Lately I’ve been asked to counsel people on various different theories and teachings. These teachings have honestly been all over the map but they all have some common points. Most of these teachers are well versed in scripture. They can quote the Bible with the best of them. If one is not well grounded in scripture themselves and solid on what they believe they can be easily swayed from one extreme to another. With so many teachings that are sometimes in direct opposition to each other the question is often asked, how can I know which teaching is right?
The Battle is between Human Reasoning and Spiritual Leading
The war is won through the battle between flesh and Spirit. God must reign in us and through us. Only then can we have a right understanding of scripture. Like 1 Cor. 2:14 tells us, spiritual things are spiritually discerned. The flesh, man’s natural reasoning, cannot understand the things of God. Jesus himself taught this to Nicodemus in John 3:11-12 when he stated, “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”
We can make the mistake of thinking that I can reason things out to find out which one makes the most sense. Then, I can decide which one is right. While it is certainly true that God has given us a mind in order to reason with, at the same time, we need to be cautious when leading primarily with what makes sense to us. Our reasoning comes from our own human flesh. There is nothing supernatural about our reasoning. It dwells in every human being whether saved or not whether indwelt by the Spirit of God or not. Reasoning is certainly one step we must take but we should not stop there.
We also need to seek what the Holy Spirit is saying. Mankind is a being made of three parts, body, soul and spirit (see 1 Thess. 5:23) The Bible also makes it clear that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, he comes to live inside of us. (Rev. 3:20; Rom. 8:9) Since He lives inside of us, doesn’t it make sense that He should be consulted? The Holy Spirit can speak to our spirits that can then be perceived by our brains. How do you think that the Bible writers of old were able to write the books of the Bible? It was certainly as they were moved by the Holy Spirit as described in 2 Peter 1:21, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus himself taught us that when he sent us the Holy Spirit it would be the Holy Spirit who would teach us all things. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:26 In 1 Corinthians 2:13 Paul tells us that he is teaching by the Holy Spirit, “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” As we saw above, spiritual things can only be understood by people who are led by the Holy Spirit.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jesus’ day all had deep knowledge of the word of God but were they able to understand Jesus’ teaching? No. Many times they were left without understanding because they were not being led and taught by the Holy Spirit but by their own limited human reasoning.
In 2 Cor. 4:4 Paul specifically states that unbelievers are blinded by Satan. “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.” Matthew 7:21-23 tells us that unbelievers can include people who think they are believers. ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? ’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I’ve been exposed lately the a number of different teachers who sound very compelling. Many things they teach are even true. Unfortunately, the foundation of what they teach is certainly false and as a result, all of their teachings end up misleading others. I’m naturally a conspiracy theorist. I’m drawn to the latest crazy theory. God has made it clear to me though in the last couple of years that it isn’t knowledge of prophecy that His people are lacking or even a knowledge of the law as much as a lack of knowledge of Him and a lack of a relationship with Him.
Like the Pharisees of old, these teachers have a deep understanding of God’s word without knowing God Himself. Without having an encounter with Him. Missing this they miss everything!
“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:10-11
It isn’t good enough to have a knowledge of what will happen at the end of time. We must be surrendered to God’s will in us. We must learn how to die to ourselves and allow Christ to live in us. That is where the real battle must be fought. We must be willing to accept that we are only foot soldiers in this war, we aren’t the general. Christ is the general. He is the King. He is God. We must learn that when he says ‘Jump!’ we must say ‘How high?’
We must test everything by the word of God AND by the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.
Ask yourself the following things when you encounter new bible teaching.
- Does this new truth magnify God’s love and make me understand and better appreciate His love?
- Is the focus on what God does through me? If the focus is on what I do for God, the focus is almost certainly wrong. God does the redeeming, God does the perfecting, God is even the one who gives us the will and desire to follow Him. (Phil 2:13)
- Does the teaching lead me to respect authority or to criticize it? John 3:17 tells us that Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. A spirit of criticism comes from Satan, not God.
- Does the teaching depend on my own intelligence and ability to reason and understand? This one is subtle error. Of course God wants us to understand but He is the one who brings understanding. A child can be just as much saved as an adult. It isn’t the most intelligent who will make it to heaven, it is those who believe and trust God and His Word.
What do you think? Have I missed any marks of false teachings?