Identifying False Teaching

20 Jun

One of the important aspects of growing spiritually is not only knowing who to listen to, but also who not to. In our day, this can be difficult as we have access to so many different voices from all over the world. In fact, someone asked me recently, how they can identify false teaching when it comes from an international source and when their doctrinal statement appears on the surface to look fairly good.

Obviously, this is a very good and important question!

It is also part of why it is important to be part of a biblical local church because one way to identify false teachers is to ask the leaders God’s given you whether or not someone is a false teacher. This is part of their job. (Titus 1:9,10) But, of course beyond that, we all have a responsibility to be discerning. And with so much coming at us all the time on the internet, it can be challenging.

Here are a couple suggestions:

First, doctrine. What do they teach? Specifically, about the person of Christ, the nature of salvation, the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. You might also listen to see if their message seems to center on man or on the glory of God? (Colossians 2:6-8)

Second, authority. Where do they get their message from? Is it from themselves and experiences they had or is it clearly from the Word of God. It’s not enough to ask, do they quote Bible verses. But do they accurately explain the meaning of the Scriptures? (Colossians 2:18ff)

Third, focus. What do they talk most about? Do they seem to talk most about you and how you can have a great life or do they talk most about Jesus and what He has done? Also, do they major on the major things of Scripture? Or do they shout where God whispers? (Colossians 2:16,20)

Fourth, character. Are they known for godliness? This is obviously hard when you are listening to someone internationally. But it seems in Scripture like false teaching is often connected to the love of money and pride, so I would be especially wary of those kinds of things. In terms of pride, it sometimes help to look at what they are promoting in terms of themselves. For example, does it seem like they think you should listen to them because they have a big church? Or because they are accurately teaching the Scripture? Who do you walk away impressed by, them or Jesus? (1 Timothy 6:4,5; Titus 1:11)

Fifth, associations. Who recommends them and who do they recommend? There are men who are known to be godly and trustworthy when it comes to teaching the Scripture and then there are men who are known for the opposite. If someone is highly recommended by people that are known for being ungodly or false teachers, then I would especially be cautious when listening to them.

Sixth, results. What kind of people is their preaching producing? Obviously, there are people who are not listening or are stubbornly holding on to their sin in every church, but in general, is God using their preaching over time to help people become more serious about godliness or the opposite?

I am sure, there’s more to be said, but at least this is a start. Besides looking at the person teaching however, we should also make sure we look at ourselves. Itching ears look for people to itch them. In other words, if my ears aren’t itching, I am more likely not to fall for false teaching. One way to guard against false teaching is to pursue a humble, deep, daily walk with Jesus that is focused on glorifying and enjoying Him above everything else alongside of other believers doing the same who will give input into your life and who will speak up when you are beginning to wander away from the truth.

Four things you must know

14 Jun

Here are four things you must know and you must help the people you are discipling know:

“1. Know the Gospel itself (stay focused on Jesus)

2. Know how you came to believe the Gospel

3. Know the benefits of believing the Gospel (gospel doctrines)

4. Live a life that flows from the Gospel (gospel obedience.)”

Stephen Smallman

Judgment on the Son

12 Jun

Quote 22 May

They that know God will be humble, they that know themselves cannot be proud.

John Flavel

The humble person is like a little child…

21 May

“The first and worst cause of errors that abound in our day and age is spiritual pride.

This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christ. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit to darken the mind and mislead the judgement.

Pride is the main handle by which he has hold of Christian persons and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces to clog and hinder a work of God. Spiritual pride is the main spring or at least the main support of all other errors. Until this disease is cured, medicines are applied in vain to heal all other diseases.

It is by spiritual pride that the mind defends and justifies itself in other errors and defends itself against light by which it might be corrected and reclaimed. The spiritually proud man thinks he is full of light already and feels that he does not need instruction, so he is ready to ignore the offer of it.

On the other hand, the humble person is like a little child who easily receives instruction. He is cautious in his estimate of himself, sensitive as to how liable he is to go astray. If it is suggested to him that he is going astray, he is most ready to check into the matter.

Nothing sets a Christian so much out of the devil s reach than humility and so prepares the mind for divine light without darkness. Humility clears the eye to look at things as they truly are. Psalm 25:9—He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.

