Don’t always believe everything you hear just because someone says it is a message from God: test (confirm) it first to see if it really is. For there are many false teachers around. (1 John 4:1, parenthesis added)
News flash: Just because something is posted online does not establish it as truth. Also, simply saying something does not immediately make it worthwhile or valuable. Now, more than ever, is a time for spiritual discernment, intense scrutiny, and definitive confirmation—on all sources.
In this information age of daily technological advances, almost everyone has the ability to share and distribute whatever content to potentially a global audience. Couple that with prevalent moral relativism and we have the slippery slopes of many people, saying many things, about many topics, and posing them as truth.
The Apostle Paul foresaw such a time. He cautioned against the attraction to “teachers” who say what feels and sounds good but does not align with sound doctrine. If we are lost in the woods and looking for a way out, speaking with another lost hiker or even creating our own map simply will not help. What we say (yes, I am including myself) and hear must pass the litmus test of absolute truth. There must be a clear distinction between someone speculating about the way out of the woods and someone knowledgeable with the way out. A forest Ranger is more qualified than a lost hiker.
The Approaching Deception
“Stranger danger!” Most parents warn their children not to talk with strangers to protect them. In a similar fashion, Scripture warns in the last days, many deceivers will arise and many people—talkers and listeners—will stray from the faith and sound doctrine.
Countless posts flood social media and news streams from people prophesying, “speaking a word,” foretelling, envisioning many positive things over people and businesses. “Your business will thrive over the next six months.” “You will meet the person of your dreams this year.” “You will be miraculously healed.” “This is your year of breakthrough.” Almost like someone is reading through a bag of fortune cookies.
Why do we not see or hear predictions or “prophecies” warning that someone’s health will decline? Or job loss is looming? Possibly even that death is coming, a business will fail, a daughter will stray from the faith, or a son will commit suicide? Oh no, that would be highly unacceptable, right? It definitely does not meet the standard of political correctness. Some might even feel such messages border on bullying. No, no—we only want to hear blessings, good fortune, and positivity all around.
Yet, God’s Word sounds a far different tune. Quite often, prophets warned of coming judgment, adversity, and hard times. Samuel was afraid to tell Eli about God’s pending judgment against his family (1 Samuel 3:15-18). Isaiah warned Hezekiah, “Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live” (2 Kings 20:1). John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded for speaking unpopular truth. Jesus even said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
Scarily, if we do not pay close attention and stay true to Scriptural doctrine, we risk drifting away (Hebrews 2:1). Paul warned those who think they are strong enough to stand to be careful lest they fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). Peter cautioned against falling from steadfastness and being led away with the error of the wicked (2 Peter 3:17). Today’s prevailing deception is incredibly strong. To be clear, it may only be resisted with keen spiritual insight from God’s Word and discernment from the Holy Spirit.
Not Everything is Positive
Listen to how the prophet Jeremiah explained receiving a word from God is not always roses, glamour, and fulfilling pronouncements:
O Lord, you deceived me when you promised me your help. I have to give them your messages because you are stronger than I am, but now I am the laughingstock of the city, mocked by all. You have never once let me speak a word of kindness to them; always it is disaster and horror and destruction. No wonder they scoff and mock and make my name a household joke. And I can’t quit! For if I say I’ll never again mention the Lord—never more speak in his name—then his word in my heart is like fire that burns in my bones, and I can’t hold it in any longer. (Jeremiah 20:7-9, TLB).
The Bible does not promise happiness, fulfillment, and prosperity in this present world. However, it does explain how to establish a personal relationship with God. It does provide encouragement to draw closer to God. Also, it instructs how to allow His righteousness to have greater influence in this life. Ultimately, it offers the hope of a far greater world than this one.
Confirm Everything Against God’s Word
Spiritual maturity involves being skilled in the word of righteousness and being able to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:13-14). Now, to be skilled at anything, a person must spend considerable time studying, learning, absorbing, practicing, and then applying what is learned. Any athlete can confirm the long hours necessary to compete at a high level. Only in such a position of skill and strength can he compete successfully. This dedicated effort also differentiates him from amateurs.
Before saying or accepting anything you hear, see, or read, first assume the responsibility to confirm the following.
- Does it fully align with Scripture and not take something out of context or interpret something personally preferential?
- Is it relevant and beneficial to winning the lost and edifying believers in their journey to Christ-likeness?
- Does it prompt a pursuit of holiness instead of happiness?
- Does it lift up Jesus or a personal agenda based on cultural trends or prevailing worldly mindsets?
Personal Accountability to God’s Truth
For those God calls to public ministry, only “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Make sure what is said, posted, shared, or taught is not even marginally deceitful. Confirm it does not influence people to depart from the truth of God’s Word. The following pointers should help fulfill personal accountability to God’s truth.
- Search the Scriptures (John 5:39). Just read what is there—nothing more, nothing less. Do not add, detract, minimize, or extrapolate to fit personal preference or popular views. Then, support your message with multiple Scripture references to ensure it aligns conceptually and contextually.
- Ground yourself in God’s absolute truth. Study it extensively and passionately to show yourself approved of God, not men (2 Timothy 2:15). Become more than a novice with an opinion or agenda to promote (1 Timothy 3:6).
- If your message resonates with the majority, be careful. Jesus said few would find the narrow and difficult gate that leads to the life Only He gives (Matthew 7:14). God’s Word is a sword that cuts and pierces (Hebrews 4:12). Yes, it comforts; but it also discomforts as it transforms us to Christ-likeness.
- Stand fast. Truth needs no apology. Be steadfast and immovable in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). Boldly stand firm in Biblical truth, Godly morals, and Spirit-led convictions. Never backpedal, soften, or alter what is based on His truth.
- Live out the message God gives you to share. Align your walk with your talk. Guard against anything throwing shade on your light.
Jesus: The Only Truth and Steadfast Hope
The only true beacon in this swirling mass of confusing messages is Jesus. His truth pierces the darkest fury. He is unchanged by popular trends or majority vote. His heart remains compassionate as a safe haven to all who come to Him. He is the “hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19).
Anchor your life—mindset, morals, convictions, behaviors, lifestyle, everything—in Him. Open your mind and heart to only His voice. Compare everything to His Word, then resist what is evil and fiercely cling to what is good.
Our only hope against deception’s sinking quicksand and eroding shorelines is the firm anchor of Jesus. The secret is aligning with His truth.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on natestevens.net.
Featured image by Alex Grodkiewicz