Yet Scripture commands Christians to test the spirits to see if they’re from God. If we fail at this testing, the consequences are much more serious than flunking a class. The consequences are eternal.
False teachers are everywhere—television, radio, internet, books, movies. Even in Sunday School classes and pulpits. Everyone wants our ear, but not everyone should get it.
How can we discern who’s teaching truth and who’s spouting lies?Here are three questions to help us decide:
- What’s being said about Jesus? Lying spirits hate Jesus. If a speaker or writer professing to teach Biblical truth either ignores Christ or lies about Him, we must reject that teacher. I don’t mean we should nitpick every word that comes out of our pastor’s mouth. I mean we can’t listen to anyone who denies the basics of the Gospel—that Jesus is God who became man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, rose again, ascended into Heaven, and is coming back one day.
- Does the world love it? Popularity doesn’t equal truth. In fact, if the world loves something/someone, Christians should beware. By nature, the world loves what is worldly and hates what is from God. Remember, labels can be deceiving. Just because somebody labels a book or movie “faith-based” doesn’t make it Christ-exalting. I’m certainly not saying every “inspirational” book that makes The New York Times Best Seller list is teaching lies. I’m just saying we can’t embrace it without careful testing because not everything labeled “faith-based” is based on faith in the right Person.
- Is it Biblical? This question doesn’t allow laziness. We can’t simply point to a tacked-on Bible verse and call a teaching good. We have to ask if Scripture is being correctly interpreted. We have to watch for verses taken out of context. If the way a verse is used doesn’t fit with what the rest of the Bible teaches, it’s not being used correctly. In order to recognize whether a teaching is Biblical, we have to know what the Bible actually says. When we have trouble understanding passages, we can seek help from trusted Christians, read reputable commentaries, and check time-honored catechisms, creeds, or confessions. We should always pray for God’s help in discerning the truth.
How should we proceed when someone’s teaching fails the test? If the source is a book/movie/blog/radio program, etc., we can’t allow it in our homes, no matter how popular it is with our friends or family. If the false teaching comes from a teacher in our church, we should go to that person and respectfully present our concerns. Maybe we misunderstood what he/she said. Maybe the person will correct his/her false understanding. If the person refuses, we must bring the issue before other church leaders. If that doesn’t work, we must seek a different church–one where the truth is proclaimed.
Above all, we can’t give up. Even if we get it wrong sometimes, we’re commanded to test the spirits. We must use the tools God has provided…and get testing.
We see the empty-eyed girl struggling to care for her baby. The boy bullying his classmates. The delinquent shooting up on the corner. We see and lament. But how can we stop the downward spiral of the next generation?
Following are five ways we can help:
Parent—Several godly men in the Bible raised ungodly children (Eli, Samuel, David), men who led God’s people and yet failed to parent their own children. As parents, we must not fail to train up our children. Recently, my husband and I took our kids to an inflatable activities center. All around signs stated the rule, “Socks are required,” but we repeatedly heard parents tell their children to take off their socks so they could climb more easily. As parents, we must not train our children to disregard rules. We must encourage obedience. We must teach them to bow to God’s ultimate authority.
Grandparent—Scripture gives examples of good grandparents (Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, who taught him about God) and bad grandparents (Athaliah, who killed her grandchildren to seize the throne). Not long ago, I heard a grandmother tell her grandkids after their dad had told them not to do something, “Don’t listen to your dad. He did that all the time when he was a kid.” She was training her grandchildren to disregard parental authority, undermining their souls in a way just as deadly as Athaliah’s murder of her grandchildren. We must be God-fearing grandparents like Lois, who seek to instill a love for God in our grandchildren.
Volunteer—We must seek opportunities to impact children and teens for good. We might teach a class, chaperone a youth event, coach T-ball, tutor at the library, anything to build relationships with a generation in desperate need of godly role models. Not long ago, some friends of ours opened their home to a teen from the projects, a kid struggling to break free from the sin patterns of his past and live his newfound faith. Maybe we can’t all take in the strugglers, but we must take opportunities to befriend such young people for the sake of the gospel.
Notice—Sometimes helping simply means noticing individuals. We should learn the names of the youth, listen to the children, offer a friendly smile. Once at a church dinner, I watched a teenager and her toddler join the end of the long line. I invited her up front where I was helping my children with their plates. I soon realized her two-year-old was carrying his own plate while she tried to fill her plate and his. I wondered, “What would it mean to her, a girl who has known only use and abuse from men, if a man helped her, not because he wanted anything from her, but to serve her for Christ’s sake?”
Pray—We must pray for the next generation. If we as Christians, through prayer and action, show the love of Christ to the young people we know, maybe God won’t say about us what He said about the Israelites of Judges 2, “another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” Instead, God may do what He has so often done in the past: show mercy to the next generation.