IF IT LOOKS SO GOOD:
REAL OR COUNTERFEIT? HOW CAN WE TELL?
False teaching occurs more often than you might think and we are to be diligent in our zeal to separate it from truth. As we have seen, one of Jesus’ major points in the parable of the wheat and the tares was to alert us to counterfeits: those teachings and people that look so good and true on the surface, but are full of falsehood underneath. False teachings would be easy to spot if all of the teachings being propagated were false; but such is not the normal ploy of the enemy. His tactic is that nine points of truth will be declared so that one point of error might creep in.
VARIOUS WAYS DECEPTION APPEARS
Many well-intentioned, God-fearing Christians will unknowingly be taken in by the teachings of the counterfeits exactly because they long to learn from and draw nearer to the Lord. As a young Christian it was a deep desire to know more about the Lord that led me into my first deception. I went to a well-publicized meeting of a famous “faith-healer.” The speaker assured the audience that he knew the Lord’s methods so well that he could predict beforehand that there was going to be a strong anointing on him that night. While many were slain in the spirit that evening, I did not notice any healings. Conversely, a year later in a simple Bible study, the teacher was sick with fever and vomiting and was about to go home. Unaware of her condition, one of the students asked if the teacher would pray for her before class to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit accompaniedby speaking in tongues. The teacher prayed the shortest prayer imaginable; the woman being prayed over – under the power of the Holy Spirit – received the gift of tongues. Obviously, there was no power in the teacher; it was all from the Holy Spirit.
In conjunction with this idea are pastors and speakers who state that you mustcome only to the place where they are speaking to be healed because only in that particular place is the anointing present. In other words, if the “anointing” is occurring at Grand Ave. Church, North Bend, ND and you live in CA, you have to fly to North Bend, ND to get your healing because that’s where the anointing is taking place. However, Scripture is not in agreement with this idea as we see in Matthew 24:23-26:
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.
26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.
Additionally, you cannot schedule a move of the Holy Spirit. Though people advertise that a million people will show up on such and such a day for a mighty move of the spirit, how can they know that will happen? The Holy Spirit moves when and where He decides, not us.
John 3:8 New King James Version (NKJV)
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.”
In all these instances we must be certain to remember that Godly power comes from God, not man.
THE LORD HELPS US TO DISCERN
How can we recognize when a teaching is from the Lord and when it is not? The Bible says, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name claiming. ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4). Jesus was speaking to the disciples when He said this, the very disciples who’d spent the most time with Him, knew Him the most intimately, and longed to know Him deeper. If He needed to warn them, then how much more so must we be on our guard?
One of the tools the Lord gives us to help us discern is the counsel of our fellow believers. Through all these many years I have so often noticed that God in His love and faithfulness will dispatch one Christian to assist another who has sadly been deceived, often in ignorance. None of us is perfect. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in a meek and humble spirit one brother will go to another and gently speak truth.
Galatians 6:1 New King James Version (NKJV)
6 Brethren, if a man is [a]overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
Galatians 6:1 caught
It’s always interested me that in the book of Galatians Peter was publicly rebuked by Paul at Antioch because Peter reverted to a gospel of works when the Jewish contingent arrived. In other words, no matter how well-renowned the speaker or author is, even his words and actions must conform to the Bible. Notice that Peter kept silent after Paul’s correction. I think we can safely deduce that this silence meant that Peter humbly received Paul’s correction.
This incident in Galatians provides us with the reason for public correction. When people are misled, one way for them to understand the truth and discern the error is for them to become publicly aware of the errors they were taught. Public correction in answer to public error will also result in freeing others from deception. There is a book on the market that is incredibly successful; it also contains much error. Instead of being written in agreement with the Word of God, the book is instead heavily influenced by another book that is also known to be riddled with error. There are millions – yes, millions – of people who daily read this popular book, and are therefore influenced by not just one book with errors, but two. (There will be an in-depth study of this book in the future). Like the story above with Peter and Paul, it is important for error to be recognized publicly, since it affects people publicly. The popularity of a book is not to be used as a criteria of its worth.
The same can be said for a speaker. Just because someone draws crowds of tens of thousands does not mean he is Biblically sound. It is a narrow road not a broad one. Though Jesus spoke to thousands, how many were ultimately saved and committed to Him? There were eleven disciples; only John at the cross and only 120 on Pentecost. As things got tougher, the crowds dwindled.
It was not earthquakes and wars and famines that Jesus said over and over in Matthew 24 that would be the signs of the end, but deception. When Matthew 24:24 states that if possible even the very elect can be led astray, the root word means that it is indeed possible.
(to be continued)
Featured Image: “Moloch”. Image from page 222 of “The pictorial Bible and commentator: presenting the great truths of God’s word in the most simple, pleasing, affectionate, and instructive manner” (1878) https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14577460999