“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.” Matthew 7:15During this time of social distancing, so many of us have been engaging with preachers and teachers online in ways we have never considered before. But have we considered the importance of employing good discernment as we do this?
As much as there are fantastic resources and wonderful gospel teachings available right now — there is also available an abundance of bad teaching and heresy. It is vital that Christians very carefully consider what they consume and what they share. It is vital that Christians point their brothers and sisters in Christ and their unsaved friends, family and neighbours to resources that proclaim the truth.
Here are a few guidelines you can use as you consider whether or not a particular teacher is suitable for you to listen to and share or disregard and denounce.
Does the sermon expound scripture? Is the sermon an exposition of the text, explaining it’s meaning and applying it to the Christian life? Just because a teacher or preacher opens their Bible doesn’t mean they are adequately preaching the Word. If they are simply using the text as window dressing to prop up their ideas — a red flag should go up in your mind. So often a preacher will simply read a few passages and then move on with their narrative. Proper exposition will walk through the text and proclaim each part in clarity. If the preacher never opens their bible — flee from their teaching.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17The Meat
Does the teacher proclaim the gospel? Is it made clear what it means to be a Christian or how to follow Jesus? What I don’t mean is that they must have an altar call and big appeal to conversion. The message of Jesus is applicable to every day of the Christian life and the reality of it needs to be included in every message.
“Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.” ~ Charles SpurgeonThe Face
The preaching of God’s Word should be primarily about the text of God’s Word. Sometimes application can and should be made to current events, when the text demands it and the circumstances warrant it. I have unfortunately seen a number of “sermons” making the rounds on social media of late that are anything but; they are overly conspiratorial and political and qualify only as speeches, not sermons or biblical teaching. If the primary thrust of the sermon is rooted in opinion and void of Scriptural truth you should pause, evaluate and check for meat and bones. The central figure to the message should always be God.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” 1 Corinthians 10:31The Feet
But what if there is some truth we can glean from any teacher? All I can say is this, a drop of poison in the cup still kills the one who drinks it. Either a teacher is trustworthy and submitted to scripture or they are not. There are so many false teachers that use just a drop of truth, or who sound trustworthy at first - for this reason we must exercise wisdom and faith. I would suggest you ask your own pastor to help you in discerning if the teachers you are engaging with are suitable and appropriate. Once you determine if a teacher is a false teacher or not be engaged in denouncing those who are false.
“Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11The Eyes
Scripture gives us guidance for recognizing and false teachers and heretics, and it gives us commands to avoid and denounce these. We are disobedient and at risk when we cease to employ biblical discernment. Christian Grace doesn’t tolerate those who lie about our Magnificent God for the sake of social politeness. We can, and should, be kind and polite, but we should never tolerate or consume the teaching of those who are preaching another gospel.
“If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarreling, slander, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement among people whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5As you spend time at home, away from your Church family, enjoy wonderful teaching online and in books. But as you do, God has commanded you to be wise.