Be like the Bereans (Acts17:11) who were commended for checking the scriptures to confirm what the great Apostle Paul taught them. If you do this when you are being taught by others, then it will deepen your own understanding, help protect you from error and significantly grow your own personal relationship with God. It is important to be discerning which means to work out what is true and what is not true because simply put, you do not want to be led astray.
11 Now the Berean 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.
Be purposeful in understanding scripture
The Berean’s will have established a deeper faith because they discovered for themselves that what Paul told them was true. The Berean Jews did have an advantage in already being familiar with the scriptures, but it illustrates the importance of knowing the Word for yourself.
This also reflects the fact that God wants a relationship with you not through someone else to you. Therefore it is good to be purposeful about learning God’s truths by reading the Word and seeking out resources to help in your understanding. Make it a lifelong personal project.
Keep reviewing what you know against your growing understanding of God’s Word in case you need to unlearn something.
False prophets and teachers
Scripture tells us there will be false prophets and teachers and by seeking out the truth in the Word for yourself, you will more likely recognise them.
2 Peter 2:1
1 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.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. [4 times in Matthew 24 Jesus warns of deception during the “end times” or “latter days”.]
You are not likely to be deceived by a non-Christian belief from another religion. The reality is that you will hear some “Christian” preachers teaching a mixture of that which is the truth with that which is not. There may be enough truth to mask that which is not.
Some examples of the false
- Be careful of a “preacher” who says they have visibly seen Christ. If Christ has revealed Himself physically or in a vision to someone, there will be a reason and a radical change in their life. God does everything for a purpose. There are only three people in the NT who saw the post-resurrection Christ: Stephen, a faithful servant who was being stoned. (Acts 7) Paul who was blinded and then saved from the experience (Acts 9) and John who fell as though dead (Revelation 1). Matthew 24:23-25.
- Never send money to a “preacher” who offers to bless and pray for you in return or guarantees you a happy and prosperous life if you do. Our loving God of grace is not interested in you buying your blessing or healing and so you may be disappointed for our true rewards are in heaven. Luke 6:23, 35; 1 Corinthians 3:14. Rather give out of a giving heart of grace. 2 Corinthians 8:7
- If someone is reporting regular “conversations with God”, and is writing books with this content, then they are actually saying that they are hearing the equivalent of scripture (God’s Word) like the prophets of the Bible. There will be a mixture of truth and deception out of their own imaginations and will lead down a very dangerous path. Revelation 22:18-19, Proverbs 30:5-6
- Be careful of some of the Christian movies such as those about “heavenly tourism” where people go to heaven and talk with people who had previously died. No one in scripture who died and was resurrected reported what they saw in heaven. No one in scripture met any person (human) who had died with the exception of apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration and King Saul who broke the law of God in doing so. Any glimpse of heaven in the Bible is a glimpse of the glory of God and not focused on the individual. The challenge is that movies are so visual that we can give them higher validity than scripture. Alex Malarkey from one of these movies later confessed he and his father made up their story.
There are endless examples. Deception leads to disillusion, loss of faith, wrong beliefs or wrong actions. It needs discernment to differentiate between the truth and the lies. Be responsible for your own faith and base it solidly on God and His Word.
5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6 Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
What you believe can affect your eternity and it is too important to delegate to someone else no matter what their title.
- Be connected to a fellowship where the Word of God is seen as the final authority
- Understand that the Word of God takes precedence over experiences and feelings.
- When listening to a message or reading a book, look up scriptures for yourself and check the context of the surrounding verses.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart, to point to what is true and raise concerns about what is not.
- Realise that no one has all the truth, so seek out a range of Bible teachers to help you understand the Word of God.