I get distressed when I see or hear of Christians I know, like, and admire, who also listen to and follow those who teach false doctrine.
For the purpose of this short article, we therefore need a criteria, a set of parameters that we can use to distinguish good and sound teaching from self-centered and erroneous teaching. I suggest the Bible as that criteria.
For those who would reject the Bible as that criteria, a different conversation would be in order. I’d be glad to talk to you more if you’d like.
My encouragement to the body is this: If someone distorts, misrepresents, or blatantly teaches against the Bible as part of their teaching, then all of their teaching must be suspect and therefore disregarded as spiritual nourishment. A religious speaker can’t be “mostly right” anymore than the Bible can be “mostly accurate” or God can be “mostly divine.”
This occurs everywhere from well-known national television evangelists to local teachers and preachers. Those who teach and preach must teach/preach the “whole counsel of God.”
Have you heard of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might be a Redneck if…?”
Well, here is Pastor Harvey’s “They might not be worth listening to if…” in no particular order. If your admired Christian speaker is/does the following, it might be worth praying about whether to continue to follow his/her teaching or not.
1. They spend more time worrying about receiving your money than communicating that God provides all needs. Philippians 4:19 – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
2. They spend more time bashing the church or her leaders than lifting up her head. (I’ve seen too much of this one on facebook lately) – Colossians 1:18 – “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Beware of anyone who claims to serve the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ) but slanders the Bride (the church). See Ephesians 5:25-27.
3. They spend time condemning those who believe in minor doctrinal issues that do not pertain to nor disqualify people from salvation, and ignore the biggest ones of all. For one of many examples, if a person is more concerned about the version of the Bible being read than the receptiveness of the person reading it, they’ve missed the forest for the trees. Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
4. They recite and propagate the world’s wisdom, even though it completely contradicts the wisdom of the Bible. Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
5. They neglect the great Commission in favor of their own personal ideas for what is best. Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
6. They only preach that we are meant to be successful, that we have a great destiny, that God wants us to prosper, etc. For example, James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” If a speaker teaches that the best way God can lift you up and exalt you is in a material manner, beware. God has much better ways of sustaining and providing for His children than the satisfaction of man’s wants. God DOES want the best for you. And that best is to completely and wholeheartedly abandon self by pouring your life into worshiping Him and serving others. It isn’t about receiving, nor is it about self.
7. Their riches are extravagant. Simply put, spend the money on what matters, if you have that much money. For example, James 1:27 – “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” The world has stained too many of our more prominent ministries.
8. Their version of the gospel is inoffensive to the lost and comfortable to the saved. If they preach a gospel that does not bring a sense of conviction, then it isn’t a complete gospel. 1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it isthe power of God.”
9. Their version of the gospel is hopeless to the lost and offensive to the saved. Some ministries present a God that is only a vengeful judge. As I preached the other morning – to some God will be a terrifying judge one day, but to others, He is our loving Redeemer. John 3:16-17 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
10. Comfort is their unspoken theme. The problem with being a casual, comfortable Christian is this: Serving God is not comfortable. Obeying God is not easy. You can’t say “yes” to God half-heartedly. Following God requires more than good intentions. Worship is not passionless. Christ requires all. You can’t obey Him mostly. You can’t obey Him 99 %. Multiple verses to support – which one to cite? Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
And a BONUS one – this one is free!
11. They don’t love children. I love the church I pastor (Bethel), and one of her shining bright positive areas is that she loves children. You want to get on God’s bad side? Mistreat a child. I shudder to think of all the self-identifying Christians in my own life who I’ve seen mistreat children, or who mistreated me when I was a child. I’ve actually been in church services where the speaker was harsh about children disrupting and treated them and/or their family with obvious contempt. Don’t do that. You better be nice to the children, even the squirrely ones!
Be blessed and follow God, not man!