We are spending a few weeks walking through the implications of 2 Peter 2. This chapter is a stern warning about the danger of false teachers. Peter is loving the church by sharing hard words. Sometimes the most loving thing a person can do is to warn and the most positive thing a person can do is be negative. Peter knows that false teachers have a bad end, but he also knows that those who are sucked in to their human centered and greedy theological ideas will experience the judgment reserved for them. We also live in a time where discernment in the church is lacking, and we have finger tip access to so much teaching and information. In the sermon this past week I shared some ideas for developing discernment, and I wanted to also pass this along to you in the blog.
• Develop humility, especially in your study of God – It is too easy to get a big head when studying theology. Some of the most arrogant people are those who have heads full of theological knowledge but are not pursuing humility and serving others from their theology. Often the quickest path to becoming a false teacher is to have great pride in one’s theological correctness. Humility helps us listen to other points of view an stay balanced.
• Remember the goal is repentance, so repent often – False teachers will often self-justify and declare their righteousness, but a person who is truly experiencing God will be quick to see their own depravity and will learn to focus on their own sin and not the sin of others. As Martin Luther stated at the beginning of the 95 Thesis, all of life is repentance. Any teaching that leads you away from a repentant heart is probably headed in the wrong direction.
• Be in community – God’s design is for theology to be formed in community. It is incredibly dangerous to be the sort of person who reads lots of big books and develops theology without the beauty of deep Christian community. Being in a Community Group is a great way to stay grounded and accountable. Most false teachers avoid deep community and replace it with a hierarchy where they are the center and a group revolves around them.
• Realize authority is a gift from God – The Bible teaches that authority is very important. Earthly authorities teach us what it is like to be under God’s authority, and our attitudes about authorities given by God are an indicator of how we follow the authority of Christ. For example, children are under the authority of parents, and kids who begin to believe they are smarter than their parents usually end up rebelling against God as well. God has given the church leaders, and those leaders include a plurality of elders. So every Christian should be under the authority of someone, and those authorities are God’s gift to us. Of course, sometimes that authority is abused, and there are good Biblical reasons for not following the authorities God has given. But God’s design is to have godly leaders in your life to help you when you struggle and call you out if you begin to drift from the faith.
• Immerse yourself in the Scriptures and good teaching – Nothing is more important for discernment than regular time with Christ in the Scriptures and a steady diet of Bible study. Beyond that, the internet, radio, and library provide a myriad great materials. Many of these are available with a click and download, great for working out in the morning or to redeem your drive. Here are a few suggested websites and resources.
Christian Research Journal – Magazine with great information about apologetics and information about false teachers
Bible Answer Man Broadcast – Daily radio program available on KSIV in St. Louis or online for download
Here’s an example of a question from the show:
• When you aren’t sure, ask – One of the simplest ways to avoid false teachers is to ask trusted teachers and leaders when you are uncertain. Several ways to do this.
- If you are buying a book check the back of the book – who endorses it? Are they trusted theological teachers and sources?
- Use websites such as Equip.org, typing the names of teachers or ideas in their search engiine
- Call one of the Elders
• Know the goal of all theological study is to make much of Jesus resulting in worship and rejoicing. If you are more in awe of the brilliance of the teacher or the ideas he or she shares than in Jesus and our amazing grace-filled salvation, that may be a clue that there is a problem. Think about these questions when considering the content of a teacher.
- Is the person you are listening to or reading talking about a me centered Gospel with the goal being your happiness and self-affirmation.
- Or is the person you are listening to or reading talking about a God centered Gospel with the goal being the glory of God and joy flowing from being satisfied in Christ.
These are a few ideas for developing discernment and growing in your ability to recognize truth and avoid false teachers. Which of these should you develop this week?