How do we discern true or false teachers?

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Well, friends, I just want to take a moment of your time and for us to think about having discernment. The New Testament is often encouraging us as followers of Jesus to have discernment about the voices that we listen to and the teachers who are in our lives and making sure that what others are teaching about is scripture. Lines up with Scripture. And I think our text from my sermon this last Sunday reminds us to think about these things. We looked at the Gospel of Mark in chapter nine, where in the middle of that chapter, the disciples of Jesus come to Jesus to report on a man that they found who was doing certain things in Jesus name, and they wanted Jesus to rebuke this individual.

And Jesus said, actually, no, don’t rebuke this individual. Let him keep doing what he is doing. He’s my ambassador. No, he may not be one of the original twelve disciples, but he is still representing Jesus. And so we did talk about, though, how it is important to understand that not everybody who claims to do something in the name of Jesus is actually one of Jesus’representatives.

Sometimes there are false teachers and they may have certain words that they use that we might think, okay, well, this is a person, that God co signs their ministry, that this is one of God’s chosen children. Their teaching is reliable. And yet then you begin to sort of unpack a little bit and you might come to understand that actually this is not somebody that we should be listening to. So how do we have discernment about that? We talk about these kinds of things all the time, and the New Testament does encourage us to have some discernment.

So I want to just share a few different basic pieces. This is by no means a comprehensive or exhaustive list of things to listen for and to look for. But I do want to point out just a few things. One is, what is the nature of God that this person is speaking about? For instance, this individual?

What are they saying about God? And does that line up with what we see in Scripture, about the authority of God and about God’s role in the universe as creator and as king? And what does this person have to say? And again, does that line up with what we see in Scripture? There’s oftentimes where people understand God as being some kind of deity, but he’s far removed.

And we know that Scripture does not teach that picture of who God is, that God is our heavenly Father, God is our maker, and he is intimately involved in all of the details of our lives. And he is always good and he’s always sovereign, and he’s always working for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes. So as you’re listening to teachers, you always want to discern. Does their teaching about God line up with a picture of God that we see from Old Testament and New Testament and all throughout Scripture, from beginning to end?

A second place to look is to what this individual has to say about Jesus, about who he is and what his nature is.

That he is fully human, but he’s also fully God, and that there is salvation in no one else. That he is the way, the truth and the life. The Son of God who put on flesh and lived among us and gave his life as a ransom to pay the penalty for our sins. Does this person have that view of Jesus about his nature and about his mission and why he came to the earth? Another place that we can look is about what these individuals have to say about human beings, for instance, our origin.

Where do humans come from? Well, we know that Scripture gives us indications of the answer to that question. Well, is this person’s teachings lining up with that? And about what? About the dignity of human beings, for instance, who has value and who doesn’t?

And what does that have to say about how we should treat other people and the kinds of things that we should be pursuing in other people’s lives? We want to be listening for that. We also want to be listening for a message about what they identify to be our core problem. We know that Scripture tells us that the heart of our problem is always the problem of our hearts, and JeSus always locates our hearts as being the place where sin resides. And that that’s our core issue.

And so you want to be listening for, is that indeed what this individual, whose teaching is pointing us to, is that consistent with what we see in Scripture, of the picture of God as people being made in God’s image and having inherent value and worth? And again, how does that line up with Scripture? And so we also want to be able to take a look at Scripture itself and ask the question of what does this person have to say about God’s word? Is this God’s word, his written revelation to us that we’re not to add to or we’re not to take away from and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and all being profitable for our benefit and for our edification and for our teaching and for our training?

And how does this person’s teachings line up with that view of Scripture that we see in Scripture itself?

And then lastly, one fifth and final category to think about in terms of having discernment is the area of salvation. What does this person say about what salvation is and what it is not, and why we need it so badly, and about how we get salvation and about what happens as a result once we get salvation? You want to be listening for these things. So again, this is by no means a comprehensive list, but I think that this is a great starting place for us to be listening. Anytime you hear someone teaching and you want to compare their teaching with Scripture, another place to look is at the character of the individual.

To the extent that you can follow this individual, and of course, sometimes you see somebody on TV or hear them on a podcast, you may not know their character aside from what it is that is presented in a public forum. But to the extent that you can discern what a person’s life is, you want to look at the fruit of their life as well. Is this a person who’s not perfect by any stretch, but is seeking daily to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus? That this is a person who seeks to elevate Jesus above themselves and all things?

And so you look at their character, and you look at the fruit of their lives and the gifts of the Spirit that are active in this person’s life.

All of these are ways that the Holy Spirit can confirm in our own lives that what we’re listening to is something we should be hearing or it’s something that we should not be. So we always want to compare it again. Friends, back, Scripture. God doesn’t want us to be confused. God wants us to have discernment about these areas.

So I’m so glad that you could join us today. If you missed my sermon from this last Sunday, I encourage you to go back and listen to it. I think you’ll be encouraged by it. It has a variety of things to say about our lives as followers of Jesus, but I’m so glad that you could join us today. Thanks a lot.