If spiritual pride is healed, other things are easily corrected. Our first care should be to correct the heart and pull the beam of pride out of our eye and then we shall see clearly.”

Jonathan Edwards

How to change, part fifteen

16 May

The way God has changed believers should change believers.

After reminding us in Colossians 3:1 of the fact we have been raised with Christ, Paul goes on to show how that new reality should produce a completely different mentality.

Verse 1.

Again.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are earth.”

Which are commands.

Seek the things that are above and set your minds on things that are above.

And I probably should stress the fact that they are commands, because it means, obviously, as Christians you are supposed to do something. I know some of us are concerned about legalism, and because we are concerned about legalism, we are concerned anytime someone tells us to do something, we’re like, that’s legalism, but that’s not legalism, just telling someone to do something is not legalism, because Paul tells us to do something.

He tells us to seek the things that are above and set our minds on the things that are above, which are you know, I think, ground level kind of commands, when it comes to living out the Christian life. In other words, when I am talking to you about the specifics of the Christian life, like say marriage or saying no to lust or whatever, there are some specific commands I might give you, like love your wife or something, but those specific commands won’t make sense, unless you are committed to obeying the commands Paul’s giving here.

Because, the first one, seeking the things that are above, really has to do with an orientation or a direction you are facing.

 There’s an obvious contrast that Paul’s making.

 Where there are people who are spending their lives seeking the things here on earth, that’s the direction they are facing, their life is here, on earth, that’s all they’ve got, so they are busy pursuing earthly kinds of things with all they’ve got. As Christians, we’ve been united with Christ, and so the direction we’re facing is, you know heaven, which means, what matters there, is what should matters here, and we should be busy pursuing the things that are above with all we’ve got.

And I don’t know if you have ever been talking to someone who says they are a Christian, and maybe they are, but as you are talking to them, you are realizing, it’s like we are speaking a different language almost, because while they know words like Jesus and grace, it’s clear that’s not what’s heavy with them, and, it seems like it is the temporary stuff, that matters the most.

And.

This is important, because say they are having some problems and they want some specific help, like my wife is bothering me or I am having problems at work, what should I do, and you know, it’s going to be very hard for them to actually change and deal with those specific problems in a God-honoring way, until they get the bigger issue settled first, which is the direction they are facing.

Because they are busy seeking the things that are on earth, when they should be busy pursuing the things that are above.

Now you might say, I guess, what does that mean exactly, the things that are above?

And in Colossians, the first thing it means, might actually surprise you, it means not submitting to legalistic rules about religion and rituals that aren’t centered in Jesus Christ.

You remember verse 20?

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations, ‘do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.’”

Which is I think surprising because when we think worldly, earthly, we don’t usually think about religion and religious activity, but Paul’s saying there is a lot of religious activity that is just all about the temporary, and the first thing you need to do if you are going to seek the things that are above, is stop wasting your time with religious activity that is all about the now.

Secondly though, it’s not just the wrong kind of religious activity, and we are going to see this more next time, seeking the things that are above, means saying no to, turning from the sinful desires that are still in us.

Which is where Paul heads down in verse 5.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

 And honestly, finally, probably the main thing Paul means by the things that are above, is more positively, just very simply, the stuff that matters most to Jesus.

If you are going to mature spiritually, if you are going to change, one of the very first things you need to do, and you need to keep doing, is making sure on a day to day basis that Jesus main priorities in this world, are your main priorities as well.

And if you are wondering, how exactly do I do that, I think Paul’s second command is the place you should start.

When he says,

“Set your minds on the things that are above.”

In other words, the place to begin is with your thinking.

What do you think about when you don’t have to think about anything?

That right there is a very important question, because what you think about, has such a profound impact on your spiritual condition.

 You’ll start seeking the things above, when you are thinking about the things above.

In fact, Paul puts it like this over in Romans 8:5 and 6.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

And he’s saying, one of the big differences between a person who is a Christian and one who is not, is what he sets his mind upon. If we are always thinking only about earthly things, and remember there is even a kind of earthly religion, it’s all about the now, if this is our basic mind-set, we are probably not Christians, and yet, of course, even as Christians, we can sometimes slip back into setting our minds on the flesh, which is why Paul has to remind us here, in Colossians, that’s not who we are anymore, Christ is our life, so we need to be thinking about what matters to Him most.

