There has been a lot of conversations about lies as compared to the truth over this past year. It is so difficult to work our way through all of the chaos and confusion. But do you know this has been going on for years? We just didn’t realize it.
It has been especially prevalent in the church over the past 50 or more years, where we have seen lies bound into the church (often splitting churches and causing genuine Christians to leave and start another church) or slither in so subtly they go completely unnoticed by almost all.
So two people asked me the same question last night: How do I know if the sermon or commentary or book I am reading is telling me the truth?
I answered off the top of my head then but have been giving it more thought since that time. It is a great question and some of you may have wondered this, as well. I thought maybe I’d try to tackle that question here this morning.
So you are reading a Study Bible or a commentary on a passage and you wonder: Is this guy interpreting this passage correctly? Or perhaps you are listening to a sermon and you think: Is this what the Bible is actually teaching here?
What are some steps you can take to make sure you aren’t deceived? There are a few important things you can do. Let’s take a look at them–
1. Pray for discernment. It is important that we are diligent in asking for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the Bible. Many have been the times I have heard something and it just didn’t “sit right” with me. This caused me to start digging deeper and finding out if that person was right or not. I’ve head many people share that they’ve had the same thing happen to them. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs in our lives is to help us understand and interpret the Word rightly (John 14:26) and He does faithfully do this.
2. Recognize that we can understand a lot of the Bible without help. God has designed His Word to be understood by the average lay person. Think about how many things are clear in the Bible when you just sit down to study it without helps. Sure, there are some things that are a bit confusing or hard to understand, but the majority of the Bible is pretty understandable overall. As we become more familiar with its theme, its context, and its content, dedicating ourselves to reading and studying the actual Bible, we will be able to spot things that are off much more quickly.
3. Value the truth of God’s Word and be willing to pay whatever it costs to follow it. If I have seen one thing that has caused people to stumble or even turn away from genuine Christianity, it is this. The loyalty to men runs deep and when someone is confronted with a favorite teacher who is teaching a false doctrine, they will often choose the teacher over the Bible. Or perhaps they are confronted with the truth that genuine Christianity requires sacrifice and self-denial. They don’t like that truth and so they go towards the false Christianity that promises health and wealth. The bottom line is that if we are not willing to follow the truth of God’s Word–no matter the cost–we will open ourselves up to being deceived. We must value the truth of God’s Word above all else as we grow as believers.
4. As you start studying the Word, you will start to become familiar with those you can trust. Many men who have died aren’t changing their messages, so I often start there. While I may not agree with everything, I do know I can trust them regarding the main doctrines of the faith. Men like Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J.C. Ryle, and many of the Puritans have so much to offer when it comes to the topics of salvation and sanctification. (I want to note here that many of these men followed the wrong eschatology of reformed theology. Augustine developed the idea of Replacement Theology out of his own hatred for the Jews and their doctrines and this wrong doctrine has been followed by so many since. But since many of these men have been alive, things have progressed and been made so much clearer in regards to a literal Revelation that I do wonder if some of them would be changing their minds about now…)
5. Ask someone you trust if you have a question about something you have read or heard. Now before you ask, do make sure this person is committed 100% to the truth of God’s Word over pleasing men. Make sure they will tell you the truth in answer to your question. There are many people out there who aren’t willing to do this because they don’t want to lose you as a friend or offend you. You want to find someone who is willing to tell you the truth, no matter the cost. If you have someone like this in your life, you are beyond blessed. Ask them your questions and be willing to hear their answers.
6. Research the person in question. Oftentimes when I have a question about something I have heard or read, it will be answered if I dig a little deeper into the person who said/wrote it. If people are seriously in error in one area, they are probably seriously wrong in others.
7. Look at the speaker/author’s friends. Psalm 1 says that a righteous man will not hang out with the ungodly. Romans 16:17 tells us we are to avoid those who teach things contrary to pure doctrine. If the person you are listening to or reading spends his time, unapologetically, with false teachers or proudly declares his connections with the unsaved (for instance, in his/her efforts to better this world), beware. This is a HUGE red flag. Mark and avoid any teacher that does this. The Bible makes it clear that this means the teacher is compromised.
8. Have much grace and a humble spirit when there are minor differences. We will never agree whole-heartedly with anyone on everything. This is just life. We can’t be so over-zealous that we turn away from someone simply because of a minor disagreement about a passage. And we must humbly recognize that we aren’t right about everything, either. No one is. So, in the little things, we have grace and humility, striving for unity among true believers. Oh, how many churches have been destroyed over minor disagreements.
9. Recognize that Satan wants to deceive you. We are told that he is like a roaring lion, who seeks to devour (I Peter 5:8) and that he often presents himself as an angel of light, as do his workers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Unless we are aware of Satan’s dedication to putting us off-course, we will be vulnerable in our naivete and ignorance. We must be aware of the spiritual battle that is raging for our souls. Satan would like nothing more than for us to be rendered ineffective for Christ and His Kingdom through deception and distraction.
I hope this has been helpful. It is certainly not exhaustive and I’m sure I will think of other things as soon as I post this (that is usually what happens!) If you have other suggestions that have helped you, I would love to read them in the comments section.
Life continues to get crazier and truth is costing more and more. Both biblically, as well as in the real, everyday world. Many are not willing to pay the price.
But if we are to keep ourselves walking in the truth, we must dedicate ourselves to it. No matter the cost. We must submit ourselves to God and His Word (even if we don’t like what it says), and, when we do, God will honor this desire. He will keep us and guard us from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3; James 4:7).
So stay strong and value truth, my friends. In this time of great deception, ask the Lord to protect you. He is so faithful and He will!