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Acts 17:11 records, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
Though the Apostle Paul, who penned, a majority of the New Testament, was known as a great man of God and respected for it, it impressed me that when Paul instructed the Bereans, they didn’t just blindly accept his message because it came from him. They didn’t say, “Well, if Paul says it I can trust and believe it.” No, instead they listened to his message with eagerness (probably because it was Paul) and then searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true (because Paul was not sinless—he was capable of misinterpretations and misunderstandings just like we all are.)
So it was God’s word, not Paul’s, that was the Bereans standard of truth. They were not about to sit back, listen to Paul, and just take his word for it. They wanted to be sure everything he said lined up with the Bible. If anything would have failed to line up, in the Berean's eyes, it was to be immediately dismissed.
1. Pray for Discernment
Like the Bereans, we ought not to be so quick to accept a teaching, simply because the person it comes from is someone we trust and respect or is someone who is respected among many other Christians or church groups. Just because Billy Graham teaches on something, doesn’t mean we can take his teaching at face value and shouldn’t bother to search the Scriptures, as the Bereans did with Paul, to see if the things he teaches on is true.
Before I read anything that is said to be fact or based on Scripture, it is important that I have discernment. I have found a good place to start is prayer. I ask God to give me wisdom (James 1:5-8) and discernment of what I am going to read or listen to—especially that which is labeled Christian or appears to be a trustworthy read because it is in the Christian Bookstores. After I pray, God is always faithful to open my eyes to the truths or misinterpretations I may read.
2. Know the Bible
It’s important that I don’t forget just because something is sold in Christian Bookstores, doesn’t mean it lines up with the Bible. Some Christian bookstores will sell books by popular authors, even if their message isn't 100% Biblically sound. It should never be so, but that is the way it is sometimes. All the more reason to know Scripture so we are not deceived.
In addition to prayer, the other essential way to have discernment in what you read and hear—especially that which is labeled biblical or Christian, is to know the Word of God. Bankers know there are so many counterfeit currencies in circulation. Instead of studying the counterfeit currency, so they will know a counterfeit when they see it, they focus their attention on studying the authentic currency—the real thing. They become so familiar with the true currency, so when a counterfeit comes along it stands out as the fraud it is. Likewise, if we are to correctly identify counterfeit teachings and theology in the things we read and hear, it is vitally important we have a strong knowledge of God's Word.
Why Knowing God's Word is So Vital
If we don’t know what is true, how can we spot a lie? Without knowledge of the truth, there is no way to know when something isn’t true. How much easier it will to be deceived. And if we don’t have that knowledge of God’s Word, when we read books, listen to sermons, or attend conferences if the author or speaker misinterprets a Scripture, it will be very difficult to recognize a false teaching when we see it.
You see Satan is very subtle in his attempts to deceive us. He doesn't waste his time trying to fool us with an obvious lie. He deceives us by presenting us with 99% truth mixed with 1% lie. That is much easier to believe, because the part that isn't true is almost undetectable. That's what counterfeiters do too. They don't design currency that is obviously different from the real deal. Rather they create a currency that is nearly an exact match so it is almost undetectable. Yet those bankers who have studied the true currency so intimately, are not deceived by these counterfeit bills.
Our Measuring Stick of Truth
God’s Word is our measuring stick of truth. The more we read it, study it, mediate on it, and memorize it the better, and quicker, we will be able to recognize teaching that falls short from the truth of God’s Word. In this day and age, where false teaching is so subtle, now more than ever we need to be in the Word. I've made it a priority to read it, listen to it, study it, meditate on it, and memorize it Whatever I have to do to be in the Word—I want to do it. When we make time in the Bible a daily priority we will not be easily deceived when we read or hear someone teach something contrary to Scripture.
Question for you: What are your favorite ways you familiarize yourself with the Bible, so you can recognize a counterfeit teaching and not be deceived?
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Copyright © 2012 Brooke Espinoza.