – through a para-church ministry.

What does it mean to be a Berean, or discerning, or to “test the spirits”?

The term “Berean” comes from a little story in Acts:

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
Acts 17:10-12

“Testing the spirits” comes from 1 John 4:1:

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.

Some Christians have an extra measure of discernment – “distinguishing between spirits” – as a spiritual gift:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;…to another [is given] the ability to distinguish between spirits,
1 Corinthians 12:4,10b

But all of these passages have the same foundational concept. All Christians are to believe what rightly handled, in context Scripture teaches, and reject whatever contradicts it. Although it is the responsibility of our pastors and church leaders to teach and lead us to distinguish between true and false doctrine, we are not to depend solely on others to “do discernment” for us. We need to learn how to be good Bereans ourselves.

How do we go about that?

1.
Accept the fact that false doctrine/false teachers exist.

I know that sounds uber basic, even for “Basic Training,”, but there are many professing Christians who reject the idea that a pastor, teacher, or Christian celebrity – especially their personal favorite – could be a false teacher. If someone has gotten a job as a pastor, has a seminary degree, has thousands of followers on social media, or has a major Christian retailer promoting her conferences and selling her materials, what that person is saying must be biblical. Accepting the fact that false doctrine (teachings that conflict with Scripture) and false teachers (people who teach false doctrine) exist is the first hurdle a Christian has to get over in order to ultimately be a good, obedient to Scripture, Berean.

False teachers and false doctrine have been around since the birth of the church. Don’t believe me? Take a stroll through the New Testament. You’ll find that every single book (except Philemon) deals with false teachers or false doctrine in some way. It’s a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments. To deny that false teachers and false doctrine exist is to call God – the author of Scripture – a liar.

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. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.
2 Peter 2:1-3a

2.
Understand why discernment is important.

As with many things in Christianity, there is a spectrum of false doctrine. Some doctrines are so integral to salvation that if you believe falsely about them, you are not a Christian (regardless of what you think, feel, or call yourself) and you will spend eternity in Hell.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Galatians 1:6-9

Some false doctrines aren’t integral to salvation, but will warp and hinder your relationship with Christ and stunt your Christian growth. As an example of this, I’ve often cited the false teaching that prayer is a “two-way conversation” (you talk to God and then He talks back to you). I was once a victim of this false teaching, and because I wasn’t hearing God speak to me I suffered all kinds of anxiety: wondering if I was truly saved, feverishly trying to dig out the hidden sin that must be there preventing me from hearing from God, lamenting my lack of faith that kept me separated from Him, and so forth.

But more important than the way false doctrine affects you or me personally is that God commands that we reject what conflicts with His written Word. Because God’s Word is objective truth, anything that stands in opposition to it is a lie. And Satan is the father of lies, even if the person telling those lies claims to be a Christian. To knowingly believe false doctrine is to reject God in favor of Satan. It is disobedience. It is calling God a liar. It robs God of the glory and honor due His name.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Romans 12:9

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. 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 12:16-17

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 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 11:12-15

3.
Submit to Christ and His Word as your authority in life.

If you have been genuinely regenerated, you are a new creature in Christ. You are no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to Christ. That means Christ is your Master. He gets to run your life and tell you what to do (including the command to reject false doctrine/teachers), not you, and you are under obligation to obey Him to the best of your Holy Spirit empowered ability. How do you find out what He wants you to do, believe, think, and say? He wrote it all down for you in the Bible. The Bible is Our Authority.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Romans 6:16-19

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3

4.
Be a student of the Word.

As obedient servants of Christ, we’re to be students of the Word by default. This is how we get to know Christ better and learn how to obey and emulate Him. But an awesome side effect of being good students of the Bible is that it makes being a good Berean who “examines the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so” much easier. If you’re studying God’s Word, memorizing God’s Word, meditating on God’s Word, praying God’s Word, and applying God’s Word to your life, it’s going to be there in your heart, at the ready, so that when you hear teaching you can do a quick mental comparison to the Scripture and know whether to accept or reject that teaching.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11

5.
Where does the Bible say that?
Does the Bible really say that?

These simple questions are two of the most important tools in your Berean toolbox. If you hear a pastor say, “God wants you to be wealthy!” or your favorite women’s Bible study author writes, “God told me ________.”, the question you should be asking is, “Where does the Bible – rightly handled, and in proper context – say that?”

Sometimes a pastor or teacher will read or quote a passage, verse, or part of a verse, (sometimes from a faulty translation or paraphrase of the Bible) and give an explanation of what it means. Again, your question should be similar: “Does the Bible – rightly handled and in context – really say that?”

