Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast Episode 140 - How to Identify False Teachers
Welcome to the Terri Hitt – Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast
Episode #140 – How to Identify False Teachers
Thank you for entrusting and investing your precious time with me to seek, find, and follow Jesus together as we live with purposed eternal perspective.
Last year I was disappointed by a couple of people who came into my life. I thought they were upstanding, godly people who genuinely loved the Lord. After getting to know them better, I was surprised to discover that either they were making mistake after mistake or they simply weren’t who they appeared to be. I really cannot express my disappointment in even thinking that they may not be who I thought they were. Sadness covered me as I imagined that I had been deceived. After this initial thought, I feared for their eternal future. I did not want these people I had come to care for to be anything other than what they first appeared to be. I didn’t want them to potentially live for eternity without Christ.
I’m still praying for the two people I am referring to. I hope I met them when they were going through hard seasons and that the love they professed for Jesus is true. I hope that they made bad choices in the times I spent with them and that they have grown daily since that time and are better equipped to shine the Lord in authentic ways that won’t make people second guess them or their position with Christ. I hope they are seeking the Lord in new ways that leave no question who they follow. I hope that when I make mistakes it is not in front of others who might question my love for Jesus. I hope that my mistakes never make the Lord appear to be less than He is. I want all the glory for anything worthy I accomplish to go to Him. I have learned that anything of value that I do is not of my own hand, but comes from time spent with the Father and in His provision.
Not knowing whether someone is an authentic believer after beginning to know them truly grieves my heart in various ways. I want everyone to know and love the Lord with a true and lasting relationship that brings joy, peace, love, and all of the fruits of the Spirit in ways they can’t help but proclaim love and devotion to Jesus. Without judging, but with the use of godly discernment, take the story I gave with people I came to know last year and transfer it to pastors, ministry leaders, podcasters, and others who publicly profess Christ in some sort of ministry. We are a front line, so to speak, to opinions people will hold of Christ. Such a high responsibility is a calling. It is a high service for one we cannot begin to represent well enough. Although I believe most people who exert effort, love, prayer, and time into helping others see, know, love, and honor Christ truly love Jesus and want to serve Him well, there are some who are going through the motions for personal gain or glory. As sad as that fact is, there are ways we can protect ourselves and others from becoming deceived and following these false teachers.
First, let’s read, then break-down and examine a passage of Scripture from 1 John 1:5-10 which says, “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
Many false teachers will deny or ignore the existence of sin. Believers must be diligent and discerning to observe the way those professing love for Christ conduct their life.
Whether it be in the acts they perform, the words they speak, the attitude they express, or the way they lie their life, these people will do something that produces red flags. In the passage of verses we read, John affirms the reality of sin and the mindset believers should carry toward it. If a person denies the reality of sin, they may be exposing their lack of salvation or understanding of sin.
When we hear, “this is the message we have heard from Him,” John is stating that what they are repeating is not from them, but from God. Galatians 1:11-12 says, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
The words, “God is light” in 1 John 1:5 confirms that in God we can find no darkness. He is the Author of Light. No darkness can exist within Him. We know that usually when one hears the term, “light” we think of absence of darkness, purity or holiness. When we know the word is referencing our Heavenly Father, we think of holiness or biblical truths. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 says, “But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.”
Those who do not truly know the Lord profess to be enlightened with wisdom, although believers should recognize that the knowledge and insight they speak is from within, not given to them by God. When wisdom is not given by God, it will end up being the opposite. When we do not walk and live in the light, we exist in darkness.
When John continues in verse 5, he states, “no darkness at all.” With these words, John confirms that we can be assured that in God we find holy perfection. There is absolutely nothing in the character of God that deviates from truth, purity, or holiness. James 1:17-18 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.”
Although there are many who claim to enjoy fellowship with God, the lifestyle they live, may it be words, activities, actions, reactions, character, integrity, and so on, indicates that they lack genuine repentance and submission to Christ. When I speak these words, I realize that we are each human and prone to sin, mistakes, and misunderstandings. I do not make this remark lightly. I do so only to warn each of us, myself included that we must be aware and cautious. Of course, we want to give others the benefit of the doubt, and we certainly want to pray for them, but do not be deceived. We cannot live in darkness and profess to be of the light. Just as I spoke of the light earlier, to live in light in the Christian sense means to be a follower of Christ. To live in darkness is to live without Christ. Although we each sin in some way daily, those dedicated to maturing a genuine walk with Christ daily live with an urgency that demands obedient and submission and keeps them in search of light. Within us, the Holy Spirit is at work to warn and protect us, to steer us away from darkness.
