One thing that a Christian must develop if he wants to have spiritual victory is a testing mindset. This means that he must learn to test everything by the Bible to see if it is right or wrong, true or false.
I thank the Lord that the man who led me to Christ taught me this so that I started out my Christian life with a testing mindset. It has protected me from many spiritual pitfalls. Traveling together from south Florida to Mexico, we stopped at a Christian bookstore somewhere on the Gulf Coast. I think it was Mobile, Alabama. He bought me a King James Bible, and then he pointed to all of the books that were for sale and said, “You must be very careful and test everything by God’s Word. You can’t trust man; you can’t trust the “big names.” The Bible warns that there will be many false teachers.” It was with this wise counsel that I began my Christian life.
The testing mindset is despised today among most professing Christians, even “evangelicals.” I recall the first ecumenical conference I attended with press credentials. It was in New Orleans in 1987 and there were tens of thousands of attendees representing 40 different denominations. Roman Catholics formed a large presence. There was even a Roman Catholic mass each morning. One day I was talking with an Episcopalian lay leader and he gave me his testimony of salvation which sounded Scriptural. I then said something to the effect, “If you believe the Bible and know the Lord, how can you be comfortable in the midst of this heretical stew?” He replied, “You need to relax more; you are too afraid of being deceived.”
That is dangerous and very foolish advice in light of the warnings that follow.
1. Jesus warned that false prophets will deceive men. We should not be surprised that there are so many false churches today. We must expect that there will be false prophets and we must be careful so we will not be deceived by them.
2. Jesus said that the false prophets will appear as true prophets outwardly and by this means they deceive the unwary. They have Bibles; they talk about Jesus and salvation and good living. They have churches and teach doctrine.
3. False teachers are known by their fruit (vv. 16-20).
a. The fruit is not works; in verses 22-23 Jesus says that false teachers will do “many wonderful works.”
b. The fruit is biblical salvation (v. 23), obedience (v. 21), and doctrinal truth. The sure fruit of a false teacher is his false doctrine (Acts 20:30; Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:6-7; 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 4:1-2). Consider Mother Teresa. She did many good works in caring for the poor and sick in the neediest parts of the world, but she didn’t know Christ and trusted in a false gospel and taught heresies. The 2007 book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light contains statements made by the nun to her Catholic confessors and superiors over a period of more than 66 years. She continually referred to her spiritual condition as “my darkness” and to Jesus as “the Absent One.” In March 1953 she wrote, “... there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’” At the suggestion of one confessor she wrote the following to Jesus: “I call, I cling, I want -- and there is no One to answer -- no One on Whom I can cling -- no, No One. -- Alone ... Where is my Faith -- even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness. ... When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven -- there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. -- I am told God loves me -- and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” In 1962 she wrote: “If I ever become a Saint -- I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’” In 1984 we interviewed Sister Ann of the Missionaries of Charity, which is Mother Teresa’s organization. Ann was working with elderly people in Nepal, and she said that they do not try to convert dying Hindus to Christ but simply instruct them to pray to their gods.
Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 24
1. Jesus warned again that there will be false prophets and they will multiply at the end of the church age. The closer we draw to His return the more spiritual deception we can expect to encounter, and we are seeing that in our day. Most churches are not true to the Bible. False teachers abound.
2. Observe that the deception of the end times will be so effective that “insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” That is powerful deception. How diligent and cautious we must be!
2. It is the believer’s responsibility to protect himself and his loved ones by being cautious and having a testing mindset.
3. Jesus warned that false teachers will deceive through “signs and wonders.” This brings to mind the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, which has a great emphasis on miracles. In light of Jesus’ warning, we know that just because a preacher’s ministry is accompanied by alleged miracles does not mean it is of God. Every ministry must be tested by the Bible, and by the Bible alone.
4. Jesus warned about false Christs, and the world abounds with them today. The Christ of the Roman Catholic Church is a consecrated wafer and a weak man in strong Mary’s arms. The Christ of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Unitarians is not God. The Christ of the Mormons is a brother to Satan. The Christ of the New Age gained mystical wisdom in India. The Christ of the Da Vinci Code is a married man. The Christ of Liberation Theology is a freedom fighter. The Christ of the Jesus Seminar brand is a confused man that didn’t know what he was doing. The Christ of Christian rockers is a party dude. The Christ of the emerging church is an environmentalist. The Christ of Islam didn’t die on the cross.
1. The only way to know the truth and to be set free from sin and error is to continue in Jesus’ Word. Notice that He didn’t say “words” plural but “word” singular. This refers to the inscripturated Word, the Bible. The Word of God has been written under divine inspiration, canonized, and preserved for us in the Bible. Therefore, if we want to know the truth, we need to read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, obey it, and test everything by it.