If you don’t already have the appropriate passages “stored up in your heart”, grab your trustworthy translation of the Bible and a good concordance and start studying. Make sure to study the context of the verses you look up. Who was the original audience of this verse? Is this verse addressing Christians or Old Testament Israel or someone else? Is it a command, or a promise, or a simple description of something that happened in history? In other words, find out what the Bible properly says about the teaching you’ve just heard. If the teaching matches up with what the Bible teaches, do what those Bereans did – “receive it with all eagerness.” If it doesn’t, chuck it.

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.
2 Timothy 2:15

6.
Learn to discern.

Sometimes, when you’re learning a new skill, one of the best ways to get a feel for it is to watch an expert do it. I highly recommend listening to Chris Rosebrough’s podcast, Fighting for the Faith, if you’re new to this whole idea of comparing teaching to Scripture. At least until you feel confident in doing it yourself. A major portion of Chris’s program is playing the audio of various teachings and sermons and breaking in with thought-provoking biblical questions, comments, and Scriptures. You’ll learn how and when to ask, “Where does the Bible say that?” and “Does the Bible really say that?”, how to examine Scripture in context, and what some of the common false teachings of the day are.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Ephesians 4:11-14

7.
Sometimes false doctrine is an honest mistake.

It could be a mistake on your part (especially if you’re just starting to learn your Bible and about discernment). Maybe you weren’t careful to look at the context of the Scripture you’re examining. Maybe you misunderstood its meaning. Maybe you misunderstood what the pastor, teacher, or author said or meant.

It could also be a mistake on your pastor’s, Sunday School teacher’s, or other Christian leader’s part. People are human and make mistakes even when they don’t mean to. Maybe your pastor just flubbed his words in the sermon and didn’t say what he actually meant to say. Maybe your Sunday School teacher thinks she has a biblical understanding of baptism, or peace, or evangelism because that’s what she was taught in church growing up, and just doesn’t realize what she’s saying conflicts with Scripture.

Does the person you think has taught false doctrine generally have a track record of acting biblically and teaching sound doctrine? Go to him kindly, humbly, and politely, and ask for clarification with the appropriate Scriptures at the ready. Does he readily admit he messed up and align himself with Scripture? Teachability, humility, and eagerness to submit to Scripture are some of the hallmarks of a doctrinally sound teacher who made an isolated honest mistake. Someone who digs her heels in and clings to false doctrine despite correction – that’s a false teacher, not an innocent mistake (see #7 here).

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Acts 18:24-28

8.
Put your feelings aside and be objective.

You’ve weighed your favorite Bible study author’s teaching in the balance of Scripture and she’s been found wanting.

But you love her. You’ve been following her for years. You’ve gobbled up all her books and attended her conferences. You feel like you know her personally. Sadly, it’s at this point that many professing Christian women reject what Scripture says about their favorite teacher in favor of their emotional “bond” with her. Tragically, their bond with that teacher is stronger than their bond with Christ.

If your highest loyalty is to Christ, you won’t do that. You will cut off your right hand or gouge out your right eye to be true to Him and His teaching. The call to follow Christ is a call to die. Death to self, death to worldliness, death to relationships, even death to physical life sometimes.

Rejecting that false teacher might seem hard, but you must put your feelings for her aside and do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, not what is right in your own eyes. Anyone who loves someone else more than Christ is not worthy of Him.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

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. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37-38

Women and False Teachers: Why Men Don’t Get It, and Why It’s Imperative That They Do

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

 

Being a good Berean is a skill many Christians aren’t aware of and don’t know they desperately need, but being a good student of God’s Word, and yielding your highest loyalty to Christ in what you believe, will grow you to greater Christlikeness and bring you joy, peace, and spiritual maturity.

Christian women, Church, Discernment, Sanctification, Women

Throwback Thursday ~ Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Tone

Originally Published April 17, 2014

truth tone

Ladies, do you believe in woman’s intuition? Do you have it? I’m not talking about premonitions– having a feeling that some future event is going to take place- I mean intuition. Being able, for example, to sense from a friend’s tone of voice that she’s having a bad day, noticing from the body language of two people who are “just friends” that romance is brewing beneath the surface, or discerning the tension between two people who are seemingly cordial to one another.

wonder-woman-552109_1280Maybe men have this “super power” too, but I’ve noticed it more with women. I believe it might have something to do with the way God has hard wired us. Nothing against men here (y’all are awesome in your own masculine way), but we women generally tend to be more sensitive to and concerned about other people’s feelings, we listen “between the lines,” and we hear and analyze tone of voice more. It’s one of the great things about the way God has created us that helps us as we nurture, comfort, and care for others.