“Do not practice,” as said in verse 6 reinforces what I just said about living in darkness. When one professing to be a follower of Christ does not practice what they say they believe or they continue practicing what goes against God’s commands and directions, their habits point to the truth.
Verse 7 confirms that in contrast to those living in darkness, while claiming to be of the light, when one professes to love and follow Christ, there is a noticeable and continual refining, renewal of the soul that can only be completed through our precious Lord.
As verse 8 shows, false teachers will claim to be in the light while they knowingly walk in darkness, denying sin within them. If someone denies having any sin, that darkness cannot be addressed and conquered through Christ.
Verse 9 proves that we each need to draw nearer to Christ with purpose so that we can recognize and confess sin. His Word promises that He is faithful. As we confess our sins, He will forgive and purify us. As Christians have salvation through the work of Christ on the cross, we can live with purpose, intent on drawing nearer to Jesus daily. We have been forgiven of all sins. Of course, if one continues in known sin that goes against the Father, we must confess and receive the cleansing work of the Father, but the Holy Spirit is at work moment by moment to enable us to rest in the hand of God and continue to eradicate sin from our life. As we peel back the layers, so to speak, we find more and more ways to submit and be cleansed, but false teachers do not admit to sin nature or see the need to be cleansed of sin in their life.
Verse 10 reminds us that if we claim that no sin is in us, we “make Him a liar.” As false teachers make no claim of sin, they blaspheme and slander God.
This passage we just studied from James succinctly shows the truth of how to live in light-filled and correct fellowship with Christ and others.
James 1:17-27 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Many people are confused by social media, school agendas, educators, leaders, influencers, celebrities, pastors, and cultural shifts. Children are being raised without the compass of Christ to guide and protect them. Those without a godly compass to lead and instruct them with truth often easily fall victim to a rebellious nature of self-pleasure and seeking easy ways to do so. Or they fall prey to new age ideologies and false religions.
It seems like the younger generation desires life without authority, but I believe every person prefers a life without boundaries to some extent, simply because humans prefer our own selfish nature to allow us whatever pleasures we desire. However, once we are free from the bondage of sin and flesh through Christ, we change, transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit alive within.
Because there are many who have not yet experienced this freedom found only through Christ, false teachers, preachers, and advertisers have a large audience they can fill with exactly what these seekers may search for. By claiming self-love, materialism, reincarnation, new age practices, earn your way to Heaven tactics, prosperity preaching, and more, those in need of filling a void inside will listen and respond with eagerness to this shiny new hope.
Let’s look at a few ways people may be deceived and how believers may be better equipped to discern and detect false leaders.
1. False leaders promote human glory instead of glorifying God. 1 John 4:2-3 says, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
2. False leaders don’t teach the inerrancy of Scripture. 2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.”
3. False teachers believe there is no need for repentance and don’t speak about what God says about sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
4. False teachers don’t preach about the reality of hell. Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.”
5. False teachers teach personal prosperity. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
6. False teachers teach doctrine that goes against the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God a may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
7. False teachers are prideful and divisive. 1 Timothy 6:3-5 says, “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” John 10:11-13 says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”
8. False teachers seek fame and/or fortune. The verses we read in 1 Timothy 6:3-5 earlier speak to this point, as well. This is a point I have had to review myself. During the time I have created and aired my podcasts and publicly been outspoken for Christ, I have been very careful to check my heart. I never want to write or release these podcasts or any of the material I create, unless it honors Christ. I am not the one to be highlighted. He is. I pray that you see Him so clearly in me and that others will see Him very clearly in you.
9. False teachers don’t believe or teach that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus is the only way to God and eternal life. John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Acts 4:10-12 says, “Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Dear Heavenly Father, there is none like You. Holy is Your name. Good are the plans You have set for us. Help us to seek You, find You, love You, honor You, and obey You despite circumstances. May our desire for You deepen daily and cause us to humbly submit in reverence to You. Please keep us from following false teachers. May they be so evident to us as Christians that we are not deceived, even for a moment. Help us to live with joy and discernment from You so that we do not judge others, but rightly live in fellowship with You and those around us, yet never allow us to stray from what You call for us. Help us to never accept or condone what You clearly do not desire for us. In the precious name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
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