2. This is the only way, and it is also a sure way. Jesus gives His solemn promise that if we continue in His Word we WILL know the truth. This is one of the promises that motivated me to study the Bible diligently as a young Christian and to persist over the past 37 years. I want to know the truth, and Christ has given me His promise. Many voices within Christianity claim that we cannot be certain of what doctrine is correct, so we should just get along, but Jesus gave His promise that we can know. Compare John 7:17.
1. The Jews at Berea are commended for testing everything carefully by the Scriptures. This isn’t popular in modern Christianity but it is called “noble” in God’s Word.
2. Notice that they searched the Scripture daily. Before you can test anything by God’s Word you must first study it.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
1. We are admonished to prove all things. This is a far-reaching obligation. We should test everything in our lives by God’s holy Word, not only Christian teaching and “church” things but also job, friends, fashion, entertainment, marriage, child training methods, music, and all other things.
2. We are also admonished to hold fast that which is good, which refers to those things that are in accordance with and approved by God’s Word.
2 Corinthians 10:5
1. God wants the believer to bring every thought into captivity to the truth. What a far-reaching command!
2. We do this by filling our minds with God’s Word and letting it measure every thought that enters our hearts.
3. The human imagination is a great spiritual battleground and must be guarded jealously. The modern entertainment industry aims its heavy guns at man’s imagination. Satanic-led entertainment creators want to corrupt the imagination through sensuality and turn it from the living God through the creation of vain worlds. There is particular danger for believers in the genres of science fiction and horror.
2 Corinthians 11:3-4
1. There is great spiritual danger for Christians (2 Cor. 11:3-4). Paul was afraid for the Corinthian believers because they were not careful about doctrine.
2. The devil complicates doctrine (“corrupted from the simplicity,” 2 Cor. 11:3). Examples of this are theological modernism, Calvinistic Reformed theology, and emerging church doctrine. The truth of God’s Word is exceedingly deep, but it also has a basic simplicity that is comprehensible to ordinary people (Luke 10:21).
3. Paul warned of false Christs, false gospels, and false spirits. The believer must be careful not to believe someone just because he talks about Christ or the gospel or the Spirit. Everything must be carefully tested by God’s Word.
4. We see in verse 4 that the teaching of the apostles is the standard for the truth (“whom we have not preached”). We have the teaching of the apostles in the New Testament Scriptures. This is the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) by which we are to measure teaching and practice.
5. The devil is clever and must be resisted with much wisdom and zeal (2 Cor. 11:3).
6. Broadmindedness in doctrinal matters is evidence of carnality, not spirituality. Because the Corinthians were carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-2), Paul knew they might “well bear with” the false teachers (v. 4). This does not mean they would necessarily follow the false teaching but they would put up with it; they would not resist it properly. Being able to “see both sides” is not a mark of spirituality. There is only one side to the truth! The way of truth is narrow (Mat. 7:14).
7. False teachers imitate true teachers (2 Cor. 11:13-15). They don’t invent new things; they pervert the old things. They have churches and Bibles and preach Jesus. The closer something is to the truth, the more difficult it is to discern its error.
1. Again we are exhorted to beware of false teachers. We must have a testing mindset.
2. Notice that false teachers desire to “spoil.” The idea is to rob. False teachers want to rob believers of their absolute confidence in the truth of God’s Word and in the grace of Christ and to replace this with human tradition and philosophy.
3. The way to defeat these false teachers is to hold fast to the Bible as the divinely-inspired Word of God and as the sole authority for faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Revelation 2:2, 6
1. The church at Ephesus was commended for testing false teachers and for rejecting them. Jesus was pleased with this. It is something that every individual believer and every church should emulate.
2. Observe that the church felt very strongly about this matter. They labeled the false teachers “liars” and hated their deeds.
The book of Proverbs contrasts the wise with the foolish. In this proverb, the foolish person is said to be gullible and easily deceived because he doesn’t carefully test everything by God’s Word. The word “simple” here does not refer to simple-minded; it refers to gullible. The “simple” reads Christian books and hears sermons and attends conferences and takes everything in without testing it.
1. The Psalmist gives the example of loving God’s Word and hating everything that is false. That is a testing mindset. The Bible is the absolute standard for truth, and by comparing everything in life with this Standard we can be protected from error.
2. We see that the believer should be passionate about the truth. The Psalmist was not neutral or half-hearted in this matter. He held God’s Word in great esteem and hated every false way.
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