False = False
Fake News! Fake News everywhere. All we hear about is Fake News. Well, there's plenty to go around, especially when it comes to religious doctrine.
We are warned repeatedly to be on our guard for "false teachers", "false prophets", and "antichrists" (Luke 6:26, Matt 24:24, 16:11-12, 2 Tim 4:3-4, Acts 20:28-30, 2 Peter 3:14-18, 1 John 4:1-6, Matthew 7:15-20, 2 Peter 1:12-21, Titus 1:6-16, 2 Peter 2, Matt 23:1-19, Eph 4:4, 1 Tim 6:3, ) These are just a few of the total number of passages that warn us.
Christ's warnings would basically be worthless though if we were not able to recognize false teachers. So let's discuss just a moment, how we recognize them.
False teachING comes from false teachERS. Today, Satan's servants are eager to spread His lies, some with a clear conscience. We must realize, there are impostors out there, parading around as servants of God, and we must be on our guard, recognizing them, and avoiding them. 2 Timothy 4:3 says people will gather around themselves a great number of 'teachers', to tell them what they want to hear. Some people are chomping at the bit to be those teachers, and others are eager to listen.
It's easy to spot those in our society that want freedom from religion. But those who want something in the name of religion are not that brazen, and we must have our eyes wide open to see the subtle ways they operate with religion as their disguise. We hear their message, "You're OK, I'm OK, We're All OK!" We hear them say "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you believe". They justify whatever is done often by manipulating the scriptures, intentionally or otherwise, and they trick people who are not well versed in God's Word. Often, they use words like 'believe', 'love', 'feeling' and 'heart'. They might use words like 'repentance', 'submission' and 'obedience' as well, but their message will fall short of what scripture says about any of these. If we are not careful, we start to become people and a church molded around society's viewpoint instead of being patterned after God's Word.
James 4:4 says, "But whoever “wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”". While not a litmus test, often this is certainly a red flag. False teachers typically want to be popular with people in the world, and their message will be geared at accomplishing that and amassing a following. Paul said, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29, 30).
Sadly, some, out of their own self centered logic, focus solely on what will attract the most people to them, primarily for financial gain or fame, sweeping the truth under the rug. Some of the more obvious false teachers typically seek popularity, and they are secular in their message, and many of them stand in church buildings preaching love and encouraging the liberal giving of money while swelling the size of their following and their bank account. Paul says, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17, 18)
While some intentionally teach falsehoods for personal or financial gain, power or fame, others may actually teach incorrectly out of simple ignorance of the Word while having a sincere heart. These may teach the Bible in part, or with most of their message being correct, but not all of it. Either way though both are false teachers. We see some of them as trying to be politically correct, going along with the times, changing their message as necessary to fit the desires of the masses regarding everything from what is considered morally acceptable to altering the Biblical pattern for worship. Their message is ever evolving to what people want to hear so they can retain their following. Their followers want to feel good about themselves and their lives, so they seek someone who condones their actions. They profess a warm and fuzzy feeling about their relationship with Jesus, while their lives may be corrupted by gross immorality and their faith is based on lies.
It isn't always easy to see the wolf wearing sheep's clothing, but when we talk about spotting false teachING, maybe it's a little easier. In a nutshell spotting false doctrine is simply this; We need to read the Bible and know what it teaches for ourselves, as we know for certain that it is right. Then, when we know God's word, we are able to distinguish truth from error. Yes, that's pretty simple, but not always easy when the lie is often popular with others, very attractive, usually sugar coated a bit, and even taught along side of other Bible verses. Peter said, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God”. (1 Peter 4:11) Paul said, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15 KJV) Some of these lies seem to almost fit hand and glove with scripture. Our job is to make sure they fit. If they do not, then we know what to do with them!
False teachers are not necessarily on the cutting edge of liberalism, they might in fact be on the opposite end of that spectrum, binding where God has not. People don't have to look far to find someone teaching in the name of religion who is on their side no matter what lifestyle they have adopted.
Then, sadly, there are those who, with a sincere heart, preach and teach not correctly knowing the doctrine of Christ or the plan of salvation as taught in the New Testament. Equally as sad is the fact that honest sincere people accept those teachings without full knowledge of the Bible either, perhaps at times holding fast to the religion of their parents, who did the exact same thing, or never having studied for themselves what Christ has said. It is imperative that we each read, study, learn and known the doctrine of the Bible.
Whether knowingly or unknowingly, all false teachers strengthen the plans of those who do evil, (Jeremiah 23:17). May God help us to recognize them and their false teaching, boldly refute both of them with the truth of God's Word, and avoid them like they were the plague, because in essence, they are.