But lately, I’m noticing that this “super power” of ours can also be a super problem.

Our sensitivity to tone (of voice, of writing, someone’s demeanor, etc.) is a hindrance rather than a help to us when we refuse to evaluate the content of what someone is saying to us simply because their manner of speaking, writing, or behavior has offended our sensibilities. This is especially harmful when that content is biblical truth.

I have recently observed several instances of this, all involving women who, at best, found it difficult (with some outright refusing) to put aside their feelings of offense at the writer’s or speaker’s tone in order to compare the content of his speech or writing to Scripture to see if it might be true. (And, by the way, the speech and writing I’m referring to here are sermons, commentary, and articles, not someone writing or speaking to these women personally.) I can sympathize. It’s happened to me plenty of times.

Often, when we hear a fellow Christian put biblical truth bluntly in black and white and it rubs us the wrong way, our first reaction is to quote part of Ephesians 4:15 and chastise him for failing to “speak the truth in love.” But is that the only point of Ephesians 4? Let’s take a look at it in context:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (emphasis, mine)

When I was in elementary school, one of the reading comprehension tasks we were often assigned was to find the “main idea” of a piece of writing. So, what is the “main idea” of this passage in Ephesians 4? I’ll even make it multiple choice (my favorite!).

Is the main idea of the passage:

a) Teachers and preachers should speak the truth in love so that they will not offend anyone.

b) A discussion of the different types of leadership roles in the church.

c) Christian leaders are to equip church members to grow to spiritual maturity which builds spiritually healthy and unified churches.

While the passage touches on some of the ideas in a and b, the main point is c. We’re to grow up. We are to listen to preachers, teachers, and writers who rightly handle God’s word, even if we come across one every now and then who steps on our toes with his demeanor or tone. Look, I know it’s hard. There are people out there who offend me sometimes, too, but persevering through the offense will grow us into mature women of Christ and make our churches healthier.

Statistically speaking, more women regularly attend church these days than men. And when I say “more,” I mean 61% women to 39% men. Can you imagine the impact it would have on the health of our churches if all of those women were pursuing spiritual maturity through biblical truth and sound doctrine?

Instead, we are often like a little girl in a burning building. The fireman is vehemently insisting that the little girl come with him to escape, and she refuses to move because he hasn’t said it nicely enough.

Ladies, I say this to all of us (including me) in love, because true love is desiring what’s best for someone:

It’s time for us to grow up. It’s time to stop taking our dollies and stomping home from the playground in a huff every time somebody speaks or writes strenuously. It’s time to stop crying about our hurt feelings, put on our big girl panties and be women.

Discerning women. Berean women. Women of God’s word. Women who can handle having our feathers ruffled and come out on the other side stronger for it.

9283e86a7bd7185b880df318c7681846Too often, we make the mistake of equating a soft tone of voice and a sweet disposition with “love”.  But many of the people who speak with this kind of “love” are not speaking the truth. They are smooth talking, charismatic con men selling snake oil for our souls.

If we’re not careful, we can become people who “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4), or “weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6b-7), or even “children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say…“Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions,” (Isaiah 30:9-11).

We forget that our Master, the perfect embodiment of love, didn’t always speak softly and act politely when the gospel was at stake. Because there are things out there that are much more important than our feelings, and biblical truth is one of them.

New Testament, Sunday School

The Believin’ Bereans and the Thessalonian Thugs ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 11-30-14

bereans

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 48 ~ Nov. 23-29
Acts 15-19, Galatians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1Corinthians 1-4
The Believin’ Bereans and the Thessalonian Thugs

A large part of Acts is devoted to describing how Paul traveled around Asia and Europe preaching and planting churches. Today, we’re going to look at two places he went, Thessalonica and Berea, and their two very different responses to the gospel.

Acts 17:1-9- Thessalonica

Jews vs. Gentiles (1-2, Romans 1:16)
In the days of the early church, one of the apostles was known primarily as the apostle to the Jews, and one as the apostle to the Gentiles. Do you remember which was which? Peter preached mainly to the Jews, and Paul preached mainly to the Gentiles. But as we can see, there was some overlap for both of them.

