Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.
(1 John 4:1-3 NLT)
For awhile now I’ve read posts from bloggers and Facebook pages that have criticized well known Christians, preachers and teachers by calling them False Prophets and False Teachers. Every time I’ve read the posts, it has brought my spirit grief – you know that feeling in your gut, where you just sense friction. It’s taken me awhile to understand that is how discernment works, for the longest time, I thought it was ‘anxiety’ but that’s a close description of how it feels to me – when you just know that something isn’t right and you become cautious about what you’re about to read, see, hear, say or do.
…and to another discernment of spirits [the ability to distinguish sound, godly doctrine from the deceptive doctrine of man-made religions and cults],…
(1 Corinthians 12:10b AMP)
When I go for a run, I like to listen to audiobooks and sermons, as I walk out the door to begin I always say a prayer and besides praying for my safety, I ALWAYS pray something like this, “God, thank you for this time with you, I love our time together, I pray as your Holy Word declares in James 4:8 that when I draw close to you – you will draw close to me. Lord there’s nothing I want more than to be closer to you, to be more like your Son and the new creation you made me to be. Lord, if there’s anything in the message I hear today that is contrary to your Word and to your will for my life, than please let it fall on deaf ears, but if there’s something that you want me to receive, please Lord, let it be salt and light to my soul, may it quicken within me – give me your wisdom and discernment, that I would think, say, and do what your Holy Spirit would have me act on and not what my flesh desires.”
For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 AMP)
When we hear a message and we don’t believe it lines up with scripture, we need to go to the Word and then to prayer for discernment, after that we should bring it to their attention. I imagine this as the equivalent of someone who immediately goes to Facebook to post a status about the terrible fight they just had with their spouse – once those words are out there, it’s forever tainted the perception of each person. With social media, we have the ability to criticize anyone and everyone, but I think that requires a bit of discernment as well – we should always go to scripture and pray before we label someone a False Prophet or False Teacher (or technically, label anyone as anything, for that matter). One thing I’d like to ask, is there any one person that you know of that is 100% right in their doctrine? If you say yes, than you probably haven’t heard 100% of their interpretation of the Bible. Now what I’m trying to say, can become an extremely ‘bad’ interpretation, very quickly if taken out of context of what I’m struggling to put into words (I guess that means I’ll have False Teacher & False Prophet attached to my name as well after this is published).
I know I can not be 100% correct in what I believe and interpret from the Bible, and what I’ve already learned is just a fraction compared to what I’ve yet to learn, and somedays I also look back and say, wow – I had that so wrong before! That’s why we have to take James warning to heart and I truly understand the protective need to shield others from harm:
Not many [of you] should become teachers [serving in an official teaching capacity], my brothers and sisters, for you know that we [who are teachers] will be judged by a higher standard [because we have assumed greater accountability and more condemnation if we teach incorrectly].
(James 3:1 AMP)
So with James wisdom from 3:1, we also have to take personal responsibility with 4:8 (see my prayer for discernment). I understand the importance of being aware of False Prophets and False Teachers, but I believe even more scripture seeking, prayer, and discernment is needed before calling out individuals that preach: Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for all of our sins, that He rose again on the 3rd day and now sits at the right hand of God and that the penance of ALL sin is eternity in Hell unless we declare with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus is our Lord and Savior.
Jesus said to him, “I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
(John 14:6 AMP)
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
(John 3:16-21 NLT)
I wonder if it’s understood that it’s not just a ‘title’ they’ve given their brothers and sisters, it’s more of a damning label. I believe you should instead say “use discernment with some of their teachings” and “this particular subject that they’ve spoken on is contrary to what I believe the Bible says in the book of _____”. For example: if you call Joyce Meyer a False Teacher & Prophet – I’ve heard this and disagree because she has helped thousands of women to break the chains of bondage that the enemy had over them, and lead thousands more to salvation (this doesn’t mean that I automatically accept every word she has taught, we are ALL called to use discernment)! Imagine what these ‘new creations in Christ’ are going to think when they hear that the very teacher that helped guide them to Jesus is ‘False’ – do you believe they will be blessed and encouraged after hearing that OR do you think they will doubt their salvation and faith? I’m not suggesting we keep our mouths shut and ignore sin or false doctrine, I’m just asking people to consider what the implications truly mean for their flock and for all believers when they start calling every teacher, preacher or Christian that they have disagreements with False Teachers and/or False Prophets.
John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.”
But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”
(Luke 9:49-50 NLT)
Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.
(Philippians 1:17-18 NLT)