Like for example, specifically, heaven, or eternity. Thinking about the things above, means thinking about heaven and eternity.

Listen to how Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4:18.

And this is when he’s suffering. He actually says his outer self is wasting away, so his body, is dying, and yet, in spite of that, he’s not becoming discouraged, the opposite, he says his inner man is being strengthened, and the reason why, is because he’s thinking about eternity.

He writes,

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

And obviously, there are lots of things to think about when it comes to heaven, but the primary thing you want to be thinking about is Jesus, Himself. Setting on your minds on things that are above, means at the very least, setting your mind on Jesus.

 If we want to grow and change, we need to learn to think a lot about Jesus.

It’s funny, you can talk to people for a long time about the problems in their life, and it can sometimes seem so complicated, you know what I mean, you are like oh man, this is too much, and yet, at the same time so many of the problems we have spiritually, come down to something very simple, and that’s the fact, that we are not really on a regular basis, thinking about and delighting in and enjoying Jesus.

In fact, I heard someone put it like this recently, they said we are always in the process of becoming like what we most adore, which is how we work as humans, what we admire is what we become, and that’s certainly how we work as Christians.

Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18.

He writes,

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Beholding, is looking, and it’s an ongoing kind of word here, it’s not something we do once, but something we are continually doing, and Paul is saying, with unveiled face, and he’s been talking about the Israelites in the Old Testament who it’s like they had a veil over their faces as they read the Bible, but in the gospel, he says, that veil’s been lifted so we can more clearly see Jesus, and as we are continually looking at Jesus, thinking about Him, worshiping Him as He’s revealed in the Scriptures, something happens, we are being transformed, and that’s a process as well, it doesn’t happen all at once, but as we keep looking, God keeps transforming us, into the same image, meaning he makes us more and more like Jesus, from one degree of glory to another, we keep increasing,  moving on spiritually, becoming more and more beautiful, the way Jesus is.

Which is just the basic principle, Paul’s highlighting about the Christian life, even back here in Colossians. He’s giving us some foundational ideas for how this Christian life is supposed to work,  and he begins with this new reality, we are in Christ, and shows how that has produce a different mentality, Christ is our life, which at the very least means, we should think about Christ.

And I need to ask you.

Very specifically.

And I am asking you, don’t think about your neighbor, don’t think I am talking to someone else, I am asking you, do you on a daily basis, think about what the Bible tells you about Jesus, and try to see how great He is and enjoy Him as a result?

Because that’s how the Spirit of God changes us.

In so many ways, that’s what Christian living is actually about, and if you are doing that, you will be changed, I guarantee it.

The Spirit transforms you, we saw in Paul.

And you know what, I John 3, verse 2 and 3. You are going to work at purifying yourself.

It’s a beautiful balance.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Which is our hope, in other words, that’s what we long for, that we are going to see Jesus, and what does that hope of seeing Jesus, do?

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Which is why I am asking, in this whole big series about change, whether or not you are setting your mind on the things above, because before you’ll ever grow in your obedience to specific commands you find in the Bible, you’ll need to be committed to obeying this command, to seek the things are above, by thinking about and enjoying Jesus.

Watch out!

9 May

“According to the New Testament, greed qualifies as one of the most serious of sins. The earliest Christians were told not just to avoid greed, but to watch out for it (Luke 12:15), to flee from it (1 Tim 6:10-11) or to kill it (Col 3:5). Greed is described in most unflattering terms. It is “a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim 6:10), one of the twelve things which come out of individuals and defile them (Mark 7:20-22), and evidence of a darkened understanding or a depraved mind (Eph 4:18-19; Rom 1:28-29). Worst of all, greed is said to be a form of idolatry. Jesus went so far as to tell a parable which is directed specifically against greed, in which God chastises the protagonist with the word, “Fool!” (Luke 12:16-20). Furthermore, greed is thought to lead to other sins, including theft, pride and sexual immorality.”

Brian Rosner