When Paul arrived at a town with a synagogue (a local “mini-temple” in towns distant from Jerusalem) he started his preaching gig there– to the Jews. This mirrors what we studied back in October, when Jesus sent the disciples out to preach. First, the messiah was God’s promise to and through the Jews, so it was only right to give them “first dibs” on the gospel. Second, this was a period of rapid growth for the church, and converted Jews, with their background in the Old Testament could become competent teachers and preachers much more quickly than Gentiles who had no biblical training at all. Paul emphasizes this concept later in Romans 1:16:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The Substance of the Sermon (2-3)
In verses 2-3, what does Paul draw from to convince the people that Jesus is the Savior? Does he tell them about his phenomenal personal salvation experience on the road to Damascus? No. He “reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” (2) This is something that’s extremely important for us to grasp and remember as we share the gospel with others today.

The gospel isn’t true and necessary because we personally experience life change from it. The gospel is true and necessary because God says it is.

People can experience life change from Weight Watchers, or a near death experience, or Mormonism, or Buddhism. But the life change they experience doesn’t save them and doesn’t prove that these things are true. This is why, when we evangelize, Scripture should take center stage and personal experiences of how Christ has changed our lives should play a supporting role.

The Mixed Response (4-9)
The encouraging news of this passage is that some of the people Paul preached to heard the gospel and believed it. Sometimes, we are reluctant to share the gospel with people because we’re afraid they will reject it (or us), but we should always keep verse 4 in mind– what if they actually believe it?

The remaining five verses, however, describe the opposite response to the gospel. Now, keep in mind, Paul is preaching to Jews…in the synagogue…from their own Scriptures. These are “church people,” if you will. If anybody should have received with joy what Paul was saying, it was this audience. Instead, they rejected the plain teaching of Scripture and basically ran Paul and Silas out of town on a rail.

Though we don’t usually experience rejection to this extreme today, it is a good reminder to us that there are still unbelievers in the church who will reject the plain teaching of Scripture. And, if there are enough like-minded unbelievers in a particular church or denomination, they will run off pastors, teachers, and denominational leaders who stand firmly on Scripture, and will codify rebellion against Scripture into their core beliefs and policies. This is why we have “churches” today that have homosexual bishops, female pastors, accept evolution, etc. Faithful, active church membership does not automatically guarantee that a person is saved.

Acts 17:10-15- Berea

Second Verse, Same as the First (10)
Sometimes, God closes a door and opens a window. Sometimes He slams the door and throws us through the window. Regardless of His method, we end up in the yard with a new place to share the gospel, and that’s exactly what happened to Paul and Silas.

Again, they started out by preaching the gospel in the synagogue.

An Enthusiastic and Responsible Response (11-12)
It’s easy to see why Paul said that the Jews of Berea were more noble than those of Thessalonica. He had three reasons:

1. “They received the word with all eagerness.”
These Jews loved God’s word and were hungry for it. Hearing Scripture taught wasn’t a burden or a duty for them, it was a joy.

2. They were “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
These Jews had the godly wisdom to know that, if what Paul was preaching was truly from God, Scripture would back it up. They did not just gullibly take every thing Paul said at face value. They did their homework and dug into the Scriptures to make sure Paul wasn’t pulling a fast one on them.

In our day and age of so many false teachers permeating the media, it is imperative that we follow the example of the Bereans. Don’t listen to that TV preacher just because what he says sounds good to the ear. Don’t assume that Bible study you’re considering buying is true to Scripture just because it’s on the shelf at a Christian bookstore. Be a good Berean. Do the homework– it’s never been easier! Google the pastor or author and find out if he/she has a track record of proclaiming sound doctrine. Compare what you’re hearing or reading to Scripture (in context), and see if what you’re being taught is really what God’s word says.

3. “Many of them therefore believed” (Mark 1:14)
There’s nothing more noble than hearing the gospel and believing it. That’s exactly what Jesus said to do in Mark 1:14: “repent and believe in the gospel.”

The Rest of the Story (13-15)
I wanted to end the lesson with verse 12, because I’m a “happily ever after” kind of gal. But this is the Bible, not a Disney movie, and the reality is that wherever the gospel flourishes, Satan will be hot on its heels to attack.

The unbelieving Jews who had caused such a ruckus in Thessalonica heard what was going on in Berea, and they didn’t like it. So, they traipsed roughly 50 miles down the road (a trip which probably took 2+ days) and started causing the same kind of trouble in Berea. We can expect the same kind of results today. When we preach the gospel, we will often face opposition.

 

When we share the gospel, we can be encouraged and spurred on by the fact that sometimes people will believe it. At the same time, we must be prepared for the opposition Paul and Silas, and even Jesus faced. But, like them, we will eventually get our happy ending. Jesus promised:

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:11-12